Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Shipman's Prologue. - Notes to the Canterbury Tales (Works vol. 5)
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The Shipman’s Prologue. - Geoffrey Chaucer, Notes to the Canterbury Tales (Works vol. 5) 
The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited from numerous manuscripts by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899). 7 vols. Vol. 5.
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The Shipman’s Prologue.
1165. The host here refers to the Man of Lawes Tale, which had just been told, and uses the expression ‘thrifty tale’ with reference to the same expression above, B. 46. Most MSS. separate this end-link widely from the Tale, but MS. Hl. and MS. Arch. Seld. B. 14 have it in the right place. See vol. iii. pp. 417–9.
for the nones, for the nonce, for the occasion; see note to the Prologue, A. 379. The A. S. ānes (=once) is an adverb with a genitive case-ending; and, being an adverb, becomes indeclinable, and can accordingly be used as a dative case after the preposition for, which properly governs the dative.
1166. The Host here turns to the Parson (see Prol. A. 477), and adjures him to tell a tale, according to the agreement.
1167.yore, put for of yore, formerly, already.—M.
1169.Can moche good, know (or are acquainted with) much good; i. e. with many good things, Cf. B. 47.
1170.Benedicite, bless ye; i. e. bless ye the Lord; the first word of the Song of the Three Children, and a more suitable exclamation than most of those in common use at the time. In the Knightes Tale, A. 1785, where Theseus is pondering over the strange event he had just witnessed, the word is pronounced in full, as five syllables. But in A. 2115, it is pronounced, as here, as a mere trisyllable. The syllables to be dropped are the second and third, so that we must say ben’cite. This is verified by a passage in the Townley Mysteries, p. 85, where it is actually spelt benste, and reduced to two syllables only. Cf. notes to B. 1974, and Troil. i. 780.
1171.man; dat. case after eyleth. Swearing is alluded to as a prevalent vice amongst Englishmen in Robert of Brunne, in the Persones Tale of Chaucer, and elsewhere.—M.
1172.O Iankin, &c.; ‘O Johnny, you are there, are you?’ That is, ‘so it is you whom I hear, is it, Mr. Johnny?’ A derisive interruption. It was common to call a priest Sir John, by way of mild derision; see Monkes Prol. (B. 3119) and Nonne Prestes Prol. (B. 4000). The Host carries the derision a little further by using the diminutive form. See note to B. 4000.
1173.a loller, a term of reproach, equivalent to a canting fellow. Tyrwhitt aptly cites a passage from a treatise of the period, referring to the Harleian Catalogue, no. 1666:—‘Now in Engelond it is a comun protectioun ayens persecutioun, if a man is customable to swere nedeles and fals and unavised, by the bones, nailes, and sides, and other membres of Christ. And to absteyne fro othes nedeles and unleful, and repreve sinne by way of charite, is mater and cause now, why Prelates and sum Lordes sclaundren men, and clepen hem Lollardes, Eretikes,’ &c.
The reader will not clearly understand this word till he distinguishes between the Latin lollardus and the English loller, two words of different origin which were purposely confounded in the time of Wyclif. The Latin Lollardus had been in use before Wyclif. Ducange quotes from Johannes Hocsemius, who says, under the date 1309—‘Eodem anno quidam hypocritae gyrovagi, qui Lollardi, sive Deum laudantes, vocabantur, per Hannoniam et Brabantiam quasdam mulieres nobiles deceperunt.’ He adds that Trithemius says in his Chronicle, under the year 1315—‘ita appellatos a Gualtero Lolhard, Germano quodam.’ Kilian, in his Dictionary of Mid. Dutch, says—‘Lollaerd, mussitator, mussitabundus’; i. e. a mumbler of prayers. This gives two etymologies for Lollardus. Being thus already in use as a term of reproach, it was applied to the followers of Wyclif, as we learn from Thomas Walsingham, who says, under the year 1377—‘Hi uocabantur a uulgo Lollardi, incedentes nudis pedibus’; and again—‘Lollardi sequaces Joannis Wiclif.’ But the Old English loller (from the verb to loll) meant simply a lounger, an idle vagabond, as is abundantly clear from a notable passage in Piers the Plowman, C-text (ed. Skeat), x. 188–218; where William tells us plainly—
Here were already two (if not three) words confused, but this was not all. By a bad pun, the Latin lolium, tares, was connected with Lollard, so that we find in Political Poems, i. 232, the following—
This obviously led to allusions to the Parable of the Tares, and fully accounts for the punning allusion to cockle, i. e. tares, in l. 1183. Mr. Jephson observes that lolium is used in the Vulgate Version, Matt. xii. 25; but this is a mistake, as the word there used is zizania. Gower, Prol. to Conf. Amant., ed. Pauli, i. 15, speaks of—
Also in book v., id. ii. 187,—
See Mosheim, Eccl. Hist. iii. 355–358; Wordsworth’s Eccl. Biography, i. 331, note.
1180. ‘He shall not give us any commentary on a gospel.’ To glose is to comment upon, with occasional free introduction of irrelevant matter. The gospel is the text, or portion of the Gospel commented upon.
1181. ‘We all agree in the one fundamental article of faith’; by which he insinuates—‘and let that suffice; we want no theological subtilties discussed here.’
1183.springen, scatter, sprink-le. The pt. t. is spreynde or spreynte; the pp. spreynd occurs in B. 422, 1830.—M. Gower, Conf. Amantis, bk. v., ed. Pauli, ii. 190, speaks of lollardie
1185.body, i. e. self. Cf. lyf=a person, in P. Plowman, B. iii. 292.—M.
1186. See B. 3984, which suggests that there is a play upon words here. The Shipman will make his horse’s bells ring loudly enough to awake them all; or he will ring so merry a peal, as to rouse them like a church bell that awakes a sleeper.
1189. It is plain that the unmeaning words phislyas and phillyas, as in the MSS., must be corruptions of some difficult form. I think that form is certainly physices, with reference to the Physics of Aristotle, here conjoined with ‘philosophy’ and ‘law’ in order to include the chief forms of medieval learning. Aristotle was only known, in Chaucer’s time, in Latin translations, and Physices Liber would be a possible title for such a translation. Lewis and Short’s Lat. Dict. gives ‘physica, gen. physicae, and physice, gen. physices, f.,=ϕυσική, natural science, natural philosophy, physics, Cicero, Academ. 1. 7. 25; id. De Finibus, 3. 21. 72; 3. 22. 73.’ Magister Artium et Physices was the name of a degree; see Longfellow’s Golden Legend, § vi.
That Chaucer should use the gen. physices alone, is just in his usual manner; cf. Iudicum, B. 3236; Eneidos, B. 4549; Metamorphoseos, B. 93. Tyrwhitt’s reading of physike gives the same sense.