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Words of the Host. - 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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Words of the Host.
In the Six-text Edition, pref. col. 58, Dr. Furnivall calls attention to the curious variations in this passage, in the MSS., especially in ll. 289–292, and in 297–300; as well as in ll. 487, 488 in the Pardoneres Tale. I note these variations below, in their due places.
287.wood, mad, frantic, furious; esp. applied to the transient madness of anger. See Kn. Tale, A. 1301, 1329, 1578; also Mids. Nt. Dr. ii. 1. 192. Cf. G. wüthend, raging.
288.Harrow! also spelt haro; a cry of astonishment; see A. 3286, 3825, B. 4235, &c. ‘Haro, the ancient Norman hue and cry; the exclamation of a person to procure assistance when his person or property was in danger. To cry out haro on any one, to denounce his evil doings’; Halliwell. Spenser has it, F. Q. ii. 6. 43; see Harrow in Nares, and the note above, to A. 3286.
On the oaths used by the Host, see note to l. 651 below.
289.fals cherl is the reading in E. Hn., and is evidently right; see note to l. 140 above. It is supported by several MSS., among which are Harl. 7335, Addit. 25718, Addit. 5140, Sloane 1686, Barlow 20, Hatton 1, Camb. Univ. Lib. Dd. 4. 24 and Mm. 2. 5, and Trin. Coll. Cam. R. 3. 3. A few have fals clerk, viz. Sloane 1685, Arch. Seld. B. 14, Rawl. Poet. 149, Bodley 414. Harl. 7333 has a fals thef, Acursid Iustise; out of which numerous MSS. have developed the reading a cursed theef, a fals Iustice, which rolls the two Claudii into one. It is clearly wrong, but appears in good MSS., viz. in Cp. Pt. Ln. Hl. See vol. iii. pp. 437–8, and the note to l. 291 below.
290.shamful. MSS. Ln. Hl. turn this into schendful, i.e. ignominious, which does not at all alter the sense. It is a matter of small moment, but I may note that of the twenty-five MSS. examined by Dr. Furnivall, only the two above-named MSS. adopt this variation.
291, 292. Here MSS. Cp. Ln. Hl., as noted in the footnote, have two totally different lines; and this curious variation divides the MSS. (at least in the present passage) into two sets. In the first of these we find E. Hn. Harl. 7335, Addit. 25718, Addit. 5140, Sloane 1685 and 1686, Barlow 20, Arch. Seld. B. 14, Rawl. Poet. 149, Hatton 1, Bodley 414, Camb. Dd. 4. 24, and Mm. 2. 5, Trin. Coll. Cam. R. 3. 3. In the second set we find Cp. Ln. Hl., Harl. 1758, Royal 18. C. 2, Laud 739, Camb. Ii. 3. 26, Royal 17. D. 15, and Harl. 7333.
There is no doubt as to the correct reading; for the ‘false cherl’ and ‘false justice’ were two different persons, and it was only because they had been inadvertently rolled into one (see note to l. 289) that it became possible to speak of ‘his body,’ ‘his bones,’ and ‘him.’ Hence the lines are rightly given in the text which I have adopted.
There is a slight difficulty, however, in the rime, which should be noted. We see that the t in advocats was silent, and that the word was pronounced (ad·vokaa·s), riming with allas (alaa·s), where the raised dot denotes the accent. That this was so, is indicated by the following spellings:—Pt. aduocas, and so also in Harl. 7335, Addit. 5140, Bodl. 414; Rawl. Poet. 149 has advocas; whilst Sloane 1685, Sloane 1686, and Camb. Mm. 2. 5 have aduocase, and Barlow 20, advocase. MS. Trin. Coll. R. 3. 3 has aduocasse. The testimony of ten MSS. may suffice; but it is worth noting that the F. pl. aduocas occurs in Le Roman de la Rose, 5107.
293. ‘Alas! she (Virginia) bought her beauty too dear’; she paid too high a price; it cost her her life.
297–300. These four lines are genuine; but several MSS., including E. Hn. Pt., omit the former pair (297–8), whilst several others omit the latter pair. Ed. 1532 contains both pairs, but alters l. 299.
299.bothe yiftes, both (kinds of) gifts; i. e. gifts of fortune, such as wealth, and of nature, such as beauty. Compare Dr. Johnson’s poem on the Vanity of Human Wishes, imitated from the tenth satire of Juvenal.
303.is no fors, it is no matter. It must be supplied, for the sense. Sometimes Chaucer omits it is, and simply writes no fors, as in E. 1092, 2430. We also find I do no fors, I care not, D. 1234; and They yeve no fors, they care not, Romaunt of the Rose, 4826. Palsgrave has—‘I gyue no force, I care nat for a thing, Il ne men chault.’
306.Ypocras is the usual spelling, in English MSS., of Hippocrates; see Prologue A. 431. So also in the Book of the Duchess, 571, 572:—
In the present passage it does not signify the physician himself, but a beverage named after him. ‘It was composed of wine, with spices and sugar, strained through a cloth. It is said to have taken its name from Hippocates’ sleeve, the term apothecaries gave to a strainer’; Halliwell’s Dict. s. v. Hippocras. In the same work, s. v. Ipocras, are several receipts for making it, the simplest being one copied from Arnold’s Chronicle:—‘Take a quart of red wyne, an ounce of synamon, and half an unce of gynger; a quarter of an ounce of greynes, and long peper, and halfe a pounde of sugar; and brose all this, and than put them in a bage of wullen clothe, made therefore, with the wyne: and lete it hange over a vessel, tyll the wyne be rune thorowe.’ Halliwell adds that—‘Ipocras seems to have been a great favourite with our ancestors, being served up at every entertainment, public or private. It generally made a part of the last course, and was taken immediately after dinner, with wafers or some other light biscuits’; &c. See Pegge’s Form of Cury, p. 161; Babees Book, ed. Furnivall, pp. 125–128, 267, 378; Skelton, ed. Dyce, ii. 285; and Nares’s Glossary, s. v. Hippocras.
Galianes. In like manner this word (hitherto unexplained as far as I am aware) must signify drinks named after Galen, whose name is spelt Galien (in Latin, Galienus) not only in Chaucer, but in other authors. See the quotation above from the Book of the Duchess. Speght guessed the word to mean ‘Galen’s works.’
310.lyk a prelat, like a dignitary of the church, like a bishop or abbot. Mr. Jephson, in Bell’s edition, suggests that the Doctor was in holy orders, and that this is why we are told in the Prologue, l. 438, that ‘his studie was but litel on the bible.’ I see no reason for this guess, which is quite unsupported. Chaucer does not say he is a prelate, but that he is like one; because he had been highly educated, as a member of a ‘learned profession’ should be.
Ronyan is here of three syllables and rimes with man; in l. 320 it is of two syllables, and rimes with anon. It looks as if the Host and Pardoner were not very clear about the saint’s name, only knowing him to swear by. In Pilkington’s Works (Parker Society), we find a mention of ‘St. Tronian’s fast,’ p. 80; and again, of ‘St. Rinian’s fast,’ p. 551, in a passage which is a repetition of the former. The forms Ronyan and Rinian are evidently corruptions of Ronan, a saint whose name is well known to readers of ‘St. Ronan’s Well.’ Of St. Ronan scarcely anything is known. The fullest account that can easily be found is the following:—
‘Ronan, B. and C. Feb. 7.—Beyond the mere mention of his commemoration as S. Ronan, bishop at Kilmaronen, in Levenax, in the body of the Breviary of Aberdeen, there is nothing said about this saint. . . Camerarius (p. 86) makes this Ronanus the same as he who is mentioned by Beda (Hist. Ecc. lib. iii. c. 25). This Ronan died in 778. The Ulster annals give at  737 (736)—“Mors Ronain Abbatis Cinngaraid.” Ængus places this saint at the 9th of February,’ &c.; Kalendars of Scottish Saints, by Bp. A. P. Forbes, 1872, p. 441. Kilmaronen is Kilmaronock, in the county and parish of Dumbarton. There are traces of St. Ronan in about seven place-names in Scotland, according to the same authority. Under the date of Feb. 7 (February vol. ii. 3 B), the Acta Sanctorum has a few lines about St. Ronan, who, according to some, flourished under King Malduin, 664–684; or, according to others, about 603. The notice concludes with the remark—‘Maiorem lucem desideramus.’ Beda says that ‘Ronan, a Scot by nation, but instructed in ecclesiastical truth either in France or Italy,’ was mixed up in the controversy which arose about the keeping of Easter, and was ‘a most zealous defender of the true Easter.’ This controversy took place about 652, which does not agree with the date above.
311. Tyrwhitt thinks that Shakespeare remembered this expression of Chaucer, when he describes the Host of the Garter as frequently repeating the phrase ‘said I well’: Merry Wives of Windsor, i. 3. 11; ii. 1. 226; ii. 3. 93, 99.
in terme, in learned terms; cf. Prol. A. 323.
312.erme, to grieve. For the explanation of unusual words, the Glossary should, in general, be consulted; the Notes are intended, for the most part, to explain only phrases and allusions, and to give illustrations of the use of words. Such illustrations are, moreover, often omitted when they can easily be found by consulting such a work as Stratmann’s Old English Dictionary. In the present case, for example, Stratmann gives twelve instances of the use of earm or arm as an adjective, meaning wretched; four examples of ermlic, miserable; seven of earming, a miserable creature; and five of earmthe, misery. These twenty-eight additional examples shew that the word was formerly well understood. We may further note that a later instance of ermen or erme, to grieve, occurs in Caxton’s translation of Reynard the Fox, 1481; see Arber’s reprint, p. 48, l. 5: ‘Thenne departed he fro the kynge so heuyly that many of them ermed,’ i.e. then departed he from the king so sorrowfully that many of them mourned, or were greatly grieved.
313.cardiacle, pain about the heart, spasm of the heart; more correctly, cardiake, as the l is excrescent. See Cardiacle and Cardiac in the New E. Dictionary. In Batman upon Bartholomè, lib. vii. c. 32, we have a description of ‘Heart-quaking and the disease Cardiacle.’ We thus learn that ‘there is a double manner of Cardiacle,’ called ‘Diaforetica’ and ‘Tremens.’ Of the latter, ‘sometime melancholy is the cause’; and the remedies are various ‘confortatives.’ This is why the host wanted some ‘triacle’ or some ale, or something to cheer him up.
314. The Host’s form of oath is amusingly ignorant; he is confusing the two oaths ‘by corpus Domini’ and ‘by Christes bones,’ and evidently regards corpus as a genitive case. Tyrwhitt alters the phrase to ‘By corpus domini,’ which wholly spoils the humour of it.
triacle, a restorative remedy; see Man of Lawes Tale, B. 479.
315.moyste, new. The word retains the sense of the Lat. musteus and mustus. In Group H. 60, we find moysty ale spoken of as differing from old ale. But the most peculiar use of the word is in the Prologue, A. 457, where the Wyf of Bath’s shoes are described as being moyste and newe.
corny, strong of the corn or malt; cf. l. 456. Skelton calls it ‘newe ale in cornys’; Magnificence, 782; or ‘in cornes,’ Elynour Rummyng, 378. Baret’s Alvearie, s.v. Ale, has: ‘new ale in cornes, ceruisia cum recrementis.’ It would seem that ale was thought the better for having dregs of malt in it.
318.bel amy, good friend; a common form of address in old French. We also find biaus douz amis, sweet good friend; as in—
Belamy occurs in an Early Eng. Life of St. Cecilia, MS. Ashmole 43, l. 161; and six other examples are given in the New Eng. Dictionary. Similar forms are beau filtz, dear son, Piers Plowman, B. vii. 162; beau pere, good father; beau sire, good sir. Cf. beldame.
321.ale-stake, inn-sign. Speght interprets this by ‘may-pole.’ He was probably thinking of the ale-pole, such as was sometimes set up before an inn as a sign; see the picture of one in Larwood and Hotten’s History of Signboards, Plate II. But the ale-stakes of the fourteenth century were differently placed; instead of being perpendicular, they projected horizontally from the inn, just like the bar which supports a painted sign at the present day. At the end of the ale-stake a large garland was commonly suspended, as mentioned by Chaucer himself (Prol. 667), or sometimes a bunch of ivy, box, or evergreen, called a ‘bush’; whence the proverb ‘good wine needs no bush,’ i. e. nothing to indicate where it is sold; see Hist. Signboards, pp. 2, 4, 6, 233. The clearest information about ale-stakes is obtained from a notice of them in the Liber Albus, ed. Riley, where an ordinance of the time of Richard II. is printed, the translation of which runs as follows: ‘Also, it was ordained that whereas the ale-stakes, projecting in front of the taverns in Chepe and elsewhere in the said city, extend too far over the king’s highways, to the impeding of riders and others, and, by reason of their excessive weight, to the great deterioration of the houses to which they are fixed, . . . it was ordained, . . . that no one in future should have a stake bearing either his sign or leaves [i.e. a bush] extending or lying over the king’s highway, of greater length than 7 feet at most,’ &c. And, at p. 292 of the same work, note 2, Mr. Riley rightly defines an ale-stake to be ‘the pole projecting from the house, and supporting a bunch of leaves.’
The word ale-stake occurs in Chatterton’s poem of Ælla, stanza 30, where it is used in a manner which shews that the supposed ‘Rowley’ did not know what it was like. See my note on this; Essay on the Rowley Poems, p. xix; and cf. note to A. 667.
322.of a cake; we should now say, a bit of bread; the modern sense of ‘cake’ is a little misleading. The old cakes were mostly made of dough, whence the proverb ‘my cake is dough,’ i. e. is not properly baked; Taming of the Shrew, v. 1. 145. Shakespeare also speaks of ‘cakes and ale,’ Tw. Nt. ii. 3. 124. The picture of the ‘Simnel Cakes’ in Chambers’ Book of Days, i. 336, illustrates Chaucer’s use of the word in the Prologue, l. 668.
324. The Pardoner was so ready to tell some ‘mirth or japes’ that the more decent folks in the company try to repress him. It is a curious comment on the popular estimate of his character. He has, moreover, to refresh himself, and to think awhile before he can recollect ‘some honest (i. e. decent) thing.’
327, 328. The Harleian MS. has—