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The Pardoneres 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 Pardoneres Tale.
For some account of the source of this Tale, see vol. iii. p. 439. The account which I here quote as the ‘Italian’ text is that contained in Novella lxxxii of the Libro di Novelle.
Observe also the quotations from Pope Innocent given in vol. iii. pp. 444, 445. To which may be added, that Chaucer here frequently quotes from his Persones Tale, which must have been written previously. Compare ll. 475, 482, 504, 529, 558, 590, 631–650, with I. 591, 836, 819, 820, 822, 793, 587–593.
463. In laying the scene in Flanders, Chaucer probably followed an original which is now lost. Andrew Borde, in his amusing Introduction of Knowledge, ch. viii, says:—‘Flaunders is a plentyfull countre of fyshe & fleshe & wyld fowle. Ther shal a man be clenly serued at his table, & well ordred and vsed for meate & drynke & lodgyng. The countre is playn, & somwhat sandy. The people be gentyl, but the men be great drynkers; and many of the women be vertuous and wel dysposyd.’ He describes the Fleming as saying—
464.haunteden, followed- after; cf. note to l. 547. The same expression occurs in The Tale of Beryn, a spurious (but not ill-told) addition to the Canterbury Tales:—
‘Foly, I haunted it ever, ther myght no man me let’; l. 2319.
473.grisly, terrible, enough to make one shudder. It is exactly the right word. The mention of these oaths reminds us of the admission of my Uncle Toby in Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, ch. xi, that ‘our armies swore terribly in Flanders.’
474.to-tere, tear in pieces, dismember. Cf. to-rente in B. 3215; see note on p. 229. Chaucer elsewhere says—‘For Cristes sake ne swereth nat so sinfully, in dismembringe of Crist, by soule, herte, bones, and body; for certes it semeth, that ye thinke that the cursede Iewes ne dismembred nat ynough the preciouse persone of Crist, but ye dismembre him more’; Persones Tale (De Ira), I. 591. And see ll. 629–659 below.
‘And than Seint Johan seid—“These [who are thus tormented in hell] ben thei that sweren bi Goddes membris, as bi his nayles and other his membris, and thei thus dismembrid God in horrible swerynge bi his limmes’; Vision of Wm. Staunton ( 1409), quoted in Wright’s St. Patrick’s Purgatory, p. 146. In the Plowman’s Tale (Chaucer, ed. 1561, fol. xci) we have—
Barclay, in his Ship of Fools (ed. Jamieson, i. 97), says—
And again (ii. 130) he complains of swearers who crucify Christ afresh, swearing by ‘his holy membres,’ by his ‘blode,’ by ‘his face, his herte, or by his croune of thorne,’ &c. See also the Ayenbite of Inwyt, p. 64; Political, &c., Poems, ed. Furnivall, p. 193; Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, pp. 60, 278, 499. Todd, in his Illustrations of Chaucer, p. 264, quotes (from an old MS.) the old second commandment in the following form:—
477.tombesteres, female dancers. ‘Sir Perdicas, whom that kinge Alysandre made to been his heire in Grece, was of no kinges blod; his dame [mother] was a tombystere’; Testament of Love, Book ii. ed. 1561, fol. ccxcvi b.
Tombestere is the feminine form; the A. S. spelling would be tumbestre; the masc. form is the A. S. tumbere, which is glossed by saltator, i. e. a dancer; the verb is tumbian, to dance, used of Herodias’ daughter in the A. S. version of Mark, vi. 22. The medieval idea of tumbling was, that the lady stood on her hands with her heels in the air; see Strutt, Sports, &c. bk. iii. c. 5.
On the feminine termination -ster (formerly -estre, or -stre) see the remarks in Marsh’s Lectures on the English Language, printed in (the so-called) Smith’s Student’s Manual of the English Language, ed. 1862, pp. 207, 208, with an additional note at p. 217. Marsh’s remarks are, in this case, less clear than usual. He shews that the termination was not always used as a feminine, and that, in fact, its force was early lost. It is, however, merely a question of chronology. That the termination was originally feminine in Anglo-Saxon, is sufficiently proved by the A. S. version of the Gospels. There we find the word witega frequently used in the sense of prophet; but, in one instance, where it is necessary to express the feminine, we find this accomplished by the use of this very termination. ‘And anna wæs witegystre (another MS. witegestre)’; i. e. and Anna was a prophetess, Luke, ii. 36. Similar instances might easily be multiplied; see Dr. Morris’s Hist. Outlines of Eng. Accidence, pp. 89, 90. Thus, wasshestren (pl.) is used as the translation of lotrices; Old Eng. Homilies, ed. Morris, ii. 57. But it is also true that, in the fourteenth century, the feminine force of this termination was becoming very weak, so that, whilst in P. Plowman, B. v. 306, we find ‘Beton the brewestere’ applied to a female brewer, we cannot thence certainly conclude that ‘brewestere’ was always feminine at that period. On the other hand, we may point to one word, spinster, which has remained feminine to this very day.
Dr. Morris remarks that tombestere is a hybrid word; in which I believe that he has been misled by the spelling. It is a pure native word, from the A. S. tumbian, but the scribes have turned it from tumbestere into tombestere, by confusion with the French tomber. Yet even the Fr. tomber was once spelt tumber (Burguy, Roquefort), being, in fact, a word of Germanic origin. An acrobat can still be called a tumbler: we find ‘rope-dancers and tumblers’ in Locke, Conduct of the Understanding, § 4. Indeed, the Cambridge MS. has here the true spelling tumbesteris, whilst the Corpus, Petworth, and Lansdowne MSS. have the variations tomblisteres and tomblesters. The A. S. masc. form tumbere occurs in Ælfric’s Vocabulary.
As to the source of the suffix -ster, it is really a compound suffix, due to composition of the Aryan suffixes -es and -ter-; cf. Lat. mag-is-ter, min-is-ter, poet-as-ter. The feminine use is peculiar to Anglo-Saxon and to some other Teutonic languages.
478.fruytesteres, female sellers of fruit; see note to last line.
479.wafereres, sellers of confectionery, confectioners. The feminine form wafrestre occurs in Piers Plowman, v. 641. From Beaumont and Fletcher we learn that ‘wafer-women’ were often employed in amorous embassies, as stated in Nares’ Glossary, q.v.
483.holy writ. In the margin of the MSS. E. Hn. Cp. Pt. and Hl. is the note—‘Nolite inebriari vino, in quo est luxuria,’ quoted from the Vulgate version of Eph. v. 18. See vol. iii. p. 444.
487. Cp. Ln. have here two additional spurious lines. Cp. reads—
Of the second line, Dr. Furnivall remarks—‘Besides being a line of only 4 measures, it is foolish—how could Lot in the grave repent him? Both lines [those in italics] interrupt the flow of the story, and weaken the instances brought forward.’ He adds—‘None of our best MSS. have these spurious lines.’
They evidently arose from the stupidity of some scribe, who did not understand that soghte is here the pt. t. subj., meaning ‘were to seek.’ He therefore ‘corrected’ Chaucer’s grammar by writing wol for wel and seche for soghte; and he then had to make up two more lines to hide the alteration.
488. ‘Herod, (as may be seen by any one) who would consult the “stories” carefully.’ The Harleian MS. has the inferior reading story; but the reference is particular, not vague. Peter Comestor (died 1198) was the author of an Historia Scholastica, on which account he was called ‘the maister of stories,’ or ‘clerk of the stories,’ as explained in my note to Piers Plowman, B. vii. 73. The use of the plural is due to the fact that the whole Historia Scholastica, which is a sort of epitome of the Bible, with notes and additions, is divided into sections, each of which is also called ‘Historia.’ The account of Herod occurs, of course, in the section entitled Historia Evangelica, cap. lxxii; De decollatione ioannis. Cf. Matt. xiv; Mark vi. And see vol. iii. p. 444.
492.Senek, Seneca. The reference appears to be, as pointed out by Tyrwhitt, to Seneca’s Letters; Epist. lxxxiii: ‘Extende in plures dies illum ebrii habitum: numquid de furore dubitabis? nunc quoque non est minor, sed brevior.’
496. ‘Except that madness, when it has come upon a man of evil nature, lasts longer than does a fit of drunkenness.’ See Shrew in Trench, Select Glossary.
499. ‘First cause of our misfortune’; alluding to the Fall of Adam. See l. 505.
501.boght us agayn, redeemed us; a translation of the Latin redemit. Hence we find Christ called, in Middle English, the Aȝenbyer. ‘See now how dere he [Christ] boughte man, that he made after his owne ymage, and how dere he aȝenboght us, for the grete love that he hadde to us’; Sir J. Maundeville, Prologue to his Voiage (Specimens of Eng. 1298–1393, p. 165). See l. 766 below.
504. Cf. Pers. Tale, I. 819.
505. Here, in the margin of MS. E. Hn. Cp. Pt. Hl., is a quotation from ‘Hieronymus contra Jovinianum’ (i.e. from St. Jerome): ‘Quamdiu ieiunauit Adam, in Paradiso fuit; comedit et eiectus est; eiectus, statim duxit uxorem.’ See Hieron. contra Jov. lib. ii. c. 15; ed. Migne, ii. 305.
510.defended, forbidden. Even Milton has it; see P. Lost, xi. 86. See also l. 590 below.
512. ‘O gluttony! it would much behove us to complain of thee!’ See vol. iii. pp. 444, 445. The quotation ‘Noli auidus’ (iii. 445) is from the close of Ecclus. xxxvii.
517. Here Chaucer is thinking of a passage in Jerome, which also occurs in John of Salisbury’s Policraticus, lib. viii. c. 6. In such cases, Chaucer consulted Jerome himself, rather than his copyist, as might be shewn. I therefore quote from the former.
‘Propter breuem gulae uoluptatem, terrae lustrantur et maria: et ut mulsum uinum preciosusque cibus fauces notras transeat, totius uitae opera desudamus.’—Hieronymus, contra Iouinianum, lib. ii.; in Epist. Hieron. Basil. 1524, t. ii. p. 76.
At the same time, he had an eye to the passage in Pope Innocent, quoted in vol. iii. p. 445. ‘The shorte throte’ answers to ‘Tam breuis est,’ &c.
522. In the margin of MSS. E. and Hn. is written the quotation—‘Esca ventri, et venter escis. Deus autem et hunc et illam destruet.’ For illam, the usual reading of the Vulgate is has; see 1 Cor. vi. 13.
526.whyte and rede, white wine and red wine; see note to Piers Plowman, B. prol. 228, and the note to B. 4032 above, p. 249.
527. Again from Jerome (see note to l. 517). ‘Qualis [est] ista refectio post ieiunium, cum pridianis epulis distendimur, et guttur nostrum meditatorium efficitur latrinarum.’—Hieron. c. Iouin. lib. ii.; in Epist. Hieron. Basil. 1524, t. ii. p. 78.
529. In the margin of MSS. E. and Hn. is written—‘Ad Philipenses, capitulo tertio.’ See Phil. iii. 18. Cf. Pers. Tale, I. 820.
534. See the quotation in vol. iii. p. 445.
537. ‘How great toil and expense (it is) to provide for thee!’ Chaucer is here addressing man’s appetite for delicacies. Cf. fond, Non. Pr. Tale, B. 4019.
538. See the quotation in vol. iii. p. 445.
There is a somewhat similar passage in John of Salisbury, as follows:—
‘Multiplicantur fercula, cibi alii aliis farciuntur, condiuntur haec illis, et in iniuriam naturae, innatum relinquere, et alienum coguntur afferre saporem. Conficiuntur et salsamenta . . . Coquorum solicitudo fervet arte multiplici,’ &c.—Joh. Salisburiensis, Policraticus, lib. viii. c. 6.
539. There is here an allusion to the famous disputes in scholastic philosophy between the Realists and Nominalists. To attempt any explanation of their language is to become lost in subtleties of distinction. It would seem however that the Realists maintained that everything possesses a substance, which is inherent in itself, and distinct from the accidents or outward phenomena which the thing presents. According to them, the form, smell, taste, colour, of anything are merely accidents, and might be changed without affecting the substance itself. See the excellent article on Substance in the Engl. Cyclopaedia; also that on Nominalists. Cf. Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, p. 526.
According to Chaucer, then, or rather, according to Pope Innocent III., (of all people), the cooks who toil to satisfy man’s appetite change the nature of the things cooked so effectually as to confound substance with accident. Translated into plain language, it means that those who partook of the meats so prepared, could not, by means of their taste and smell, form any precise idea as to what they were eating. The art is not lost. Cf. Troil. iv. 1505.
547.haunteth, practises, indulges in; cf. l. 464. In the margin of MSS. E. and Hn. is written—‘Qui autem in deliciis est, viuens mortuus est.’ This is a quotation from the Vulgate version of 1 Tim. v. 6, but with Qui for quae, and mortuus for mortua.
549. In the margin of MSS. E. and Hn. is written—‘Luxuriosa res vinum, et contumeliosa ebrietas.’ The Vulgate version of Prov. xx. 1 agrees with this nearly, but has tumultuosa for contumeliosa. This is of course the text to which Chaucer refers. And see note to the parallel passage at B. 771–7. The variant contumeliosa occurs in the text as quoted by St. Jerome, Contra Jovinianum, lib. ii. 10 (Köppel).
554. He means that the drunkard’s stertorous breathing seems to repeat the sound of the word Sampsoún. The word was probably chosen for the sake of its nasal sounds, to imitate a sort of grunt. Perhaps we should here pronounce the m and n as in French, but with exaggerated emphasis. So also in l. 572.
555. See note to the Monkes Tale, B. 3245. In Judges, xiii. 4, 7, the command to drink no wine is addressed, not to Samson, but to his mother. Of Samson himself it is said that he was ‘a Nazarite,’ which implies the same thing; see Numbers, vi. 3, 5.
558.sepulture, burial; see Pers. Tale, I. 822.
561. In Chaucer’s Tale of Melibeus (B. 2383) we find—‘Thou shalt also eschewe the conseiling of folk that been dronkelewe; for they ne can no conseil hyde; for Salomon seith, Ther is no privetee ther-as regneth dronkenesse’; and see B. 776. The allusion is to Prov. xxxi. 4: ‘Noli regibus, O Lamuel, noli regibus dare uinum; quia nullum secretum est ubi regnat ebrietas.’ This last clause is quite different from that in our own version; which furnishes, perhaps, a reason why the allusion here intended has not been perceived by previous editors.
563.namely, especially. Tyrwhitt’s note is as follows: ‘According to the geographers, Lepe was not far from Cadiz. This wine, of whatever sort it may have been, was probably much stronger than the Gascon wines, usually drunk in England. La Rochelle and Bordeaux (l. 571), the two chief ports of Gascony, were both, in Chaucer’s time, part of the English dominions.
‘Spanish wines might also be more alluring upon account of their great rarity. Among the Orders of the Royal Household, in 1604, is the following (MS. Harl. 293, fol. 162): “And whereas, in tymes past, Spanish wines, called Sacke, were little or noe whit used in our courte, and that in later years, though not of ordinary allowance, it was thought convenient that noblemen . . . might have a boule or glas, &c. We understanding that it is now used as common drinke . . . reduce the allowance to xii. gallons a day for the court,” ’ &c. Several regulations to be observed by London vintners are mentioned in the Liber Albus, ed. Riley, pp. 614–618. Amongst them is—‘Item, that white wine of Gascoigne, of la Rochele, of Spain, or other place, shall not be put in cellars with Rhenish wines.’ See also note to l. 565.
564.To selle, for sale; the true gerund, of which to is, in Anglo-Saxon, the sign. So also ‘this house to let’ is the correct old idiom, needing no such alteration as some would make. Cf. Morris, Hist. Outlines of Eng. Accidence, sect. 290, subsect. 4. Fish Street leads out of Lower Thames Street, close to the North end of London Bridge. The Harleian MS. alone reads Fleet Street, which is certainly wrong. Considering that Thames Street is especially mentioned as a street for vintners (Liber Albus, p. 614), and that Chaucer’s own father was a Thames Street vintner, there can be little doubt about this matter. The poet is here speaking from his own knowledge; a consideration which gives the present passage a peculiar interest. Chepe is Cheapside.
565. This is a fine touch. The poet here tells us that some of this strong Spanish wine used to find its way mysteriously into other wines; not (he ironically suggests) because the vintners ever mixed their wines, but because the vines of Spain notoriously grew so close to those of Gascony that it was not possible to keep them apart! Crepeth subtilly= finds its way mysteriously. Observe the humour in the word growing, which expresses that the mixture of wines must be due to the proximity of the vines producing them in the vineyards, not to any accidental proximity of the casks containing them in the vintners’ cellars. In fact, the different kinds of wine were to be kept in different cellars, as the Regulations in the Liber Albus (pp. 615–618) shew. ‘Item, that no Taverner shall put Rhenish wine and White wine in a cellar together. ‘Item, that new wines shall not be put in cellars with old wines.’ ‘Item, that White wine of Gascoigne, of la Rochele, of Spain, or other place shall not be put in cellars with Rhenish wines.’ ‘Item, that white wine shall not be sold for Rhenish wine.’ ‘Item, that no one shall expose for sale wines counterfeit or mixed, made by himself or by another, under pain of being set upon the pillory.’ But pillories have vanished, and all such laws are obsolete.
570. ‘He is in Spain’; i. e. he is, as it were, transported thither. He imagines he has never left Cheapside, yet is far from knowing where he is, as we should say.
571. ‘Not at Rochelle,’ where the wines are weak.
579. ‘The death of Attila took place in 453. The commonly received account is that given by Jornandes, that he died by the bursting of a blood-vessel on the night of his marriage with a beautiful maiden, whom he added to his many other wives; some, with a natural suspicion, impute it to the hand of his bride. Priscus observes, that no one ever subdued so many countries in so short a time. . . . Jornandes, De Rebus Geticis, and Priscus, Excerpta de Legationibus, furnish the best existing materials for the history of Attila. For modern compilations, see Buat, Histoire des Peuples de l’Europe; De Guignes, Hist. des Huns; and Gibbon, capp. xxxiv and xxxv’; English Cyclopaedia. And see Amédée Thierry, Histoire d’Attila.
Mr. Jephson (in Bell’s Chaucer) quotes the account of Attila’s death given by Paulus Diaconus, Gest. Rom. lib. xv: ‘Qui reuersus ad proprias sedes, supra plures quas habebat uxores, valde decoram, indicto nomine, sibi in matrimonium iunxit. Ob cuius nuptias profusa conuiuia exercens, dum tantum uini quantum nunquam antea insimul bibisset, cum supinus quiesceret, eruptione sanguinis, qui ei de naribus solitus erat effluere, suffocatus et extinctus est.’
The older account in Jornandes, De Rebus Geticis, § 82, is of more interest. ‘Qui [Attila], ut Priscus historicus refert, extinctionis suae tempore puellam, Ildico nomine, decoram valde, sibi in matrimonium post innumerabiles uxores, vt mos est gentis illius, socians: eiusque in nuptiis magna hilaritate resolutus, vino somnoque grauatus, resupinus iacebat; redundansque sanguis, qui ei solitè de naribus effluebat, dum consuetis meatibus impeditur, itinere ferali faucibus illapsus eum extinxit.’
585.Lamuel, i. e. King Lemuel, mentioned in Prov. xxxi. 1, q. v.; not to be confused, says Chaucer, with Samuel. The allusion is to Prov. xxxi. 4, 5; and not (as Mr. Wright suggests) to Prov. xxiii. In fact, in the margin of MSS. E. and Hn. is written ‘Noli uinum dare,’ words found in Prov. xxxi. 4. See note to l. 561.
590. Compare Pers. Tale, I. 793.
591.Hasard, gambling. In the margin of MSS. E. and Hn. is written—‘Policratici libro primo; Mendaciorum et periuriarum mater est Alea.’ This shews that the line is a quotation from lib. i. [cap. 5] of the Polycraticus of John of Salisbury, bishop of Chartres, who died in 1180. See some account of this work in Prof. Morley’s Eng. Writers, iii. 180. ‘In the first book, John treats of temptations and duties and of vanities, such as hunting, dice, music, mimes and minstrelsy, magic and soothsaying, prognostication by dreams and astrology.’ See also the account of gaming, considered as a branch of Avarice in the Ayenbyte of Inwyt, ed. Morris, pp. 45, 46.
595. Cf. ‘Nonne satis improbata est cuiusque artis exercitatio, qua quanto quisque doctior, tanto nequior? Aleator quidem omnis hic est.’—Joh. Sarisb. Polycrat. i. 5.
603.Stilbon. It should rather be Chilon. Tyrwhitt remarks—‘John of Salisbury, from whom our author probably took this story and the following, calls him Chilon; Polycrat. lib. i. c. 5. “Chilon Lacedaemonius, iungendae societatis causa missus Corinthum, duces et seniores populi ludentes inuenit in alea. Infecto itaque negotio reuersus est [dicens se nolle gloriam Spartanorum, quorum uirtus constructo Byzantio clarescebat, hac maculare infamia, ut dicerentur cum aleatoribus contraxisse societatem].” Accordingly, in ver. 12539 [l. 605], MS. C. 1 [i. e. MS. Camb. Univ. Lib. Dd. 4. 24] reads very rightly Lacedomye instead of Calidone, the common reading [of the old editions]. Our author has used before Lacedomie for Lacedaemon, v. 11692 [Frank. Tale, F. 1380].’
In the Petw. MS., the name Stilbon is explained as meaning Mercurius. So, in Liddell and Scott’s Gk. Lexicon, we have ‘στίλβων, -οντος, ὁ, the planet Mercury, Arist. Mund. 2. 9; cf. Cic. Nat. D. 2. 20.’ The original sense of the word was ‘shining,’ from the verb στίλβειν, to glitter.
Chaucer has given the wrong name. He was familiar with the name Stilbon (for Mercury), as it occurs (1) in the Epistola Valerii ad Rufinum, c. 27; (2) in the work of Martianus referred to in E. 1732; and (3) in the Anticlaudian, Distinctio quarta, c. 6. Cf. D. 671; E. 1732; Ho. Fame, 986; Notes and Queries, 8th S. iv. 175.
608. The first foot has but one syllable, viz. Pley. atte, for at the. Tyrwhitt oddly remarks here, that ‘atte has frequently been corrupted into at the,’ viz. in the old editions. Of course atte is rather, etymologically, a corruption of at the; Tyrwhitt probably means that the editors might as well have let the form atte stand. If so, he is quite right; for, though etymologically a corruption, it was a recognised form in the fourteenth century.
621. This story immediately follows the one quoted from John of Salisbury in the note to l. 603. After ‘societatem,’ he proceeds:—‘Regi quoque Demetrio, in opprobrium puerilis leuitatis, tali aurei a rege Parthorum dati sunt.’ What Demetrius this was, we are not told; perhaps it may have been Demetrius Nicator, king of Syria, who was defeated and taken prisoner by the Parthians 138 , and detained in captivity by them for ten years. This, however, is but a guess. Compare the story told of our own king, in Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act i. sc. 2.
628.To dryve the day awey, to pass the time. The same phrase occurs in Piers Plowman, B. prol. 224, where it is said of the labourers who tilled the soil that they ‘dryuen forth the longe day with Dieu vous saue, Dame emme,’ i. e. amuse themselves with singing idle songs.
633. In the margin of MSS. E. Hn. and Pt. is the quotation ‘Nolite omnino iurare,’ with a reference (in Hn. only) to Matt. v. The Vulgate version of Matt. v. 34 is—‘Ego autem dico uobis, non iurare omnino, neque per caelum, quia thronus Dei est.’
635. In the margin of MSS. E. Hn. Pt. is written—‘Ieremie quarto Iurabis in veritate, in Iudicio, et Iusticia’; see Jer. iv. 2.
There are several points of resemblance between the present passage and one in the Persones Tale (De Ira), I. 588–594, part of which has been already quoted in the note to l. 474. So also Wyclif: ‘ȝit no man schulde swere, nouther for life ne dethe, no but with these thre condiciones, that is, in treuthe, in dome, and in rightwisenes, as God sais by the prophet Ieremye’; Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 483. Hence one of the ‘olde bokes’ mentioned in l. 630 is the Treatise by Frère Lorens from which the Persones Tale is largely taken.
639.the firste table, i. e. the commandments that teach us our duty towards God; those in the second table teach us our duty to our neighbour.
641.seconde heste, second commandment. Formerly, the first two commandments were considered as one; the third commandment was therefore the second, as here. The tenth commandment was divided into two parts, to make up the number. See Wyclif’s treatise on ‘The ten Comaundements’; Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 82. Thus Wyclif says—‘The secounde maner maundement of God perteyneth to the Sone. Thow schalt not take the name of thi Lord God in veyn, neþþer in word, neiþer in lyvynge.’ So also in Hampole’s Prose Treatises, ed. Perry, p. 10; Religious Pieces in Prose and Verse, ed. Perry (E. E. T. S.), pp. 5, 25. See note to l. 474; and cf. Pers. Tale, I. 588.
643.rather, sooner; because this commandment precedes those which relate to murder, &c.
646. ‘They that understand his commandments know this,’ &c.
649. Wyclif says—‘For it is written in Ecclesiasticus, the thre and twenti chapitre, there he seith this: A man much sweringe schal be fulfilled with wickidnesse, and veniaunce schal not go away fro his hous’; Works, iii. 84. Chaucer here quotes the same text; see Ecclus. xxiii. 11. And he quotes it once more, in I. 593.
651. So Wyclif, iii. 483—‘hit is not leeful to swere by creaturis, ne by Goddys bonys, sydus, naylus, ne armus, or by ony membre of Cristis body, as þe moste dele of men usen.’
Tyrwhitt says—‘his nayles, i. e. with which he was nailed to the cross. Sir J. Maundevi le, c. vii—“And thereby in the walle is the place where the 4 Nayles of our Lord weren hidd; for he had 2 in his hondes, and 2 in his feet: and one of theise the Emperoure of Constantynoble made a brydille to his hors, to bere him in bataylle; and thorgh vertue thereof he overcame his enemies,” &c. He had said before, c. ii., that “on of the nayles that Crist was naylled with on the cross” was “at Constantynoble; and on in France, in the kinges chapelle.” ’
Mr. Wright adds, what is doubtless true, that these nails ‘were objects of superstition in the middle ages.’ Nevertheless, I am by no means satisfied that these comments are to the point. I strongly suspect that swearers did not stop to think, nor were they at all particular as to the sense in which the words might be used. Here, for example, nails are mentioned between heart and blood; in the quotation from Wyclif which begins this note, we find mention of ‘bones, sides, nails, and arms,’ followed by ‘any member of Christ’s body.’ Still more express is the phrase used by William Staunton (see note to l. 474 above) that ‘God’s members’ include ‘his nails.’ On the other hand, in Lewis’s Life of Pecock, p. 155 [or p. 107, ed. 1820], is a citation from a MS. to the effect that, in the year 1420, many men died in England ‘emittendo sanguinem per iuncturas et per secessum, scilicet in illis partibus corporis per quas horribiliter iurare consueuerunt, scilicet, per oculos Christi, per faciem Christi, per latera Christi, per sanguinem Christi, per cor Christi preciosum, per clauos Christi in suis manibus et pedibus.’ See ’Snails in Nares’ Glossary. A long essay might be written upon the oaths found in our old authors, but the subject is, I think, a most repulsive one.
652. Here Tyrwhitt notes—‘The Abbey of Hailes, in Glocestershire, was founded by Richard, king of the Romans, brother to Henry III. This precious relick, which was afterwards called “the blood of Hailes,” was brought out of Germany by the son of Richard, Edmund, who bestowed a third part of it upon his father’s Abbey of Hailes, and some time after gave the other two parts to an Abbey of his own foundation at Ashrug near Berkhamsted.—Hollinshed, vol. ii. p. 275.’ The Legend says that the holy blood was obtained by Titus from Joseph of Arimathea. Titus put it in the temple of Peace, in Rome. Thence Charlemagne took half of it to Germany, where Edmund found it, as said above. The Legend is printed in Horstmann’s Altenglische Legenden, p. 275. ‘A vial was shewn at Hales in Glocestershire, as containing a portion of our blessed Saviour’s blood, which suffered itself to be seen by no person in a state of mortal sin, but became visible when the penitent, by his offerings, had obtained forgiveness. It was now discovered that this was performed by keeping blood, which was renewed every week, in a vial, one side of which was thick and opaque, the other transparent, and turning it by a secret hand as the case required. A trick of the same kind, more skilfully executed, is still annually performed at Naples.’—Southey, Book of the Church, ch. xii. He refers to Fuller, b. vi. Hist. of Abbeys, p. 323; Burnet, i. 323, ed. 1681. See also the word Hales in the Index to the works published by the Parker Society; Pilgrimages to Walsingham and Canterbury (by Erasmus), ed. J. G. Nichols, 2nd ed. 1875, p. 88; Dodsley’s Old Plays, ed. Hazlitt, i. 339, where a long account is given, with a reference to Hearne’s ed. of Benedictus Abbas, ii. 751; and Skelton’s Garland of Laurel, l. 1461, on which see Dyce’s note.
653. ‘My chance is seven; yours is five and three.’ This is an allusion to the particular game called hazard, not to a mere comparison of throws to see which is highest. A certain throw (here seven) is called the caster’s chance. This can only be understood by an acquaintance with the rules of the game. See the article Hazard in Supplement to Eng. Cyclopaedia, or in Hoyle’s Games. See the note to B. 124; and see the Monkes Tale, B. 3851. Compare—‘Not unlyke the use of foule gamesters, who having lost the maine by [i. e. according to] true iudgement, thinke to face it out with a false oath’; Lyly’s Euphues and his England, ed. Arber, p. 289.
656. In the Towneley Mysteries, p. 241, when the soldiers dice for Christ’s garments, one says—
The readings are:—E. Cp. bicched; Ln. becched; Hl. bicched; Hn. Cm. bicche; Pt. and old edd. thilk, thilke (wrongly). Besides which, Tyrwhitt cites bichet, MS. Harl. 7335; becched, Camb. Univ. Lib. Dd. 4. 24; and, from other MSS., bicched, bicchid, bitched, bicche. The general consensus of the MSS. and the quotation from the Towneley Mysteries establish the reading given in the text beyond all doubt. Yet Tyrwhitt reads bicchel, for which he adduces no authority beyond the following. ‘Bickel, as explained by Kilian, is talus, ovillus et lusorius; and bickelen, talis ludere. See also Had. Junii Nomencl. n. 213. Our dice indeed are the ancient tesserae (κύβοι) not tali (ἀστράγαλοι); but, both being games of hazard, the implements of one might be easily attributed to the other. It should seem from Junius, loc. cit., that the Germans had preserved the custom of playing with the natural bones, as they have different names for a game with tali ovilli, and another with tali bubuli.’
I find in the Tauchnitz Dutch Dictionary—‘Bikkel, cockal. Bikkelen, to play at cockals.’ Here cockal is the old name for a game with four hucklebones (Halliwell), and is further made to mean the hucklebone itself. But there is nothing to connect bicched with Du. bickel, and the sense is very different. From the article on Bicched in the New Eng. Dict., it appears that the sense is ‘cursed, execrable,’ and is an epithet applied to other things besides dice. It is evidently an opprobrious word, and seems to be derived from the sb. bitch, opprobriously used. There is even a quotation in which the verb bitch means to bungle or spoil a business. We may explain it by ‘cursed bones.’
662.pryme, about nine o’clock; see notes to A. 3906, B. 2015. Here it means the canonical hour for prayer so called, to announce which bells were rung.
664. A hand-bell was carried before a corpse at a funeral by the sexton. See Rock, Church of Our Fathers, ii. 471; Grindal’s Works, p. 136; Myrc’s Instructions for Parish Priests, l. 1964.
666.That oon of them, the one of them; the old phrase for ‘one of them.’ knave, boy.
667.Go bet, lit. go better, i. e. go quicker; a term of encouragement to dogs in the chase. So in the Legend of Good Women, 1213 (Dido, l. 290), we have—
In Skelton’s Elynour Rummyng, l. 332, we have—‘And bad Elynour go bet.’ Halliwell says—‘Go bet, an old hunting cry, often introduced in a more general sense. See Songs and Carols, xv; Shak. Soc. Pap. i. 58; Chaucer, C. T. 12601 [the present passage]; Dido, 288 ; Tyrwhitt’s notes, p. 278; Ritson’s Anc. Pop. Poetry, p. 46. The phrase is mentioned by [Juliana] Berners in the Boke of St. Alban’s, and seems nearly equivalent to go along.’ It is strange that no editor has perceived the exact sense of this very simple phrase. Cf. ‘Keep bet our good,’ i. e. take better care of my property; Shipmannes Tale, B. 1622.
679.this pestilence, during this plague. Alluding to the Great Plagues that took place in the reign of Edward III. There were four such, viz. in 1348–9, 1361–2, 1369, and 1375–6. As Chaucer probably had the story from an Italian source, the allusion must be to the first and worst of these, the effects of which spread nearly all over Europe, and which was severely felt at Florence, as we learn from the description left by Boccaccio. See my note to Piers Plowman, B. v. 13.
684.my dame, my mother; as in H. 317; Piers Plowman, B. v. 37.
695.avow, vow; to make avow is the old phrase for to vow. Tyrwhitt alters it to a vow, quite unnecessarily; and the same alteration has been made by editors in other books, owing to want of familiarity with old MSS. It is true that the form vow does occur, as, e. g. in P. Plowm. B. prol. 71; but it is no less certain that avow occurs also, and was the older form; since we have oon auow (B. 334), and the phrase ‘I make myn avou,’ P. Plowman, A. v. 218; where no editorial sophistication can evade giving the right spelling. Equally clear is the spelling in the Prompt. Parv.—‘Avowe, Votum. Awowyn, or to make awowe, Voveo.’ And Mr. Way says—‘Auowe, veu; Palsgrave. This word occurs in R. de Brunne, Wiclif, and Chaucer. The phrase “performed his auowe” occurs in the Legenda Aurea, fol. 47.’ Those who are familiar with MSS. know that a prefixed a is often written apart from the word; thus the word now spelt accord is often written ‘a corde’; and so on. Hence, even when the word is really one word, it is still often written ‘a uow,’ and is naturally printed a vow in two words, where no such result was intended. Tyrwhitt himself prints min avow in the Knightes Tale, A. 2237, and again this avow in the same, A. 2414; where no error is possible. See more on this word in my note to l. 1 of Chevy Chase, in Spec. of Eng. 1394–1579. I have there said that the form vow does not occur in early writers; I should rather have said, it is by no means the usual form.
698.brother, i. e. sworn friend; see Kn. Tale, A. 1131, 1147. In l. 704, yboren brother means brother by birth.
709.to-rente, tare in pieces, dismembered. See note to l. 474 above.
713. This ‘old man’ answers to the romito or hermit of the Italian text. Note an old (indefinite), as compared with this olde (definite) in l. 714.
715. Tyrwhitt, in his Glossary, remarks—‘God you see! 7751 [D. 2169]; God him see! 4576 [B. 156]. May God keep you, or him, in his sight! In Troilus, ii. 85, it is fuller1 :—God you save and see!’ Gower has—‘And than I bidde, God hir see!’ Conf. Amant. bk. iv. (ed. Chalmers, p. 116, col. 2, or ed. Pauli, ii. 96). In Grimm’s Teutonic Mythology, ed. Stallybrass, i. 21, we find a similar phrase in O. H. German:—‘daz si got iemer schouwe’; Iwain, l. 794. Cf. ‘now loke the owre lorde!’ P. Plowman, B. i. 207. See also l. 766 below.
727. This is a great improvement upon the Italian Tale, which represents the hermit as fleeing from death. ‘Fratelli miei, io fuggo la morte, che mi vien dietro cacciando mi.’
Professor Kittredge, of Harvard University, informs me that ll. 727–733 are imitated from the first Elegy of Maximian, of which ll. 1-4, 223–8 are as follows:—
Cf. Calderon, Les Tres Justicias en Una; Act ii. sc. 1.
731.leve moder, dear mother Earth; see ‘genetrix’ above.
734.cheste. Mr. Jephson (in Bell’s edition) is puzzled here. He takes cheste to mean a coffin, which is certainly the sense in the Clerk’s Prologue, E. 29. The simple solution is that cheste refers here, not to a coffin, but to the box for holding clothes which, in olden times, almost invariably stood in every bedroom, at the foot of the bed. ‘At the foot of the bed there was usually an iron-bound hutch or locker, which served both as a seat, and as a repository for the apparel and wealth of the owner, who, sleeping with his sword by his side, was prepared to protect it against the midnight thief’; Our English Home, p. 101. It was also called a coffer, a hutch, or an ark. The old man is ready, in fact, to exchange his chest, containing all his worldly gear, for a single hair-cloth, to be used as his shroud.
743. In the margin of MSS. E. Hn. and Pt. is the quotation ‘Coram canuto capite consurge,’ from Levit. xix. 32. Hence we must understand Agayns, in l. 743, to mean before, or in presence of. Cf. B. 3702.
748.God be with you is said, with probability, to have been the original of our modern unmeaning Good bye! go or ryde, a general phrase for locomotion; go here means walk. Cp. ‘ryde or go,’ Kn. Tale, A. 1351. Cf. note to l. 866.
771. The readings are:—E. Hn. Cm. an .viij.; Ln. a .vij.; Cp. Pt. Hl. a seuen. The word eighte is dissyllabic; cf. A. S. eahta, Lat. octo. Wel ny an eighte busshels=very nearly the quantity of eight bushels. The mention of florins is quite in keeping with the Italian character of the poem. Those coins were so named because originally coined at Florence, the first coinage being in 1252; note in Cary’s Dante, Inferno, c. xxx. The expression ‘floreyn of florence’ occurs in The Book of Quintessence, ed. Furnivall, p. 6. The value of an English florin was 6s. 8d.; see note to Piers Plowman, B. ii. 143. There is an excellent note on florins in Thynne’s Animadversions on Speght’s Chaucer, ed. Furnivall, p. 45.
781. In allusion to the old proverb—‘Lightly come, lightly go.’ Cotgrave, s. v. Fleute, gives the corresponding French proverb thus:—‘Ce qui est venu par la fleute s’en retourne avec le tabourin; that the pipe hath gathered, the tabour scattereth; goods ill gotten are commonly ill spent.’ In German—‘wie gewonnen, so zerronnen.’
782.wende, would have weened, would have supposed. It is the past tense subjunctive.
790.doon us honge, lit. cause (men) to hang us; we should now say, cause us to be hanged. ‘The Anglo-Saxons nominally punished theft with death, if above 12d. value; but the criminal could redeem his life by a ransom. In the 9th of Henry I. this power of redemption was taken away, 1108. The punishment of theft was very severe in England, till mitigated by Peel’s Acts, 9 and 10 Geo. IV. 1829.’—Haydn, s. v. Theft.
793. To draw cuts is to draw lots; see Prologue, 835, 838, 845. A number of straws were held by one of the company; the rest drew one apiece, and whoever drew the longest (or the shortest) was the one on whom the lot fell. The fatal straw was the cut; cf. Welsh cwtws, a lot. In France, the lot fell on him who drew the longest straw; so that their phrase was—‘tirer la longue paille.’
797. So in the Italian story—‘rechi del pane e del vino,’ let him fetch bread and wine.
806–894. Here Chaucer follows the general sense of the Italian story rather closely, but with certain amplifications.
807.That oon, the one; that other, the other (vulgarly, the tother).
819.conseil, a secret; as in P. Plowman, B. v. 168. We still say—‘to keep one’s own counsel.’
838.rolleth, revolves; cf. D. 2217, Troil. v. 1313.
844. So the Italian story—‘Il Demonio . . . mise in cuore a costui,’ &c.; the devil put it in his heart; see vol. iii. p. 441.
848.leve, leave. ‘That he had leave to bring him to sorrow.’
851–878. Of this graphic description there is no trace in the Italian story as we now have it. Cf. Rom. and Juliet, v. 1.
860.al-so, as. The sense is—as (I hope) God may save my soul. That our modern as is for als, which is short for also, from the A. S. eall-swá, is now well known. This fact was doubted by Mr. Singer, but Sir F. Madden, in his Reply to Mr. Singer’s remarks upon Havelok the Dane, accumulated such a mass of evidence upon the subject as to set the question at rest for ever. It follows that as and also are doublets, or various spellings of the same word.
865.sterve, die; A. S. steorfan. The cognate German sterben retains the old general sense. See l. 888 below.
866.goon a paas, walk at an ordinary foot-pace; so also, a litel more than paas, a little faster than at a foot-pace, Prol. 825. Cotgrave has—‘Aller le pas, to pace, or go at a foot-pace; to walk fair and softly, or faire and leisurely.’ nat but, no more than only; cf. North of England nobbut. The time meant would be about twenty minutes at most.
888. In the Italian story—‘amendue caddero morti,’ both of them fell dead; see vol. iii. p. 442.
889.Avicen, Avicenna; mentioned in the Prologue, l. 432. Avicenna, or Ibn-Sina, a celebrated Arabian philosopher and physician, born near Bokhara 980, died 1037. His chief work was a treatise on medicine known as the Canon (‘Kitâb al-Kânûn fi’l-Tibb,’ that is, ‘Book of the Canon in Medicine’). This book, alluded to in the next line, is divided into books and sections; and the Arabic word for ‘section’ is in the Latin version denoted by fen, from the Arabic fann, a part of any science. Chaucer’s expression is not quite correct; he seems to have taken canon in its usual sense of rule, whereas it is really the title of the whole work. It is much as if one were to speak of Dante’s work in the terms—‘such as Dante never wrote in any Divina Commedia nor in any canto.’ Lib. iv. Fen 1 of Avicenna’s Canon treats ‘De Venenis.’
895. Against this line is written, in MS. E. only, the word ‘Auctor’; to shew that the paragraph contained in ll. 895–903 is a reflection by the author.
897. The final e in glutonye is preserved by the caesural pause; but the scansion of the line is more easily seen by supposing it suppressed. Hence in order to scan the line, suppress the final e in glutonye, lay the accent on the second u in luxúrie, and slur over the final -ie in that word. Thus—
O glút | oný’ | luxú | rie and hás | ardrýë ∥
904.good’ men is the common phrase of address to hearers in old homilies, answering to the modern ‘dear brethren.’ The Pardoner, having told his tale (after which Chaucer himself has thrown in a moral reflection), proceeds to improve his opportunity by addressing the audience in his usual professional style; see l. 915.
907.noble, a coin worth 6s. 8d., first coined by Edward III. about 1339. See note to P. Plowman, B. iii. 45.
908. So in P. Plowman, B. prol. 75, it is said of the Pardoner that he ‘raughte with his ragman [bull] rynges and broches.’
910.Cometh is to be pronounced Com’th, as in Prol. 839; so also in l. 925 below.
920.male, bag; see Prol. 694. Cf. E. mail-bag.
935. The first two syllables in peravénture are to be very rapidly pronounced; it is not uncommon to find the spelling peraunter, as in P. Plowman, B. xi. 10.
937.which a, what sort of a, how great a, what a.
945.Ye, for a grote, yea, even for a groat, i. e. 4d.
946.have I, may I have; an imprecation.
947.so theech, a colloquialism for so thee ich, as I may thrive, as I hope to thrive. The Host proceeds to abuse the Pardoner.
951. This is a reference to the ‘Invention of the Cross,’ or finding of the true cross by St. Helen, the mother of Constantine; commemorated on May 3. See Chambers, Book of Days, i. 586; Alban Butler, Lives of the Saints.
962.right ynough, quite enough; right is an adverb. Cf. l. 960.
NOTES TO GROUP D.
[1 ]This seems to be a mistake; the MSS. and old editions have simply ‘god you see.’