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NOTES TO GROUP D. - 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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NOTES TO GROUP D.
The Wife of Bath’s Prologue.
There is nothing whatever to connect this Prologue with any preceding Tale. In MS. E. and most others, it follows the Man of Law’s Tale, which cannot be right, as that Tale must be followed by the Shipman’s Prologue. Curiously enough, that Prologue does follow the Man of Law’s Tale in the Harleian MS., but the Wife of Bath’s Tale is made to follow next, in place of the Shipman’s Tale.
In MS. Pt., and several others, the Wife’s Prologue follows the Merchant’s Tale; such is the arrangement in edd. 1532 and 1561. This is possible, as the Merchant’s Tale ends a Fragment, and the Wife’s Prologue begins one; but it is easier to fit the lines at the end of the Merchant’s Tale to the Squire’s Prologue. In the Royal MS. 18. C. 2, and in MSS. Laud 739 and Barlow 20, there is an attempt to introduce the Wife’s Prologue by some spurious lines which are printed in vol. iii. p. 446. I just note that we have a genuine Epilogue to the Merchant’s Tale (see E. 2419–2440); which is quite enough to put the above lines out of court.
MS. Ln. has a different arrangement. It gives eight spurious lines at the end of the Squire’s Tale, and then four more spurious lines to link them with the Wife’s Prologue; see vol. iii. p. 446.
In the Ellesmere MS. there are numerous quotations in the margin, as will be noted in due course. In the Essays on Chaucer, pp. 293, the Rev. W. W. Woollcombe has shewn that the passages which seem to be taken from John of Salisbury are really taken from Jerome, whom John copied, verbally, at some length. I may add, that I came independently to the same conclusion; indeed, it becomes obvious, on investigation, that such was the case. Chaucer’s chief sources for this Prologue are: Jerome’s Epistle against Jovinian, and Le Roman de la Rose. I quote the former (frequently) from Hieronymi Opus Epistolarum, edited by Erasmus, printed at Basle in 1524.
1.auctoritee, authoritative text, quotable statement of a good author. ‘Though there were no written statement on the subject, my own experience would enable me to speak of the evils of marriage.’ Cf. the character of the Wife in the Prologue, A. 445–476. Lines 1-3 are imitated from Le Rom. de la Rose, 13006–10.
6. So in A. 460, with she hadde for I have had; see note to that line.
7. The alternative reading (in the footnote) does not agree with l. 6. MS. E. is quite right here. Probably MS. Cm. would have given us the same reading, but it is here mutilated.
11. In E., a sidenote has:—‘In Cana Galilee’; from John, ii. 1.
12–13. In E., a sidenote has:—‘Qui enim semel iuit ad nuptias, docuit semel esse nubendum.’ This is from Hieronymi lib. i. c. Jovinianum; Epist. (ut supra), t. ii. p. 29. But the edition has uenit for iuit, and semel docuit.
14–22. This also is from Jerome, as above (p. 28):—‘Siquidem et illa in Euangelio Iohannis Samaritana, sextum se maritum habere dicens, arguitur a domino, quod non sit uir eius. Vbi enim numerus maritorum est, ibi uir, qui proprie unus est, esse desiit.’ Cf. John, iv. 18.
23–25. In the margin of E. we find:—‘Non est uxorum numerus diffinitus.’ About 15 lines after the last quotation, we find in Jerome:—‘non esse uxorum numerum definitum.’ This is immediately preceded (in Jerome) by a quotation from St. Paul (1 Cor. vii. 29), which is also quoted in the margin of E.
28. In the margin of E.—‘Crescite et multiplicamini’; Gen. i. 28. The text was suggested by the fact that Jerome quotes it near the beginning of his letter (p. 18). Soon after (p. 19), he quotes Matt. xix. 5, which Chaucer quotes accordingly in l. 31.
33.bigamye. ‘Bigamy, according to the canonists, consisted not only in marrying two wives at a time, but in marrying two spinsters successively.’—Bell.
octogamye, marriage of eight husbands. This queer word is due to Jerome, and affords clear proof of Chaucer’s indebtedness. ‘Non damno digamos, imò nec trigamos; et (si dici potest) octogamos’; p. 29. Cf. ‘A dodecagamic Potter,’ in a note to ‘And a polygamic Potter,’ in Shelley’s Prologue to Peter Bell the Third.
35.here, hear; a gloss in E. has ‘audi.’ See 1 Kings, xi. 3.
44. Tyrwhitt says that, after this verse, some MSS. (as Camb. Dd. 4. 24, Ii. 3. 26, and Egerton 2726) have the six lines following:—
He adds—‘if these lines are not Chaucer’s, they are certainly more in his manner than the generality of the imitations of him. Perhaps he wrote them, and afterwards blotted them out. They come in but awkwardly here, and he has used the principal idea in another place:—
I beg leave to endorse Tyrwhitt’s opinion; the six lines are certainly genuine, and I therefore repeat them, in a better spelling and form.
I know of no other example of scoler-ing, i. e. young scholar.
46. In the margin of E. is here written—‘Si autem non continent, nubant’; from 1 Cor. vii. 9.
47. In the margin of E. is a quotation from Jerome, p. 28; but it is really from the Vulgate, 1 Cor. vii. 39; viz.—‘Quod si dormierit uir eius, libera est; cui uult, nubat, tantum in Domino.’ Cf. Rom. vii. 3.
51–52. Alluding to 1 Cor. vii. 28, and 1 Cor. vii. 9, here quoted in the margin of E.
54. ‘Primus Lamech sanguinarius et homicida, unam carnem in duas diuisit uxores’; Jerome (as above), p. 29, l. 1; partly quoted here in the margin of E. Cf. Gen. iv. 19–23. ‘There runs through the whole of this doctrine about bigamy a confusion between marrying twice and having two wives at once.’—Bell. See the allusions to Lamech in F. 550, and Anelida, 150.
55–56. In the margin of E. is:—‘Abraham trigamus: Iacob quadrigamus.’ Discussed by Jerome, p. 19, near the bottom.
61. ‘Ecce, inquit [Iouinianus], Apostolus profitetur de uirginibus Domini se non habere praeceptum; et qui cum autoritate de maritis et uxoribus iusserat, non audet imperare quod Dominus non praecepit. . . . Frustra enim iubetur, quod in arbitrio eius ponitur cui iussum est’; &c.—Jerome (as above), p. 25.
65. See 1 Cor. vii. 25, here quoted in the margin of E.
69. ‘Si uirginitatem Dominus imperasset, uidebatur nuptias condemnare, et hominum auferre seminarium, unde et ipsa uirginitas nascitur’; Jerome, p. 25.
75. Tyrwhitt aptly quotes from Lydgate’s Falls of Princes, fol. xxvi:—
We must conclude that a dart or spear was the prize given (in some games) to the best runner. That dart here means ‘prize,’ appears from another proof altogether. For in the margin of E. we here find a quotation from Jerome, p. 26, which runs in a fuller form, thus:—‘Proponit ἀγωνοθέτης praemium, inuitat ad cursum, tenet in manu uirginitatis brauium, . . . et clamitat, . . . qui potest capere, capiat.’ The word brauium, i. e. prize in a race, is borrowed from the Vulgate, 1 Cor. ix. 24, where the Greek has βραβεῑον. ‘Catch who so may,’ in l. 76, represents ‘qui potest capere, capiat.’ Hence cacche here means ‘win.’
81. Alluding to 1 Cor. vii. 7, here quoted in E.
84. ‘Haec autem dico secundum indulgentiam’; 1 Cor. vii. 6.
87. Alluding to 1 Cor. vii. 1, here quoted in E.
89.tassemble, for to assemble, to bring together.
Cf. ‘qui ignem tetigerit, statim aduritur,’ &c.—Jerome, p. 21.
91. Cf. ‘Simulque considera, quod aliud donum uirginitatis sit, aliud nuptiarum’; Jerome (as above), ii. 22.
96.preferre is evidently a neuter verb here, meaning ‘be preferable to.’
101.tree, wood; alluding to 2 Tim. ii. 20.
103.a propre yifte, a gift peculiar to him; see 1 Cor. vii. 7, here quoted in E.
105. See Rev. xiv. 1-4, a line or two from which is here quoted in E.
110.fore, track, course, footsteps; glossed ‘steppes’ in MS. E. Some MSS. have the inferior lore, shewing that the scribes understood the word no better than the writer of the note in Bell’s Chaucer, who says—‘Harl. MS. reads fore, which is probably a mere clerical error.’ Wright, however, correctly retains fore. It occurs again in D. 1935, q. v., where Tyrwhitt again alters it to lore. Bradley gives ten examples of it, to which I can add another, viz. ‘he folowede the fore of an oxe,’ Trevisa, ii. 343 (repeated from the example in i. 197, which Bradley cites). A. S. fōr, a course, way; from faran (pt. t. fōr), to go. Cf. Matt. xix. 21, which is quoted in Cp. and Pt.
115. ‘Et cur, inquies, creata sunt genitalia, et sic a conditore sapientissimo fabricati sumus, &c. . . ipsa organa . . sexus differentiam praedicant’; Jerome (as above), p. 42.
117. I give the reading of E., which seems much the best. For wight, Cm. has wyf. Hn. has: And of so parfit wys a wight y-wroght; which is also good. But Cp. Pt. Ln. have: And of so parfyt wise and why y-wrought. Hl. has: And in what wise was a wight y-wrought. The last reading is the worst.
128.ther, where, wherein. With l. 130, cf. 1 Cor. vii. 3, where the Vulgate has ‘Uxori uir debitum reddat.’
135. ‘Nunquam ergo cessemus a libidine, ne frustra huiuscemodi membra portemus’; Jerome, p. 42.
144.hoten, be called; A. S. hātan. The sense is—‘Let virgins be as bread made of selected wheaten flour; and let us wives be called barley-bread; nevertheless Jesus refreshed many a man with barleybread, as St. Mark tells us.’ Chaucer makes a slight mistake; it is St. John who speaks of barley-loaves; see John vi. 9 (cf. Mark vi. 38). For hoten, Tyrwhitt, Wright, Bell, and Morris, all give the mistaken reading eten, which misses the whole point of the argument; but Gilman has hoten. There is no question as to what the Wife should eat, but only as to her condition in life. It is the Wife herself who is compared to something edible.
The comparison is from Jerome (as above), p. 21:—‘Velut si quis definiat: Bonum est triticeo pane uesci, et edere purissimam similam. Tamen ne quis compulsus fame stercus bubulum: concedo ei, ut uescatur et hordeo.’
147. Alluding to 1 Cor. vii. 20, here quoted in E.
151.daungerous, difficult of access; cf. l. 514.
155. In the margin of E.—‘Qui uxorem habet, et debitor dicitur, et esse in praeputio, et seruus uxoris,’ &c. From Jerome (as above), p. 26.
156. Alluding to 1 Cor. vii. 28, here quoted in E.
158. Alluding to 1 Cor. vii. 4, here quoted in E.
161. Alluding to Eph. v. 25, here quoted in E.
167–168.What, why. to-yere, this year; cf. to-day. ‘To-yere, horno, hornus, hornotinus’; Catholicon Anglicum. The phrase is still in use in some of our dialects.
170.another tonne. This expression is probably due to Le Roman de la Rose, 6839:—
This again is from Homer’s two urns, sources of good and evil (Iliad, xxiv. 527), as quoted by Boethius, bk. ii. pr. 2. See note in vol. ii. p. 428 (l. 53). It is suggested that the Pardoner has been used to a tun of ale, and now he must expect to have a taste of something less pleasant. Cf. l. 177.
One of Gower’s French Balades contains the lines:—
180. The saying referred to is written in the margin of Dd., as Tyrwhitt tells us. It runs:—‘Qui per alios non corrigitur, alii per ipsum corrigentur.’ With regard to its being written in Ptolemy’s Almagest, Tyrwhitt quaintly remarks:—‘I suspect that the Wife of Bath’s copy of Ptolemy was very different from any that I have been able to meet with.’ The same remark applies to her second quotation in l. 326 below. I have no doubt that the Wife is simply copying, for convenience, these words in Le Roman de la Rose, 7070:—
Jean de Meun then cites a passage of quite another kind, but the Wife of Bath did not stick at such a trifle. The Almagest is mentioned again in the same, l. 18772.
As to the above saying, cf. Barbour’s Bruce, i. 121, 2; and my notes to the line at pp. 545 and 612 of the same. ‘Felix quem faciunt aliena pericula cautum’; cf. Rom. de la Rose, 8041; Robert of Brunne, Handlyng Synne, 8086.
183.Almageste. The celebrated astronomer, Claudius Ptolemaeus, who flourished in the second century, wrote, as his chief work, the μεγάλη σύνταξις τη̑ς ἀστρονομίας. This work was also called, for brevity, μεγάλη, and afterwards μεγίστη (greatest); out of which, by prefixing the Arab. article al, the Arabs made Al-mejisti, or Al-magest.
197. Here wér-e is made dissyllabic. For The three, Hl. has Tuo; which is clearly wrong.
199. In the margin of E. is written part of the last sentence in Part I. of Jerome’s treatise:—‘hierophantas quoque Atheniensium usque hodie cicutae sorbitione castrari; et postquam in pontificatum fuerint electi, uiros esse desinere.’ Probably quoted to emphasize the sense of uiros.
207–210. Imitated from Le Rom. de la Rose, 13478–82.
218.Dunmowe, in Essex, N. W. of Chelmsford. Tyrwhitt refers us to Blount’s Ancient Tenures, p. 162, and adds:—‘This whimsical institution was not peculiar to Dunmow; there was the same in Bretagne. “A l’Abbaie Sainct Melaine, près Rennes, y a, plus de six cens ans sont, un costé de lard encore tous frais et non corrumpu; et neantmoins voué et ordonné aux premiers, qui par an et jour ensemble mariez ont vescut san debat, grondement, et sans s’en repentir.”—Contes d’Eutrap, t. ii. p. 161.’ See P. Plowman, C. xi. 276, and my long note on the subject.
220.fawe, fain; a variant form of fain, A. S. fægen, fægn. See Havelok, 2160; Alisaunder, ed. Weber, 1956; &c.
221. Here occurs the first reference to the Aureolus Liber de Nuptiis, written by a certain Theophrastus, who is mentioned below (l. 671), and in E. 1310. Jerome gives a long extract from this work in his book against Jovinian (so frequently cited above), and has thus preserved a portion of it; and John of Salisbury transferred the whole extract bodily to his Policraticus. It is clear that Chaucer used the work of Jerome rather than that of John of Salisbury. The extract from Theophrastus occurs not far from the end of the first book of the epistle against Jovinian; and near the beginning of it occur the words—‘de foro ueniens quid attulisti?’—Jerome (as above), p. 51. This probably suggested the present line, as it is a question put by a wife to her husband.
226.and bere hem, i. e. and wrongly accuse them, or make them believe.
227. Tyrwhitt quotes two corresponding lines from Le Roman de la Rose:—
He refers to l. 19013; but in Méon’s edition, these are ll. 18336–7.
229. Cf. Le Rom. de la Rose, 9949:—‘Ce ne di-ge pas por les bonnes.’
231.wys, cunning. In MSS. E. and Hn. the caesural pause is marked after wyf. The line, as it stands, is imperfect, and only to be scanned by making the pause after wyf occupy the space of a syllable. The reading wys-e gets over the difficulty, but is hardly what we should expect; it is remarkable that E. Hn. and Cm. all read wys, without a final e; cf. wys in A. 68, 785, 851. The only justification of the form wys-e would be to consider it as feminine; and such seems to be the case in Gower, Conf. Am., ed. Pauli, i. 156:—‘His doughter wis-e Petronel-le.’ if that she can hir good, if she knows what is to her advantage.
232. ‘Will make him believe that the chough is mad.’ In the New E. Dict., s. v. Chough, Dr. Murray shews that the various readings cou, cowe, kowe, &c. tend to prove that cow in this passage may well mean ‘chough’ or ‘jackdaw’ rather than ‘cow.’ This solves the difficulty; for the allusion is clearly to one of the commonest of medieval stories, told of various talking birds, originally of a parrot.
Very briefly, the story runs thus. A jealous husband, leaving his wife, sets his parrot to watch her. On his return, the bird reports her misconduct. But the wife avers that the parrot lies, and tries to prove it by an ingenious stratagem. The husband believes his frail wife’s plot, and promptly wrings the bird’s neck for telling stories, under the impression that it has gone mad.
I formerly explained this in The Academy, April 5, 1890, p. 239. In the no. for April 19, p. 269, Mr. Clouston referred me to his paper on ‘The Tell-tale Bird’ printed in the Chaucer Society’s Originals and Analogues, p. 439, with reference to the Manciple’s Tale, which relates a similar story. See the account of the Manciple’s Tale in vol. iii. p. 501. It is the story of the Husband and the Parrot, in the Arabian Nights’ Entertainment.
This line of Chaucer’s seems to have attracted attention, though there is nothing to shew how it was understood. Thus, in Roy’s Rede me and be nott Wrothe, ed. Arber, p. 80, we find:—
In Awdelay’s Fraternyte of Vacabondes (E. E. T. S.), p. 14, we find: ‘Gyle Hather is he, that wyll stand by his Maister when he is at dinner, and byd him beware that he eate no raw meate, because he would eate it himself. This is a pickthanke knaue, that would make his Maister beleue that the Cowe is woode.’ Palsgrave, in his French Dictionary, p. 421, has:—‘I am borne in hande of a thyng; On me faict a croyre. He wolde beare me in hande the kowe is woode; il me veult fayre a croyre de blanc que ce soit noyr.’ The spelling coe for ‘jackdaw’ occurs in Skelton’s Phyllyp Sparowe, l. 468. See also Hoccleve’s Works, ed. Furnivall, p. 217, where ‘Magge, the good kowe’ is an obvious error for ‘Magge the wode kowe,’ since ‘Magge’ is a name for a mag-pie. This I also explained in The Academy, April 1, 1893, p. 285.
233. ‘And she will take witness, of her own maid, of her (the maid’s) assent (to her truth).’ This is part of the proof of the correctness of the interpretation of the preceding line. For, in most of the versions of the tale above referred to, the lady is aided and abetted by a maid who is in her confidence.
235. Here Chaucer takes several hints from the book of Theophrastus as quoted by Jerome; see note to l. 221. Thus (in Jerome, as above, p. 51) we find:—‘Deinde per noctes totas garrulae conquestiones:—Illa ornatior procedit in publicum; haec honoratior ab omnibus: ego in conuentu feminarum misella despicior. Cur aspiciebas uicinam? Quid cum ancillula loquebaris?’ It is continued at l. 243; cf. ‘Non amicum habere possumus, non sodalem.’ Next, at l. 248; cf. ‘Pauperem alere difficile est, diuitem ferre tormentum.’ Next, at l. 253; cf. ‘Pulchra cito adamatur . . . Difficile custoditur quod plures amant.’ Jean de Meun also quotes from Theophrastus plentifully, mentioning him by name in Le Rom. de la Rose, l. 8599; see the whole passage. ‘Caynard, obsolete, adapted from F. cagnard, sluggard (according to Littré, from Ital. cagna, bitch, fem. of cane, dog). A lazy fellow, a sluggard; a term of reproach. (1303) Rob. of Brunne, Handlyng Synne, l. 8300: A kaynarde ande an olde folte [misprinted folle]. (About 1310) in Wright’s Lyric Poems, xxxix. 110 (1842): This croked caynard, sore he is a-dred.’—New Eng. Dict. (where the present passage is also quoted).
246. See A. 1261, and the note. Wright here adds two more examples. He says—‘In the satirical poem of Doctor Double-ale, [in Hazlitt’s Early Pop. Poetry, iii. 308], we have the lines:—
Among the Letters relating to the Suppression of Monasteries (Camden Soc.), p. 133, there is one from a monk of Pershore, who says that his brother monks of that house “drynk an bowll after collacyon tell ten or xii. of the clock, and cum to mattens as dronck as mys.” ’
248. See note to l. 235 above; so again, for l. 253, cf. Le Rom. de la Rose, 8617–8638.
255. Cf. Ovid, Heroid. xvi. 288:—
‘Lis est cum forma magna pudicitiae.’
257. Probably Chaucer was thinking of a passage in Theophrastus, following soon after that quoted in the note to l. 235. ‘Alius forma, alius ingenio, alius facetiis, alius liberalitate sollicitat.’ But Theophrastus is referring to the accomplishments of the wooers rather than of the women wooed. Cf. Le Rom. de la Rose, ll. 8629–36—‘S’ele est bele,’ &c.
263. Clearly from Le Rom. de la Rose, l. 8637—
265. Immediately after, we have—
269. See in Hazlitt’s Proverbs: ‘Joan’s as good as my lady in the dark.’
271. ‘It is a hard matter to control a thing that no one would willingly keep.’ Simply translated from Theophrastus (see note to l. 235), who has—‘Molestum est possidere, quod nemo habere dignetur.’
272.helde, a variant form of holde, hold, keep; from A. S. healdan. As Chaucer usually has holde (see D. 1144), helde is probably used for the sake of the rime. Note that it is the only example of a rime in -elde in the whole of the Canterbury Tales; indeed, the only other example is in Troil. ii. 337–8. We find the same rime in King Horn, l. 911:—
275. Again from Theophrastus (near the beginning):—‘Non est ergo uxor ducenda sapienti. Primum enim impediri studia philosophiae,’ &c.
277.welked, withered; see C. 738, and Stratmann.
278. Chaucer quotes this, as from Solomon, in the Pers. Tale, I. 631, and explains it there more fully; and again, in the Tale of Melibeus, B. 2276. An Anglo-French poet named Herman wrote a poem ‘on the three words, smoke, rain, and woman, which, according to Solomon, drive a man from his house; and it appears from the poem that it was composed at the suggestion of Alexander, bishop of Lincoln, who died in 1147.’—T. Wright, Biographia Brit. Literaria, Anglo-Norman Period, p. 333. See also my note to P. Plowman, C. xx. 297, quoted in the note to B. 2276 above, at p. 207.
282. This again is from Theophrastus (see note to l. 235):—‘Si iracunda, si fatua, si deformis, si superba, si foetida; quodcunque uitii est, post nuptias discimus.’
285. Immediately after the last quotation there follows:—‘Equus, asinus, bos, canis, et uilissima mancipia, uestes quoque et lebetes, sedile lignum, calix et urceolus fictilis probantur prius, et sic emuntur: sola uxor non ostenditur, ne ante displiceat, quàm ducatur.’
293. Next follows:—‘Attendenda semper eius est facies, et pulchritudo laudanda . . . Vocanda “domina,” celebrandus natalis eius, . . . honoranda nutrix eius, et gerula, seruus, patrimus, et alumnus,’ &c. Cf. Le Rom. de la Rose, 13914.
303–306. Next follows:—‘et formosus assecla, et procurator calamistratus, et in longam securamque libidinem exectus spado: sub quibus nominibus adulteri delitescunt.’
Chaucer has merely taken the general idea, and given it a form peculiarly adapted to his sketch. That he really was thinking of this passage is clear from the fact that, in the margin of E., appears this note—‘Et procurator calamistratus.’
311.of our dame, of the mistress, i. e. of myself.
312.Seint Iame, St. James; see A. 466, and the note.
320.Alis, Alice; A. F. Alice, Alys, Aleyse; Lat. Alicia. Skelton rimes Ales with tales; Elinour Rummyng, 351–2.
322.at our large, free, at large; we now drop our. Cf. A. 1283.
325. See notes to ll. 180, 183. We need not search in Ptolemy for this saying.
327.who hath the world in honde, i. e. who has abundant wealth. Cf. l. 330. The sense of the proverb is, that the wisest man is he who is contented, who cares nothing that others are much richer than himself. Cf. 1 Tim. vi. 6, 8; and the proverb—‘Content is all.’ In the margin of E. is written the Latin form of the saying:—‘Inter omnes altior existit, qui non curat in cuius manu sit mundus.’
333.werne, forbid, refuse. The idea is from Le Roman de la Rose, l. 7447:—
It was quite a proverbial phrase, as the last line shews. It occurs, for example, in Alexander and Dindimus, ed. Skeat, l. 233, and in the original Latin text of the same. Duke Francesco Maria della Rovere used the device of ‘a lighted candle, by which others are lighted, with the motto Non degener addam’; i. e. I will add without loss.—Mrs. Palliser, Historic Devices, p. 263. Cicero (De Officiis, i. 16) quotes three lines from Ennius containing the same idea.
342. From 1 Tim. ii. 9, here quoted in the margin of E.
350.his, its. The pronoun is here neuter, and is the same in all the MSS. Tyrwhitt altered it to hire (her), but needlessly. But in l. 352, the sex of the cat is defined. As to the singed cat, ‘that, as they say, does not like to roam,’ see The Exempla of Jacques de Vitry, ed. Crane, (Folk Lore Soc.), 1890, pp. 219, 241.
354.goon a-caterwawed, go a-caterwauling. I explain the suffix -ed as put for -eth, A. S. -að, as in on huntað, a-hunting; where -að is a substantival suffix. I have given several examples of this curious substitution in the note to C. 406, q. v. Cotgrave has: ‘Aller à gars, to hunt after lads; (a wench) to go a caterwawling.’ And see Caterwaul in the New Eng. Dict.
357. Clearly from Le Rom. de la Rose, 14583:—
As to Argus, see Ovid, Met. i. 625.
362. Here Chaucer again quotes largely from Hieronymus c. Iouinianum, lib. ii.; in Epist. (Basil. 1524), ii. 36, 37. Many of the passages are cited from the Vulgate, but they are all found in this treatise of Jerome’s, which furnishes the real key. Jerome says:—‘Per tria mouetur terra, quartum autem non potest ferre; si seruus regnet, et stultus si saturetur panibus, et odiosa uxor (see l. 366) si habeat bonum uirum, et ancilla si eiciat dominam suam. Ecce et hic inter malorum magnitudinem uxor ponitur’; p. 37. Really quoted from Prov. xxx. 21–23.
371. Again from Jerome, p. 37: ‘Infernus, et amor mulieris, et terra quae non satiatur aqua, et ignis non dicit “satis est.” ’ Really from Prov. xxx. 16, where the A. V. has ‘the grave’ instead of ‘hell.’ Note that Jerome here has amor mulieris, though the Vulgate has os uuluae. The passage is quoted in E., with dicent for dicit.
373.wylde fyr, wild fire; i. e. fiercely burning fire, probably with reference to lighted naphtha or the like. Chaucer again uses the term in the Pers. Tale, I. 445. Greek fire was of a like character. In the Romance of Rich. Coer de Lion, l. 2627, we find:—
Thus the Greek fire, at any rate, was not quenched by the sea. See La Chimie au moyen âge, par M. Berthelot, p. 100.
376. From Jerome (p. 36):—‘Sicut in ligno uermis, ita perdit uirum suum uxor malefica.’ Quoted in the margin of E., with perdet for perdit. Cf. ‘Sicut . . uermis ligno,’ Prov. xxv. 20 (Vulgate); not in the A. V.
378. Jerome has (p. 39):—‘Nemo enim melius scire potest quid sit uxor uel mulier, illo qui passus est.’ (Quoted in E.)
386.byte and whyne, i.e. both bite (when in a bad temper) and whine or whinny as if wanting a caress (when in a good one). It is made clearer by the parallel line in Anelida, l. 157, on which see my note in vol. i. p. 535.
389. Cf. our proverb—‘first come, first served.’ Hazlitt quotes the medieval Lat. proverb—‘Ante molam primus qui venit, non molat imus.’ And Mr. Wright quotes the French proverb of the fifteenth century—‘Qui premier vient au moulin premier doit mouldre.’ Cotgrave, s. v. Mouldre, has the same; with arrive for vient, and le premier for premier.
392.hir lyve, i. e. during their (whole) life. With ll. 393–6, cf. Le Rom. de la Rose, 14032–42.
399.colour, pretext; as in Acts, xxvii. 30.
401. In the margin of Cp. and Ln. is the medieval line: ‘Fallere, flere, nere, dedit Deus in muliere.’ Pt. has the same, with statuit for dedit.
406.grucching, grumbling; mod. E. grudge. Hl. has chidyng.
407. Suggested by the complaint of a jealous man to his wife, in Le Roman de la Rose, 9129:—
414. ‘Everything has its price.’
415. This proverb has occurred before; see A. 4134. Lydgate quotes it in st. 2 of a poem with the burden—‘Lyk thyn audience, so utter thy langage’; see Polit., Relig., and Love Poems, ed. Furnivall, p. 25, l. 15. John of Salisbury says:—‘Veteri celebratur prouerbio: quia uacuae manus temeraria petitio est’; Policraticus, lib. v. c. 10.
418. Cf. l. 417. Bacon was considered as a common food for rustics. Cf. ‘bacon-fed knaves’; 1 Hen. IV. ii. 2. 88. It is not worth while to discuss the matter further.
430.conclusioun, purpose, aim, object.
432.Wilkin was evidently, like Malle or Malkin, a name for a pet lamb or sheep; see B. 4021. In this line (if mekely be trisyllabic, and lok’th monosyllabic), the word our-e is dissyllabic, which is not common in Chaucer.
433.ba, kiss; see note to A. 3709.
435.spyced conscience, scrupulous conscience; see note to A. 526.
446.Peter, by St. Peter; cf. Hous of Fame, 1034, 2000; also G. 665, and the note; and B. 1404. I shrewe you, I beshrew you.
460. This story is from Valerius Maximus; Pliny tells it of one Mecenius. In the margin of E., the reference is exactly given, viz. to ‘Valerius, lib. 6. cap. 3,’ which is quite right. I quote the passage: ‘Egnatii autem Metelli longe minori de caussa; qui uxorem, quod vinum bibisset, fuste percussam interemit. Idque factum non accusatore tantum, sed etiam reprehensore caruit; unoquoque existimante, optimo illam exemplo violatae sobrietatis poenas pependisse.’—Valerii Maximi lib. vi. c. 3. Cf. Pliny, xiv. 13; Tertullian, Apologeticus, 6. Chaucer twice quotes again the same chapter; see notes to ll. 642, 647.
464.moste I thinke, I must (needs) think. For moste, Cm. has muste, Ln. must. So also moste=must, in l. 478.
467. From Le Roman de la Rose, 13656:—
Cf. Ovid, Art. Amat. iii. 765; &c.
469. Cf. Le Roman de la Rose, 13136:—
And again, just above, l. 13128:—
These lines form part of the speech of La Vieille, on whom the Wife of Bath is certainly modelled; cf. note to A. 461.
483.Ioce, in Latin Judocus, a Breton saint, whose day is Dec. 13, and who died in 669. Alban Butler says that his hermitage became a famous monastery, which stood in the diocese of Amiens, and was called St. Josse-sur-mer. This part of France became familiar to many Englishmen in the course of the wars of Edward III. See, however, Le Testament de Jean de Meung, 461–4, which I take to mean:—‘When dame Katherine sees the proof of Sir Joce, who cares not a prune for his wife’s love, she is so fearful that her own husband will do her a like harm, that she often makes for him a staff of a similar bit of wood’; F. ‘Si li refait sovent d’autel fust une croce.’ It is obvious that Chaucer has copied this in l. 484, and that he here found his rime to croce.
484. ‘I made a stick for him of the same wood’; i.e. I retaliated by rousing his jealousy; compare the last note. Croce, a staff, O. F. croce, F. crosse; see Croche in the New E. Dictionary. Cf. Prompt. Parv., p. 103, note 5; and my note to P. Plowm. C. xi. 92.
487. In Hazlitt’s Proverbs is given—‘To fry in his own grease,’ from Heywood; it is explained to mean ‘to be very passionate,’ but means rather ‘to torment oneself.’ He also quotes, from Heywood:—
See also Rich. Coer de Lion, 4409; Lydgate’s Temple of Glas, ed. Schick, pp. 14, 94.
492. The story is given by Jerome, in the treatise so often quoted above. ‘Legimus quendam apud Romanos nobilem, cum eum amici arguerent quare uxorem formosam et castam et diuitem repudiasset, protendisse pedem, et dixisse eis: Et hic soccus quem cernitis, uidetur uobis nouus et elegans, sed nemo scit praeter me ubi me premat.’—Hieron. c. Iouinianum, lib. i.: Epist. ii. 52 (Basil. 1524). John of Salisbury has the same story, almost in the same words, but gives the name of the noble Roman, viz. P. Cn. Graecinus. See his Policraticus, lib. v. c. 10. Chaucer alludes to it again below, in E. 1553.
495. She went thrice to Jerusalem; see A. 463.
496. ‘Across the arch which usually divides the chancel from the nave in English churches was stretched a beam, on which was placed a rood, i. e. a figure of our Lord on the cross.’—Bell.
498. In the margin of E. is the note:—‘Appelles fecit mirabile opus in tumulo Darij: vnde in Alexandro, libro sexto.’ There is a similar sidenote at C. 16; see note to that line. This tomb of Darius is due to fiction. The description of it occurs (as said) in the sixth book of the Alexandreid, a vast poem in Latin, by one Philippe Gualtier de Chatillon, a native of Lille and a canon of Tournay, who flourished about 1200. According to this poet, the tomb was the work of a Jewish artist named Apelles. See Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, ii. 353–5, and G. Douglas, ed. Small, i. 134.
503. There is a parallel passage in Le Rom. de la Rose, 14678–99.
514.daungerous, sparing, not free; cf. l. 151.
517.Wayte, observe, watch; ‘observe what thing it is that we have a difficulty in obtaining.’
521. ‘With great demur (or caution) we set forth all we have to sell.’ With daunger implies that the seller makes a great difficulty of selling things, i. e. drives a hard bargain, and makes a great favour of it. Withoute daunger means without opposition, or without resistance; Gower, C. A. v. ii. p. 40.
Outen, put out, set out or forth, is from A. S. ūtian, verb, a derivative of ūt, out. Both here and in G. 834, Tyrwhitt needlessly alters the reading to uttren, against all the MSS. The note in Bell’s Chaucer says—‘Difficulty in making our market makes us bring out all our ware for sale’; which is utterly remote from the true sense, and would be the conduct of a reckless, not of a cautious woman. Compare the next two lines.
522. ‘A great throng of buyers makes ware dear (because there is then great demand); and offering things too cheaply makes people think they are of little value (because there is then too ready a supply).’ Hence the wise woman is careful not to be in too great a hurry to sell; and such is the meaning of l. 521. It is further implied that, when she gets her expected price, she does not hold out for a higher one.
552. From Le Rom. de la Rose, 9068, which again is from Ovid. ‘Spectatum ueniunt, ueniunt spectentur ut ipsae’; Art. Amat. i. 99.
553. ‘How could I know where my favour was destined to be bestowed?’
555. From Le Rom. de la Rose, 13726:—
556.vigilies, festivals held on the eves or vigils of saints’ days. See note to A. 377.
557. For preching, Cm. has prechyngis, and Hl. prechings; but all the rest have preching, which I therefore retain. To preching means ‘to any place where a sermon was being preached’; much as we say ‘to church.’ But the sermons were often given in the open air. The Wife’s object was to go wherever there was a concourse of people, in order to shew her best clothes. Women still go ‘to church’ for a like reason. Wycliff speaks strongly of the evil of pilgrimages; see his Works, ed. Matthew, p. 279; ed. Arnold, i. 83.
558. ‘The miracle-plays were favourite occasions for people to assemble in great numbers.’—Wright. Wright refers to a tale among his Latin Stories, p. 100. See the Sermon against Miracle-Plays, in Reliquiae Antiquae, ii. 42; reprinted in Mätzner’s Sprachproben, ii. 224.
559. ‘And wore upon (me) my gay scarlet gowns.’ The use of upon without a case following it is curious; but see D. 1018, 1382 below.
The word gyte occurs again in A. 3954, where Simkin’s wife wears ‘a gyte of reed,’ i.e. a red gown. Nares shews that it is used thrice by Gascoigne, and once by Fairfax. The sense of ‘robe’ will suit the passage there quoted. Skelton has gyte in Elynour, l. 68, where the sense of ‘robe’ or ‘dress’ is certain. It is clearly the same word as the Lowland Scotch gyde, a dress, robe; see note to A. 3954 (p. 118). That the word meant both ‘veil’ and ‘gown’ appears from the fact that Roquefort explains the derived O. F. wiart as a veil with which women cover their faces; whilst Godefroy explains its variant form guiart as a dress or vestment.
560. The sense is; ‘the worms, moths, and mites never fretted them (i. e. my dresses) one whit; I say it at my peril.’ There is no difficulty, and the reading is quite correct. Yet Tyrwhitt altered peril to paraille, which he explains by ‘apparel,’ and Wright actually explains perel, in the Harl. MS., in the same way! Such an explanation turns the whole into nonsense, as it could then only mean: ‘the worms, &c. never devoured themselves (!) at all upon my apparel.’ Tyrwhitt evidently took it to mean ‘never fed themselves upon (i. e. with) my apparel’; but it is impossible that frete hem could ever be so interpreted. Frete can only mean ‘devoured,’ and it requires an accusative case; this accusative is hem, which can only refer to the gytes or ‘gowns.’ And this leaves no other sense for peril except precisely ‘peril,’ which is of course right. Upon my peril is clearly a phrase, with the same sense as ‘at my peril.’ The phrase is no recondite one; cf. Rich. III. iv. i. 26, where we find ‘on my peril’; and again, ‘upon his peril,’ in Antony, v. 2. 143; Cymbeline, v. 4. 189.
566.of my purveyance, owing to my prudence, or prudent foresight; cf. l. 570. Purveyance, providence, and prudence are mere variants; from Lat. prouidentia.
572. From Le Rom. de la Rose, 13354:—
In Kemble’s Solomon and Saturn, p. 57, several parallel proverbs are given; e.g.—
He refers us to Collins’ Dict. of Span. Proverbs, p. 36; MS. Harl. 3362, fol. 40; Grüter, Florilegium Ethico-politicum, p. 32; G. Herbert, Jacula Prudentum, p. 67; MS. Proverbs, Corp. Chr. Cam. no. 450; MS. Harl. 1800, fol. 37 b. The proverb in Herbert is—‘The mouse that hath but one hole is quickly taken’; cf. Hazlitt’s Proverbs, p. 380.
575. ‘I made him believe’; see above. enchanted, bewitched, viz. with philtres or love-potions; according to an old belief. See Othello, i. 2. 63–79. Cf. also Le Rom. de la Rose, 13895:—‘Si croi que m’aves enchantee’; and the note to D. 747 (p. 311).
581.Red occurs so frequently as an epithet of gold, that association of gold with blood was easy enough. See note to B. 2059 (p. 196).
602.a coltes tooth, the tooth of a young colt. Cf. ‘Young folks [are] most apt to love . . . the colt’s evil is common to all complexions’; Burton, Anat. of Mel. pt. 3. sec. 2. mem. 2. subsec. 1. ‘Your colt’s tooth is not cast yet’; Hen. VIII. i. 3. 48. And see A. 3888, E. 1847.
603.Gat-tothed; see note to A. 468.
604. ‘I bore the impress of the seal of saint Venus.’
609, 610.Venerien, influenced by Venus; Marcien, influenced by Mars; cf. ll. 611, 612.
613.ascendent, the sign in the ascendant (or just rising in the east) at my birth. This sign was Taurus, which was also called ‘the mansion of Venus.’ When Mars was seen in this sign when ascending, it shewed the influence of Mars on Venus. Cf. the ‘Compleint of Mars.’
In the margin of E. is a Latin note, referring us to ‘Mansor Amphorison’ 19’; followed by a quotation. The reference is to a treatise called ‘Almansoris Propositiones,’ which begins with the words:—‘Aphorismorum compendiolum, mi Rex, petiisti,’ &c. Hence ‘Amphorison’ 19’ is an error for ‘Aphorismorum 19.’ This treatise is printed in a small volume entitled ‘Astrologia Aphoristica Ptolomaei, Hermetis, . . . Almansoris, &c.; Ulmae, 1641.’ In this edition, the section quoted (at p. 66) is not 19, but 14; and runs thus:—‘Cuicunque fuerint in ascendente infortunae, turpem notam in facie patietur.’ With ‘infortunae,’ we must supply ‘planetae’; and the object of this quotation is, clearly, to explain l. 619. Still more to the point is a remark in sect. 74 of a treatise printed in the same volume, entitled ‘Cl. Ptolomaei Centum Dicta’; where we find—‘Quicunque Martem ascendentem habet, omnino cicatricem in facie habebit.’
Immediately after the above, in the margin of E., is a second quotation, with a reference in the words:—‘Hec Hermes in libro fiducie; Amphoris . 24.’ Here ‘Amphorismo’ should be ‘Aphorismo.’ The quotation occurs in a third treatise, printed in the same volume as the other two already mentioned, with the title ‘Hermetis centum Aphorismorum liber.’ In this printed edition, the section quoted is not the 24th, but the 25th; and runs thus:—‘In natiuitatibus mulierum, cum fuerit ascendens aliqua de domibus Veneris, Marte existente in eis [vel e contrario]1 , erit mulier impudica. Idem erit, si Capricornum habuerit in ascendente.’ Here ‘aliqua . . . Veneris’ means ‘one of the mansions of Venus; her two mansions being Taurus and Libra.’ The former is expressly referred to in l. 613, and is therefore intended.
In sect. 28 of the same treatise, we find:—‘Cum fuerit interrogatio pro muliere, simpliciter accipe significationem à Venere.’ Hence Venus is the planet that ruled over women.
‘The woman that is born in this time [i. e. under Taurus] shall be effectuall . . . she shall have many husbands and many children; she shall be in her best estate at xvi years, and she shall have a sign in the middest of her body.’—Shepherdes Kalender, ed. 1656, sig. Q 5.
618. The phrase ‘la chambre Venus’ occurs in Le Rom. de la Rose, 13540.
621.wis, surely, certainly: ‘for, may God so surely be my,’ &c.
624. ‘Ne vous chaut s’il est cors ou lons’; Rom. de la Rose, 8554.
634.on the list, on the ear. Such is the sense of lust in the Ancren Riwle, p. 212, l. 7, where the editor mistakes it. In Sir Ferumbras, l. 1900, mention is made of a man striking another ‘on the luste’ with his hand. The original sense of A. S. hlyst is the sense of ‘hearing’; but the Icel. hlust commonly means ‘ear.’ Cf. E. listen. For on the list, Hl. Cm. and Tyrwhitt have with his fist; but Tyrwhitt, in his note on the line, inclines to the reading here given, and quotes from Sir T. More’s poem entitled ‘A Merry Jest of a Serjeant,’ the lines:—
This juvenile poem is printed at length in the Preface to Todd’s edition of Johnson’s Dictionary, ed. 1827, i. 64.
640. ‘Although he had sworn to the contrary’; see a similar use of this phrase in A. 1089; and the note at p. 65.
642.Romayn gestes, the ‘Roman gests,’ in the collection called Gesta Romanorum, or stories of a like character. The reference, however, in this case is to Valerius Maximus, lib. vi. c. 3, as is certified by the note in the margin of E., viz. ‘Valerius, lib. vi. fol. 19.’ The passage is: ‘Horridum C. quoque Sulpicii Galli maritale supercilium. Nam uxorem dimisit, quod eam capite aperto foris versatam cognouerat.’
647. This story is from the same chapter in Valerius. The passage is: ‘Jungendus est his P. Sempronius Sophus, qui coniugem repudii nota affecit, nihil aliud quam se ignorante ludos ausam spectare.’
648.someres game, summer-game; called somer-game in P. Plowman, B. v. 413; and, in later English, a summering; a rural sport at Midsummer. The great day was on Midsummer eve, and the games consisted of athletic sports, followed usually by bonfires. See Brand’s Pop. Antiquities; Strutt, Sports and Pastimes, bk. iv. c. 3. § 22; the description of the Cotswold Games in Chambers, Book of Days, i. 714; the word Summering in Nares’ Glossary, &c. They were not always respectably conducted.
‘As the common sorte of vnfaythfull women are wonte to goe forth vnto weddynges and may-games’; Paraphr. of Erasmus, 1549; Tim. f. 8. Stubbes is severe upon May-games and Whitsun-games; see his Anatomy of Abuses, ed. Furnivall (Shak. Soc.), p. 149.
651. See Ecclus. xxv. 25:—‘Give the water no passage; neither a wicked woman liberty to gad abroad.’ The Latin version is here quoted in the margin of E.
655. This is clearly a quotation of some old saying, as shewn by the metre, which here varies, and becomes irregular. There is a slightly different version of it in Reliquiae Antiquae, i. 233:—
The proverb implies that these three things are the signs of a foolish man. Salwes are osiers; the osier is commonly called sally in Shropshire, and the same name is given to all kinds of willows. It is not from the Lat. salix directly, but from the native A.S. sealh, which is merely cognate with salix, not borrowed from it. The three foolish things to do are; to build a house all of osiers, to spur a blind horse over a fallow-field, and to allow a wife to go on a pilgrimage. To go on a pilgrimage is here called ‘to seek hallows,’ i. e. saints, or saints’ shrines; and the expression was a common one; cf. A. 14. ‘Gone to seke hallows’ occurs in Skelton, i. 426, l. 7, ed. Dyce; and the editor quotes two more examples at p. 337 of vol. ii.
659. ‘I do not care the value of a haw for his proverbs.’ In l. 660, nof stands for ne of; see footnote.
662. ‘Si het quicunques l’en chastoie’; Rom. de la Rose, 10012.
669. This book was evidently a MS. containing several choice extracts from various authors; see l. 681.
671.Valerie. This refers to a treatise which Mr. Wright attributes to Walter Mapes, entitled Epistola Valerii ad Rufinum, and common in manuscripts; the subject is, De non ducenda uxore. See Warton, Hist. E. Poetry, 1840, ii. 188, note. ‘As to the rest of the contents of this volume, Hieronymus contra Jovinianum, and Tertullian de Pallio are sufficiently known; and so are the letters of Eloisa and Abelard, the Parables of Solomon, and Ovid’s Art of Love. I know of no Trotula but one, whose book Curandarum aegritudinum muliebrium, ante, in, et post partum, is printed int. Medicos antiquos, Ven. 1547. What is meant by Crisippus, I cannot guess.’—Tyrwhitt.
Theofraste, Theophrastus, i. e. the treatise mentioned above; see note to l. 221. It is frequently quoted above; see notes to ll. 221, 235, 257, 271, 282, 285, 293, 303. He is called Theofrates in Le Roman, l. 8599.
676.Tertulan, Tertullian. I do not quite understand why Tyrwhitt (see note to l. 671) singled out his treatise De Pallio, which is a treatise recommending the wearing of the Greek pallium in preference to the Roman toga. Quite as much to the present purpose are his treatises De Exhortatione Castitatis, dissuading a friend from marrying a second time; and De Monogamia and De Pudicitia, much to the same purport.
677.Crisippus, Chrysippus. There were at least two of this name: (1) the Stoic philosopher, born 280, died 207, praised by Cicero (Academics) and Horace. Also (2) the physician of Cnidos, in the time of Alexander the Great, frequently mentioned by Pliny. It is highly probable that neither the Wife of Bath nor Chaucer knew much about him. The poet certainly caught the name from Jerome’s treatise against Jovinian, near the end of bk. i.; Epist. i. 52. We there find:—‘Ridicule Chrysippus ducendam uxorem sapienti praecipit, ne Iouem Gamelium et Genethlium uiolet.’
Helowys, Heloise, niece of Fulbert, a canon in the cathedral of Paris, was secretly married to the celebrated Abelard, a proficient in scholastic learning. She afterwards became a nun in the convent of Argenteuil, of which she was, in course of time, elected the prioress. Thence she removed, with her nuns, to the oratory of the Paraclete, near Troyes, where the last twenty years of her life were spent. She died in 1164, and was buried in Abelard’s tomb. I have no doubt at all that Chaucer derived his knowledge of her from the short sketch of her life given in Le Roman de la Rose, ll. 8799–8870, where the title of ‘abbess’ (F. abéesse) is conferred upon her. Only a few lines above, we find the name of Valerius, who (it is there said, at l. 8727) declared that a modest woman was rarer than a phœnix; and again, at l. 8759, we find: ‘Si cum Valerius raconte’; and, at l. 8767:—
This identifies Valerius as being the very one, whose name Walter Mapes assumed; as is explained above (note to l. 671).
As to Trotula, I may here observe, in addition to what is said in the note to l. 671, that Warton mentions a MS. in Merton College, with the title ‘Trottula Mulier Salerniterna de passionibus mulierum’; another copy (which I have seen) is in the Camb. Univ. Library. He adds—‘there is also extant, “Trottula, seu potius Erotis medici muliebrium liber”; Basil. 1586; 4to.’ See Warton, Hist. E. Poet. 1840, ii. 188, note.
692.peintede, depicted; alluding to the fable in Æsop, where a sculptor represented a man conquering a lion. The lion’s criticism was to the effect that he had heard of cases in which the lion conquered the man. So likewise, the Wife’s view of clerks differed widely from the clerk’s view of wives. In the margin of E. is the note—‘Quis pinxit leonem?’ The fable is amongst the ‘Fables of Æsop’ as printed by Caxton, lib. iv. fab. 15; see Jacobs’ edition, i. 251. In his note upon the sources of this fable, Mr. Jacobs refers us to—‘Romulus, iv. 15. Man and Lion (statue). 1. Lôqman, 7; Sophos, 58. II. Plutarch, Apophth., Laced. 69; Scol. Eurip., Kor., 103; Aphth. 38; Phaedrus, App. Burm., p. 20; Gabr., i. (not in Babrius); Avian, 24. III. Ademar, 52; Marie, 69; Berach., 56; Wright, ii. 28. IV. Kirch., i. 80; Lafontaine, iii. 10; Rob., Oest. V. Spectator, no. 11; L. 100, J. 84; Croxall, 30 (Lion and Statue).’
It is well put by Steele, in The Spectator, no. 11: ‘Your quotations put me in mind of the Fable of the Lion and the Man. The Man, walking with that noble Animal, shewed him, in the Ostentation of Human Superiority, a Sign of a Man killing a Lion. Upon which the Lion said very justly, We Lions are none of us Painters, else we could shew you a hundred Men killed by Lions, for one Lion killed by a Man.’ Observe that here, as in Chaucer, the reference is to a painting, not to sculpture.
696.all the mark of Adam, all beings made like Adam, i. e. all males. This idiomatic expression is cleared up by reference to F. 880, where merk means ‘image’ or ‘likeness’; see that passage.
697. The children of Mercurie are the clerks, and those of Venus are the women; see ll. 693, 694. See below.
699, 700. Here the reference is to astrology. The whole matter is explained in a side-note in E., which is copied from § 2 of Almansoris Astrologi Propositiones (see note to l. 613 above), and requires some correction. It should run as follows:—‘Vniuscuiusque planetarum septem exaltacio in illo loco esse dicitur, in quo substantialiter patitur ab alio contrarium, veluti Sol in Ariete, qui Saturni casus est. Sol enim habet claritatem, Saturnus tenebrositatem. . . . Et sic Mercurius in Virgine, qui casus est Veneris. Alter [scilicet Mercurius] namque significat scientiam et philosophiam. Altera vero causat alacritates et quicquid est saporiferum corpori.’ I take this to mean, that the sign which is called the ‘exaltation’ of one planet (in which it exhibits its greatest influence) is also the ‘dejection’ of another which is there weakest. Thus the sign Virgo was the ‘exaltation’ of Mercury; but it was also the ‘dejection’ of Venus, whose ‘exaltation’ was in Pisces. For the dejection of every planet occurs in the sign opposite to that in which is its exaltation; and Virgo and Pisces are opposite. The word casus is here used in the astrological sense of ‘dejection.’ It further follows that Pisces was the ‘depression’ of Mercury, which Chaucer expresses by the term desolat. The note also tells us that the planet Mercury implies ‘science and philosophy’; whilst Venus implies ‘lively joys and whatever is agreeable to the body.’
Venus is again alluded to as being in her exaltation in Pisces, in F. 273. Gower refers to Virgo as being the exaltation of Mercury; Conf. Amant. iii. 121.
715.Eva, Eve. The spelling Eva is frequently contrasted with that of Ave, the salutation of Gabriel to Mary. Tyrwhitt says:—‘Most of the following instances are mentioned in the Epistola Valerii ad Rufinum de non ducenda uxore. See also Rom. de la Rose, 9140, 9615, et suiv.’ In Méon’s edition of Le Rom. de la Rose, Deianira is mentioned in l. 9235, and Samson in l. 9243; I do not quite make out Tyrwhitt’s numbering of the lines.
721. Cf. the Monkes Tale, B. 3205, 3256.
725. Cf. the Monkes Tale, B. 3285, 3310.
727. From Jerome against Jovin., lib. i. (near the end); Epist. i. 52. ‘Socrates Xantippen et Myron neptem Aristidis duas habebat uxores . . . Quodam autem tempore cum infinita conuicia ex superiori loco ingerenti Xantippae restitisset, aqua perfusus immunda, nihil amplius respondit, quàm, capite deterso: Sciebam (inquit) futurum, ut ista tonitrua hymber sequeretur.’ The story is thus told by Erasmus, as translated by Udall. ‘Socrates, after that he had within dores forborne his wife Xantippe, a greate while scoldyng, and at the last beyng wearie, had set him doune without the strete doore, she beyng moche the more incensed, by reason of her housbandes quietnesse and stilnesse, powred down a pisse-bolle upon him out of a windore, and al beraied him. But upon soche persones as passed by, laughing and hauing a good sport at it, Socrates also, for his part, laughed again as fast as the best, saiyng: Naie, I thought verie well in my minde, and did easily prophecie, that after so great a thonder would come a raine.’—Udall, tr. of Erasmus’ Apophthegmes, Socrates, § 59.
733. These instances are also from Jerome, some twenty lines further on (same page). ‘Quid referam Pasiphaën, Clytemnestram, et Eriphylam; quarum prima deliciis diffluens, quippe regis uxor, tauri dicitur expetisse concubitus: altera occidisse uirum ob amorem adulteri: tertia prodidisse Amphiar[a]um, et saluti uiri monile aureum praetulisse.’ This passage is quoted, almost in the same words, in the margin of E. As to Eriphyle, Chaucer shews that he possessed further information, as he mentions Thebes. He consulted, in fact, the Thebaid of Statius, bk. iv, where we learn that Eriphyle betrayed her husband Amphiaraus, for a golden necklace; he was thus forced to accompany Polynices to the siege of Thebes, where he perished by being swallowed up by an earthquake. Chaucer again calls him Amphiorax in Anelida, 57, and in Troilus, ii. 105, v. 1500. Cf. Lydgate’s Siege of Thebes, part 3.
747. Tyrwhitt says:—‘In the Epistola Valerii, in MS. Reg. 12. D. iii. [in the British Museum], the story is told thus: “Luna virum suum interfecit quem nimis odivit: Lucilia suum quem nimis amavit. Illa sponte miscuit aconita: haec decepta furorem propinavit pro amoris poculo.” Lima and Luna in many MSS. are only distinguishable by a small stroke over the i, which may easily be overlooked where it is, and supposed where it is not.’ However, the right name is neither Lima nor Luna, but Liuia (Livia), which is easily confused with either of the other forms. Livia poisoned her husband Drusus (son of Tiberius), at the instigation of Sejanus, 23. See Ben Jonson’s Sejanus, Act ii. sc. 1. Lucia (or rather Lucilia) was the wife of Lucretius the poet; see Tennyson’s poem of Lucretius (Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, ii. 369).
757. This is a stock story, told of various people. Tyrwhitt says that it occurs in the Epistola Valerii, of one Pavorinus, and that the story begins:—‘Pavorinus flens ait Arrio.’ Lounsbury (Studies in Chaucer, ii. 369) referring to the same story, gives the name as Pacuvius. It is, in fact, one of the stories in the Gesta Romanorum (tale 33), where it is ascribed to Valerius. (By Valerius is, of course, meant the Epistola Valerii of Walter Mapes, where it duly appears, as Tyrwhitt notes, and may be found in MS. Reg. 12. D. iii; as is observed by Sir F. Madden, in a note to Warton’s Hist. E. Poet., ed. Hazlitt, 1871, i. 250. It does not refer to Valerius Maximus, as I have ascertained.)
In the Gesta, it is told of Paletinus, who lamented to his friend Arrius that a certain tree in his garden was fatal, for three of his wives had, successively, hung themselves upon it. Arrius at once begged to have some slips of it; and Paletinus ‘found this remarkable tree the most productive part of his estate.’
The story is really from Cicero, De Oratore, lib. ii. 69; 278. ‘Salsa sunt etiam, quae habent suspicionem ridiculi absconditam; quo in genere est illud Siculi, cum familiaris quidam quereretur, quod diceret, uxorem suam suspendisse se de ficu. Amabo te, inquit, da mihi ex ísta arbore, quos seram, surculos.’
Thus the original story only mentions one wife. This is just how stories grow.
A similar story is ascribed to Diogenes. ‘When he [Diogenes] had on a time espied women hanging upon an olive-tree, and there strangled to death with the halters: Would God (said he) that the other trees had like fruite hanging on them!’—Udall, tr. of Erasmus’ Apophthegmes, Diogenes, § 124.
766. The horrible story of ‘the Widow of Ephesus’ is of this character, but not quite so bad, as her husband died naturally. See Wright’s introduction to his edition of The Seven Sages, p. lxvi; and the text of the same, pp. 84–9. It occurs in John of Salisbury, Policraticus, viii. 11. And see Exempla of Jacques de Vitry, ed. Crane, 1890, p. 228; Clouston’s Pop. Tales, i. 29.
769. Alluding, doubtless, to Jael and Sisera; see note to A. 2007.
775. ‘I had rather dwell with a lion and a dragon, than to keep house with a wicked woman’; Ecclus. xxv. 16. Cf. Prov. xxi. 19.
778. From Prov. xxi. 9; and ll. 780, 781 seem to have been suggested by the following verse (xxi. 10).
782. This is from Jerome, near the end of bk. i. of his treatise against Jovinian (p. 52):—‘Scribit Herodotus, quod mulier cum ueste deponat et uerecundiam.’ This again is from Herodotus, bk. i. c. 8, where it is told as a saying of Gyges:—ἃμα δὲ κιθω̑νι ἐκδυομένῳ, συνεκδύεται καὶ τὴν αἰδω̑ γυνή.
784. From Prov. xi. 22.
799.breyde, started, woke up. The A.S. verb bregdan is properly a strong verb, with the pt. t. brægd; so that the true form of the pt. t. in M.E. is breyd, without a final e. But it was turned into a weak verb, with the pt. t. breyd-e (as here), by confusion with such verbs as seyd-e, deyd-e, leyd-e, and the like. It is remarkable that our author is inconsistent in the use of the form for the pt. t. In his earlier poems, he has the older form abrayd, riming with sayd (pp.), Book of the Duch. 192; or abreyd, riming with seyd (pp.), Ho. of Fame, 110. But in the Cant. Tales, we find only the weak form breyd-e, riming with seyd-e, preyd-e, and deyd-e, B. 3728; with seyd-e, leyd-e, B. 837; and with seyd-e, A. 4285, F. 1027. Also abreyd-e, riming with seyd-e, deyd-e, A. 4190, E. 1061.
816. This is one of the ways in which our MSS, have perished.
824. Cf. ‘from Hulle to Cartage’; A. 404; and see C. 722.
844.now elles, now otherwise; i.e. and so you may; I defy you.
847.Sidingborne, Sittingbourne, about forty miles from London, and beyond Rochester, which is mentioned in the Monk’s Prologue, B. 3116.
The Tale of the Wyf of Bathe.
For a discussion of the source of this Tale, see vol. iii. p. 447.
A very similar story occurs in Gower’s Confessio Amantis, bk. i. (p. 89, Pauli’s edition), where the hero of the story is named Florent, and is said to have been a grandson of the Roman Emperor Claudius.
It also occurs in the Book of Ballymote, an Irish MS. of the fourteenth century. The Irish text was printed, together with a translation by Dr. Whitley Stokes, in The Academy, Apr. 23, 1892, p. 399. Dr. Stokes claims for the Tale a Celtic origin. See also The Academy, Apr. 30, 1892.
Chaucer’s Tale has been modernised by Dryden. This later version contains many spirited lines, but lacks the grace of the original. It is interesting as a commentary, and is worth comparison.
This Tale has been well edited, with notes, in Mätzner’s Altenglische Sprachproben, i. 338.
857. The author of the spurious Pilgrim’s Tale, which, it is said, William Thynne wished to insert in his edition of Chaucer, has plagiarised from the opening lines of the Wife of Bath’s Tale in the coolest manner. I quote some of his lines, for comparison, from Thynne’s Animadversions, &c., ed. Furnivall, Appendix I., p. 79, ll. 85–98:—
For a general discussion of the legends about King Arthur, see the essay in vol. i. (p. 401) of the Percy Folio MS., ed. Hales and Furnivall. In Malory’s Morte Arthure we have an example of a fairy in Arthur’s sister, Morgan le Fay, who was ‘put to scole in a nonnery; and ther she lerned so moche that she was a grete clerke of nygromancye’; bk. i. cap. 2.
860.elf-queen, Proserpine, according to Chaucer; see E. 2229; also B. 754, 1978, and the notes.
861. Hence the ‘fairy-rings,’ as Dryden tells us:—
On the subject of Fairies, see Keightley’s Fairy Mythology, and similar works. Tyrwhitt notes that few old authors tell us so much about them as Gervase of Tilbury.
866.limitours, limiters; see A. 209, and the note; D. 1711; P. Plowman, B. v. 138, C. xxiii. 346; Massingberd, Eng. Reformation, p. 110.
868. The number of mendicant friars in England, during the latter half of the fourteenth century, was indeed large. In Wyclif’s Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 400, we read that ‘now ben mony thousand of freris in Englond’; and, at p. 511, that they were, ‘as who seith, withoute noumbre.’ In P. Plowman, C. xxiii. 269, Conscience accuses the friars of waxing ‘oute of numbre,’ and reminds them that ‘Hevene haveth evene numbre, and helle is withoute numbre.’
869. The occurrence here of three consecutive lines (869–871) in which the first foot is deficient, consisting only of a single accented syllable, is worth notice. The way in which Tyrwhitt ‘amends’ these lines is most surprising. He inserts and five times, and his first line defies scansion, though I suppose he made hall’s a monosyllable, and kichen-es trisyllabic, whereas it plainly has but two syllables. Here is his result.
Note that he actually seems to have read dairies and faeries as riming dissyllabic words! In which case the last of these four lines would have but four accents! But the rime merely concerns the two final syllables of those quadrisyllabic words. The riming of the two former syllables is unessential, and for the purpose of rime, accidental and otiose.
MS. Pt. admits and before boures; and MS. Hl. admits and before toures and dairies (which does not alter the character of the lines). With these exceptions, all the seven MSS. omit all the five and’s inserted by Tyrwhitt; and, in fact, they are all of them superfluous.
For the benefit of those who are but little acquainted with this peculiarity of Middle English metre, I cite four consecutive lines of a similar character from Lydgate’s Siege of Thebes, ll. 1239–1242:—
There are plenty more of the same kind in the same poem; e. g. 1068, 1081, 1082, 1089, 1103, 1107, 1116, 1120, 1122, 1123, 1140, 1141, 1151, &c., &c., all printed in Specimens of English from 1394–1579, ed. Skeat, pp. 28–34. For similar lines in Hoccleve, see the same, p. 16, st. 604, l. 6; st. 605, l. 2; p. 20, st. 622, l. 2; p. 21, st. 624, l. 4.
871.Thropes=thorpes, villages; see E. 199.
shipnes, stables, or cow-houses; see A. 2000. ‘Shippen, Shuppen, a cow-house’; E. D. S. Gloss. B. I. ‘Shippen, an ox-house’; id. B. 6. ‘Shuppen, a cow-house’; id. B. 7; ‘Shippen, a cow-house’; id. B. 15.
875.undermeles, for undern-meles, undern-times. For the time of undern, see note to E. 260. Meel (pl. meles) is the A. S. mǣl, a time. The time referred to, in this particular instance, seems to be the middle of the afternoon; or simply ‘afternoons,’ as opposed to ‘mornings.’ For this sense, cf. ‘Undermele, Postmeridies,’ in the Prompt. Parv. Nares, s. v. under-meal, gives other instances; but he fails to realise the changeable sense of the word; and is quite wrong in saying (s. v. undertime) that the last-named word is unconnected with undern. He also wrongly dissociates undern from arndern and orndern.
876. ‘All religious persons were bound, if possible, to recite the divine office . . at the proper hour, in the choir; but secular priests, not living in common, and friars, being by their rule obliged to walk about within their limitation, to beg their maintenance, were allowed to say it privately, . . as they walked.’—Bell. Cf. B. 1281.
880.incubus. Milton (P. R. ii. 152) speaks of Belial as being, after Asmodai, ‘the fleshliest incubus.’ Mr. Jerram’s note on the line says: ‘Some of the ejected angels were believed not to have fallen into hell, but to have remained in the middle of the region of air (P. R. ii. 117), where in various shapes they tempt men to sin. It was said that they hoped to counteract the effects of Christ’s coming by engendering with some virgin a semi-demon, who should be a power of evil. In this way Merlin, and even Luther, were reported to have been begotten.’ See the Romance of Merlin, ed. Wheatley, ch. i. pp. 9, 10; and the poem of Merlin in the Percy Folio MS.
881. Tyrwhitt and others adopt the reading no dishonour, as in the old black-letter editions; and MS. Cm. has the reading non. At first sight, this looks right, but a little reflection will incline us rather to adopt the reading of nearly all the MSS., as given in the present text. For to say that the friar was an incubus, and yet did women no dishonour, is contradictory. The meaning is, possibly, that the friar brought upon women dishonour, and nothing more; whereas the incubus never failed to cause conception. Lounsbury (Studies in Chaucer, i. 257) adopts the reading here given, but interprets it thus:—‘The dishonour of a woman is, in the eyes of the Wife of Bath, to be reckoned not as a crime, but as a peccadillo.’ (See the whole passage.) The subject will hardly bear further discussion; but it is impossible to ignore the repeated charges of immorality brought against the friars by Wyclif and others. Wyclif says—‘thei slen wommen that withstonden hem in this synne’; Works, ed. Matthew, p. 6.
884.fro river, i. e. he was returning from hawking at the river-side. See B. 1927, and the note.
887.maugree hir heed, lit. ‘in spite of her head,’ i. e. in spite of all she could do, without her consent. Cf. A. 1169, 2618; also I. 974, where we find:—‘if the womman, maugree hir heed, hath been afforced.’ Mätzner remarks that, in some cases, we find a part of the head referred to, instead of the whole head. Hence the expressions: maugre his nose, Rob. of Gloucester, 2090 (p. 94, ed. Hearne); maugree thyne yen, Ch. C. T., D. 315; maugree hir eyen two, id., A. 1796; maugree my chekes, Allit. Poems, ed. Morris, C. 54; m. here chekis, P. Plowman, B. iv. 50; &c.
909.lere, learn; as in B. 181, 630, C. 325, 578, &c. But the right sense is ‘teach.’ See l. 921.
twelf-month, &c. ‘There seems to have been some mysterious importance attached to this particular time of grace,’ &c.—Bell. I think not. The solution is simply, that it takes an extra day to make the date agree. If we fix any date, as Nov. 21, 1890, the space of a year afterwards only brings us to Nov. 20, 1891; if we want to keep to the same day of the month, we must make the space include ‘a year and a day.’ This is what any one would naturally do; and that is all. Cf. A. 1850, and the note. ‘Year and Day, is a time that determines a right in many cases; . . . So is the Year and Day given in case of Appeal, in case of Descent after Entry or Claim,’ &c.; Cowell, Intrepreter of Words and Terms. See l. 916 below; and cf. Eight days, i. e. a week, in the New Eng. Dictionary.
922.cost, coast, i. e. region; as in 1 Sam. v. 6; Matt. viii. 34, &c.
924. The scansion is—Two cré-a-túr-es áccordínge in-fére.
925. Cf. Gower, Conf. Amant. i. 92:—
929–30. Cf. Rom. de la Rose, 9977–94. For y-plesed, Tyrwhitt and Wright read y-preised, contrary to the seven best MSS.; which gives an imperfect rime. preysed rimes with reysed (D. 706).
940.galle, sore place. ‘Galle, soore yn man or beeste’; Prompt. Parv. ‘Let the galled jade wince’; Hamlet, iii. 2. 253.
clawe means ‘to scratch’; and to clawe upon the galle is to scratch or rub a sore. This may be taken in two ways; hence the difficulty about the reading in l. 941, where E. Cm. have kike, i.e. kick, whilst Hn. Hl. have like, and Cp. Pt. Ln. have loke or he seith us soth. The last of these three variations gives no sense, and is certainly wrong; but either of the other readings will serve. I take them in order.
(1) kike, kick. Here the sense is:—‘if any one scratch us on a sore place (and so hurt us), we shall kick, because he tells us the truth (too plainly).’ This goes well with the context, as it answers to the repreve us of our vyce in l. 937.
(2) like, like (it), be pleased. Here the sense is:—‘if any one stroke us on a sore place (and so soothe the itching), we shall be pleased, because he tells us the truth (or what we think to be the truth).’ But I feel inclined to reject this reading, because it gives so forced a sense to the words—for he seith us sooth. There is, however, no difficulty about the use of claw in the sense of ‘to rub lightly, so as to soothe irritation’; for which see examples in the New English Dictionary. It is particularly used in the phrase to claw one’s back, i. e. to soothe, flatter; but the word galle suggests a place where friction would rather hurt than soothe.
I leave it to the reader to settle this nice question.
949.rake-stele, the handle of a rake. The word stele is still in use provincially. ‘Stale, any stick, or handle, such as the stick of a mop or a fork’; South Warwickshire; E. D. S. Gl. C. 6. ‘Stale [stae·ul], s. handle; as, mop-stale, pick-stale, broom-stale’; Elworthy’s West Somerset Words. And see Steal in Ray’s Glossary; Stele in Nares; Steale in Halliwell; &c. Cf. A. 3785; P. Plowman, C. xxii. 279. Golding translates Ovid’s hastile (Metam. vii. 676) by ‘Iaueling-steale.’ The e is ‘open’; cf. A. S. stela; hence the rime with hele (A. S. helan) is perfect.
950. ‘Car fame ne puet riens celer’; Rom. de la Rose, 19420. See also the same, 16549–70.
952.Ovyde; see Metamorph. xi. 174–193. But Chaucer seems to have purposely altered the story, since Ovid attributes the betrayal of the secret to Midas’ barber, not his wife; and again, Ovid says that the barber dug a hole, and whispered it into the pit. Chaucer’s version is an improved one. Cf. Troil. iii. 1389.
961. Cf. Rom. de la Rose, 16724–32.
968. Dryden is plainer, and less polite:—‘But she must burst or blab.’ Cf. Rom. de la Rose, 16568–9.
972.bitore, bittern; bumbleth, makes a bellowing noise, which is also expressed by bumping or booming. Note that MS. Cm. has bumbith. Owing to the loud booming note of the male bittern, it is called in A. S. rāre-dumle or rāre-dumbla, from rārian, to roar; see Wright’s Glossaries. In provincial English, it is called a butter-bump, or a bumble; or, from its frequenting moist places, a bog-bumper, a bogdrum, or a bull o’ the bog; see Swainson’s Provincial Names of British Birds, E. D. S., p. 146. It was formerly thought that the cry was produced by the bird plunging its bill into mud and then blowing, as in the present passage; others thought that it put its bill into a reed, a view taken by Dryden, as he here has the line:—‘And, as a bittern bumps within a reed.’ Sir T. Browne, in his Vulgar Errors, bk. iii. c. 27, controverts these notions, and attributes the note to the conformation of the bird’s organs of voice. ‘The same contradiction of the common notion is given, from personal experience, by the Rev. S. Fovargue, in his New Catalogue of Vulgar Errors, pp. 19–21’; note to Sir T. Browne, ed. S. Wilkin. The same editor further refers us to papers by Dr. Latham and Mr. Yarrell in the Linnaean Transactions, vols. iv, xv, and xvi. See Prof. Newton’s Dict. of Birds.
981. There is not much ‘remnant’ of the tale; Ovid adds that some reeds grew out of the pit, which, when breathed upon by the South wind, uttered the words which had been buried.
992. This reminds us of Chaucer’s own vision of Alcestis and her nineteen attendant ladies in the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women.
997. Cf. Gower, Conf. Amantis, i. 93:—
Also, in the Marriage of Sir Gawaine, st. 15:—
1004.can, know; but the form is singular, to agree with folk. Cf. the proverb—‘older and wiser’—in Hazlitt’s Collection; and see A. 2448.
1018.wereth on, wears upon (her), has on; cf. l. 559 above.
calle, caul; a close-fitting netted cap or head-dress, often richly ornamented; see Fairholt, Costume in England, s. v. Caul.
1021.pistell, (1) an epistle, as in E. 1154; hence (2), a short lesson, as here.
1024.holde his day, kept his time, come back at the specified time. hight, promised.
1028. ‘Queen Guenever is here represented sitting as judge in a Court of Love, similar to those in fashion in later ages. . . Fontenelle (in the third volume of his works, Paris, 1742) has given a description of one of the fantastic suits tried in these courts . . . The best source of information on these strange follies is a book entitled Erotica, seu Amatoria, Andreæ Capellarii Regis, &c., written about 1170, and published at Dorpmund in 1610.’—Bell.
1038. Cf. Gower, Conf. Amantis, i. 96:—
So also in the Marriage of Sir Gawaine, st. 28:—
1069. The scansion is—‘Shold’ ev’r | so foul | e dis | pará | ged be.’
1074. It is curious to note how Chaucer seems to have felt that romance-writers were constrained to describe feasts, a duty which he usually evades. Cf. A. 2197, B. 419, 1120, E. 1710, F. 278. In fact, the original business of the minstrel was to praise his lord’s bounty, especially on grand occasions.
1081. So in Gower’s Conf. Amantis, i. 100:—
This line, for a wonder, is unaltered by Dryden in his paraphrase.
1085.walweth, rolls from side to side, turns about restlessly; cf.
Leg. Good Wom. 1166; Troil. i. 699; Rom. Rose, 2562.
1088.Fareth, pronounced as Far’th; cf. tak’th in 1072.
1090.dangerous, distant, unapproachable; see D. 151.
1109.Gentilesse. See my notes (in vol. i. 431, 553) on R. R. 2190, and Gentilesse. Compare Boethius, bk. iii. pr. 6 and met. 6; Roman de la Rose, ed. Méon, 6603–6616, and 18807–19096; and see B. 2831.
1114. Cf. privee n’apert in l. 1136; ‘in private and in public.’
1117.wol we, desires that we; see 1130 below.
1121. Cf. Balade of Gentilesse, ll. 16, 17.
1128. Cf. Dante, Purgat. vii. 121:—
Cary’s translation is:—
Marsh notes that similar sentiments occur in the Canzone prefixed to the fourth Trattato in Dante’s Convito.
1135. The general sense is—‘if gentle conduct were naturally implanted in a particular family, none of that family could ever behave badly.’ Cf. ll. 1150, 1151.
1140. Chaucer’s tr. of Boethius, bk. ii. pr. 7. 43, mentions ‘the mountaigne that highte Caucasus.’ This is probably where he got the name from. Cf. Shakespeare’s ‘frosty Caucasus’; Rich. II. i. 3. 295. The whole passage is imitated from another place in Boethius, where Chaucer’s translation has:—‘Certes, yif that honour of poeple were a natural yift to dignitees, it ne mighte never cesen . . . to don his office, right as fyr in every contree ne stinteth nat to eschaufen and to ben hoot’; bk. iii. pr. 4. 44–8. In l. 1139, Dryden merely alters in to to.
1142.lye, i. e. blaze. ‘Hevene y-leyed wose syth,’ whoever sees heaven in a blaze; Relig. Antiq. i. 266. The sb. lye, a flame, occurs in P. Pl. C. xx. 172. Cf. A. S. lȳg, līg, flame.
1146–56. Much altered and expanded in Dryden.
1158. Cf. Rom. of the Rose, 2181:—
1165. ‘Incunabula Tulli Hostilii agreste tugurium cepit: ejusdem adolescentia in pecore pascendo fuit occupata: validior aetas imperium Romanum rexit, et duplicavit: senectus excellentissimis ornamentis decorata in altissimo majestatis fastigio fulsit.’—Valerius Maximus, lib. iii. c. 4 (De Humili Loco Natis). Cf. Livy, i. 22; Dionysius Halicarnasseus, iii; Ælian, xiv. 36.
1168.Senek, Seneca. Boece, Boethius; see note to 1109.
1184. Ll. 1183–1190 are imitated from the following; ‘Honesta, inquit [Epicurus], res est laeta paupertas. Illa uero non est paupertas, si laeta est. Cui enim cum paupertate bene conuenit, diues est. Non qui parum habet, sed qui plus cupit, pauper est.’—Seneca, Epist. ii. § 4. This passage is quoted by John of Salisbury, Policraticus, l. vii. c. 13.
Othere clerkes also includes Epicurus, whose sentiments Seneca here expresses; see Diogenes Laertius, x. 11. MS. E. here quotes the words ‘honesta res est laeta paupertas’ in the margin, and refers to ‘Seneca, in epistola.’ It also has:—‘Pauper est qui eget, eo quod non habet; sed qui non habet, nec appetit habere, ille diues est; de quo intelligitur id Apocalypsis tertio [Rev. iii. 17]—dicis quia diues sum.’ With l. 1187 cf. Rom. de la Rose, 18766:—‘Et convoitise fait povrece.’
1191. All the editions adopt the reading is sinne, as in all the MSS. except E. and Cm. (the two best); see footnote, p. 354. But surely this is nonsense, and exactly contradicts l. 1183.
1192. In the margin of MS. E. are quoted two lines from Juvenal, Sat. x. 21, 22:—‘Cantabit uacuus coram latrone uiator; Et nocte ad lumen trepidabit arundinis umbram.’ The latter of these lines should come first, and the usual readings are motae (not nocte), lunam, and trepidabis. However, it is only the other (and favourite) line that is here alluded to. The same line is quoted in Piers Plowman, B. xiv. 305; and is alluded to in Chaucer’s tr. of Boethius, bk. ii. pr. 5. 129–130. In Wyclif’s Works, ed. Arnold, ii. 364, is the remark:—‘For it is said comounli, that a wey-goer, whan he is voide, singith sure bi the theef.’
1195. In the margin of E. is written:—‘Secundus philosophus: Paupertas est odibile bonum, sanitatis mater, curarum remocio, sapientie reparatrix, possessio sine calumpnia.’ This is the very passage quoted, even more fully, in Piers Plowman, B. xiv. 275 (C. xvii. 117). Tyrwhitt’s note is—‘In this commendation of Poverty, our author seems plainly to have had in view the following passage of a fabulous conference between the emperor Adrian and Secundus the philosopher, reported by Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum Historiale, lib. x. cap. 71. “Quid est paupertas? Odibile bonum, sanitatis mater, remotio curarum, sapientie repertrix, negotium sine damno, possessio absque calumnia, sine sollicitudine felicitas.” What Vincent has there published seems to have been extracted from a larger collection of Gnomae under the name of Secundus, which are still extant in Greek and Latin. See Fabricius, Bib. Gr., l. vi. c. x, and MS. Harl. 399.’ Thus l. 1195 is a translation of Paupertas est odibile bonum, so that the proposal by Dr. Morris (Aldine edition of Chaucer, vol. i. p. vi) to adopt the reading hatel from MSS. Cp. Pt. Ln. instead of hateful, is founded on a mistake. The expression is contradictory, but it is so intentionally. ‘Poverty is a gift which its possessors hate’ is, of course, the meaning. Dryden well explains it:—
1196. This translates ‘remotio curarum.’
1197. This translates ‘sapientie reparatrix,’ not ‘repertrix.’
1199.elenge, miserable, hard to bear. Elenge is also spelt alenge, alinge, alange; see Alange in the New English Dictionary, though the proper form is rather alenge. It is a derivative of the intensive A. S. prefix ǣ and lenge, a secondary form of lang, long; so that A. S. ǣlenge meant protracted, tedious, wearisome, as in Alfred’s tr. of Boethius, xxxix. 4. But it was confused with the M. E. elend, strange, foreign, and so acquired the sense of ‘strange’ as well as ‘trying’ or ‘miserable.’ See Elynge in the Gl. to P. Plowman, and the note to P. Pl. C. i. 204; also Mätzner’s note to the Land of Cokayne, l. 15.
1200. This line translates ‘possessio absque calumnia.’ The E. challenge is, in fact, derived from calumnia, through Old French.
1202. Understand him: ‘maketh (him) know his God and himself’; see Dryden’s paraphrase. Against this line, in the margin of MS. E., is written:—‘Unde et Crates ille Thebanus, proiecto in mari non paruo auri pondere, Abite (inquit) pessime male cupiditates! Ego uos mergam, ne ipse mergar a uobis.’ Probably Chaucer once intended to introduce this story into the text. It relates, apparently, to Crates of Thebes, the Cynic philosopher, who flourished about 320.
1203.spectacle, i. e. an optic glass, a kind of telescope. In the modern sense, the word was used in the plural, as at present. From Lydgate’s London Lickpenny, st. 7, we learn that ‘spectacles to reede’ was, in his time, one of the cries of London. Cf. prospectyves, i.e. perspective glasses, in F. 234. Chaucer is here thinking of a passage in Le Roman de la Rose, where the E. version (l. 5551) has:—
This, again, is from Boethius, bk. ii. pr. 8. 22–33. Compare Chaucer’s poem on Fortune, ll. 9, 32, 34, and my notes upon these lines; vol. i. pp. 383, 544.
1208. See note to l. 1276 below; and cf. D. 1.
1210. Compare C. 743, and the note.
1215. For also, Tyrwhitt reads also so, against all authority, as he admits. The text is right as it stands. Eld-e is dissyllabic, the final e being preserved by the cæsura; and also means no more than ‘so.’ I suspect this is quoted from some French proverb. Dryden alters ‘filth’ to ‘ugliness.’
1224.repair, great resort, viz. of visitors.
1234. ‘I care not which of the two it shall be.’ Cf. Gower, Conf. Amantis, i. 103:—
1260.toverbyde, to over-bide, to outlive. Tyrwhitt substitutes to overlive, from the black-letter editions. Gra-ce is dissyllabic.
1261.shorte, shorten; see D. 365.
The Friar’s Prologue.
1276.auctoritees; a direct reference to l. 1208 above. This goes far to show that the Friar’s Tale was written immediately after the Wife’s Tale. The Friar says, quite truly, that the Wife’s Tale contains passages not unlike ‘school-matter,’ or disquisitions in the schools. Such a passage is that in ll. 1109–1212. Tyrwhitt shews that auctoritas was the usual word applied to a text of scripture; Bell adds, that it was applied, as now, to any authority for a statement. We might very well translate auctoritees by ‘quotations.’
1284.mandements, ‘citations, or summonses, addressed to those accused of breaches of the canons, to appear and answer in the archdeacon’s court’; Bell. Hence the name somnour, i. e. a server of summonses.
1285.tounes ende (whence the name Townsend); we should now say, ‘at the entry to every town’; cf. l. 1537. The Somnour was often opposed with violence, and was a very unpopular character.
1294. The limiters had to cultivate the art of flattery, because they lived by begging from house to house.
*∗* After this line all the MSS. (except Hl.) wrongly insert lines 1307, 1308 (on p. 359). Perhaps the poet himself introduced these lines here at first, and afterwards perceived how much better they came in after l. 1306. It is not an important matter.
1296. MS. Hl. has:—‘Our host answerd and sayd the sompnour this’; which cannot be right.
The Freres Tale.
With respect to the source of this Tale, see vol. iii. p. 450.
1300.erchedeken. As to the duties of the archdeacon, here described, compare A. 655, 658. He enforced discipline by threats of excommunication, and inflicted fines for various offences. Compare Wyclif’s Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 166.
1305. I. e. he punished church-reeves if they did ill, and all cases in which wills or contracts had been wantonly violated. ‘Lakke of sacraments’ refers, chiefly, to the neglect of the precept to communicate at Easter; also to neglect of baptism, and, possibly, of matrimony, as that was also a ‘sacrament’ in the church of our fathers.
1307–8. These two lines occur here in MS. Hl. only; see note to 1294 above.
1309. Usury was prohibited by the Canon Law; cf. P. Plowman, C. vii. 239.
1314. ‘No fine could save the accused from punishment.’
1315. ‘The neglect to pay tithes and Easter offerings came under the archdeacon’s jurisdiction, as the bishop’s diocesan officer. The friar does not scruple to make an invidious use of this subject at the expense of the parochial clergy, because, being obliged by his rule to gain his livelihood by begging, he had no interest in tithes.’—Bell.
1317. Alluding to the shape of the bishop’s crosier. In P. Plowman, C. xi. 92, the crosier is described as having a hook at one end, by which he draws men back to a good life, and a spike at the other, which he uses against hardened offenders. On the crosier, see Rock, Church of Our Fathers, ii. 181. The bishop dealt with such offenders as were contumacious to the archdeacon.
1321. For the character of a Somnour, see A. 623.
1323.espiaille, set of spies; see note to B. 2509, p. 213.
1324.taughte, informed; the final e is not clided.
1327.wood were, should be, were to be as mad as a hare. See ‘As mad as a March hare’ in Hazlitt’s Proverbs.
1329. The mendicant orders were subject only to their own general or superior, not to the bishops. In the piece called Jack Upland (§ 11), Jack asks the friars—‘Why be ye not vnder your bishops visitations, and leegemen to our king?’—British Poets, ed. Chalmers, 1810; i. 567.
1331.terme, i. e. during the term.
1332.Peter, by saint Peter. ‘The summoner’s repartee is founded upon the law by which houses of ill-fame were exempted from ecclesiastical interference, and licensed.’—Bell. ‘Stewes, are those places which were permitted in England to women of professed incontinency . . . But king Henry VIII., about the year 1546, prohibited them for ever.’—Cowel’s Interpreter. Cock Lane, Smithfield, contained such houses; see my notes to P. Plowman, C. vii. 366, 367.
1343.approwours, agents, men who looked after his profits. From the O. Fr. approuer, apprower, to cause to profit, to enrich; from the O. Fr. sb. prou, profit, whence also E. prowess. Miswritten as approver in the seventeenth century, though distinct from approve (from approbare). See the New Eng. Dictionary. Tyrwhitt has the spelling approvers.
1347.Cristes curs, i. e. excommunication.
1349.atte nale, put for atten ale, lit. at the ale, where ale is put for ‘ale-house.’ Atten is for A. S. æt tham, where tham is the dat. neut. of the def. article. The expression is common; as in ‘fouhten atten ale,’ fought at the ale-house, P. Plowman, C. i. 43; ‘with ydel tales atte nale,’ id. C. viii. 19. ‘Thou hast not so much charity in thee as to goe to the Ale with a Christian’; Two Gent. of Verona, ii. v. 61. So also atte noke, for atten oke, at the oak; see note to P. Pl. C. vii. 207.
1350. See John, xii. 6; and cf. the Legend of Judas Iscariot, printed (from MS. Harl. 2277) in Early Eng. Poems, ed. Furnivall, 1862; p. 107.
1352.duetee (Cp. dewete) is trisyllabic; see l. 1391. It is a coined word, having no Latin equivalent. The spelling duete occurs, in Anglo-French, in the Liber Albus, p. 211, l. 23.
1356.Sir Robert; the title of Sir was usually given to one of the secular clergy; cf. note to B. 4000, p. 248.
1364.hir, her; so in E. Hn., but other MSS. have thee. The reading given is the better. The Somnour fined the man, but let the woman go; and then said that he let her go out of friendship for the man. This is intelligible; but the reading thee gives no sense to the words for thy sake.
1365. ‘You need not take any more trouble in this matter.’
1367.bryberý-es (four syllables), i. e. modes of robbery. So in MSS. Hn. Cm. Cp. MSS. Hl. Pt. Ln. have bribours, which will not scan, unless (as in Hl.) we also read Certeinly, giving a line defective in the first foot. Tyrwhitt inserts many before mo, to fill up the line.
1369.dogge for the bowe, a dog used to accompany an archer, to follow up a stricken deer; see the next line. The docility of such a dog is alluded to in E. 2014.
1373. ‘And, because such acquaintance brought him in the chief part of all his income.’
1377.ribybe. In l. 1573, she is called ‘an old rebekke.’ So in Skelton’s Elinour Rummyng, l. 492:—‘There came an old rybybe.’ And Ben Jonson speaks of ‘some good ribibe . . . you would hang now for a witch’; The Devil is an Ass, i. 1. 16. But probably Skelton and Ben Jonson merely took the word from Chaucer. A ribybe was, properly, a two-stringed Moorish fiddle; see note to A. 3331. Gifford’s note on the passage in Ben Jonson, says:—‘Ribibe, together with its synonym rebeck, is merely a cant term for an old woman. A ribibe, the reader knows, is a rude kind of a fiddle, and the allusion is, probably, to the inharmonious nature of its sounds.’ Halliwell suggests some (improbable) confusion between vetula and vitula.
I suspect that this old joke, for such it clearly is, arose in a very different way, viz. from a pun upon rebekke, a fiddle, and Rebekke, a married woman, from the mention of Rebecca in the marriage-service. For Chaucer himself notices the latter in E. 1704, which see. Observe that the form rebekke, as applied to the fiddle, is a corrupt one, though it is found in other languages. See rebebe in Godefroy’s O. F. Dictionary, and rebec in Littré.
1378.Cause and wolde are dissyllabic; and brybe, to rob, is a verb. But the editors ignore such elementary facts. The old editions insert haue a before brybe; and the modern editions insert han a; which, as Wright observes, is not to be found in the MSS!
1381. See A. 103, 104, 108; and, for courtepy, A. 290.
1382.hadde upon, had on; cf. D. 559, 1018.
1384. ‘Well overtaken, well met.’ So in Partonope of Blois, 6390: ‘Syr, wele atake!’ Cf. G. 556.
1394.for the name, because of the disgrace attaching to the very name. The Friar is severe.
1405.sworn-e, a plural form; the word sworn being here used adjectivally. See note to A. 1132, p. 66.
1408.venim, spite. wariangles, shrikes. According to C. Swainson (Provincial Names of British Birds), this is the Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio), called in Yorkshire the Weirangle or Wariangle. Some make it the Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor). Thus Ray, in his Provincial Words, ed. 1674, p. 83, gives warringle as a name for the Great Butcher-bird in the Peak of Derbyshire. ‘This Bird,’ says Willughby, ‘in the North of England is called Wierangle, a name, it seems, common to us with the Germans, who (as Gesner witnesseth) about Strasburg, Frankfort, and elsewhere, call it Werkangel or Warkangel, perchance (saith he) as it were Wurchangel, which literally rendered signifies “a suffocating angel.” ’ So also, the mod. G. name is Würgengel, as if from würgen and Engel. But this is a form due to popular etymology, as will presently appear. Cotgrave has ‘Pie engrouée, a Wariangle, or a small Woodpecker’; but a wariangle is really a Shrike; indeed Cotgrave also has: ‘Arneat, the ravenous birde called a Shrike, Nynmurder, Wariangle’; which is correct. In the Wars of Alexander, ed. Skeat, l. 1706, the word wayryngle occurs as a term of abuse, signifying ‘a little villain’; this is probably the same word, and answers to a dimin. form of A. S. wearg (Icel. vargr, O. H. G. warg, warc), a felon, with the suffix -incel, as seen in A. S. rāp-incel, a little rope, hūs-incel, a little house. Bradley cites, as parallel forms, the O. H. G. warchengil (see below), and the M. L. G. wargingel, which are probably formed in a similar way. The epithet ‘little felon’ or ‘little murderer’ agrees with other names for the shrike, viz. ‘butcher-bird,’ ‘murdering-bird,’ ‘nine-murder,’ ‘nine-killer,’ so called because it impales beetles and small birds on thorns, for the purpose of pulling them to pieces. This is why I take venim to mean ‘spite’ rather than ‘poison’ in this passage.
Schmeller, in his Bavarian Dict., ii. 999, says that the Lanius excubitor is called, in O. H. G. glosses, Warchengel (Graff, i. 349); also Wargengel, Würgengel, and Würger.
1413.north contree. This is a sly joke, because, in the old Teutonic mythology, hell was supposed to be in the north. Wright refers us, for this belief, to his St. Patrick’s Purgatory. See my note to P. Plowman, C. ii. 111, about Lucifer’s sitting in the north; cf. Isaiah, xiv. 13, 14; Milton, P. L. v. 755–760; Myrour of our Lady, ed. Blunt, p. 189. In the Icelandic Gylfaginning, we find—‘niðr ok norðr liggr Helvegr,’ i. e. downwards and northwards lies the way to hell. Cf. l. 1448.
1428.laborous is right; offyc-e is trisyllabic.
1436. A proverbial expression; still in use in Lancashire and elsewhere; see N. and Q., 7 S. x. 446, 498. Cf. ‘a taker and a bribing [robbing] feloe, and one for whom nothing was to hotte nor to heauie.’ Udall, tr. of Erasmus’ Apophthegmes; Cicero, § 50.
Of course the sense is—‘too hot to hold.’ Tyrwhitt quotes a similar phrase from Froissart, v. i. c. 229, ‘ne laissoient riens a prendre, s’il n’estoit trop chaud, trop froid, ou trop pesant.’
1439. ‘Were it not for my extortion, I could not live.’
1451. ‘What I can thus acquire is the substance of all my income.’ See note to A. 256; and Feck in the New Eng. Dictionary.
1456. Read ben’cite; and observe the rime: prey-e, sey ye. Pronounce: (prei·yǝ, sei·yǝ), where (ǝ) represents the obscure vowel, or the a in China.
1459. Such questions were eagerly discussed in the middle ages; see l. 1461–5.
1463.make yow seme, make it seem to you. Tyrwhitt has wene (for seme), which occurs in MS. Cp. only.
1467.iogelour, juggler; for their tricks, see F. 1143. Wright says:—‘The jogelour (joculator) was originally the minstrel, and at an earlier period was an important member of society. He always combined mimicry and mountebank performances with poetry and music. In Chaucer’s time he had so far degenerated as to have become a mere mountebank, and as it appears, to have merited the energetic epithet here applied to him.’ Cf. my note to P. Plowman, C. xvi. 207.
1472. Read abl’ is. MS. Hl. has:—‘As most abíl is our-e pray to take.’ Cf. F. habile, for which Cotgrave gives one meaning as ‘apt unto anything he undertakes.’
1476.pryme, 9 a.m., a late time with early risers. See note to B. 4045, p. 250.
1483–91. Cf. Boeth. bk. iv. pr. 6. 62–71; Job, i. 12; ii. 6.
1502. I suspect this to be an allusion to a story similar to that entitled ‘A Lay of St. Dunstan’ in the Ingoldsby Legends.
1503. This probably alludes to some of the legends about the apostles. Thus, in The Lives of Saints, ed. Horstmann, p. 36, l. 72, some fiends are represented as doing the will of St. James the Greater; and in the same, p. 368, l. 50, a fiend says of St. Bartholomew:—‘He mai do with us al that he wole, for bi-neothe him we beoth.’ Cf. Acts, xix. 15.
1508. ‘The adoption of the bodies of the deceased by evil spirits in their wanderings upon earth, was an important part of the medieval superstitions of this country, and enters largely into a variety of legendary stories found in the old chroniclers.’—Wright. Bell quotes from Hamlet, ii. 2:—‘The spirit that I have seen May be the devil,’ &c.
1509.renably, reasonably. The A. F. form of ‘reasonable’ was resnable (as in the Life of Edw. the Confessor, l. 1602); and, by the law that s became silent before l, m, and n (as in isle, blasmer, disner, E. isle, blame, dine), this became renable. See note to P. Plowman, C. i. 176.
1510.Phitonissa; this is another spelling of pythonissa, which is the word used, in the Vulgate version of 1 Chron. x. 13, with reference to the witch of Endor. In 1 Sam. xxviii. 7, the phrase is mulier pythonem habens. The witch of Endor is also called phitonesse in Gower, Conf. Amant. bk. iv, ed. Pauli, ii. 66; Barbour’s Bruce, iv. 753; Skelton’s Philip Sparowe, l. 1345; Lydgate’s Falls of Princes, bk. ii. leaf xl, ed. Wayland; Gawain Douglas, prol. to the Æneid, ed. Small, ii. 10, l. 2; and in Sir D. Lyndesay’s Monarchè, bk. iv. l. 5842. And see Hous of Fame, 1261. Cf. πνευ̑μα Πύθωνος, Acts, xvi. 16.
1518.in a chayer rede, lecture about this matter as in a professorial chair, lecture like a professor; cf. l. 1638. The fiend is satirical.
1519. Referring to Vergil’s Æneid, bk. vi, and Dante’s Inferno.
1528. This much resembles A. 1132, q. v.
1541.for which, for which reason; stood, stood still, was stuck fast.
1543. In Brand’s Popular Antiquities, ed. Ellis, ii. 15, ‘Heit or Heck’ is mentioned as being ‘a well-known interjection used by the country people to their horses.’ Brand adds that ‘the name of Brok is still, too, in frequent use amongst farmers’ draught oxen.’ In the Towneley Mysteries, p. 9, is the exclamation ‘hyte!’ The word for ‘stop!’ was ‘ho!’ like the modern whoa! This explains a line in Gascoigne’s Dan Bartholmew of Bathe, ed. Hazlitt, i. 136:—‘His thought sayd haight, his sillie speache cryed ho.’ Bell notes that ‘Hayt is still the word used by waggoners in Norfolk, to make their horses go on’; and adds—‘Brok means a badger, hence applied to a gray horse, myne owene lyard boy (l. 1563). Scot is a common name for farm-horses in East-Anglia; as in A. 616.’ In the Towneley Mysteries, p. 9, names of oxen are Malle, Stott (doubtless miswritten for Scott), Lemyng, Morelle, and White-horne. The Craven Glossary says hyte is used to turn horses to the left; whilst the Ger. hott! or hottot! is used to turn them to the right. In Shropshire, ’ait or ’eet, said to horses, means ‘go from me’; see Waggoners’ Words in Miss Jackson’s Shropsh. Wordbook.
1548. MS. Hl. has—‘her schal we se play.’ Tyrwhitt has pray, which gives a false rime, for it should be prey-e; see l. 1455, and the note to l. 1456. The six MSS. all have a pley.
1559.thakketh (pronounced thakk’th) his hors, pats, or strokes his horses; to encourage them. From A. S. þaccian, to stroke (a horse), Gregory’s Pastoral Care, ed. Sweet, p. 303, l. 10. So also in A. 3304. (Not to thwack, or whack.)
1560. I adopt the reading of MSS. E. and Hn. MSS. Cm. Pt. Ln. have:—‘And they bigunne to drawe and to stoupe,’ which throws an awkward accent on the former to. MS. Hl. has:—‘And thay bygon to drawen and to stowpe.’ But I take to-stoupe to be a compound verb, with the sense ‘stoop forward’; though I can find no other example of its use. Being uncommon, it would easily have been resolved into two words, and this would necessitate the introduction of to before drawen. Bigonne usually takes to after it, but not always; cf. ‘Iapen tho bigan,’ B. 1883.
1563.twight, pulled, lit. ‘twitched.’ ‘Liard, a common appellative for a horse, from its grey colour, as bayard was from bay (see A. 4115). See P. Plowman, C. xx. 64 [and my note on the same]. Bp. Douglas, in his Virgil, usually puts liart for albus, incanus, &c.’—T. Other names of horses are, Favel for a chestnut, Dun for a dun horse, Ferrand for an iron-gray, and Morel, i. e. mulberry-coloured, for a roan.
1564. I give the reading of MSS. Hn. Cp. Pt. Ln., and of the black-letter editions. MS. Hl. has ‘I pray god saue thy body and seint loy’; for which Cm. has ‘the body,’ as if ‘the’ were the original reading, and ‘body’ a supplied word. I take se-ynt to be dissyllabic, as in A. 120, 509, 697, D. 604. As to seint Loy, the patron-saint of goldsmiths, farriers, smiths, and carters, see note to A. 120.
1568. Cf. Rom. de la Rose, 10335–6: ‘car ge fesoie Une chose, et autre pensoie.’
1570.upon cariage, by way of quitting my claim to this cart and team; a satirical reflection on his failure to win anything by the previous occurrence. Cariage was a technical term for a service of carrying, or a payment in lieu of it, due from a tenant to his landlord or feudal superior; see the New Eng. Dictionary, s. v. Carriage, I. 4. The landlord used to claim the use of the tenant’s horses and carts for his own service, without payment for the use of them; and the tenant could only get off by paying cariage. This difficult use of the word is exemplified by two other passages in Chaucer, one of which is in the Cant. Tales, I. 752; q. v. The other is in his Boethius, bk. i. pr. 4, l. 50, where he says:—‘The poeple of the provinces ben harmed outher by privee ravynes, or by comune tributes or cariages,’ where the Lat. text has uectigalibus.
1573.rebekke, old woman; lit. Rebecca; see note to l. 1377 above.
1576. Twelve pence was a considerable sum in those days; being equivalent to something like fifteen shillings of our present money.
1580.winne thy cost, earn your expenses.
1582.viritrate, a term of contempt for an old woman. Cf. ‘thou olde trot,’ addressed to an old woman; Thersites, in Hazlitt’s Old Plays, i. 415. Jamieson gives trat, an old woman; with three examples from G. Douglas. Levins (1570) has: ‘Tratte, anus.’
1591.wisly, certainly. I ne may, I cannot (come).
1593.go, walk; as usual, when used with ryde.
1595.axe a libel, apply to have a written declaration of the complaint against me, i. e. a copy of the indictment.
1596.procutour, proctor, to appear on my behalf. Only MS. Hl. has the full form procuratour; the rest have procutour or procatour, as suitable for the metre. These forms are interesting, as furnishing the intermediate step between procurator and proctor. So, in the Prompt. Parv., we find ‘proketowre, Procurator,’ and ‘prokecye, Procuracia’; whence, by loss of e, proctor and proxy. there is dissyllabic, as in A. 3165, and frequently.
1613.Seinte Anne, saint Anna, whose day is July 26. In Luke, ii. 36, is mentioned ‘Anna the prophetess.’ At the commencement of the apocryphal gospel of Mary, we are told that the virgin’s ‘father’s name was Joachim, and her mother’s Anna.’ This is the saint Anna here alluded to. See B. 641; G. 70; and Cursor Mundi, l. 10147. Hence it became a common practice to give a girl the name of Mary Ann, which combined the name of the virgin with that of her mother.
1617.I payde, and which I paid.
1618.lizt, liest; a common form; see P. Plowman, C. vii. 138 (B. v. 163); Plowman’s Crede, 542.
1630.stot, properly a stallion (as in A. 615), or a bullock; also applied, as in the Cleveland Glossary, to an old ox. Here it clearly means ‘old cow,’ as a term of abuse.
1635.by right; because the old woman really meant it; cf. l. 1568.
1644.leve, grant. Tyrwhitt wrongly has lene, lend. The difference between these two words, which are constantly confused (being written leue, lene, often indistinguishably) is explained in my note to P. Plowman, B. v. 263. Leue (grant, permit) is usually followed by a dependent clause; but lene (lend, grant, give) by an accusative case.
1647. I supply and to fill up the line. This and appears in all the modern editions, but without authority, and without any notice that the MSS. omit it. Yet it neither appears in any one of our seven MSS. nor in MSS. Dd., Ii., or Mm. Neither does it appear in the black-letter editions. Indeed MS. E. marks the scansion thus: After the text of Crist | Poul | and John; as if the word ‘Poul’ occupied a whole foot of the verse. And I can readily believe that the line was meant to be so scanned.
1657. See Ps. x. 9. sit, short for sitteth.
1661. See 1 Cor. x. 13. over, above, beyond.
1662. For Christ as a ‘knight,’ see P. Plowman, C. xxi. 11; Ancren Riwle, p. 390.
1663. For Somnours, several MSS. have Somnour. MS. Cm. is defective; MS. Dd. supports the reading which I have given. It is immaterial, as thise Somnours includes the particular Somnour who was one of the party.
The Sompnour’s Prologue.
1676. The words of St. Paul, 2 Cor. xii. 4, have suggested numerous accounts of revelations made to saints regarding heaven and hell. In Bede’s Eccl. History, bk. iii. c. 19, we are told how St. Furseus saw a vision of hell; so also did St. Guthlac, as related in his life, cap. 5. A long vision of purgatory is recounted in the Revelation to the Monk of Evesham, ed. Arber; and another in the account of St. Patrick’s Purgatory, in the Lives of Saints, ed. Horstmann. Long descriptions of hell are common, as in the Cursor Mundi, l. 23195, and Hampole’s Pricke of Conscience, l. 6464. But the particular story to which Chaucer here alludes is, probably, not elsewhere extant.
1688. Possibly Chaucer was thinking of the wings of Lucifer, greater than any sails, as described in Dante’s Inferno, xxxiv. 48; whence also Milton speaks of Satan’s ‘sail-broad vans,’ P. L. ii. 927. A carrik or carrack is a large trading-ship, and we have here the earliest known example of the use of the word in English; see Carrack in the New Eng. Dictionary.
1690–1. Cf. Rom. of the Rose, 7577–8; in vol. i. p. 257.
1695. Line 2119 of the House of Fame is: ‘Twenty thousand in a route’; here we have the same line with the addition of freres. Both lines are cast in the same mould, both being deficient in the first foot. Thus the scansion is: Twen | ty thou | sand, &c. In order to conceal this fact, Tyrwhitt reads: ‘A twenty thousand,’ &c., against all authority; but Wright, Bell, Morris, and Gilman all allow the line to stand as Chaucer wrote it, and as it is here given. The black-letter editions do the same. It is a very small matter that all the copies except E. have on for in; as the words are equivalent, I keep in (as in E.), because in is the reading in the Hous of Fame.
The Somnours Tale.
For further remarks about this Tale, see vol. iii. p. 452.
It is principally directed against the Frere; see the description of him in the Prologue, A. 208.
1710. Holderness is an extremely flat district; it lies at the S. E. angle of Yorkshire, between Hull, Driffield, Bridlington and Spurn Point; see the Holderness Glossary, E. D. S. 1877. We find that Chaucer makes no attempt here, as in the Reeve’s Tale, to imitate the Yorkshire dialect.
1712.to preche. The friars were popular preachers of the middle ages. They were to live by begging, and were therefore often called the Mendicant Orders; see l. 1912, and the notes to A. 208, 209. The friar of our story was a Carmelite; see note to l. 2116.
1717.trentals. A trental (from Low Lat. trentale, O. F. trentel) was an office of thirty masses, to be said on so many consecutive days, for the benefit of souls in purgatory. It also meant, as here, the sum paid for the same to the priest or friar. See Wyclif’s Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 299, 374; ed. Matthew (E. E. T. S.) pp. 211, 516; and the poem entitled St. Gregory’s Trental, in Religious, Political, and Love Poems, ed. Furnivall, p. 83.
1722.possessioners. This term seems to have been applied (1) to the regular orders of monks who possessed landed property, and (2) to the beneficed clergy. I think there is here particular reference to the latter, as indicated by the occurrence of preest in l. 1727, curat in 1816, and viker and persone in l. 2008. The friars, on the contrary, were supposed to have no endowments, but to subsist entirely upon alms; they contrived, however, to evade this restriction, and in Pierce the Plowman’s Crede, there is a description of a Dominican convent built with considerable splendour. I take the expression ‘Thanked be god’ in l. 1723 to be a parenthentical remark made by the Somnour who tells the story, as it is hardly consistent with the views of the friars. As to the perpetual jealousies between the friars and the possessioners, see P. Plowman, B. v. 144.
1728. It was usual (as said in note to l. 1717) to sing the thirty masses on thirty consecutive days, as Chaucer here remarks. But the friar says they are better when ‘hastily y-songe’; and it would appear that the friars used occasionally to sing all the thirty masses in one day, and so save a soul from twenty-nine days of purgatory; cf. ll. 1729, 1732. In English Gilds, ed. Toulmin Smith, p. 8, we have an example of this. The wardens are there directed to summon the Minorite Friars to say the dirge, ‘and on the morwe to seie a trent of masses atte same freres.’
In Jack Upland, § 13, we find: ‘Why make ye [freres] men beleeue that your golden trentall sung of you, to take therefore ten shillings, or at least fiue shillings, woll bring souls out of hell, or out of purgatorie?’
1730.oules. The M. E. forms oule, owel, owul, as well as A. S. awul, awel, are various spellings of E. awl, which see in the New Eng. Dict. Hence oules means awls or piercing instruments. In the Life of St. Katherine, l. 2178, the tormentors torture the saint with ‘eawles of irne,’ i.e. iron awls. In Horstmann’s South-English Legendary (E. E. T. S.), St. Blase is tormented with ‘oules kene,’ which tore his flesh as when men comb wool (p. 487, l. 84); hence he became the patron saint of wool-combers. Similar tortures were applied by fiends in the medieval descriptions of hell. See Ancren Riwle, p. 212; St. Brandan, ed. Wright, pp. 22, 48.
1734.qui cum patre. ‘This is part of the formula with which prayers and sermons are still sometimes concluded in the Church of England.’—Bell. In a sermon for Ascension Day, in Morris’s O. E. Homilies, ii. 115, we have at the end an allusion, in English, to Christ, after which follows:—‘qui cum patre et spiritu sancto uiuit et regnat per omnia secula seculorum.’ Such was the usual formula.
1740. The friars often begged in pairs; in this way, each was a check upon the other as regarded the things thus obtained. In Jack Upland, § 23, we find the friars are asked:—‘What betokeneth that ye goe tweine and tweine togither?’ Langland tells us how he met two friars; see P. Plowman, C. xi. 8.
1741.tables, writing tablets. In Horman’s Vulgaria, leaf 81, we read:—‘Tables be made of leues of yuery, boxe, cyprus, and other stouffe, daubed with waxe to wrytte on.’ And again, in the same:—‘Poyntellis of yron, and poyntyllis of syluer, bras, boon, or stoone.’ This is a survival of the use of the Roman waxed tablet and stilus.
1743. Jack Upland (§ 20) asks the friar:—‘Why writest thou hir names in thy tables that yeueth thee mony?’ The usual reason was, that the donors might be prayed for; see l. 1745. Cf. l. 1752.
1745.Ascaunces, as if, as though, as if to promise. In G. 838, q. v., it means ‘you might suppose that,’ or ‘possibly.’ In Troilus, i. 205, it means ‘as if to say’; Boccaccio’s Italian has quasi dicesse. It also occurs in Troilus, i. 292; Lydgate, Fall of Princes, fol. 136 b (Tyrwhitt); Tale of Beryn, 1797; Palladius on Husbandry, vi. 39; Sidney’s Arcadia, ed. 1622, p. 162; and in Gascoigne’s Works, ed. Hazlitt, i. 113, where the marginal note has ‘as who should say.’ See the New Eng. Dictionary, where the etymology is said to be unknown.
I have since found that it is a hybrid compound. The first part of it is E. as, used superflously and tautologically; the latter part of it is the O. F. quanses, ‘as if,’ first given in a dictionary by Godefroy in 1889, with six examples, and three other spellings, viz. qanses, quainses, and queinsi. Godefroy refers us to Romania, xviii. 152, and to Foerster’s edition of Cliges, note to l. 4553. Kilian gives Mid. Du. ‘quantsuys, quasi’; borrowed from O. French, without any prefix.
1746. Nothing came amiss to the friars. They begged for ‘corn, monee, chese,’ &c.; see Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, p. 304. And in Skelton’s Colin Clout, l. 842, we read of the friars:—
1747.Goddes here translated the French expression de Dieu, meaning ‘sent from God.’ Tyrwhitt says that the true meaning of de Dieu ‘is explained by M. de la Monnoye in a note upon the Contes de D. B. Periers, t. ii. p. 107. Belle serrure de Dieu: Expression du petit peuple, qui raporte pieusement tout à Dieu. Rien n’est plus commun dans la bouche des bonnes vieilles, que ces espèces d’Hébraïsmes: Il m’en conte un bel écu de Dieu; Il ne me reste que ce pauvre enfant de Dieu. Donnez-moi une bénite aumône de Dieu. See goddes halfpeny in l. 1749. (The explanation by Speght, and in Cowel’s Interpreter, s. v. kichell, seems to be, as Tyrwhitt says, an invention.)
kechil, a little cake. The form kechell occurs in the Ormulum, l. 8662; answering to the early A. S. coecil, occurring as a gloss to tortum in the Epinal Glossary, 993; different from A. S. cīcel (for cȳcel), given as cicel in Bosworth’s Dictionary. The cognate M. H. G. word is küechelīn (Schade), O. H. G. chuochelīn, double dimin. from O. H. G. kuocho (G. Kuchen), a cake; see Kuchen in Kluge. The E. cake is a related word, but with a difference in vowel-gradation.
trip, ‘a morsel.’ ‘Les tripes d’un fagot, the smallest sticks in a faggot’; Cotgrave.
1749.masse-peny, a penny for saying a mass. Jack Upland, § 19, says:—‘Freer, whan thou receiuest a peny for to say a masse, whether sellest thou Gods body for that peny, or thy prayer, or els thy travell?’
1751. ‘dagon, a slip, or piece. It is found in Chaucer, Berners, and Steevens’ Supp. to Dugdale, ii. ap. 370, applied in each instance to a blanket’; Halliwell. Cf. M. E. dagge, a strip of cloth.
1755.hostes man, servant to the guests at the convent. Hoste seems here to mean ‘guest,’ which is one of the meanings of O. F. hoste (see Cotgrave). This sense is rare in M. E., but it occurs in the Romance of Merlin, ed. Wheatley, iii. 684, last line but one. Because he ‘bare the bag,’ this attendant on the friars was nicknamed Iscariot; cf. John, xii. 6. ‘Thei leden with hem a Scarioth, stolen fro is eldris by thefte, to robbe pore men bi beggynge’; Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, p. 49.
1768.the gode man, the goodman, or master of the house. MS. Hl. has housbond-man, and MSS. Cp. Ln. bonde man; all with the same sense. place, house; cf. note to B. 1910; p. 184.
1770.Deus hic, God be here; ‘the ordinary formula of benediction on entering a house’; Wright.
1775. A fine realistic touch; the friar made himself quite at home.
1778.go walked, gone on a walk. For go walked, as in all the seven MSS., Tyrwhitt substitutes y-walked, suppressing this characteristic idiom. See note to C. 406; p. 272.
1792.glose, gloss, interpretation, as distinguished from the text.
1794. Cf. 2 Cor. iii. 6. In the margin of E., ‘Litera occidit, &c.’
1804. Kissing was an ordinary form of salutation.
1810. It was usual, I believe, to use a form of deprecation of this sort in reply to praise. The sense is—‘but I am aware that I have defects, and may God amend them.’
1816.curats, parish clergy; cf. note to l. 1722.
1820. Cf. ‘thou shalt catch men’; Luke, v. 10; ‘fishers of men,’ Matt. iv. 19; Rom. Rose, (E. version), 7492.
1824. ‘For (the sake of the) holy Trinity.’ Seint-e is feminine.
1825.pissemyre, ant. Cf. ‘as angry as a wasp,’ in Heywood’s Proverbs.
1832.Ie vous dy, I tell you. A common phrase; see King Alisaunder, ed. Weber, l. 79; Rom. of the Rose, 7408 (in vol. i. p. 254).
1834.ire (Lat. ira) is one of the seven deadly sins; hence the friar’s sermon against it, in ll. 2005–2088.
1842. ‘But I hope no animal is ever killed on my account.’ A strong hint that he always expected some special provision to be made for him.
1845. Cf. John, iv. 34; Job, xxiii. 12.
1853.toun, village; or, precincts of this farm-house.
1857. Visions of saints being carried to heaven are not uncommon. Bede relates one, of Saint Earcongota; Eccl. Hist. bk. iii. c. 8.
1859.fermerer, the friar who had charge of the infirmary. Put for enfermerer, from O. Fr. enfermerier (Godefroy). So also fermorie, an infirmary, in P. Pl. B. xiii. 108.
1862.maken hir Iubilee, keep their jubilee; i. e. having served fifty years in the convent, they have obtained certain privileges, one of which was to go about alone; see note to l. 1740. Tyrwhitt refers us to Ducange, s. v. Sempectæ.
1864.trikling, so E. Hn.; Cm. trynkelynge (probably by error); rest trilling. Cf. B. 1864.
1866. ‘Nothing but a thanksgiving would have been appropriate for a child dying in infancy, of whose translation to paradise the friar pretends that he had seen a vision’; Bell.
1872.burel (Pt. Hl. borel) folk, lay folk, the laity. ‘The term seems to have arisen from the material of their clothing, which was not used by the clergy’; Wright. Cf. borel, in D. 356; borel men, i. e. laymen, in B. 3145; and borel clerkes, lay clerks, learned laymen, in P. Plowman, B. x. 286.
1877. See Luke, xvi. 19, 20.
1880. In the margin of E., ‘Melius est animam saginare quam corpus.’ Jean de Meun, in his Testament, 346, says of misers: ‘Amegrient leurs ames, plus que leurs cors n’engressent.’
1881. See 1 Tim. vi. 8.
1885. See Exod. xxxiv. 28.
1890. See 1 Kings, xix. 8.
1894. See Levit. x. 9.
1906.mendinants, mendicant friars. Tyrwhitt has mendiants, but, in his notes, admits that mendinants is the right reading, as he found the word to be ‘constantly so spelled in the Stat. 12 Rich. II. capp. 7, 8, 9, 10.’ The same spelling occurs repeatedly in P. Plowman; see note to P. Pl. C. xvi. 3. See Mendiener, to beg, in Godefroy’s O. Fr. Dictionary.
1911. ‘The thridde deceyt of thise ordris is that thei passen othere in preyeris, bothe for tyme thei preyen and for multitude of hem’; Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, p. 317.
1915–7. See note to C. 505; p. 278.
1923. See Matt. v. 3. by freres, (1922), concerning friars. Certainly, there is no ‘text’ to this effect; but the friar trusted to find it in a maner glose, in some kind of comment on the text.
1926. An allusion to possessioners; see note to l. 1722.
1929.Iovinian. I think this is the same Jovinian as is mentioned in D. 675; for Chaucer frequently quotes the treatise by Jerome against this heretic. Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch. 30, refers in a footnote to ‘Jovinian, the enemy of fasts and of celibacy, who was persecuted and insulted by the furious Jerome.’ The other Jovinian was a fabulous Roman emperor, who was awhile deposed, like Nebuchadnezzar, for his pride and luxury, as related in the Gesta Romanorum, cap. 59 (or chapter 23 in the English version).
walkinge as a swan, i. e. with slow and stately gait. Jerome (Contra Iovin. i. 40) calls Jovinian ‘iste formosus monachus, crassus, nitidus, et quasi sponsus semper incedens.’
1931. ‘All as full of wine as a bottle in the buttery.’
1932. For gret, ed. 1550 has lytle; but, as Tyrwhitt remarks, the expression is ironical.
1933.Davit is put for David, for the rime. MSS. E. Hn. Ln. have Dauit; Cm. dauith; Cp. Hl. dauid; Pt. davyd.
1934.Lo but is the reading of MS. E. But the right reading is probably buf, not but. The readings are; E. but; Hn. Cm. Ln. buf; Cp. buff; Pt. boþ (wrongly); Hl. boef; ed. 1550, bouffe. This gives the line in the following form:—
Lo, ‘buf!’ they seye, ‘cor meum eructavit!’
Here the interjectional ‘buf!’ is probably intended to represent the sound of eructation. We find baw! as an interjection of strong contempt in P. Plowman, C. xiii. 74, xxii. 398.
Ps. xlv (xliv in the Vulgate) begins, in Latin, with the words Cor meum eructauit uerbum bonum; and the Somnour here takes eructauit in the most literal sense.
1935.fore, path, course; such is certainly the right reading, as in D. 110, on which see the note.
1937. See James, i. 22.
1938.at a sours, at a soaring, in her rise, in her upward swoop. The same word as source of a river; from F. source, O. F. sorse, the fem. pp. of the verb which arose from Lat. surgere. Most likely, this is the origin of the later souse, v., in the sense ‘to swoop downward’; see Pope, Epilogue to Satires, Dial. ii. 15; Sh. K. John, v. 2. 150; Spenser, F. Q. i. 5. 8. See my note on the House of Fame, l. 544. In the Book of St. Alban’s, fol. d1, back, we find: ‘Iff your hawke nym the fowle a-lofte, ye shall say, she toke it at the mount or at the souce’; where the r is dropped.
1939.their, for the eir, the air; see footnote.
1943.Seint Yve; see the note to B. 1417 (p. 172), with which this line entirely coincides.
1944. ‘If thou wert not our brother, thou wouldst not fare well’; see l. 1951.
1947.welden, wield, have the full use of.
1963–5. These lines are quoted by the friar as (supposed) ejaculations by Thomas.
1968. In the margin of MS. E., ‘Omnis virtus unita fortior est seipsa dispersa.’ Compare the fable in Æsop about the difficulty of breaking a bundle of sticks; and see Boeth. bk. iii. pr. 11. 37–40.
1973. See Luke, x. 7. In the margin of MS. E., ‘Dignus est operarius mercede, &c.’
1980. ‘In the life of Thomas of India.’ For this construction, see note to F. 209. St. Thomas the apostle is often so called, because he is said to have preached in India; and perhaps the tradition is true; see my note on P. Plowman, C. xxii. 165, and especially the remarks in Marco Polo, ed. Yule, ii. 292. Cf. note to E. 1230 (p. 353).
The mention of the ‘building up of churches’ refers to a well-known legend of St. Thomas, who built churches with the money given to him by King Gondoforus for the purpose of building a palace.
‘Churchene he arerde mani on, and preostes he sette there.’
Legends of Saints, ed. Horstmann, p. 381.
The story is prettily told in Mrs. Jameson’s Sacred and Legendary Art.
Cf. ‘Seyn Tomas of Ynde’; Amis and Amiloun, 758, in Weber, Met. Rom. ii. 401. So also in The Assumption of our Lady, 775; in King Horn, ed. Lumby, p. 96; Political and other Poems, ed. Furnivall, p. 112, l. 19, p. 123, l. 278, p. 139, l. 735.
How intent the friars were on building fine churches and convents for their own use, appears from Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, pp. 5, 14; Pierce the Plowman’s Crede, 191; Jack Upland, § 10, and § 33; Skelton’s Colin Clout, 936; &c.
1986. ‘As will be best for thee.’ Tyrwhitt has the for thy; but thy is right. I find in the New E. Dict., s. v. Best, 8 b, a quotation from Sir E. Sandys, Europae Speculum (1637), 247: ‘I have also, to my best, avoyded that rashnesse.’ Cf. ‘for your beste,’ in B. 2427.
1989. ‘Be not as a lion in thy house, nor frantick among thy servants’; Ecclus. iv. 30. In the margin of MS. E. is the Vulgate version (Ecclus. iv. 35):—‘Noli esse sicut leo in domo tua, euertens domesticos tuos, et opprimens subiectos tibi.’
1993.hir, her; so in all the MSS. but Pt., which has yre. Tyrwhitt has wrongly taken ire as the reading, and Wright and Bell follow him, without giving any notice that MS. Hl. reads hir! But it makes all the difference; hir means ‘thy wife’; cf. ll. 1994–2004, all of which lines are robbed of their meaning by this insidious and uncalled-for alteration. Even ed. 1550 and ed. 1561 have her.
It is easily seen how the error crept in, viz. from confusion with the friar’s sermon against ire; but that does not really begin till we come to l. 2005.
As this passage has been so grossly misunderstood, I annex an outline of the sense intended. ‘Beware of thy wife; she is like the snake in the grass; remember how many men have lost their lives through their wives. But your wife is a meek one; then why strive? No serpent is so venomous as a provoked woman.’ The fact is, that this passage is imitated from Le Roman de la Rose, 16779, &c., where the author bids us beware of women, as being like Vergil’s ‘snake in the grass.’ See next note. With ll. 2001–3 cf. Rom. de la Rose, 9832–6.
1995. Cf. ‘latet anguis in herba’; Vergil, Ecl. iii. 95. See F. 512, 513. But Chaucer took this at second-hand, viz. from Le Roman de la Rose, l. 16793; and combined it with another passage from the same, 9832–6, which, in its turn, is copied from Ovid, Ars Amat. ii. 376:—‘Nec breuis ignaro uipera laesa pede Femina quam,’ &c.
2002.tret, short for tredeth, treads. Cm. has trat. Cf. hit, hideth, F. 512; rit, rideth, A. 974; &c.
2003. Cf. ‘furens quid foemina possit’; Vergil, Æn. v. 6.
2005. Here begins the sermon against ire. See the Persones Tale, I. 533. oon, &c., ‘one of the chief of the seven Deadly Sins’; all of which are described in the Persones Tale; see I. 387.
After l. 2004, MS. Hl. has two spurious lines, for which see the footnote. It is probable, however, that they are reminiscences of two genuine lines; for they occur in Le Rom. de la Rose, 16536–8. There are two more such after l. 2012, where the sense of grate is not obvious.
2007.himself, i. e. the sinner. See Pers. Tale, I. 557.
2009.homicyde; see this, in full, in the Pers. Tale, I. 564–579.
2010. ‘Ire comth of pryde’; I. 534.
2017. ‘Potestat, a chief magistrate’; Halliwell. ‘Podestà, a potestate, a mayor’; Florio. See Malory, Morte Arth. bk. v. c. 8.
2018.Senek, Seneca. The story is given in Seneca’s De Ira, i. 16, beginning:—‘Cn. Piso fuit memoria nostra, uir a multis uitiis integer, sed prauus,’ &c. It ends:—‘Constituti sunt in eodem loco perituri tres, ob unius innocentiam.’ This Piso was a governor of Syria under Tiberius. Precisely the same story is told, of the emperor Heraclius, in the Gesta Romanorum, cap. cxl. Warton gravely describes it in the words—‘The emperor Eraclius reconciles (!) two knights.’
2030–1. Wright says these two lines are not in Tyrwhitt, but he is mistaken. His note was meant to refer to the spurious lines (in MS. Hl.) after l. 2037; the former of which is repeated from l. 2030.
2043. ‘This story is also in Seneca, De Ira, lib. iii. c. 14. It differs a little from one in Herodotus, lib. iii.’ [capp. 34, 35].—Tyrwhitt. Seneca’s story begins:—‘Cambysen regem nimis deditum uino Praexaspes unus ex carissimis monebat.’
2048. Here MS. Hl. inserts two more spurious lines, for the fourth time; see the footnote.
2061. MSS. E. Hn. Cp. Ln. Dd. all insert ful, which is necessary to the rhythm. MSS. Pt. Hl. omit it, and actually read dronk-e (!), with an impossible final e. Tyrwhitt has dranke, omitting ful, and even Wright, Bell, and Morris have dronk-e, with the same omission. Owing to the carelessness of scribes, who often added an idle final e, such forms as dranke, dronke are not very astonishing. But it would be very curious to know how these editors scanned this line.
2075.Placebo. ‘The allusion is to an anthem in the Romish church, from Ps. cxvi. 9, which in the Vulgate [Ps. cxiv. 9] stands thus: Placebo Domino in regione uiuorum. Hence the complacent brother in the Marchant’s Tale is called Placebo.’—Tyrwhitt. Being used in the office for the dead, this anthem was familiar to every one; and ‘to sing Placebo’ came to mean ‘to be complaisant’; as in Bacon, Essay 20. See Pers. Tale, I. 617; and see my notes to P. Plowman, C. iv. 467 (B. iii. 307), B. xv. 122.
2079. This story is also from Seneca, De Ira, lib. iii. c. 21. Cf. Herodotus, i. 189, 202; v. 52. In these authorities, the river is called the Gyndes; and in Alfred’s translation of Orosius, bk. ii. c. 4, it is the Gandes. ‘Sir John Maundeville (Travels, cap. 5) tells this story of the Euphrates.’—Wright.
2085.he, i. e. Solomon; see Prov. xxii. 24, 25.
2090.as Iust as is a squire, as exact (i. e. upright) as a square. He means that he will deal out exact justice, and not condone the sick man’s anger without appointing him a penance for it. A squire is a measuring-square, or T-square, as explained in my Dictionary; it is used for measuring right angles with exactitude. For the use of the word, see Shak. L. L. L. v. 2. 474; Spenser, F. Q. ii. 1. 58; Minshew’s Dict.; Romaunt of the Rose, 7064; Floris and Blancheflur, ed. Lumby, 325. Cotgrave gives: ‘A l’esquierre, justly, directly, evenly, straightly; by line and levell, to a haire.’ Godefroy, s. v. esquarre, refers us to the O. F. translation of 1 Kings, v. 17; ‘e que tuz fussent taillie a esquire.’ Lydgate has: ‘By compas cast, and squared out by squyers’; Siege of Troye, ed. 1555, fol. F 5, back, col. 1.
2095. ‘Thei [the friars] cryen faste that thei haf more power in confessioun then other curatis; for thei may schryve alle that comen to hem, bot curatis may no ferther then her owne parischens’; Wyclif’s Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 374. Cf. Rom. Rose, 6390–8 (vol. i. 238).
2098. So in I. 1008: ‘but-if it lyke to thee of thyn humilitee.’
2105. ‘The pavements were made of encaustic tiles, and therefore must have been rather expensive.’—Wright. See my note to Pierce the Ploughman’s Crede, l. 194; and Our English Home, p. 20.
2107. ‘For the sake of Him who harried hell’; see note to A. 3512; p. 107.
2116.Elie, Elias, Elijah. Elisee, Eliseus, Elisha. There was great strife among the four orders of friars as to the priority of their order. The Carmelites, who took their name from mount Carmel (see 1 Kings, xviii. 19, 20), actually pretended that their order was founded by the prophet Elijah when he retired to mount Carmel to escape the wrath of Ahab; and by this unsurpassable fiction secured to themselves the credit of priority to the rest. It is therefore clear that the friar of Chaucer’s story was a Carmelite, as no other friar would have alluded to this story. See Wyclif’s Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 353; Pierce the Ploughman’s Crede, 382.
2119.for seinte charitee; a common expression. It occurs in the Tale of Gamelin, 513; with which Chaucer was familiar. Cf. B. 4510.
2126.your brother. This alludes to the letters of fraternity, which friars were accustomed to grant, under the conventual seal, to such laymen as had given them benefactions or were likely to leave them money in their wills. The benefactors received in return a brotherly participation in such spiritual benefits as the friars could confer. Thus, in Jack Upland, §§ 28, 29, we find:—‘Why be ye [friars] so hardie to grant, by letters of fraternitie, to men and women, that they shall have part and merite of all your good deeds, and ye weten neuer whether God be apayed with your deeds because of your sin? . . . What betokeneth that yee haue ordeined that, whan such one as ye haue made your brother or sister, and hath a letter of your seale, that letter mought be brought in your holy chapter, and there be rad, or els yee will not pray for him?’ See Wyclif’s Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 377, 420; ed. Matthew, p. 4. Such lay brethren were usually dressed for burial in a friar’s habit; see Milton, P. L. iii. 479; Rock, Church of our Fathers, i. 487. A benefactor could even thus belong to all the orders of friars at once; cf. P. Plowman, C. x. 343 (B. vii. 192). This gives point to the question in l. 1955 above.
2156.His meynee, i. e. the menials of the sick man.
2159. His companion was in the nearest inn; see l. 1779.
2162.court, the house of the lord of the manor. ‘The larger country-houses consisted generally of an enclosed court, from which circumstance this name was usually given to the manorial residence, and it has been preserved to modern times, as a common term for gentlemen’s seats.’—Wright. Cf. P. Plowman, C. xxiii. 344. It was also called a place; see note to B. 1910; p. 184.
2164. ‘Of ech sich privat seete, by licence of the pope, ben maad, some chapeleyns of houshold, summe chapeleyns of honour,’ &c.; Wyclif’s Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 511. ‘Frere, what charity is this, to be confessors of lords and ladies,’ &c.; Jack Upland, § 37. And see Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, p. 333; P. Plowman, B. v. 136–142, xx. 341–345.
2185.maister. The hypocrite here declines to be called ‘master,’ though he had allowed the good wife to call him so twice without reproof; see ll. 1800, 1836; and cf. l. 1781. At the same time, he declares that he had gained the title of Master in the schools. As he was the prior or principal of his convent (see ll. 2260, 2265, 2276) he may have been ‘capped,’ or have received the degree of Master of Divinity. ‘Also capped freris, that ben calde maystres of dyvynite, have her chaumber and servise as lordis or kynges. . . . And what cursidenesse in this . . . to gete hym a cappe of maysterdome, by preyer of lordis and grete giftis,’ &c.; Wyclif’s Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 376. An LL.D. of Edinburgh is ‘capped,’ or has a doctor’s cap momentarily laid upon his head, when he receives his degree; as I know by experience.
See also Pierce the Ploughman’s Crede, ll. 498, 574.
2187. See Matt. xxiii. 7, 8.
2196. See Matt. v. 13.
2205. ‘How does it seem to me?’ Read think’th.
2209. ‘I consider him to be in a kind of frenzy’; cf. 2240, 2292.
2219.Shewe here means ‘to propose’ or ‘propound.’
2235. See Chaucer’s own explanation of the method of propagation of a sound, in the Hous of Fame, 782–821. He seems to have taken it from Boethius, De Musica, i. 14; see vol. iii. p. 260.
2238.my cherl, i. e. my serf; as being his dependant. It probably implies vassalage.
2244. Cf. A. 100. Although the squire was not above winning ‘a new gown,’ he was probably a young man of (future) equal rank with the lord of the manor. In fact, his scornful boldness proves it.
2247.goune-cloth. ‘In the middle ages, the most common rewards, and even those given by the feudal landholders to their dependants and retainers, were articles of apparel, especially the gown or outward robe. . . . Money was comparatively very scarce in the middle ages; and as the household retainers were lodged and fed, clothing was almost the only article they wanted.’—Wright.
2259. ‘The regular number of monks or friars in a convent had been fixed at twelve, with [i. e. besides] their superior; in imitation, it is said, of the number of twelve apostles and their divine master. The larger religious houses were considered as consisting of a certain number of convents. Thus Thorn, speaking of the abbot of St. Augustine’s at Canterbury, says:—Anno Domini m.c.xlvi, iste Hugo reparavit antiquum numerum monachorum istius monasterii, et erant lx. monachi professi praeter abbatem, hoc est, quinque conuentus in universo.—Decem Scriptores, col. 1807.’—Wright. That is, this house consisted of sixty-one members, the abbot and five convents of twelve each. The smaller (single) convents were also called cells, and the principal, the prior; see A. 172, and note that, in A. 167, the Monk is said, not to be an abbot, but to be fit to be an abbot. The expression ‘his covent,’ in l. 2261, shews that the friar confessor was the prior or head of his cell.
2279. ‘Yif a frere be a maister, or a riche frere in-mong hise bretheren, he shal be loutid and worshipid more then Cristis lawe techith,’ &c.; Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew, p. 306.
2281. This implies that the squire, with the rest, had heard the friar preach in church that morning, and had been greatly bored by the sermon.
2289. I supply the word as, which is plainly wanted. MS. Hl. supplies elles, but I believe as to be right. The way in which the second as came to be dropped in this line, is very curious. It arose from misunderstanding the spelling of Ptolemy.
The occurrence of an unpronounceable P at the beginning of Ptolomee made the scribes think something must be omitted. Hence several of them introduced a stroke through the p, which stood as an abbreviation for ‘ro,’ and this turned it into Protholomee, which looked right, but made the second as superfluous. Thus MSS. Cp. Hl. both have ‘protholome,’ with the mark of abbreviation; in MSS. E. Hn. Dd. it is expanded into ‘Protholomee’ at length. We again find the scribes in the same difficulty in D. 324. A still stranger spelling is plotolomee, for which see vol. iii. p. 359, l. 18. Cf. the note on Ptolemy in the same volume, at p. 354.
[1 ]The words vel e contrario are in the margin of E., but not in the printed edition.