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The Wife of Bath’s Prologue. - Geoffrey Chaucer, Notes to the Canterbury Tales (Works vol. 5) 
The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited from numerous manuscripts by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899). 7 vols. Vol. 5.
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The 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.
[1 ]The words vel e contrario are in the margin of E., but not in the printed edition.