Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Sompnour's Prologue. - Notes to the Canterbury Tales (Works vol. 5)
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The Sompnour’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 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.