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The Marchantes Tale. - Geoffrey Chaucer, Notes to the Canterbury Tales (Works vol. 5) 
The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited from numerous manuscripts by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899). 7 vols. Vol. 5.
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The Marchantes Tale.
For remarks on the sources of this Tale, see vol. iii. p. 458. The modern version by Pope may be compared, though it was a juvenile performance. Cf. Lydgate, Minor Poems, p. 28.
This Tale frequently adopts passages from the Tale of Melibeus, which was doubtless written several years before it. See also the article by Dr. Köppel in Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen, vol. 86, p. 39.
1246.Pavye, Pavia. I suppose that Chaucer had no special reason for locating the tale in Lombardy.
1248–52. For sixty, some MSS. have lx.; the scribes of MSS. Hl. and Ln. wrongly have fourty, which looks as if they took lx. to mean xl. I see no point in turning the former sixty (in 1248) into fourty, as Wright does, on the pretence that the first twenty years of his life did not count. Sixty was considered a great age (l. 1401).
1251.seculeer, secular; as distinguished from the monks and friars. Chaucer probably speaks ironically, meaning that these holy orders were as bad as the rest. See l. 1322.
1267–1392. The whole of this passage presents the arguments that prevailed with January; as shewn by the words For which (i. e. wherefore) in l. 1393. That is to say, Chaucer here purposely keeps reasons against marriage out of sight, reserving them for ll. 1521–1565, 1659–1681. Hence the opinion in l. 1269, that a man should marry when old, is not Chaucer’s opinion at all.
1270. ‘The fruit of his treasure,’ i. e. purchased with his own wealth. A queer reason, and not Chaucer’s. Cf. l. 1276.
1277.sit wel, is very fit. Palsgrave has: ‘It sytteth, it becometh, il siet.’
1284. For blisful, MS. Hl. wrongly has busily.
1294.Theofraste, Theophrastus. The allusion is to the Liber Aureolus Theophrasti de Nuptiis, partly preserved by St. Jerome, who quotes a long extract from it in his tractate Contra Iovinianum, lib. i. John of Salisbury quotes the same passage, almost word for word, in his Polycraticus, lib. viii. c. 11. The point discussed is:—‘an uir sapiens ducat uxorem.’ Amongst other things, he has a passage answering to ll. 1296–1304 below. ‘Quod si propter dispensationem domus . . . ducuntur uxores: multo melius seruus fidelis dispensat, obediens auctoritati domini, et dispensationi eius obtemperans quàm uxor . . . Assidere autem aegrotanti magis possunt amici et uernulae beneficiis obligati, quàm illa quae nobis imputat lachrymas suas, et haereditatis spe uendit illuuiem.’ Cf. Lounsbury, Studies, ii. 366.
1305–6. These two lines occur in E. Cm., and are doubtless correct.
The MSS. vary considerably; see Six-Text, Pref. p. 70.
N.B. The words in italics are added in a later hand.
Neither of these lines will scan. MSS. Harl. 7335 and Bodley 686 nearly agree with this, but read be wel y-war for be war.
So also MS. Harl. 1758, Laud 600 and 739, Lichfield, &c. The black-letter editions of 1550 and 1561 have a much better version of the same, for they omit that and is in the former (too long) line, and insert sore before rewe in the latter (too short) one.
So also (according to Tyrwhitt) the Haistwell MS. and MS. Royal 17. D. xv; and, according to Furnivall, MS. Chr. Ch. C. 6.
In six MSS., according to Tyrwhitt, they are omitted; and on this account he omits them, on the plea that they ‘form the opening of a new argument, . . and consequently would have been cancelled, if he [Chaucer] had lived to publish his work.’ But the sense is quite complete in the form in which I give them, from the two best MSS.
1311. Against this line is written, in the margin of MS. E.—‘Uxor est diligenda quia donum Dei est: Iesus filius Sirac: domus et diuicie dantur a parentibus, a Domino autem proprie uxor bona uel prudens.’ But the reference is wrong; the quotation is not from Ecclesiasticus (or Jesus the son of Sirach), but from Prov. xix. 14. The Vulgate has uxor prudens, omitting bona uel. The whole quotation is from Albertano of Brescia’s Liber de Amore Dei (Köppel).
1315. Compare B. 1199, and I. 1068.
1318. This parenthetical line is Chaucer’s very own.
1319. ‘Sacramentum hoc magnum est’; Eph. v. 32. Marriage, in the Romish Church, is one of the seven sacraments.
1323–35. All from Albertano of Brescia’s Liber de Amore Dei (Köppel).
1326. Hl. has body-naked; but all the rest (like the old editions) have bely-naked, which is the usual expression; see examples in Halliwell.
1328. In the margin of E.—‘Faciamus ei adiutorium,’ &c. From Gen. ii. 18, 24.
1335–6. From Le Roman de la Rose, 16640–4.
1337.Seint-e is feminine; ben’cite is trisyllabic.
1358–61. Of course these lines are genuine; they occur in nearly every MS. but E. and Trin. Coll. R. 3. 3. The scribe of E. slipped from reed in 1357 to rede in 1362; a common mistake. Dr. Furnivall objects that wyse in 1359 is made to rime with wyse in 1360, and rede in 1361 with rede in 1362; the riming words being used in the same sense. This is not the case. The first wyse is plural; the second is singular, and used generally. The first rede means ‘advise’; the second, ‘read.’ To leave them out would give a rime of reed (monosyllable) with rede (dissyllable).
1362. The examples of Rebecca, Judith, Abigail, and Esther are quoted, in the same order and in similar terms, in the Tale of Melibeus; see B. 2288–2291, and the Notes.
1373, 4.Mardochee, Mordecai; in the Vulgate, Mardochaeus. Assuere, Ahasuerus; in the Vulgate, Assuerus; see l. 1745.
1376. In the margin of MS. Hn. is written:—‘Seneca: sicut nichil est suberbus benigna coniuge, ita nichil est crudelius infesta muliere.’ This is from Albertano of Brescia, Lib. Consolationis, cap. v. (p. 18). Sundby gives the reference, not to Seneca, but to Fulgentius, Mythologiarum, L. i. c. 27.
1377.bit, biddeth, bids. The passage referred to is in Dionysius Cato, lib. iii. dist. 25, and is given in the margin of MSS. E. Hn. and Dd.,
Uxoris linguam, si frugi est, ferre memento.
Quoted, at second-hand, from Albertano (Köppel).
1380. In the margin of MS. E.—‘Bona mulier fidelis custos est, et bona domus.’ From Albertano, as above.
1381–2. ‘Ubi non est mulier, ingemiscit egens’; Ecclus. xxxvi. 27. Albertano quotes this, but alters egens to eger; hence Chaucer has ‘the syke man’; see Köppel’s article, p. 42.
1384. See Eph. v. 25, 28, 29, 31.
1385.thou lovest, thou wilt love; the present for the future; in the second instance. There is no real difficulty here, though Tyrwhitt makes one, and alters the text to love thou.
1401. ‘On the brink of my grave.’ Cf. Ps. xxx. 3, 9; &c.
1407–16. ‘Uxorem accipias potius puellam quam uiduam’; from Albertano. See Köppel’s article, p. 42.
1412.mo, more in number; T. has more (badly).
1418. ‘I like fish when old, preferring a full grown pike to a pikerel; and I like flesh young, preferring veal to beef.’
1424.Wades boot, Wade’s boat. Wade was a famous hero of antiquity, to whom Chaucer again alludes in Troil. iii. 614. In the Traveller’s Song, l. 22, we find:—‘Witta wēold Swǣfum, Wada Hælsingum,’ i. e. Witta ruled over the Swabians, Wada over the Hælsings.’ Wade is again mentioned in the alliterative Morte Arthure, l. 964. In a translation of Guido delle Colonne, in MS. Laud K. 76, in the Bodleian library, the romance of Wade is mentioned in conjunction with those of Havelok and Horn, both of which are well known; see the whole passage, as cited in Warton, Hist. E. Poetry, in a note to Section III. In Sir Beves of Hamtoun, ed. Kölbing, 2605, we have an allusion to his fight with a fire-drake or fiery dragon. And in Sir T. Malory’s Morte Arthur, bk. vii. c. 9, we find:—‘were thou as wyghte as euer was Wade or Launcelot.’ Speght knew the story, but has not recorded it; his note is:—‘Concerning Wade and his bote called Guingelot, as also his straunge exploits in the same, because the matter is long and fabulous, I pass it over.’ On which Tyrwhitt remarks—‘Tantamne rem tam negligenter? Mr. Speght probably did not foresee, that posterity would be as much obliged to him for a little of this fabulous matter concerning Wade and his bote, as for the gravest of his annotations.’ Tyrwhitt also refers us, for a mention of Wade, to Camden’s Britannia, 907, and to Charlton’s History of Whitby, p. 40. M. Michel endeavoured to collect the particulars concerning Wade, and published them in a brochure, entitled Wade: Lettre à M. Henri Ternaux-Compans, &c. sur une Tradition Angloise du Moyen Age; Paris, 1837; 8vo. But it does not tell us much more that is helpful, except in furnishing a reference to the Wilkina Saga, capp. 18–20.
After all, the most light is given us by the following sentence in the Corpus Poeticum Boreale, ed. Vigfusson and Powell, i. 168, with reference to the Lay of Weyland. ‘Weyland is trapped by Nidad, king of the Niars, hamstrung, and forced to work for him in his forge on the isle of Seastead in lake Wolfmere. He contrives to slay his tyrant’s sons, beguile his daughter [named Bodwild], and by the aid of a pair of wings which he has fashioned to soar away from his prison-house, rejoicing in his revenge. . . . That the King’s daughter had a son by Weyland, the famous Wade (the memory of whose magic boat Wingelock lingered in N. England till the Reformation), we know from Wilkina Saga.’
I entirely differ from M. Michel’s extraordinary conclusion about the boat—‘Nous avons quelques raisons de croire que ce bateau n’étoit pas d’une course aussi rapide: en effet, dans l’Edda il est dit qu’Odin avoit un valet et une servante nommés Ganglate et Ganglæt, mots qu’on dit signifier marchant lentement.’ Of course Ganglati and Ganglöt (as they should be written) mean ‘slow-goer,’ but this has nothing to do with Guingelot, which is merely a French spelling of some such form as Wingelok. It is obvious that the sole use of a magic boat is to transport its possessor from place to place in a few minutes, like the magic wings of Wade’s own father. This is all we need to know, to see the point of the allusion. Old widows, says Chaucer in effect, know too much of the craft of Wade’s boat; they can fly from place to place in a minute, and, if charged with any misdemeanour, will swear they were a mile away from the place at the time alleged. Mr. Pickwick, on the other hand, being only a man, failed to set up the plea of an alibi, and suffered accordingly.
1425.broken harm. This is one of the phrases which Tyrwhitt includes in his list as being ‘not understood’; nor is it easy. But if we take it in connexion with the context, I think it can be explained. Harm is ‘mischief, injury’; broken is ‘fragmentary,’ as in ‘broken meat,’ and the like; so that broken harm refers to slight disconnected acts of mischief, or what we should now call ‘petty annoyances,’ or ‘small worries.’ Thus the sense is that ‘widows know so much about ways of creating small annoyances, that I should never live in peace with one.’ Taken all together, ll. 1424–6 simply imply that ‘old widows are so full of tricks for deceiving me, and can inflict at pleasure such small but constant annoyances, that I,’ &c.
1447.Take him, let him take; see the Exhortation in the Marriage-Service in the Book of Common Prayer; cf. Pers. Tale, I. 939, 940, 861.
1469. Cf. F. 202.
1474.disputisoun, disputation. Many MSS. have disputacioun, which is too long. The form, as Tyrwhitt remarks, is quite correct; see B. 4428, F. 890. Spelt desputeson in Gower, Conf. Amant. i. 90. See disputoison in Godefroy, with the variants in -aison, -eison, -eson, -ison. Compare orison with oration.
1476.Placebo. This name has reference to his complaisant disposition; see note to D. 2075. So, in the Ayenbite of Inwyt, ed. Morris, p. 60, we have: ‘The verthe zenne is, thet huanne hi alle zingeth Placebo, thet is to zigge: “mi lhord zayth zoth, my lhord doth wel”; and wendeth to guode al thet the guodeman deth other zayth, by hit guod, by hit kuead.’
1485. This quotation is not from Solomon, but from Jesus son of Sirach; see Ecclus. xxxii. 19:—‘Do nothing without advice, and when thou hast once done, repent not.’ Chaucer follows the Vulgate version; see note to B. 2193, where the quotation recurs.
1516. ‘Your heart hangs on a jolly pin,’ i. e. is in a merry state. A pin was a name for a wooden peg; and to hang on a pin was to be hung up conspicuously. Palsgrave, p. 844, has: ‘Upon a mery pynne, de hayt; as, il a le cueur de hayt’; cf. ‘Hait, liveliness, . . . cheerfulness’ in Cotgrave. Halliwell gives: ‘on the pin, on the qui vive.’ Later, the phrase became in a merry pin, i. e. in a good humour; but this is thought to refer to the pins or pegs in a ‘peg-tankard’; see Pin in Nares. Cowper, in his John Gilpin, has ‘in merry pin.’
1523. See Seneca, De Beneficiis, capp. 14–16; Lounsbury, Studies, ii. 270. However, it is really taken from Map’s Epistola Valerii, c. 9: ‘Philosophicum est: Videto cui des. Ethica est: Videto cui te des.’—Anglia, xiii. 183. Cf. P. Plowman, B. vii. 74, and the note.
1535.chydester, the feminine form of chyder, which is the form used in MSS. Pt. and Hl. I can find no other example; but, in the Romaunt of the Rose, ll. 150, 4266, we find chideresse.
1536.mannish wood, with masculine manners, and mad; virago-like. Certainly the right reading, and found in E. Hn. Cm. Unluckily, Tyrwhitt and others have adopted the nonsensical reading of Pt. and Hl., viz. a man is wood! Cp. Ln. have of maneres wood, which is better, but is clearly a mere substitution for the original mannish. For mannish, masculine, we have Chaucer’s own authority; see B. 782, and the note.
1538. ‘A metaphor from horses, meaning, No woman is without faults, just as there is no horse which will trot perfectly sound in all respects.’—Bell. From Albertano of Brescia, Liber de Amore Dei: ‘Nulla tam bona uxor, in qua non inuenias quod queraris.’—Köppel.
1553. ‘I know best where my shoe pinches me.’ This story has been already alluded to; see D. 492, and the note.
1558. Tyrwhitt has:—‘By him that made water, fire, erthe, and aire.’ This will not scan, and the word fire is introduced merely to please the editor, being found in none of the seven MSS., nor in the old editions. When Chaucer wishes to mention all the four elements, he does so; see A. 1246, 2992.
1560–1. From Le Rom. de la Rose, 14055–6:—
1582. Cf. Boeth. bk. v. met. 4. 8; Troil. i. 365; Ayenb. of Inwyt, p. 158.
1584. E. Hn. have se ful many, but the rest omit ful. Scan the line by reading many a in one foot, and making figúr-e trisyllabic, as in B. 3412, E. 16.
1592.voys, fame, general approval.
1609. Read inpossibl’, and wer-e. were, would be.
1640–1. The seven deadly sinnes, for which see the Persones Tale. ‘The popular medieval treatises on the seven sins arrange the minor transgressions connected with each as branches of the primary tree.’—Wright. And each of the branches have twigs, as Chaucer himself says; see I. 389. Cf. my note to P. Plowman, C. viii. 70.
1665.forbed-e, may (God) forbid. sente, subj., could send.
1682. This line is incomplete in all the seven MSS. There is a pause at the caesura, so that the word for occupies the whole of the third foot. Tyrwhitt conceals this fact by inserting but before thinne. Cf. D. 1647, and the note.
1684–7. These four parenthetical lines interrupt the story rather awkwardly. They obviously belong to the narrator, the Marchant, as it is out of the question that Justinus had heard of the Wife of Bath. Perhaps it is an oversight.
If we take these lines in this way, it is necessary to read we have in l. 1686, as in Hn. The other MSS. and editions read ye have. I explain ‘which we have on honde’ as meaning, ‘which we are now discussing.’ Moreover, the reading we is exactly appropriate after the reading us of l. 1684, where it is difficult to see how us can refer to any but the Canterbury pilgrims.
1693.Maius is a masculine form, because the name of the month is so; see l. 1748.
1702.sacrement, i.e. of marriage; see l. 1319. The couple also used to ‘receive the sacrament,’ i. e. the eucharist, in the modern sense.
1704. Referring to the prayers in the marriage service, which mention Isaac and Rebecca, and Abraham and Sarah.
1709–52. Quoted by Warton, Hist. E. Poetry, ed. 1871, ii. 354.
1716.Orpheus, the celebrated minstrel, whose story is in Ovid, Met. x. 1-85; xi. 1-66. Mentioned again in the Book of the Duchesse, 569; House of Fame, 1203; Troil. iv. 791. For the minstrelsy at the feast, cf. F. 78.
Amphioun, Amphion, king of Thebes, who helped to build Thebes by the magic of his music; Hyginus, Fab. 6 and 7; cf. Ovid, Met. vi. 221, 271, 402; xv. 427. Already mentioned in connexion with Thebes in A. 1546. (The i is shortened.)
1719. Cf. ‘Ther herde I trumpe Ioab also’; Ho. of Fame, 1245. ‘Joab blew a trumpet,’ 2 Sam. ii. 28; xviii. 16; xx. 22.
1720.Theodomas; also mentioned in the above passage, Ho. of Fame, 1246. As he blew a trumpet at Thebes, when the city was in fear (or danger), he is clearly to be identified with the Thiodamas mentioned in the Thebaid of Statius. He succeeded Amphiaraus as augur, and furiously excited the besiegers to attack Thebes. His invocation was succeeded by a great sound of trumpets (Theb. viii. 343), but Statius does not expressly say that he blew a trumpet himself.
1723.Venus; cf. F. 272–274.
1727.fyrbrond, fire-brand, torch; which she carried as appropriate to the marriage procession. This attribute of Venus is found in Le Roman de la Rose, l. 3434:—
Observe that l. 2250 of the Legend of Good Women runs thus:—‘N’ Ymenëus, that god of wedding is.’ This agrees with line 1730 except as regards the prefixed Ne. The ‘fire-brand’ reappears in l. 1777 below.
1731.his lyf, i. e. during his life, in all his life.
1732.Marcian. Chaucer is still thinking of his own House of Fame (cf. notes to ll. 1719, 1720), where he had already mentioned Marcian, at l. 985. Martianus Minneus Felix Capella, a native of Carthage, was a writer of the fifth century, and wrote the Nuptials of Philology and Mercury, De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii. This consists of two books, immediately followed by seven books on the Seven Sciences; see Warton’s Hist. E. Poetry, ed. 1871, iii. 77; Smith’s Classical Dictionary, s. v. Capella; Lydgate’s Temple of Glass, l. 130.
1734.hir; cf. ‘he, Theofraste,’ in l. 1294; also ll. 1368, 1373. For him (as in E. Cm.), MSS. Hn. Hl. have he (badly).
1745.Assuer, Ahasuerus, as in l. 1374. There is a special reference here to the banquet at which Esther obtained her request; see Esther, v. 6. See further in Warton, Hist. E. Poetry, ed. 1871, i. 288, iii. 142.
1754. For other allusions to Paris and Eleyne, see Parl. of Foules, 290, 291; Book of the Duch. 331.
1783. The word ‘Auctor’ in the margin of MS. E. signifies that ll. 1783–1794 form a reflection on the subject by the author, who here personates the Marchant. There are similar passages further on, viz. ll. 1866–1874, 2057–2068, 2107–2115, and 2125–2131.
1784.bedeth, proffers; cf. G. 1065. From Boeth. bk. iii. pr. 5. 50.
1785.false hoomly hewe, O false domestic servant! Cp. Pt. Ln. have the reading holy, which doubtless arose, as Wright points out, from missing the mark of abbreviation in the form ‘hōly,’ i. e. homly. ‘Tyrwhitt, however,’ he adds, ‘adopts this reading, mistakes the meaning of the word hewe, adds of, which is found in none of the MSS.; and in his text it stands false of holy hewe, which he supposes to signify false of holy colour. Conjectural emendations are always dangerous.’ Yet Wright silently adopts such emendations over and over again; cf. l. 1812 below. Cf. hoomly fo in ll. 1792, 1794.
1786. ‘Like the sly and treacherous snake in the bosom.’ This refers to the fable in Phaedrus, lib. iv. fab. 18. But Chaucer probably took it from the Gesta Romanorum, ch. clxxiv. For numerous references, see the Exempla of Jacques de Vitry, ed. Crane, 1890, p. 201.
1790. Here the monosyllabic pp. born takes a final e in the definite form, as noticed by Prof. Child; see Ellis, E. E. Pronunc. p. 350, § 32. Cf. her dreint-e lord, Gower, C. A., ii. 105; and see B. 69.
1793. From Boethius, lib. iii. pr. 5:—‘Quae uero pestis efficacior ad nocendum, quàm familiaris inimicus?’ See vol. ii. p. 63.
1795.his ark diurne, the daily arc of his apparent motion. See Chaucer on the Astrolabe, pt. ii. § 7:—‘To knowe the arch of the day’; or, as in l. 7 of the same:—‘tak ther thyn ark of the day.’
1797.On thorisonte, upon the horizon; i. e. the time was come for the sun to descend below it.
that latitude; because the apparent motion of the sun depends upon the latitude as well as upon the day of the year; cf. the Treatise on the Astrolabe, pt. ii. § 13.
1799.hemisperie, the hemisphere above the horizon; see the Treatise on the Astrolabe, pt. i. § 18.
1807.ipocras, the usual medieval spelling of Hippocrates; but the name is here given to a prepared drink. Halliwell (s. v. Hippocras) defines it as ‘a beverage composed of wine, with spices and sugar, strained through a cloth. It is said to have taken its name from Hippocrates’ sleeve, the term [which] apothecaries gave to a strainer.’ Long and elaborate recipes for it exist, and may be found in the Babees Book, ed. Furnivall, pp. 125 and 267; and in Halliwell’s Dictionary, s. v. ipocras. The shortest is that in Arnold’s Chronicle:—‘Take a quarte of red wyne, an ounce of synamon, and halfe an unce of gynger; a quarter of an ounce of greynes [i. e. cardamoms], and longe peper, and half a pounde of suger; and brose [bruise] all this, and than put them in a bage of wullen clothe, made therefore [i. e. for the purpose], with the wyne; and lete it hange over a vessel, tyll the wyne be rune thorowe.’ All the recipes insist upon the straining, and some direct the use of as many as six straining-bags. See Our English Home, p. 83.
clarree, clarified wine; see note to A. 1471.
vernage, a sweet wine, sometimes red, but more often white; ‘grown in Tuscany, and other parts of Italy, and [it] derived its name from the thick-skinned grape, vernaccia (corresponding with the vinaciola of the ancients), that was used in the preparation of it. The wine known as vernaccia in Tuscany was always of a white or golden colour. See Bacci, Nat. Vinor. Hist., pp. 20, 62.’—Henderson, Hist. of Ancient and Modern Wines, 1824; quoted in the Babees Book, ed. Furn vall, p. 203. Florio’s Ital. Dict. gives:—‘Vernaccia, a kinde of strong wine like malmesie or muskadine, or bastard wine.’ Chaucer speaks of it again, in conjunction with malvesye; see B. 1261. For other notices of it, see Babees Book, pp. 125, 267, and the Glossary; Halliwell, s. v. Piment; Gower, C. A., iii. 8; Squyer of Lowe Degree, l. 754. The derivation, sometimes given, of vernage from Verona, is clearly wrong.
1810.dan, i. e. Dominus, a common title; see note to B. 3119.
Constantine. ‘Dan Constantine, according to Fabricius, Bibl. Med. Æt. t. i. p. 423, ed. Pat. 4to., wrote about the year 1080. His works, including the treatise mentioned in the text, were printed at Basil, 1536, fol.’—T. He has been mentioned before; see A. 433; and cf. Warton, Hist. E. Poetry, ed. 1871, ii. 368.
1812.nas no-thing eschu, was not at all remiss, or shy. Cm. Ln. read was; the rest nas; but the sense is the same. Tyrwhitt reads—he wolde nothing eschue. Wright says: ‘the Harl. MS. reads nas, which seems not to furnish so good a grammatical construction’; accordingly, he reads—he wold nothing eschieu. Morris likewise reads wolde; and Bell reads wold. But the editors are all wrong; for the verb eschew-e will not rime with coitu, and it is clear that they did not know that eschu is here an adjective! Yet it occurs again in the Pers. Tale, Group I, 971; and I subjoin three more examples.
‘She is escheue [read eschu] of bothe two.’
Gower, Conf. Amant. ii. 286.
‘Yit gooses dounge eschew is.’
Palladius on Husbandry, bk. i. l. 528.
In this passage it rimes with mew-es, pl. sb.
‘Her taste is eke eschewe.’—id. bk. iv. l. 586.
Godefroy gives the O. F. adj. eschif, eskif, ‘animé de sentiments hostiles, défavorables, mauvais, mécontent, de mauvaise volonté, rétif.’ Amongst his examples, we find the spellings eskius, eschius, eskieus, esqueus, eskieu, esquieu, esehieu; where the -s is a case-ending. The O. F. adj. is derived from the adj. which appears as M. H. G. schiech, cognate with E. shy. Chaucer’s eschu is, accordingly, just as good an adjective as the mod. E. shy.
1817.travers, curtain, drawn across to form a screen; as in Troil. iii. 674. Ill spelt trauas in the Prompt. Parv., but explained by transversum, which is the Low Latin form. See Way’s note; he quotes—“i. trauers du satin vermaille,” so that they were sometimes made of crimson satin. In the Kingis Quair, st. 90, we find the form trauerse; in st. 82 it is spelt travesse, and is there applied to a screen which happened to be nearly transparent, as was not the case in our text. See vol. ii. pp. 478, 506.
1819. A note in Bell’s Chaucer gives a translation of the form of blessing the nuptial bed to be found in old service-books.
1825.houndfish, dog-fish. I suppose this is the spotted dog-fish, Scyllium catulus, or Scyllium canicula. Randle Holme has: ‘Dog fish, or Sea dog fish. It is by the Dutch termed a Flackhund and a Hundfisch; the skin is hard and redish, beset with hard and sharp scales, sharp, and rough and black; the Belly is more white and softer.’ Bk. ii. ch. xiv. See Gloss. to the Babees Book; Lydgate, Minor Poems, p. 201.
1840. In the Pers. Tale, Chaucer says just the contrary; see I. 859.
1849.shaketh. Cf. ‘The slake skin trembleth upon myn empted body’; Ch. tr. of Boethius, bk. i. met. 1. 12.
1862. From Le Rom. de la Rose, 19931–2.
1879.a penner. ‘The penner was a case containing the pens, ink, and other apparatus of writing, which the clerk carried about with him, as the Eastern students do at the present day. As such articles belonged only to clergy and scholars, we understand why the squire Damyan was obliged to borrow one for his use. An early vocabulary entitled Nominale mentions, among the Nomina rerum pertinentium clerico, ‘Hoc pennare, a pener.’—Wright. See Wright-Wülcker, Vocab. 682. 15; also 601. 34.
1881.compleynt. See specimens in Chaucer’s Compleints of Mars, of Venus, and of Anelida; also the Compleint to his Lady. And cf. F. 943–948.
1883.heng, i. e. which hung; the relative is omitted.
1887.two of Taur, the second degree of Taurus. Tyrwhitt unluckily altered two to ten, on the plea that ‘the time given (four days complete, l. 1893) is not sufficient for the moon to pass from the second degree of Taurus into Cancer.’ And he then proceeds to shew this, taking the mean daily motion of the moon as being 13 degrees, 10 minutes, and 35 seconds. But, as Mr. Brae has shewn, in his edition of Chaucer’s Astrolabe, p. 93, footnote, it is a mistake to reckon here the moon’s mean motion; we must rather consider her actual motion. The question is simply, can the moon move from the 2nd degree of Taurus to the 1st of Cancer (through 59 degrees) in four days? Mr. Brae says decidedly, that examples of such motion are to be seen ‘in every almanac.’
E.g. in the Nautical Almanac, in June, 1886, the moon’s longitude at noon was 30° 22′ on the 9th, and 90° 17′ on the 13th; i. e. the moon was in the first of Taurus on the former day, and in the first of Cancer on the latter day, at the same hour; which gives (very nearly) a degree more of change of longitude than we here require. The MSS. all have two or tuo, and they are quite right. The motion of the moon is so variable that the mean motion affords no safe guide.
1887–8. The i in gliden, biden (as in M. E. riden, E. ridden) is short.
1921.At-after, immediately after; a compound preposition; see F. 302.
1924.a gentil man, a man of rank, as squires usually were, although in service, and therefore a hewe (1785). Cf. l. 1907, and note to D. 2243.
1932. This proceeding was quite in accordance with ancient custom. See the tale of Eglamore, in the Percy Folio MS., st. 11; and the Ballad of Sir Cauline, st. 9.
1943–4. Misarranged and corrupt in MS. Hl.
1962.precious, over-nice, scrupulous, prim; as in D. 148.
1966.evensong. Only Cp. Ln. have euesong. Perhaps even was pronounced as e’en (een); cf. yest’re’en, Hallowe’en. But eve for even is very common.
1971. For Was, only Hn. Hl. have As. The latter seems to afford an easier construction, and is adopted by the editors. But we are bound to take the reading Was, as in most MSS., and explain it. I take it thus:—‘Whether it were . . that the heavens stood in such a condition, that it was a fortunate time.’ This is quite exact, though one dependent clause on the top of another is not felicitous. The reference is, of course, to the old astrological belief about fortunate positions of the planets; cf. A. 417. See Boeth. bk. iv. pr. 6. 62–71.
1986. Chaucer’s favourite line; see note to F. 479.
1991.lete, allowed; A. S. læten. MS. Harl. omits him.
2002.visit-è; trisyllabic. See the footnote.
2013.lowe means ‘tractable, docile, obedient’; cf. note to D. 1369. ‘And after that he had with lacke of vitailles brought those pratlers as lowe as dogge to the bowe’; Udall, tr. of Erasmus’ Apophthegmes; Antigonus, § 27. This shews how the dogs were tamed.
2018.lady, lady’s. See note to A. 88.
2021. ‘Alluding to the Epicurean philosophy.’—Bell. See A. 335–8.
2026.honestly, honourably, worthily; cf. l. 2028.
2032.he, viz. Guillaume de Lorris. There were two authors of Le Roman de la Rose, but the reference is here to the earlier portion of it; see ll. 130–146, 480–512, 645–688 of the English version, where the description of the garden occurs; and for the description of the well mentioned in l. 2036, see ll. 1462–1634 of the same.
2034. ‘Hortorum decus et tutela Priapus’; Ovid, Fast. i. 415.
2038.Pluto. In his Introductory Discourse, Tyrwhitt remarks:—‘The machinery of the Fairies, which Chaucer has used so happily, was probably added by himself; and indeed, I cannot help thinking that his Pluto and Proserpine were the true progenitors of Oberon and Titania . . . . This observation is not meant to extend further than the King and Queen of Faery; in whose characters I think it is plain that Shakespeare, in imitation of Chaucer, has dignified our Gothic Elves with the manners and language of the classical Gods and Goddesses. In the rest of his Faery system, Shakespeare seems to have followed the popular superstition of his own time.’
This remark is important; I doubt if the influence of Chaucer upon Shakespeare in this matter has been sufficiently recognised. In both works, the Fairy king and queen have a dispute in hand, which is settled by the assistance of mortals.
Not only here, but in the Hous of Fame, 1509–1511, Chaucer refers us to Claudian as his authority for Pluto and Proserpine; see note to l. 2232 below.
2046. The insertion of smal is necessary; the rime wiket, cliket, being a feminine one.
cliket, (1) a latch, (2) a latch-key; here used in the latter sense. In Shropshire, the word is used of a particular kind of fastening for a gate, which Miss Jackson thus describes. ‘An iron link is attached to the gate by means of a staple; this link is terminated by a short hasp-like bolt. On the gate-post is an iron plate, having in it a kind of key-hole, into which the before-mentioned bolt fits, much after the manner of the fastening of a trunk, thus securing the gate.’
2058.scorpion, scorpion; see notes to B. 360, 404; cf. H. 271, and see Chaucer’s description of the scorpion in the Book of the Duchesse, ll. 636–641. Vincent of Beauvais, in his Speculum Naturale, bk. xx. c. 160, quotes from the Liber de Naturis Rerum—‘Scorpio blandum et quasi virgineum dicitur vultum habere, sed habet in cauda nodosa venenatum aculeum, quo pungit et inficit proximantem.’ And see Boeth. bk. ii. pr. 1. 10–14; Ayenb. of Inwyt, p. 62, l. 13.
2080.Soul, sole; cf. the law-phrase femme sole. See P. de Thaun, Bestiary, 1250; Morris, O. E. Misc. p. 22; Ayenb. of Inwyt, p. 226.
2093.Damian, here to be read as Dam-yan, nearly in two syllables. Benignely, favourably; altered by Tyrwhitt to brenningly, without authority; pronounced benign-e-ly, in four syllables.
2107. ‘What might it avail thee if thou couldst see to the very horizon?’
2109. ‘For it is just as good to be deceived when blind.’
2111. See note to A. 1390.
2115. Cf. ‘Of sufferance cometh ease’; in Heywood’s Proverbs.
2117. To scan the line, we must read warm-e, and émprentèd. Emprented hath would run much better. The scribes who wrote warm probably pronounced the last word as clikét; but the rime is feminine. And see l. 2121, 2123.
2125. The reference is to the story of Pyramus in Ovid, Met. iv. 55; especially (in l. 2126) to the line—‘Quid non sentit amor?’
2127.he, i. e. the lover; used generally. This line answers to l. 742 of the Legend of Good Women:—‘But what is that, that love can nat espye’; where love means a lover.
2133. This has to be taken in connexion with ll. 2222–4 below, in which the date is said to be a little before June 12; see note to the line. Consequently, the ‘eight days’ mentioned in l. 2132 must be the first eight days of June. Again, if we refer to l. 2049, we see that January used to go to the garden ‘in the summer season,’ which would seem to be intended to begin with June. Accordingly, the month of June is here expressed, in a mere parenthesis, by the phrase ‘ere the month of July.’ Hence the sense really is—‘ere that eight days (of the summer season) were passed, (of the month) before that of July.’ And the whole passage merely means—‘before the 8th of June was over,’ or simply, ‘on June 8.’ This date precisely agrees with that given, by quite a different method, in ll. 2222–4.
As the month meant is here certainly that of June, as shewn by Mr. Brae in 1851 (see his edition of Chaucer’s Astrolabe, pp. 67, 83), Mr. Brae proposed to read Juin for Juil. But this was because he followed Tyrwhitt’s text, which has of for er, and therefore reads—
And it is the fact, that, with the reading of, we also should have to accept the reading Juin. But we must set against this the fact that no MS. (at least of any authority) reads either Juin or of! Tyrwhitt has made this alteration silently, and Wright and Bell have silently adopted it. Morris also makes the alteration, but prints of in italics to shew that it is not the reading of his MS. These silent conjectural emendations are very troublesome, as they are copied by one editor after another without any enquiry as to the sense of the context.
The Harl. MS., supposed to be followed by Wright, actually has a stop before ‘er’; the reading being—‘were passid . er the moneth of Iuyl bifille.’ The reading bifille (might befal) is probably due to taking Iuyl as the nominative to this verb, whereas bifil is meant to be impersonal, with the sense—‘it happened.’
2138–2148. This passage is almost entirely composed of fragments of Solomon’s Song. We may compare ll. 2138–2140 with ch. ii. vv. 10, 11, 12; l. 2141 with ch. i. v. 15; l. 2142 with ch. iv. v. 10; l. 2143 with ch. iv. vv. 12, 16; ll. 2144, 2145 with ch. iv. vv. 9, 10; l. 2146 with ch. iv. v. 7.
2194. The first foot is defective (in all seven MSS.). To fill out the line, Tyrwhitt inserts owen before lord; a ‘correction’ which Wright and Bell silently adopt. There is no hint as to the source of this owen. Thynne’s edition (as frequently elsewhere) agrees with the seven MSS.
2200. This drowning in a sack is quite oriental. Cf. ‘There yawns the sack, and yonder rolls the sea’; Byron, The Corsair, iii. 8.
2202.wenche. For this word, cf. H. 220, and Ho. of Fame, 206.
2222.in Geminis, in the sign of Gemini. We are also told that he was near his ‘declination of Cancer,’ i. e. his maximum northern declination, which he obtains when entering Cancer, at the summer solstice. In Chaucer’s time, the sun entered Cancer about June 12, and therefore just before that day was in Gemini. Taking this statement in conjunction with the ‘eight days’ of the summer season mentioned in l. 2132, we may feel sure that the date meant is June 8, just four days before the sun left Gemini, and attained his maximum declination. See my edition of Chaucer’s Astrolabe (E.E.T.S.), p. lv., which requires partial correction, as shewn in the note to l. 2132 above.
2224. The ‘exaltation’ of a planet was the sign in which it was (quite arbitrarily) supposed to exercise its greatest power. The exaltation of Jupiter was Cancer, as Chaucer correctly says.
2227. This notion of identifying Pluto with the king of Fairyland occurs again in the Romance of Sir Orpheo; see Ritson, Met. Rom. ii. 259. Sir Orpheo is the Greek Orpheus, who redeemed Eurydice from ‘the kyng of fayrè,’ i. e. from Pluto. See the remarks on this poem in Warton, Hist. E. Poet. ed. 1871, i. 31, 32.
The construction of this sentence is awkward. Lines 2231–3 are parenthetical; Pluto is in apposition with This king in l. 2234, and agrees with the verb sette in the same.
2229–30. Tyrwhitt prints these lines differently, thus:—
This reading is from MS. Harl. 7335; and T. adds—‘In some other MSS. Ethna, by a manifest error of the copyist, has been changed into Proserpina [as in Cp. Pt. Ln.]. The passage being thus made nonsense, other transcribers left out the [second] line, and substituted in its stead—
Eche after other, right as any lyne.’
But it would appear that the line just quoted, which Tyrwhitt pronounces to be a substitution, is really the original reading, and we must not hastily reject it. It is found in E. Cm. and Hl., whilst in Hn. the line has been erased or omitted, and then filled in (in a spurious form) by a later hand.
Wright and Bell have followed Tyrwhitt’s lead, and altered the passage accordingly. Morris silently changes the preserpine of the Harl. MS. to Preserpina, and gives the next line in the objectionable form—‘Whiche that he ravysched out of Cecilia’ (Sicily).
It seems very much better to restore the original reading, especially when we notice that Próserpýne (not Prosérpiná) is the undoubted reading in the House of Fame, 1511, and that quen-e is constantly dissyllabic (see B. 161, 1671, G. 1089). In l. 2264, we again have Próserpýn.’ The old black-letter editions are not of much value; still they give line 2230 as in my text, except that they wrongly change any into a.
2232.Claudian; Claudius Claudianus, at the close of the fourth century, wrote an epic poem in three books De raptu Proserpinae, which he left unfinished, besides several other works. He is mentioned again in the Ho. of Fame, 449, 1509. The story of Proserpine is also in Ovid, Fasti, iv. 427; and in Gower, C. A., ii. 170.
2240. The line is plainly imperfect, both in sense and rhythm, yet is the same in all seven MSS. and in ed. 1550. They agree in reading:—
Ten hundred thousand telle(n) I can.
Ten hundred thousand stories tell I can.
He does not tell us where he found the word stories. Wright and Bell silently adopt stories; Morris inserts it between square brackets. It occurs, however, in a parallel line, F. 1412, as well as in a similar passage in the Leg. of Good Women, Prol. A. 274.
2247. From Eccles. vii. 28. Cf. B. 2247, where Chaucer quotes the same passage.
2250. I. e. the author of Ecclesiasticus. This book contains both praise and dispraise of women; see Ecclus. xxiii. 22–26; xxv. 17–26; xxvi. 1-3, 7-16, 22–27; xxxvi. 21–24; xl. 19, 23; xlii. 9-14. The dispraise predominates.
2252.wilde fyr; see A. 4172, and the note.
2264. ‘So you shall, if you so wish.’
2265. ‘I swear by the soul of my mother’s sire’; i. e. by Saturn (Ovid, Fasti, vi. 285). The wisdom of Saturn is referred to in A. 2444. Tyrwhitt altered sires into Ceres, for which I find no authority. Wright notes that Hl. has sires, and Ln. sire; and adds—‘Ceres is of course the word intended.’ I see no evidence for it; and I do not admit that an editor should alter all that he fails to understand.
2273.visage, pronounced (vizaa·j), the e being elided. We still say ‘to face a thing out.’ ‘Suffolk doth not flatter, face, or feign’; 1 Hen. VI. v. 3. 142; and see Com. Errors, iii. 1. 6; Tam. Shrew, ii. 291; Tw. Nt. iv. 2. 201; &c.
2279–2281. Repeated from B. 2266, 7; so also ll. 2286–2290 is taken from B. 2268, 9.
2283. Cf. The Second Nonnes Tale, G. 512.
2284. Here ‘the Romayn gestes’ simply means Roman history. The Gesta Romanorum also contains a story of a devoted wife, in ch. vi; the story of Lucretia, ch. cxxxv; and of the faithful wife of Guido, ch. clxxii. But there are other stories of a very different character.
2300. Referring to 1 Kings, xi. 12.
2304.ye, i. e. ye men. So in all the seven MSS. Tyrwhitt alters it to—That he of women wrote. But why? Cf. D. 688–696.
2308. ‘As ever I desire to keep my tresses whole.’ See Brouke in the Glossary.
2310. ‘That would wish (to do) us a disgrace.’
2321–2. Cf. Rom. de la Rose, 10131–2:—
See also above, B. 1559, 1957.
2335.plyt, condition. ‘An allusion to the well-known vulgar error about the longings of pregnant women.’—Bell.
2355. By confusion with l. 2357, MS. Harl. alters agayn his sighte to his sight agayn, and then misses ll. 2356, 7.
2365. From Ovid; see B. 2167, and the note.
2367.store, bold, rude, audacious, impudent; lit. ‘great.’ A. S. stōr, great; Icel. stórr, great, rough, strong, proud. Stronge must here have a similar sense:—‘O bold rude lady.’ Strong-e and stor-e both have final e, as being vocatives.
2410. ‘He who misapprehends comes to a false conclusion.’
Epilogue to the Merchant’s Tale.
2420.swich a wyf, such a wife as that described in the Merchant’s Tale.
2422.bees, bees. Elsewhere, the pl. is been; see B. 4582, F. 204.
2431.in conseil, in (secret) counsel, between ourselves. For this use of conseil, see C. 819, and the note; also G. 145, 192.
2435. The phrase cause why is now considered vulgar; it is common in London. Caus-e is dissyllabic.
2436.of somme, by some, by some one. So of whom=by whom; in the next line. He says, he need not say by whom it would be told; for women are sure to utter such things, as is expressly said in D. 950. This alludes, of course, to the ladies in the company, and, in particular, to the Wife of Bath, who was not the person to keep such things to herself. outen, to utter; a rare word; it occurs again in G. 834, and in D. 521. Also in The Tale of Beryn, 2408.
NOTES TO GROUP F.