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The Squieres 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 Squieres Tale.
1.There is nothing to link this tale with the preceding one; hence it begins a new Group. In many MSS. (including E.) it follows the preceding Epilogue without any break. In other MSS. it follows the Man of Law’s Tale; but that is the wrong place for it. See note to B. 1165; also vol. iii. p. 462.
2. An allusion to Prol. l. 97, unless (which is quite as probable) the passage in the Prologue was written afterwards.
9.Sarray, Sarai. This place has been identified, past all doubt, by Colonel Yule in his edition of Marco Polo’s Travels, vol. i. p. 5, and vol. ii. p. 424. The modern name is Tzarev, near Sarepta. Sarepta is easily found on any good map of Russia by following the course of the Volga from its mouth upwards. At first this backward course runs N.W. till we have crossed the province of Astrakhan, when it makes a sudden bend, at Sarepta and Tsaritzin. Tsarev is now a place of no importance, but the ancient Sarai was so well known, that the Caspian Sea was sometimes named from it; thus it is called ‘the sea of Sarain’ in Marco Polo, ed. Yule, ii. 424; ‘the sea of Sarra’ in the Catalan map of 1375; and Mare Seruanicum, or the Sea of Shirwan, by Vincent of Beauvais. Thynne, in his Animadversions on Speight’s Chaucer, speaks to the same effect, and says of ‘Sara’ that it is ‘a place yet well knowen, and bordering vppon the lake Mare Caspium.’ Sarai was the place where Batu Khan, the grandson of Gengis Khan, held his court. Batu, with his Mongolian followers known as the Golden Horde, had established an empire in Kaptchak, or Kibzak, now S.E. Russia, about 1224. The Golden Horde further invaded Russia, and made Alexander Newski grand-duke of it, 1252. (See Golden Horde in Haydn’s Dictionary of Dates.)
Chaucer has here confused two accounts. There were two celebrated Khans, both grandsons of Gengis Khan, who were ruling about the same time. Batu Khan held his court at Sarai, and ruled over the S.E. of Russia; but the Great Khan, named Kublai, held his court at Cambaluc, the modern Pekin, in a still more magnificent manner. And it is easy to see that, although Chaucer names Sarai, his description really applies to Cambaluc. See vol. iii. pp. 471–2.
10.Russye, Russia; invaded by the Golden Horde, as just explained. The end of the Tartar influence in Russia was in the year 1481, when Svenigorod, general of Ivan III., defeated them at the battle of Bielawisch. In the following year Ivan assumed the title of czar.
12.Cambinskan; so in all seven MSS. (Six-text and Harleian), except that in the Ellesmere MS. it more resembles Cambyuskan. Yet Tyrwhitt prints Cambuscan, probably in deference to Milton, who, however, certainly accents the word wrongly, viz. on the second syllable; Il Penseroso, l. 110. Thynne, in his Animadversions on Speight’s Chaucer, speaking of the year 1240, says—‘whiche must be in the tyme of the fyrst Tartariane emperor called Caius canne, beinge, I suppose, he whome Chaucer namethe Cambiuscan, for so ys [it in] the written copies, such affynytye is there betwene those two names.’ Now, although the celebrated Gengis Khan died probably in 1227, the allusion to the ‘fyrst Tartariane emperor’ is clear; so that Thynne makes the forms Cambius, Caius (perhaps miswritten for Cāius, i. e. Camius) and Gengis all equivalent. But this is the very result for which Colonel Yule has found authority, as explained in vol. iii. p. 471; to which the reader is referred. It is there explained that Chaucer has again confused two accounts; for, whilst he names Gengis Khan (the first ‘Grand Khan’), his description really applies to Kublai Khan, his grandson, the celebrated ‘Grand Khan’ described by Marco Polo.
18.lay, religious profession or belief. ‘King Darie swor by his lay’: King Alisaunder, ed. Weber, l. 1325. From A. F. lei, law. See lei in Stratmann.
20. This line scans ill as it stands in most MSS. Tyrwhitt and Wright insert and, which gives two accented ‘ands’—
And pí | tous ánd | just ánd | alwéy | ylíche.
The Hengwrt MS. has—
Pietous and lust, and euere-moore yliche,
which, otherwise spelt, becomes—
Pitous and Iust, and ever-more y-liche—
and this is the reading which I have adopted in the text. However, I have since observed that Chaucer twice makes pi-e-tous trisyllabic, viz. in Troil. iii. 1444, v. 451; and the Hengwrt MS. has the same spelling here. The common reading, with this alteration, becomes quite right. That is, we may read—
And piëtous and Iust, alwey y-liche.
22.centre; often used in the sense of a fulcrum or pivot, or point of extreme stability. Cf. Milton, Par. Reg. iv. 533—
The old astronomy supposed the centre of the earth to be the fixed centre of the universe.
30. Tyrwhitt inserts sone after eldeste; fortunately, it is not in the MSS. Whiche is a dissyllable, the e denoting the plural form. The words th’ eldest’ form but two syllables, the e’s being elided; but we may fairly preserve the e in highte (cf. l. 33) from elision, for the greater emphasis, by a short pause; and we then have a perfect line—
Of which | e th’ el | dest’ high | te—Al | garsyf.
31.Cambalo. I have no doubt that this name was suggested by the Cambaluc of Marco Polo. See vol. iii. p. 472.
39.longing for, belonging to. Cf. longen, Kn. Ta. 1420 (A. 2278).
44.I deme, I suppose. This looks as if Chaucer had read some account of a festival made by the Grand Khan on one of his birthdays, from which he inferred that he always held such a feast every year; as, indeed, was the case. See vol. iii. p. 473.
45.He leet don cryen, he caused (men) to have the feast cried. The use of both leet and don is remarkable; cf. E. 523. He gave his orders to his officers, and they took care that the proclamation was made.
47. It is not clear why Chaucer hit upon this day in particular. Kublai’s birthday was in September, but perhaps Chaucer noted that the White Feast was on New Year’s day, which he took to mean the vernal equinox, or some day near it. The day, however, is well defined. The ‘last Idus’ is the very day of the Ides, i. e. March 15. The sun entered Aries, according to Chaucer (Treatise on the Astrolabe, ii. 1. 4) on March 12, at the vernal equinox; and, as a degree answers to a day very nearly, would be in the first degree of Aries on the 12th, in the second on the 13th, in the third on the 14th, in the fourth on the 15th, and in the fifth (or at the end of the fourth) on the 16th, as Chaucer most expressly says below; see note to l. 386. The sign Aries was said, in astrology, to be the exaltation of the Sun, or that sign in which the Sun had most influence for good or ill. In particular, the 19th degree of Aries, for some mysterious reason, was selected as the Sun’s exaltation, when most exactly reckoned. Chaucer says, then, that the Sun was in the sign of Aries, in the fourth degree of that sign, and therefore nigh (and approaching to) the 19th degree, or his special degree of exaltation. Besides this, the poet says the sun was in the ‘face’ of Mars, and in the mansion of Mars; for ‘his mansioun’ in l. 50 means Mars’s mansion. This is exactly in accordance with the astrology of the period. Each sign, such as Aries, was said to contain 30 degrees, or 3 faces; a face being 10 degrees. The first face of Aries (degrees 1-10) was called the face of Mars, the second (11–20) the face of the Sun, the third (21–30) that of Venus. Hence the sun, being in the fourth degree, was in Mars’s face. Again, every planet had its (so-called) mansion or house; whence Aries was called the mansion of Mars, Taurus that of Venus, Gemini that of Mercury, &c. See Chaucer’s Astrolabe, in vol. iii. p. lxxviii; or Johannis Hispalensis Isagoge in Astrologiam, which gives all the technical terms.
50.Martes is a genitive from the nom. Mart. or Marte (A. 2021), which is itself formed, as usual, from the Latin acc. Martem.
51. In the old astrology, different qualities are ascribed to the different signs. Thus Aries is described as choleric and fiery in MS. Trin. Coll. Cam. R. 15. 18, tract 3, p. 11. So, too, Tyrwhitt quotes from the Calendrier des Bergers that Aries is ‘chault et sec,’ i. e. hot and dry.
53.agayn, against, opposite to. So also in Kn. Ta. 651 (A. 1509).
54.What for; cf. Mod. Eng. what with. See Kn. Tale, 595 (A. 1453).
59.deys, raised platform, as at English feasts. But this is in Marco Polo too; see vol. iii. p. 473. Cf. Kn. Tale, l. 1342 (A. 2200); and note to Prol. l. 370.
63. In a similar indirect manner, Chaucer describes feasts, &c. elsewhere: see Kn. Ta. 1339 (A. 2197); Man of Lawes Tale, B. 701–707. And Spenser imitates him; F. Q. i. 12. 14; v. 3. 3.
67.sewes, seasoned broths. ‘Sewes and potages’; Babees Book, ed. Furnivall, p. 151, l. 523; cf. p. 149, l. 509.
68. Mr. Wright’s note on the line is—‘It is hardly necessary to observe that swans were formerly eaten at table, and considered among the choicest ornaments of the festive board. Tyrwhitt informs us that at the intronization of Archbp. Nevil, 6 Edward iv, there were “Heronshawes iiijc.” [i. e. 400]; Leland’s Collectanea, vi. 2: and that at another feast in 1530 we read of “16 Heronsews, every one 12d”; Peck’s Desiderata Curiosa, ii. 12.’ Heronsew is derived from A. F. heronceau, variant of heroncel. Godefroy gives herouncel, from the Liber Custumarum, i. 304 (14 Edw. II.), and the pl. heroncaulx in an account dated 1330. Cotgrave only has ‘Haironneau, a young heron,’ and ‘Hairon, a heron, herne, herneshaw.’ Halliwell quotes ‘Ardeola, an hearnesew’ from Elyot’s Dict. 1559, and the form herunsew from Reliquiae Antiquae, i. 88. Certainly heronsewe is the name of a bird, not of a dish, as some have guessed, by comparing the sewes in l. 67. In fact, the word heronsew (for heron) is still used in Swaledale, Yorkshire. And in Hazlitt’s old Plays (The Disobedient Child), vol. ii. p. 282, we have—
See the quotations in Nares; also Notes and Queries, 1st Ser. iii. 450, 507; iv. 76; vii. 13; Babees Book, ed. Furnivall, p. 152, l. 539. Cf. handsaw, for hernshaw, in Hamlet, ii. 2. Heroncel, or -ceu, or -ceau, is simply the diminutive form; so also, lioncel, or lionçeau, as a diminutive of lion.
70.som mete; viz. ‘horses, dogs, and Pharaoh’s rats.’ See vol. iii. p. 474.
73.pryme; the word prime seems to mean, in Chaucer, the first quarter of the day, reckoned from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and more particularly, the end of that period, i. e. 9 a.m. In the Nonne Prestes Tale, B. 4387, the cock crew at prime, or 9 a.m. So here, the Squire says it is 9 o’clock, and he must proceed quickly with his story. The word is used in different senses by different writers.
75.firste, first design or purpose. I believe this reading is right. MS. Harl. has purpos, which will not scan: unless my be omitted, as in Tyrwhitt, though that MS. retains my. MSS. Cp. Ln. insert purpos as well as firste, making the line too long: whilst Hn. Cm. Pt. agree with the text here given, from MS. E.
76. The second syllable in after is rapidly pronounced, and thridde is a dissyllable.
78.thinges, pieces of music. Minstrelsy at feasts was common; cf. Man of Lawes Tale, B. 705; March. Tale, E. 1715.
80. The incident of a man riding into the hall is nothing uncommon. Thus we have, in the Percy Folio MS. ii. 486, the line—
‘The one came ryding into the hall.’
Warton observes—‘See a fine romantic story of a Comte de Macon who, while revelling in his hall with many knights, is suddenly alarmed by the entrance of a gigantic figure of a black man, mounted on a black steed. This terrible stranger, without receiving any obstruction from guards or gates, rides directly forward to the high table, and, with an imperious tone, orders the count to follow him—Nic. Gillos. Chron. ann. 1120.’ Alexander rode into a hall up to the high table, according to the romance, ed. Weber, l. 1083. See also Warton’s Obs. on the Fairy Queen, p. 202; the Ballad of King Estmere; and Stowe’s Survey of London, p. 387, ed. 1599. In Scott’s Rokeby, Bertram rides into a church.
81.stede of bras, &c. See note to l. 209, and vol. iii. pp. 465, 475.
95. Sir Gawain, nephew to king Arthur, according to the British History which goes by the name of Geoffrey of Monmouth, is always upheld as a model of courtesy in the French romances and the English translations of them. He is often contrasted with Sir Kay, who was equally celebrated for churlishness. See the Percy Folio MS.; Sir Gawain, ed. by Sir F. Madden; Sir Gawain and the Grene Knight, ed. by Dr. Morris; the Morte D’Arthur, &c. Cf. Rom. Rose, 2205–12.
103.Accordant, according. The change from the Fr. -ant to the common Eng. -ing should be noted.—M.
106.style, stile. Such puns are not common in Chaucer; cf. E. 1148.—M.
116.day naturel. In his Treatise on the Astrolabe, pt. ii. c. 7 (see vol. iii. p. 194), Chaucer explains that the day artificial is the time from sunrise to sunset, which varies; to which he adds—‘but the day natural, that is to seyn 24 houres, is the revolucioun of the equinoxial with as moche partie of the zodiak as the sonne of his propre moevinge passeth in the mene whyle.’ See note to B. 2.
122.the air, pronounced th’air, as usual with Chaucer; see D. 1939.
129.wayted, watched; allnding to the care with which the maker watched for the moment when the stars were in a propitious position, according to the old belief in astrology.
131.seel, seal. Mr. Wright notes that ‘the making and arrangement of seals was one of the important operations of medieval magic, and treatises on this subject are found in MSS.’ He refers to MS. Arundel, no. 295, fol. 265. Solomon’s seal is still commemorated in the name of a flower.
132.mirour. For some account of this, see vol. iii. p. 476, and note to l. 231.
137.over al this, besides all this. Elsewhere over-al is a compound word, meaning everywhere; as in Prol. 216.—M.
150. Compare Tale xv (The Ravens) in the Seven Sages, ed. Weber, about the child who understood the language of all birds.
154.and whom, &c., and to whom it will do good, or operate as a remedy; alluding to the virtues attributed to many herbs. So Spenser, F. Q. i. 2. 10—
162.with the platte, with the flat side of it; see l. 164. Cf. Troil. iv. 927.
171.Stant, stands; contracted from standeth; so also in l. 182. Cf. sit for sitteth in l. 179, hit for hideth in l. 512, and note to E. 1151.
184. ‘By means of any machine furnished with a windlass or a pulley.’ The modern windlass looks like a compound of wind and lace, but really stands for windel-as, variant of the form windas here used. The confusion would be facilitated by the fact that there was another form windlas (probably from wind and lace) with a different meaning, viz. that of a circuitous way or path; see note to Hamlet, ii. 1. 65 (Clar. Press). In the Promptorium Parvulorum, our word is spelt both wyndlas and wyndas; p. 529. The Mid. E. windas may have been derived from the Low-German directly, or more probably from the Old French, which has both guindas and windas. The meaning and derivation are clearly shewn by the Du. windas, which means a winding-axle or capstan, from the sb. as, an axle; so, too, the Icel. vindâss. In Falconer’s Shipwreck, canto 1, note 3, the word windlass is used in the sense of capstan.
190.gauren, gaze, stare. Used again by Chaucer, A. 3827, B. 3559, and in Troil. and Cres. ii. 1157 (vol. ii. p. 225). In the Clerkes Tale (E. 1003), he has gazed. Mr. Wedgwood is perhaps right in considering gaze and gaure (also spelt gare) as mere variations of the same word. Cf. the adj. garish, i. e. staring, in Milton, Il Pens. 141. For the occasional change of s to r, see my Principles of Eng. Etymology, i. 379.
guaring, i. e. stupor, occurs in Batman upon Bartholomè, lib. vii. c. 7.
193.Lumbardye, Lombardy, formerly celebrated for horses. Tyrwhitt quotes from a patent in Rymer, 2 Edw. II—‘De dextrariis in Lumbardiâ emendis,’ i.e. of horses to be bought in Lombardy.
195.Poileys, Apulian. Apulia was called Poille or Poile in Old French, and even in Middle English; the phrase ‘king of Poile’ occurs in the Seven Sages (ed. Weber), l. 2019. It was celebrated for its horses. Tyrwhitt quotes from MS. James vi. 142 (Bodleian Library), a passage in which Richard, archbishop of Armagh, in the fourteenth century, has the words—‘nec mulus Hispaniae, nec dextrarius Apuliae, nec repedo Æthiopiae, nec elephantus Asiae, nec camelus Syriae.’ Chaucer ascribes strength and size to the horses of Lombardy, and high breeding to those of Apulia.
200.goon, i.e. move, go about, have motion.
201.of Fairye, of fairy origin, magical. I do not subscribe to Warton’s opinion (Obs. on Faerie Queene, p. 86) that this necessarily means that it was ‘the work of the devil.’ Cf. the same expression in Piers Pl. B. prol. 6.
203. Compare the Latin proverb—‘quot homines, tot sententiae.’ See Hazlitt’s Eng. Proverbs, pp. 340, 437. A good epigram on this proverb is given in Camden’s Remaines concerning Britaine, ed. 1657, sig. Gg.
207.the Pegasee, Pegasus. In the margin of MSS. E. Hn. Hl. is written ‘i. equs Pegaseus,’ meaning ‘id est, equus Pegaseus’; shewing that Chaucer was thinking of the adjective Pegaseus rather than of the sb. Pegasus, the name of the celebrated winged horse of Bellerophon and of the Muses. Cf. Lydgate’s Complaint of the Black Knight, l. 92.
209. ‘Or else it was the horse of the Greek named Sinon.’ This very singular-looking construction is really common in Middle English; yet the scribe of the Harleian MS. actually writes ‘the Grekissch hors Synon,’ which makes Sinon the name of the horse; and this odd blunder is retained in the editions by Wright, Bell, and Morris. The best way of clearing up the difficulty is by nothing similar examples; a few of which are here appended:—
‘The kinges meting Pharao’;
i. e. the dream of King Pharaoh; Book of the Duchesse, l. 282.
‘The erles wif Alein’;
i. e. the wife of earl Alein; Rob. of Gloucester, in Spec. of Eng., ed. Morris and Skeat, p. 11, l. 303.
‘Themperours moder william,’
i. e. the mother of the Emperor named William; Will. of Palerne, l. 5437.
‘Pieres pardon þe plowman’;
i. e. the pardon of Piers the Plowman; P. Pl. B. xix. 182.
‘In Piers berne þe plowman’;
i. e. in the barn of Piers the Plowman; id. xix. 354.
‘For Piers loue þe plowman’;
i. e. for love of Piers the Plowman; id. xx. 76. Chaucer again alludes to Sinon in the House of Fame, i. 152, and in the Legend of Good Women, Dido, 8; which shews that he took that legend partly from Vergil, Aen. ii. 195. But note that Chaucer here compares a horse of brass to the Trojan horse; this is because the latter was also said to have been of brass, not by Vergil, but by Guido delle Colonne; see note to l. 211. This is why Gower, in his Confess. Amant. bk. i., and Caxton, in his Recuyell of the Historyes of Troy, both speak of the Trojan horse as a ‘horse of brass’; see Spec. of English, 1394–1579, ed. Skeat, p. 91, l. 67.
211.olde gestes, old accounts. The account of the taking of Troy most valued in the middle ages was not that by Vergil or Homer, but the Latin prose story written in 1287 by Guido delle Colonne, who obtained a great reputation very cheaply, since he borrowed his work almost entirely from an old French Roman de Troie, written by Benoit de Sainte-Maure. See the preface to The Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy, ed. Panton and Donaldson (Early English Text Society). And see vol. ii. p. lxi.
219.Iogelours, jugglers. See the quotation from Marco Polo, i. 340, in vol. iii. p. 473; and cf. The Franklin’s Tale, F. 1140–1151, and the notes.
223.comprehende; so in the MSS. But read comprende; see Troil. iii. 1687; and pronounce lew-ed-nes fully.
224. ‘They are very prone to put down things to the worst cause.’
226.maister-tour, principal tower, the donjon or keep-tower. So also maistre strete, principal street, Kn. Ta. 2044 (A. 2902); maister temple, Leg. of Good Women, l. 1016.
230. For slye, MS. Hl. has heigh, an inferior reading. Mr. Marsh observes upon this line—‘This reasoning reminds one of the popular explanation of table-turning and kindred mysteries. Persons who cannot detect the trick . . . ascribe the alleged facts to electricity. . . . Men love to cheat themselves with hard words, and indolence often accepts the name of a phenomenon as a substitute for the reason of it’; Origin and Progress of the English Language, Lect. ix. p. 427.
231. The magic mirror in Rome was said to have been set up there by Vergil, who was at one time reverenced, not as a poet, but as a great enchanter. The story occurs in the Seven Sages, in the Introduction to his edition of which Mr. Wright says, at p. lix., ‘The story of Virgil’s tower, which was called salvatio Romae, holds rather a conspicuous place in the legendary history of the magician. Such a tower is first mentioned, but without the name of Virgil, in a Latin MS. of the eighth century, in a passage published by Docen and republished by Keller, in his introduction to the Sept Sages. Vincent of Beauvais, in the thirteenth century . . . describes Virgil’s tower; and it is the subject of a chapter in the legendary history of Virgilius.’ See also the other version of the Seven Sages edited by Weber, and reprinted in Mätzner’s Sprachproben, i. 254; where the mirror is mentioned. Gower tells the story of this mirror in his Confessio Amantis, bk. v. It occurs also in the Chronicle of Helinand, and in the Otia Imperialia of Gervase of Tilbury; Morley’s Eng. Writers, iv. 225. Warton notes that the same fiction is in Caxton’s Troybook, bk. ii. ch. 22. It also occurs in Higden, Polychronicon, bk. i. c. 24.
232. ‘Alhazeni et Vitellonis Opticae are extant, printed at Basil, 1572. The first is supposed by his editor to have lived about 1100, and the second to 1270.’—Tyrwhitt. Hole’s Brief Biographical Dictionary has the notices—‘Alhazel or Alhazen, Arabian Astronomer and Optician; died 1038’; and—‘Vitello or Vitellio, Polish Mathematician; floruit circa 1254.’ See also the remarks in Warton (Hist. Eng. Poetry), on the Clerk’s Tale. Alhacen (sic) is mentioned in Le Rom. de la Rose, l. 18234. In l. 18376 of the same, we find the very phrase: ‘Par composicions diverses’; and again, in l. 18387: ‘Par les diversités des angles.’ Mirrors are there described at length. R. Scot, in his Discoverie of Witchcraft, bk. xiii. c. 19, declares that ‘the wonderous deuises and miraculous sights and conceipts made and conteined in glasse, doo farre exceed all other.’
233. Aristotle, the famous Grecian philosopher, born 384, died 322. writen in hir lyves, wrote in their lifetime. Observe that writen is here the past tense. The pres. pl. is wryten; pt. s. wrat, wrot, or wroot; pt. pl. writen; pp. writen.
238.Thelophus. Telephus, king of Mysia, in opposing the landing of the Greeks in the expedition against Troy, was wounded by the spear of Achilles. But as an oracle declared that the Greeks would require his aid, he was healed by means of the rust taken from the same spear. Chaucer may easily have learnt this story from his favourite Ovid, who says—
See also Met. xii. 112; xiii. 171; Ex Ponto, ii. 2. 26; Propertius, Eleg. ii. 1. 65 (or 63). Or he may have taken it from Dante, Inferno, xxxi. 5; or from Hyginus, Fab. 101. Cf. Shak. 2 Hen. VI., v. i. 100.
247.Canaceës; four syllables, as in l. 631.
250. Great skill in magic was attributed in the middle ages to Moses and Solomon, especially by the Arabs. Moses was supposed to have learnt magic from the Egyptians; cf. Acts vii. 22; Exod. vii. 11. See the story of the Fisherman and Genie in the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, where the genie invokes the name of Solomon.
253. ‘Some said it was a wonderful thing to make glass from fernashes, since glass does not resemble fern-ashes at all.’ Glass contains two principal ingredients, sand and some kind of alkali. For the latter, the calcined ashes of seaweed, called kelp, were sometimes used; or, according to Chaucer, the ashes of ferns. Modern chemistry has developed many greater wonders.
256. ‘But, because men have known it (the art of glass-making) so long, their talking and wonder about it ceases.’ The art is of very high antiquity, having been known even to the Egyptians. so fern, so long ago; Chaucer sometimes rimes words which are spelt exactly alike, but only when their meanings differ. See Prol. l. 17, where seke, to seek, rimes with seke, sick. Other examples are seen in the Kn. Tale, see being repeated in A. 1955–6; caste in A. 2171–2; caas in A. 2357–8; and fare in A. 2435–6. Imperfect rimes like disport, port, Prol. 137, 138, are common; see Prol. 241, 433, 519, 579, 599, 613, 811; Kn. Ta. 379, 381 (A. 1237, 1239), &c. For examples of fern compare—
‘Ye, farewel al the snow of ferne yere,’
i. e. good bye to all last year’s snow; Troil. and Cres. v. 1176 (see vol. ii. p. 394). So also fernyere, long ago, in P. Pl. B. v. 440; spelt uernyere, in Ayenbite of Inwyt, ed. Morris, p. 92. Adverbs commonly terminate in -e, but the scribes are right in writing fern here; see A. S. Gospels, Matt. xi. 21, for the forms gefyrn, gefern, meaning long ago. Occleve, in La Male Regle, 196, uses the expression fern ago, i. e. long ago; Poems, ed. Furnivall, p. 31. And in Levins’s Manipulus Vocabulorum, ed. Wheatley, we find—‘Old farne years, anni praeteriti, seculum prius.’
With these examples in view, we might interpret ferne halwes in Chaucer’s Prologue, l. 14, by ‘olden’ rather than by ‘distant’ saints; yet the latter is decisively authenticated by a passage in his translation of Boethius, bk. ii. met. 7, where the expression ‘renoun ysprad to ferne poeples, goth by dyverse tonges,’ can only mean ‘distant’ peoples. Fern, in the sense of old, is explained at once by the Gothic fairnis, old; but, in the sense of distant, would seem to be corruptly and incorrectly formed, since the A. S. feorran, meaning far, is strictly an adverb, from the adjective feorr. But in course of time this adverb came to be declined as an adjective; see the examples in Stratmann, s. v. feorren.
258. Cf. ‘What is the cause of thunder’; K. Lear, iii. 4. 160. The opinions of various ancient philosophers as to the cause of thunder are given in Plutarch’s treatise, De Placitis Philosophorum (περὶ τω̑ν ἀρεσκόντων τοι̑ς ϕιλοσόϕοις), lib. iii. c. 3. It was usually believed to result from the collision of clouds. ‘Fulmina autem collisa nubila faciunt’; Isidore, Originum lib. xiii. c. 9. Cf. A. S. Leechdoms, iii. 281.
263. For a full explanation of this difficult passage, I must be content to refer the reader to Mr. Brae’s edition of Chaucer’s Astrolabe, pp. 77 and 86, and my own edition of the same (E. E. T. S.), p. lvi. The chief points that now seem tolerably certain are these.
(1) The Angle Meridional was an astrological term. The heavens were divided into twelve equal parts called ‘mansions,’ and four of these mansions were technically called ‘angles’; the angle meridional was the same as the tenth mansion, which was bounded on the one edge by the meridian, and on the other by a semi-circle passing through the N. and S. points of the horizon, and lying 30° to the E. of the meridian; so that, at the equinoxes, at any place situate on the equator, the sun would cross this portion of the sky between 10 a.m. and the hour of noon.
(2) Since this ‘angle’ corresponds to the end of the forenoon, the sun leaves the said angle at the moment of noon, and l. 263 means no more than ‘it was now past noon.’
(3) The ‘royal beast’ means the king of beasts, the lion, and (here in particular) the sign of the zodiac named Leo. This sign, on March 15, in Chaucer’s time, and in the latitude of London, began to ‘ascend,’ or rise above the horizon, just about noon. An additional reason for calling Leo ‘royal’ is because the principal star in the constellation is called Regulus in Latin, Βασιλίσκος in Greek, and Melikhi in Arabic, all epithets signifying kingly or royal.
(4) But, before the Tartar king rose from the feast, the time past noon had so increased that the star called Aldiran, situate in Leo, was now rising above the horizon. In other words it was very nearly two o’clock. It may be added, that, by the time the whole of the sign had ascended, it would be about a quarter to three. Hence Chaucer speaks of the sign as yet (i. e. still) ascending.
The chief remaining point is to fix the star Aldiran.
Most MSS. read Aldrian, owing to the frequent shifting of r in a word; just as brid, for instance, is the old spelling of bird. But the Hengwrt MS. is right. The name Aldiran, Aldurin, or Aldiraan, occurs in the old Parisian star-lists as the name of a star in the constellation Leo, and is described in them as being ‘in fronte Leonis.’ The word means ‘the two fore-paws,’ and the notes of the star’s position are such that I am persuaded it is the star now called θ Hydrae, situate near the Lion’s fore-paws, as commonly drawn. The only objection to this explanation arises from the comparative insignificance of the star; but whoever will take the trouble to examine the old lists will see that certain stars were chosen quite as much for the sake of position as of brightness. When it was desired to mark particular points in the sky, bright stars were chosen if they were conveniently placed; but, failing that, any would serve the purpose that were fairly distinct. This is why, in a star-list of only 49 stars in MS. Camb. Univ. Lib. Ii. 3. 3, such stars as δ Capricorni, δ Aquarii, δ Ophiuchi, &c., find a place. The star Aldiran (θ Hydrae) was remarkable for rising, in the latitude of Paris, just before the splendid star α Leonis of the first magnitude, whose coming it thus heralded. That star is also found in the same star-lists, with the name Calbalesed, or ‘the lion’s heart’; in Latin, Cor Leonis; another name for it being Regulus, as stated above.
On the whole, we fairly suppose Chaucer’s meaning to be, that before the feast concluded, it was not only past noon, but nearly two hours past noon.
269.chambre of parements. Tyrwhitt’s note is—‘Chambre de parement is translated by Cotgrave, the presence-chambre, and lit de parement, a bed of state. Parements originally signified all sorts of ornamental furniture or clothes, from Fr. parer, to adorn. See Kn. Ta. 1643 (A. 2501), and Legend of Good Women; Dido, l. 181.’ He adds that the Italians use camera de’ paramenti in the same sense.
272.Venus children, the worshippers or subjects of Venus. It merely means the knights and ladies at the feast, whose thoughts then turned upon love, because the season was astrologically favourable for it; cf. Kn. Tale, 1628, 1629 (A. 2486). The reason is given in l. 273, viz. that ‘hir lady,’ i. e. their lady or goddess, as represented by the planet Venus, was then situate in the sign Pisces. This sign, in astrology, is called the ‘exaltation’ of Venus, or the sign in which she exerts most power. Hence the expression ful hye, and the statement that Venus regarded her servants with a friendly aspect. In the Wyf of Bathes Prol. (D. 704), Chaucer has the line—
‘In Pisces, wher Venus is exaltat.’
‘Who will not commend the wit of astrology? Venus, born out of the sea, hath her exaltation in Pisces’; Sir T. Browne, Works, ed. Wilkin, iv. 382.
287.Lancelot, the celebrated lover of queen Guinever in the Arthur romances. Cp. Dante, Inf. v. 128.
291. ‘The steward bids (them) to be quick with the spices.’ Cf. Joseph of Arimathea, ed. Skeat, note to l. 698. And see vol. ii. 506.
300.Hath is here used like the mod. F. il y a, for which O. F. often has a only. The sense is—‘there is plenty.’ The idiom is borrowed from French, and the text is correct. (I owe this note to a friend.)
316. ‘You must twirl round a pin (which) stands in his ear.’
318. ‘You must also tell him to what place or country you wish to ride.’
334.Ryde, ride; so in the Six-text; Hl. has Byd, i. e. bid.
340. The bridle is here said to have been put away with the jewels. So also, when Richard I., in a crusade, took Cyprus, among the treasures in the castles are mentioned precious stones, golden cups, &c., together with golden saddles, bridles, and spurs; Geoffrey of Vinsauf, Iter Hierosol. c. xli. p. 328; in Vet. Script. Angl. tom. ii.
346. Tyrwhitt inserts that after Til, to fill up the line. It is not required; it is one of the many lines in which the first syllable is lacking.
347. ‘Sleep, digestion’s nurse, winked upon them, and bade them take notice, that much drink and exercise must require repose.’ Cf. 2 Hen. IV., iii. 1. 6. Tyrwhitt supposes l. 349 to be corrupt; I do not know why.
351. To scan the line, retain the e in seyde, preserved by the caesura.
352. By the old physicians, blood was supposed to be in domination, or chief power, for seven hours, from the ninth hour of the night (beginning at 8 p.m.) to the third hour of the day. Tyrwhitt quotes from a book De Natura, ascribed to Galen, tom. v. p. 327—‘Sanguis dominatur horis septem, ab hora noctis nona ad horam diei tertiam.’ Other authorities were pleased to state the matter somewhat differently. ‘Six houres after midnight bloud hath the mastery, and in the sixe houres afore noon choler reigneth, and six houres after noon raigneth melancholy, and six hours afore midnight reigneth the flegmatick’; Shepheardes Kalender, ed. 1656, ch. xxix. Chaucer no doubt followed this latter account, which he may have found in the original French Calendrier des Bergers; see note to l. 51, p. 373.
358.fumositee, fumes arising from wine-drinking. See C. 567; and concerning dreams, see the Nonne Prestes Tale, 103–149 (B. 4113–59).
359.no charge, no weight; to which no weight, or no significance, can be attached.
360.pryme large; probably the same as fully pryme, Sir Thop., B. 2015, which see. It must then mean the time when the period of prime was quite ended; i. e. 9 a.m. This would be a very late hour for rising, but the occasion was exceptional.
365.appalled, enfeebled, languid; lit. ‘rendered pallid,’ cf. Kn. Ta. 2195 (A. 3053); and Shipm. Tale, B. 1290–2:—
373. ‘Before the sun began to rise’; i. e. before 6 a.m., as it was near the equinox.
374.maistresse, governess; as appears from the Phis. Tale, C. 72.
376–377. Though the sense is clear, the grammar is incurably wrong. Chaucer says—‘These old women, that would fain seem wise, just as did her governess, answered her at once.’ What he means is—‘This governess, that would fain seem wise, as such old women often do, answered her,’ &c. The second part of this tale seems to have been hastily composed, left unfinished, and never revised. Cf. l. 382.
383.wel a ten, i. e. about ten. Cf. Prol. l. 24.
386.four. The Harl. MS. wrongly has ten. There is no doubt about it, because on March 15, the day before, the sun was in the third degree of the sign; on the 16th, he was in the fourth degree.
387. It means—‘and, moreover, the sun had risen but four degrees above the horizon’; i. e. it was not yet a quarter past six.
396.her hertes, their hearts. lighte, to feel light, to feel happy; an unusual use of the verb; but see F. 914. In l. 398, the sudden change to the singular she is harsh.
401. Again hastily written. Chaucer says—‘The point for which every tale is told—if it be delayed till the pleasure of them that have hearkened after (or listened attentively to) the former part of it grows cold—then the pleasantness of it passes off, on account of the prolixity in telling it; and the more so, the longer it is spun out.’ Knotte is cognate with the Lat. nodus (written for gnodus), as used by Horace, Ars Poet. l. 191.
409.fordrye, exceedingly dry. The tree was white too, owing to loss of its bark. This reminds me of the famous Arbre Sec, or Dry Tree; see Marco Polo, ed. Yule, i. 119; Maundeville, ed. Halliwell, p. 68; Mätzner, Sprachproben, ii. 185.
428.faucon peregryn. ‘This species of falcon is thus described in the Tresor de Brunet Latin, P. i. ch. Des Faucons; MS. Reg. 19 C. x. “La seconde lignie est faucons, qui hom apele pelerins, par ce que nus ne trove son ni; ains est pris autresi come en pelerinage, et est mult legiers a norrir, et mult cortois et vaillans, et de bone maniere” [i. e. the second kind is the falcon which is called the pilgrim (or peregrine), because no one ever finds its nest; but it is otherwise taken, as it were on pilgrimage, and is very easily fed, and very tame and bold, and well-mannered]. Chaucer adds that this falcon was of fremde lond, i. e. from a foreign country.’—Tyrwhitt.
435.ledene, language; from A. S. læden, leden, sometimes used in the sense of language, though it is, after all, a mere corruption of Latin, which is the sense which it most often bears. Thus, the inscription on the cross of Christ is said to have been written ‘Ebreisceon stafon, and Grecisceon, and Leden stafon,’ in Hebrew letters and in Greek and Latin letters; John, xix. 20. So also ‘on Ledenisc gereorde,’ in the Latin language; Beda, bk. iv. c. 1. Hence the word was used more generally in the sense of language; as, ‘Mara is, on ure lyden, biternes,’ i. e. Marah is, in our speech, bitterness; Exod. xv. 23. This extension of the meaning, and the form of the word, were both influenced, probably, by confusion with the sb. lēod, people. The student should learn to distinguish this word from the A. S. lēoð, G. lied, a song. Tyrwhitt notes that Dante uses latino in the sense of language; ‘E cantine gli augelli Ciascuno in suo latino’; Canzone 1.
458.as dooth, so do, pray do. See Note to Cler. Tale, E. 7.
469. ‘As verily as may the great God of nature help me.’ Wisly, verily, is quite different from wysly, wisely; cf. Kn. Ta. 1376 (A. 2234).
471. ‘To heal your hurts with quickly.’ Note the position of with; and cf. l. 641.
474.aswowne=a swowne=on swoune, in a swoon.
479. Chaucer’s favourite line; he repeats it four times. See Kn. Ta. 903 (A. 1761); March. Ta. 9860 (E. 1986); Prol. to Leg. G. W. 503. Also, in The Man of Lawes Ta. B. 660, we have it again in the form—‘As gentil herte is fulfild of pitee.’
480.similitude is pronounced nearly as sim’litude.
483.kytheth, manifests. Cf. Rom. Rose, 2187–2238 (vol. i. p. 172).
490. ‘And to make others take heed by my example, as the lion is chastised (or reproved) by means of the dog.’ The explanation of this passage was a complete riddle to me till I fortunately discovered the proverb alluded to. It appears in George Herbert’s Jacula Prudentum (Herbert’s Works, ed. Willmott, 1859, p. 328) in the form ‘Beat the dog before the lion,’ where before means in the sight of. This is cleared up by Cotgrave, who, in his French Dictionary, s. v. Batre, has the proverb—‘Batre le chien devant le Lion, to punish a mean person in the presence, and to the terror of, a great one.’ It is even better explained by Shakespeare, Othello, ii. 3. 272—‘What, man! there are ways to recover the general again: you are but now cast in his mood, a punishment more in policy than in malice; even so as one would beat his offenceless dog to affright an imperious lion.’
499.Ther, where. The numerous expressions in this narrative certainly shew that the falcon was really a princess (cf. l. 559) who had been changed into a falcon for a time, as is so common in the Arabian Tales. Thus, in l. 500, the roche or rock may be taken to signify a palace, and the tercelet (l. 504) to be a prince. This gives the whole story a human interest.
505–506.welle, well, fountain. Al were he, although he was.
511.coloures, colours; and, in a secondary sense, pretences, which meaning is also intended; cf. l. 560. On dyeing in grain, i. e. of a fast colour, see note to Sir Thopas, B. 1917.
512.hit him, hideth himself. The allusion is to the well-known lines ‘Qui legitis flores . . . fugite hinc, latet anguis in herba’; Verg. Bucol. iii. 92. Cf. D. 1994; and Macbeth, i. 5. 66.
516. Read kēp’th. MS. Hl. gives lines 514–6 thus:—
517.sowneth in-to, tend to, are consonant with; see Prol. 307.
518. Cf. P. Plowm. B. xv. 109. Both passages are from Matt. xxiii. 27.
537. Chaucer clearly quotes this as a proverb; true man means honest man, according to Dogberry; Much Ado about Nothing, iii. 3. 54. The sense seems to be much the same as ‘You cannot make a silk purse of a sow’s ear,’ or ‘Once a knave, always a knave.’ Compare the use of theef in Anelida, l. 161; also—
548. The reading Troilus (in E. Hn.) must be a mistake, because he was not guilty of transferring his love to another; it was Cressida who did that, so that the falcon would take care not to refer to that story. Paris deserted Oenone for Helen, and Jason deserted Medea for Glauce. Lamech was the first to have two wives, viz. Adah and Zillah; Gen. iv. 23. The whole of this passage is a recast of Chaucer’s earlier poem of Anelida, where Lamech is introduced just in the same way (l. 150).
555. Imitated, but not with good taste, from Mark, i. 7.
558. This line resembles Troil. ii. 637.
579. ‘Whether it was a grief to me, does not admit of doubt.
583. ‘Such grief I felt because he could not stay.’
593. Chaucer has this expression again, Kn. Ta. 2184 (A. 3042); Troilus, iv. 1586. It was a common proverb. Shakespeare has it frequently; Two G. of Ver. iv. i. 62; Rich. II., i. 3. 278; King Lear, iii. 2. 70. An early example of it is in Matt. Paris (Record Series), i. 20:—‘Vitam in tantam sanctitatem commutavit, faciendo de necessitate virtutem,’ &c.
596.to borwe, for a security; borwe being a sb., not a verb. Cf. Kn. Ta. 360, 764 (A. 1218, 1622). Hence it means, ‘Saint John being for a security,’ i. e. Saint John being my security; as in The Complaint of Mars, l. 9. She pledges herself by Saint John, the apostle of truth; see 1 John, iii. 19, iv. 20. Lydgate has ‘seint John to borowe’ in his Complaint of the Black Knight, st. 2.
601. ‘When he has well said everything, he has done (all he means to do).’
602. This is a common proverb; cf. Com. of Errors, iv. 3. 64; Tempest, ii. 2. 103; Marlowe, Jew of Malta, iii. 4.
607. From Boethius, De Cons. Phil. lib. iii. met. 2:—
A few lines above is a passage answering to ll. 611–620, which in the original runs thus (cf. vol. ii. p. 56):—
Chaucer repeats the example yet a third time, in the Manciple’s Tale, H. 163. Moreover, Jean de Meun copied the whole passage in Le Roman de la Rose, 14145.
617–1223. Eight leaves are here lost in MS. HI.
618.newefangel, i. e. eager for novelty; of four syllables, as in l. 89 of the Manc. Tale, H. 193. The word newefangelnesse will be found in the poem of Anelida, l. 141, and in Leg. of Good Wom., Prol. 154. ‘Be not newfangil in no wise’; Babees Book, ed. Furnivall, p. 51, l. 115; cf. p. 9, l. 13. And see the Balade against Women Unconstant, l. 1 (vol. i. p. 409).
624.kyte. Mr. Jephson notes that ‘the kite is a cowardly species of hawk, quite unfit for falconry, and was therefore the emblem of everything base.’
640. Compare ll. 153–155, which shew that Canace knew what herbs to choose.
644.Blue was the colour of truth and constancy; hence the expression ‘true blue’; cf. Cler. Tale, E. 254. Green (l. 646) signified inconstancy. Lydgate, in his Fall of Princes, fol. e 7, speaking of Dalilah, says—
Tyrwhitt draws attention to the Balade against Women Unconstant (in vol. i. p. 409), the burden of which is—
‘In stede of blew, thus may ye were al grene.’
648.tidifs. The tidif is mentioned as an inconstant bird in Prol. to Leg. G. W. l. 154—
Drayton uses tydy as the name of a small bird, Polyolb. xiii. 79; not the wren, which is mentioned five lines above. In a piece called The Parlament of Byrdes, pr. for A. Kytson, one of the birds is called a tytyfer; see Hazlitt’s Early Pop. Poetry, iii. 177. Schmeller gives Zitzerl as the Bavarian name for a wren; but cf. E. tit.
649–650. These lines are transposed in Tyrwhitt’s edition. Such a transposition makes the sense much clearer, beyond doubt. But I am not convinced that the confused construction in the text is not Chaucer’s own. It is very like his manner. Cf. notes to ll. 376, 401.
667. Observe that Cambalo, if not inserted here in the MSS. by error, is quite a different person from the Cambalus in l. 656 (called Cambalo in l. 31). He is Canace’s lover, who is to fight in the lists against her brothers Cambalo and Algarsif, and win her. Spenser (F. Q. iv. 3) introduces three brethren as suitors for Canace, who have to fight against Cambello her brother; this is certainly not what Chaucer intended, nor is it very satisfactory.
671–672. Some suppose these two lines to be spurious. I believe them to be genuine; for they occur in MS. E. Hn. Cp. Pt., and others, and are not to be too lightly rejected. The Lansdowne MS. has eight lines here, which are certainly spurious. In MS. E., atfer l. 672, the rest of the page is blank. The lines are quite intelligible, if we add the words He entreth. We then have—‘Apollo (the sun) whirls up his chariot so highly (continues his course in the zodiac) till he enters the mansion of the god Mercury, the cunning one’; the construction in the last line being similar to that in l. 209. The sun was described as in Aries, l. 51. By continuing his upward course, i. e. his Northward course, by which he approached the zenith daily, he would soon come to the sign Gemini, which was the mansion of Mercury. It is a truly Chaucerian way of saying that two months had elapsed. We may conclude that Chaucer just began the Third Part of this Tale, but never even finished the first sentence. It is worth noting that these two lines are imitated at the beginning of the (spurious) poem called The Flower and the Leaf; and in Skelton’s Garland of Laurel, l. 1471.