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The Second Nonnes 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 Second Nonnes Tale.
For general remarks on this Tale, see vol. iii. p. 485. Chaucer chiefly follows the Legenda Aurea; see note to l. 84 below, and to l. 25. It further appears that he consulted another Latin life of St. Cecilia, derived from Simeon Metaphrastes; as well as the Lives of Valerian and Tiburtius, in the Acta Sanctorum (April 14). See note to l. 369.
Prologue. This consists of twelve stanzas, and is at once divisible into three parts.
(1) The first four stanzas, the idea of which is taken from Jehan de Vignay’s Introduction to his French translation of the Legenda Aurea. This Introduction is reprinted at length, from the Paris edition of 1513, in the Originals and Analogues published by the Chaucer Society, pt. ii. p. 190.
(2) The Invocation to the Virgin, in stanzas 5-11; see note to ll. 29, 36.
(3) An Envoy to the reader, in stanza 12; see note to l. 78.
Line 1. Jehan de Vignay attributes the idea of this line to St. Bernard. He says—‘Et pour ce que oysiuete est tant blasmee que sainct Bernard dit qu’elle est mere de truffes [mother of trifles], marrastre de vertus: . . et fait estaindre vertu et nourrir orgueil,’ &c. Chaucer says again, in his Persones Tale (de Accidia), I. 710:—‘And how that ignoraunce be moder of alle harme, certes, necligence is the norice.’
2.ydelnesse, idleness; considered as a branch of Sloth, which was one of the Seven Deadly Sins. See The Persones Tale, De Accidia.
3. Chaucer took this idea from the Romaunt of the Rose; see ll. 528–594 of the English version, where a lover is described as knocking at the wicket of a garden, which was opened by a beautiful maiden named Idleness. He afterwards repeated it in the Knightes Tale, A. 1940; and again in the Persones Tale (de Accidia), I. 714: ‘Thanne comth ydelnesse, that is the yate [gate] of alle harmes. . . the hevene is yeven to hem that wol labouren, and nat to ydel folk.’
4.To eschue, to eschew; the gerund. The sentence really begins with l. 6, after which take the words to eschue; then take ll. 1-3, followed by the rest of l. 4 and by l. 5.
7. Jehan de Vignay’s Introduction begins thus: ‘Monseigneur sainct Hierosme dit ceste auctorite—“Fays tousiours aucune chose de bien, que le dyable ne te trouue oyseux.” ’ That is, he refers us to St. Jerome for the idea. A like reference is given in the Ayenbite of Inwyt, p. 206. We are reminded, too, of the familiar lines by Dr. Watts—
8. Cf. Persones Tale (de Accidia), I. 714:—‘An ydel man is lyk to a place that hath no walles; the develes may entre on every syde.’
10. ‘Ydelnesse is the develis panter [net], to tempte men to synne’; Wyclif, Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 200.
14. Cf. Pers. Tale (de Accidia), I. 689:—‘Agayns this roten-herted sinne of accidie and slouthe sholde men exercise hemself to doon gode werkes’; &c. ‘Laborare est orare’ was the famous motto of St. Bernard.
15.though men dradden never, even if men never feared.
17.roten, rotten; Wright reads rote of, i. e. root of. Yet his MS. has roten; observe its occurrence in the note to l. 14 above.
19. ‘And (men also) see that Sloth holds her in a leash, (for her) to do nothing but sleep, and eat and drink, and devour all that others obtain by toil.’ The reading hir refers to Idleness, which, as I have before explained, was a branch of Sloth, and was personified by a female. See notes to ll. 2 and 3 above. Tyrwhitt has hem, which is not in any of our seven MSS.
21. Compare Piers Plowman, B. prol. 21, 22—
25.After the legende, following the Legend; i. e. the Legenda Aurea. A very small portion is wholly Chaucer’s own. He has merely added a line here and there, such as ll. 488–497, 505–511, 535, 536. At l. 346 he begins to be less literal; see notes to 380, 395, 443.
27. St. Cecilia and St. Dorothea are both depicted with garlands. Mrs. Jameson tells us how to distinguish them in her Sacred and Legendary Art, 3rd ed. 591. She also says, at p. 35—‘The wreath of roses on the brow of St. Cecilia, the roses or fruits borne by St. Dorothea, are explained by the legends.’ And again, at p. 36—‘White and red roses expressed love and innocence, or love and wisdom, as in the garland with which the angels crown St. Cecilia.’ Red was the symbol of love, divine fervour, &c.; white, of light, purity, innocence, virginity. See ll. 220, 244, 279. The legend of St. Dorothea forms the subject of Massinger’s Virgin Martyr.
29.virgin-es must be a trisyllable here; such words are often shortened to a dissyllable. The word thou is addressed to the Virgin Mary. In the margin of MSS. E. and Hn. is written—‘Inuocatio ad Mariam.’
30. Speaking of St. Bernard, Mrs. Jameson says—‘One of his most celebrated works, the Missus est, was composed in her honour [i. e. in honour of the Virgin] as Mother of the Redeemer; and in eighty Sermons on texts from the Song of Solomon, he set forth her divine perfection as the Selected and Espoused, the type of the Church on earth’; Legends of the Monastic Orders, 2nd ed. p. 144. Cf. note to l. 58.
See a further illustration of the great favour shewn by the Virgin to St. Bernard at p. 142 of the same volume; and, at p. 145, the description of a painting by Murillo, quoted from Stirling’s Spanish Painters, p. 914. See also Dante, Paradiso, xxxi. 102.
32.comfort of us wrecches, comfort of us miserable sinners; see note to l. 58.
do me endyte, cause me to indite.
34.of the feend, over the Fiend. Tyrwhitt reads over for of, but it is unneccessary. Accent victórie on the o.
36. Lines 36–51 are a free translation of a passage in Dante’s Paradiso, Canto xxxiii. ll. 1-21; and are quoted in the notes to Cary’s translation. I am persuaded that ll. 36–56 (three stanzas) were added at a later period. Being taken from Dante, they could hardly have been written very early; whereas the Life of St. Cecile seems to have been quite a juvenile performance. And this explains why the phrase ‘Me, flemed wrecche’ in l. 58 is so far removed from the parallel expression, viz. ‘us wrecches,’ in l. 32. Cf. note to l. 58.
The numbers at the side denote the corresponding lines.
40.nobledest, didst ennoble; Dante’s ‘nobilitasti.’
42. The translation is inexact. Dante says—‘that its Maker (i. e. the Maker of human nature) did not disdain to become His own creature,’ i. e. born of that very human nature which He had Himself created. Cf. l. 49.
45. ‘Who is Lord and Guide of the threefold space’; i. e. of the three abodes of things created, viz. the earth, the sea, and the heavens.
46.out of relees, without release, i. e. without relaxation, without ceasing. Out of means without, as is clear from Prol. 487; Kn. Tale, A. 1141; and relees means acquittance (O. Fr. relais); see Cler. Tale, E. 153, &c. There has been some doubt about the meaning of this phrase, but there need be none; especially when it is remembered that to release is another form of to relax, so that relees=relaxation, i. e. slackening. The idea is the same as that so admirably expressed in the Prolog im Himmel to Goethe’s Faust.
50.Assembled is in thee, there is united in thee; cf. Dante—‘in te s’aduna.’ This stanza closely resembles the fourth stanza of the Prioresses Prologue, B. 1664–1670.
52.sonne. By all means let the reader remember that sonne was probably still feminine in English in Chaucer’s time, as it is in German, Dutch, and Icelandic to this day. It will be found, however, that Chaucer commonly identifies the sun with Phœbus, making it masculine; see Prol. 8, Kn. Tale, A. 1493. Still, there is a remarkable example of the old use in the first rubric of Part ii. of Chaucer’s Astrolabe—‘To fynde the degree in which the sonne is day by day, after hir cours a-boute.’ So again, in Piers Plowman, B. xviii. 243.
56.hir lyves leche, the physician of their lives (or life).
58.flemed wrecche, banished exile. The proper sense of A. S. wræcca is an exile, a stranger; and thence, a miserable being. The phrase ‘fleming of wrecches,’ i. e. banishment of the miserable, occurs in Chaucer’s Troilus, iii. 933. And see note to l. 36 above.
Lounsbury (Studies, ii. 389) compares this line with l. 62 below, and suggests that Chaucer may have been influenced here by an expression in St. Bernard’s Works (cf. l. 30): Respice ergo, beatissima Virgo, ad nos proscriptos in exsilio filios Euae’; Tractatus ad Laudem Gloriosae Virginis; in the Works, vol. i. p. 1148, in Migne’s Patrologia, vol. 182. This suggestion greatly strengthens the probability, that ll. 36–56 form a later insertion.
galle, bitterness. There is probably an allusion to the name Mary, and to the Hebrew mar, fem. mârâh, bitter. Cf. Exod. xv. 23; Acts viii. 23; Ruth i. 20. Cf. Chaucer’s A B C, l. 50.
59.womman Cananee, a translation of mulier Chananaea in the Vulgate version of Matt. xv. 22. Wyclif calls her ‘a womman of Canane.’
60. Compare Wyclif’s version—‘for whelpis eten of the crummes that fallen doun fro the bord of her lordis’; Matt. xv. 27.
62.sone of Eve, son of Eve, i. e. the author himself. This, as Tyrwhitt remarks (Introd. Discourse, note 30), is a clear proof that the Tale was never properly revised to suit it for the collection. The expression is unsuitable for the supposed narrator, the Second Nun.
64. See James, ii. 17.
67.ful of grace; alluding to the phrase ‘Aue gratia plena’ in Luke, i. 28.
68.advócat, accented on the penultimate.
69.Ther-as, where that. Osanne, Hosanna, i. e. ‘Save, we pray,’ from Ps. cxviii. 25. See Concise Dict. of the Bible.
70. The Virgin Mary was said to have been the daughter of Joachim and Anna; see the Protevangelion of James, and the Legenda Aurea, cap. cxxi—‘De natiuitate beatae Mariae uirginis.’ Cf. D. 1613.
75.haven of refut, haven of refuge. See the same term similarly applied in B. 852, above. Cf. Chaucer’s A. B. C., l. 14.
78.reden, read. This is still clearer proof that the story was not originally meant to be narrated. Cf. note to l. 62.
82.him, i. e. Jacobus Januensis. at the, &c., out of reverence for the saint.
83.hir legende, her (St. Cecilia’s) legend as told in the Aurea Legenda. But cf. note to l. 349.
85. The five stanzas in ll. 85–119 really belong to the Legend itself, and are in the original Latin. Throughout the notes to the rest of this Tale I usually follow the 2nd edition of the Legenda Aurea, cap. clxix, as edited by Dr. Th. Grässe; Leipsic, 1850.
87. Several of the Legends of the Saints begin with ridiculous etymologies. Thus the Legend of St. Valentine (Aur. Leg. cap. xlii) begins with the explanation that Valentinus means ualorem tenens, or else ualens tyro. So here, as to the etymology of Caecilia, we are generously offered five solutions, all of them being wrong. As it is hopeless to understand them without consulting the original, I shall quote as much of it as is necessary, arranged in a less confused order. The true etymology is, of course, that Caecilia is the feminine of Caecilius, a name borne by members of the Caecilia gens, which claimed descent from Caeculus, an ancient Italian hero, son of Vulcan, who is said to have founded Praeneste. Caeculus, probably a nickname, can hardly be other than a mere diminutive of caecus, blind. The legendary etymologies are right, accordingly, only so far as they relate to caecus. Beyond that, they are strange indeed.
The following are the etymologies, with their reasons.
(1) Caecilia=coeli lilia (sic), i. e. hevenes lilie. Reasons:—‘Fuit enim coeleste lilium per uirginitatis pudorem; uel dicitur lilium, quia habuit candorem munditiae, uirorem conscientiae, odorem bonae famae.’ See ll. 87–91. Thus grene (=greenness) translates uirorem.
(2) Caecilia=caecis uia, i. e. the wey to blinde, a path for the blind. Reason:—‘Fuit enim caecis uia per exempli informationem.’ See ll. 92, 93.
(3) Caecilia is from caelum and lya. ‘Fuit enim . . coelum (sic) per iugem contemplationem, lya per assiduam operationem.’ Here lya is the same as Lia, which is the Latin spelling of Leah in the Book of Genesis. It was usual to consider Leah as the type of activity, or the Active Life, and Rachel as the type of the Contemplative Life. See Hampole’s Prose Treatises, ed. Perry (E. E. T. S.), p. 29, where the comparison is attributed to St. Gregory. ‘Lya is als mekill at say as trauyliose, and betakyns actyfe lyfe.’
(4) Caecilia, ‘quasi caecitate carens.’ This is on the celebrated principle of ‘lucus a non lucendo.’ Reason:—‘fuit caecitate carens per sapientiae splendorem.’ See ll. 99–101.
(5) ‘Vel dicitur a coelo et leos, i. e. populus.’ Finally, recourse is had to Greek, viz. Gk. λεώς, the Attic form of λαός. Reason:—‘fuit et coelum populi, quia in ipsa tamquam in coelo spirituali populus ad imitandum intuetur coelum, solem, lunam, et stellas, i. e. sapientiae perspicacitatem, fidei magnanimitatem et uirtutum uarietatem.’ See ll. 102–112.
113–118. Chaucer has somewhat varied the order; this last stanza belongs in the Latin to derivation (3), though it may serve also for derivation (5). It is probably for this reason that he has reserved it. The Latin is—‘Vel dicitur coelum, quia, sicut dicit Ysidorus, coelum philosophi uolubile, rotundum et ardens esse dixerunt. Sic et ipsa fuit uolubilis per operationem sollicitam, rotunda per perseuerantiam, ardens per caritatem succensam.’ For the swiftness and roundness of heaven, see note to B. 295. The epithet burning is due to quite another matter, not explained in that note. The nine astronomical spheres there mentioned did not suffice for the wants of theology. Hence a tenth sphere was imagined, external to the ninth; but this was supposed to be fixed, whereas the ninth sphere (or primum mobile) had a swift diurnal movement of revolution (note to B. 295), and thus supplied the two former epithets. The outermost sphere was called the empyraeum (from Gk. ἔμπυρος, burning, which from ἐν, in, and πυ̑ρ, fire) where the pure element of fire subsisted alone; and it was supposed to be the abode of saints and angels. Milton, in his Paradise Lost, uses the word empyrean six times, ii. 771, iii. 57, vi. 833, vii. 73, 633, x. 321; and the word empyreal eleven times.
120. For some account of St. Caecilia, see vol. iii. p. 489. Compare also the Life of St. Cecilia as printed in the South-English Legendary, ed. Horstmann (E. E. T. S), p. 490.
133.an heyre, a hair shirt. The usual expression; see I. 1052; and P. Plowman, B. v. 66. Lat. text—‘cilicio erat induta.’
134.the organs; Lat. ‘cantantibus organis.’ We should now say ‘the organ’; but in old authors the plural form is commonly employed. Sometimes the word organ seems to refer to a single pipe only, and the whole instrument was called ‘the organs’ or ‘a pair of organs,’ where pair means a set, as in the phrase ‘a peire of bedes’; Ch. Prol. 159. In the Nonne Preestes Tale, B. 4041, Chaucer uses orgon as a plural, equivalent to the Lat. organa. On the early meaning of organum, see Chappell’s Hist. of Music, i. 327.
St. Cecilia is commonly considered the patroness of music; see Dryden’s Ode for St. Cecilia’s day, and Alexander’s Feast, ll. 132–141. But the connexion of her name with music is not very ancient, as Mrs. Jameson explains. The reason for this connexion seems to me clear enough, viz. the simple fact that the word organis occurs in this very passage. Besides, St. Cecilia is here represented as singing herself—‘in corde soli domino decantabat dicens’; see l. 135. The South-E. Legendary (see n. to l. 120) says she sang a verse of the Psalter.
145.conseil, a secret; Lat. ‘mysterium.’ And so in l. 192, and in P. Plowm. B. v. 168; see note to C. 819 above. and, if.
150.here, her, is a dissyllable in Chaucer whenever it ends a line, which it does six times; see e. g. B. 460; Kn. Tale, 1199 (A. 2057). This is quite correct, because the A. S. form hire is dissyllabic also.
159.me gye, rule me, keep me; lit. guide me.
173. Chaucer has here mistranslated the Latin. It is not said that the Via Appia (which led out of Rome through the Porta Capena to Aricia, Tres Tabernae, Appii Forum, and so on towards Capua and Brundusium) was situated three miles from Rome; but that Valerian is to go along the Appian Way as far as to the third milestone. ‘Vade igitur in tertium milliarium ab urbe uia quae Appia nuncupatur.’ See the South-E. Legendary, l. 37.
177.Urban. St. Urban’s day is May 25. This is Urban I., pope, who succeeded Calixtus, 222. Besides the notice of him in this Tale, his legend is given separately in the Legenda Aurea, cap. lxxvii. He was beheaded May 25, 230, and succeeded by Pontianus.
178.secree nedes, secret necessary reasons; Lat. ‘secreta mandata.’
181.purged yow, viz. by the rite of baptism.
186.seintes buriels, burial-places of the saints; Lat. ‘sepulchra martirum.’ It is worth observing, perhaps, that the form buriels is properly singular, not plural; cf. A. S. byrigels, a sepulchre, and see the examples in Stratmann. In P. Plowman, B. xix. 142, the Jews are represented as guarding Christ’s body because it had been foretold that He should rise from the tomb—
‘þat þat blessed body · of burieles shulde rise.’
The mistake of supposing s to be the mark of a plural was easily made, and the singular form buriel was evolved. This mistake occurs as early as in Wyclif’s Bible, IV Kings xxiii. 17; see Way’s note in Prompt. Parv. p. 37, note 1. Consequently, it is most likely that Chaucer has made the same mistake here. The South-E. Legendary (see note to l. 120) says that Urban dwelt ‘among puttes and burieles.’
There is here a most interesting allusion to the celebrated catacombs of Rome; see Chambers, Book of Days, i. 101, 102.
lotinge, lying hid. In MS. E., the Latin word latitantem is written above, as a gloss. This was taken from the Latin text, which has—‘intra sepulchra martirum latitantem.’ Stratmann gives six examples of the use of lotien or lutien, to lie hid. It occurs once in P. Plowman, B. xvii. 102.
201.An old man; i.e. an angel in the form of an old man, viz. St. Paul. Cf. note to l. 207.
202.with lettre of gold; Lat. ‘tenens librum aureis litteris scriptum.’ L. 203 is not in the original.
205. ‘When he (Valerian) saw him (the old man); and he (the old man) lifted up him (Valerian); and then he (Valerian) began thus to read in his (the old man’s) book.’ This is very ambiguous in Chaucer, but the Latin is clear. ‘Quem uidens Ualerianus prae nimio timore quasi mortuus cecidit, et a sene leuatus sic legit.’
207.Oo lord, one lord. Tyrwhitt prints On, ‘to guard against the mistake which the editions generally have fallen into, of considering o, in this passage, as the sign of the vocative case.’ For the same reason, I have printed Oo, as in MS. Pt., in preference to the single O, as in most MSS. Even one of the scribes has fallen into the trap, and has written against this passage—‘Et lamentat.’ See MS. Cp., in the Six-text edition. The fact is, obviously, that ll. 207–209 are a close translation of Eph. iv. 5, 6. Hence the old man was St. Paul.
208.Cristendom, baptism; Lat. ‘baptisma.’ See l. 217.
216. We must read the before oldë, not this or that, because e in the must be elided; otherwise the line will not scan.
223–224.that oon, the one; sometimes written the ton or the toon. That other, the one; sometimes written the tother. ‘The ton’ is obsolete; but ‘the tother’ may still be heard. That is the neuter of the A. S. def. article se, sēo, þæt; cf. Germ der, die, das.
As to the signification of the red and white flowers, see note to l. 27 above.
Compare Act v. sc. 1 of Massinger’s Virgin Martyr, where an angel brings flowers from St. Dorothea, who is in paradise, to Theophilus. See note to l. 248 below.
232.for, because; Lat. ‘quia.’
236. Afterwards repeated, very nearly, in Kn. Tale, l. 338 (A. 1196).
243.savour undernom, perceived the scent; Lat. ‘sensisset odorem.’
246. Cf. the South-E. Legendary (see note to l. 120), l. 89.
‘Brother, he seyde, how goth this? This tyme of the yere So swote smul ne smelde I neuere, me thinkth, as I do here.’
248.rose. We should have expected roses. Perhaps this is due to the peculiar form of the Latin text, which has—‘roseus hic odor et liliorum.’
Compare the words of Theophilus in the Virgin Martyr, v. 1:—
‘What flowers are these?’ &c.
270. Ll. 270–283 are certainly genuine, and the passage is in the Latin text. It is also in the French version, but it does not appear in the Early English version of the story printed by Mr. Furnivall from MS. Ashmole 43, nor in the English version printed by Caxton in 1483; nor in the version in the South-E. Legendary. Tyrwhitt’s supposition is no doubt correct, viz. that this passage ‘appears evidently to have been at first a marginal observation and to have crept into the [Latin] text by the blunder of some copyist.’ He truly observes that these fourteen lines ‘interrupt the narrative awkwardly, and to little purpose.’
271.Ambrose. ‘Huic miraculo de coronis rosarum Ambrosius attestatur in praefatione, sic dicens,’ &c. I cannot find anything of the kind in the indices to the works of St. Ambrose.
In the Sermons of Jacques de Vitry, a story is given beginning with the words—‘Beatus Ambrosius narrat,’ to this effect. St. Ambrose tells of a virgin going to martyrdom, who was asked by a pagan whither she was going. She answered: ‘to see my friend, who has invited me to his wedding-feast.’ The pagan, deriding her, said: ‘Tell your friend to send me some of his roses.’ Shortly after her death, a beautiful youth brought to the pagan a basket full of full-blown roses, saying, ‘The friend of the woman, who just now passed by, sends you some of the roses you desired,’ and then disappeared. The pagan was converted and himself suffered martyrdom. This is the story of St. Dorothea, whose day is Feb. 6; for which Alban Butler refers us to Aldhelm, De Laude Virginitatis, c. 25.
276.eek hir chambre, even hir marriage-chamber, i.e. even marriage. weyve, waive, abandon. Lat. ‘ipsum mundum est cum thalamis exsecrata.’ weyve occurs again in some MSS. of Chaucer’s Truth, l. 20.
277.shrifte, confession. Lat. ‘testis est Valeriani coniugis et Tiburtii prouocata confessio, quos, Domine, angelica manu odoriferis floribus coronasti.’ For Valerians, all the MSS. have Cecilies. Whether the mistake is Chaucer’s or his scribes’, I cannot say; but it is so obviously a mere slip, that we need not hesitate to correct it. The French text is even clearer than the Latin; it has—‘et de cest tesmoing Valerien son mary et Tiburcien son frere.’ Besides, the express mention of ‘these men’ in l. 281 is enough, in my opinion, to shew that the slip was not Chaucer’s own; or, at any rate, was a mere oversight.
282. ‘The world hath known (by their example) how much, in all truth, it is worth to love such devotion to chastity.’ Lat. ‘mundus agnouit, quantum ualeat deuotio castitatis;—haec Ambrosius.’ This is quoted as St. Ambrose’s opinion. The parenthesis ends here.
288.beste, i. e. void of understanding, as a beast of the field is. Lat. ‘pecus est.’
315.And we. Tyrwhitt remarks that we should have been us. But a glance at the Latin text shews what was in Chaucer’s mind; he is here merely anticipating the we in l. 318. Lat. ‘et nos in illius flammis pariter inuoluemur, et dum quaerimus diuinitatem latentem in coelis, incurremus furorem exurentem in terris.’ The sentence is awkward; but we was intended. The idiom has overridden the grammar. Cf. the South-E. Legendary (see note to l. 120), l. 121:—
‘Forberne he scholde, and we also, yif we with him were.’
319.Cecile. This is one of the clearest instances to shew that Chaucer followed the Latin and not the French version. Lat. ‘Cui Caecilia’; Fr. ‘et Valerien dist.’ Mr. Furnivall has noted this and other instances, and there is no doubt about the matter.
320.skilfully, reasonably; the usual meaning at this date. See l. 327.
325–332. Not in the South-E. Legendary.
327. ‘And all that has been created by a reasonable Intelligence.’
329.Hath sowled, hath endued with a soul, hath quickened; Lat. ‘animauit.’
335.o god, one God. We must suppose this teaching to be included in the mention of Christ in l. 295; otherwise there is no allusion to it in the words of Cecilia. The doctrine had been taught to Valerian however; see ll. 207, 208.
There are continual allusions, in the Lives of the Saints, to the difficulty of this doctrine.
338. Chaucer is not quite exact. The Latin says that three things reside in a man’s wisdom, the said wisdom being but one. ‘Sicut in una hominis sapientia tria sunt, ingenium, memoria et intellectus.’ The notion resembles that in a favourite passage from Isidore quoted in Piers Plowman, B. xv. 39, to the effect that the soul (anima) has different names according to its functions. Compare the curious illustrations of the doctrine of the Trinity in the same, B. xvi. 220–224, xvii. 137–249. The illustration in the text is, as Mr. Jephson points out, by no means a good one.
341. The word Three stands alone in the first foot. See note to l. 353.
343.come, coming, i. e. incarnation; Lat. ‘aduentu.’ Tyrwhitt reads sonde, i. e. sending, message; but incorrectly.
345.withholde, detained, constrained to dwell; Lat. ‘tentus’; Fr. ‘tenu.’
346. Hitherto Chaucer’s translation is, on the whole, very close. Here he omits a whole sentence, and begins to abbreviate the story and alter it to suit himself. See his hint in l. 360.
349. Here begins, practically, the second part of the story, in which the second Latin text is more freely consulted; see vol. iii. p. 488.
351.That, who. In MS. E. the word is glossed by—‘qui, scilicet Vrbanus.’ It is remarkable that the relative who (as a simple relative, without so suffixed) is hardly to be found in English of this date, in the nominative case. The A. S. hwā is only used interrogatively. See March, Anglo-Saxon Grammar, p. 179.
353.goddes knight, God’s servant, or rather, God’s soldier; see l. 383, and the note. In the A. S. version of the Gospels, Christ’s disciples are called ‘leorning-cnihtas.’ In the Ormulum and in Wyclif cniht or kniȝt sometimes means a servant, but more commonly a soldier. Priests are called ‘goddes knyghtes’ in Piers Plowman, B. xi. 304. In scanning this line, either lerninge is of three syllables (which I doubt) or else the first syllable in Parfit forms a foot by itself; see note to l. 341 above.
361. In the South-E. Legendary, their crime is specified; they had buried two Christian martyrs.
362.Almache; Lat. ‘Almachius praefectus.’ The reigning emperor was Alexander Severus ( 222–235).
363.apposed, questioned, examined; written opposed in most MSS., but corrected by Tyrwhitt. Ed. 1532 also has aposed. A similar confusion occurs in the Freres Tale, D. 1597, where only two MSS., viz. Pt. and Ln., have the spelling appose, as against five others which read opposen. In MSS. of Piers the Plowman, we find appose, to question, B. iii. 5; apposed, i. 47; apposeden, vii. 138. See Appose in the New E. Dict.; where it is shewn that appose was, at first, a mere variant of oppose, but came to be regarded as a correct form with a special sense; though, strictly speaking, it was a corruption.
365.sacrifyse, sacrifice to the idol. This was the usual test to which Christians were subjected; see note to l. 395. Compare Dan. iii. 14, 18. So in the Virgin Martyr, iv. 2:—
367.thise martirs; note that this is an accusative case.
369.corniculere, a sort of officer. The note in Bell’s edition, that the French version has prevost here, is wrong. The word prevost (Lat. praefectus) is applied to Almachius. Maximus was only a subordinate officer, and is called in the Early Eng. version (MS. Ashmole 43) the ‘gailer.’ The expression ‘Maximo Corniculario’ occurs only in the Lives of Valerian and Tiburtius, in the Acta Sanctorum (April 14); and we thus gather that Chaucer consulted this source also. This was noticed by Dr. Kölbing, in the Englische Studien, i. 215; and I subsequently noticed it myself, independently.
Riddle’s Lat. Dict. gives—‘Cornicularius, -i. m. a soldier who was presented with a corniculum, and by means of it promoted to a higher rank; hence, an assistant of an officer, Suetonius, Domit. 17; then also in the civil service, an assistant of a magistrate, a clerk, registrar, secretary; Cod. Just.’
‘Corniculum, -i. n. (dimin. of cornu). 1. A little horn, Pliny; also, a small funnel of horn, Columella. An ornament in the shape of a horn worn on the helmet, with which officers presented meritorious soldiers; Livy, 10. 44.’
Ducange gives several examples, shewing that the word commonly meant a secretary, clerk, or registrar. Tyrwhitt refers us to Pitiscus, Lex. Ant. Rom. s. v. Cornicularius.
373. ‘He got leave for himself from the executioners.’ tormentoures, executioners; Lat. ‘carnifices.’ See l. 527. Cf. tormentor in Matt. xviii. 34; see Wright’s Bible Word-book.
380.preestes, priests. The original says that pope Urban came himself.
383.knightes, soldiers; as in l. 353. Lat. ‘Eia milites Christi, abicite opera tenebrarum, et induimini arma lucis.’ See Rom. xiii. 12.
386. Tyrwhitt notes a slight defect in the use of y-doon in l. 386, followed by doon in l. 387. The first six lines in this stanza are not in the original, but are imitated from 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
395. ‘This was the criterion. The Christians were brought to the image of Jupiter or of the Emperor, and commanded to join in the sacrifice, by eating part of it, or to throw a few grains of incense into the censer, in token of worship; if they refused, they were put to death. See Pliny’s celebrated letter to Trajan. Those who complied were termed sacrificati and thurificati by the canons, and were excluded from the communion for seven or ten years, or even till their death, according to the circumstances of their lapse.—See Bingham’s Antiquities, b. xvi. 4. 5.’—Note in Bell’s edition of Chaucer. Cf. note to l. 365.
This stanza is represented in the original (in spite of the hint in l. 394) by only a few words. ‘Quarto igitur milliario ab urbe sancti ad statuam Iovis ducuntur, et dum sacrificare nollent, pariter decollantur.’
405.to-bete, beat severely; dide him so to-bete, caused (men) to beat him so severely, caused him to be so severely beaten. I have no hesitation in adopting the reading of ed. 1532 here. To-bete is just the right word, and occurs in MSS. Cp. Pt. Ln.; and, though these MSS. are not the best ones, it is clear that to-bete is the original reading, or it would not appear. To scan the line, slur over -ius in Almachius, and accent dide.
406.whippe of leed, i. e. a whip furnished with leaden plummets. Lat. ‘eum plumbatis tamdiu caedi fecit,’ &c.; French text—‘il le fist tant batre de plombees,’ &c.; Caxton—‘he dyd do bete hym with plomettes of leed.’
413.encense, offer incense to; see note to l. 395.
414.they. Over this word is written in MS. E.—‘scilicet Ministres.’ The Latin original says that Cecilia converted as many as 400 persons upon this occasion. Hence the expression o voys (one voice) in l. 420.
417.withouten difference, i. e. without difference in might, majesty, or glory.
430.lewedly, ignorantly. The ‘two answers’ relate to her rank and her religion, subjects which had no real connexion.
434. Lat. ‘de conscientia bona et fide non ficta’; cf. 1 Tim. i. 5.
437.to drede, to be feared; the gerund, and right according to the old idiom. We still say—‘he is to blame,’ ‘this house to let.’ March in his Anglo-Saxon Grammar, p. 198, says—‘The gerund after the copula expresses what must, may, or should be done. Ex. Mannes sunu is tō syllanne, the Son of Man must be delivered up, Matt. xvii. 22’; &c.
439. ‘For it nis bote a bladre i-blowe ful of a wreche wynde;
Be it with a litel prikke i-priked, a-wey it shrinketh al’;—
South-E. Legendary, l. 194.
442.bigonne, didst begin; the right form, for which Tyrwhitt has begonnest. For the Mid. Eng. biginnen we commonly find onginnan in Anglo-Saxon, and the past tense runs thus—ongann, ongunne, ongann; pl. ongunnon. The form in Middle English is—bigan, bigunne (or bigonne), bigan; pl. bigunnen (or bigonne). The very form here used occurs in the Ayenbite of Inwyt, ed. Morris, p. 71. The suffix -st does not appear in strong verbs; cf. Thou sawe, B. 848; thou bar, G. 48.
The whole of ll. 443–467 varies considerably from the original, the corresponding passage of which is as follows: ‘Cui Almachius: “ab iniuriis caepisti, et in iniuriis perseueras.” Caecilia respondit: “iniuria non dicitur quod uerbis fallentibus irrogatur; unde aut iniuriam doce, si falsa locuta sum, aut te ipsum corripe calumniam inferentem, sed nos scientes sanctum Dei nomen omnino negare non possumus; melius est enim feliciter mori quam infeliciter uiuere.” Cui Almachius: “ad quid cum tanta superbia loqueris?” Et illa: “non est superbia, sed constantia.” Cui Almachius: “infelix, ignoras,” ’ &c. (l. 468). However, Chaucer has adopted an idea from this in ll. 473, 475.
463. To scan this, remember that Iuge has two syllables; and accent confus on the first syllable.
485. Lat. ‘es igitur minister mortis, non uitae.’
487.Do wey, do away with; Lat. ‘depone.’ The phrase occurs again in the Milleres Tale, A. 3287.
489–497. These lines are wholly Chaucer’s own.
490. To scan the line, elide e in suffre, and read phílosóphre.
492.spekest; to be read as spek’st.
498.utter yen, outer eyes, bodily eyes. In MS. E. it is glossed by ‘exterioribus oculis.’ The Latin has—‘nescio ubi oculos amiseris; nam quos tu Deos dicis, omnes nos saxa esse uidemus; mitte igitur manum et tangendo disce, quod oculis non uales uidere.’
503.taste, test, try; Lat. ‘tangendo disce.’ The word is now restricted to one of the five senses; it could once have been used also of the sense of feeling, at the least. Bottom even ventures on the strange expression—‘I trust to taste of truest Thisbe’s sight’; Mid. Nt. Dream, v. 1. 280; such is the reading in the first folio.
505–511. This stanza is all Chaucer’s own.
515.bath of flambes rede; Lat. ‘in bulliente balneo.’
516–522. The Latin merely has—‘Quae quasi in loco frigido permansit, nec modicum saltem sudoris persensit.’
533. Lat. ‘eam semiuiuam cruentus carnifex dereliquit.’
534.is went, though only in the (excellent) Cambridge MS., is the right reading; the rest have he wente, sometimes misspelt he went. In the first place, is went is a common phrase in Chaucer; cf. German er ist gegangen, and Eng. he is gone. But secondly, the false rime detects the blunder at once; Chaucer does not rime the weak past tense wentë with a past participle like yhent. This was obvious to me at the first glance, but the matter was made sure by consulting Mr. Cromie’s excellent ‘Ryme-Index.’ This at once gives the examples is went, riming with pp. to-rent, E. 1012 (Clerkes Tale); is went, riming with instrument, F. 567 (Sq. Tale); is went, riming with innocent, B. 1730, and ben went, riming with pavement, B. 1869 (Prioresses Tale). Besides this, there are two more examples, viz. be they went, riming with sacrement, E. 1701; and that he be went, riming with sent, A. 3665. On the other hand, we find wente, sente, hente, and to-rente, all (weak) past tenses, and all riming together, in the Monkes Tale, B. 3446. The student should particularly observe an instance like this. The rules of rime in Chaucer are, on the whole, so carefully observed that, when once they are learnt, a false rime jars upon the ear with such discord as to be unpleasantly remarkable, and should be at once detected.
535–536. These two lines are not in the original.
539. ‘She began to preach to them whom she had fostered,’ i. e. converted. To foster is here to nurse, to bring up, to educate in the faith; see l. 122 above. The Latin text has—‘omnes quos ad fidem conuerterat, Urbano episcopo commendauit.’ Tyrwhitt makes nonsense of this line by placing the comma after hem instead of after fostred, and other editors have followed him. In MSS. E. and Hn. the metrical pause is rightly marked as occurring after fostred. The story here closely resembles the end of the Prioresses Tale, B. 1801–1855.
545.do werche, cause to be constructed.
549. Lat. ‘inter episcopos sepeliuit.’
550. ‘It is now a church in Rome, and gives a title to a cardinal’; note in Bell’s edition. In a poem called the Stacyons of Rome, ed. Furnivall, l. 832, we are told that 100 years’ pardon may be obtained by going to St. Cecilia’s church. Mr. W. M. Rossetti, in a note on this line, says—‘The Church of St. Cecilia, at the end of the Trastevere, near the Quay of Ripa Grande, was built on the site of the saint’s own house in 230; rebuilt by pope Paschal I. in 821, and dedicated to God and Sts. Mary, Peter, Paul, and Cecilia; and altered to its present form in 1599 and 1725. In the former of these years, 1599, the body of the saint was found on the spot, with a contemporary inscription identifying her: the celebrated statue by Stefano Maderno, now in the church, represents her in the attitude she was discovered lying in.’
553. After this line the Latin adds—‘Passa est autem circa annos domini cc et xxiii, tempore Alexandri imperatoris. Alibi autem legitur, quod passa sit tempore Marci Aurelii, qui imperauit circa annos domini xxcc.’ The confusion of names here is easily explained. Marcus Aurelius died in 180; but Marcus Aurelius Alexander Severus (for such was his title in full) reigned from 222 to 235. The true date is generally considered to be 230, falling within his reign, as it should do.