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The Chanouns Yemannes 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 Chanouns Yemannes Tale.
720. This Tale is divided, in MS. E., into two parts. Pars prima is not really a tale at all, but a description of alchemy and its professors. The real tale, founded on the same subject, is contained in Pars Secunda, beginning at l. 972. The rubric means—‘Here the Canon’s Yeoman begins his tale.’ The word tale is not to be taken as a nominative case.
I may observe that I frequently refer below to the Theatrum Chemicum, printed in 1659, in five volumes. Also to Ashmole’s Theatrum Chemicum (quite a different work).
721.neer, nearer; this explains near in Macbeth, ii. 3. 146.
724.Ther, where; observe the use. In l. 727, we have wher.
726.hose, an old hose, instead of a hood. A pair of hose meant what we should now call a pair of tight-fitting drawers, which also covered the feet.
730. ‘And, in return for all my labour, I am cajoled.’ To ‘blere one’s eye’ is to cajole, to deceive, to hoodwink. See Piers the Plowman, B. prol. 74, and the note.
731.which, what sort of a; Lat. qualis. On multiplye, see note to l. 669.
739. ‘I consider his prosperity as done with.’
743.Iupartye, jeopardy, hazard. Tyrwhitt remarks that the derivation is not from jeu perdu, as some have guessed, but from jeu parti. He adds—‘A jeu parti is properly a game, in which the chances are exactly even; see Froissart, v. i. c. 234—“Ils n’estoient pas à jeu parti contre les François’; and v. ii. c. 9—“si nous les voyons à jeu parti.” From hence it signifies anything uncertain or hazardous. In the old French poetry, the discussion of a problem, where much might be said on both sides, was called a Jeu parti. See Poésies du Roy de Navarre, Chanson xlviii., and Gloss. in v. See also Ducange, in v. Jocus Partitus.’ Ducange has—‘Jocus partitus dicebatur, cum alicui facultas concedebatur, alterum e duobus propositis eligendi.’ Hence was formed not only jeopardy, but even the verb to jeopard, used in the A. V., Judges v. 18; 2 Macc. xi. 7.
746. In the margin of MS. E. is written—‘Solacium miseriorum (sic), &c.’ In Marlowe’s Faustus, ii. 1. 42, the proverb is quoted in the form ‘Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris.’ Dr. Wagner says: ‘The purport of this line may have been originally derived from Seneca, De Consol. ad Polybium, xii. 2: est autem hoc ipsum solatii loco, inter multos dolorem suum diuidere; qui quia dispensatur inter plures, exigua debet apud te parte subsidere.’ Cf. Milton, P. R. i. 398. The idea is that conveyed in the fable of the Fox who had lost his tail, and wished to persuade the other foxes to cut theirs off likewise. See Troil. i. 708.
752. ‘The technical terms which we use are so learned and fine.’ See this well illustrated in Jonson’s Alchemist, ii. 1:—‘What else are all your terms,’ &c.
764.lampe; so in the MSS. It is clearly put for lambe, a corruption of O. Fr. lame, Lat. lamina. Were there any MS. authority, it would be better to read lame at once. Cotgrave has—‘Lame; f. a thin plate of any metall; also, a blade.’ &c. Nares has—‘Lamm, s. a plate, from Lat. lamina. “But he strake Phalantus just upon the gorget, so as he batred the lamms thereof, and make his head almost touch the back of his horse”; Pembr. Arcadia, lib. iii. p. 269.’ Lame in old French also means, the flat slab covering a tomb; see Godefroy. So here, after the ingredients have all been placed in a pot, they are covered over with a plate of glass laid flat upon the top.
It is strange that no editor has made any attempt to explain this word. It obviously does not mean lamp! For the insertion of the p, cf. solempne for solemne, and nempne for nemne; also flambe for flame; see the Glossary.
766.enluting. To enlute is to close with lute. Webster has—‘Lute, n. (Lat. lutum, mud, clay). A composition of clay or other tenacious substance, used for stopping the juncture of vessels so closely as to prevent the escape or entrance of air, or to protect them when exposed to heat.’
The process is minutely described in a MS. by Sir George Erskine, of Innertiel (temp. James I.), printed by Mr. J. Small in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. xi. 1874–75, p. 193, as follows:—‘Thairfoir when all the matter which must be in, is gathered together into the pot, tak a good lute maid of potters clay, and mix it with bolus and rust of iron tempered with whitts of eggs and chopt hair, and mingle and worke thame weill togither, and lute ȝoure pott ane inch thick thairwith, and mak a stopple of potters earth weill brunt, to shut close in the hole that is in the top of the cover of the pott, and lute the pott and the cover very close togither, so as no ayre may brek furth, and when any craks cum into it, in the drying of the lute, dawbe them up againe; and when the lute is perfectly drie in the sunne, then take a course linen or canvas, and soke it weill in the whitts of eggs mixt with iron rust, and spred this cloth round about the luting, and then wet it weill again with whitts of eggs and upon the luting’; &c.
768. The alchemists were naturally very careful about the heat of the fire. So in The Alchemist, ii. 1:—
And again, in iii. 2:—
770.matires sublyming, sublimation of materials. To ‘sublimate’ is to render vaporous, to cause matter to pass into a state of vapour by the application of heat. ‘Philosophi considerantes eorum materiam, quae est in vase suo, et calorem sentit, evaporatur in speciem fumi, et ascendit in capite vasis: et vocant sublimationem’; Theatrum Chemicum, 1659, vol. ii. p. 125.
771.amalgaming. To ‘amalgamate’ is to compound or mix intimately, especially used of mixing quicksilver with other metals. The term is still in use; thus ‘an amalgam of tin’ means a mixture of tin and quicksilver.
calcening. To ‘calcine’ is to reduce a metal to an oxide, by the action of heat. What is now called an oxide was formerly called ‘a metallic calx’; hence the name. The term is here applied to quicksilver or mercury. For example—‘When mercury is heated, and at the same time exposed to atmospheric air, it is found that the volume of the air is diminished, and the weight of the mercury increased, and that it becomes, during the operation, a red crystalline body, which is the binoxide of mercury, formed by the metal combining with the oxygen of the air’; English Cyclopaedia, Div. Arts and Sciences, s. v. Oxygen. ‘The alchemists used to keep mercury at a boiling heat for a month or longer in a matrass, or a flask with a tolerably long neck, having free communication with the air. It thus slowly absorbed oxygen, becoming converted into binoxide, and was called by them mercurius precipitatus per se. It is now however generally prepared by calcination from mercuric nitrate’; id., s. v. Mercury.
772.Mercurie crude, crude Mercury. See note to l. 820. See the description of Mercury in Ashmole’s Theat. Chem. p. 272. The alchemists pretended that their quicksilver, which they called the Green Lion, was something different from quicksilver as ordinarily found. See treatise on ‘The Greene Lyon,’ in Ashmole’s Theat. Chem. p. 280.
774. Note the accents—‘súblyméd Mercúrie.’
778. Here the ‘ascension of spirits’ refers to the rising of gases or vapours from certain substances; and the ‘matters that lie all fix adown’ are the materials that lie at the bottom in a fixed (i. e. in a solid) state. There were four substances in particular which were technically termed ‘spirits’; viz. sulphur, sal ammoniac, quicksilver, and arsenic, or (as some said) orpiment. See Theatrum Chemicum, iii. 81, 129; ii. 430; iii. 276.
782. Here a=in; being short for an, a variant of on, used in the old sense of ‘in.’ The expression signifies, literally, in the way to (or of) twenty devils; see note to A. 3713.
790.bole armoniak. The latter word should rather be Armeniak, i. e. Armenian, but we have armoniak again below, in l. 798; see note to that line.
‘Bole, a kind of fine, compact, or earthy clay, often highly coloured with iron, and varying in shades of colour from white to yellowish, reddish, blueish, and brownish. Fr. bol, Lat. bolus, Gk. βω̑λος, a clod or lump of earth’; Webster’s Dict., ed. Goodrich and Porter. Cotgrave has—‘Bol, m. the astringent and medicinable red earth or minerall called Bolearmenie . . . Bol Oriental, et Bol Armenien Oriental, Oriental Bolearmenie; the best and truest kind of Bolearmenie, ministred with good effect against all poisons, and in pestilent diseases; and more red than the ordinary one, which should rather be tearmed Sinopian red earth than Bolearmeny.’ And see Bole in the New E. Dict.
Mr. Paget Toynbee has lately shewn (in The Academy, Sept. 16, 1893) that verdegrees is from the O. Fr. verd de Grece, lit. ‘green of Greece.’ Cotgrave has the curious form verderis, which probably represents the Latin viride aeris, the green of brass. This term (viride aeris) is the common one in the old Latin treatises on alchemy. See the chapter in Albertus Magnus—‘Quomodo viride aeris fit, et quomodo rubificatur, et super omnia valet ad artem istam’; Theatrum Chemicum, ii. 436. It is the bibasic acetate of copper.
792, 794. Perhaps Chaucer had read the following lines:
794.Cucurbites, vessels supposed to bear some resemblance to a gourd, whence the name (Lat. cucurbita, a gourd). ‘Cucurbita est uas quod debet stare in aqua, usque ad juncturam firmatum in caldario, ut non moueatur’; Theatrum Chemicum, ii. 452.
795.dere y-nough a leek, dear enough at the price of a leek. Cf. Clerkes Tale, E. 999.
797.Watres rubifying, reddening waters. This is well illustrated by a long passage in The Boke of Quinte Essence, ed. Furnivall, p. 13, where instructions are given for extracting the quintessence out of the four elements. After various processes, we are directed to put the vessel into ‘the fier of flawme right strong, and the reed water schal ascende’; and again—‘thanne yn the stillatorie, to the fier of bath, cleer water schall asende; and in the botum shall remayne the reed water, that is, the element of fier.’ A long and unintelligible passage about ‘rubrificatio’ and ‘aqua spiritualis rubea’ occurs in the Theatrum Chemicum, iii. 41. See also ‘modus rubrificandi’ and the recipe for ‘aqua rubea’; id. iii. 110.
798.Arsenic was by some considered as one of the ‘four spirits’; see note to l. 778. For a long passage ‘de arsenico,’ see Theatrum Chemicum, iii. 177; also p. 110, and ii. 238. Sal armoniacum was another of them (see l. 824) and is constantly mentioned in the old treatises; see ‘praeparatio salis Armoniaci secundum Rasim’; Theat. Chem. iii. 179; also pp. 89, 94, 102; ii. 445. In vol. ii. p. 138 of the same work, it is twice called ‘sal armeniacum.’ See the account of sal ammoniac in Thomson, Hist. of Chemistry, i. 124. Brimstoon was also a ‘spirit’ (see l. 824); it is only another name for sulphur.
800.egrimoine, common agrimony, Ægrimonia officinalis; valerian, Valeriana officinalis; lunarie, a kind of fern called in English moon-wort, Botrychium lunaria. The belief in the virtue of herbs was very strong; cf. Spenser, (F. Q. i. 2. 10). The root of valerian yields valerianic acid. The following quotation is from the English Encyclopaedia, s. v. Botrychium:—
‘In former times the ferns had a great reputation in medicine, not so much on account of their obvious as their supposed virtues. The lunate shape of the pinnæ of this fern (B. lunaria) gave it its common name, and was the origin of much of the superstitious veneration with which it was regarded. When used it was gathered by the light of the moon. Gerarde says—“it is singular [i. e. sovereign] to heal green and fresh wounds. It hath been used among the alchymists and witches to do wonders withall.” ’
In Ashmole’s Theatrum Chemicum, p. 348, is a full description of ‘lunayrie,’ with an engraving of it. It is there also called asterion, and we are told that its root is black, its stalk red, and its leaves round; and moreover, that the leaves wax and wane with the moon, and on each of them is a mark of the breadth of a penny. See also pp. 315, 318 of the same work.
805.albificacioun, i. e. the rendering the water of a white colour, as distinguishing from the reddening of it, mentioned in l. 797. In a long chapter printed in the Theatrum Chemicum (iii. 634–648) much is said about red and white colours. Compare the Alchemist, ii. 1:—
No doubt, too, water is here used in the sense of the Lat. aqua, to denote any substance that is in a liquid state.
808.Cered pokets. Tyrwhitt reads Sered pokettes, and includes this phrase in his short ‘List of Phrases not understood’; and indeed, it has never been explained. But there is little difficulty about it. Poket is the diminutive of poke, a bag, and means a little bag. Cered (Lat. ceratus) means waxed. Thus Cotgrave has—‘Ciré, m. -ée, f. waxed, seared; dressed, covered, closed, or mingled, with wax.’ In many MSS. the word is spelt sered, but this makes no difference, since Cotgrave has ‘seared’ in this very place. So we find both ‘cere-cloth’ and ‘sear-cloth.’ It is obvious that bags or cases prepared or closed with wax would be useful for many of the alchemist’s purposes; see Theat. Chem. iii. 13.
sal peter, Lat. sal petrae, or rock-salt, also called nitre, is nitrate of potassa. A recipe for preparing it is given in Theat. Chem. iii. 195.
vitriole, i. e. sulphuric acid. See ‘vitrioli praeparatio’; Theat. Chem. iii. 95.
810.Sal tartre, salt of tartar, i. e. carbonate of potash; so called from its having been formerly prepared from cream of tartar.
sal preparat, common salt prepared in a certain manner. See the section—‘quod ualeat sal commune, et quomodo praeparetur’; Theat. Chem. ii. 433, 435.
812.maad, i. e. prepared, mixed. oile of tartre, oil of tartar, cream of tartar; see Prol. 630. See the section—‘quomodo praeparatur tartarum, ut oleum fiat ex illo, quo calces soluuntur’; Theat. Chem. ii. 436; and again—‘ad faciendum oleum de Tartaro’; id. iii. 303. To scan l. 813, remember to pronounce tartre as in French, and to accent alum on the latter syllable.
Of tártr’ | alúm | glas bérm | wort ánd | argofle ∥
813.argoile, crude cream of tartar deposited as a hard crust on winecasks. Called argoil in Anglo-French; Liber Albus, i. 225, 231.
814.resalgar, realgar, red orpiment, or the red sulphuret of arsenic; symbol (As S2); found native in some parts of Europe, and of a brilliant red colour. Resalgar is adapted from the old Latin name, risigallum. The word is explained by Thynne in his Animadversions, ed. Furnivall, p. 36—‘This resalgar is that whiche by some is called Ratesbane, a kynde of poysone named Arsenicke.’
enbibing, imbibition; see this term used in The Alchemist, ii. 1. It means absorption; cf. Theat. Chem. iii. 132, l. 27.
816.citrinacioun. This also is explained by Thynne, who says (p. 38)—‘Citrinatione is bothe a coolor [colour] and parte of the philophers stoone.’ He then proceeds to quote from a Tractatus Avicennae, cap. 7, and from Arnoldus de Nova Villa, lib. i. cap. 5. It was supposed that when the materials for making the philosopher’s stone had been brought into a state very favourable to the ultimate success of the experiment, they would assume the colour of a citron; or, as Thynne says, Arnold speaks of ‘this citrinatione, perfecte digestione, or the coolor provinge the philosophers stoone broughte almoste to the heighte of his perfectione’; see Citrinacio in Ducange. So in the Alchemist, iii. 2:—
817.fermentacioun, fermentation. This term is also noticed by Thynne (p. 33), who says—‘fermentacione ys a peculier terme of Alchymye, deduced from the bakers fermente or levyne’; &c. See Theat. Chem. ii. 115, 175.
820.foure spirites. Chaucer enumerates these below. I have already mentioned them in the note to l. 778; see also note to l. 798. Tyrwhitt refers us to Gower’s Confessio Amantis, bk. iv., where we find a passage very much to the point. See Pauli’s edition, ii. 84.
Gower enumerates the seven bodies and the four spirits; and further explains that gold and silver are the two ‘extremities,’ and the other metals agree with one or other of them more or less, so as to be capable of transmutation into one of them. For this purpose, the alchemist must go through the processes of distillation, congelation, solution, descension, sublimation, calcination, and fixation, after which he will obtain the perfect elixir of the philosopher’s stone. He adds that there are really three philosopher’s stones, one vegetable, capable of healing diseases; another animal, capable of assisting each of the five senses of man; and the third mineral, capable of transforming the baser metals into silver and gold.
It is easy to see how the various metals were made to answer to the seven planets. Gold, the chief of metals and yellow, of course answered to the sun; and similarly silver, to the paler moon. Mercury, the swiftest planet, must be the shifty quicksilver; Saturn, the slowest, of cold and dull influence, must be lead. The etymology of copper suggested the connexion with the Cyprian Venus. This left but two metals, iron and tin, to be adjusted; iron was suggestive of Mars, the god of war, leaving tin to Jupiter. The notion of thus naming the metals is attributed to Geber; see Thomson, Hist. of Chemistry, i. 117. In the Book of Quinte Essence, ed. Furnivall, p. 8, we find: ‘a plate of venus or Iubiter,’ i. e. of copper or tin.
Quicksilver, be it observed, is still called mercury; and nitrate of silver is still lunar caustic. Gold and silver are constantly termed sol and luna in the old treatises on alchemy. See further allusions in Chaucer’s House of Fame, 1431–1487, as pointed out in the notes to ll. 1431, 1450, 1457, 1487 of that poem.
834. ‘Whosoever pleases to utter (i. e. display) his folly.’
838.Ascaunce, possibly, perhaps; lit. ‘just as if.’ See note to D. 1745.
846.Al conne he, whether he know. The use of al at the beginning of a sentence containing a supposition is common in Chaucer; see Prol. 734. Cf. al be, Prol. 297; Kn. Tale, 313 (A. 1171). And see l. 861 below.
848.bothe two, both learned and unlearned alike.
853.limaille, filings, fine scrapings. ‘Take fyn gold and make it into smal lymail’; Book of Quinte Essence, p. 8.
861. ‘To raise a fiend, though he look never so rough,’ i. e. forbidding, cross.
874.it is to seken euer, it is always to seek, i. e. never found. In Skelton’s Why Come Ye Nat to Court, l. 314, the phrase ‘they are to seke’ means ‘they are at a loss’; this latter is the commoner use.
875.temps, tense. The editors explain it by ‘time.’ If Chaucer had meant time, it is reasonable to suppose that he would have said so. Surely it is better to take ‘that futur temps’ in the special sense of ‘that future tense.’ The allusion is to the phrase ‘to seken’ in the last line, which is not an infinitive mood but a gerund, and often used as a future tense, as Chaucer very well knew. Compare the A. S. version of Matt. xi. 3—‘eart þū þe to cumenne eart’—with the Lat. ‘Tu es qui uenturus es.’
878.bitter swete, i. e. a fatal, though alluring, pursuit. An example of oxymoron; cf. ‘insaniens sapientia,’ Horat. Carm. i. 34; ‘strenua inertia,’ Epist. i. xi. 28. Cf. the plant-name bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara).
879.nadde they but, if they only should have (or, were to have). Nadde is for ne hadde, past tense subjunctive.
880.inne, within; A. S. innan; see l. 881. a-night, for on night, in the night. Perhaps it should be nighte (with final e), and lighte in l. 881.
881.bak, cloth; any rough sort of covering for the back. So in most MSS.; altered in E. to brat, but unnecessarily. That the word bak was used in the sense of garment is quite certain; see William of Palerne, ed. Skeat, l. 2096; Piers the Plowman, B. x. 362; and the same, A. xi. 184.
Pronounce the words And a rapidly, in the time of one syllable.
907.to-brek’th, bursts in pieces. go, gone. This must have been a very common result; the old directions about ‘luting’ and hermetically sealing the vessels employed are so strict, that every care seems to have been (unwittingly) taken to secure an explosion; see note to l. 766 above. So in the Alchemist, iv. 3:—
921.chit, short for chideth; so also halt for holdeth.
922.Som seyde, i. e. one said; note that som is here singular, as in Kn. Tale, 2173 (A. 3031). Hence the use of the thridde, i. e. the third, in l. 925.
923.Lungs was a nickname for a fire-blower to an alchemist. See Lungs in Nares’ Glossary.
929.so theech, for so thee ich, so may I thrive. See Pard. Tale, C. 947.
933.eft-sone, for the future; lit. soon afterwards.
934. ‘I am quite sure that the pot was cracked.’
938.mullok, rubbish. This is a common provincial E. word; see (in the E. Dial. Society’s Publications) Ray’s Glossary, p. 57; and the Glossaries for Wilts., Hants., Lancashire, &c.
962. The reading shyneth is of course the right one. In the margin of MS. E. is written ‘Non teneas aurum,’ &c. This proves that Tyrwhitt’s note is quite correct. He says—‘This is taken from the Parabolae of Alanus de Insulis, who died in 1294; see Leyser, Hist. Poetarum Medii Ævi, p. 1074.
Shakespeare has—‘All that glisters is not gold’; Merch. of Venice, ii. 7. 65. Hazlitt’s English Proverbs has—‘All is not gold that glisters (Heywood). See Chaucer, Chan. Yeom. Prol.; Roxburghe Ballads, ed. Collier, p. 102; Udall’s Royster Doyster, 1566, where we read: All things that shineth is not by and by pure golde (Act v. sc. 1). Fronti nulla fides, Juvenal, Sat. ii. 8. The French say, Tout ce qui luict n’est pas or. Non é oro tutto quel che luce; Ital. No es todo or lo que reluce; Span.’ So in German—‘Est ist nicht Alles Gold was glänzt’; and again—‘Rothe Aepfel sind auch faul.’ See Ida v. Düringsfeld’s Sprichwörter, i. 53, 107. Cf. Chaucer’s House of Fame, i. 272.
972.Pars secunda. This is where the Tale begins. Even now, the Yeoman has some more to say by way of preface, and only makes a real start at l. 1012.
975.Alisaundre, Alexandria. and other three, and three more as well.
999.I mente, I intended; as in l. 1051 below. ‘But my intention was to correct that which is amiss.’
The reading I-ment, as a past participle, adopted by Mr. Wright, is incorrect, as shewn by Mr. Cromie’s Ryme-Index. Cf. Nonne Pr. Tale, 604 (B. 4614); Sq. Tale, F. 108. See note to G. 534 above.
1005.by yow, with reference to you canons. See By in Wright’s Bible Word-book.
1012.annueleer. So called, as Tyrwhitt explains, ‘from their being employed solely in singing annuals or anniversary masses for the dead, without any cure of souls. See the Stat. 36 Edw. III. c. viii, where the Chappelleins Parochiels are distinguished from others chantanz annuales, et a cure des almes nient entendantz. They were both to receive yearly stipends, but the former was allowed to take six marks, the latter only five. Compare Stat. 2 Hen. V. St. 2. c. 2, where the stipend of the Chapellein Parochiel is raised to eight marks, and that of the Chapellein annueler (he is so named in the statute) to seven.’ See also the note at p. 505 of Wyclif’s Works, ed. Matthew (E. E. T. S.); and Monumenta Franciscana, p. 605.
1015. That is, to the lady of the house where he lodged.
1018.spending-silver, money to spend, ready money. The phrase occurs in Piers the Plowman, B. xi. 278.
1024.a certeyn, a certain sum, a stated sum. Cf. l. 776.
1027.at my day, on the day agreed upon, on the third day.
1029.Another day, another time, on the next occasion.
1030.him took, handed over to him; so in ll. 1034, 1112.
1055. ‘In some measure to requite your kindness.’ See note to Sq. Tale, F. 471, and cf. l. 1151.
1059.seen at yë, see evidently; lit. see at eye.
1066. ‘Proffered service stinketh’ is among Heywood’s Proverbs. Ray remarks on it—‘Merx ultronea putet, apud Hieronymum. Erasmus saith, Quin uulgo etiam in ore est, ultro delatum obsequium plerumque ingratum esse. So that it seems this proverb is in use among the Dutch too. In French, Merchandise offerte est à demi vendue. Ware that is proffered is sold for half the worth, or at half the price.’ The German is—‘Angebotene Hülfe hat keinen Lohn’; see Ida v. Düringsfeld’s Sprichwörter, i. 86.
1096.Algates, at any rate. Observe the context.
1103.that we it hadde, that we might have it. Hadde is here the subjunctive. Perhaps have would be better, but it lacks authority.
1126.mortifye, mortify; a technical term. See note to l. 1431.
1151. ‘To blind the priest with.’ See note to l. 1055.
1171. For torned, read terved, i. e. flayed, skinned; MS. E. has terued (so it may be read). See l. 1274.
1185.Seint Gyles, saint Giles; a corrupted form of Ægidius. His day is Sept. 1; see Chambers’ Book of Days, ii. 296; Legenda Aurea, cap. cxxx.; or Caxton’s Golden Legende.
1204–1205. The rime is given by týmë (two syllables, from A. S. tīma) riming with by me.
On referring to Prof. Child’s Observations on the Language of Gower, I find seven references given for this rime, as occurring in the edition by Dr. Pauli. The references are—i. 227, 309, 370; ii. 41, 114, 277; iii. 369. Dr. Pauli prints byme as one word!
1210. The last foot contains the words—or a pannë.
1238–1239. MS. E. omits these two lines: the other MSS. retain them.
1244.halwes is in the genitive plural. ‘And the blessing of all the saints may ye have, Sir Canon!’
1245. ‘And may I have their malison,’ i.e. their curse.
1274. For torne, read terve, i. e. flay; as in MS. E. Cf. l. 1171.
1283. ‘Why do you wish it to be better than well?’ Answering nearly to—‘what would you have better?’
1292. A rather lax line. Is ther is to be pronounced rapidly, in the time of one syllable, and her-inne is of three syllables.
1299. Pronounce simple as simpl’; tong-e is dissyllabic.
1313.his ape, his dupe. See Prol. 706, B. 1630. The simile is evidently taken from the fact that showmen used to carry apes about with them much as organ-boys do at the present day, the apes being secured by a string. Thus, ‘to make a man one’s ape’ is to lead him about at will. The word apewarde occurs in Piers the Plowman, B. v. 540. To lead apes means to lead about a train of dupes.
1319.heyne, wretch. This word has never before been properly explained. It is not in Tyrwhitt’s Glossary. Dr. Morris considers it as another form of hyne, a peasant, or hind, but leaves the phonetic difference of vowel unaccounted for; the words are clearly distinct. It occurs in Skelton’s Bowge of Courte, l. 327:—
Here Mr. Dyce also explains it by hind, or servant, whereas the context requires the opposite meaning of a despised master. Halliwell gives—‘Heyne, a miser, a worthless person’; but without a reference. It means ‘miser’ in Udall’s translation of Erasmus’ Apophthegmes (1564), where it occurs thrice. Thus, in bk. i. § 106, we find: ‘Soch a niggard or hayn, that he coulde not finde in his harte . . to departe with an halfpeny.’ In the same, § 22, we find: ‘haines and niggardes of their purse’; and, for a third example, see note to Parl. Foules, 610 (vol. i. p. 523). The word seems to be Scandinavian; cf. Icel. hegna, Dan. hegne, to hedge in, Swed. hägna, to fence, guard, protect; whence Lowl. Sc. hain, to hedge in, to preserve, to spare, to save money, to be penurious (Jamieson).
1320. ‘This priest being meanwhile unaware of his false practice.’ See l. 1324.
1342. Alluding to the proverb—‘As fain as a fowl [i. e. bird] of a fair morrow’; given by Hazlitt in the form—‘As glad as fowl of a fair day.’ See Piers the Plowman, B. x. 153; Kn. Tale, 1579 (A. 2437).
1348.To stonde in grace; cf. Prol. 88; also A. 1173.
1354.By our; pronounced By’r, as spelt in Shakespeare, Mid. Nt. Dr. iii. 1. 14.
1362.nere, for ne were; meaning ‘were it not for.’
1381.sy, saw. The scribes also use the form sey or seigh, as in Kn. Tale, 208 (A. 1066); Franklin’s Tale, F. 850, in both of which places it rimes with heigh (high). Of these spellings sey (riming with hey) is to be preferred in most cases. See note to Group B, l. 1.
1388. This line begins with a large capital C in the Ellesmere MS., shewing that the Tale itself is at an end, and the rest is the Yeoman’s application of it.
1389. ‘There is strife between men and gold to that degree, that there is scarcely any (gold) left.’
1408. Alluding to the proverb—‘Burnt bairns fear fire.’ This occurs among the Proverbs of Hendyng, in the form—‘Brend child fur dredeth.’ So in the Romaunt of the Rose, l. 1820—‘Brent child of fyr hath muche drede.’ The German is—‘Ein gebranntes Kind fürchtet das Feuer’; see Ida v. Düringsfeld’s Sprichwörter, i. 531.
1410. Alluding to the proverb—‘Better late than never’; in French ‘Il vaut mieux tard que jamais.’ The German is—‘Besser spät als nie’; see Ida v. Düringsfeld’s Sprichwörter, i. 204.
1411. In Hazlitt’s Proverbs—‘Never is a long term.’
1413.Bayard was a colloquial name for a horse; see Piers Plowman, B. iv. 53, 124; vi. 196; and ‘As bold as blind Bayard’ was a common proverb. See also Troil. i. 218; Gower, Conf. Amant. iii. 44; Skelton, ed. Dyce, ii. 139, 186. ‘Bot al blustyrne forth unblest as Bayard the blynd’; Awdelay’s Poems, p. 48.
1416. ‘As to turn aside from an obstacle in the road.’
1419. Compare this with the Man of Lawes Tale, B. 552.
1422.rape and renne, seize and clutch. The phrase, as it stands, is meaningless; rapen is to hurry, and rennen is to run, both verbs being intransitive. But it took the place of the older phrase repen and rinen (Ancren Riwle, p. 128), from A. S. hrepian and hrīnan, to handle and touch. The Ancren Riwle gives the form arepen and arechen, with the various readings repen and rinen, ropen and rimen. Ihre quotes the English ‘rap and ran, per fas et nefas ad se pertrahere.’ Mr. Wedgwood notices rap and ran, to get by hook or crook, to seize whatever one can lay hands on, but misses the etymology. Palsgrave has—‘I rap or rende, je rapine.’ Coles (Eng. Dict. ed. 1684) has ‘rap an[d] ren, snatch and catch.’ ‘All they could rap and rend and pilfer’; Butler, Hudibras, pt. ii. c. 2. 789. (First ed., rap and run.) The phrase is still in use in the (corrupted) form to rape and rend, or (in Cleveland) to rap and ree.
Briefly, rape, properly to hurry (Icel. hrapa), is a false substitute for A. S. hrepian, allied to G. raffen; whilst renne, to run, is a false substitute for A. S. hrīnan, to touch, lay hold of.
1428. Arnoldus de Villa Nova was a French physician, theologian, astrologer, and alchemist; born about 1235, died 1314. Tyrwhitt refers us to Fabricius, Bibl. Med. Æt., in v. Arnaldus Villanovanus. In a tract printed in Theatrum Chemicum, iii. 285, we have a reference to the same saying—‘Et hoc est illud quod magni philosophi scripserunt, quod lapis noster fit ex Mercurio et sulphure praeparatis et separatis, et de hoc opere et substantia dicit Magister Arnoldus in tractatu suo parabolice, nisi granum frumenti in terra cadens mortuum fuerit, &c. Intelligens pro grano mortuo in terra, Mercurium mortuum cum sale petrae et vitriolo Romano, et cum sulphure; et ibi mortificatur, et ibi sublimatur cum igne, et sic multum fructus adfert, et hic est lapis major omnibus, quem philosophi quaesi-verunt, et inventum absconderunt.’ The whole process is described, but it is quite unintelligible to me. It is clear that two circumstances stand very much in the way of our being able to follow out such processes; these are (1) that the same substance was frequently denoted by six or seven different names; and (2) that one name (such as sulphur) denoted five or six different things (such as sulphuric acid, orpiment, sulphuret of arsenic, &c.).
1429.Rosarie, i.e. Rosarium Philosophorum, the name of a treatise on alchemy by Arnoldus de Villa Nova; Theat. Chem. iv. 514.
1431. The word mortification seems to have been loosely used to denote any change due to chemical action. Phillips explained Mortify by—‘Among chymists, to change the outward form or shape of a mixt body; as when quicksilver, or any other metal, is dissolved in an acid menstruum.’
1432. ‘Unless it be with the knowledge (i. e. aid) of his brother.’ The ‘brother’ of Mercury was sulphur or brimstone (see l. 1439). The dictum itself is, I suppose, as worthless as it is obscure.
1434.Hermes, i. e. Hermes Trismegistus, fabled to have been the inventor of alchemy. Several books written by the New Platonists in the fourth century were ascribed to him. Tyrwhitt notes that a treatise under his name may be found in the Theatrum Chemicum, vol. iv. See Fabricius, Bibliotheca Graeca, lib. i. c. 10; and Smith’s Classical Dictionary. The name is preserved in the phrase ‘to seal hermetically.’
Mr. Furnivall printed, for the Early Eng. Text Society, a tract called The Book of Quinte Essence, ‘a treatice in Englisch breuely drawe out of the book of quintis essenciis in latyn, that Hermys the prophete and kyng of Egipt, after the flood of Noe, fadir of philosophris, hadde by reuelacioun of an aungil of god to him sende.’
1438.dragoun, dragon. Here, of course, it means mercury, or some compound containing it. In certain processes, the solid residuum was also called draco or draco qui comedit caudam suam. This draco and the cauda draconis are frequently mentioned in the old treatises; see Theatrum Chemicum, iii. 29, 36, &c. The terms may have been derived from astrology, since ‘dragon’s head’ and ‘dragon’s tail’ were common terms in that science. Chaucer mentions the latter in his Astrolabe, ii. 4. 23. And see ‘Draco’ in Theat. Chem. ii. 456.
1440.sol and luna, gold and silver. The alchemists called sol (gold) the father, and luna (silver) the mother of the elixir or philosopher’s stone. See Theat. Chem. iii. 9, 24, 25; iv. 528. Similarly, sulphur was said to be the father of minerals, and mercury the mother. Id. iii. 7.
1447.secree, secret of secrets. Tyrwhitt notes—‘Chaucer refers to a treatise entitled Secreta Secretorum, which was supposed to contain the sum of Aristotle’s instructions to Alexander. See Fabricius, Bibliotheca Graeca, vol. ii. p. 167. It was very popular in the middle ages. Ægidius de Columnâ, a famous divine and bishop, about the latter end of the 13th century, built upon it his book De Regimine Principum, of which our Occleve made a free translation in English verse, and addressed it to Henry V. while Prince of Wales. A part of Lydgate’s translation of the Secreta Secretorum is printed in Ashmole’s Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, p. 397. He did not translate more than about half of it, being prevented by death. See MS. Harl. 2251, and Tanner, Bibl. Brit. s. v. Lydgate. The greatest part of the viith Book of Gower’s Confessio Amantis [see note to l. 820] is taken from this supposed work of Aristotle.’ In the Theatrum Chemicum, iii. 14, I find an allusion to the philosopher’s stone ending with these words—‘Et Aristoteles ad Alexandrum Regem dicit in libro de secretis secretorum, capitulo penultimo: O Alexander, accipe lapidem mineralem, vegetabilem, et animalem, et separa elementa.’ See Warton, Hist. Eng. Poetry, sect. 19; iii. 19 (ed. 1871), or ii. 230 (ed. 1840).
1450. Tyrwhitt says—‘The book alluded to is printed in the Theatrum Chemicum, vol. v. p. 219 [p. 191, ed. 1660], under this title, Senioris Zadith fil. Hamuelis Tabula Chemica. The story which follows of Plato and his disciples is there told, p. 249 [p. 224, ed. 1660], with some variations, of Solomon. “Dixit Salomon rex, Recipe lapidem qui dicitur Thitarios (sic) . . . Dixit sapiens, Assigna mihi illum . . . Dixit, Est corpus magnesiae. . . . Dixit, Quid est magnesia? . . . Respondit, Magnesia est aqua, composita,” &c.’ The name of Plato occurs thrice only a few lines below, which explains Chaucer’s mistake. We find ‘Titan Magnesia’ in Ashmole’s Theat. Chem. p. 275; cf. pp. 42, 447. The Gk. τίτανος means lime, gypsum, white earth, chalk, &c.
1457.ignotum per ignotius, lit. an unknown thing through a thing more unknown; i. e. an explanation of a hard matter by means of a term that is harder still.
1460. The theory that all things were made of the four elements, earth, air, fire, and water, was the foundation on which all alchemy was built; and it was the obstinacy with which this idea was held that rendered progress in science almost impossible. The words were used in the widest sense; thus air meant any vapour or gas; water, any liquid; earth, any solid sediment; and fire, any amount of heat. Hence also the theory of the four complexions of men; for even man was likewise composed of the four elements, under the influence of the planets and stars. See Gower, Conf. Amant. bk. vii; Theat. Chem. iii. 82; iv. 533, 537; and the note to A. 420, at p. 40 above.
1461.rote represents the Lat. radix. In the Theat. Chem., ii. 463, we read that the philosopher’s stone ‘est radix, de quo omnes sapientes tractauerunt.’
1469. ‘Except where it pleases His Deity to inspire mankind, and again, to forbid whomsoever it pleases Him.’
1479.terme of his lyve, during the whole term of his life.
1481.bote of his bale, a remedy for his evil, help out of his trouble.
NOTES TO GROUP H.