Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Manciple's Prologue. - Notes to the Canterbury Tales (Works vol. 5)
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The Manciple’s Prologue. - Geoffrey Chaucer, Notes to the Canterbury Tales (Works vol. 5) 
The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited from numerous manuscripts by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899). 7 vols. Vol. 5.
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The Manciple’s Prologue.
1.Wite ye, know ye. The singular is I woot, A. S. ic wāt, Mœso-Goth. ik wait; the plural is we witen or we wite, A. S. we witon, Mœso-Goth. weis witum. See l. 82, where the right form occurs. But it is certain that Chaucer also uses the construction ye woot, as in A. 829, &c.; which, strictly speaking, was ungrammatical.
2.Bob-up-and-doun. This place is here described as being ‘under the Blee,’ i. e. under Blean Forest. It is also between Boughton-under-Blean (see Group G, l. 556) and Canterbury. This situation suits very well with Harbledown, and it has generally been supposed that Harbledown is here intended. Harbledown is spelt Herbaldoun in the account of Queen Isabella’s journey to Canterbury (see Furnivall’s Temporary Preface, p. 31; p. 124, l. 18; p. 127, l. 21), and Helbadonne in the account of King John’s journey (id. p. 131, l. 1). However, Mr. J. M. Cowper, in a letter to The Athenæum, Dec. 26, 1868, p. 886, says that there still exists a place called Up-and-down Field, in the parish of Thannington, which would suit the position equally well, and he believes it to be the place really meant. If so, the old road must have taken a somewhat different direction from the present one, and there are reasons for supposing that such may have been the case. This letter is reprinted in Furnivall’s Temporary Preface (Ch. Soc.), p. 32.
The break here between the Canon’s Yeoman’s and the Manciple’s Tales answers to the break between the first and second parts of Lydgate’s Storie of Thebes. At the end of Part I, Lydgate mentions the descent down the hill (i. e. Boughton hill), and at the beginning of Part II, he says that the pilgrims, on their return from Canterbury, had ‘passed the thorp of Boughton-on-the-blee.’
5.Dun is in the myre, a proverbial saying originally used in an old rural sport. Dun means a dun horse, or, like Bayard, a horse in general. The game is described in Brand’s Popular Antiquities, 4to. ii. 289; and in Gifford’s notes to Ben Jonson, vol. vii. p. 283. The latter explanation is quoted by Nares, whom see. Briefly, the game was of this kind. A large log of wood is brought into the midst of a kitchen or large room. The cry is raised that ‘Dun is in the mire,’ i. e. that the cart-horse is stuck in the mud. Two of the company attempt to drag it along; if they fail, another comes to help, and so on, till Dun is extricated.
There are frequent allusions to it; see Hoccleve, De Regimine Principum, p. 86; Skelton, Garland of Laurell, l. 1433; Towneley Mysteries, p. 310; Romeo and Juliet, i. 4. 41; Beaumont and Fletcher’s Woman-hater, iv. 3; Hudibras, pt. iii. c. iii. l. 110.
In the present passage it means—‘we are all at a standstill’; or ‘let us make an effort to move on.’ Mr. Hazlitt, in his Proverbial Phrases, quotes a line—‘And all gooth bacward, and don is in the myr.’
12.Do him come forth, make him come forward. Cf. Group B, 1888, 1889.
14.a botel hay, a bottle of hay; similarly, we have a barel ale, Monk’s Prol. B. 3083. And see l. 24 below. A bottle of hay was a small bundle of hay, less than a truss, as explained in my note to The Two Noble Kinsmen, v. 2. 45. ‘Nec vendant [foenum] per botellum’; Liber Albus, p. 721.
16.by the morwe, in the morning. There is no need to explain away the phrase, or to say that it means in the afternoon, as Tyrwhitt does. The Canon’s Yeoman’s tale is the first told on the third day, and the Manciple’s is only the second. The Cook seems to have taken too much to drink over night, and to have had something more before starting. The fresh air has kept him awake for a while at first, but he is now very drowsy indeed.
Tyrwhitt well remarks that there is no allusion here to the unfinished Cook’s Tale in Group A. This seems to shew that the Manciple’s Prologue was written before the Cook’s Tale was begun. Note that the Cook is here excused; l. 29.
23. ‘I know not why, but I would rather go to sleep than have the best gallon of wine in Cheapside.’ me were lever slepe, lit. it would be dearer to me to sleep.
24.Than constitutes the first foot; beste is dissyllabic.
29.as now, for the present; a common phrase.
33.not wel disposed, indisposed in health.
42.fan, the fan or vane or board of the quintain. The quintain, as is well known, consisted of a cross-bar turning on a pivot at the top of a post. At one end of the cross-bar was the fan or board, sometimes painted to look like a shield, and at the other was a club or bag of sand. The jouster at the fan had to strike the shield, and at the same time to avoid the stroke given by the swinging bag. The Cook was hardly in a condition for this; his eye and hand were alike unsteady, and his figure did not suggest that he possessed the requisite agility. See Quintain in Nares, and Strutt’s Sports and Pastimes, bk. iii. c. 1; As You Like It, i. 2. 263, on which see Mr. Wright’s note (Clar. Press Series); Stow, Survey of London, ed. Thoms, pp. 36, 215.
44.wyn ape, ape-wine, or ape’s wine. Tyrwhitt rightly considers this the same as the vin de singe in the Calendrier des Bergers, sign. l. ii. b., where the author speaks of the different effects produced by wine upon different men, according to their temperaments. ‘The Cholerick, he says, a vin de lyon; cest a dire, quant a bien beu, veult tanser, noyser, et battre. The Sanguine a vin de singe; quant a plus beu, tant est plus joyeux. In the same manner, the Phlegmatic is said to have vin de mouton, and the Melancholick vin de porceau.’
Tyrwhitt adds—‘I find the same four animals applied to illustrate the effects of wine in a little Rabbinical tradition, which I shall transcribe here from Fabricius, Cod. Pseudepig. Veteris Testamenti, vol. i. p. 275. “Vineas plantanti Noacho Satanam se junxisse memorant, qui, dum Noa vites plantaret, mactaverit apud illas ovem, leonem, simiam, et suem: Quod principio potûs vini homo sit instar ovis, vinum sumptum efficiat ex homine leonem, largius haustum mutet eum in saltantem simiam, ad ebrietatem infusum transformet illum in pollutam et prostratam suem.” See also Gesta Romanorum, c. 159, where a story of the same purport is quoted from Josephus, in libro de casu rerum naturalium.’ Wine of ape occurs in a detailed proverb, in Le Roux de Lincy, Prov. Franç. 1842, p. 157. The most ancient source is the Talmudical Parable, given in Rabbinische Blumenlese, Leipzig, 1844, p. 192, by Leopold Dukes (N. and Q. S. i. xii. 123).
In Bernardus de Cura Rei Familiaris, ed. Lumby, p. 13, a drunken man is thus described:—
And Lydgate, in his Troy-book, L. 1, back, col. 2, says of one:—‘And with a strawe playeth lyke an ape.’
Warton (Hist. E. P. ed. 1871, i. 283) gives a slight sketch of chapter 159 in the Gesta, referring to Tyrwhitt’s note, and explaining it in the words—‘when a man begins to drink, he is meek and ignorant as the lamb, then becomes bold as the lion, his courage is soon transformed into the foolishness of the ape, and at last he wallows in the mire like a sow.’
In Colyn Blowboll’s Testament, l. 280 (pr. in Hazlitt’s Early Pop. Poetry, i. 104–5) we find:—
Barclay, in his Ship of Fools, ed. Jamieson, i. 96, speaking of drunken men, says—
‘Some sowe-dronke, swaloyng mete without mesure.’
‘Some are Ape-dronke, full of lawghter and of toyes.’
The following interesting explanation by Lacroix is much to the same effect:—
‘In Germany and in France it was the custom at the public entries of kings, princes, and persons of rank, to offer them the wines made in the district, and commonly sold in the town. At Langres, for instance, these wines were put into four pewter vessels called cimaises, which are still to be seen. They were called the lion, monkey, sheep, and pig wines—symbolic names, which expressed the different degrees or phases of drunkenness which they were supposed to be capable of producing: the lion, courage; the monkey, cunning; the sheep, good temper; the pig, bestiality.’—P. Lacroix; Manners, Customs, and Dress during the Middle Ages, 1874, p. 508.
Massinger has: ‘Nay, if you are lion-drunk, I will make one’; The Bondman, A. iii. sc. 3.
A note in Bell’s edition quotes an illustrative passage from a song in Lyly’s play of Mother Bombie, printed in the Songs from the Dramatists, ed. Bell, p. 56:—
The idea here intended is precisely that expressed by Barclay. The Cook, being very dull and ill-humoured, is ironically termed ape-drunk, as if he were ‘full of lawghter and of toyes,’ and ready to play even with a straw. The satire was too much for the Cook, who became excited, and fell from his horse in his attempts to oppose the Manciple.
50.chiváchee, feat of horsemanship, exploit. See Prol. 85 for the serious use of the word, where in chivachye means on an (equestrian) expedition. Cf.
‘Bot oute sal ride a chivauchè’;
Ritson’s Ancient Songs, vol. i. p. 46.
51. ‘Alas! he did not stick to his ladle!’ He should have been in a kitchen, basting meat, not out of doors, on the back of a horse.
57.dominacioun, dominion. See note to F. 352. Cf. ‘the righteous shall have domination over them in the morning’; Ps. xlix. 14, Prayerbook Version. See Chaucer’s Minor Poems, xv. 16 (vol. i. p. 394).
62.fneseth, blows, puffs; of which the reading sneseth is a poor corruption, though occurring in all the modern editions. To fnese does not mean to sneeze, but to breathe hard; though sneeze is its modern form.
I have no doubt that the word neesings in Job xli. 18, meaning not ‘sneezings’ but ‘hard breathings,’ is due to the word fnesynge, by which Wyclif translates the Latin sternutatio. In Jer. viii. 16, Wyclif represents the snorting of horses by fnesting. Cf. A. S. fnæst, a puff, a blast, fnæstiað, the windpipe; fnēosung, a hard breathing. Grimm’s law helps us to a further illustration; for, as the English f is a Greek p, a cognate word is at once seen in the common Greek verb πνέω, I breathe or blow. For further examples, see fnast in Stratmann.
pose, a cold in the head. Fully described in Batman upon Bartholomè, lib. vii. c. 4—‘Of the Pose.’ See A. 4152.
72. To reclaim a hawk is to bring it back to the hawker’s hand; this was generally effected by holding out a lure, or something tempting to eat. For young hawks, the lure was an artificial bird made of feathers and leather; see note in Dyce’s Skelton, ii. 147. Here the Host means that some day the Cook will hold out a bait to, or lay a snare for, the Manciple, and get him into his power; for example, he might examine the details of the Manciple’s accounts with an inconvenient precision, and perhaps the amounts charged, if tested, would not appear to be strictly honest. The Manciple replies in all good humour, that such a proceeding might certainly bring him into trouble. See Prol. 570–586. Cf. Strutt, Sports, bk. i. c. 2. § 9.
76. Read mauncipl’, and pronounce were a rapidly.
83. ‘Yea, of an excellent vintage.’
90.pouped, blown; see Nonne Prestes Tale, 578. Here ‘blown upon this horn’ is a jocular phrase for ‘taken a drink out of this gourd.’