Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Maunciples Tale. - Notes to the Canterbury Tales (Works vol. 5)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
The Maunciples 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The Maunciples Tale.
This story, of Eastern origin, is told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, bk. ii. ll. 534–550, whence Chaucer evidently took it. Gower, also following Ovid, gives the story very briefly; see his Conf. Amantis, ed. Pauli, i. 305. Compare the tale of the three cocks, Gesta Romanorum, cap. 68; also the Seven Sages, ed. Weber, l. 2201 (Metrical Rom. vol. iii. p. 86). Somewhat similar in idea is a tale in the Knight de la Tour, c. 16. See further in vol. iii. p. 501.
109.Phitoun, the Python, shot by Apollo; see Ovid, Met. i. 438–444; Dryden, trans. of Ovid’s Met., i. 587.
116.Amphioun, Amphion; see note to E. 1716. Cf. Horace, De Arte Poetica, l. 394.
Gower has:—‘Wel more white than any swan.’
139. Ovid gives her name, Coronis of Larissa.
148. As indicated by a side-note in Hn., this passage is taken directly from the Liber Aureolus de Nuptiis of Theophrastus, as cited by St. Jerome near the end of the first Book of his treatise against Jovinian. Cf. note to D. 221.
The passage from Theophrastus is:—‘Verum quid prodest etiam diligens custodia: cum uxor seruari impudica non possit, pudica non debeat? Infida enim custos est castitatis necessitas: et illa uere pudica dicenda est, cui licuit peccare si uoluit. Pulchra cito adamatur, foeda facile concupiscit. Difficile custoditur, quod plures amant.’—Hieron. Opus Epistolarum (Basil. 1534); ii. 51.
161. Cf. Horace, Epist. I. x. 24—‘Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret,’ &c. And this is the very passage which Chaucer had in view, as it is quoted and commented on in Le Roman de la Rose, 14221–8, &c. Jean de Meun adds the comment:—
This passage in Le Roman is preceded by the illustration of the caged bird, and followed by that of the cat; see ll. 163, 175. Further, Jean de Meun took the illustration of the caged bird from Boethius; see next note.
163. From Boethius; see the note to F. 607. It reappears in Le Roman de la Rose, 14145–62; beginning—
Compare Sq. Ta., F. 611–617. It is interesting to see how Chaucer has repeated the passage, and yet so greatly varied the form of it. We find, however, that silk and milk rime together in both cases.
175.Not from Boethius, but from Le Roman de la Rose, 14241, &c.:—
183. This is taken from a different part of Le Roman altogether, and is founded on a different argument, viz. the perversity of women’s choice, as noticed in ll. 198–200 below. See Le Rom. de la Rose, 7799–7804:—
vileins kinde, nature of a villain, a villainous or base disposition. Practically, vileins has here the force of an adjective, and came to be so regarded, as shewn by the formation from it of the adv. vileinsly, which occurs in I. 154, and elsewhere. Similarly, the gen. case wonders became the adj. wonders, which was gradually turned into wondrous; see Wondrous in my Etym. Dictionary.
This adj. vileyns, with the sense of ‘villainous,’ is unnoticed in Halliwell and Stratmann. Yet Chaucer uses it often, as the reader may see for himself. See D. 1158, 1268, I. 556, 631, 652, 715, 802, 854, 914; and hence vileinsly, adv., I. 154, 279, Rom. Rose, 1498.
193.newefangel, eager of novelty; see note to F. 618.
195.souneth in-to, accords with; see notes to A. 307, B. 3157, C. 54, and F. 517.
204.lemman, short for leef man, lit. dear man. The context shews that it was considered a ‘knavish’ word at this period.
207–8. Repeated from Prol. 741–2; see note to A. 741.
215. The line, as it stands, is deficient in the first foot, and is not pleasing. Tyrwhitt reads any for a. This improves it; but I do not know where he found any. The old editions of 1550 and 1561 have a, like the MSS.
220.wenche, like lemman, was a ‘knavish’ word; see E. 2202.
223.titlelees, title-less, glossed in Hn. by the words sine titulo. It means ‘usurping,’ as applied to one who has no title or claim to a throne except force. Obviously written before 1399!
224. Here out-law-e is trisyllabic, and the final e is preserved by the caesura. But in l. 231 the accent is thrown back, and it is dissyllabic, as in modern English. Tyrwhitt puts any for a, against all authority.
227. This well-known story of Alexander occurs in the Gesta Romanorum, c. 146: and this circumstance gave it vogue. In Swan’s translation, the tale begins thus:—‘Augustine tells us in his book, De Civitate Dei, that Diomedes, in a piratical galley, for a long time infested the sea, plundering and sinking many ships. Being captured by command of Alexander, before whom he was brought, the king inquired how he dared to molest the seas. “How darest thou,” replied he, “molest the earth? Because I am master only of a single galley, I am termed a robber; but you, who oppress the world with huge squadrons, are called a king and a conquerour.” ’ John of Salisbury repeats the story in his Policraticus, lib. iii. c. 14. Cf. Higden, Polychron. iii. 422.
239.volage, giddy, thoughtless; cf. E. volatile. See the E. version of the Romaunt of the Rose, l. 1284 (vol. i. p. 147).
243. It was already understood that cuckoo was, as Shakespeare says, ‘a word of fear’; see Love’s Labour’s Lost, v. 2. 920. In the Parl. of Foules, 358, we find: ‘the cukkow ever unkinde’; vol. i. p. 348.
252.blered is thyn ye, thine eye is bleared or dimmed, i. e. thou art deceived or cajoled. See A. 4049.
262.wryen, to turn aside hastily; see A. 3283.
271.scorpioun, scorpion. Alluding to the notion that the scorpion, though its sting was deadly, had a flattering tongue, and could beguile. See notes to B. 404, E. 2059.
278.rakel, rash, hasty; afterwards altered to rake-hell, by a curious popular etymology; and then shortened to rake, as in the phrase ‘a dissolute rake.’ See rake (2) in my Etym. Dictionary. Cf. l. 283.
279.trouble, adj., troubled, clouded, obscured. Tyrwhitt explains it by ‘dark, gloomy,’ with reference to its occurrence in E. 465 above. And see Pers. Tale, I. 537.
Compare the Friar’s sermon, on the subject of Ire, in D. 2005–2088, and the description of the same in the Pers. Tale, I. 535–561.
290.fordoon, destroyed. For and (as in E. Cm.) Hn. Cp. Pt. Ln. have or.
In place of this line, Hl. has the following extraordinary variation:—
‘Fordoon, or dun hath brought hem in the myre.’
This shews that the scribe remembered the fifth line in the Manciple’s Prologue, and thought fit to re-introduce it here, where it is wholly out of place. This is one of the many signs of the untrustworthiness of this grossly over-rated MS.
294.songe, didst sing; A. S. sunge.
301. See the Parl. of Foules, l. 363, and the note (vol. i. pp. 520–1).
306.slong, slung, threw violently; needlessly altered by Tyrwhitt to flong. So in the Seven Sages, ed. Weber, l. 1316:—‘Amidde the pit he hit slong.’ As s and f are often confused, I give some alliterative examples from the Geste Historyale of the Destruction of Troy (E. E. T. S.):—
307.which, to whom; i. e. ‘to whom I commit him.’
314.Daun, Dan, i. e. lord, sir; see note to B. 3119.
Salomon, Solomon; the reference is to Prov. xxi. 23; cf. Ps. xxxiv. 13.
317. Sayings similar to those quoted below are common; but Dr. E. Köppel has shewn (in Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen, ed. L. Herrig, vol. lxxxvi, p. 44) that Chaucer had particularly in mind a treatise by Albertano of Brescia, entitled De arte loquendi et tacendi. He refers us to a new edition by Thor Sundby, in a work entitled Brunetto Latinos levnet og skrifter, Kopenhagen, 1869.
We may further compare a passage in Le Roman de la Rose, 7069, which professes to follow Ptolemy’s Almagest. And we find similar pieces of advice in Middle English, with such titles as ‘How the Good Wife taught her Daughter,’ and ‘How the Wise man taught his Son’; but these are probably later than the time of Chaucer.
325. The corresponding passage in Albertano’s treatise is the following, p. xcviii:—‘Paucos vel neminem tacendo, multos loquendo circumventos vidimus, quod pulchre voluit, qui ait: Nil tacuisse nocet, nocet esse saepe locutum.’ This hexameter is quoted from Dionysius Cato, Distich. lib. i. dist. 12, slightly altered. Cato has: ‘Nam nulli tacuisse nocet, nocet esse locutum.’ Cf. the common proverb—‘a fool’s bolt is soon shot,’ which appears in the Proverbs of Alfred, l. 421. As to Cato, see note to G. 688.
329. The corresponding passage in Albertano is:—‘Causa igitur finalis tui dicti sit aut pro Dei servitio aut pro humano commodo, aut pro utroque’; p. cx.
332. In Albertano’s treatise, p. xcvi, we find:—‘Catho dixit: Virtutem primam esse puta compescere linguam.’ From Dion. Cato, Distich. lib. i. dist. 3. Chaucer quotes it again in Troilus, iii. 294. Cf. Le Rom. de la Rose, 7073–4.
335. Cf. Albertano, p. cxv:—‘In quantitate insuper modum requiras non multa dicendo; nam in multiloquio non deest peccatum.’ This refers to Prov. x. 19:—‘In multiloquio non deerit peccatum.’
340. Cf. Ps. lvii. 4:—‘and their tongue a sharp sword.’
344. See Prov. vi. 17, where ‘a lying tongue’ is said to be one of the seven things which ‘are an abomination unto’ the Lord. See also Prov. x. 31, xvii. 20, xxvi. 28, &c.
345. Cf. Ps. x. 7, xii. 3, lii. 2, lxiv. 3-8, cxx. 3, &c. The reference to Seneca is, probably, to his treatise De Ira, from which two stories in the Sompnours Tale are taken; or it may be to the Sentences of Publilius Syrus, which are frequently quoted in the Tale of Melibeus under the name of ‘Senek.’
350. Evidently an allusion to some Flemish proverb, equivalent to our ‘least said, soonest mended,’ which Hazlitt gives in the form—‘Little said, soon amended.’ In Bell’s edition, the suggested form of the proverb is—‘of little meddling comes great ease,’ which comes nearer to the text. Chaucer has already given us a Flemish proverb in A. 4357.
355. ‘Et semel emissum fugit irreuocabile uerbum’; Horace, Epist. I. xviii. 71. Chaucer found this line of Horace in Albertano’s treatise (p. xcviii); or in Le Roman, 16746–8.
357. Cf. Albertano’s treatise, p. cvi:—‘Consilium vel secretum tuum absconditum quasi in carcere tuo est reclusum; revelatum vero te in carcere suo tenet ligatum.’
359. This is clearly, as Tyrwhitt suggests, from Dionysius Cato, Distich. lib. i. dist. 12:—‘Rumores fuge, ne incipias novus auctor haberi.’
NOTES TO GROUP I.