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II.: THE COMPLEYNTE UNTO PITE. - Geoffrey Chaucer, The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 1 (Romaunt of the Rose, Minor Poems) 
The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited from numerous manuscripts by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899). 7 vols.
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THE COMPLEYNTE UNTO PITE.
The MSS. are: Tn. (Tanner 346); F. (Fairfax 16); B. (Bodley 638); Sh. (Shirley’s MS., Harl. 78); Ff. (Ff. 1. 6, in Camb. Univ. Library); T., here used for Trin. (Trin. Coll. Camb. R. 3. 19); also Ha. (Harl. 7578). I follow F. mainly, noting all variations of importance.
Here endeth the exclamacion of the Deth of Pyte.
[1. ]F. agoo.
[2. ]F. hert.
[3. ]F. worlde; woo.
[5. ]F. purpose.
[8. ]F. be; B. Sh. T. by. F. certeyne.
[9. ]Sh. Ha. a tyme sought; rest sought a tyme (badly).
[10. ]F. bespreynte.
[11. ]F. prayen. Sh. Ha. wreke; rest awreke.
[14. ]F. fonde; dede.
[15. ]F. Adovne. Ha. alone supplies that.
[16. ]F. Dede; stone; while. T. (and Longleat) a; rest om.
[17. ]F. roose; coloure.
[18. ]F. petously; B. pitously. B. yen; F. eyen; after which all but Sh. and Ha. insert I.
[19. ]Sh. Ha. to; which the rest omit.
[20. ]Sh. shoope; rest shope. F. prey; Sh. preye.
[21. ]For nas, the MSS. wrongly have was; in both places. F. lorne; sey.
[22. ]F. slayne; dede.
[23. ]Tn. shulde; F. shuld.
[24. ]F. hold; hede.
[25. ]All but Sh. and Ha. ins. now bef. any. F. eny.
[26. ]F. caste. Sh. Ha. sleen; F. slee.
[27. ]F. folke redelesse.
[30. ]F. dede.
[31. ]F. mony.
[32. ]F. B. omit she; the rest have it. Only Sh. and T. retain so.
[33. ]F. besely. For ever, Ten Brink reads ay.
[34. ]Only Sh. gives this line correctly; so Ha. (but with any for mannes). F. Sith I hadde firste witte or mynde.
[35. ]F. dede. Sh. Ha. that; rest omit.
[36. ]F. there; lustely.
[38. ]F. Bounte.
[39. ]F. beaute; iolyte.
[40. ]F. honeste.
[41. ]F. Wisdome. F. B. estaat; rest estate; Ten Brink rightly supplies and after Estat (sic). F. drede.
[43. ]Ha. hadde; Sh. hade; rest had. F. honde.
[44. ]Sh. Ha. For; rest omit. F. pittee.
[45. ]F. when. F. fonde.
[46. ]Sh. wolden; F. wolde.
[47. ]F. helpe; helde. Sh. Ha. compleynt; T. cause; rest pleynte or pleynt.
[48. ]F. folke. F. withoute; B. without; Ha. withouten.
[49. ]F. pitee. Ha. may; Sh. ne may; rest ther may.
[50. ]Sh. Ha. þanne leve I alle þees vertues sauf pitee; F. B. Then leve we al vertues saue oonly pite; Tn. Ff. T. Then lene all vertues saue onely pite.
[51. ]F. Kepynge; herde.
[52. ]F. Cofedered (sic). Sh. alle by bonde of (Ha. om. alle); F. Tn. B. Ff. by bonde and by; T. by bound and.
[53. ]Sh. that; rest when.
[54. ]F. complaynt.
[55. ]F. Foes; Tn. foos.
[57. ]F. highest.
[59. ]F. youre rialle.
[60. ]F. Youre; durst.
[61. ]Sh. whiche he is Inne falle; rest in which he is falle: Thynne has yfal; read y-falle.
[62. ]F. oonly.
[64. ]The MSS. insert that after thus, except Sh. and Ha. Sh. contraire; rest contrary.
[65. ]Sh. ageynst; F. ayenst.
[66. ]F. beaute.
[67. ]The MSS. omit ne. F. shulde.
[68. ]F. bounte.
[69. ]Sh. nowe; which the rest omit.
[70. ]Sh. heghte (for highte); Ha. hight; Tn. is hye; F. B. T. is hygh. F. beaute apertenent. The MSS. (except Sh. and Ha.) insert your after to.
[71. ]F. kyndely; youre.
[72. ]Most MSS. be; Ha. been; read been (and in l. 75).
[73. ]F. verrely; youre.
[75. ]F. beaute.
[76. ]Tn. Ff. Ha. wante; rest want; read wanten. F. these tweyn.
[77. ]F. worlde. For nis, all have is. F. seyn.
[78. ]F. Eke.
[79. ]F. yow.
[82. ]F. Wherfore.
[86. ]F. fordoo. Sh. than; rest omit.
[87. ]F. wete well; rest omit well; Tn. wyte.
[88. ]F. Tn. B. Ff. T. insert euer after that, which Sh. rightly omits. Sh. Ha. shoulde be; rest is falle.
[89. ]Sh. thanne; rest also. F. youre.
[90. ]F. youre.
[91. ]Sh. sechen to, B. sekyn to; Tn. Ff. T. seken; F. speken to (for seken to).
[92. ]Tn. F. B. Ff. herenus; T. heremus; Sh. vertuouse (!).
[93. ]F. yow; tendirly.
[94. ]B. som; F. somme. F. streme. Sh. Ha. youre; which the rest omit.
[95. ]Sh. ay; rest euer. Sh. Ha. om. the.
[96. ]F. sothely, Sh. the hevy sore; Ha. the sore; rest so sore (which gives no sense).
[97. ]F. kunnynge.
[98. ]F. goddis.
[100. ]F. lyke.
[101. ]F. Sh. setteth; Ha. set; rest settith; see note. F. hert.
[102. ]F. Eke. F. sydes; rest side, syde. F. where so; goo.
[103. ]Sh. Ha. wo; rest insert my before wo.
[104. ]F. vnsoghte.
[105. ]All omit ne; see note.
[107. ]F. woo.
[109. ]F. wote. Sh. al-jaughe; rest though, thogh.
[110. ]F. B. where; rest whether.
[111. ]All but Sh. and Ha. needlessly insert yet before my.
[114. ]F. soo; rest foo, fo.
[115. ]F. spirite.
[116. ]F. youre; eny.
[117. ]B. yet (sic) be ded; F. Tn. Ff. T. ye be yet ded (which will not scan); Sh. Ha. have a different line—Now pitee þat I haue sought so yoore agoo.
[1.]I do not follow Ten Brink in putting a comma after so. He says: ‘That so refers to the verb [sought] and not to yore ago, is evident from l. 3. Compare the somewhat different l. 93.’ I hope it shews no disrespect to a great critic if I say that I am not at all confident that the above criticism is correct; l. 93 rather tells against it. Observe the reading of l. 117 in MS. Sh. (in the footnotes, p. 276).
[4.]With-oute dethe, i. e. without actually dying.
[7.]Doth me dye, makes me die.
[9.]Ever in oon, continually, constantly, always in the same way; cf. Cant. Tales, E 602, 677, F 417.
[11.]Me awreke. ‘The e of me is elided’; Ten Brink. He compares also Cant. Ta. Prol. 148; (the correct reading of which is, probably—
[14.]The notion of Pity being ‘buried in a heart’ is awkward, and introduces an element of confusion. If Pity could have been buried out of the heart, and thus separated from it, the whole would have been a great deal clearer. This caution is worth paying heed to; for it will really be found, further on, that the language becomes confused in consequence of this very thing. In the very next line, for example, the hearse of Pity appears, and in l. 19 the corpse of Pity; in fact, Pity is never fairly buried out of sight throughout the poem.
[15.]Herse, hearse; cf. l. 36 below. It should be remembered that the old herse was a very different thing from the modern hearse. What Chaucer refers to is what we should now call ‘a lying in state’; with especial reference to the array of lighted torches which illuminated the bier. See the whole of Way’s note in Prompt. Parvulorum, pp. 236, 237, part of which is quoted in my Etym. Dict., s. v. hearse. The word hearse (F. herce) originally denoted a harrow; next, a frame with spikes for holding lights in a church service; thirdly, a frame for lights at a funeral pageant or ‘lying in state’; fourthly, the funeral pageant itself; fifthly, a frame on which a body was laid, and so on. ‘Chaucer,’ says Way, ‘appears to use the term herse to denote the decorated bier, or funeral pageant, and not exclusively the illumination, which was a part thereof; and, towards the sixteenth century, it had such a general signification alone.’ In ll. 36-42, Chaucer describes a company of persons who stood round about the hearse. Cf. Brand’s Popular Antiquities, ed. Ellis, ii. 236-7; Eng. Gilds, ed. Toulmin Smith, p. 176.
[16.]In most MSS., Deed stands alone in the first foot. In which case, scan—Deed | as stoon | whyl that | the swogh | me laste. Cf. A B C, l. 176, and the note. However, two MSS. insert a, as in the text.
[27.]Cf. Deth of Blaunche, l. 587—‘This is my peyne withoute reed’; Ten Brink. See p. 297.
[33.]Ten Brink reads ay for ever, on the ground that ever and never, when followed by a consonant, are dissyllabic in Chaucer. But see Book of the Duchesse, l. 73 (p. 279).
[34.]Hadde, dissyllabic; it occasionally is so; mostly when it is used by itself, as here. Cf. Book of the Duch. l. 951 (p. 309).
[37.]‘Without displaying any sorrow.’ He now practically identifies Pity with the fair one in whose heart it was said (in l. 14) to be buried. This fair one was attended by Bounty, Beauty, and all the rest; they are called a folk in l. 48.
[41.]Insert and after Estaat or Estat, for this word has no final -e in Chaucer; see Prol. A 522; Squi. Tale, F 26; &c.
[44.]‘To have offered to Pity, as a petition’; see note to A B C, 110.
[47.]‘I kept my complaint quiet,’ i. e. withheld it; see l. 54.
[50.]MS. Sh. is right. The scribe of the original of MSS. Tn. Ff. T. left out I and these, and then put in only; then another scribe, seeing that a pronoun was wanted, put in we, as shewn by MSS. F. B. (Ten Brink). Here, and in l. 52, the e of alle is either very lightly sounded after the cæsural pause, or (more likely) is dropped altogether, as elsewhere.
[53.]And been assented, and (who) are all agreed.
[54.]Put up, put by Cf. ‘to put up that letter’; K. Lear, i. 2. 28: &c.
[57.]He here addresses his fair one’s Pity, whom he personifies, and addresses as a mistress.
[59.]Sheweth . . . Your servaunt, Your servant sheweth. Sheweth is the word used in petitions, and servant commonly means ‘lover.’
[63.]Accented rénoun, as in the Ho. of Fame, 1406. Cf. l. 86.
[64.]Crueltee, Cruelty here corresponds to the Fury Tisiphone, who is introduced by Statius (Theb. xi. 483) to suppress the peaceful feelings excited by Pietas, who had been created by Jupiter to control the passions even of the gods (l. 465). At the siege of Thebes, Pietas was for once overruled by Tisiphone; and Chaucer complains here that she is again being controlled; see ll. 80, 89-91. Very similar is the character of Daungere or Danger (F. Dangier) in the Romaunt of the Rose; in l. 3549 of the English Version (l. 3301 of the original), we find Pity saying—
We may also compare Machault’s poem entitled Le Dit du Vergier, where we find such lines as—
[66.]Under colour, beneath the outward appearance.
[67.]‘In order that people should not observe her tyranny.’
[70.]Hight, is (rightly) naed. The final -e, though required by grammar, is suppressed; the word being conformed to other examples of the third person singular of the present tense, whilst hight-e is commonly used as the past tense. Pity’s right name is here said to be ‘Beauty, such as belongs to Favour.’ The poet is really thinking of his mistress rather than his personified Pity. It is very difficult to keep up the allegory.
[71.]‘Heritage, of course, stands in the gen. case’; Ten Brink.
[76.]Wanten, are lacking, are missing, are not found in, fall short. ‘If you, Pity, are missing from Bounty and Beauty.’ There are several similar examples of this use of want in Shakespeare; e. g. ‘there wants no junkets at the feast’; Tam. Shrew, iii. 2. 250.
[78.]This Bille, or Petition, may be divided into three sets of ‘terns,’ or groups of three stanzas. I mark this by inserting a paragraph-mark (¶) at the beginning of each tern. They are marked off by the rimes; the first tern ends with seyne, l. 77; the next with the riming word peyne, l. 98; and again with peyne, l. 119.
[83.]Perilous is here accented on the i.
[87.]Ten Brink omits wel, with most of the MSS.; but the e in wite seems to be suppressed, as in Book of the Duch. 112. It will hardly bear a strong accent. Mr. Sweet retains wel, as I do.
[91.]Pronounce the third word as despeir’d. ‘Compare 1 Kings x. 24: And all the earth sought to Solomon’; Ten Brink.
[92.]Herenus has not hitherto been explained. It occurs in four MSS., Tn. F. B. Ff.; a fifth (T.) has ‘heremus’; the Longleat MS. has ‘heremus’ or ‘herenius’; Sh. substitutes ‘vertuouse,’ and MS. Harl. 7578 has ‘Vertoues’; but it is highly improbable that vertuouse is original, for no one would ever have altered it so unintelligibly. Ten Brink and Mr. Sweet adopt this reading vertuousë, which they make four syllables, as being a vocative case; and of course this is an easy way of evading the difficulty. Dr. Furnivall once suggested hevenus, which I presume is meant for ‘heaven’s’; but this word could not possibly be accented as hevénus. The strange forms which proper names assume in Chaucer are notorious; and the fact is, that Herenus is a mere error for Herines or Herynes. Herynes (accented on y), occurs in St. 4 of Bk. iv of Troilus and Criseide, and is used as the plural of Erinnys, being applied to the three Furies:—‘O ye Herynes, nightes doughtren thre.’ Pity may be said to be the queen of the Furies, in the sense that pity (or mercy) can alone control the vindictiveness of vengeance. Shakespeare tells us that mercy ‘is mightiest in the mightiest,’ and is ‘above this sceptred sway’; Merch. Ven. iv. 1. 188.
[95.]The sense is—‘the longer I love and dread you, the more I do so.’ If we read ever instead of ay, then the e in the must be suppressed. ‘In ever lenger the moore, never the moore, never the lesse, Chaucer not unfrequently drops the e in the, pronouncing lengerth, neverth’; cf. Clerkes Tale, E 687; Man of Lawes Tale, B 982; Ten Brink.
[96.]Most MSS. read so sore, giving no sense. Ten Brink has—‘For sooth to seyne, I bere the hevy soore’; following MS. Sh. It is simpler to correct so to the, as suggested by Harl. 7578, which has—‘For soith [error for sothly] for to saye I bere the sore.’
[101.]Set, short for setteth, like bit for biddeth, Cant. Tales, Prol. 187, &c. Ten Brink quotes from the Sompnoures Tale (D 1982)—‘With which the devel set your herte a-fyre,’ where set = sets, present tense.
[105.]Ten Brink inserts ne, though it is not in the MSS. His note is: ‘Ne is a necessary complement to but = “only,” as but properly means “except”; and a collation of the best MSS. of the Cant. Tales shows that Chaucer never omitted the negative in this case. (The same observation was made already by Prof. Child in his excellent paper on the language of Chaucer and Gower; see Ellis, Early Eng. Pronunciation, p. 374.) Me ne forms but one syllable, pronounced meen [i. e. as mod. E. main]. In the same manner I ne = iin [pron. as mod. E. een] occurs, Cant. Tales, Prol. 764 (from MS. Harl. 7334)—
[110.]See Anelida, 182; and the note.
[119.]Observe that this last line is a repetition of l. 2.