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IV.: THE COMPLEYNT OF MARS. - 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 COMPLEYNT OF MARS.
The authorities here used are: F. (Fairfax 16); Tn. (Tanner 346); Ju. (Julian Notary’s edition); Harl. (Harleian 7333); T. (Trinity College, Cambridge, R. 3. 20); Ar. (Arch. Seld. B. 24, in the Bodleian Library). Also Th. (Thynne, ed. 1532). I follow F. mainly; and note variations from it.
The compleynt of Mars.
Title.In F. Ar. Ju; T. Complaint of mars.
[P. 326: l. 74.]Perhaps ‘let’ should be ‘lete’
[P. 330: l. 206.]For folke read folk
[1. ]Ar. foules; Ju. fowles; T. fooles (!); Harl. floures (see l. 3); F. Tn. lovers (wrongly). F. Harl. on; Tn. in; rest of.
[2. ]Ar. the; F. Harl. yow; Tn. Ju. you; T. your (wrongly; Thynne (1532) has yon, which, after all, is clearly right).
[3. ]T. Ar. honoureth; F. Tn. honouren. F. the (!); rest ye. F. Tn. T. day; Ju. Harl. Ar. may (!)
[4. ]F. Harl. sunne; rest sonne. Ar. vp risith. Ju. T. Ar. ye; F. they (!); Tn. the (!); Harl. he (!!).
[5. ]Ar. any; F. eny.
[7. ]F. Loo yonde; sunne; Ialosye.
[8. ]F. blew; hert.
[9. ]F. sent; Ar. seynt.
[10. ]F. sum-; smert.
[11. ]Ar. eft; Th. efte; T. efft; F. ofte.
[12. ]Tn. Th. glade; F. glad.
[13. ]F. foule; herd.
[14. ]F. your; Ar. the; rest thy. F. sunne.
[15. ]F. sange; foule.
[17. ]T. you; Ar. ȝow; Ju. ye; rest om.
[19. ]F. this fest; rest the leste (lest, leest).
[22. ]F. highe; Tn. high; rest hye. F. fest.
[24. ]F. lest.
[25. ]F. departyng; see l. 149.
[26. ]F. morwnyng (see Kn. Tale, 204).
[28. ]F. ins. hath bef. every; Tn. hat; Ju. had; rest om.
[29. ]T. thridde; F. thrid.
[35. ]Ju. Ar. nere; F. T. ner. F. bolde; dispise.
[38. ]F. (only) om. him. F. calle (for talle); Harl. talle; Ju. Ar. tall; T. tal.
[39. ]F. to cast; Ju. T. rightly omit to.
[40. ]F. toke.
[41. ]F. maner.
[42. ]Ju. scourgyng; T. skowrginge; Ar. scurgeing; Tn. schouryng (sic); F. stering; Th. scornyng, and ed. 1561 scorning (probably a substitution). F. cher.
[46. ]F. fair.
[48. ]T. Ar. loven; rest loue.
[49. ]Tn. trespas; F. trespace. T. Ar. disseuer; F. deseuer.
[51. ]T. Ju. Tn. By; F. Be.
[53. ]F. fast.
[54. ]Tn. nexte; F. next.
[55. ]Ar. oure-take.
[56. ]T. preyde; F. preiede. F. faste (!); Harl. hasten; rest haste.
[57. ]F. hertis; suete.
[58. ]F. myschefe.
[59. ]F. sikirly.
[60. ]F. lyfe.
[62. ]F. smert.
[63. ]F. alle; hert.
[64. ]F. grete. F. on; rest of.
[66. ]F. stode.
[67. ]Jn. Harl. T. Ar. ins. there after 1st him.
[68. ]F. nyghe; witte. F. sorowe; Tn. sorow; rest wo, woo.
[69. ]T. spedde; F. sped. T. Ar. als; rest as. F. fast; wey.
[70. ]F. dyd; twey.
[71. ]Ar. betuix; F. betwex; rest bytwene.
[72. ]F. When; mette; tel.
[74. ]F. duel.
[75. ]F. knyghthode wel.
[76. ]F. feyrenesse.
[81. ]F. Through.
[82. ]F. (alone) inserts ful before sturdely.
[83. ]F. bryght.
[84. ]Ju. Th. knockeden; Harl. knokkide; Tn. knokked; F. knokken (wrongly; a copy in MS. Pepys 2006 rightly has knokkeden).
[87. ]F. shone.
[88. ]Tn. T. brenne; F. bren.
[89. ]F. cely (for sely); Tn. Ju. sely. MSS. nygh dreynt; omit nygh
[92. ]Tn. sterte; F. stert. Tn. liste; F. lust.
[95. ]Tn. stede; F. stid. F. twyne
[97. ]F. hent; hauberke; ley.
[98. ]F. wold; myght.
[99. ]Tn. Ju. T. throweth; F. thrwe (badly). F. helme; wyght.
[101. ]F. fyght.
[102. ]Ar. to-wound; Harl. to-wond; rest to-wonde.
[103. ]Ar. he was; rest was he.
[108. ]F. (alone) inserts thou after Art.
[110. ]F. hert.
[112. ]Tn. Ju. Th. nere F. ner.
[113. ]F. Tn. in to; Harl. to; rest vn to. Ju. Cylenius; Harl. Cylenyus; Ar. Cilenius; T. Celenius; Tn. cilinius; F. cilinios. F. toure.
[115. ]Harl. T. ne; Ar. so; rest om.
[116. ]F. founde; saugh.
[117. ]F. eke.
[119. ]Harl. T. fledde; Tn. Ju. Ar. fled; F. fel.
[120. ]F. Derke; hel.
[121. ]F. pales; rest pas (pace). F. stode.
[122. ]F. let; duel.
[123. ]So all. F. wode.
[124. ]F. wold; sene; hert blode.
[125. ]F. myght. Harl. done hir; Ju. doo her; T. Ar. do hir; F. Tn. haue done her; read hir don.
[126. ]Tn. roghte; Ju. Harl. Ar. rought; F. thoght (!).
[128. ]F. myght.
[129. ]Harl. o; T. oon; Ju. one; rest a. Tn. Ju. Harl. steyre; T. stayre; F. sterre (!).
[130. ]F. lesse.
[132. ]F. toke.
[133. ]Harl. T. Thanne; F. Then.
[134. ]F. paas.
[135. ]F. heree.
[137. ]F. speree.
[138. ]F. hert.
[139. ]T. twelfft (but read twelfte); Ju. twelfth; Harl. Ar. twelf (wrongly); F. Tn. xij. F. dayes; Tn. days; rest day (rightly).
[140. ]F. Throgh Ielouse.
[141. ]Read helpe god (Koch).
[143. ]F. while.
[144. ]Ju. Cylenius; F. Cilinius. Tn. Lt. cheuauche; F. cheuache.
[145. ]F. Ju. Fro; Ar. From; Tn. Harl. T. For. Ar. valance; Tn. valauns; F. Valaunses; Th. (ed. 1532) Valanus (for Valauns?); Ju. balance; Harl. T. balaunce.
[147. ]F. frende.
[151. ]F. morwnynge.
[154. ]Ju. Th. yeue; F. yif. F. Ioy.
[156. ]F. pleyn.
[157. ]F. wherfore; pleyn.
[158. ]F. Other; rest Or. Ju. Ar. folily; F. folely.
[160. ]F. grounde; peyn.
[161. ]F. witte; ateyn.
[163. ]F. grounde.
[164. ]F. first.
[166. ]Tn. By; F. Be.
[167. ]F. trwe; Tn. trewe.
[169. ]F. That (by mistake); rest To. F. excelence.
[171. ]F. wrothe.
[175. ]F. fredam.
[179. ]F. Instrumentes.
[181. ]F. thorow; worlde.
[182. ]All but Tn. Th. om. that. T. besette; F. beset.
[183. ]T. oone; Tn. Ar. one; F. on (twice). F. knet; Ar. knett; rest knette.
[184. ]F. lythe.
[185. ]F. Therfore. F. hert. Ju. Th. hette; Ar. het; F. T. hight; Tn. set; (Longleat MS. has hette).
[186. ]F. truly. Tn. Ju. T. shal I. F. let.
[187. ]F. truest; Tn. Ar. trewest.
[188. ]Tn. wite; F. wete; T. wit; Ju. knowe.
[191. ]T. thane (for than); rest omit.
[192. ]F. harme.
[193. ]F. compleyn.
[195. ]F. eke.
[197. ]Ju. Ar. sauf; T. sauff; F. Tn. safe.
[200. ]Tn. thogh; F. tho.
[201. ]Tn. any; F. eny.
[202. ]Tn. many; F. mony. T. Ar. cas; F. case.
[203. ]F. Somme; rest Somtyme. Ju. T. Ar. lady.
[204. ]Ar. gif; rest if, yf; read yif.
[205. ]F. ley; hede.
[207. ]Ju. T. Th. Deprauen; Ar. Depeynen; F. Tn. Departen.
[209. ]F. longe.
[210. ]Read lov-e (e unelided). F. dovne.
[213. ]Tn. righte; F. right. F. sauacyoun; rest saluacioun.
[214. ]F. pleyn.
[215. ]F. hert suete. F. Tn. o; Ar. and; T. and my; Ju. om.
[216. ]F. I oght wel; Tn. I oghte wel; Ju. T. Ar. wel ought I. Ju. swowne; Ar. suoun; T. swoone; Tn. swone; F. sowne. F. swelt.
[217. ]F. none; harme; felt.
[218. ]Ju. fyn; rest fyne. F. sitte; T. sit.
[219. ]T. Tn. Ju. him; Ar. thame; F. om. F. other (= or); Tn. othyr (= or); Ju. T. or.
[220. ]F. folke.
[221. ]F. Ioy.
[222. ]Tn. ye; rest eye.
[223. ]F. Ioy.
[225. ]F. folke; fast.
[226. ]F. shuld last.
[228. ]F. stidfast.
[229. ]Ju. put; Ar. puttis.
[230. ]Tn. T. reste; F. rest. T. noon; Ar. non; Ju. none; F. om.
[231. ]F. luste.
[236. ]Tn. enmyte; F. enemyte.
[237. ]F. lyke.
[238. ]Tn. Ju. Bayteth; F. Bateth. Ju. hook; F. hoke. Tn. som; F. summe.
[239. ]F. fissch; wode. F. to; rest til.
[241. ]F. desire.
[244. ]F. hathe.
[245. ]F. such.
[246. ]F. Tn. Ar. stones of; Ju. T. om. of; see Rom. Rose, 67.
[247. ]T. Th. sette; Ar. sett; rest set.
[248. ]Tn. wende; F. wend.
[249. ]F. wold; hert.
[250. ]T. hade; rest had. F. thoght. Tn. moste; F. must.
[251. ]F. Ju. om. that. F. (only) om. his. F. shuld.
[252. ]Ju. T. hadde; F. had.
[253. ]Ju. sholde madde; F. shuld mad.
[256. ]F. feir; tresore (Tn. Iuel).
[259. ]F. wroght. Tn. Th. enfortuned; T. enfortund; F. enfortune (!).
[261. ]F. therfore.
[267. ]F. wroght. Ju. Ar. also; T. als; F. Tn. as.
[268. ]F. Tn. Ju. Ar. put (for putte); T. list to putte. Tn. Ju. a; F. T. Ar. om.
[269. ]T. Ar. to; rest om. F. coueten; Tn. Ju. coueyten; (but to covete is better).
[270. ]F. ovne; Th. owne; Ju. T. Ar. owen. F. dethe.
[271. ]F. ovne witte; Tn. and rest vnwit. F. clombe.
[273. ]F. deuisioun.
[274. ]Perhaps omit to (as T.).
[276. ]F. Therefore; oght; somme.
[278. ]Tn. proudest; F. pruddest. Ar. maid; rest made (for mad, pp.).
[279. ]F. Wherfore.
[280. ]F. Tn. compleyn; Ju. Ar. compleyne; T. compleynen.
[281. ]Ar. trewe; F. true.
[282. ]Ar. By; F. Be.
[283. ]F. folke; peyn.
[285. ]Tn. emperice; F. emperise (and in l. 288).
[286. ]Tn. oghte; F. oght; Ar. aughten.
[289. ]F. Negh ded.
[290. ]F. eke.
[293. ]Tn. Compleyneth; F. Complen (by mistake); see next line.
[297. ]Tn. dide; Ju. dyde; rest did. T. al; Ju. all; Ar. alway; F. Tn. om.
[298. ]Ar. sum; F. summe.
[1.]Foules. The false reading lovers was caught from l. 5 below. But the poem opens with a call from a bird to all other birds, bidding them rejoice at the return of Saint Valentine’s day. There is an obvious allusion in this line to the common proverb—‘As fain as fowl of a fair morrow,’ which is quoted in the Kn. Tale, 1579 (A 2437), in P. Plowman, B. x. 153, and is again alluded to in the Can. Yeom. Tale, G 1342. In l. 3, the bird addresses the flowers, and finally, in l. 5, the lovers.
[2.]Venus, the planet, supposed to appear as a morning-star, as it sometimes does. See note to Boethius, bk. i. met. 5. l. 9.
[3.]For day, Bell’s edition has May! The month is February.
[4.]Uprist, upriseth. But in Kn. Tale, 193 (A 1051), uprist-e (with final e) is the dat. case of a sb.
[7.]The final e in sonn-e occurs at the cæsural pause; candle is pronounced nearly as candl’. The sun is here called the candle of Ielosye, i. e. torch or light that discloses cause for jealousy, in allusion to the famous tale which is the foundation of the whole poem, viz. how Phœbus (the Sun) discovered the amour between Mars and Venus, and informed Vulcan of it, rousing him to jealousy; which Chaucer doubtless obtained from his favourite author Ovid (Metam. bk. iv). See the description of ‘Phebus,’ with his ‘torche in honde,’ in ll. 27, 81-84 below. Gower also, who quotes Ovid expressly, has the whole story; Conf. Amant. ed. Pauli, ii. 149. The story first occurs in Homer, Odys. viii. 266-358. And cf. Statius, Theb. iii. 263-316; Chaucer’s Kn. Tale, 1525 (A 2383), &c. Cf. also Troil s, iii. 1457.
[8.]Blewe; ‘there seems no propriety in this epithet; it is probably a corruption’; Bell. But it is quite right; in M. E., the word is often applied to the colour of a wale or stripe caused by a blow, as in the phrase ‘beat black and blue’; also to the gray colour of burnt-out ashes, as in P. Plowman, B. iii. 97; also to the colour of lead; ‘as blo as led,’ Miracle-Plays, ed. Marriott, p. 148. ‘Ashen-gray’ or ‘lead-coloured’ is not a very bad epithet for tears:—
[9.]Taketh, take ye. With seynt Iohn, with St. John for a surety; borwe being in the dat. case; see note to Squi. Tale, F 596. It occurs also in the Kingis Quair, st. 23; Blind Harry’s Wallace, bk. ix. l. 46; &c.
[13.]Seynt Valentyne; Feb. 14. See note to Sect, V. l. 309.
[21.]Cf. ‘And everich of us take his aventure’; Kn. Tale, 328 (A 1186).
[25.]See note to line 7 above; and cf. Troilus, iii. 1450-70:—‘O cruel day,’ &c.
[29.]In the Proem to Troilus, bk. iii. st. 1, Chaucer places Venus in the third heaven; that is, he begins to reckon from the earth outwards, the spheres being, successively, those of the Moon, Mercury, Venus. Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn; see the description of the planets in Gower’s Confessio Amantis, bk. vii. So also, in Troilus, v. 1809, by the seventh sphere he means the outermost sphere of Saturn. But in other poems he adopts the more common ancient mode, of reckoning the spheres in the reverse order, taking Saturn first; in which case Mars comes third. In this he follows Macrobius, who, in his Commentary on the Somnium Scipionis, lib. i. c. 19, has:—‘A sphaera Saturni, quae est prima de septem,’ &c.; see further on this borrowing from Macrobius in the note to l. 69. The same mode of reckoning places Venus in the fifth sphere, as in Lenvoy to Scogan, l. 9. In the curious manual of astronomy called The Shepheards Kalendar (pr. in 1604) we find, in the account of Mars, the following: ‘The planet of Mars is called the God of battel and of war, and he is the third planet, for he raigneth next vnder the gentle planet of Jupiter . . . And Mars goeth about the twelue signes in two yeare.’ The account of Venus has:—‘Next after the Sun raigneth the gentle planet Venus, . . . and she is lady ouer all louers: . . and her two signes is Taurus and Libra . . . This planet Venus runneth in twelue months ouer the xii. signes.’ Also:—‘Next under Venus is the faire planet Mercury . . and his principall signes be these: Gemini is the first . . and the other signe is Virgo,’ &c. See Furnivall’s Trial Forewords, p. 121.
[36.]At alle, in any and every case. There is a parallel passage to this stanza in Troilus, bk. iii. st. 4 of the Proem.
[38.]Talle, obedient, docile, obsequious. See the account of this difficult word in my Etym. Dictionary, s. v. tall.
[42.]Scourging, correction. Compare the phr. under your yerde; Parl. Foules, 640, and the note. I see no reason for suspecting the reading.
[49.]‘Unless it should be that his fault should sever their love.’
[51.]Loking, aspect; a translation of the Latin astrological term aspectus. They regard each other with a favourable aspect.
[54.]Hir nexte paleys, the next palace (or mansion), which belonged to Venus. In astrology, each planet was said to have two mansions, except the sun and moon, which had but one apiece. A mansion, or house, or palace, is that Zodiacal sign in which, for some imaginary reason, a planet was supposed to be peculiarly at home. (The whole system is fanciful and arbitrary.) The mansions of Venus were said to be Taurus and Libra; those of Mars, Aries and Scorpio; and those of Mercury, Gemini and Virgo. See the whole scheme in the introduction to Chaucer’s Astrolabe. The sign here meant is Taurus (cf. l. 86); and the arrangement was that Mars should ‘glide’ or pass out of the sign of Aries into that of Taurus, which came next, and belonged specially to Venus.
[55.]A-take, overtaken; because the apparent motion of Venus is swifter than that of Mars. This shews that Mars was, at first, further advanced than Venus along the Zodiac.
[61.]Actually repeated in the Nonne Prestes Tale, l. 340 (B 4350):—‘For whan I see the beautee of your face.’ Compare also l. 62 with the same, l. 342; and l. 63 with the same, l. 350.
[65.]come, may come; pres. subj. (Lounsbury says ‘preterite’).
[69.]That is, the apparent motion of Venus was twice as great as that of Mars. Chaucer here follows Macrobius, Comment. in Somnium Scipionis, lib. i. ch. 19, who says:—‘Rursus tantum a Iove sphæra Martis recedit, ut eundum cursum biennio peragat. Venus autem tanto est regione Martis inferior, ut ei annus satis sit ad zodiacum peragrandum’; that is, Mars performs his orbit in two years, but Venus in one; accordingly, she moves as much in one day as Mars does in two days. Mars really performs his orbit in rather less than two years (about 687 days), and Venus in less than one (about 225 days), but Chaucer’s statement is sufficiently near to facts, the apparent motion of the planets being variable.
[71.]This line resembles one in the Man of Lawes Tale, B 1075:—‘And swich a blisse is ther bitwix hem two’; and ll. 71, 72 also resemble the same, ll. 1114, 1115:—
[81.]Phebus here passes the palace-gates; in other words, the sun enters the sign of Taurus, and so comes into Venus’ chamber, within her palace. Cf. note to l. 54.
[84.]Knokkeden, knocked at the door, i. e. demanded admission.
[86.]That is, both Mars and Venus are now in Taurus. The entry of Venus is noticed in l. 72.
[89.]The latter syllable of Venus comes at the cæsural pause; but the scansion is best mended by omitting nygh; see footnote.
[96.]In the Shepheards Kalendar, Mars is said to be ‘hot and dry’; and Venus to be ‘moist and colde.’ Thus Mars was supposed to cause heat, and Venus to bring rain. The power of Venus in causing rain is fully alluded to in Lenvoy to Scogan, st. 2.
[100.]Girt, short for girdeth; not gerte, pt. t.
[104.]Nearly repeated in Kn. Tale, 1091 (A 1949):—‘Ne may with Venus holde champartye.’
[105.]Bad her fleen, bade her flee; because her motion in her orbit was faster than his. Cf. l. 112.
[107.]‘In the palace (Taurus) in which thou wast disturbed.’
[111.]Stremes, beams, rays; for the eyes of Mars emitted streams of fire (l. 95). Venus is already half past the distance to which Mars’s beams extend. Obscure and fanciful.
[113.]Cylenius, Cyllenius, i. e. Mercury, who was born on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia; Vergil, Æn. viii. 139. Tour, tower; another word for mansion. The tower of Cyllenius, or mansion of Mercury, is the sign Gemini; see note to l. 29. Venus passes out of Taurus into the next sign Gemini. ‘The sign Gemini is also domus Murcurii, so that when Venus fled into “the tour” of Cyllenius, she simply slipped into the next door to her own house of Taurus, leaving poor Mars behind to halt after her as he best might’; A. E. Brae, in Notes and Queries, 1st Series, iii. 235.
[114.]Voide, solitary; Mars is left behind in Taurus. Besides (according to l. 116) there was no other planet in Germini at that time.
[117.]But litil myght. A planet was supposed to exercise its greatest influence in the sign which was called its exaltation; and its least influence in that which was called its depression. The exaltation of Venus was in Pisces; her depression, in Virgo. She was now in Gemini, and therefore halfway from her exaltation to her depression. So her influence was slight, and waning.
[119.]A cave. In l. 122 we are told that it stood only two paces within the gate, viz. of Gemini. The gate or entrance into Gemini is the point where the sign begins. By paces we must understand degrees; for the F. word pas evidently represents the Lat. gradus. Venus had therefore advanced to a point which stood only two degrees within (or from the beginning of) the sign. In plain words, she was now in the second degree of Gemini, and there fell into a cave, in which she remained for a natural day, that is (taking her year to be of nearly the same length as the earth’s year) for the term during which she remained within that second degree. Venus remained in the cave as long as she was in that second degree of the sign; from the moment of entering it to the moment of leaving it.
[120.]Derk, dark. I think it is sufficient to suppose that this word is used, in a purely astrological sense, to mean inauspicious; and the same is true of l. 122, where Venus remains under this sinister influence as long as she remained in the ill-omened second degree of Gemini. There is no need to suppose that the planet’s light was really obscured.
[129.]The Fairfax MS. and some editions have the false reading sterre. As Mars was supposed to complete his orbit (360 degrees) in two years (see note to l. 69), he would pass over one degree of it in about two days. Hence Mr. Brae’s note upon this line, as printed in Furnivall’s Trial Forewords, p. 121:—‘The mention of dayes two is so specific that it cannot but have a special meaning. Wherefore, either sterre is a metonym for degree; or which is more probable, Chaucer’s word was originally steppe (gradus), and was miscopied sterre by early scribes.’ Here Mr. Brae was exceedingly near the right solution; we now see that sterre was miswritten (not for steppe, but) for steyre, by the mere alteration of one letter. If the scribe was writing from dictation, the mistake was still more easily made, since steyre and sterre would sound very nearly alike, with the old pronunciation. As to steyre, it is the exact literal translation of Lat. gradus, which meant a degree or stair. Thus Minsheu’s Dict. has:—‘a Staire, Lat. gradus.’ This difficulty, in fact, is entirely cleared up by accepting the reading of the majority of the MSS.
[131.]He foloweth her, i. e. the motions of Mars and Venus were in the same direction; neither of them had a ‘retrograde’ motion, but advanced along the signs in the direction of the sun’s apparent motion.
[133.]Brenning, burning in the fire of the sun’s heat.
[137.]‘Alas; that my orbit has so wide a compass’; because the orbit of Mars is so very much larger than that of Venus. Still larger was the orbit of Saturn; Kn. Tale, 1596 (A 2454). Spere is sphere, orbit.
[139.]Twelfte, twelfth. The false reading twelve arose from misreading the symbol ‘.xij.,’ which was used as an abbreviation both for twelfte and for twelve. See Furnivall, Trial Forewords, p. 88. As a fact, it was on the 12th day of April that the sun entered Taurus; see note to l. 81.
[144.]Cylenius, Mercury; as in l. 113. Chevauche, equestrian journey, ride. Used ludicrously to mean a feat of horsemanship in l. 50 of the Manciple’s Prologue. The closely related word chivachye, in Prologue to C. T. 85, means a military (equestrian) expedition. In the present case it simply means ‘swift course,’ with reference to the rapid movement of Mercury, which completes its orbit in about 88 days. Thus the line means—‘Mercury, advancing in his swift course.’
[145.]Fro Venus valance. This is the most difficult expression in the poem, but I explain it by reading fallance, which of course is only a guess. I must now give my reasons, as every preceding commentator has given up the passage as hopeless.
[150.]Remembreth me, comes to my memory; the nom. case being the preceding part of the sentence. Me, by the way, refers to the extraordinary bird who is made responsible for the whole poem, with the sole exception of lines 13 and 14, and half of l. 15. The bird tells us he will say and sing the Complaint of Mars, and afterwards take his leave.
[155.]We now come to the part of the poem which exhibits great metrical skill. In order to shew the riming more clearly, I have ‘set back’ the 3rd, 6th, and 7th lines of each stanza. Each stanza exhibits the order of rimes a a b a a b b c c; i.e. the first rime belongs to lines 1, 2, 4, 5; the second rime to lines 3, 6, 7; and the last rime to lines 8 and 9. The first stanza forms an Introduction or Proem. The rest form five Terns, or sets of three stanzas, as has been already said. Each Tern has its own subject, quite separate from the rest.
[164.]The first Tern expresses his Devotion to his love’s service. I gave my love, he says, to her for ever; She is the very source of all beauty; and now I will never leave her, but will die in her service.
[170.]That is—who ever approaches her, but obtains from her no favour, loses all joy in love, and only feels its bitterness.
[176.]Men, people; men hit selle = it is sold. This parenthetical ejaculation is an echo to that in l. 168.
[185.]Hette, promised (incorrectly). The M. E. haten, to promise, is a complicated verb; see the excellent examples in Mätzner’s Dictionary, and in Grein’s A. S. Dict., s. v. hátan. It had two past tenses; the first heet, a strong form, meaning ‘promised, commanded,’ answering to A.S. héht and Goth. haihait; and the second hette, hatte, a weak form, meaning ‘I was named,’ answering to A. S. hátte (used both as a present and a past tense without change of form) and to the Goth. present passive haitada. Chaucer has here used the intransitive weak past tense with the sense of the transitive strong one; just as he uses lernen with the sense of ‘teach.’ The confusion was easy and common.
[190.]But grace be, unless favour be shewn me. See, shall see; present as future.
[191.]Tern 2. Shall I complain to my lady? Not so; for she is in distress herself. Lovers may be as true as new metal, and yet suffer. To return: my lady is in distress, and I ought to mourn for her, even though I knew no other sorrow.
[197.]‘But if she were safe, it would not matter about me.’
[205.]‘They might readily leave their head as a pledge,’ i. e. might devote themselves to death.
[206.]Horowe, foul, unclean, filthy, scandalous; pl. of horow, an adj. formed from the A.S. sb. horu (gen. horwes). filth; cf. A. S. horweht, filthy, from the same stem horw-. The M. E. adj. also takes the form hori, hory, from A. S. horig, an adj. formed from the closely related A. S. sb. horh, horg, fifth. As the M. E. adj. is not common, I give some examples (from Mätzner). ‘Hit nis bote a hori felle,’ it is only a dirty skin; Early Eng. Poems, ed. Furnivall, p. 19, l. 13. ‘Thy saule . . thorugh fulthe of synne Sone is mad wel hory wythinne,’ thy soul, by filth of sin, is soon made very foul within; Reliquiæ Antiquæ, ii. 243. ‘Eny uncleene, whos touchynge is hoory,’ any unclean person, whose touch is defiling; Wyclif, Levit. xxii. 5. ‘Still used in Devon, pronounced horry’; Halliwell.
[218.]Tern 3. Why did the Creator institute love? The bliss of lovers is so unstable, that in every case lovers have more woes than the moon has changes. Many a fish is mad after the bait; but when he is hooked, he finds his penance, even though the line should break.
[219.]Love other companye, love or companionship.
[229.]Read putt’th; as a monosyllable.
[245.]Tern 4. The brooch of Thebes had this property, that every one who saw it desired to possess it; when he possessed it, he was haunted with constant dread; and when he lost it, he had a double sorrow in thinking that it was gone. This was due, however, not to the brooch itself, but to the cunning of the maker, who had contrived that all who possessed it should suffer. In the same way, my lady was as the brooch; yet it was not she who caused me wo, but it was He who endowed her with beauty.
[246.]It must be remembered that great and magical virtues were attributed to precious stones and gems. See further in the note to Ho. of Fame, l. 1352.
[259.]Enfortuned hit so, endued it with such virtues. ‘He that wrought it’ was Vulcan; see note to l. 245.
[262.]Covetour, the one who coveted it. Nyce, foolish.
[270.]‘For my death I blame Him, and my own folly for being so ambitious.’
[272.]Tern 5. I appeal for sympathy, first to the knights who say that I, Mars, am their patron; secondly, to the ladies who should compassionate Venus their empress; lastly, to all lovers who should sympathise with Venus, who was always so ready to aid them.
[273.]Of my divisioun, born under my influence. The same word is used in the same way in Kn. Tale, 1166 (A 2024). Of course Mars was the special patron of martial knights.
[280.]‘That ye lament for my sorrow.’
[293.]Compleyneth hir, lament for her.
[298.]‘Therefore display, on her behalf, some kindly feeling.’