Front Page Titles (by Subject) XIV.: GENTILESSE. - The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 1 (Romaunt of the Rose, Minor Poems)
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XIV.: GENTILESSE. - 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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Title;so in Harl., but spelt Chaucier; T. has—Balade by Chaucier.
The MSS. are A. (Ashmole 59); T. (Trin. Coll. R. 3. 20); Harl. (Harl. 7333); Ct. (Cotton, Cleopatra D. 7); Ha. (Harl. 7578); Add. (Additional 22139, Brit. Museum). Also Cx. (Caxton’s printed edition). I follow chiefly the last of these, and note variations.
[1. ]Cx. first; Harl. ffirste; Ct. firste. T. gentilesse; rest gentilnesse.
[3. ]Cx. om. alle.
[4. ]A. T. suwe; Harl. shew (for sewe); Cx. folowe (!).
[5. ]Cx. vertue; dignyte.
[6. ]Cx. not; rest nouȝt, nought, noȝte.
[7. ]Cx. mytor; A. T. Harl. Add. mytre. Cx. crowne; dyademe.
[8. ]Cx. rightwisnes.
[9. ]A. Ct. Ha. pitous; Cx. pyetous.
[10. ]Cx. besynes.
[11. ]A. Ageinst; T. Ageynst; Cx. Agayn. Cx. om. the. Cx. honeste.
[12. ]Cx. eyer; rest heire, heyre, eyre.
[13. ]Cx. not; Ct. Ha. nought. Cx. though; Add. though.
[14. ]Cx. mytor; crowne.
[15. ]Cx. omits heir. Cx. holde; rest olde; but read old.
[16. ]Cx. al; rest as.
[17. ]Cx. eyer.
[18. ]Cx. degre.
[19. ]Cx. first; mageste.
[20. ]Ct. That maketh his heires hem that hym queme (omitting can); A. That maþe his heyre him that wol him qweme; T. That makeþe heos heyres hem þat wol him qweeme; Add. That maketh his eires hem that can him queme; Cx. That makes hem eyres that can hem queme; with other variations. I follow Cx., supplying his, and putting him and heir in the singular; cf. he in l. 21.
[21. ]Cx. crowne mytor.
[1.]With this first stanza compare R. Rose, 18881:—
Two MSS., both written out by Shirley, and MS. Harl. 7333, all read:—‘The first fader, and foundour (or fynder) of gentylesse.’ This is wrong, and probably due to the dropping of the final e in the definite adjective firste. We must keep the phrase firste stok, because it is expressly repeated in l. 8.
[3.]The former his refers to fader, but the latter to man.
[4.]Sewe, follow. In a Ballad by King James the First of Scotland, printed at p. 54 of my edition of the Kingis Quair, the first five lines are a fairly close imitation of the opening lines of the present poem, and prove that King James followed a MS. which had the reading sewe.
Observe how his first, third, and fourth lines answer to Chaucer’s fifth, second, and fourth lines respectively.
[5.]‘Dignitees apertienen . . . to vertu’; Boeth. iii. pr. 4, l. 25.
[7.]Al were he, albeit he may wear; i. e. although he may be a bishop, king, or emperor.
[8.]This firste stok, i. e. Christ. In l. 12, his heir means mankind in general.
And cf. Dante, Purg. vii. 121-3, to which Ch. refers in his Wife of Bath’s Tale (D 1128).
[15.]Vyc-e is dissyllabic; hence two MSS. turn it into Vices, and one even has Vicesse!
[16.]In MS. A. is this side-note, in a later hand:—
[20.]This is a difficult line to obtain from the MSS. It is necessary to keep heir in the singular, because of he in l. 21. In MS. A., maþe clearly stands for makeþe, i. e. maketh, as in nearly all the MSS. This gives us—That maketh his heir him that wol [or can] him queme. The change from his heir him to the more natural order him his heir is such a gain to the metre that it is worth while to make it.