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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 present edition of Chaucer contains an entirely new Text, founded solely on the manuscripts and on the earliest accessible printed editions. For correct copies of the manuscripts, I am indebted, except in a few rare instances, to the admirable texts published by the Chaucer Society.
In each case, the best copy has been selected as the basis of the text, and has only been departed from where other copies afforded a better reading. All such variations, as regards the wording of the text, are invariably recorded in the footnotes at the bottom of each page; or, in the case of the Treatise on the Astrolabe, in Critical Notes immediately following the text. Variations in the spelling are also recorded, wherever they can be said to be of consequence. But I have purposely abstained from recording variations of reading that are certainly inferior to the reading given in the text.
The requirements of metre and grammar have been carefully considered throughout. Beside these, the phonology and spelling of every word have received particular attention. With the exception of reasonable and intelligible variations, the spelling is uniform throughout, and consistent with the highly phonetic system employed by the scribe of the very valuable Ellesmere MS. of the Canterbury Tales. The old reproach, that Chaucer’s works are chiefly remarkable for bad spelling, can no longer be fairly made; since the spelling here given is a fair guide to the old pronunciation of nearly every word. For further particulars, see the Introduction to vol. iv. and the remarks on Chaucer’s language in vol. v.
The present edition comprises the whole of Chaucer’s Works, whether in verse or prose, together with a commentary (contained in the Notes) upon every passage which seems to present any difficulty or to require illustration. It is arranged in six volumes, as follows.
Vol. I. commences with a Life of Chaucer, containing all the known facts and incidents that have been recorded, with authorities for the same, and dates. It also contains the Romaunt of the Rose and the Minor Poems, with a special Introduction and illustrative Notes. The Introduction discusses the genuineness of the poems here given, and explains why certain poems, formerly ascribed to Chaucer with more rashness than knowledge, are here omitted.
The attempt to construct a reasonably good text of the Romaunt has involved great labour; all previous texts abound with corruptions, many of which have now for the first time been amended, partly by help of diligent collation of the two authorities, and partly by help of the French original.
Vol. II. contains Boethius and Troilus, each with a special Introduction. The text of Boethius is much more correct than in any previous edition, and appears for the first time with modern punctuation. The Notes are nearly all new, at any rate as regards the English version.
The text of Troilus is also a new one. The valuable ‘Corpus MS.’ has been collated for the first time; and several curious words, which have been hitherto suppressed because they were not understood, have been restored to the text, as explained in the Introduction. Most of the explanatory Notes are new; others have appeared in Bell’s edition.
Vol. III. contains The House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women, and the Treatise on the Astrolabe; with special Introductions. All these have been previously edited by myself, with Notes. Both the text and the Notes have been carefully revised, and contain several corrections and additions. The latter part of the volume contains a discussion of the Sources of the Canterbury Tales.
Vol. IV. contains the Canterbury Tales, with the Tale of Gamelyn appended. The MSS. of the Canterbury Tales, and the mode of printing them, are discussed in the Introduction.
Vol. V. contains a full Commentary on the Canterbury Tales, in the form of Notes. Such as have appeared before have been carefully revised; whilst many of them appear for the first time. The volume further includes all necessary helps for the study of Chaucer, such as remarks on the pronunciation, grammar, and scansion.
Vol. VI. contains a Glossarial Index and an Index of Names.[Back to Table of Contents]
LIFE OF GEOFFREY CHAUCER.
*∗* Many of the documents referred to in the foot-notes are printed at length in Godwin’s Life of Chaucer, 2nd ed. 1804 (vol. iv), or in the Life by Sir H. Nicolas. The former set are marked (G.); the latter set are denoted by a reference to ‘Note A,’ or ‘Note B’; &c.
§ 1. The name Chaucer, like many others in England in olden times, was originally significant of an occupation. The Old French chaucier (for which see Godefroy’s Old French Dictionary) signified rather ‘a hosier’ than ‘a shoemaker,’ though it was also sometimes used in the latter sense. The modern French chausse represents a Low Latin calcia, fem. sb., a kind of hose, closely allied to the Latin calceus, a shoe. See Chausses, Chaussure, in the New English Dictionary.
It is probable that the Chaucer family came originally from East Anglia. Henry le Chaucier is mentioned as a citizen of Norfolk in 1275; and Walter le Chaucer as the same, in 12921 . But Gerard le Chaucer, in 1296, and Bartholomew le Chaucer, in 1312-3, seem to have lived near Colchester2 .
In several early instances, the name occurs in connexion with Cordwainer Street, or with the small Ward of the City of London bearing the same name. Thus, Baldwin le Chaucer dwelt in ‘Cordewanerstrete’ in 1307; Elyas le Chaucer in the same, in 1318-9; Nicholas Chaucer in the same, in 1356; and Henry Chaucer was a man-at-arms provided for the king’s service by Cordwanerstrete Ward3 . This is worthy of remark, because, as we shall see presently, both Chaucer’s father and his grandmother once resided in the same street, the northern end of which is now called Bow Lane, the southern end extending to Garlick Hithe. (See the article on Cordwainer Street Ward in Stowe’s Survey of London.)
§ 2.Robert le Chaucer. The earliest relative with whom we can certainly connect the poet is his grandfather Robert, who is first mentioned, together with Mary his wife, in 1307, when they sold ten acres of land in Edmonton to Ralph le Clerk, for 100s.4 On Aug. 2, 1310, Robert le Chaucer was appointed ‘one of the collectors in the port of London of the new customs upon wines granted by the merchants of Aquitaine5 .’ It is also recorded that he was possessed of one messuage, with its appurtenances, in Ipswich6 ; and it was alleged, in the course of some law-proceedings (of which I have more to say below), that the said estate was only worth 20 shillings a year. He is probably the Robert Chaucer who is mentioned under the date 1310, in the Early Letter-books of the City of London7 .
Robert Chaucer was married, in or before 1307 (see above), to a widow named Maria or Mary Heyroun8 , whose maiden name was probably Stace9 ; and the only child of whom we find any mention was his son and heir, named John, who was the poet’s father. At the same time, it is necessary to observe that Maria had a son still living, named Thomas Heyroun, who died in 134910 . John Chaucer was born, as will be shewn, in 1312; and his father Robert died before 1316 (Close Rolls, 9 Edw. II., p. 318).
§ 3.Richard le Chaucer. Some years after Robert’s death, namely in 132311 , his widow married for the third time. Her third husband was probably a relative (perhaps a cousin) of her second, his name being Richard le Chaucer, a vintner residing in the Ward of Cordwainer Street; respecting whom several particulars are known.
Richard le Chaucer was ‘one of the vintners sworn at St. Martin’s, Vintry, in 1320, to make proper scrutiny of wines12 ’; so that he was necessarily brought into business relations with Robert, whose widow he married in 1323, as already stated.
A plea held at Norwich in 1326, and entered on mem. 13 of the Coram Rege Roll of Hilary 19 Edw. II.13 , is, for the present purpose, so important that I here quote Mr. Rye’s translation of the more material portions of it from the Life-Records of Chaucer (Chaucer Soc.), p. 125:—
‘London.—Agnes, the widow of Walter de Westhale, Thomas Stace, Geoffrey Stace, and Laurence ‘Geffreyesman Stace14 ,’ were attached to answer Richard le Chaucer of London and Mary his wife on a plea that whereas the custody of the heir and land of Robert le Chaucer, until the same heir became of full age, belonged to the said Robert and Mary (because the said Robert held his land in socage, and the said Mary is nearer in relationship to the heir of the said Robert, and whereas the said Richard and Mary long remained in full and peaceful seizin of such wardship, the said Agnes, Thomas, Geoffrey, and Laurence by force and arms took away John, the son and heir of the said Robert, who was under age and in the custody of the said Richard and Mary, and married him15 against the will of the said R. and M. and of the said heir, and also did other unlawful acts against the said R. and M., to the grave injury of the said R. and M., and against the peace.
‘And therefore the said R. and M. complain that, whereas the custody of the land and heir of the said Robert, viz. of one messuage with its appurtenances in Ipswich, until the full age of, &c., belonged, &c., . . because the said Robert held the said messuage in socage, and the said Mary is nearer in relationship to the said Robert, viz. mother of the said heir, and formerlythe wife of the said Robert, and (whereas) the said R. and M. remained in full and peaceful seizin of the said wardship for a long while, viz. for one year; they, the said Agnes, T., G., and L., on the Monday [Dec. 3] before the feast of St. Nicholas, in the eighteenth year of the present king , . . stole and took away by force and arms . . the said John, son and heir of the said Robert, who was under age, viz. under the age of fourteen years, and then in the wardship of the said R. and M. at London, viz. in the Ward of Cordwanerstrete, and married him to one Joan, the daughter of Walter de Esthale [error for Westhale], and committed other unlawful acts, &c.
‘Wherefore they say they are injured, and have suffered damage to the extent of 300l.’
The defence put in was—
‘That, according to the customs of the borough of Ipswich . . any heir under age when his heirship shall descend to him shall remain in the charge of the nearest of his blood, but that his inheritance shall not descend to him till he has completed the age of twelve years . . and they say that the said heir of the said Robert completed the age of twelve years before the suing out of the said writ16 .’
And it was further alleged that the said Agnes, T., G., and L. did not cause the said heir to be married.
‘Most of the rest of the membrane,’ adds Mr. Rye, ‘is taken up with a long technical dispute as to jurisdiction, of which the mayor and citizens of London apparently got the best; for the trial came on before R. Baynard and Hamo de Chikewell [Chigwell] and Nicholas de Farndon (the two latter sitting on behalf of the City) at St. Martin’s the Great (le Grand), London, on the Sunday [Sept. 7, 1326] next before the Nativity of the B. V. M. [Sept. 8]; when, the defendants making default, a verdict was entered for the plaintiffs for 250l. damages.’
Further information as to this affair is given in the Liber Albus, ed. Riley, 1859, vol. i. pp. 437-444. A translation of this passage is given at pp. 376-381 of the English edition of the same work, published by the same editor in 1861. We hence learn that the Staces, being much dissatisfied with the heavy damages which they were thus called upon to pay, attainted Richard le Chaucer and his wife, in November, 1328, of committing perjury in the above-mentioned trial. But it was decided that attaint does not lie as to the verdict of a jury in London; a decision so important that the full particulars of the trial and of this appeal were carefully preserved among the city records.
Mr. Rye goes on to give some information as to a third document relating to the same affair. It appears that Geoffrey Stace next ‘presented a petition to parliament (2 Edw. III., 1328, no. 6), praying for relief against the damages of 250l., which he alleged were excessive, on the ground that the heir’s estate was only worth 20s. a year17 . This petition sets out all the proceedings, referring to John as “fuiz [fiz] et heire Robert le Chaucier,” but puts the finding of the jury thus: “et trove fu qu’ils avoient ravi le dit heire, mes ne mie mariee,” and alleges that “le dit heire est al large et ove [with] les avantditz Richard et Marie demourant et unkore dismarie.” ’ The result of this petition is unknown.
From the above particulars I draw the following inferences.
The fact that Mary le Chaucer claimed to be nearer in relationship to the heir (being, in fact, his mother) than the Staces, clearly shews that they also were very near relations. We can hardly doubt that the maiden name of Mary le Chaucer was Stace, and that she was sister to Thomas and Geoffrey Stace.
In Dec. 1324, John le Chaucer was, according to his mother’s statement, ‘under age’; i. e. less than fourteen years old. According to the Staces, he had ‘completed the age of twelve before the suing out, &c.’ We may safely infer that John was still under twelve when the Staces carried him off, on Dec. 3, 1324. Hence he was born in 1312, and we have seen that his father Robert married the widow Maria Heyroun not later than 1307 (§ 2). She was married to Richard in 1323 (one year before 1324), and she died before 1349, as Richard was then a widower.
The attempt to marry John to Joan de Westhale (probably his cousin) was unsuccessful. He was still unmarried in Nov. 1328, and still only sixteen years old. This disposes at once of an old tradition, for which no authority has ever been discovered, that the poet was born in 1328. The earliest date that can fairly be postulated for the birth of Geoffrey is 1330; and even then his father was only eighteen years old.
We further learn from Riley’s Memorials of London (Pref. p. xxxiii), that Richard Chaucer was a man of some wealth. He was assessed, in 1340, to lend 10l. towards the expenses of the French war; and again, in 1346, for 6l. and 1 mark towards the 3,000l. given to the king. In 1345, he was witness to a conveyance of a shop situated next his own tenement and tavern in La Reole or Royal Street, near Upper Thames Street.
The last extant document relative to Richard Chaucer is his will. Sir H. Nicolas (Life of Chaucer, Note A) says that the will of Richard Chaucer, vintner, of London, dated on Easter-day (Apr. 12), 1349, was proved in the Hustings Court of the City of London by Simon Chamberlain and Richard Litlebury, on the feast of St. Margaret (July 20), in the same year. He bequeathed his tenement and tavern, &c., in the street called La Reole, to the Church of St. Aldermary in Bow Lane, where he was buried; and left other property to pious uses. The will mentions only his deceased wife Mary and her son Thomas Heyroun; and appointed Henry at Strete and Richard Mallyns his executors18 . From this we may infer that his stepson John was, by this time, a prosperous citizen, and already provided for.
The will of Thomas Heyroun (see the same Note A) was dated just five days earlier, April 7, 1349, and was also proved in the Hustings Court. He appointed his half-brother, John Chaucer, his executor; and on Monday after the Feast of St. Thomas the Martyr19 in the same year, John Chaucer, by the description of ‘citizen and vintner, executor of the will of my brother Thomas Heyroun,’ executed a deed relating to some lands. (Records of the Hustings Court, 23 Edw. III.)
It thus appears that Richard Chaucer and Thomas Heyroun both died in 1349, the year of the first and the most fatal pestilence.
§ 4.John Chaucer. Of John Chaucer, the poet’s father, not many particulars are known. He was born, as we have seen, about 1312, and was not married till 1329, or somewhat later. His wife’s name was Agnes, described in 1369 as the kinswoman (consanguinea) and heiress of the city moneyer, Hamo de Copton, who is known to have owned property in Aldgate20 . He was a citizen and vintner of London, and owned a house in Thames Street21 , close to Walbrook, a stream now flowing underground beneath Walbrook Street22 ; so that it must have been near the spot where the arrival platform of the South-Eastern railway (at Cannon Street) now crosses Thames Street. In this house, in all probability, Chaucer was born; at any rate, it became his own property, as he parted with it in 1380. It is further known that John and Agnes Chaucer were possessed of a certain annual quit-rent of 40d. sterling, arising out of a tenement in the parish of St. Botolph-without-Aldgate23 .
In 1338 (on June 12), John Chaucer obtained letters of protection, being then on an expedition to Flanders, in attendance on the king24 . Ten years later, in the months of February and November, 1348, he is referred to as being deputy to the king’s butler in the port of Southampton25 . In 1349, as we have seen, he was executor to the will of his half-brother, Thomas Heyroun. There is a mention of him in 135226 . His name appears, together with that of his wife Agnes, in a conveyance of property dated Jan. 16, 136627 ; but he died shortly afterwards, aged about fifty-four. His widow married again in the course of a few months; for she is described in a deed dated May 6, 1367, as being then the wife of Bartholomew atte Chapel, citizen and vintner of London, and lately wife of John Chaucer, citizen and vintner28 . The date of her death is not known.
§ 5.Chaucer’s Early Years. The exact date of Geoffrey’s birth is not known, and will probably always remain a subject of dispute. It cannot, as we have seen, have been earlier than 1330; and it can hardly have been later than 1340. That it was nearer to 1340 than 1330, is the solution which best suits all the circumstances of the case. Those who argue for an early date do so solely because the poet sometimes refers to his ‘old age’; as for example in the Envoy to Scogan, 35-42, written probably in 1393; and still earlier, probably in 1385, Gower speaks, in the epilogue to the former edition of his Confessio Amantis, of the ‘later age’ of Chaucer, and of his ‘dayes olde’; whereas, if Chaucer was born in 1340, he was, at that time, only forty-five years old. But it is essential to observe that Gower is speaking comparatively; he contrasts Chaucer’s ‘later age’ with ‘the floures of his youth,’ when he ‘fulfild the land,’ in sundry wise, ‘of ditees and of songes glade.’ And, in spite of all the needless stress that has been laid upon such references as the above, we must, if we really wish to ascertain the truth without prejudice, try to bear in mind the fact that, in the fourteenth century, men were deemed old at an age which we should now esteem as almost young. Chaucer’s pupil, Hoccleve, describes himself as worn out with old age, and ready to die, at the age of fifty-three; all that he can look forward to is making a translation of a treatise on ‘learning to die.’
And further, if, in order to make out that Chaucer died at the age of nearly 70, we place his birth near the year 1330, we are at once confronted with the extraordinary difficulty, that the poet was already nearly 39 when he wrote ‘The Book of the Duchesse,’ certainly one of the earliest of his poems that have been preserved, and hardly to be esteemed as a highly satisfactory performance. But as the exact date still remains uncertain, I can only say that we must place it between 1330 and 1340. The reader can incline to whichever end of the decade best pleases him. I merely record my opinion, for what it is worth, that ‘shortly before 1340’ fits in best with all the facts.
The earliest notice of Geoffrey Chaucer, on which we can rely, refers to the year 1357. This discovery is due to Mr. (now Dr.) E. A. Bond, who, in 1851, found some fragments of an old household account which had been used to line the covers of a MS. containing Lydgate’s Storie of Thebes and Hoccleve’s De Regimine Principum, and now known as MS. Addit. 18,632 in the British Museum. They proved to form a part of the Household Accounts of Elizabeth, Countess of Ulster, wife of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the third son of King Edward III., for the years 1356-930 . These Accounts shew that, in April, 1357, when the Countess was in London, an entire suit of clothes, consisting of a paltock or short cloak, a pair of red and black breeches, and shoes, was provided for Geoffrey Chaucer at a cost of 7s., equal to about 5l. of our present money. On the 20th of May another article of dress was purchased for him in London. In December of the same year (1357), when the Countess was at Hatfield (near Doncaster) in Yorkshire, her principal place of residence, we find a note of a donation of 2s. 6d. to Geoffrey Chaucer for necessaries at Christmas. It further appears that John of Gaunt, the Countess’s brother-in-law, was a visitor at Hatfield at the same period; which indicates the probable origin of the interest in the poet’s fortunes which that illustrious prince so frequently manifested, during a long period of years.
It is further worthy of remark that, on several occasions, a female attendant on the Countess is designated as Philippa Pan’, which is supposed to be the contracted form of Panetaria, i. e. mistress of the pantry. ‘Speculations suggest themselves,’ says Dr. Bond, ‘that the Countess’s attendant Philippa may have been Chaucer’s future wife . . The Countess died in 1363, . . and nothing would be more likely than that the principal lady of her household should have found shelter after her death in the family of her husband’s mother,’ i. e. Queen Philippa. It is quite possible; it is even probable.
Perhaps it was at Hatfield that Chaucer picked up some knowledge of the Northern dialect, as employed by him in the Reves Tale. The fact that the non-Chaucerian Fragment B of the Romaunt of the Rose exhibits traces of a Northern dialect is quite a different matter; for Fragment A, which is certainly Chaucer’s, shews no trace of anything of the kind. What was Chaucer’s exact position in the Countess of Ulster’s household, we are not informed. If he was born about 1340, we may suppose that he was a page; if several years earlier, he would, in 1357, have been too old for such service. We only know that he was attached to the service of Lionel, duke of Clarence, and of the Countess of Ulster his wife, as early as the beginning of 1357, and was at that time at Hatfield, in Yorkshire. ‘He was present,’ says Dr. Bond, ‘at the celebration of the feast of St. George, at Edward III’s court, in attendance on the Countess, in April of that year; he followed the court to Woodstock; and he was again at Hatfield, probably from September, 1357, to the end of March, 1358, and would have witnessed there the reception of John of Ghent, then Earl of Richmond.’ We may well believe that he accompanied the Countess when she attended the funeral of Queen Isabella (king Edward’s mother), which took place at the Church of the Friars Minors, in Newgate Street, on Nov. 27, 1358.
§ 6.Chaucer’s first expedition.1359-60. A year later, in November, 1359, Chaucer joined the great expedition of Edward III. to France. ‘There was not knight, squire, or man of honour, from the age of twenty to sixty years, that did not go31 .’ The king of England was ‘attended by the prince of Wales and three other sons,’ including ‘Lionel, earl of Ulster32 ’; and we may be sure that Chaucer accompanied his master prince Lionel. The march of the troops lay through Artois, past Arras to Bapaume; then through Picardy, past Peronne and St. Quentin, to Rheims, which Edward, with his whole army, ineffectually besieged for seven weeks. It is interesting to note that the army must, on this occasion, have crossed the Oise, somewhere near Chauny and La-Fère, which easily accounts for the mention of that river in the House of Fame (l. 1928); and shews the uselessness of Warton’s suggestion, that Chaucer learnt the name of that river by studying Provençal poetry! In one of the numerous skirmishes that took place, Chaucer had the misfortune to be taken prisoner. This appears from his own evidence, in the ‘Scrope and Grosvenor’ trial, referred to below under the date of 1386; he then testified that he had seen Sir Richard Scrope wearing arms described as ‘azure, a bend or,’ before the town of ‘Retters,’ an obvious error for Rethel33 , not far from Rheims; and he added that he ‘had seen him so armed during the whole expedition, until he (the said Geoffrey) was taken.’ See the evidence as quoted at length at p. xxxvi. But he was soon ransomed, viz. on March 1, 1360; and the King himself contributed to his ransom the sum of 16l.34 According to Froissart, Edward was at this time in the neighbourhood of Auxerre35 .
After a short and ineffectual siege of Paris, the English army suffered severely from thunder-storms during a retreat towards Chartres, and Edward was glad to make peace; articles of peace were accordingly concluded, on May 8, 1360, at Bretigny, near Chartres. King John of France was set at liberty, leaving Eltham on Wednesday, July 1; and after stopping for three nights on the road, viz. at Dartford, Rochester, and Ospringe, he arrived at Canterbury on the Saturday36 . On the Monday he came to Dover, and thence proceeded to Calais. And surely Chaucer must have been present during the fifteen days of October which the two kings spent at Calais in each other’s company; the Prince of Wales and his two brothers, Lionel and Edmund, being also present37 . On leaving Calais, King John and the English princes ‘went on foot to the church of our Lady of Boulogne, where they made their offerings most devoutly, and afterward returned to the abbey at Boulogne, which had been prepared for the reception of the King of France and the princes of England38 .’
On July 1, 1361, prince Lionel was appointed lieutenant of Ireland, probably because he already bore the title of Earl of Ulster. It does not appear that Chaucer remained in his service much longer; for he must have been attached to the royal household not long after the return of the English army from France. In the Schedule of names of those employed in the Royal Household, for whom robes for Christmas were to be provided, Chaucer’s name occurs as seventeenth in the list of thirty-seven esquires. The list is not dated, but is marked by the Record Office ‘? 40 Edw. III,’ i. e. 136639 . However, Mr. Selby thinks the right date of this document is 1368.
§ 7.Chaucer’s Marriage: Philippa Chaucer. In 1366, we find Chaucer already married. On Sept. 12, in that year, Philippa Chaucer received from the queen, after whom she was doubtless named, a pension of ten marks (or 6l. 13s. 4d.) annually for life, perhaps on the occasion of her marriage; and we find her described as ‘una domicellarum camerae Philippae Reginae Angliae40 .’ The first known payment on behalf of this pension is dated Feb. 19, 136841 . Nicolas tells us that her pension ‘was confirmed by Richard the Second; and she apparently received it (except between 137042 and 1373, in 1378, and in 1385, the reason of which omissions does not appear) from 1366 until June 18, 1387. The money was usually paid to her through her husband; but in November, 1374, by the hands of John de Hermesthorpe, and in June, 1377 (the Poet being then on his mission in France), by Sir Roger de Trumpington, whose wife, Lady Blanche de Trumpington, was [then], like herself43 , in the service of the Duchess of Lancaster.’ As no payment appears after June, 1387, we may conclude that she died towards the end of that year44 .
Philippa’s maiden name is not known. She cannot be identified with Philippa Picard, because both names, viz. Philippa Chaucer and Philippa Picard, occur in the same document45 . Another supposition identifies her with Philippa Roet, on the assumption that Thomas Chaucer, on whose tomb appear the arms of Roet, was her son. This, as will be shewn hereafter, is highly probable, though not quite certain.
It is possible that she was the same person as Philippa, the ‘lady of the pantry,’ who has been already mentioned as belonging to the household of the Countess of Ulster. If so, she doubtless entered the royal household on the Countess’s death in 1363, and was married in 1366, or earlier. After the death of the queen in 1369 (Aug. 15), we find that (on Sept. 1) the king gave Chaucer, as being one of his squires of lesser degree, three ells of cloth for mourning; and, at the same time, six ells of cloth, for the same, to Philippa Chaucer46 .
In 1372, John of Gaunt married (as his second wife) Constance, elder daughter of Pedro, king of Castile; and in the same year (Aug. 30), he granted Philippa Chaucer a pension of 10l. per annum, in consideration of her past and future services to his dearest wife, the queen of Castile47 . Under the name of Philippa Chaucy (as the name is also written in this volume), the duke presented her with a ‘botoner,’ apparently a button-hook, and six silver-gilt buttons as a New Year’s gift for the year 137348 . In 1374, on June 13, he granted 10l. per annum to his well-loved Geoffrey Chaucer and his well-beloved Philippa, for their service to Queen Philippa and to his wife the queen [i. e. of Castile], to be received at the duke’s manor of the Savoy49 . In 1377, on May 31, payments were made to Geoffrey Chaucer, varlet, of an annuity of 20 marks that day granted, and of 10 marks to Philippa Chaucer (granted to her for life) as being one of the damsels of the chamber to the late queen, by the hands of Geoffrey Chaucer, her husband50 . In 1380, the duke gave Philippa a silver hanap (or cup) with its cover, as his New Year’s gift; and a similar gift in 1381 and 138251 . A payment of 5l. to Geoffrey ‘Chaucy’ is recorded soon after the first of these gifts. In 1384, the sum of 13l. 6s. 8d. (20 marks) is transmitted to Philippa Chaucer by John Hinesthorp, chamberlain52 . The last recorded payment of a pension to Philippa Chaucer is on June 18, 1387; and it is probable, as said above, that she died very shortly afterwards.
Sir H. Nicolas mentions that, in 1380-2, Philippa Chaucer was one of the three ladies in attendance on the Duchess of Lancaster, the two others being Lady Senche Blount and Lady Blanche de Trompington; and that in June, 1377, as mentioned above, her pension was paid to Sir Roger de Trumpington, who was Lady Blanche’s husband. This is worth a passing notice; for it clearly shews that the poet was familiar with the name of Trumpington, and must have known of its situation near Cambridge. And this may account for his laying the scene of the Reves Tale in that village, without necessitating the inference that he must have visited Cambridge himself. For indeed, it is not easy to see why the two ‘clerks’ should have been benighted there; the distance from Cambridge is so slight that, even in those days of bad roads, they could soon have returned home after dark without any insuperable difficulty.
§ 8. 1367. To return to Chaucer. In 1367, we find him ‘a valet of the king’s household’; and by the title of ‘dilectus valettus noster,’ the king, in consideration of his former and his future services, granted him, on June 20, an annual salary of 20 marks (13l. 6s. 8d.) for life, or until he should be otherwise provided for53 . Memoranda are found of the payment of this pension, in half-yearly instalments, on November 6, 1367, and May 25, 136854 ; but not in November, 1368, or May, 1369. The next entry as to its payment is dated October, 136955 . As to the duties of a valet in the royal household, see Life-Records of Chaucer, part ii. p. xi. Amongst other things, he was expected to make beds, hold torches, set boards (i.e. lay the tables for dinner), and perform various menial offices.
§ 9. 1368. The note that he received his pension, in 1368, on May 25, is of some importance. It renders improbable a suggestion of Speght, that he accompanied his former master, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, to Italy in this year. Lionel set off with an unusually large retinue, about the 10th of May56 , and passed through France on his way to Italy, where he was shortly afterwards married, for the second time, to Violante, daughter of Galeazzo Visconti. But his married life was of short duration; he died on Oct. 17 of the same year, not without suspicion of poison. His will, dated Oct. 3, 1368, is given in Testamenta Vetusta, ed. Nicolas, p. 70. It does not appear that Chaucer went to Italy before 1372-3; but it is interesting to observe that, on his second journey there in 1378, he was sent to treat with Barnabo Visconti, Galeazzo’s brother, as noted at p. xxxii.
§ 10. 1369. In this year, Chaucer was again campaigning in France. An advance of 10l. is recorded as having been made to him by Henry de Wakefeld, the Keeper of the King’s Wardrobe; and he is described as ‘equitanti de guerre (sic) in partibus Francie57 .’ In the same year, there is a note that Chaucer was to have 20s. for summer clothes58 .
This year is memorable for the last of the three great pestilences which afflicted England, as well as other countries, in the fourteenth century. Queen Philippa died at Windsor on Aug. 15; and we find an entry, dated Sept. 1, that Geoffrey Chaucer, a squire of less estate, and his wife Philippa, were to have an allowance for mourning59 , as stated above. Less than a month later, the Duchess Blaunche died, on Sept. 12; and her death was commemorated by the poet in one of the earliest of his extant poems, the Book of the Duchesse (see p. 277).
§ 11. 1370-1372. In the course of the next ten years (1370-80), the poet was attached to the court, and employed in no less than seven diplomatic services. The first of these occasions was during the summer of 1370, when he obtained the usual letters of protection, dated June 10, to remain in force till the ensuing Michaelmas60 . That he returned immediately afterwards, appears from the fact that he received his half-yearly pension in person on Tuesday, the 8th of October61 ; though on the preceding occasion (Thursday, April 25), it was paid to Walter Walssh instead of to himself62 .
In 1371 and 1372, he received his pension himself63 . In 1372 and 1373 he received 2l. for his clothes each year. This was probably a customary annual allowance to squires64 . A like payment is again recorded in 1377.
Towards the end of the latter year, on Nov. 12, 1372, Chaucer, being then ‘scutifer,’ or one of the king’s esquires, was joined in a commission with James Provan and John de Mari, the latter of whom is described as a citizen of Genoa, to treat with the duke, citizens, and merchants of Genoa, for the purpose of choosing an English port where the Genoese might form a commercial establishment65 . On Dec. 1, he received an advance of 66l. 13s. 4d. towards his expenses66 ; and probably left England before the close of the year
§ 12. 1373.Chaucer’s First Visit to Italy. All that is known of this mission is that he visited Florence as well as Genoa, and that he returned before Nov. 22, 1373, on which day he received his pension in person67 . It further appears that his expenses finally exceeded the money advanced to him; for on Feb. 4, 1374, a further sum was paid to him, on this account, of 25l. 6s. 8d.68 It was probably on this occasion that Chaucer met Petrarch at Padua, and learnt from him the story of Griselda, reproduced in the Clerkes Tale. Some critics prefer to think that Chaucer’s assertions on this point are to be taken as imaginative, and that it was the Clerk, and not himself, who went to Padua; but it is clear that in writing the Clerkes Tale, Chaucer actually had a copy of Petrarch’s Latin version before him; and it is difficult to see how he came by it unless he obtained it from Petrarch himself or by Petrarch’s assistance. For further discussion of this point, see remarks on the Sources of the Clerkes Tale, in vol. iii., and the notes in vol. v.69 We must, in any case, bear in mind the important influence which this mission to Italy, and a later one in 1378-9 to the same country, produced upon the development of his poetical writings.
It may be convenient to note here that Petrarch resided chiefly at Arquà, within easy reach of Padua, in 1370-4. His death took place there on July 18, 1374, soon after Chaucer had returned home.
§ 13. 1374. We may fairly infer that Chaucer’s execution of this important mission was satisfactorily performed; for we find that on the 23rd of April, 1374, on the celebration at Windsor of the festival of St. George, the king made him a grant of a pitcher of wine daily, to be received in the port of London from the king’s butler70 . This was, doubtless, found to be rather a troublesome gift; accordingly, it was commuted, in 1378 (April 18), for the annual sum of 20 marks (13l. 6s. 8d.)71 . The original grant was made ‘dilecto Armigero nostro, Galfrido Chaucer.’
On May 10, in the same year, the corporation of London granted Chaucer a lease for his life of the dwelling-house situate above the city-gate of Aldgate, on condition that he kept the same in good repair; he seems to have made this his usual residence till 1385, and we know that he retained possession of it till October, 138672 .
Four weeks later, on June 8, 1374, he was appointed Comptroller of the Customs and Subsidy of wools, skins, and tanned hides in the Port of London, with the usual fees. Like his predecessors, he was to write the rolls of his office with his own hand, to be continually present, and to perform his duties personally (except, of course, when employed on the King’s service elsewhere); and the other part of the seal called the ‘coket’ (quod dicitur coket) was to remain in his custody73 . The warrant by which, on June 13, 1374, the Duke of Lancaster granted him 10l. for life, in consideration of the services of himself and his wife, has been mentioned at p. xxi. In the same year, he received his half-yearly pension of 10 marks as usual; and again in 1375.
§ 14. 1375. On Nov. 8, 1375, his income was, for a time, considerably increased. He received from the crown a grant of the custody of the lands and person of Edmond, son and heir of Edmond Staplegate of Kent74 , who had died in 137275 ; this he retained for three years, during which he received in all, for his wardship and on Edmond’s marriage, the sum of 104l. This is ascertained from the petition presented by Edmond de Staplegate to Richard II. at his coronation, in which he laid claim to be permitted to exercise the office of chief butler to the king76 . And further, on Dec. 28, 1375, he received a grant from the king of the custody of five ‘solidates’ of rent for land at Soles, in Kent, during the minority of William de Solys, then an infant aged 1 year, son and heir of John Solys, deceased; together with a fee due on the marriage of the said heir77 . But the value of this grant cannot have been large.
§ 15. 1376. In 1376, on May 31, he received at the exchequer his own half-yearly pension of ten marks and his wife’s of five marks, or 10l. in all (see Notes and Queries, 3rd Ser. viii. 63); and in October he received an advance from the exchequer of 50s. on account of his pension78 . He also duly received his annuity of 10l. from the duke of Lancaster (Oct. 18, 1376, and June 12, 1377)79 .
In the same year, we also meet with the only known record connected with Chaucer’s exercise of the Office of Comptroller of the Customs. On July 12, 1376, the King granted him the sum of 71l. 4s. 6d., being the value of a fine paid by John Kent, of London, for shipping wool to Dordrecht without having paid the duty thereon80 .
Towards the end of this year, Sir John Burley and Geoffrey Chaucer were employed together on some secret service (in secretis negociis domini Regis), the nature of which is unknown; for on Dec. 23, 1376, Sir John ‘de Burlee’ received 13l. 6s. 8d., and Chaucer half that sum, for the business upon which they had been employed81 .
§ 16. 1377. On Feb. 12, 1377, Chaucer was associated with Sir Thomas Percy (afterwards Earl of Worcester) in a secret mission to Flanders, the nature of which remains unknown; and on this occasion Chaucer received letters of protection during his mission, to be in force till Michaelmas in the same year82 . Five days later, on Feb. 17, the sum of 33l. 6s. 8d. was advanced to Sir Thomas, and 10l. to Chaucer, for their expenses83 . They started immediately, and the business was transacted by March 25; and on April 11 Chaucer himself received at the exchequer the sum of 20l. as a reward from the king for the various journeys which he had made abroad upon the king’s service (pro regardo suo causâ diuersorum viagiorum per ipsum Galfridum factorum, eundo ad diuersas partes transmarinas ex precepto domini Regis in obsequio ipsius domini Regis)84 .
While Sir Thomas Percy and Chaucer were absent in Flanders, viz. on Feb. 20, 1377, the Bishop of Hereford, Lord Cobham, Sir John Montacu (i. e. Montague), and Dr. Shepeye were empowered to treat for peace with the French King85 . Their endeavours must have been ineffectual; for soon after Chaucer’s return, viz. on April 26, 1377, Sir Guichard d’Angle and several others were also appointed to negotiate a peace with France86 . Though Chaucer’s name does not expressly appear in this commission, he was clearly in some way associated with it; for only six days previously (Apr. 20), letters of protection were issued to him, to continue till Aug. 1, whilst he was on the king’s service abroad87 ; and on April 30, he was paid the sum of 26l. 13s. 4d. for his wages on this occasion88 . We further find, from an entry in the Issue Roll for March 6, 1381 (noticed again at p. xxix), that he was sent to Moustrell (Montreuil) and Paris, and that he was instructed to treat for peace.
This is clearly the occasion to which Froissart refers in the following passage. ‘About Shrovetide89 , a secret treaty was formed between the two kings for their ambassadors to meet at Montreuil-sur-Mer; and the king of England sent to Calais sir Guiscard d’Angle, Sir Richard Sturey, and sir Geoffrey Chaucer. On the part of the French were the lords de Coucy and de la Rivieres, sir Nicholas Bragues and Nicholas Bracier. They for a long time discussed the subject of the above marriage [the marriage of the French princess with Richard, prince of Wales]; and the French, as I was informed, made some offers, but the others demanded different terms, or refused treating. These lords returned therefore, with their treaties, to their sovereigns; and the truces were prolonged to the first of May.’—Johnes, tr. of Froissart, bk. i. c. 326.
I think Sir H. Nicolas has not given Froissart’s meaning correctly. According to him, ‘Froissart states that, in Feb. 1377, Chaucer was joined with Sir Guichard d’Angle, &c., to negociate a secret treaty for the marriage of Richard, prince of Wales, with Mary, daughter of the king of France,’ &c.; and that the truce was prolonged till the first of May. And he concludes that Froissart has confused two occasions, because there really was an attempt at a treaty about this marriage in 1378 (see below). It does not appear that Froissart is wrong. He merely gives the date of about Shrovetide (Feb. 10) as the time when ‘a secret treaty was formed’; and this must refer to the ineffectual commission of Feb. 20, 1377. After this ‘the king of England’ really sent ‘Sir Guiscard d’Angle’ in April; and Chaucer either went with the rest or joined them at Montreuil. Neither does it appear that discussion of the subject of the marriage arose on the English side; it was the French who proposed it, but the English who declined it, for the reason that they had received no instructions to that effect. On the other hand, the English ambassadors, having been instructed to treat for peace, procured, at any rate, a short truce. This explanation seems to me sufficient, especially as Froissart merely wrote what he had been informed; he was not present himself. The very fact that the marriage was proposed by the French on this occasion explains how the English came to consider this proposal seriously in the following year.
Fortunately, the matter is entirely cleared up by the express language employed in the Issue Roll of 4 Ric. II., under the date Mar. 6, as printed in Nicolas, Note R; where the object of the deliberations at Montreuil is definitely restricted to a treaty for peace, whilst the proposal of marriage (from the English side) is definitely dated as having been made in the reign of Richard, not of Edward III. The words are: ‘tam tempore regis Edwardi . . . in nuncium eiusdem . . . versus Moustrell’ et Parys . . . causa tractatus pacis . . . quam tempore domini regis nunc, causa locutionis habite de maritagio inter ipsum dominum regem nunc et filiam eiusdem aduersarii sui Francie.’
The princess Marie, fifth daughter of Charles V., was born in 1370 (N. and Q., 3 S. vii. 470), and was therefore only seven years old in 1377; and died in the same year. It is remarkable that Richard married Isabella, daughter of Charles VI., in 1396, when she was only eight.
It is worth notice that Stowe, in his Annales, p. 437, alludes to the same mission. He mentions, as being among the ambassadors, ‘the Earle of Salisbury and Sir Richard Anglisison a Poyton [can this be Sir Guiscard D’Angle?], the Bishop of Saint Dauids, the Bishop of Hereford, [and] Geffrey Chaucer, the famous Poet of England.’ See Life-Records of Chaucer, p. 133, note 3.
The payments made to Chaucer by John of Gaunt on May 31 of this year have been noticed above in § 7, at p. xxi.
The long reign of Edward III. terminated on June 21, 1377, during which Chaucer had received many favours from the king and the Duke of Lancaster, and some, doubtless, from Lionel, Duke of Clarence. At the same time, his wife was in favour with the queen, till her death in August, 1369; and afterwards, with the second duchess of Lancaster. The poet was evidently, at this time, in easy circumstances; and it is not unlikely that he was somewhat lavish in his expenditure. The accession of Richard, at the early age of eleven, made no difference to his position for some nine years; but in 1386, the adverse supremacy of Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, caused him much pecuniary loss and embarrassment for some time, and he frequently suffered from distress during the later period of his life.
§ 17.Chaucer’s earlier poems: till the death of Edward III. It is probable that not much of Chaucer’s extant poetry can be referred to the reign of Edward III. At the same time, it is likely that he wrote many short pieces, in the form of ballads, complaints, virelayes, and roundels, which have not been preserved; perhaps some of them were occasional pieces, and chiefly of interest at the time of writing them. Amongst the lost works we may certainly include his translation of ‘Origenes upon the Maudelayne,’ ‘The Book of the Lion,’ all but a few stanzas (preserved in the Man of Lawes Tale) of his translation of Pope Innocent’s ‘Wrecched Engendring of Mankinde,’ and all but the first 1705 lines of his translation of Le Roman de la Rose. His early work entitled ‘Ceyx and Alcioun’ is partly preserved in the Book of the Duchesse, written in 1369-70. His A B. C is, perhaps, his earliest extant complete poem.
It seems reasonable to date the poems which shew a strong Italian influence after Chaucer’s visit to Italy in 1373. The Compleint to his Lady is, perhaps, one of the earliest of these; and the Amorous Complaint bears so strong a resemblance to it that it may have been composed nearly at the same time. The Complaint to Pity seems to belong to the same period, rather than, as assumed in the text, to a time preceding the Book of the Duchesse. The original form of the Life of St. Cecily (afterwards the Second Nonnes Tale) is also somewhat early, as well as the original Palamon and Arcite, and Anelida. I should also include, amongst the earlier works, the original form of the Man of Lawes Tale (from Anglo-French), of the Clerkes Tale (from Petrarch’s Latin), and some parts of the Monkes Tale. But the great bulk of his poetry almost certainly belongs to the reign of Richard II. See the List of Works at p. lxii.
§ 18. 1377. (continued). In the commencement of the new reign, Chaucer was twice paid 40s. by the keeper of the king’s Wardrobe, for his half-yearly allowance for robes as one of the (late) king’s esquires90 . He also received 7l. 2s. 6½d. on account of his daily allowance of a pitcher of wine, calculated from October 27, 1376, to June 21, 1377, the day of king Edward’s death91 .
§ 19. 1378. In 1378, on Jan. 16, Chaucer was again associated with Sir Guichard d’Angle (created Earl of Huntingdon at the coronation of the new king), with Sir Hugh Segrave, and Dr. Skirlawe, in a mission to France to negotiate for the king’s marriage with a daughter of the king of France92 ; this is in accordance with a suggestion which, as noted at p. xxix., originated with the French. The negotiations came, however, to no result.
On Mar. 9, 1378, Geoffrey Chaucer and John Beauchamp are mentioned as sureties for William de Beauchamp, Knight, in a business having respect to Pembroke Castle93 .
On Mar. 23, 1378, Chaucer’s previous annuity of 20 marks was confirmed to him by letters patent94 ; on April 18, his previous grant of a pitcher of wine was commuted for an annual sum of twenty marks95 ; and, on May 14, he received 20l. for the arrears of his pension, and 26s. 8d. in advance, for the current half-year96 .
Chaucer’s second visit to Italy: Barnabo Visconti. On May 10, 1378, he received letters of protection, till Christmas97 ; on May 21, he procured letters of general attorney, allowing John Gower (the poet) and Richard Forrester to act for him during his absence from England98 ; and on May 28, he received 66l. 13s. 4d. for his wages and the expenses of his journey, which lasted till the 19th of September99 . All these entries refer to the same matter, viz. his second visit to Italy. On this occasion, he was sent to Lombardy with Sir Edward Berkeley, to treat with Barnabo Visconti, lord of Milan, and the famous free-lance Sir John Hawkwood, on certain matters touching the king’s expedition of war (pro certis negociis expeditionem guerre regis tangentibus); a phrase of uncertain import. This is the Barnabo Visconti, whose death, in 1385, is commemorated by a stanza in the Monkes Tale, B 3589-3596. Of Sir John Hawkwood, a soldier of fortune, and the most skilful general of his age, a memoir is given in the Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica, vol. vi. pp. 1-35. The appointment of Gower as Chaucer’s attorney during his absence is of interest, and shews the amicable relations between the two poets at this time. For a discussion of their subsequent relations, see Sources of the Canterbury Tales, vol. iii. § 38, p. 413.
§ 20. 1379-80. In 1379 and 1380, the notices of Chaucer refer chiefly to the payment of his pensions. In 1379, he received 12l. 13s. 4d. with his own hands on Feb. 3100 ; on May 24, he received the sums of 26s. 4d. and 13l. 6s. 4d. (the latter on account of the original grant of a pitcher of wine), both by assignment101 , which indicates his absence from London at the time; and on Dec. 9 he received, with his own hands, two sums of 6l. 13s. 4d. each on account of his two pensions102 . In 1380, on July 3, he received the same by assignment103 ; and on Nov. 28, he received the same with his own hands104 , together with a sum of 14l. for wages and expenses in connexion with his mission to Lombardy in 1378104 , in addition to the 66l. 13s. 4d. paid to him on May 28 of that year. He also received 5l. from the Duke of Lancaster on May 11 (N. and Q., 7 S. v. 290).
By a deed dated May 1, 1380, a certain Cecilia Chaumpaigne, daughter of the late William Chaumpaigne and Agnes his wife, released to Chaucer all her rights of action against him ‘de raptu meo105 .’ We have no means of ascertaining either the meaning of the phrase, or the circumstances referred to. It may mean that Chaucer was accessory to her abduction, much as Geoffrey Stace and others were concerned in the abduction of the poet’s father; or it may be connected with the fact that his ‘little son Lowis’ was ten years old in 1391, as we learn from the Prologue to the Treatise on the Astrolabe.
§ 21. 1381. On March 6, Chaucer received 22l. for his services in going to Montreuil and Paris in the time of the late king, i. e. in 1377, in order to treat for peace; as well as for his journey to France in 1378 to treat for a marriage between king Richard and the daughter of his adversary (adversarii sui)106 . The Treasury must, at this time, have been slack in paying its just debts. On May 24, he and his wife received their usual half-yearly pensions107 .
By a deed dated June 19, 1380, but preserved in the Hustings Roll, no. 110, at the Guildhall, and there dated 5 Ric. II. (1381-2), Chaucer released his interest in his father’s house to Henry Herbury, vintner, in whose occupation it then was; and it is here that he describes himself as ‘me Galfridum Chaucer, filium Johannis Chaucer, Vinetarii Londonie108 .’ This is the best authority for ascertaining his father’s name, occupation, and abode. Towards the close of the year we find the following payments to him; viz. on Nov. 16, sums of 6l. 13s. 4d. and 6s. 8d.; on Nov. 28, the large sum of 46l. 13s. 4d., paid to Nicholas Brembre and John Philipot, Collectors of Customs, and to Geoffrey Chaucer, Comptroller of the Customs; and on Dec. 31, certain sums to himself and his wife109 .
§ 22. 1382. We have seen that, in 1378, an ineffectual attempt was made to bring about a marriage between the king and a French princess. In 1382, the matter was settled by his marriage with Anne of Bohemia, who exerted herself to calm the animosities which were continually arising in the court, and thus earned the title of the ‘good queen Anne.’ It was to her that Chaucer was doubtless indebted for some relaxation of his official duties in February, 1385, as noted below.
On May 8, 1382, Chaucer’s income was further increased. Whilst retaining his office of Comptroller of the Customs of Wools, the duties of which he discharged personally, he was further appointed Comptroller of the Petty Customs in the Port of London, and was allowed to discharge the duties of the office by a sufficient deputy110 . The usual payments of his own and his wife’s pensions were made, in this year, on July 22 and Nov. 11. On Dec. 10, a payment to him is recorded, in respect of his office as Comptroller of the Customs111 .
§ 23. 1383. In 1383, the recorded payments are: on Feb. 27, 6s. 8d.; on May 5, his own and his wife’s pensions; and on Oct. 24, 6l. 13s. 4d. for his own pension112 . Besides these, is the following entry for Nov. 23: ‘To Nicholas Brembre and John Philipot, Collectors of Customs, and Geoffrey Chaucer, Comptroller; money delivered to them this day in regard of the assiduity, labour, and diligence brought to bear by them on the duties of their office, for the year late elapsed, 46l. 13s. 4d.’; being the same amount as in 1381113 . It is possible that the date Dec. 10, on which he tells us that he began his House of Fame, refers to this year.
§ 24. 1384. In 1384, on Apr. 30, he received his own and his wife’s pensions114 . On Nov. 25, he was allowed to absent himself from his duties for one month, on account of his own urgent affairs; and the Collectors of the Customs were commanded to swear in his deputy115 . On Dec. 9, one Philip Chaucer is referred to as Comptroller of the Customs, but Philip is here an error for Geoffrey, as shewn by Mr. Selby116 .
§ 25. 1385. In 1385, a stroke of good fortune befell him, which evidently gave him much relief and pleasure. It appears that Chaucer had asked the king to allow him to have a sufficient deputy in his office as Comptroller at the Wool Quay (in French, Wolkee) of London117 . And on Feb. 17, he was released from the somewhat severe pressure of his official duties (of which he complains feelingly in the House of Fame, 652-660) by being allowed to appoint a permanent deputy118 . He seems to have revelled in his newly-found leisure; and we may fairly infer from the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women, which seems to have been begun shortly afterwards, that he was chiefly indebted for this favour to the good queen Anne. (See the Introduction to vol. iii. p. xix.) On April 24, he received his own pensions as usual, in two sums of 6l. 13s. 4d. each; and, on account of his wife’s pension, 3l. 6s. 8d.119
§ 26. 1386. In 1386, as shewn by the Issue Rolls, he received his pensions as usual. In other respects, the year was eventful. Chaucer was elected a knight of the shire120 for the county of Kent, with which he would therefore seem to have had some connexion, perhaps by the circumstance of residing at Greenwich (see § 32). He sat accordingly in the parliament which met at Westminster on Oct. 1, and continued its sittings till Nov. 1. He and his colleague, William Betenham, were allowed 24l. 8s. for their expenses in coming to and returning from the parliament, and for attendance at the same; at the rate of 8s. a day for 61 days121 . The poet was thus an unwilling contributor to his own misfortunes; for the proceedings of this parliament were chiefly directed against the party of the duke of Lancaster, his patron, and on Nov. 19 the king was obliged to grant a patent by which he was practically deprived of all power. A council of regency of eleven persons was formed, with the duke of Gloucester at their head; and the partisans of John of Gaunt found themselves in an unenviable position. Among the very few persons who still adhered to the king was Sir Nicholas Brembre122 , Chaucer’s associate in the Customs (see note above, Nov. 23, 1383); and we may feel confident that Chaucer’s sympathies were on the same side. We shall presently see that, when the king regained his power in 1389, Chaucer almost immediately received a valuable appointment.
It was during the sitting of this parliament, viz. on Oct. 15, that Chaucer was examined at Westminster in the case of Richard, lord Scrope, against the claim of Sir Robert Grosvenor, as to the right of bearing the coat of arms described as ‘azure, a bend or.’ The account of Chaucer’s evidence is given in French123 ; the following is a translation of it, chiefly in the words of Sir H. Nicolas:—
‘Geoffrey Chaucer, Esquire, of the age of 40 years and upwards, armed for 27 years, produced on behalf of Sir Richard Scrope, sworn and examined.
‘Asked, whether the arms, “azure, a bend or,” belonged or ought to belong to the said Sir Richard of right and heritage? Said—Yes, for he had seen them armed in France before the town of Retters124 , and Sir Henry Scrope armed in the same arms with a white label, and with a banner, and the said Sir Richard armed in the entire arms, Azure, a bend Or, and he had so seen them armed during the whole expedition, till the said Geoffrey was taken.
‘Asked, how he knew that the said arms appertained to the said Sir Richard? Said—by hearsay from old knights and squires, and that they had always continued their possession of the said arms; and that they had always been reputed to be their arms, as the common fame and the public voice testifies and had testified; and he also said, that when he had seen the said arms in banners, glass, paintings, and vestments, they were commonly called the arms of Scrope.
‘Asked, if he had ever heard say who was the first ancestor of the said Sir Richard who first bore the said arms? Said—No; nor had he ever heard otherwise than that they were come of old ancestry and of old gentry, and that they had used the said arms.
‘Asked, if he had ever heard say how long a time the ancestors of the said Sir Richard had used the said arms? Said—No; but he had heard say that it passed the memory of man.
‘Asked, if he had ever heard of any interruption or claim made by Sir Robert Grosvenor or by his ancestors or by any one in his name, against the said Sir Richard or any of his ancestors? Said—No; but said, that he was once in Friday Street, London, and, as he was walking in the street, he saw a new sign, made of the said arms, hanging out; and he asked what inn it was that had hung out these arms of Scrope? And one answered him and said—No, sir; they are not hung out as the arms of Scrope, nor painted for those arms; but they are painted and put there by a knight of the county of Chester, whom men call Sir Robert Grosvenor; and that was the first time that he had ever heard speak of Sir Robert Grosvenor, or of his ancestors, or of any one bearing the name of Grosvenor.’
The statement that Chaucer was, at this time, of the age of ‘forty and upwards’ (xl. ans et plus) ought to be of assistance in determining the date of his birth; but it has been frequently discredited on the ground that similar statements made, in the same account, respecting other persons, can easily be shewn to be incorrect. It can hardly be regarded as more than a mere phrase, expressing that the witness was old enough to give material evidence. But the testimony that the witness had borne arms for twenty-seven years (xxvii. ans) is more explicit, and happens to tally exactly with the evidence actually given concerning the campaign of 1359; a campaign which we may at once admit, on his own shewing, to have been his first. Taken in connexion with his service in the household of the Countess of Ulster, where his position was probably that of page, we should expect that, in 1359, he was somewhere near 20 years of age, and born not long before 1340. It is needless to discuss the point further, as nothing will convince those who are determined to make much of Chaucer’s allusions to his ‘old age’ (which is, after all, a personal affair), and who cannot understand why Hoccleve should speak of himself as ‘ripe for death’ when he was only fifty-three.
It was during the session of this same parliament (Oct. 1386) that Chaucer gave up the house in Aldgate which he had occupied since May, 1374; and the premises were granted by the corporation to one Richard Forster, possibly the same person as the Richard Forrester who had been his proxy in 1378125 . In this house he must have composed several of his poems; and, in particular, The Parlement of Foules, The House of Fame, and Troilus, besides making his translation of Boethius. The remarks about ‘my house’ in the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women, 282, are inconsistent with the position of a house above a city-gate. If, as is probable, they have reference to facts, we may suppose that he had already practically resigned his house to his friend in 1385, when he was no longer expected to perform his official duties personally.
Meanwhile, the duke of Gloucester was daily gaining ascendancy; and Chaucer was soon to feel the resentment of his party. On Dec. 4, 1386, he was deprived of his more important office, that of Comptroller of the Customs of Wool, and Adam Yerdeley was appointed in his stead. Only ten days later, on Dec. 14, he lost his other office likewise, and Henry Gisors became Comptroller of the Petty Customs126 . This must have been a heavy loss to one who had previously been in good circumstances, and who seems to have spent his money rather freely127 . He was suffered, however, to retain his own and his wife’s pensions, as there was no pretence for depriving him of them.
§ 27. 1387. In 1387, the payment of his wife’s pension, on June 18, appears for the last time128 . It cannot be doubted that she died during the latter part of this year. In the same year, and in the spring of 1388, he received his own pensions, as usual129 ; but his wife’s pension ceased at her death, at a time when his own income was seriously reduced.
§ 28. 1388. In 1388, on May 1, the grants of his two annual pensions, of 20 marks each, were cancelled at his own request, and assigned, in his stead, to John Scalby130 . The only probable interpretation of this act is that he was then hard pressed for money, and adopted this ready but rather rash method for obtaining a considerable sum at once. He retained, however, the pension of 10l. per annum, granted him by the duke of Lancaster in 1374. Chaucer was evidently a hard worker and a practical man. We have every reason for believing that he performed his duties assiduously, as he himself asserts; and the loss of his offices in Dec. 1386 must have occasioned a good deal of enforced leisure. This explains at once why the years 1387 and 1388 were, as appears from other considerations, the most active time of his poetical career; he was then hard at work on his Canterbury Tales. And though the loss of his wife, at the close of 1387, must have caused a sad interruption in his congenial task, we can hardly wonder if, after a reasonable interval, he resumed it; it was perhaps the best thing that he could do.
§ 29. 1389. This period of almost complete leisure came to an end in July, 1389; owing, probably, to the fact that the king, on May 3 in that year, suddenly took the government into his own hands. The influence of the duke of Gloucester was on the wane; the duke of Lancaster returned to England; and the cloud that had lain over Chaucer’s fortunes was once more dispersed. His public work required some attention, though he was allowed to have a deputy, and the time devoted to the Canterbury Tales was diminished. It is doubtful whether, with the exception of a few occasional pieces, Chaucer wrote much new poetry during the last ten years of his life.
On July 12, Chaucer received the valuable appointment of Clerk of the King’s Works at the palace of Westminster, the Tower of London, the Mews at Charing Cross, and other places. Among them are mentioned the Castle of Berkhemsted (Berkhamstead, Herts.), the King’s manors of Kennington (now in London), Eltham (Kent), Clarendon (near Salisbury), Sheen (now Richmond, Surrey)131 , Byfleet (Surrey), Childern Langley (i. e. King’s Langley, Hertfordshire), and Feckenham (Worcestershire); also the Royal lodge of Hatherbergh in the New Forest, and the lodges in the parks of Clarendon, Childern Langley, and Feckenham. He was permitted to execute his duties by deputy, and his salary was 2s. per day, or 36l. 10s. annually, a considerable sum132 . A payment to Chaucer, as Clerk of the Works, is recorded only ten days later (July 22); and we find that, about this time, he issued a commission to one Hugh Swayn to provide materials for the king’s works at Westminster, Sheen, and elsewhere133 .
§ 30. 1390. In 1390, on March 13, Chaucer was appointed on a commission, with five others, to repair the banks of the Thames between Woolwich and Greenwich (at that time, probably, his place of residence); but was superseded in 1391134 .
In the same year, Chaucer was entrusted with the task of putting up scaffolds in Smithfield for the king and queen to see the jousts which took place there in the month of May; this notice is particularly interesting in connexion with the Knightes Tale (A 1881-92). The cost of doing this, amounting to 8l. 12s. 6d., was allowed him in a writ dated July 1, 1390; and he received further payment at the rate of 2s. a day135 .
About this time, in the 14th year of king Richard (June 22, 1390-June 21, 1391), he was appointed joint forester, with Richard Brittle, of North Petherton Park, in Somersetshire, by the earl of March, the grandson of his first patron, Prince Lionel. Perhaps in consequence of the death of Richard Brittle, he was made sole forester in 21 Ric. II. (1397-8) by the countess of March; and he probably held the appointment till his death in 1400. No appointment, however, is known to have been then made, and we find that the next forester, appointed in 4 Hen. V. (1416-17), was no other than Thomas Chaucer, who may have been his son136 . It is perhaps worthy of remark that some of the land in North Petherton, as shewn by Collinson, descended to Emma, third daughter of William de Placetis, which William had the same office of ‘forester of North Petherton’ till his death in 1274; and this Emma married John Heyron, who died in 1326-7, seised of lands at Enfield, Middlesex, and at Newton, Exton, and North Petherton, in the county of Somerset (Calend. Inquis. post Mortem, 1806, vol. i. p. 333; col. 1). If this John Heyron was related to the Maria Heyron who was Chaucer’s grandmother, there was perhaps a special reason for appointing Chaucer to this particular office.
On July 12, 1390, he was ordered to procure workmen and materials for the repair of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, then in a ruinous condition; this furnishes a very interesting association137 .
On Sept. 6, 1390, a curious misfortune befell the poet. He was robbed twice on the same day, by the same gang of robbers; once of 10l. of the king’s money, at Westminster, and again of 9l. 3s. 2d., of his horse, and of other property, near the ‘foul oak’ (foule ok) at Hatcham, Surrey (now a part of London, approached by the Old Kent Road, and not far from Deptford and Greenwich). One of the gang confessed the robberies; and Chaucer was forgiven the repayment of the money138 .
§ 31. 1391. In 1391, on Jan. 22, Chaucer appointed John Elmhurst as his deputy, for superintending repairs at the palace of Westminster and the tower of London; this appointment was confirmed by the king139 . It was in this year that he wrote his Treatise on the Astrolabe, for the use of his son Lowis. By this time, the Canterbury Tales had ceased to make much progress. For some unknown reason, Chaucer lost his appointment in the summer; for on June 17, a writ was issued, commanding him to give up to John Gedney140 all his rolls, &c. connected with his office141 ; and on Sept. 16, we find, accordingly, that the office was held by John Gedney142 ; nevertheless, payments to Chaucer as ‘late Clerk of the Works’ occur on Dec. 16, 1391, Mar. 4 and July 13, 1392, and even as late as in 1393143 .
§ 32. 1392-3. Chaucer was now once more without public employment. No doubt the Canterbury Tales received some attention, and perhaps we may assign to this period various alterations in the original plan of the poem. The author must by this time have seen the necessity of limiting each of his characters to the telling of one Tale only. The Envoy to Scogan and the Complaint of Venus were probably written in 1393. According to a note written opposite l. 45 of the former poem, Chaucer was then residing at Greenwich, a most convenient position for frequent observation of pilgrims on the road to Canterbury. See §§ 26 and 30.
§ 33. 1394. Chaucer was once more a poor man, although, as a widower, his expenses may have been less. Probably he endeavoured to draw attention to his reduced circumstances, or Henry Scogan may have done so for him, in accordance with the poet’s suggestion in l. 48 of the Envoy just mentioned. In 1394, on Feb. 28, he obtained from the king a grant of 20l. per annum for life, payable half-yearly at Easter and Michaelmas, being 6l. 13s. 8d. less than the pensions which he had disposed of in 1388144 ; but the first payment was not made till Dec. 20, when he received 10l. for the half-year from Easter to Michaelmas, and the proportional sum of 1l. 16s. 7d. for the month of March145 .
§ 34. 1395. The difficulties which Chaucer experienced at this time, as to money matters, are clearly illustrated during the year 1395. In this year he applied for a loan from the exchequer, in advance of his pension, no less than four times. In this way he borrowed 10l. on April 1; 10l. on June 25; 1l. 6s. 8d. on Sept. 9; and 8l. 6s. 8d. on Nov. 27. He repaid the first of these loans on May 28; and the second was covered by his allowance at Michaelmas. He must also have repaid the small third loan, as the account was squared by his receipt of the balance of 1l. 13s. 4d. (instead of 10l.) on March 1, 1396146 . All the sums were paid into his own hands, so that he was not far from home in 1395. The fact that he borrowed so small a sum as 1l. 6s. 8d. is significant and saddening.
In 19 Ric. II. (June, 1395-June, 1396), Chaucer was one of the attorneys of Gregory Ballard, to receive seizin of the manor of Spitalcombe, and of other lands in Kent147 .
§ 35. 1396. In 1396, as noted above, he received the balance of his first half-year’s pension on March 1. The second half-year’s pension was not paid till Dec. 25148 . The Balades of Truth, Gentilesse, and Lak of Stedfastnesse possibly belong to this period, but some critics would place the last of these somewhat earlier.
§ 36. 1397. In 1397, the payment of the pension was again behindhand; there seems to have been some difficulty in obtaining it, due, probably, to the lavish extravagance of the king. Instead of receiving his half-yearly pension at Easter, Chaucer received it much later, and in two instalments; viz. 5l. on July 2, and 5l. on Aug. 9. But after this, things mended; for his Michaelmas pension was paid in full, viz. 10l., on Oct. 26149 . It was received for him by John Walden, and it is probable that at this time he was in infirm health.
§ 37. 1398. We may certainly infer that, at this time, Chaucer was once more in great distress for money, and considerably in debt. It is also probable that he was becoming infirm; for indeed, his death was now approaching. In the Easter term of 1398 (Apr. 24-May 20), one Isabella Buckholt sued him for the sum of 14l. 1s. 11d. He did not, however, put in an appearance; for the sheriff’s return, in the Michaelmas term (Oct. 9-Nov. 28), was—‘non est inventus’; and a similar return was again made in the Trinity term of 1399 (June 4-25)150 .
We are tempted to suspect that the sheriff was not particularly diligent in his search after the debtor. That Chaucer was well aware of the awkwardness of his position, is shewn by the fact that on May 4, 1398, just at the very time when the suit was brought, he applied for, and obtained, letters of protection from the king against his enemies, forbidding any one to sue or arrest him on any plea, except it were connected with land, for the term of two years151 . This furnishes an additional reason why the sheriff did not ‘find’ him. When the two years terminated, in May, 1400, he had not half a year to live.
On June 3, 1398, Chaucer was again unable to receive his pension himself, but it was conveyed to him by William Waxcombe152 . At the close of the next month, he was reduced to such pitiable straits that we find him applying personally to the exchequer, for such a trifling advance as 6s. 8d., on July 24; and for the same sum only a week later, on July 31152 .
On Aug. 23, he personally received a further advance of 5l. 6s. 8d.152
In his distress, he determined to send in a petition to the king. A copy of this, in French, is still preserved. On Oct. 13, 1398, he prayed to be allowed a hogshead of wine (tonel de vin), to be given him by the king’s butler153 ; he even asked this favour ‘for God’s sake and as a work of charity’ (pur Dieu et en œure de charitee). It is satisfactory to find that his request met with a prompt response; for only two days afterwards, on Oct. 15, the king made him a grant of a tun of wine annually for life, from the king’s butler or his deputy; Sir H. Nicolas computes the value of this grant at about 5l. a year. Moreover, the grant was made to date as from Dec. 1, 1397; so that he necessarily received from it some immediate benefit154 . He also received from the exchequer, with his own hands, the sum of 10l. on Oct. 28155 .
§ 38. 1399. In 1399, the great change in political affairs practically brought his distress to an end; and it is pleasant to think that, as far as money matters were concerned, he ended his days in comparative ease. Henry of Lancaster was declared king on Sept. 30; and Chaucer lost no time in laying his case before him. This he did by sending in a copy of his ‘Compleint to his Empty Purse,’ a poem which seems to have been originally written on some other occasion. He added to it, however, an Envoy of five lines, which, like a postscript to some letters, contained the pith of the matter:—
The king was prompt to reply; it must have given him real satisfaction to be able to assist the old poet, with whom he must have been on familiar terms. On Oct. 3, only the fourth day after the king’s accession, the answer came. He was to receive 40 marks yearly (26l. 13s. 4d.), in addition to the annuity of 20l. which king Richard had granted him; so that his income was more than doubled. Even then, he met with a slight misfortune, in losing his letters patent; but, having made oath in Chancery, that the letters patent of Feb. 28, 1394 (referring to king Richard’s grant of 20l.), and the new letters patent of Oct. 3, 1399, had been accidentally lost, he procured, on Oct. 13, exemplifications of these records156 . These grants were finally confirmed by the king on Oct. 21157 .
On Christmas eve, 1399, he covenanted for a lease of 53 years (a long term for one at his age to contemplate) of a house situate in the garden of the Chapel of St. Mary, Westminster, near Westminster Abbey, at the annual rent of 2l. 13s. 4d. This lease, from the Custos Capellae Beatae Mariae to Geoffrey Chaucer, dated Dec. 24, 1399, is in the Muniment Room of Westminster Abbey. The house stood on or near the spot now occupied by Henry the Seventh’s Chapel158 . We find, however, that he had only a life-interest in the lease, as the premises were to revert to the Custos Capellae if the tenant died within the term.
§ 39. 1400. In 1400, payments to him are recorded on Feb. 21, of the pension of 20l. granted by king Richard159 , in respect of the half-year ending at Michaelmas, 1399; and on June 5, the sum of 5l., being part of a sum of 8l. 13s. 5d. due for a portion of the next half-year, calculated as commencing on Oct. 21, 1399, and terminating on the last day of March, 1400, was sent him by the hands of Henry Somere160 .
We should notice that this Henry Somere was, at the time, the Clerk of the Receipt of the Exchequer; he was afterwards Under Treasurer, at which time Hoccleve addressed to him a Balade, printed in Furnivall’s edition of Hoccleve’s Works, at p. 59, followed by a Roundel containing a pun upon his name; as well as a second Balade, addressed to him after he had been made a Baron, and promoted to be Chancellor (see the same, p. 64). Perhaps he was related to John Somere, the Frere, mentioned in the Treatise on the Astrolabe (Prol. 62).
Chaucer died on Oct. 25, 1400, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. The date of his death is only known from an inscription on the tomb of gray marble erected near his grave, in 1556, by Nicholas Brigham, a man of letters, and an admirer of the poet’s writings; but it is probably correct, and may have rested on tradition161 . We have no note of him after June 5, and no record of a payment of the pension in October. According to Stowe, Chaucer’s grave is in the cloister, where also lies the body of ‘Henrie Scogan, a learned poet,’ i. e. the Scogan who was Chaucer’s friend.
§ 40.Chaucer’s Arms and Tomb. ‘In front of the tomb,’ says Sir. H. Nicolas, ‘are three panelled divisions of starred quarterfoils (sic), containing shields with the Arms of Chaucer, viz. Per pale argent and gules, a bend counterchanged; and the same Arms also occur in an oblong compartment at the back of the recess, where the following inscription was placed, but which is now almost obliterated, from the partial decomposition and crumbling state of the marble. A small whole-length portrait of Chaucer was delineated in plano on the north side of the inscription, but not a vestige of it is left; and the whole of the recess and canopy has recently been coloured black.
On the ledge of the tomb the following verses were engraved:—
We learn from an interesting note at the end of Caxton’s edition of Boethius, that the good printer was not satisfied with printing some of Chaucer’s works, but further endeavoured to perpetuate the poet’s memory by raising a pillar near his tomb, to support a tablet containing an epitaph consisting of 34 Latin verses. This epitaph was composed by Stephanus Surigonus of Milan, licentiate in decrees, and is reprinted in Stowe’s edition of Chaucer’s Works (1561), at fol. 355, back. The last four lines refer to Caxton’s pious care:—
A description, by Dean Stanley, of the Chaucer window in Westminster Abbey, completed in 1868, is given in Furnivall’s Temporary Preface (Ch. Soc.), p. 133. Some of the subjects in the window are taken from the poem entitled ‘The Flower and the Leaf,’ which he did not write.
It will be observed that Sir H. Nicolas speaks, just above, of ‘the arms of Chaucer,’ which he describes. But it should be remembered that this is, practically, an assumption, which at once launches us into an uncertain and debateable position. These arms certainly belonged to Thomas Chaucer, for they occur on a seal of his of which a drawing is given in MS. Julius C 7, fol. 153; an accurate copy of which is given by Sir H. Nicolas. It is therefore quite possible that the same arms were assigned to the poet in 1556, only because it was then assumed that Thomas was Geoffrey’s son; the fact being that the relationship of Thomas to Geoffrey is open to doubt, and the case requires to be stated with great care.
§ 41.Thomas Chaucer. Few things are more remarkable than the utter absence of unequivocal early evidence as to the above-mentioned point. That Geoffrey Chaucer was a famous man, even in his own day, cannot be doubted; and it is equally certain that Thomas Chaucer was a man of great wealth and of some consequence. Sir H. Nicolas has collected the principal facts relating to him, the most important being the following. On Oct. 26, 1399, Henry IV. granted him the offices of Constable of Wallingford Castle and Steward of the Honours of Wallingford and St. Valery and of the Chiltern Hundreds for life, receiving therefrom 40l. a year, with 10l. additional for his deputy162 . On Nov. 5, 1402, he was appointed Chief Butler for life to King Henry IV.163 ; and there is a note that he had previously been Chief Butler to Richard II.164 , but the date of that appointment has not been ascertained. He was also Chief Butler to Henry V. until March, 1418, when he was superseded165 ; but was again appointed Chief Butler to Henry VI. after his accession. He represented Oxfordshire in Parliament in 1402, 1408, 1409, 1412, 1414, 1423, 1427, and 1429; and was Speaker of the House of Commons in 1414166 , and in other years. ‘He was employed on many occasions of trust and importance during the reigns of Henry IV., Henry V., and Henry VI.;’ to which Sir H. Nicolas adds, that he ‘never attained a higher rank than that of esquire.’
His wealth, at his death in 1434, was unusually great, as shewn by the long list of his landed possessions in the Inquisitiones post Mortem. This wealth he doubtless acquired by his marriage with an heiress, viz. Matilda, second daughter and co-heiress of Sir John Burghersh, who died Sept. 21, 1391, when Matilda was 12 years old. Unfortunately, the date of this marriage is uncertain, though Sir H. Nicolas shews that it was probably earlier than 1403. The exact date would be very useful; for if it took place before 1399, it becomes difficult to understand why the poet was left so poor, whilst his son had vast possessions.
It should be noticed that there is but little to connect even Thomas Chaucer (still less Geoffrey) with Woodstock, until 1411; when the Queen (Joan of Navarre) granted Thomas the farm of the manors of Woodstock, Hanburgh, Wotton, and Stonfield, which, by the king’s assignment, he enjoyed for life167 . That the poet visited Woodstock in 1357, when in the service of Prince Lionel, is almost certain; but beyond this, we have no sure information on the matter. It is true that ‘Wodestok’ is mentioned in the last line of the Cuckow and the Nightingale, but this supposed connecting link is at once broken, when we find that the said poem was certainly not of his writing168 . The suggested reference to Woodstock in the Parliament of Foules, l. 122, is discussed below, at p. 510.
The only child of Thomas and Matilda Chaucer was Alice, whose third husband was no less a person than William de la Pole, then Earl and afterwards Duke of Suffolk, who was beheaded in 1450. Their eldest son was John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, who married Elizabeth, sister of King Edward IV. Their eldest son bore the same name, and was not only created Earl of Lincoln, but was actually declared heir-apparent to the throne by Richard III; so that there was, at one time, a probability that Thomas Chaucer’s great-grandson would succeed to the throne. But the battle of Bosworth, in 1485, set this arrangement aside; and the Earl of Lincoln was himself killed two years later, in the battle of Stoke.
§ 42.The relationship of Thomas to Geoffrey Chaucer. Considering the great eminence of these two men, the almost total silence of early evidence, establishing a connexion between them, is in a high degree remarkable.
The earliest connecting link is the fact that a deed by Thomas Chaucer still exists, written (in English) at Ewelme, and dated May 20, 1409, to which a seal is appended. This seal exhibits the arms which were certainly borne by Thomas Chaucer (viz. party per pale, argent and gules, a bend counterchanged); but the legend, though somewhat indistinct, can only be read as: ‘S’ Ghofrai Chaucier169 ’; where S’ signifies ‘Sigillum.’
The spelling ‘Ghofrai’ is hardly satisfactory; but if Geoffrey be really meant, we gain a piece of evidence of high importance. It proves that Geoffrey bore the same arms as Thomas, and not the same arms as his father John; whose seal displays a shield ermine, on a chief, three birds’ heads issuant (The Academy, Oct. 13, 1877, p. 364). Moreover, the use of Geoffrey’s seal by Thomas goes far to establish that the latter was the son of the former.
The next link is that Geoffrey Chaucer was succeeded by Thomas Chaucer in the office of forester of North Petherton in Somersetshire; but even here there is a gap in the succession, as Thomas was not appointed till 1416-7, the fourth year of Henry V.170
It is not till the reign of Henry VI. that we at last obtain an unequivocal statement. Thomas Gascoigne, who died in 1458, wrote a Theological Dictionary, which still exists, in MS., in the Library of Lincoln College, Oxford. He tells us that Chaucer, in his last hours, frequently lamented the wickedness of his writings, though it is transparent that he here merely repeats, in a varied form, the general tenour of the well-known final paragraph of the Persones Tale. But he adds this important sentence: ‘Fuit idem Chawserus pater Thomae Chawserus, armigeri, qui Thomas sepelitur in Nuhelm iuxta Oxoniam171 .’ The statement is the more important because Gascoigne ought to have known the exact truth. He was Chancellor of Oxford, and Thomas Chaucer held the manor of Ewelme, at no great distance, at the same date. As he mentions Thomas’s sepulture, he wrote later than 1434, yet before 1458. Even in the case of this decisive statement, it were to be wished that he had shewn greater accuracy in the context; surely he gives a quite unfair turn to the poet’s own words.
On the whole, I can only admit at present, that there is a high probability that Thomas was really Geoffrey’s son. Perhaps we shall some day know the certainty of the matter.
§ 43.Thomas’s Mother. The chief reason why it is so desirable to know the exact truth as to the relationship of Thomas to Geoffrey, is that a good deal depends upon it. If such was the case, it follows that Philippa Chaucer was Thomas’s mother; in which case, we may feel tolerably confident that her maiden name was Roet or Rouet. This has been inferred from the fact that the arms (apparently) of Roet ‘occur repeatedly on Thomas Chaucer’s tomb, as his paternal coat, instead of the arms usually attributed to him and to the poet.’ These arms bore ‘three wheels, evidently in allusion to the name172 .’ Having thus assigned to Philippa Chaucer the name of Roet, the next step (usually accepted, yet not absolutely proved) is to assume that she was the sister of the Katherine de Roet of Hainault173 , who married Sir Hugh Swynford, and afterwards became the mistress, and, in 1396, the third wife of John of Gaunt. Her father is supposed to have been Sir Payne Roet, of Hainault, upon the evidence of his epitaph, which (in Weever’s Funeral Monuments, p. 413) is thus given:—‘Hic jacet Paganus Roet, Miles, Guyenne Rex Armorum, Pater Catherine Ducisse Lancastriae174 .’ It is obvious that, if all the inferences are correct, they clearly establish an important and close connexion between the poet and John of Gaunt. Further arguments, whether in favour of or against this connexion, need hardly be repeated here. They may be found in Nicolas’s Life of Chaucer, and in Lounsbury’s Studies in Chaucer, vol. i.
Thynne has the following remark in his Animadversions, &c. (ed. Furnivall, p. 22): ‘Althoughe I fynde a recorde of the pellis exitus, in the tyme of Edwarde the thirde, of a yerely stypende to Elizabethe Chawcer, Domicelle regine Philippe, whiche Domicella dothe signyfye one of her weytinge gentlewomen: yet I cannott . . . thinke this was his wyfe, but rather his sister or kinneswoman, who, after the deathe of her mystresse Quene Philippe, did forsake the worlde and became a nonne at Seinte Heleins in London.’ And we find, accordingly (as Nicolas shews), that ‘on July 27, 1377, the King exercised his right to nominate a Nun in the Priory of St. Helen’s, London, after the coronation, in favour of Elizabeth Chausier.’ Another Elizabeth Chaucy (who may have been the poet’s daughter) is also noticed by Nicolas, for whose noviciate, in the Abbey of Berking in Essex, John of Gaunt paid 51l. 8s. 2d., on May 12, 1381. But these are mere matters for conjecture.
§ 44. The preceding sections include all the most material facts that have been ascertained with respect to Geoffrey Chaucer, and it is fortunate that, owing to his connexion with public business, they are so numerous and so authentic. At the same time, it will doubtless be considered that such dry details, however useful, tell us very little about the man himself; though they clearly shew the versatility of his talents, and exhibit him as a page, a soldier, a valet and esquire of the royal household, an envoy, a comptroller of customs, a clerk of works, and a member of Parliament. In the truest sense, his own works best exhibit his thoughts and character; though we must not always accept all his expressions as if they were all his own. We have to deal with a writer in whom the dramatic faculty was highly developed, and I prefer to leave the reader to draw his own inferences, even from those passages which are most relied upon to support the theory that his domestic life may have been unhappy, and others of the like kind. We can hardly doubt, for example, that he refers to his wife as ‘oon that I coude nevene,’ i. e. one that I could name, in the Hous of Fame, 562; and he plainly says that the eagle spoke something to him in a kindly tone, such as he never heard from his wife. But when we notice that the something said was the word ‘awake,’ in order that he should ‘the bet abrayde,’ i. e. the sooner recover from his dazed state, it is possible that a sentence which at first seems decidedly spiteful is no more than a mild and gentle jest.
§ 45.Personal allusions in Chaucer’s Works. Instead of drawing my own inferences, which may easily be wrong, from various passages in Chaucer’s Works, I prefer the humbler task of giving the more important references, from which the reader may perform the task for himself, to his greater satisfaction. I will only say that when a poet complains of hopeless love, or expresses his despair, or tells us (on the other hand) that he has no idea as to what love means, we are surely free to believe, in each case, just as little or as much as we please. It is a very sandy foundation on which to build up a serious autobiographical structure.
The only remark which I feel justified in making is, that I believe his wife’s death to have been a serious loss to him in one respect at least. Most of his early works are reasonably free from coarseness; whereas such Tales as those of the Miller, the Reeve, the Shipman, the Merchant, and the Prologue to the Wife’s Tale, can hardly be defended. All these may confidently be dated after the year 1387.
I have also to add one caution. We must not draw inferences as to Chaucer’s life from poems or works with which he had nothing to do. Even Sir H. Nicolas, with all his carefulness, has not avoided this. He quotes the ‘Cuckoo and Nightingale’ as mentioning Woodstock; and he only distrusts the ‘Testament of Love’ because it is ‘an allegorical composition175 .’ As to the numerous fables that have been imported into the early Lives of Chaucer, see the excellent chapter in Lounsbury’s Studies in Chaucer, entitled ‘The Chaucer Legend.’
§ 46.References. I here use the following abbreviations. Ast. (Treatise on the Astrolabe); B. D. (Book of the Duchesse); C. T. (Canterbury Tales); H. F. (Hous of Fame); L. G. W. (Legend of Good Women); T. (Troilus and Criseyde).
1. Personal Allusions. The poet’s name is Geffrey, H. F. 729; and his surname, Chaucer, C. T., B 47. He describes himself, C. T., B 1886; Envoy to Scogan, 31. His poverty, H. F. 1349; Envoy to Scogan, 45; Compl. to his Purse. Refers to the sale of wine (his father being a vintner), C. T., C 564. Is despondent in love, Compl. unto Pity; B. D. 1-43; T. i. 15-18. His Complaints, viz. unto Pity; to his Lady; and an Amorous Complaint. Has long served Cupid and Venus; H. F. 616. Is no longer a lover, P. F. 158-166; H. F. 639; T. ii. 19-21; L. G. W. 490. Is love’s clerk, T. iii. 41. Is love’s foe, L. G. W. 323. His misery, H. F. 2012-8. His religious feeling, A. B. C., Second Nun’s Tale, Prioress’s Tale, &c. Refers to his work when Comptroller of the Customs, H. F. 652. Is unambitious of fame, H. F. 1870-900; and has but little in his head, ib. 621. Is sometimes a mere compiler, Ast. prol. 43. Addresses his little son Lowis, Ast. prol. 1-45176 . Expresses his gratitude to the queen, L. G. W. 84-96, 445-461, 496. His old age, L. G. W., A 262, A 315; Envoy to Scogan, 31-42; Compl. of Venus, 76177 . He will not marry a second time, Envoy to Bukton, 8. He exhibits his knowledge of the Northern dialect in the Reeve’s Tale. The whole of the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women deserves particular attention.
Chaucer mentions several friends, viz. Gower the poet, T. v. 1856; Strode, T. v. 1857 (cf. the colophon to Ast. pt. ii. § 40); and a lady named Rosemounde, in the Balade addressed to her. He also addresses Envoys to Henry Scogan and to Bukton. The Envoy to the Compleint to his Purse is addressed to king Henry IV.
He is fond of books and of reading, P. F. 15; H. F. 657; L. G. W. 17-35; and even reads in bed, B. D. 50, 274, 1326. For a full account of the books which he quotes, see vol. vi. I may just notice here the lists in C. T., B 2088; L. G. W., A 272-307; and his references to his own works in L. G. W. 329, 332, 417-28; C. T., B 57-76; C. T., I 1086178 . His love of nature appears in several excellent descriptions; we may particularly notice his lines upon the sunrise, C. T., A 1491, F 385; on the golden-tressed Phoebus, T. v. 8; on the daisy, L. G. W. 41; his description of the birds, P. F. 330; of a blooming garden, P. F. 182; of the golden age, The Former Age; of fine weather for hunting, B. D. 336, and of the chase itself, B. D. 360, L. G. W. 1188. He frequently mentions the fair month of May, L. G. W. 36, 45, 108, 176, T. ii. 50, C. T. A 1500, 1510; and St. Valentine’s day, Compl. of Mars, 13; P. F. 309, 322, 386, 683; Amorous Compleint, 85.
He was our first great metrist, and has frequent references to his poetical art. He never slept on Parnassus, C. T., F 721; and the Host (in the C. T.) even accused him of writing ‘dogerel,’ B 2115. He cannot write alliterative verse, C. T., I 43. He admits that his rime is ‘light and lewed,’ and that some lines fail in a syllable, H. F., 1096-8. Yet he hopes that none will ‘mismetre’ him, T. v. 1796. He writes books, songs, and ditties in rime or ‘cadence,’ H. F. 622; also hymns, balades, roundels, and virelays, L. G. W. 422; and complaints, such as the Complaint to Pity, to his Lady, to his Purse, the Complaints of Mars, Anelida, and Venus, and the Complaint D’amours (or Amorous Complaint). Specimens of his graphic and dramatic power, of his skill in story and metre, of his tenderness and his humour, need not be here specified. He is fond of astronomy, as shewn by his Treatise on the Astrolabe; and, though he has but little faith in astrology (Ast. ii. 4. 37), he frequently refers to it as well as to astronomy; see B. D. 1206; Compl. Mars, 29, 54, 69, 79, 86, 113, 120, 129, 139, 145; P. F., 56, 59, 67, 117; Envoy to Scogan, 3, 9; H. F. 932, 936, 965, 993-1017; T. ii. 50, iii. 2, 618, 625, 716, iv. 1592, v. 1809; L. G. W. 113, 2223, 2585-99; C. T., A 7, 1087, 1328, 1463, 1537, 1566, 1850, 2021, 2035, 2059, 2217, 2271, 2367, 2454-69, 3192, 3209, 3516; B 1-14, 191, 295-308, 312, 4045-8, 4378-89; D 613, 704; E 1795, 1969, 2132, 2222; F 47-51, 263-5, 386, 906, 1032-5, 1045-59, 1130, 1245-9, 1261-6, 1273-96; I 2-12. Even his alchemy has some reference to astrology; C. T., G 826-9; cf. H. F. 1430-1512.
He refers to optics, C. T., F 228-235; to Boethius on music, C. T., B 4484, H. F. 788-818; and to magical arts, H. F. 1259-81, C. T., F 115, 132, 146, 156, 219, 250, 1142-51, 1157-62, 1189-1208.
2. Historical Allusions. The references to contemporary history are but few. The death of the Lady Blaunche is commemorated in the Book of the Duchesse. He refers to good queen Anne, L. G. W. 255, 275, 496; to the archbishop of Canterbury, C. T., B 4635; to ‘this pestilence,’ C 679; to Tyler’s rebellion, A 2459; and Jack Straw, B 4584. Perhaps the Complaints of Mars and Venus refer to real personages; see the Notes to those poems. He mentions Dante, H. F. 450, L. G. W. 360, C. T. B 3651, D 1126; Petrarch, C. T., E 31, 1147; Pedro the Cruel, king of Spain, C. T., B 3565, Bertrand du Gueschlin, 3573, and Sir Oliver Mauny, 3576; Peter, king of Cyprus, 3581; Bernabo Visconti, duke of Milan, 3589, and the ‘tyrants’ of Lombardy, L. G. W. 374; Ugolino of Pisa and the archbishop Ruggieri, C.T., B 3597, 3606. There are several allusions to recent events in the Prologue, A 51-66, 86, 276, 399; and perhaps in C. T., E 995-1001.
His literary allusions are too numerous to be here recited. The reader can consult the Index in vol. vi.
§ 47.Allusions to Chaucer. One of the earliest allusions to Chaucer as a poet occurs in the works of Eustache Deschamps, a contemporary poet of France. It is remarkable that he chiefly praises him as being ‘a great translator.’ Perhaps this was before his longest poems were written; there is express reference to his translation of Le Roman de la Rose, and, possibly, to Boethius. The poem tells us that Deschamps had sent Chaucer a copy of some of his poems by a friend named Clifford, and he hopes to receive something of Chaucer’s in return. The poem is here quoted entire, from the edition of Deschamps by le Marquis de Queux de Saint-Hilaire, published for the Société des Anciens Textes Français, t. ii. p. 138:—
Gower alludes to Chaucer in the first edition of the Confessio Amantis; see the passage discussed in vol. iii. p. 414.
Henry Scogan wrote ‘a moral balade’ in twenty-one 8-line stanzas, in which he not only refers to Chaucer’s poetical skill, but quotes the whole of his Balade on Gentilesse; see vol. i. p. 83.
Hoccleve frequently refers to Chaucer as his ‘maister,’ i. e. his teacher, with great affection; and, if he learnt but little more, he certainly learnt the true method of scansion of his master’s lines, and imitates his metres and rimes with great exactness. The passages relating to Chaucer are as follows179 .
(1) From the Governail of Princes, or De Regimine Principum (ed. Wright, p. 67, st. 267):—
(2) From the same, p. 75, stanzas 280, 281-283, 297-299, 301:—
(3) From the same, p. 179, stanzas 712-4:—
Here is given, in the margin of the MS., the famous portrait of Chaucer which is believed to be the best, and probably the only one that can be accepted as authentic. A copy of it is prefixed to the present volume, and to Furnivall’s Trial-Forewords, Chaucer Soc., 1871; and an enlarged copy accompanies the Life-Records of Chaucer, part 2. It is thus described by Sir H. Nicolas:—‘The figure, which is half-length, has a back-ground of green tapestry. He is represented with grey hair and beard, which is biforked; he wears a dark-coloured dress and hood; his right hand is extended, and in his left he holds a string of beads. From his vest a black case is suspended, which appears to contain a knife, or possibly a ‘penner,’ or pen-case183 . The expression of the countenance is intelligent; but the fire of the eye seems quenched, and evident marks of advanced age appear on the countenance.’ Hoccleve did not paint this portrait himself, as is often erroneously said; he ‘leet do make it,’ i. e. had it made. It thus became the business of the scribe, and the portraits in different copies of Hoccleve’s works vary accordingly. There is a full-length portrait in MS. Reg. 17 D. vi, marked as ‘Chaucers ymage’; and another in a MS. copy once in the possession of Mr. Tyson, which was engraved in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1792, vol. lxii. p. 614; perhaps the latter is the copy which is now MS. Phillipps 1099. A representation of Chaucer on horseback, as one of the pilgrims, occurs in the Ellesmere MS.; an engraving of it appears as a frontispiece to Todd’s Illustrations of Chaucer. A small full-length picture of Chaucer occurs in the initial letter of the Canterbury Tales, in MS. Lansdowne 851. Other portraits, such as that in MS. Addit. (or Sloane) 5141, the painting upon wood in the Bodleian Library, and the like, are of much later date, and cannot pretend to any authenticity.
Lydgate has frequent references to his ‘maister Chaucer.’ The most important is that in the Prologue to his Fall of Princes, which begins thus:—
The ‘fall of princes’ refers to the Monkes Tale, as explained in vol. iii. p. 431. He next refers to ‘Troilus’ as being a translation of a book ‘which called is Trophe’ (see vol. ii. p. liv.); and to the Translation of Boethius and the Treatise of the Astrolabe. He then mentions many of the Minor Poems (in the stanzas quoted below, p. 23), the Legend of Good Women (see vol. iii. p. xx.), and the Canterbury Tales; and concludes thus:—
So also, in his Siege of Troye, fol. K 2:—
And again, in the same, fol. R 2, back:—
And yet again, at fol. Ee 2:—
Similar passages occur in some of his other works, and shew that he regarded Chaucer with affectionate reverence.
Allusions in later authors have only a literary value, and need not be cited in a Life of Chaucer.
I subjoin (on p. lxii.) a List of Chaucer’s genuine works, arranged, as nearly as I can conjecture, in their chronological order. Of his poetical excellence it is superfluous to speak; Lowell’s essay on ‘Chaucer’ in My Study Windows gives a just estimate of his powers.[Back to Table of Contents]
LIST OF CHAUCER’S WORKS.
The following list is arranged, conjecturally, in chronological order. It will be understood that much of the arrangement and some of the dates are due to guesswork; on a few points scholars are agreed. See further in pp. 20-91 below, &c. Of the Poems marked (a), there seem to have been two editions, (a) being the earlier. The letters and numbers appended at the end denote the metres, according to the following scheme.
A = octosyllabic metre; B = ballad metre, in Sir Thopas; C = 4-line stanza, in the Proverbes; P = Prose.
The following sixteen metres are original (i. e. in English); viz. 1 = 8-line stanza, ababbcbc; 1 b = the same, thrice, with refrain. 2 = 7-line stanza, ababbcc; 2 b = the same, thrice, with refrain; 2 c = 7-line stanza, ababbab. 3 = terza rima. 4 = 10-line stanza, aabaabcddc. 5 = 9-line stanza, aabaabbab; 5 b = the same, with internal rimes. 6 = virelai of 16 lines. 7 = 9-line stanza, aabaabbcc. 8 = roundel. 9 = heroic couplet. 10 = 6-line stanza, ababcb, repeated six times. 11 = 10-line stanza, aabaabbaab. 12 = 5-line stanza, aabba.
*∗* C. T. = Canterbury Tales; L. G. W. = Legend of Good Women; M. P. = Minor Poems.
The following occasional triple roundel and balades may have been composed between 1380 and 1396:—
Merciless Beautè; M. P. XI.—8. Balade to Rosamounde; M. P. XII.—1 b. Against Women Unconstaunt; M. P. XXI.—2 b. (a) Compleint to his Purse; M. P. XIX.—2 b. Lak of Stedfastnesse; M. P. XV.—2 b. Gentilesse; M. P. XIV.—2 b. Truth; M. P. XIII.—2 b. Proverbes of Chaucer; M. P. XX.—C.[Back to Table of Contents]
ERRATA AND ADDENDA.[Back to Table of Contents]
THE ROMAUNT OF THE ROSE.
§ 1.In the Third Edition of my volume of Chaucer Selections, containing the Prioress’s Tale, &c., published by the Clarendon Press in 1880, I included an essay to shew ‘why the Romaunt of the Rose is not Chaucer’s,’ meaning thereby the particular English version of Le Roman de la Rose which happens to be preserved. I have since seen reason to modify this opinion as regards a comparatively short portion of it at the beginning (here printed in large type), but the arguments then put forward remain as valid as ever as regards the main part of it (here printed in smaller type, and in double columns). Some of these arguments had been previously put forward by me in a letter to the Academy, Aug. 10, 1878, p. 143. I ought to add that the chief of them are not original, but borrowed from Mr. Henry Bradshaw, whose profound knowledge of all matters relating to Chaucer has been acknowledged by all students.
§ 2. That Chaucer translated the French poem called Le Roman de la Rose, or at least some part of it1 , no one doubts; for he tells us so himself in the Prologue of his Legend of Good Women (A 255, B 329), and the very frequent references to it, in many of his poems, shew that many parts of it were familiarly known to him. Nevertheless, it does not follow that the particular version of it which happens to be preserved, is the very one which he made; for it was a poem familiar to many others besides him, and it is extremely probable that Middle English versions of it were numerous. In fact, it will presently appear that the English version printed in this volume actually consists of three separate fragments, all by different hands.
The English version, which I shall here, for brevity, call ‘the translation,’ has far less claim to be considered as Chaucer’s than unthinking people imagine. Modern readers find it included in many editions of his Works, and fancy that such a fact is conclusive; but it is the merest prudence to enquire how it came there. The answer is, that it first appeared in Thynne’s edition of 1532, a collection of Chaucer’s (supposed) works made more than a hundred and thirty years after his death. Such an attribution is obviously valueless; we must examine the matter for ourselves, and on independent grounds.
§ 3. A critical examination of the internal evidence at once shews that by far the larger part of ‘the translation’ cannot possibly be Chaucer’s; for the language of it contradicts most of his habits, and presents peculiarities such as we never find in his genuine poems. I shewed this in my ‘Essay’ by the use of several unfailing tests, the nature of which I shall explain presently. The only weak point in my argument was, that I then considered ‘the translation’ as being the production of one author, and thought it sufficient to draw my examples (as I unconsciously, for the most part, did) from the central portion of the whole.
§ 4. The next step in this investigation was made by Dr. Lindner. In a painstaking article printed in Englische Studien, xi. 163, he made it appear highly probable that at least two fragments of ‘the translation’ are by different hands. That there are two fragments, at least, is easily discerned; for after l. 5810 there is a great gap, equivalent to an omission of more than 5000 lines.
§ 5. Still more recently, Dr. Max Kaluza has pointed out that there is another distinct break in the poem near l. 1700. The style of translation, not to speak of its accuracy, is much better in the first 1700 lines than in the subsequent portions. We may notice, in particular, that the French word boutons is translated by knoppes in ll. 1675, 1683, 1685, 1691, 1702, whilst, in l. 1721 and subsequent passages, the same word is merely Englished by botoun or botouns. A closer study of the passage extending from l. 1702 to l. 1721 shews that there is a very marked break at the end of l. 1705. Here the French text has (ed. Méon, l. 1676):—
The English version has:—
It will be observed that the sentence in the two former lines is incomplete; dide is a mere auxiliary verb, and the real verb of the sentence is lost; whilst the two latter lines lead off with a new sentence altogether. It is still more interesting to observe that, at this very point, we come upon a false rime. The word aboute was then pronounced (abuu·tǝ), where (uu) denotes the sound of ou in soup, and (ǝ) denotes an obscure vowel, like the a in China. But the vowel o in swote was then pronounced like the German o in G. so (nearly E. o in so), so that it was quite unlike the M.E. ou; and the rime is no better than if we were to rime the mod. E. boot with the mod. E. goat. It is clear that there has been a join here, and a rather clumsy one. The supply of ‘copy’ of the first translation ran short, perhaps because the rest of it had been torn away and lost, and the missing matter was supplied from some other source. We thus obtain, as the result to be tested, the following arrangement:—
It should be noted, further, that l. 7698 by no means reaches to the end. It merely corresponds to l. 12564 of the French text, leaving 9510 lines untouched towards the end, besides the gap of 5547 lines between Fragments B and C. In fact, the three fragments, conjointly, only represent 7018 lines of the original, leaving 15056 lines (more than double that number) wholly untranslated.
Discussion of Fragment B.
Test I.—Proportion of English to French.—As regards these fragments, one thing strikes us at once, viz. the much greater diffuseness of the translation in fragment B, as may be seen from the following table:—
Thus, in A and C, the translation runs nearly line for line; but in B, the translator employs, on an average, 11 lines and three-quarters for every 10 of the original.
§ 7.Test II.—Dialect.—But the striking characteristic of Fragment B is the use in it of a Northern dialect. That this is due to the author, and not merely to the scribe, is obvious from the employment of Northern forms in rimes, where any change would destroy the rime altogether. This may be called the Dialect-test. Examples abound, and I only mention some of the most striking.
1. Use of the Northern pres. part. in -and. In l. 2263, we have wel sittand (for wel sitting), riming with hand. In l. 2708, we have wel doand (for wel doing), riming with fand. Even fand is a Northern form. Chaucer uses fond, riming with hond (Cant. Ta. A 4116, 4221, &c.), lond (A 702, &c.); cf. the subj. form fond-e, riming with hond-e, lond-e, bond-e (B 3521).
2. In l. 1853, we have the rimes thar, mar (though miswritten thore, more in MS. G.), where the Chaucerian forms there, more, would not rime at all. These are well-known Northern forms, as in Barbour’s Bruce. So again, in l. 2215, we find mar, ar (though mar is written as more in MS. G.). In l. 2397, we find stat, hat; where hat is the Northern form of Chaucer’s hoot, adj., ‘hot.’ So also, in 5399, we have North. wat instead of Ch. wot or woot, riming with estat. In l. 5542, we find the Northern certis (in place of Chaucer’s certes), riming with is.
3. Chaucer (or his scribes) admit the use of the Northern til, in place of the Southern to, very sparingly; it occurs, e.g. in Cant. Ta. A 1478, before a vowel. But it never occurs after its case, nor at the end of a line. Yet, in fragment B, we twice find him til used finally, 4594, 4852.
4. The use of ado (for at do), in the sense of ‘to do,’ is also Northern; see the New E. Dict. It occurs in l. 5080, riming with go.
5. The dropping of the inflexional e, in the infin. mood or gerund, is also Northern. In fragment B, this is very common; as examples, take the rimes lyf, dryf, 1873; feet, lete (= leet), 1981; sit, flit, 2371; may, convay, 2427; may, assay, 453; set, get, 2615; spring, thing, 2627; ly, by, 2629; ly, erly, 2645; &c. The Chaucerian forms are dryv-e, let-e, flit-te, convey-e, assay-e, get-e, spring-e, ly-e. That the Northern forms are not due to the scribe, is obvious; for he usually avoids them where he can. Thus in l. 2309, he writes sitting instead of sittand; but in l. 2263, he could not avoid the form sittand, because of the rime.
§ 8.Test III.—The Riming of -y with -y-ë.—With two intentional exceptions (both in the ballad metre of Sir Thopas, see note to Cant. Ta. B 2092), Chaucer never allows such a word as trewely (which etymologically ends in -y) to rime with French substantives in -y-ë, such as fol-y-ë, Ielos-y-ë (Ital. follia, gelosia). But in fragment B, examples abound; e. g. I, malady(e)1 , 1849; hastily, company(e), 1861; generally, vilany(e), 2179; worthy, curtesy(e), 2209; foly(e), by, 2493, 2521; curtesy(e), gladly, 2985; foly(e), utterly, 3171; foly(e), hastily, 3241; and many more.
This famous test, first proposed by Mr. Bradshaw, is a very simple but effective one; it separates the spurious from the genuine works of Chaucer with ease and certainty in all but a few cases, viz. cases wherein a spurious poem happens to satisfy the test; and these are rare indeed.
§ 9.Test IV.—Assonant rimes. Those who know nothing about the pronunciation of Middle English, and require an easy test, appreciable by any child who has a good ear, may observe this. Chaucer does not employ mere assonances, i. e. rimes in which only the vowel-sounds correspond. He does not rime take with shape, nor fame with lane. But the author of fragment B had no ear for this. He actually has such rimes as these: kepe, eke, 2125; shape, make, 2259; escape, make, 2753; take, scape, 3165; storm, corn, 4343; doun, tourn, 5469.
Other strange rimes.—Other rimes which occur here, but not in Chaucer, are these and others like them: aboute, swote, 1705 (already noticed); desyre, nere, 1785, 2441; thar (Ch. there), to-shar, 1857; Ioynt, queynt2 , 2037; soon (Ch. son-e), doon, 2377; abrede, forweried, 2563; anney (Ch. annoy), awey, 2675; desyre, manere, 2779; Ioye, convoye (Ch. conveye), 2915, &c. It is needless to multiply instances.
§ 10. It would be easy to employ further tests; we might, for example, make a minute critical examination of the method in which the final -e is grammatically employed. But the results are always the same. We shall always find irrefragable proof that fragment B exhibits usages far different from those which occur in the undoubted works of Chaucer, and cannot possibly have proceeded from his pen. Repeated investigations, made by me during the past thirteen years, have always come round to this result, and it is not possible for future criticism to alter it.
Hence our first result is this. Fragment B, consisting of ll. 1706-5810 (4105 lines), containing more than fragments A and C together, and therefore more than half of ‘the translation,’ is not Chaucer’s, but was composed by an author who, to say the least, frequently employed Northern English forms and phrases. Moreover, his translation is too diffuse; and, though spirited, it is not always accurate.
Discussion of Fragment C.
I shall now speak of fragment C. The first noticeable point about it is, that it does not exhibit many of the peculiarities of B. There is nothing to indicate, with any certainty, a Northern origin, nor to connect it with B. In fact, we may readily conclude that B and C are by different authors. The sole question that remains, as far as we are now concerned, is this. Can we attribute it to Chaucer?
The answer, in this case, is not quite so easily given, because the differences between it and Chaucer’s genuine works are less glaring and obvious than in the case above. Nevertheless, we at once find some good reasons for refraining to attribute it to our author.
§ 12.Rime-tests.—If, for instance, we apply the simple but effective test of the rimes of words ending in -y with those ending in -y-e, we at once find that this fragment fails to satisfy the text.
Examples: covertly, Ipocrisy(e), 6112; company(e), outerly, 6301; loteby, company(e), 6339; why, tregetry(e), 6373; company(e), I, 6875; mekely, trechery(e), 7319. These six instances, in less than 1900 lines, ought to make us hesitate.
If we look a little more closely, we find other indications which should make us hesitate still more. At l. 5919, we find hors (horse) riming with wors (worse); but Chaucer rimes wors with curs (Cant. Ta. A 4349), and with pervers (Book Duch. 813). At l. 6045, we find fare, are; but Chaucer never uses are at the end of a line; he always uses been. At l. 6105, we find atte last, agast; but Chaucer only has atte last-e (which is never monosyllabic). At l. 6429, we find paci-ence, venge-aunce, a false rime which it would be libellous to attribute to Chaucer; and, at l. 6469, we find force, croce, which is still worse, and makes it doubtful whether it is worth while to go on. However, if we go a little further, we find the pl. form wrought riming with nought, 6565; but Chaucer usually has wrought-e, which would destroy the rime. This, however, is not decisive, since Chaucer has bisought for bisoughte, Cant. Ta. A. 4117, and brought for broughte, id. F. 1273. But when, at l. 6679, we find preched riming with teched, we feel at once that this is nothing in which Chaucer had a hand, for he certainly uses the form taughte (Prologue, 497), and as certainly does not invent such a form as praughte to rime with it. Another unpleasant feature is the use of the form Abstinaunce in l. 7483, to gain a rime to penaunce, whilst in l. 7505, only 22 lines lower down, we find Abstinence, to rime with sentence; but the original has similar variations.
§ 13. I will just mention, in conclusion, one more peculiarity to be found in fragment C. In the Cant. Tales, B 480 (and elsewhere), Chaucer uses such rimes as clerkes, derk is, and the like; but not very frequently. The author of fragment C was evidently much taken with this peculiarity, and gives us plenty of examples of it. Such are: requestis, honést is, 6039; places, place is, 6119; nede is, dedis, 6659; apert is, certis, 6799; chaieris, dere is, 6915; enquestes, honést is, 6977; prophetis, prophete is, 7093; ypocritis, spite is, 7253. Here are eight instances in less than 1900 lines. However, there are five examples (at ll. 19, 75, 387, 621, 1349) in the Hous of Fame, which contains 2158 lines in the same metre as our ‘translation’; and there are 19 instances in the Cant. Tales.
We should also notice that the character called Bialacoil throughout Fragment B is invariably called Fair-Welcoming in C.
We should also remark how Dr. Lindner (Engl. Studien, xi. 172) came to the conclusion that Chaucer certainly never wrote fragment C. As to the rest he doubted, and with some reason; for he had not before him the idea of splitting lines 1-5810 into two fragments.
§ 14. A consideration of the above-mentioned facts, and of others similar to them, leads us to our second result, which is this, Fragment C, containing 1888 lines, and corresponding to ll. 10716-12564 of the French original, is neither by the author of fragment B, nor by Chaucer, but is not so glaringly unlike Chaucer’s work as in the case of fragment B.
Discussion of Fragment A.
It remains to consider fragment A. The first test to apply is that of rimes in -y and -y-e; and, when we remember how indiscriminately these are used in fragments B and C, it is at least instructive to observe the perfect regularity with which they are employed in fragment A. The student who is unacquainted with the subtle distinctions which this test introduces, and who probably is, on that account, predisposed to ignore it, may learn something new by the mere perusal of the examples here given.
1. Words that should, etymologically, end in -y (and not in -y-e) are here found riming together, and never rime with a word of the other class.
Examples: covertly, openly, 19; redily, erly, 93; by, I, 111; bisily, redily, 143; by, I, 163; I, by, 207; povrely, courtepy1 , 219; beggarly, by, 223; enemy, hardily, 269; awry2 , baggingly, 291; certeinly, tenderly, 331; prively, sikerly, 371; redily, by, 379; Pope-holy, prively, 415; I, openly, 501; queyntely, fetisly, 569; fetisly, richely, 577; only, uncouthly, 583; I, namely, 595; sikerly, erthely, 647; lustily, semely, 747; parfitly, sotilly, 771; queyntely, prively, 783; fetisly, richely, 837; sotilly, I, 1119; enemy3 , tristely, 1165; sotilly, therby, 1183; newely, by, 1205; fetisly, trewely, 1235; I, by, 1273; trewely, comunly, 1307; lustily, sikerly, 1319; merily, hastely, 1329; I, sikerly, 1549; I, craftely, 1567; openly, therby, 1585; diversely, verily, 1629; openly, by, 1637. Thirty-eight examples.
We here notice how frequently words in -ly rime together; but this peculiarity is Chaucerian; cf. semely, fetisly, C. T. prol. A 123, &c.
2. Words that, etymologically, should end in -y-e, rime together. These are of two sorts: (a) French substantives; and (b) words in -y, with an inflexional -e added.
Examples: (a) felony-e, vilany-e, 165; envy-e, masonry-e, 301; company-e, curtesy-e, 639; melody-e, reverdy-e, 719; curtesy-e, company-e, 957; vilany-e, felony-e, 977; envy-e, company-e, 1069; chivalry-e, maistry-e, 1207; villany-e, sukkeny-e, 1231; envye, Pavie, 1653.
(b) dy-e, infin. mood, dry-e, dissyllabic adj. (A. S. drȳge), 1565.
(a) and (b) mixed: melody-e, F. sb., dy-e, infin. mood, 675; espy-e, gerund, curtesy-e, F. sb., 795; hy-e, dat. adj., maistry-e, 841; dy-e, gerund, flatery-e, F. sb., 1063; curtesy-e, F. sb., hy-e, dat. case, pl. adj., 1251; dy-e, infin. mood, remedy-e, F. sb., 1479. Seventeen examples. (In all, fifty-five examples.)
Thus, in more than fifty cases, the Chaucerian habit is maintained, and there is no instance to the contrary. Even the least trained reader may now fairly begin to believe that there is some value in this proposed test, and may see one reason for supposing that fragment A may be genuine.
§ 16. A still closer examination of other rimes tends to confirm this. There are no Northern forms (as in B), no merely assonant rimes (as in B), nor any false or bad or un-Chaucerian rimes (as in both B and C), except such as can be accounted for. The last remark refers to the fact that the scribe or the printer of Thynne’s edition frequently misspells words so as to obscure the rime, whereas they rime perfectly when properly spelt; a fact which tells remarkably in favour of the possible genuineness of the fragment. Thus, at l. 29, Thynne prints befal, and at l. 30, al. Both forms are wrong; read befalle, alle. Here Thynne has, however, preserved the rime by making a double mistake; as in several other places. A more important instance is at l. 249, where the Glasgow MS. has farede, herede, a bad rime; but Thynne correctly has ferde, herde, as in Chaucer, Cant. Ta. A 1371. So again, at ll. 499, 673, where the Glasgow MS. is right (except in putting herd for herde in l. 673).
At l. 505, there is a false rime; but it is clearly due to a misreading, as explained in the notes. A similar difficulty, at l. 1341, is explicable in the same way.
§ 17. So far, there is no reason why fragment A may not be Chaucer’s; and the more closely we examine it, the more probable does this supposition become. Dr. Kaluza has noticed, for instance, that the style of translation in fragment A is distinctly better, clearer, and more accurate than in fragment B. I find also another significant fact, viz. that in my essay written to shew that ‘the translation’ is not Chaucer’s (written at a time when I unfortunately regarded the whole translation as being the work of one writer, a position which is no longer tenable), nearly all my arguments were drawn from certain peculiarities contained in fragments B and C, especially the former. I have therefore nothing, of any consequence, to retract; nor do I even now find that I made any serious mistake.
§ 18. The third result may, accordingly, be arrived at thus. Seeing that Chaucer really translated the ‘Roman de la Rose,’ and that three fragments of English translations have come down to us, of which two cannot be his, whilst the third may be, we may provisionally accept fragment A as genuine; and we find that, the more closely we examine it, the more probable does its genuineness become.
§ 19.Summary.—Having now discussed the three fragments A, B, C, successively and separately (though in a different order), we may conveniently sum up the three results as follows.
1. Fragment A appears to be a real portion of Chaucer’s own translation. Its occurrence, at the beginning, is, after all, just what we should expect. The scribe or editor would naturally follow it as far as it was extant; and when it failed, would as naturally piece it out with any other translation or translations to which he could gain access. This fragment ceases suddenly, at the end of l. 1705, in the middle of an incomplete sentence. The junction with the succeeding portion is clumsily managed, for it falsely assumes that the previous sentence is complete, and leads off with a false rime.
2. Fragment B is obviously from some other source, and is at once dissociated from both the other fragments by the facts (a) that it was originally written in a Northumbrian dialect, though this is somewhat concealed by the manipulation of the spelling by a later scribe; (b) that it was written in a more diffuse style, the matter being expanded to the extent, on an average, of nearly twelve lines to ten; (c) that many licences appear in the rimes, which sometimes degenerate into mere assonances; and (d) that it is less exact and less correct in its method of rendering the original.
3. After fragment B, there is a large gap in the story, more than 5000 lines of the original being missing. Hence Fragment C is from yet a third source, not much of which seems to have been accessible. It neither joins on to Fragment B, nor carries the story much further; and it comes to an end somewhat suddenly, at a point more than 9000 lines from the end of the original. It is, however, both more correct than Fragment B, and more in Chaucer’s style; though, at the same time, I cannot accept it as his.
§ 20. There is little that is surprising in this result. That translations of this then famous and popular French poem should have been attempted by many hands, is just what we should expect. At the same time, the enormous length of the original may very well have deterred even the most persevering of the translators from ever arriving at the far end of it. Chaucer’s translation was evidently the work of his younger years, and the frequent use which he made of the French poem in his later works may have made him careless of his own version, if indeed he ever finished it, which may be doubted. All this, however, is mere speculation, and all that concerns us now is the net result. It is clear, that, in the 1705 lines here printed in the larger type, we have recovered all of Chaucer’s work that we can ever hope to recover. With this we must needs rest satisfied, and it is a great gain to have even so much of it; the more so, when we remember how much reason there was to fear that the whole of Chaucer’s work was lost. It was not until Dr. Kaluza happily hit upon the resolution of lines 1-5810 into two fragments, that Chaucer’s portion was at last discovered.
The External Evidence.
In what has preceded, we have drawn our conclusions from the most helpful form of evidence—the internal evidence. It remains to look at the external form of the poem, and to enquire how it has come down to us.
The apparent sources are two, viz. Thynne’s edition of 1532 (reprinted in 1542, 1550, 1561, and at later dates), and a MS. in the Hunterian collection at Glasgow. But a very slight examination shews that these are nearly duplicate copies, both borrowed from one and the same original, which is now no longer extant. I shall denote these sources, for convenience, by the symbols Th., G., and O., meaning, respectively, Thynne, Glasgow MS., and the (lost) Original.
The resemblance of Th. and G. is very close; however, each sometimes corrects small faults in the other, and the collation of them is, on this account, frequently helpful. Both are remarkable for an extraordinary misarrangement of the material, in which respect they closely agree; and we are enabled, from this circumstance, to say, definitely, that the C-portion of O. (i. e. their common original) was written (doubtless on vellum) in quires containing 8 leaves (or 16 pages) each, there being, on an average, 24 lines upon every page. Of these quires, the fourth had its leaves transposed, by mistake, when the MS. was bound, in such a manner that the middle pair of leaves of this quire was displaced, so as to come next the two outer pair of leaves; and this displacement was never suspected till of late years, nor ever (so far as I am aware1 ) fully appreciated and explained till now2 . This displacement of the material was first noticed in Bell’s edition, where the editor found it out by the simple process of comparing the English ‘translation’ with the French ‘Roman’; but he gives no account of how it came about. But a closer investigation is useful as showing how exactly ‘Th.’ and ‘G.’ agree in following an original displacement in ‘O.’, or rather in the still older MS. from which the C-portion of O. was copied.
In the fourth sheet (as said above), the pair of middle leaves, containing its 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th pages (G, H, I, K, with the contents recorded in note 2 below) was subtracted from the middle of the quire, and placed so that the 7th page (G) followed the 2nd (B), whilst at the same time, the 10th page (K) came to precede the 15th page (P). The resulting order of pages was, necessarily, A, B, G, H, C, D, E, F, L, M, N, O, I, K, P, Q; as is easily seen by help of a small paper model. And the resulting order of the lines was, accordingly, 6965-6988, 6989-7012, 7109-7133, 7134-7158, 7013-7036, 7037-60, 7061-84, 7085-7108, 7209-7232, 7233-7256, 7257-7280, 7281-7304, 7159-7183, 7184-7208, 7305-7328, 7329-7352; or, collecting the successive numbers, . . . -7012, 7109-7158, 7013-7108, 7209-7304, 7159-7208, 7305, &c. And this is precisely the order found, both in Th. and G.
We see further that the fourth and last quire of this C-portion of O. consisted of 7 leaves only, the rest being torn away. For 7 leaves containing 48 lines apiece give a total of 336 lines, which, added to 7352, make up 7688 lines; and, as 10 of the pages seem to have had 25 lines, we thus obtain 7698 lines as the number found in O.
The A-portion of O. was probably copied from a MS. containing usually 25 lines on a page, and occasionally 26. Four quires at 50 lines to the leaf give 32 × 50, or 1600 lines; and 2 leaves more give 100 lines, or 1700 lines in all. If 5 of the pages had 26 lines, we should thus make up the number, viz. 1705. Of the B-portion we can tell nothing, as we do not know how it was made to join on.
As O. was necessarily older than G., and G. is judged by experts1 to be hardly later than 1440, it is probable that O. was written out not much later than 1430; we cannot say how much earlier, if earlier it was.
§ 22. G. (the Glasgow MS.) is a well-written MS., on vellum; the size of each page being about 11 inches by 7½, with wide margins, especially at the bottom. Each page contains about 24 lines, and each quire contains 8 leaves. The first quire is imperfect, the 1st leaf (ll. 1-44) and the 8th (ll. 333-380) being lost. Nine other leaves are also lost, containing ll. 1387-1482, 2395-2442, 3595-3690, and 7385-7576; for the contents of which (as of the former two) Th. remains the sole authority. The date of the MS. is about 1440; and its class-mark is V. 3. 7.
It begins at l. 45—‘So mochel pris,’ &c. At the top of the first extant leaf is the name of Thomas Griggs, a former owner. On a slip of parchment at the beginning is a note by A. Askew (from whom Hunter bought the MS.) to this effect:—‘Tho. Martinus. Ex dono dom’ Iacobi Sturgeon de Bury scī Edmundi in agro Suffolc: Artis Chirurgicæ Periti. Nov. 9, 1720.’ It ends very abruptly in the following manner:—
The third of these lines is incorrect, and the fourth is corrupt and imperfect; moreover, Thynne’s copy gives four more lines after them. It would thus appear that G. was copied from O. at a later period than the MS. used by Thynne and now lost, viz. at a period when O. was somewhat damaged or torn at the end of its last page. A careful and exact copy of this MS. is now (in 1891) being printed for the Chaucer Society, edited by Dr. Kaluza.
§ 23.Th.—The version printed in Thynne’s edition, 1532, and reprinted in 1542, 1550, 1561, &c. The first four editions, at least, are very much alike. The particular edition at first used by me for constructing the present text is that which I call the edition of 1550. (It is really undated, but that is about the date of it.) Its variations from the earlier editions are trifling, and I afterwards reduced all the readings to the standard of the first edition (1532). The MS. used by Thynne was obviously a copy of ‘O.’, as explained above; and it shews indications of being copied at an earlier date than ‘G.’, i. e. before 1440. On the whole, ‘Th.’ appears to me more correct than ‘G.’, and I have found it very serviceable. We learn from it, for example, that the scribe of ‘G.’ frequently dropped the prefix y- in past participles, giving l. 890 in the form ‘For nought clad in silk was he,’ instead of y-clad. Cf. ll. 892, 897, 900, &c.; see the foot-notes.
‘Th.’ supplies the deficiencies in G., viz. ll. 1-44, 333-380, &c., as well as four lines at the end; and suggests numerous corrections.
§ 24. The various later reprints of the ‘Romaunt,’ as in Speght (1598) and other editions, are merely less correct copies of ‘Th.’, and are not worth consulting. The only exceptions are the editions by Bell and Morris. Bell’s text was the first for which ‘G.’ was consulted, and he follows the MS. as his general guide, filling up the deficiencies from Speght’s edition, which he describes as ‘corrupt and half-modernised.’ Why he chose Speght in preference to Thynne, he does not tell us. In consequence, he has left lines incomplete in a large number of instances, owing to putting too much faith in the MS., and neglecting the better printed sources. Thus, in l. 890, he gives us ‘clad’ instead of ‘y-clad’; where any of the printed texts would have set him right.
Morris’s edition is ‘printed from the unique MS. in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow’; but contains numerous corrections, apparently from Thynne. Thus, in l. 890, he reads ‘y-clad’; the y- being printed in italics to shew that it is not in the MS.
The Present Edition.
The present edition principally follows ‘G.’, but it has been collated with ‘Th.’ throughout. Besides this, a large number of spellings in Fragment A. have been slightly amended on definite principles, the rejected spellings being given in the footnotes, whenever they are of the slightest interest or importance. Silent alterations are changes such as i for y in king for kyng (l. 10), and whylom for whilom (in the same line), to distinguish vowel-length; the use of v for consonantal u in avisioun for auisioun (l. 9); the use of ee for (long) e in Iolitee for Iolite (l. 52) for the sake of clearness; and a few other alterations of the like kind, which make the text easier to read without at all affecting its accuracy. I have also altered the suffix -is into -es in such words as hertes for hertis (l. 76); and changed the suffixes -id and -ith into the more usual -ed and -eth, both of which are common in the MS., usually giving notice; and in other similar minute ways have made the text more like the usual texts of Chaucer in appearance. But in Fragments B and C such changes have been made more sparingly.
I have also corrected numerous absolute blunders, especially in the use of the final e. For example, in l. 125, I have no hesitation in printing wissh for wysshe, because the use of final e at the end of a strong past tense, in the first person singular, is obviously absurd. Owing to the care with which the two authorities, ‘G.’ and Th.’, have been collated, and my constant reference to the French original, I have no hesitation in saying that the present edition, if fairly judged, will be found to be more correct than its predecessors. For Dr. Kaluza’s help I am most grateful.
§ 26. For example, in l. 1188, all the editions have sarlynysh, there being no such word. It is an obvious error for Sarsinesshe (riming with fresshe); for the F. text has Sarrazinesche, i. e. Saracenic.
In l. 1201, the authorities and Bell have gousfaucoun, which Morris alters to gounfaucoun in his text, and to gownfaucoun in his glossary. But all of these are ‘ghost-words,’ i. e. non-existent. Seeing that the original has gonfanon, it is clear that Chaucer wrote gonfanoun, riming with renoun.
In l. 1379, late editions have lorey; in l. 1313, Bell has loreryes, which Morris alters to loreyes. There is no such word as lorey. Thynne has laurer, laurelles. Considering that loreres rimes with oliveres, it is obvious that the right forms are lorer and loreres (French, loriers); see laurer in Stratmann.
In l. 1420, where the authorities have veluet, the modern editions have velvet. But the u (also written ou) was at that time a vowel, and velu-et (or velou-et) was trisyllabic, as the rhythm shews. The modern velvet seems to have arisen from a mistake.
Several other restorations of the text are pointed out in the notes, and I need not say more about them here.
N.B. After l. 4658, the lines in Morris’s edition are misnumbered. His l. 4670 is really l. 4667; and so on. Also, 5700 is printed in the wrong place; and so is 6010; but without throwing out the numbering. Also, 6210 is only nine lines after 6200, throwing out the subsequent numbering, so that his l. 6220 is really 6216. At his l. 6232, 6231 is printed, and so counted; thus, his 6240 is really 6237. His 6380 is eleven lines after 6370, and is really 6378. After l. 7172, I insert two lines by translation, to fill up a slight gap. This makes his l. 7180 agree with my l. 7180, and brings his numbering right again.
For a few of the Notes, I am indebted to Bell’s edition; but most of the work in them is my own.
The French Text.
For some account of the famous French poem entitled ‘Le Roman de la Rose,’ see Morley’s English Writers, 1889, iv. 1. It was commenced by Guillaume de Lorris, born at Lorris, in the valley of the Loire, who wrote it at the age of five-and-twenty, probably between the years 1200 and 12301 . He must have died young, as he left the poem incomplete, though it then extended to 4070 lines. It was continued, a little more than 40 years after Guillaume’s death, by Jean de Meun (or Meung), born (as he tells us) at Meung-sur-Loire, and surnamed le Clopinel (i. e. the hobbler, the lame). See, for these facts, the French text, ll. 10601, 10603, 10626. He added 18004 lines, so that the whole poem finally extended to the enormous length of 22074 lines.
Jean de Meun was a man of a very different temperament from his predecessor. Guillaume de Lorris merely planned a fanciful allegorical love-poem, in which the loved one was represented as a Rose in a beautiful garden, and the lover as one who desired to pluck it, but was hindered by various allegorical personages, such as Danger, Shame, Jealousy, and Fear, though assisted by others, such as Bel Accueil (Fair Reception), Frankness, Pity, and the like. But Jean de Meun took up the subject in a keener and more earnest spirit, inserting some powerful pieces of satire against the degraded state of many women of the day and against various corruptions of the church. This infused a newer life into the poem, and made it extremely popular and successful. We may look upon the former part, down to l. 4432 of the translation, as a pretty and courtly description of a fanciful dream, whilst the remaining portion intersperses with the general description many forcible remarks, of a satirical nature, on the manners of the time, and affords numerous specimens of the author’s erudition. Jean de Meun was the author of several other pieces, including a poem which he called his ‘Testament.’ He probably lived into the beginning of the fourteenth century, and died about 1318.
§ 28. Professor Morley gives a brief analysis of the whole poem, which will be found to be a useful guide through the labyrinth of this rambling poem. The chief points in it are the following.
The poet’s dream begins, after a brief introduction, with a description of allegorical personages, as seen painted on the outside of the walls of a garden, viz. Hate and Felony, Covetousness, &c.; ll. 147-474 of the translation.
We may next note a description of Idleness, the young girl who opens the door of the garden (531-599); of Sir Mirth (600-644); of the garden itself (645-732); again, of Sir Mirth, the lady Gladness, Cupid, or the God of Love, with his two bows and ten arrows, and his bachelor, named Sweet-looking (733-998). Next comes a company of dancers, such as Beauty, Riches, Largesse (Bounty), Frankness, Courtesy, and Idleness again (999-1308). The poet next describes the trees in the garden (1349-1408), and the wells in the same (1409-1454); especially the well of Narcissus, whose story is duly told (1455-1648). The Rose-tree (1649-1690). The Rose-bud (1691-1714).
At l. 1705, Fragment A ends.
§ 29. Just at this point, the descriptions cease for a while, and the action, so to speak, begins. The God of Love seeks to wound the poet, or lover, with his arrows, and succeeds in doing so; after which he calls upon the lover to yield himself up as a prisoner, which he does (1715-2086). Love locks up the lover’s heart, and gives him full instructions for his behaviour (2087-2950); after which Love vanishes (2951-2966). The Rose-tree is defended by a hedge; the lover seeks the assistance of Bialacoil or Belacoil (i. e. Fair-Reception), but is warned off by Danger, Wicked-Tongue, and Shame (2967-3166); and at last, Fair-Reception flees away (3167-3188). At this juncture, Reason comes to the lover, and gives him good advice; but he rejects it, and she leaves him to himself (3189-3334).
He now seeks the help of a Friend, and Danger allows him to come a little nearer, but tells him he must not pass within the hedge (3335-3498). Frankness and Pity now assist him, and he enters the garden, rejoined by Fair-Reception (3499-3626). The Rose appears more beautiful than ever, and the lover, aided by Venus, kisses it (3627-3772). This leads to trouble; Wicked-tongue and Jealousy raise opposition, Danger is reproved, and becomes more watchful than before (3773-4144). Jealousy builds a strong tower of stone, to guard the Rose-tree; the gates of the tower are guarded by Danger, Shame, Dread, and Wicked-tongue (4145-4276); and Fair-Reception is imprisoned within it (4277-4314). The lover mourns, and is inclined to despair (4315-4432).
§ 30. At this point, the work of G. de Lorris ceases, and Jean de Meun begins by echoing the word ‘despair,’ and declaring that he will have none of it. The lover reconsiders his position (4433-4614). Reason (in somewhat of a new character) revisits the lover, and again instructs him, declaring how love is made up of contrarieties, and discussing the folly of youth and the self-restraint of old-age (4615-5134). The lover again rejects Reason’s advice, who continues her argument, gives a definition of Friendship, and discusses the variability of Fortune (5135-5560), the value of Poverty (5561-5696), and the vanity of Covetousness (5697-5810).
§ 31. Here ends Fragment B, and a large gap occurs in the translation. The omitted portion of the French text continues the discourse of Reason, with examples from the stories of Virginia, Nero, and Crœsus, and references to the fall of Manfred (conquered by Charles of Anjou) and the fate of Conradin. But all this is wasted on the lover, whom Reason quits once more. The lover applies a second time to his Friend, who recommends bounty or bribery. Here Jean de Meun discourses on prodigality, on women who take presents, on the Age of Gold, and on jealous husbands, with much satire interspersed, and many allusions, as for example, to Penelope, Lucretia, Abelard, Hercules, and others.
At last Love pities the lover, and descends to help him; and, with the further assistance of Bounty, Honour, and other barons of Love’s court, proceeds to lay siege to the castle in which Jealousy has imprisoned Fair-Reception.
§ 32. Here begins Fragment C; in which the ranks of the besiegers are joined by other assistants of a doubtful and treacherous character, viz. False-Semblant and Constrained-Abstinence (5811-5876). Love discusses buying and selling, and the use of bounty and riches (5877-6016). Love’s Barons ask Love to take False-Semblant and Constrained-Abstinence into his service (6017-6057). Love consents, but bids False-Semblant confess his true character (6058-6081). False-Semblant replies by truly exposing his own hypocrisy, with keen attacks upon religious hypocrites (6082-7334). Love now begins the assault upon the castle of Jealousy (7335-7352). A digression follows, regarding the outward appearance of False-Semblant and Constrained-Abstinence (7353-7420). The assailants advance to the gate guarded by Wicked-Tongue, who is harangued by Constrained-Abstinence (7421-7605), and by False-Semblant (7606-7696). And here the English version ends.
The above sketch gives a sufficient notion of the general contents of the poem. Of course the lover is ultimately successful, and carries off the Rose in triumph.
§ 33. It deserves to be noted, in conclusion, that, as the three Fragments of the English version, all taken together, represent less than a third of the French poem, we must not be surprised to find, as we do, that Chaucer’s numerous allusions to, and citations from, the French poem, usually lie outside that part of it that happens to be translated. Still more often, they lie outside the part of it translated in Fragment A. Hence it seldom happens that we can compare his quotations with his own translation. In the chief instances where we can do so, we find that he has not repeated his own version verbatim, but has somewhat varied his expressions. I refer, in particular, to the Book of the Duchess, 284-6, as compared with Rom. Rose, 7-10; the same, 340-1, beside R.R., 130-1; the same, 410-2, beside R.R., 61-2; and the same, 419-426, 429-432, beside R.R., 1391-1403.
§ 34. In the present edition I have supplied the original French text, in the lower part of each page, as far as the end of Fragment A, where Chaucer’s work ends. This text is exactly copied from the edition by M. Méon, published at Paris in four volumes in 18131 . I omit, however, the occasional versified headings, which appear as summaries and are of no consequence. Throughout the notes I refer to the lines as numbered in this edition. The later edition by M. Michel is practically useless for the purpose of reference, as the numbering of the lines in it is strangely incorrect. For example, line 3408 is called 4008, and the whole number of lines is made out to be 22817, which is largely in excess of the truth.
Fragments B and C are printed in smaller type, to mark their distinction from Fragment A; and the corresponding French text is omitted, to save space.[Back to Table of Contents]
THE MINOR POEMS.
§ 1.It has been usual, in editions of Chaucer’s Works, to mingle with those which he is known to have written, a heterogeneous jumble of poems by Gower, Lydgate, Hoccleve, Henrysoun, and various anonymous writers (some of quite late date), and then to accept a quotation from any one of them as being a quotation ‘from Chaucer.’ Some principle of selection is obviously desirable; and the first question that arises is, naturally, this: which of the Minor Poems are genuine? The list here given partly coincides with that adopted by Dr. Furnivall in the publications of the Chaucer Society. I have, however, added six, here numbered vi, xi, xii, xxi, xxii, and xxiii; my reasons for doing so are given below, where each poem is discussed separately. At the same time, I have omitted the poem entitled ‘The Mother of God,’ which is known to have been written by Hoccleve. The only known copy of it is in a MS. now in the library of the late Sir Thomas Phillipps, which contains sixteen poems, all of which are by the same hand, viz. that of Hoccleve. After all, it is only a translation; still, it is well and carefully written, and the imitation of Chaucer’s style is good. In determining which poems have the best right to be reckoned as Chaucer’s, we have to consider both the external and the internal evidence.
We will therefore consider, in the first place, the external evidence generally.
Testimony of Chaucer regarding his works.
The most important evidence is that afforded by the poet himself. In an Introduction prefixed to the Man of Law’s Prologue (Cant. Tales, B 57), he says—
‘In youth he made of Ceys and Alcion’—
a story which is preserved at the beginning of the Book of the Duchesse.
In the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women (see vol. iii.), he refers to his translation of the Romaunce of the Rose, and to his Troilus; and, according to MS. Fairfax 16, ll. 417-423, he says—
The rest of the passage does not immediately concern us, excepting ll. 427, 428, where we find—
In the copy of the same Prologue, as extant in MS. Gg. 4. 27, in the Cambridge University Library, there are two additional lines, doubtless genuine, to this effect—
There is also a remarkable passage at the end of his Persones Tale, the genuineness of which has been doubted by some, but it appears in the MSS., and I do not know of any sound reason for rejecting it. According to the Ellesmere MS., he here mentions—‘the book of Troilus, the book also of Fame, the book of the xxv. Ladies1 , the book of the Duchesse, the book of seint Valentynes day of the parlement of briddes . . . the book of the Leoun . . . and many a song,’ &c.
Besides this, in the House of Fame, l. 729, he mentions his own name, viz. ‘Geffrey.’ We thus may be quite certain as to the genuineness of this poem, the longest and most important of all the Minor Poems2 , and we may at once add to the list the Book of the Duchesse, the next in order of length, and the Parliament of Foules, which is the third in the same order.
We also learn that he composed some poems which have not come down to us, concerning which a few words may be useful.
1. ‘Origines vpon the Maudeleyne’ must have been a translation from a piece attributed to Origen. In consequence, probably, of this remark of the poet, the old editions insert a piece called the ‘Lamentacion of Marie Magdaleine,’ which has no pretence to be considered Chaucer’s, and may be summarily dismissed. It is sufficient to notice that it contains a considerable number of rimes such as are never found in his genuine works, as, for example, the dissyllabic dy-e1 riming with why (st. 13); the plural adjective ken-e riming with y-ën, i. e. eyes, which would, with this Chaucerian pronunciation, be no rime at all (st. 19); and thirdly, disgised riming with rived, which is a mere assonance, and saves us from the trouble of further investigation (st. 25). See below, p. 37.
2. ‘The wrechede engendrynge of mankynde’ is obviously meant to describe a translation or imitation of the treatise by Pope Innocent III, entitled De Miseria Conditionis Humanae. The same treatise is referred to by Richard Rolle de Hampole, in his Pricke of Conscience, l. 498. It should be noted, however, that a few stanzas of this work have been preserved, by being incorporated (as quotations) in the Canterbury Tales, viz. in B 99-121, 421-7, 771-7, 925-31, 1135-8; cf. C 537-40, 551-2. See notes to these passages.
3. ‘The book of the Leoun,’ i. e. of the lion, was probably a translation of the poem called Le Dit du Lion by Machault; see the note to l. 1024 of the Book of the Duchesse in the present volume.
Lydgate’s List of Chaucer’s Poems.
The next piece of evidence is that given in what is known as ‘Lydgate’s list.’ This is contained in a long passage in the prologue to his poem known as the ‘Fall of Princes,’ translated from the French version (by Laurens de Premierfait) of the Latin book by Boccaccio, entitled ‘De Casibus Virorum Illustrium2 .’ In this Lydgate commends his ‘maister Chaucer,’ and mentions many of his works, as, e. g. Troilus and Creseide, the translation of Boethius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae, the treatise on the Astrolabe addressed to his ‘sonne that called was Lowys,’ the Legend of Good Women, and the Canterbury Tales. The whole passage is given in Morris’s edition of Chaucer, vol. i. pp. 79-81; but I shall only cite so much of it as refers to the Minor Poems, and I take the opportunity of doing so directly, from an undated black-letter edition published by John Wayland.
It is clear to me that Lydgate is, at first, simply repeating the information which we have already had upon Chaucer’s own authority; he begins by merely following Chaucer’s own language in the extracts above cited. Possibly he knew no more than we do of ‘Orygene vpon the Maudelayn,’ and of the ‘boke of the Lyon.’ At any rate, he tells us no more about them. Naturally, in speaking of the Minor Poems, we should expect to find him following, as regards the three chief poems, the order of length; that is, we should expect to find here a notice of (1) the House of Fame; (2) the Book of the Duchesse; and (3) the Parliament of Foules. We are naturally disposed to exclaim with Ten Brink (Studien, p. 152)—‘Why did he leave out the House of Fame?’ But we need not say with him, that ‘to this question I know of no answer.’ For it is perfectly clear to me, though I cannot find that any one else seems to have thought of it, that ‘Dant in English’ and ‘The House of Fame’ are one and the same poem, described in the same position and connexion. If anything about the House of Fame is clear at all, it is that (as Ten Brink so clearly points out, in his Studien, p. 89) the influence of Dante is more obvious in this poem than in any other. I would even go further and say that it is the only poem which owes its chief inspiration to Dante in the whole of English literature during, at least, the Middle-English period. There is absolutely nothing else to which such a name as ‘Dante in English’ can with any fitness be applied. The phrase ‘himselfe doth so expresse’ is rather dubious; but I take it to mean: ‘(I give it that name, for) he, i. e. Chaucer, expresses himself like Dante (therein).’ In any case, I refuse to take any other view until some competent critic will undertake to tell me, what poem of Chaucer’s, other than the House of Fame, can possibly be intended.
To which argument I have to add a second, viz. that Lydgate mentions the House of Fame in yet another way; for he refers to it at least three times, in clear terms, in other passages of the same poem, i. e. of the Fall of Princes.
Lydgate describes the Parliament of Foules in terms which clearly shew that he had read it. He also enables us to add to our list the Complaint of Anelida and the Complaint of Mars; for it is the latter poem which contains the story of the broche of Thebes. We have, accordingly, complete authority for the genuineness of the House of Fame and the four longest of the Minor Poems, which, as arranged in order of length, are these: The House of Fame (2158 lines); Book of the Duchesse (1334 lines); Parliament of Foules (699 lines); Anelida and Arcite (357 lines); and Complaint of Mars (298 lines). This gives us a total of 4846 lines, furnishing a very fair standard of comparison whereby to consider the claims to genuineness of other poems. Lydgate further tells us that Chaucer
Testimony of John Shirley.
The next best evidence is that afforded by notes in the existing MSS.; and here, in particular, we should first consider the remarks by Chaucer’s great admirer, John Shirley, who took considerable pains to copy out and preserve his poems, and is said by Stowe to have died Oct. 21, 1456, at the great age of ninety, so that he was born more than 30 years before Chaucer died. On his authority, we may attribute to Chaucer the A. B. C.; the Complaint to Pity; the Complaint of Mars (according to a heading in MS. T.); the Complaint of Anelida (according to a heading in MS. Addit. 16165); the Lines to Adam, called in MS. T. ‘Chauciers Wordes a. Geffrey vn-to Adam his owen scryveyne’; Fortune; Truth; Gentilesse; Lak of Stedfastnesse; the Compleint of Venus; and the Compleint to his Empty Purse. The MSS. due to Shirley are the Sion College MS., Trin. Coll. Cam. R. 3. 20, Addit. 16165, Ashmole 59, Harl. 78, Harl. 2251, and Harl. 7333. See also § 23, p. 75.
Testimony of Scribes of the MSS.
The Fairfax MS. 16, a very fair MS. of the fifteenth century, contains several of the Minor Poems; and in this the name of Chaucer is written at the end of the poem on Truth and of the Compleint to his Purse; it also appears in the title of Lenvoy de Chaucer a Scogan; in that of Lenvoy de Chaucer a Bukton; in that of the Compleint of Chaucer to his empty Purse, and in that of ‘Proverbe of Chaucer.’
Again, the Pepys MS. no. 2006 attributes to Chaucer the A. B. C., the title there given being ‘Pryer a nostre Dame, per Chaucer’; as well as the Compleint to his Purse, the title being ‘La Compleint de Chaucer a sa Bourse Voide.’ It also has the title ‘Lenvoy de Chaucer a Scogan.’ See also p. 80, note 2.
The ‘Former Age’ is entitled ‘Chawcer vp-on this fyfte metur of the second book’ in the Cambridge MS. Ii. 3. 21; and at the end of the same poem is written ‘Finit etas prima. Chaucers’ in the Cambridge MS. Hh. 4. 12. The poem on Fortune is also marked ‘Causer’ in the former of these MSS.; indeed, these two poems practically belong to Chaucer’s translation of Boethius, though probably written at a somewhat later period. After all, the most striking testimony to their authenticity is the fact that, in MS. Ii. 3. 21, these two poems are inserted in the very midst of the prose text of ‘Boethius,’ between the fifth metre and the sixth prose of Book II.
The Cambridge MS. Gg. 4. 27, which contains an excellent copy of the Canterbury Tales, attributes to Chaucer the Parliament of Foules; and gives us the title ‘Litera directa de Scogon per G. C.’ Of course ‘G. C.’ is Geoffrey Chaucer.
From Furnivall’s Trial Forewords, p. 13, we learn that there is a verse translation of De Deguileville’s Pèlerinage do la Vie Humaine, attributed to Lydgate, in MS. Cotton, Vitellius C. XIII. (leaf 256), in which the ‘A. B. C.’ is distinctly attributed to Chaucer1 .
The Balade ‘To Rosamounde’ is assigned to Chaucer in the unique copy of it in the Rawlinson MS. ‘A Compleint to his Lady’ is assigned to Chaucer in the only complete copy of it.
We ought also to assign some value to the manner in which the poems appear in the MS. copies. This can only be appreciated by inspection of the MSS. themselves. Any one who will look for himself at the copies of Gentilesse, Lak of Stedfastnesse, Truth, and Against Women Inconstaunt in MS. Cotton, Cleop. D. 7, will see that the scribe clearly regarded the last of these as genuine, as well as the rest. And the same may be said of some other poems which are not absolutely marked with Chaucer’s name. This important argument is easily derided by those who cannot read MSS., but it remains valuable all the same.
Testimony of Caxton.
At p. 116 of the same Trial Forewords is a description by Mr. Bradshaw of a very rare edition by Caxton of some of Chaucer’s Minor Poems. It contains: (1) Parliament of Foules; (2) a treatise by Scogan, in which Chaucer’s ‘Gentilesse’ is introduced; (3) a single stanza of 7 lines, beginning—‘Wyth empty honde men may no hawkes lure’; (4) Chaucer’s ‘Truth,’ entitled—‘The good counceyl of Chawcer’; (5) the poem on ‘Fortune’; and (6) part of Lenvoy to Scogan, viz. the first three stanzas. The volume is imperfect at the end. As to the article No. 3, it was probably included because the first line of it is quoted from l. 415 of the Wyf of Bathes Prologue (Cant. Ta. 5997, vol. iv. p. 332).
At p. 118 of the same is another description, also by Mr. Bradshaw, of a small quarto volume printed by Caxton, consisting of only ten leaves. It contains, according to him: (1) Anelida and Arcite, ll. 1-210; (2) The Compleint of Anelida, being the continuation of the former, ll. 211-350, where the poem ends; (3) The Compleint of Chaucer vnto his empty purse, with an Envoy headed—‘Thenuoye of Chaucer vnto the kynge’; (4) Three1 couplets, beginning—‘Whan feyth failleth in prestes sawes,’ and ending—‘Be brought to grete confusioun’; (5) Two couplets, beginning—‘Hit falleth for euery gentilman,’ and ending—‘And the soth in his presence’; (6) Two couplets, beginning—‘Hit cometh by kynde of gentil blode,’ and ending—‘The werk of wisedom berith witnes’; followed by—‘Et sic est finis.’ The last three articles only make fourteen lines in all, and are of little importance2 .
Early Editions of Chaucer’s Works.
The first collected edition of Chaucer’s Works is that edited by W. Thynne in 1532, but there were earlier editions of his separate poems. The best account of these is that which I here copy from a note on p. 70 of Furnivall’s edition of F. Thynne’s ‘Animaduersions vpon the Annotacions and Corrections of some imperfections of impressiones of Chaucer’s Workes’; published for the Chaucer Society in 1875.
Only one edition of Chaucer’s Works had been published before the date of Thynne’s, 1532, and that was Pynson’s in 1526, without a general title, but containing three parts, with separate signatures, and seemingly intended to sell separately; 1. the boke of Caunterbury tales; 2. the boke of Fame . . . with dyuers other of his workes [i. e. Assemble of Foules1 , La Belle Dame2 , Morall Prouerbes]; 3. the boke of Troylus and Cryseyde. But of separate works of Chaucer before 1532, the following had been published:—
Canterbury Tales. 1. Caxton, about 1477-8, from a poor MS.; 2. Caxton, ab. 1483, from a better MS.; 3. Pynson, ab. 1493; 4. Wynkyn de Worde, 1498; 5. Pynson, 1526.
Book of Fame. 1. Caxton, ab. 1483; 2. Pynson, 1526.
Troylus. 1. Caxton, ab. 1483; 2. Wynkyn de Worde, 1517; 3. Pyn son, 1526.
Parliament of Foules3 . 1. Caxton, ab. 1477-8; 2. Pynson, 1526, 3. Wynkyn de Worde, 1530.
Gentilnesse3 (in Scogan’s poem). 1. Caxton, ab. 1477-8.
Truth3 . (The good counceyl of chawcer.) 1. Caxton, ab. 1477-8.
Fortune3 . (Balade of the vilage (sic) without peyntyng.) 1. Caxton, ab. 1477-8.
Envoy to Skogan3 . 1. Caxton, ab. 1477-8 (all lost, after the third stanza).
Anelida and Arcyte4 . 1. Caxton, ab. 1477-8.
Purse4 . (The compleynt of Chaucer vnto his empty purse.) 1. Cax ton, ab. 1477-8.
Mars; Venus; Marriage (Lenvoy to Bukton). 1. Julian Notary, 1499-1502.
After Thynne’s first edition of the Works in 1532 (printed by Thomas Godfray), came his second in 1542 (for John Reynes and Wyllyam Bonham), to which he added ‘The Plowman’s Tale’ after the Parson’s Tale, i. e. at the end.
Then came a reprint for the booksellers (Wm. Bonham, R. Kele, T. Petit, Robert Toye), about 1550, which put the Plowman’s Tale before the Parson’s. This was followed by an edition in 1561 for the booksellers (Ihon Kyngston, Henry Bradsha, citizen and grocer of London, &c.), to which, when more than half printed, Stowe contributed some fresh pieces, the spurious Court of Love, Lydgate’s Sage of Thebes, and other poems. Next came Speght’s edition of 1598—on which William Thynne comments in his Animadversions—which added the spurious ‘Dreme,’ and ‘Flower and Leaf.’ This was followed by Speght’s second edition, in 1602, in which Francis Thynne helped him, and to which were added Chaucer’s ‘A. B. C.’, and the spurious ‘Jack Upland1 .’ Jack Upland had been before printed, with Chaucer’s name on the title-page, about 1536-40 (London, J. Gough, no date, 8vo.).
In an Appendix to the Preface to Tyrwhitt’s edition of the Canterbury Tales, there is a similar account of the early editions of Chaucer, to which the reader may refer. He quotes the whole of Caxton’s preface to his second edition of the Canterbury Tales, shewing how Caxton reprinted the book because he had meanwhile come upon a more correct MS. than that which he had first followed.
If we now briefly consider all the earlier editions, we find that they may be thus tabulated.
Separate Works. Various editions before 1532; see the list above, on p. 28.
Collected Works. Pynson’s edition of 1526, containing only a portion, as above; La Belle Dame being spurious. Also the following:—
1. Ed. by Wm. Thynne; London, 1532. Folio. Pr. by Godfray.
2. Reprinted, with additional matter; London, 1542. Folio.
The chief addition is the spurious Plowman’s Tale.
3. Reprinted, with the matter rearranged; London, no date, about 1550. Folio. (Of this edition I possess a copy.)
Here the Plowman’s Tale is put before the Parson’s. Moreover, the three pieces numbered 66-68 below (p. 45), are inserted at the end of the Table of Contents.
4. Reprinted, with large additions by John Stowe. London, 1561. Folio. (See further below, p. 31). I possess a copy.
5. Reprinted, with additions and alterations by Thomas Speght; London, 1598. Folio.
Here, for the first time, appear ‘Chaucer’s Dream’ and ‘The Flower and the Leaf’; both are spurious.
6. Reprinted, with further additions and alterations by Thomas Speght; London, 1602. Folio.
Here, for the first time, appear the spurious Jack Upland1 and the genuine A. B. C.
7. Reprinted, with slight additions; London, 1687. Folio.
8. Reprinted, with additions and great alterations in spelling, by John Urry; London, 1721. Folio.
This edition is the worst that has appeared. It is not necessary for our purpose to enumerate the numerous later editions. An entirely new edition of the Canterbury Tales was produced by Thomas Tyrwhitt in 1775-8, in 5 vols., 8vo.; to which all later editions have been much indebted2 .
The manner in which these editions were copied one from the other renders it no very difficult task to describe the whole contents of them accurately. The only important addition in the editions of 1542 and 1550 is the spurious Plowman’s Tale, which in no way concerns us. Again, the only important additional poems after 1561 are the spurious Chaucer’s Dream, The Flower and the Leaf, and the genuine A. B. C. The two representative editions are really those of 1532 and 1561. Now the edition of 1561 consists of two parts; the former consists of a reprint from former editions, and so differs but little from the edition of 1532; whilst the latter part consists of additional matter furnished by John Stowe. Hence a careful examination of the edition of 1561 is, practically, nearly sufficient to give us all the information which we need. I shall therefore give a complete table of the contents of this edition.
Table of Contents of Stowe’s Edition (1561)1 .
1. Caunterburie Tales. (The Prologue begins on a page with the signature a 2, the first quire of six leaves not being numbered; the Knightes Tale begins on a page with the signature b ii, and marked Fol. i. The spurious Plowman’s Tale precedes the Parson’s Tale.)
2. The Romaunt of the Rose2 . Fol. cxvi.
3. Troilus and Creseide. Fol. cli., back.
4. The testament of Creseide. [By Robert Henryson.] Fol. cxciiii. Followed by its continuation, called The Complaint of Creseide; by the same.
5. The Legende of Good Women. Fol. cxcvij.
6. A goodlie balade of Chaucer; beginning—‘Mother of norture, best beloued of all.’ Fol. ccx.
7. Boecius de Consolatione Philosophie. Fol. ccx., back.
8. The dreame of Chaucer. [The Book of the Duchesse.] Fol. ccxliiii.
9. Begins—‘My master. &c. When of Christ our kyng.’ [Lenvoy to Buckton.] Fol. ccxliiii3 .
10. The assemble of Foules. [Parlement of Foules.] Fol. ccxliiii., back.
11. The Floure of Curtesie, made by Ihon lidgate. Fol. ccxlviij. Followed by a Balade, which forms part of it.
12. How pyte is deed, etc. [Complaint unto Pite.] Fol. ccxlix., back.
13. La belle Dame sans Mercy. [By Sir R. Ros.] Fol. ccl.
14. Of Quene Annelida and false Arcite. Fol. cclv.
15. The assemble of ladies. Fol. ccxlvij.
16. The conclucions of the Astrolabie. Fol. cclxi.
17. The complaint of the blacke Knight. [By Lydgate; see p. 35, note 3.] Fol. cclxx.
18. A praise of Women. Begins—‘Al tho the lyste of women euill to speke.’ Fol. cclxxiii.1 , back.
19. The House of Fame. Fol. cclxxiiij., back.
20. The Testament of Loue (in prose). Fol. cclxxxiiij., back.
21. The lamentacion of Marie Magdaleine. Fol. cccxviij.
22. The remedie of Loue. Fol. cccxxj., back.
23, 24. The complaint of Mars and Venus. Fol. cccxxiiij., back. (Printed as one poem; but there is a new title—The complaint of Venus—at the beginning of the latter.)
25. The letter of Cupide. [By Hoccleve; dated 1402.] Fol. cccxxvj., back.
26. A Ballade in commendacion of our Ladie. Fol. cccxxix. [By Lydgate; see p. 38.]
27. Ihon Gower vnto the noble King Henry the .iiij. Fol. cccxxx., back. [By Gower.]
28. A saiyng of dan Ihon. [By Lydgate.] Fol. cccxxxii., back2 .
29. Yet of the same. [By Lydgate.] On the same page.
30. Balade de bon consail. Begins—If it be fall that God the list visite. (Only 7 lines.) On the same page.
31. Of the Cuckowe and the Nightingale. Fol. cccxxxiij. [By Hoccleve?]
32. Balade with Envoy (no title). Begins—‘O leude booke with thy foule rudenesse.’ Fol. cccxxxiiij., back.
33. Scogan, vnto the Lordes and Gentilmen of the Kinges house. (This poem, by H. Scogan, quotes Chaucer’s ‘Gentilesse’ in full.) Fol. cccxxxiiij., back.
34. Begins—‘Somtyme the worlde so stedfast was and stable.’ [Lak of Stedfastnesse.] Fol. cccxxxv., back.
35. Good counsail of Chaucer. [Truth.] Same page.
36. Balade of the village (sic) without paintyng. [Fortune.] Fol. cccxxxvj.
37. Begins—‘Tobroken been the statutes hie in heauen’; headed Lenuoye. [Lenvoy to Scogan.] Fol. cccxxxvj., back.
38. Poem in two stanzas of seven lines each. Begins—‘Go foorthe kyng, rule thee by Sapience.’ Same page.
39. Chaucer to his emptie purse. Same page.
40. A balade of good counseile translated out of Latin verses in-to Englishe, by Dan Ihon lidgat cleped the monke of Buri. Begins—‘COnsyder well euery circumstaunce.’ Fol. cccxxxvij.
41. A balade in the Praise and commendacion of master Geffray Chauser for his golden eloquence. (Only 7 lines.) Same leaf, back. [See p. 56.]
Part II. Additions by John Stowe.
At the top of fol. cccxl. is the following remark:—
¶ Here foloweth certaine woorkes of Geffray Chauser, whiche hath not heretofore been printed, and are gathered and added to this booke by Ihon Stowe.
42. A balade made by Chaucer, teching what is gentilnes1 . [Gentilesse.] Fol. cccxl.
43. A Prouerbe [read Prouerbs] agaynst couitise and negligence. [Proverbs.] Same page.
44. A balade which Chaucer made agaynst women vnconstaunt. Same page. [Certainly genuine, in my opinion; but here relegated to an Appendix, to appease such as cannot readily apprehend my reasons. Cf. p. 26.]
45. A balade which Chaucer made in the praise or rather dispraise, of women for their doublenes. [By Lydgate.] Begins—‘This world is full of variaunce.’ Same page.
46. This werke folowinge was compiled by Chaucer, and is caled the craft of louers. Fol. cccxli. [Written in 1448.]
47. A Balade. Begins—‘Of their nature they greatly them delite.’ Fol. cccxli., back. [Quotes from no. 56.]
48. The .x. Commaundementes of Loue. Fol. cccxlij.
49. The .ix. Ladies worthie. Fol. cccxlij., back.
50. [Virelai; no title.] Begins—‘Alone walkyng.’ Fol. cccxliij.
51. A Ballade. Begins—‘In the season of Feuerere when it was full colde.’ Same page.
52. A Ballade. Begins—‘O Mercifull and o merciable.’ Fol. cccxliij., back. [Made up of scraps from late poems; see p. 57.]
53. Here foloweth how Mercurie with Pallas, Venus and Minarua, appered to Paris of Troie, he slepyng by a fountain. Fol. cccxliiij.
54. A balade pleasaunte. Begins—‘I haue a Ladie where so she bee.’ Same page. At the end—‘Explicit the discriuyng of a faire Ladie.’
55. An other Balade. Begins—‘O Mossie Quince, hangyng by your stalke.’ Fol. cccxliiij., back.
56. A balade, warnyng men to beware of deceitptfnll women (sic). Begins—‘LOke well aboute ye that louers bee.’ Same page. [By Lydgate.]
57. These verses next folowing were compiled by Geffray Chauser, and in the writen copies foloweth at the ende of the complainte of petee. Begins—‘THe long nyghtes when euery [c]reature.’ [This is the ‘Compleint to his Lady,’ as I venture to call it.] Fol. cccxlv1 .
58. A balade declaring that wemens chastite Doeth moche excel all treasure worldly. Begins—‘IN womanhede as auctours al write.’ Back of same leaf.
59. The Court of Loue. Begins—‘WIth temerous herte, and trembling hand of drede.’ Fol. cccxlviij.
60. Chaucers woordes vnto his owne Scriuener2 . Fol. ccclv., back. At the end—Thus endeth the workes of Geffray Chaucer. (This is followed by 34 Latin verses, entitled Epitaphium Galfridi Chaucer, &c.)
61. The Storie of Thebes. [By Lydgate.] Fol. ccclvj.
Discussion of the Poems in Part I. of Ed. 1561.
Of the 41 pieces in Part I. of the above, we must of course accept as Chaucer’s the four poems entitled Canterbury Tales, Troilus, Legend of Good Women, and House of Fame; also the prose translation of Boethius, and the prose treatise on the Astrolabie. The remaining number of Minor Poems (excluding the Romaunt of the Rose) is 34; out of which number I accept the 13 numbered above with the numbers 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 23, 24, 33 (so far as it quotes Chaucer), 34, 35, 36, 37, and 39. Every one of these has already been shewn to be genuine on sufficient external evidence, and it is not likely that their genuineness will be doubted. In the present volume they appear, respectively, as nos. III, XVII, V, II, VII, IV, XVIII, XIV, XV, XIII, X, XVI, XIX. Of the remaining 21, several may be dismissed in a few words. No. 4 is well known to have been written by Robert Henryson. Nos. 11, 28, 29, and 40 are distinctly claimed for Lydgate in all the editions; and no. 27 is similarly claimed for Gower. No. 25 was written by Hoccleve1 ; and the last line gives the date—‘A thousande, foure hundred and seconde,’ i.e. 1402, or two years after Chaucer’s death. No. 13 is translated from Alain Chartier, who was only four years old when Chaucer died; see p. 28, note 2. Tyrwhitt remarks that, in MS. Harl. 372, this poem is expressly attributed to a Sir Richard Ros2 . No one can suppose that no. 41 is by Chaucer, seeing that the first line is—‘Maister Geffray Chauser, that now lithe in graue.’ Mr. Bradshaw once assured me that no. 17 is ascribed, on MS. authority, to Lydgate; and no one who reads it with care can doubt that this is correct3 . It is, in a measure, an imitation of the Book of the Duchesse; and it contains some interesting references to Chaucer, as in the lines—‘Of Arcite, or of him Palemoun,’ and ‘Of Thebes eke the false Arcite.’ No. 20, i. e. the Testament of Love, is in prose, and does not here concern us; still it is worth pointing out that it contains a passage (near the end) such as we cannot suppose that Chaucer would have written concerning himself4 .
After thus removing from consideration nos. 4, 11, 13, 17, 20, 25, 27, 28, 29, 40, and 41, half of the remaining 21 pieces have been considered. The only ones left over for consideration are nos. 6, 15, 18, 21, 22, 26, 30, 31, 32, 38. As to no. 6, there is some external evidence in its favour, which will be duly considered; but as to the rest, there is absolutely nothing to connect them with Chaucer beyond their almost accidental appearance in an edition by Wm. Thynne, published in 1532, i. e. one hundred and thirty-two years after Chaucer’s death; and it has just been demonstrated that Thynne is obviously wrong in at least eleven instances, and that he wittingly and purposely chose to throw into his edition poems which he knew to have been written by Lydgate or by Gower! It is ridiculous to attach much importance to such testimony as this. And now let me discuss, as briefly as I can, the above-named poems separately.
6. A goodlie balade of Chaucer; begins—‘Mother of norture, best beloued of all’; printed in Morris’s edition, vi. 275; and in Bell’s edition, iii. 413. I have little to say against this poem; yet the rime of supposeth with riseth (st. 8) is somewhat startling. It is clearly addressed to a lady named Margaret1 , as appears from her being likened to the daisy, and called the sun’s daughter. I suspect it was merely attributed to Chaucer by association with the opening lines of the Legend of Good Women. The suggestion, in Bell’s Chaucer, that it possibly refers to the Countess of Pembroke, is one of those bad guesses which are discreditable. Tyrwhitt shews, in note n to his ‘Appendix to the Preface,’ that she must have died not later than 1370, whereas this Balade must be much later than that date; and I agree with him in supposing that le Dit de la fleur de lis et de la Marguerite, by Guillaume de Machault (printed in Tarbé’s edition, 1849, p. 123), and the Dittié de la flour de la Margherite, by Froissart, may furnish us with the true key to those mystical compliments which Chaucer and others were accustomed to pay to the daisy.
I wish to add that I am convinced that one stanza, probably the sixth is missing. It ought to form a triple Balade, i. e. three Balades of 21 lines each, each with its own refrain; but the second is imperfect. There seems to be some affectation about the letters beginning the stanzas which I cannot solve; these are M, M, M (probably for Margaret) in the first Balade; D, D in the second; and J, C, Q in the third. The poet goes out of his way to bring in these letters. The result looks like Margaret de Jacques; but this guess does not help us.
The poem is rather artificial, especially in such inversions as It receyve, Cauteles whoso useth, and Quaketh my penne; these things are not in Chaucer’s manner. In the second stanza there is a faulty rime; for we there find shal, smal, answering to the dissyllabic rimes alle, calle, appalle, befalle, in stanzas 1 and 3. Lydgate has: ‘My pen quake,’ &c.; Troy Book, ch. x., fol. F2, back.
15. The assemble of Ladies. This poem Tyrwhitt decisively rejects. There is absolutely nothing to connect it with Chaucer. It purports to have been written by ‘a gentlewoman’; and perhaps it was. It ends with the rime of done, pp., with sone (soon); which in Chaucer are spelt doon and son-e respectively, and never rime. Most of the later editions omit this poem. It is conveniently printed in Chalmers’ English Poets, vol. i. p. 526; and consists of 108 7-line stanzas. For further remarks, see notes on The Flower and the Leaf (p. 44).
At p. 203 of the Ryme-Index to Chaucer’s Minor Poems (Chaucer Society), I have printed a Ryme-Index to this poem, shewing that the number of non-Chaucerian rimes in it is about 60.
18. A praise of Women. In no way connected with Chaucer. Rejected by Tyrwhitt. Printed in Bell’s edition, iv. 416, and in Chalmers’ English Poets, vol. i. p. 344; also in Morris’s Aldine edition, vol. vi. p. 278. In twenty-five 7-line stanzas. The rime of lie (to tell a lie) with sie (I saw), in st. 20, is suspicious; Chaucer has ly-e, sy. The rime of queen-e (usually dissyllabic in Chaucer) with beene (miswritten for been, they be, st. 23) is also suspicious. It contains the adjective sere, i. e. various (st. 11), which Chaucer never uses.
21. The lamentacion of Marie Magdaleine. Printed in Bell’s Chaucer, iv. 395; and in Chalmers, i. 532. Tyrwhitt’s remarks are admirable. He says, in his Glossary, s. v. Origenes:—‘In the list of Chaucer’s Works, in Legend of Good Women, l. 427, he says of himself:—
meaning, I suppose, a translation, into prose or verse, of the Homily de Maria Magdalena, which has been commonly, though falsely, attributed to Origen; v. Opp. Origenis, T. ii. p. 291, ed. Paris, 1604. I cannot believe that the poem entitled The Lamentation of Marie Magdaleine, which is in all the [older] editions of Chaucer, is really that work of his. It can hardly be considered as a translation, or even as an imitation, of the Homily; and the composition, in every respect, is infinitely meaner than the worst of his genuine pieces. To those who are interested in Chaucer’s rimes I will merely point out the following: die, why (Ch. dy-e, why); kene, iyen (Ch. ken-e, y-ën); disguised, to-rived, a mere assonance; crie, incessauntly (Ch. cry-ë, incessauntly); slaine, paine (Ch. slein, pein-e); y-fet, let (Ch. y-fet, let-te); accept, bewept (Ch. accept-e, bewept); die, mihi (Ch. dy-e, mihi). To those interested in Chaucer’s language, let me point out ‘dogges rabiate’—‘embesile his presence’—‘my woful herte is inflamed so huge’—‘my soveraine and very gentilman.’ See st. 34, 39, 54, 99.
22. The remedie of Loue. Printed in Chalmers’ British Poets, i. 539. In sixty-two 7-line stanzas. Rejected by Tyrwhitt. The language is extremely late; it seems to have been written in the 16th century. It contains such words as incongruitie, deduction, allective, can’t (for cannot), scribable (fit for writing on), olibane, pant, babé (baby), cokold (which Chaucer spells cokewold), ortographie, ethimologie, ethimologise (verb). The provincial word lait, to search for, is well known to belong to the Northern dialect. Dr. Murray, s. v. allective, dates this piece about a.d. 1560; but it must be somewhat earlier than this, as it was printed in 1532. I should date it about 1530.
26. A Ballade in commendacion of our Ladie. Tyrwhitt remarks that ‘a poem with the same beginning is ascribed to Lydgate, under the title of Invocation to our Lady; see Tanner, s. v. Lydgate.’ The poem consists of thirty-five 7-line stanzas. It has all the marks of Lydgate’s style, and imitates Chaucer’s language. Thus the line—‘I have none English conuenient and digne’ is an echo of the Man of Law’s Tale, l. 778—‘O Donegild, I ne haue noon English digne.’ Some of the lines imitate Chaucer’s A. B. C. But the most remarkable thing is his quotation of the first line of Chaucer’s Merciless Beauty, which he applies to the Virgin Mary! See note to that poem, l. 1.
A poem called an ‘Invocation to our Lady’ is ascribed to Lydgate in MS. Ashmole 59, fol. 39, back. It agrees with the present Ballade; which settles the question.
30. Balade de bon consail. Not in previous editions. Printed in Chalmers, i. 552. Only 7 lines, and here they are, duly edited:—
In l. 1, ed. 1561 has the; 2. aduersite; 3. Thanke; lorde; I supply fond, i.e. endeavour; thy-selfe; 4. (scans ill); 5. Founde; 6. Make.
31. Of the Cuckowe and the Nightingale. Printed in Bell’s Chaucer, iv. 334; and in Morris’s Chaucer, iv. 75. Not uncommon in MSS.; there is a copy in MS. Ff. 1. 6 in the Cambridge University Library; another in MS. Fairfax 16; another in MS. Bodley 638; another in MS. Tanner 346; and a fifth (imperfect) in MS. Arch. Selden B. 24, in the Bodleian Library. A sixth is in MS. Harl. 7333, in the British Museum. From some of these, Morris’s better text was constructed; see his edition, pref. p. ix.
It is worth a note, by the way, that it is not the same poem as one entitled The Nightingale, extant in MS. no. 203 in Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and in MS. Cotton, Calig. A. ii., fol. 59, and attributed to Lydgate.
That the first two lines are by Chaucer, we cannot doubt, for they are quoted from the Knightes Tale, ll. 927, 928. Chaucer often quotes his own lines, but it is not likely that he would take them as the subject of a new poem. On the other hand, this is just what we should expect one of his imitators to do. The present poem is a very fair imitation of Chaucer’s style, and follows his peculiarities of metre far more closely than is usually the case with Lydgate. The notion, near the end, of holding a parliament of birds, with the Eagle for lord, is evidently borrowed from Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules. Whilst admitting that the present poem is more worthy of Chaucer than most of the others with which it has been proposed to burden his reputation, I can see no sufficient reason for connecting him with it; and the external evidence connects it, in fact, with Hoccleve. For the copy in MS. Bodley 638 calls it ‘The boke of Cupide god of loue,’ at fol. 11, back; whilst Hoccleve’s Letter of Cupid is called ‘The lettre of Cupide god of loue’ in the same, fol. 38, back. The copy in the Fairfax MS. ends with the colophon—Explicit liber Cupidinis. The rimes are mostly Chaucerian; but the rime of day with the gerund to assay-e in st. 11 is suspicious; so also is that of now with the gerund to rescow-e in st. 46. In st. 13, grene rimes with been, whereas gren-e, in Chaucer, is always dissyllabic. Chaucer’s biographers have been anxious to father this poem upon him, merely because it mentions Woodstock in l. 285.
One point about this poem is its very peculiar metre; the 5-line stanza, riming a a b b a, is certainly rare. If the question arises, whence is it copied, the answer is clear, viz. from Chaucer’s Envoy to his Compleint to his Purse. This is a further reason for dating it later than 1399.
32. Balade with envoy; ‘O leude book,’ &c. Printed in Bell’s Chaucer, iv. 347, and in Morris’s Chaucer, iv. 85, as if it were part of The Cuckoo and the Nightingale; but obviously unconnected with it. A Balade in the usual form, viz. three 7-line stanzas, with a refrain; the refrain is—‘For of all good she is the best living.’ The envoy consists of only six lines, instead of seven, rimed a b a b c c, and that for a sufficient reason, which has not been hitherto observed. The initial letters of the lines form, in fact, an anagram on the name Alison; which is therefore the name of the lady to whom the Balade is addressed. There is a copy of this poem in MS. Fairfax 16, and another in MS. Tanner 346. It is therefore as old as the 15th century. But to attribute to Chaucer the fourth line of the Envoy seems hazardous. It runs thus—‘Suspiries whiche I effunde in silence.’ Perhaps it is Hoccleve’s.
38. Poem in two 7-line stanzas. There is nothing to connect this with Chaucer; and it is utterly unworthy of him. I now quote the whole poem, just as it stands in the edition of 1561:—
In l. 7, ed. 1532 has almesse instead of almose. Surely it must be Lydgate’s. Many of his poems exhibit similar catalogues, if I may so term them.
I have now gone through all the poems published in 1532 and copied into the later editions (with the exception of nos. 66-68, for which see p. 45); and I see no way of augmenting the list of Chaucer’s Minor Poems any further from this source.
Discussion of the Poems in Part II. of Ed. 1561.
It is hardly worth while to discuss at length all the poems which it pleased John Stowe to fling together into the edition of 1561. But a few remarks may be useful.
Nos. 42, 43, and 60 are admittedly genuine; and are printed below, nos. XIV., XX., and VIII. I believe nos. 44 and 57 to be so also1 ; they are discussed below, and are printed as nos. XXI. and VI. No. 61 is, of course, Lydgate’s. Besides this, no. 45 is correctly ascribed to Lydgate in the MSS.; there are copies of it in MS. Fairfax 16 and in MS. Ashmole 59. No. 56 is also Lydgate’s, and is so marked in MS. Harl. 2251. As to no. 46, called the Craft of Lovers, it is dated by help of two lines in the last stanza, which are thus printed by Stowe:—
This seems to give the date as 1348; whereas the language is palpably that of the fifteenth century. Whether Stowe or his printer thought fit to alter the date intentionally, I cannot say. Still, the fact is, that in the MS. marked R. 3. 19 in Trinity College Library, at fol. 156, the reading is ‘CCCCXL & VIII yere,’ so that the true date is rather 1448, or nearly half a century after Chaucer’s death2 . The same MS., which I suppose belonged to Stowe, contains several other of these pieces, viz. nos. 48, 49, 50, 51, 53, 54, 55, 56, and perhaps others. The language and, in some cases, the ruggedness of the metre, forbid us to suppose that Chaucer can have had anything to do with them, and some are palpably of a much later date; one or more of these considerations at once exclude all the rest of Stowe’s additions. It may, however, be noted that no. 47 quotes the line ‘Beware alwaye, the blind eats many a fly,’ which occurs as a refrain in no. 56, and it is therefore later than the time of Lydgate. The author of no. 48 says he is ‘a man vnknowne. Many lines in no. 49 are of abnormal length; it begins with—‘Profulgent in preciousnes, O Sinope the queen.’ The same is true of no. 51, which is addressed to a Margaret, and begins with—‘In the season of Feuerere when it was full colde.’ Of no. 52, Tyrwhitt says that the four first stanzas are found in different parts of an imperfect poem upon the Fall of Man, in MS. Harl. 2251; whilst the 11th stanza makes part of an Envoy, which in the same MS. is annexed to the poem entitled the Craft of Lovers. No. 53 is a poor affair. No. 54, called a Balade Pleasaunte, is very unpleasant and scurrilous, and alludes to the wedding of ‘queene Iane1 ’ as a circumstance that happened many years ago. No. 55 is scurrilous, odious, and stupid. I doubt if no. 58 is good enough for Lydgate. No. 59 belongs to the sixteenth century.
All the poems here rejected were rejected by Tyrwhitt, with two strange exceptions, viz. nos 50 and 59, the Virelai and the Court of Love. Of both of these, the language is quite late. The Virelai is interesting from a metrical point of view, because such poems are scarce; the only similar poem that I can call to mind is the Balet (or rather Virelai) composed by Lord Rivers during his imprisonment in 1483, and printed by Percy in his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. Percy says that Lord Rivers copies the Virelai mentioned above, which he assumes to be Chaucer’s; but it is quite as likely that the copying was in the other direction, and that Lord Rivers copied some genuine Virelai (either Chaucer’s or in French) that is now lost2 . The final rime of end with find is bad enough; but the supposition that the language is of the 14th century is ridiculous. Still the Virelai is good in its way, though it can hardly be older than 1500, and may be still later.
Of all poems that have been falsely ascribed to Chaucer, I know of none more amazing than The Court of Love. The language is palpably that of the 16th century, and there are absolutely no examples of the occurrence in it of a final -e that is fully pronounced, and forms a syllable! Yet there are critics who lose their heads over it, and will not give it up. Tyrwhitt says—‘I am induced by the internal evidence (!) to consider it as one of Chaucer’s genuine productions.’ As if the ‘internal evidence’ of a poem containing no sonant final -e is not enough to condemn it at once. The original MS. copy exists in MS. R. 3. 19 in Trinity College, and the writing is later than 1500. The poem itself has all the smoothness of the Tudor period3 ; it excels the style of Hawes, and would do credit to Sackville. One reference is too interesting to be passed over. In the second stanza, the poet regrets that he has neither the eloquence of Tully, the power of Virgil, nor the ‘craft of Galfride.’ Tyrwhitt explains Galfride as ‘Geoffrey of Monmouth,’ though it is difficult to understand on what ground he could have been here thought of. Bell’s ‘Chaucer’ explains Galfride as ‘Geoffrey of Vinsauf,’ which is still more curious; for Geoffrey of Vinsauf is the very Gaufride whom Chaucer holds up to eternal ridicule in the Nonne Prestes Tale (l. 526).
I have no doubt at all that the Galfrid here referred to is no other than Geoffrey Chaucer, who was called, indifferently, Galfrid or Geoffrey. This appears from the testimony of Lydgate, who speaks, in his ‘Troy-book,’ of ‘Noble Galfryde, chefe Poete of Brytayne,’ and again, of ‘My mayster Galfride’; see Lydgate’s Siege of Troye, bk. ii. ch. 15, and bk. iii. ch. 25; ed. 1557, fol. K 2, col. 1, and fol. R 2, back, col. 2. Hence we are not surprised to find that the author makes frequent reference to Chaucer’s Works, viz. to Anelida (l. 235), the Death of Pity (701), Troilus (872), the Legend of Good Women (104, 873), and the Parl. of Foules (near the end). The two allusions to the Legend of Good Women at once make the poem later than 1385; and in fact, it must be quite a century later than that date. There are more than 70 rimes that differ from those employed by Chaucer. The Poet introduces to our notice personages named Philogenet, Philobone, and Rosial. Of these, at least the two former savour of the time of the Renaissance; for, although Chaucer uses the name Philostrate in the Knightes Tale (A 1428, 1558, 1728), he merely copies this name from Boccaccio; and it is amusing to find that Boccaccio himself did not understand it1 .
Poems added in Speght’s Editions of 1598 and 1602.
We have now to consider the additions made by Speght in 1598. These were only two, viz. Chaucer’s Dream and The Flower and the Leaf.
62. Chaucer’s Dream. A long poem of 2206 short lines, in metre similar to that of The House of Fame; accepted by Tyrwhitt, and in all the editions. But there is no early trace of it; and we are not bound to accept as Chaucer’s a poem first ascribed to him in 1598, and of which the MS. (at Longleat) was written about 1550. The language is of late date, and the sonant final -e is decidedly scarce. The poem is badly named, and may have been so named by Speght; the proper title is ‘The Isle of Ladies.’ We find such rimes as be, companie (Ch. be, company-e); know, low, i.e. law (Ch. know-e, law-e); grene, yene, i.e. eyes (Ch. gren-e, y-ën); plesaunce, fesaunce (Ch. plesaunc-e, fesaunts); ywis, kisse (Ch. ywis, kis-se); and when we come to destroied riming with conclude, it is time to stop. The tediousness of this poem is appalling1 .
63. The Flower and the Leaf. This is rather a pretty poem, in 7-line stanzas. The language is that of the fifteenth century. It professes to be written by a gentlewoman, like the Assemble of Ladies; and perhaps it was2 . Very likely, the same ‘gentlewoman’ wrote both these poems. If so, the Flower and the Leaf is the better finished, and probably the later of the two. It contains the word henchman, for which the earliest dated quotation which I have yet found is 1415 (Royal Wills, ed. Nichols, p. 220). An interesting reference is given in the lines—
The order of the Garter was established in 1349; and we should expect that more than half a century would elapse before it would be natural to refer to the Knights as old knights, who did worthily in their time. Of course the poem cannot be Chaucer’s, and it is hardly necessary to look for rimes such as he never uses; yet such may easily be found, such as grew, pt. t. sing., riming with the dissyllabic hew-e, new-e; sid-e with espide, pp. (Ch. espy-ed); eie, eye (Ch. y-ë) with sie, saw (Ch. sy); and pleasure1 with desire; after which we may stop.
In 1602, Speght issued another edition, in which, according to Bohn’s edition of Lowndes’ Bibliographer’s Manual, two more pieces were added, viz. the prose treatise against Friars called Jack Upland, and the genuine poem entitled ‘A. B. C.’ But this is not all; for I find, in a still later edition, that of 1687, which is said to be a ‘reimpression of Speght’s edition of 1602,’ that, at the very end of all the prefatory matter, on what was probably a spare blank leaf, three more poems appear, which might as well have been consigned to oblivion. But the editors of Chaucer evidently thought that a thing once added must be added for ever, and so these three productions are retained in Bell’s Chaucer, and must therefore be noticed with the rest. I find, however, that they had been printed previously, viz. at the end of the Table of Contents in ed. 1542 and ed. 1550, where they are introduced quite casually, without a word of explanation. Moreover, they are copied from MS. Trin. Coll. Cam. R. 3. 15, a MS. which also contains the Canterbury Tales; and no doubt, this fact suggested their insertion. See Todd’s Illustrations of Chaucer, p. 120.
64. Jack Upland. An invective against friars, in prose, worth printing, but obviously not Chaucer’s.
65. Chaucer’s A. B. C. Genuine; here printed as poem no. I.
66. Eight goodly questions with their answers; printed in Bell’s Chaucer, vol. iv. p. 421; nine 7-line stanzas. In st. 3, tree rimes with profer; but tree is an obvious misprint for cofer! In st. 5, the gerund to lie (Ch. ly-e) rimes with honestie (Ch. honestee). This is quite enough to condemn it. But it may be Lydgate’s.
67. To the Kings most noble Grace, and to the Lords and Knights of the Garter; pr. as above, p. 424; eight 8-line stanzas. In MS. Phillipps 8151, and written by Hoccleve; it much resembles his poem printed in Anglia, v. 23. The date may be 1416. The ‘King’ is Henry V.
68. Sayings. Really three separate pieces. They are all found on the fly-leaf of the small quarto edition of Caxton, described above, p. 27. When Caxton printed Chaucer’s Anelida and Purse on a quire of ten leaves, it so happened that he only filled up nine of them. But, after adding explicit at the bottom of the ninth leaf, to shew that he had come to the end of his Chaucer, he thought it a pity to waste space, and so added three popular sayings on the front of leaf 10, leaving the back of it still blank. Here is what he printed:—
The first of these sayings was probably a bit of popular rime, of the character quoted in Shakespeare’s King Lear, iii. 2. 81. Shakespeare calls his lines Merlin’s prophecy; and it has pleased the editors of Chaucer to call the first six lines Chaucer’s Prophecy1 . They appear in Bell’s Chaucer, vol. iii. p. 427, in an ‘improved’ form, not worth discussing; and the last eight lines are also printed in the same, vol. iv. p. 426. Why they are separated, is mysterious. Those who think them genuine may thank me for giving them Caxton’s spelling instead of Speght’s.
Pieces added in Morris’s Edition, 1866.
In Morris’s edition are some pieces which either do not appear in previous editions, or were first printed later than 1700.
69. Roundel; pr. in vol. vi. p. 304. The same as Merciless Beaute; here printed as no. XI. It first appeared, however, in Percy’s Reliques of English Poetry. See p. 80 below.
70. The Former Age; pr. in vol. vi. p. 300, for the first time. Here printed as no IX. See p. 78.
71. Prosperity; pr. in vol. vi. p. 296, for the first time. This is taken from MS. Arch. Selden B. 24, fol. 119, where it follows Chaucer’s Poem on ‘Truth.’ It has but one stanza of eight lines, and I here give it precisely as it stands in this Scottish MS.:—
I have no belief in the genuineness of this piece, though it is not ill written. In general, the ascription of a piece to Chaucer in a MS. is valuable. But the scribe of this particular MS. was reckless. It is he who made the mistake of marking Hoccleve’s ‘Mother of God’ with the misleading remark—‘Explicit oracio Galfridi Chaucere.’ At fol. 119, back, he gives us a poem beginning ‘Deuise prowes and eke humylitee’ in seven 7-line stanzas, and here again at the end is the absurd remark—‘Quod Chaucer quhen he was rycht auisit.’ But he was himself quite ‘wrongly advised’; for it is plainly not Chaucer’s at all. His next feat is to mark Lydgate’s Complaynt of the Black Knight by saying—‘Here endith the Maying and disporte of Chaucere’; which shews how the editors were misled as to this poem. Nor is this all; for he gives us, at fol. 137, back, another poem in six 8-line stanzas, beginning ‘O hie Emperice and quene celestial’; and here again at the end is his stupid—‘Quod Chaucere.’ The date of this MS. appears to be 1472; so it is of no high authority; and, unless we make some verbal alteration, we shall have to explain how Chaucer came to write oftsiss in two syllables instead of ofte sythe in four; see his Can. Yem. Tale, Group G, l. 1031.
72. Leaulte vault Richesse; pr. in vol. vi. p. 302, for the first time. This is from the same MS., fol. 138, and is as follows:—
On this poem, I have three remarks to make. The first is that not even the reckless Scottish scribe attributes it to Chaucer. The second is that Chaucer’s forms are content and lent without a final e, and repent-e and rent-e with a final -e, so that the poem cannot be his; although content, repent, rent, and lent rime well enough in the Northern dialect. The third is that if I could be sure that the above lines were by a well-known author, I should at once ascribe them to King James I., who might very well have written these and the lines called Prosperity above. It is somewhat of a coincidence that the very MS. here discussed is that in which the unique copy of the Kingis Quair is preserved.
73. Proverbs of Chaucer; printed in vol. vi. p. 303. The first eight lines are genuine; here printed as no. XX. But two 7-line stanzas are added, which are spurious. In MS. Addit. 16165, Shirley tells us that they were ‘made by Halsham Esquyer’; but they seem to be Lydgate’s, unless he added to them. See Lydgate’s Minor Poems (Percy Soc. 1840), pp. 193 and 74. And see pp. 52, 57.
It thus appears that, of the 73 pieces formerly attributed to Chaucer, not more than 26, and a part of a 27th, can be genuine. These are: Canterbury Tales, Troilus, Legend of Good Women, House of Fame, about a quarter of The Romaunt of the Rose, the Minor Poems printed in the present volume and numbered I-XI, XIII-XXI, and two pieces in prose.
Description of the MSS.
After the preceding somewhat tedious, but necessary discussion of the contents of the black-letter and other editions (in many of which poems were as recklessly attributed to Chaucer as medieval proverbs used to be to King Solomon), it is some relief to turn to the manuscripts, which usually afford much better texts, and are altogether more trustworthy.
The following is a list of the MSS. which have been followed. I must here acknowledge my great debt to Dr. Furnivall, whose excellent, careful, and exact reproduction in print of the various MSS. leaves nothing to be desired, and is a great boon to all Chaucer scholars. They are nearly all1 printed among the Chaucer Society’s publications. At the same time, I desire to say that I have myself consulted most of the MSS., and have thus gleaned a few hints which could hardly have been otherwise acquired; it was by this process that I became acquainted with the poems numbered XXII. and XXIII., which are probably genuine, and with the poem numbered XII., which is certainly so. An editor should always look at the MSS. for himself, if he can possibly contrive to do so.
List of the MSS.; with abbreviations.
N.B. The roman numbers following the name of each MS. denote the numbers of the poems in the present edition.
A.—Ashmole 59, Bodleian Library (Shirley’s).—X. XIV. XVIII.
Ad.—Addit. 16165, British Museum.—VII. XX. XXIII.
Add.—Addit. 22139, British Museum.—XIII. XIV. XV. XIX.
Ar.—Arch. Selden B. 24, Bodleian Library.—IV. V. XIII. XVIII.
Arch.—Arch. Selden B. 10, Bodleian Library.—X. XIII.
At.—Addit. 10340, British Museum.—XIII.
B.—Bodley 638 (Oxford).—I. II. III. V. VII. X. XXII.
Bannatyne MS. 1568, Hunterian Museum, Glasgow.—XV.
Bedford MS. (Bedford Library).—I.
C.—Cambridge Univ. Library, Ff. 5. 30.—I.
Corpus.—Corpus Chr. Coll., Oxford, 203.—XIII.
Ct.—Cotton, Cleopatra D. 7; Brit. Mus.—XIII. XIV. XV. XXI.
Cx.—Caxton’s editions; see above (p. 27).—V. VII. X. XIII. XIV. XVI. (part); XIX.
D.—Digby 181, Bodleian Library.—V. VII.
E.—Ellesmere MS. (also has the Cant. Tales).—XIII.
ed. 1561.—Stowe’s edition, 1561.—VI. VIII. XX. XXI., &c.
F.—Fairfax 16, Bodleian Library.—I. II. III. IV. V. VII. X. XIII. (two copies); XV. XVI. XVII. XVIII. XIX. XX. XXI. XXII.
Ff.—Cambridge Univ. Library, Ef. 1. 6.—II. V. VII. (part); XVIII. XIX.
Gg.1 —Cambridge Univ. Library, Gg. 4. 27.—I. V. XIII. XVI.
Gl.—Glasgow, Hunterian Museum, Q. 2. 25.—I.
H.—Harleian 2251, Brit. Mus.—I. X. XIV. XIX.
Ha.—Harleian 7578, Brit. Mus.—I. II. XIV. XV. XX. XXI.
Harl.—Harleian 7333, Brit. Mus.—IV. V. VII. XIII. XIV. XV. XIX. XXII.
Harleian 78, Brit. Mus. (Shirley’s). See Sh. below.
Harleian 372, Brit. Mus.—VII.
Hat.—Hatton 73, Bodleian Library.—XIII. XV.
Hh.—Cambridge Univ. Library, Hh. 4. 12.—V (part); IX.
I.—Cambridge Univ. Library, Ii. 3. 21.—IX. X.
Jo.—St. John’s College, Cambridge, G. 21.—I.
Ju.—Julian Notary’s edition (see p. 28).—IV. XVII. XVIII.
Kk.—Cambridge Univ. Library, Kk. 1. 5.—XIII.
L.—Laud 740, Bodleian Library.—I.
Lansdowne 699, Brit. Mus.—X. XIII.
Laud.—Laud 416, Bodleian Library.—V (part).
Lt.—Longleat MS. 258 (Marquis of Bath).—II. IV. V. VII.
O.—St. John’s College, Oxford (no. lvii.); fol. 22, bk.—V.
P.—Pepys 2006, Magd. Coll., Cambridge.—I. (two copies); IV V. VII (part); X. XI. XIII. XVI. XVIII. (two copies); XIX.
Ph.—Phillipps 9053 (Cheltenham).—II. VI. VII. (part); XIX.
Phil.—Phillipps 8299 (Cheltenham).—XIII.
R.—Rawlinson Poet. 163, Bodleian Library.—XII.
Sh.—Shirley’s MS. Harl. 78, Brit. Mus.—II. VI.
Sion College MS. (Shirley’s).—I.
T.—Trinity College, Cambridge, R. 3. 20.—IV. VII (part); VIII. X. XIII. (two copies); XIV. XV. XVIII.
Th.—W. Thynne’s edition, 1532.—III. XV. XVII., &c.
Tn.—Tanner 346, Bodleian Library.—II. III. IV. V. VII. XVIII.
Trin.—Trinity College, Cambridge, R. 3. 19.—II. V.
Trinity College, Cambridge, R. 14. 51.—XIV. XV.
Conversely, I here give a list of the Poems in the present volume, shewing from which MSS. each one is derived. I mention first the MSS. of most importance. I also note the number of lines in each piece.
II. Pite (119).—Tn. F. B. Sh. Ff. Trin.; also Ha. Lt. Ph.
III. Duchess (1334).—F. Tn. B. Th.
IV. Mars (298).—F. Tn. Ju. Harl. T. Ar.; also P.1 Lt.
V. Parl. Foules (699).—F. Gg. Trin. Cx. Harl. O. Ff. Tn. D.; also Ar. B. Lt. P.; Hh. (365 lines); Laud (142 lines).
VI. Compleint to his Lady (133).—Ph. Sh.; ed. 1561.
VII. Anelida (357).—Harl. F. Tn. D. Cx.; also B. Lt. Ad.; Harl. 372; partly in T. Ff. P. Ph.
VIII. Lines to Adam (7).—T.; ed. 1561.
IX. Former Age (64).—I. Hh.
X. Fortune (79).—I. A. T. F. B. H.; also P. Cx.; Arch.; Lansd. 699.
XI. Merciless Beaute (39).—P.
XII. To Rosemounde (24).—R.
XIV. Gentilesse (21).—A. T. Harl. Ct. Ha. Add. Cx; also H. and Trinity.
XV. Lak of Stedfastnesse (28).—Harl. T. Ct. F. Add.; also Th. Ha.; Hat., Trinity, and Bannatyne.
XVI. To Scogan (49).—Gg. F. P.; also Cx. (21 lines).
XVII. To Bukton (32).—F. Th.; also Ju.
XVIII. Venus (82).—T. A. Tn. F. Ff.; also Ar. Ju. P.3
XIX. Purse (26).—F. Harl. Ff. P. Add.; also H. Cx. Ph.
XX. Proverbs (8).—F. Ha. Ad.; ed. 1561.
XXI. Against Women Unconstaunt (21).—Ct. F. Ha.; ed. 1561.
XXII. An Amorous Complaint (91).—Harl. F. B.
XXIII. Balade of Complaint (21).—Ad.
Remarks on some of the MSS.
Some of these MSS. deserve a few special remarks.
Shirley’s MSS. are—A. Ad. H. Harl. Sh. Sion, and T.
MSS. in Scottish spelling are—Ar. Bannatyne. Kk.; L. shews Northern tendencies.
MSS. at Oxford.
F. (Fairfax 16) is a valuable MS.; not only does it contain as many as sixteen of these Minor Poems, but it is a fairly written MS. of the fifteenth century. The spelling does not very materially differ from that of such an excellent MS. as the Ellesmere MS. of the Canterbury Tales, excepting in the fact that a great number of final e’s are added in wrong places, and are dropped where they are required. This is a matter that can be to a large extent rectified, and I have endeavoured to do so, taking it in many instances as the standard text. Next to this misuse of final e’s, which is merely due to the fact that it was written out at a time when the true use of them was already lost, its most remarkable characteristic is the scribe’s excessive love of the letter y in place of i; he writes hyt ys instead of hit is, and the like. In a great number of instances I have restored i, where the vowel is short. When the text of the Fairfax MS. is thus restored, it is by no means a bad one. It also contains fair copies of many poems by Hoccleve and Lydgate, such as the former’s Letter of Cupide1 , and the latter’s Complaint of the Black Knight, Temple of Glass, and Balade against Women’s Doubleness, being the very piece which is introduced into Stowe’s edition, and is numbered 45 above (see p. 33). We are also enabled, by comparing this MS. with MS. Harl. 7578, to solve another riddle, viz. why it is that Chaucer’s Proverbs, as printed in Morris’s and Bell’s editions, are followed by two 7-line stanzas which have nothing whatever to do with them. In MS. Harl. 7578 these two stanzas immediately follow, and MS. F. immediately precede Chaucer’s Proverbs, and therefore were near enough to them to give an excuse for throwing them in together. However, both these stanzas are by Lydgate, and are mere fragments2 . The former of them, beginning ‘The worlde so wide, thaire so remuable,’ really belongs to a poem of 18 stanzas, printed in Halliwell’s edition of Lydgate’s Minor Poems (Percy Soc.), p. 193. The latter of them, beginning ‘The more I goo, the ferther I am behinde,’ belongs to a poem of 11 stanzas, printed in the same, p. 74. Perhaps this will serve as a hint to future editors of Chaucer, from whose works it is high time to exclude poems known to be by some other hand.
In this MS. there is also a curious and rather long poem upon the game of chess; the board is called the cheker, and the pieces are the kyng, the quene or the fers (described on fol. 294), the rokys (duoRoci), the knyghtys, the Awfyns (duo alfini), and the povnys (pedini). This is interesting in connection with the Book of the Duchess; see note to l. 654 of that poem. The author tells us how ‘he plaid at the chesse,’ and ‘was mated of a Ferse.’
B. (Bodley 638) is very closely related to MS. F.; in the case of some of the poems, both must have been drawn from a common source. MS. B. is not a mere copy of F., for it sometimes has the correct reading where F. is wrong; as, e. g. in the case of the reading Bret in the House of Fame, l. 1208. It contains seven of these Minor Poems, as well as The boke of Cupide god of loue (Cuckoo and Nightingale), Hoccleve’s Lettre of Cupide god of loue, Lydgate’s Temple of Glass (oddly called Temple of Bras (!), a mistake which occurs in MS. F. also), his Ordre of Folys, printed in Halliwell’s Minor Poems of Lydgate, p. 164, and his Complaint of the Black Knight, imperfect at the beginning.
A. (Shirley’s MS. Ashmole 59) is remarkable for containing a large number of pieces by Lydgate, most of which are marked as his. It corroborates the statement in MS. F. that he wrote the Balade against Women’s Doubleness. It contains the whole of Scogan’s poem in which Chaucer’s Gentilesse is quoted: see the complete print of it, from this MS., in the Chaucer Society’s publications.
Another poem in this MS. requires a few words. At the back of leaf 38 is a poem entitled ‘The Cronycle made by Chaucier,’ with a second title to this effect:—‘Here nowe folowe the names of the nyene worshipfullest Ladyes that in alle cronycles and storyal bokes haue beo founden of trouthe of constaunce and vertuous or reproched (sic) womanhode by Chaucier.’ The poem consists of nine stanzas of eight lines (in the ordinary heroic metre), and is printed in Furnivall’s Odd Text of Chaucer’s Minor Poems, Part I. It would be a gross libel to ascribe this poem to Chaucer, as it is very poor, and contains execrable rimes (such as prysoun, bycome; apply-e, pyte; thee, dy-e). But we may easily see that the title is likely to give rise to a misconception. It does not really mean that the poem itself is by Chaucer, but that it gives a brief epitome of the ‘Cronicle made by Chaucier’ of ‘the nyene worshipfullest Ladyes.’ And, in fact, it does this. Each stanza briefly describes one of the nine women celebrated in Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women. It is sufficient to add that the author makes a ludicrous mistake, which is quite enough to acquit Chaucer of having had any hand in this wholly valueless production; for he actually addresses ‘quene Alceste’ as sorrowing for ‘Seyse her husbande.’ Seyse is Chaucer’s Ceyx, and Alceste is the author’s comic substitution for Alcyone; see Book of the Duchess, l. 220. This is not a fault of the scribe; for Alceste rimes with byheste, whereas Alcione does not. I much suspect that Shirley wrote this poem himself. His verses, in MS. Addit. 16165, are very poor.
Tn. (Tanner 346) is a fair MS. of the 15th century, and contains, besides six of the Minor Poems, the Legend of Good Women, Hoccleve’s Letter of Cupid (called litera Cupidinis dei Amoris directa subditis suis Amatoribus), the Cuckoo and Nightingale (called the god of loue), Lydgate’s Temple of Glas and Black Knight, &c. One of them is the Ballad no. 32 discussed above (p. 40). At fol. 73 is a poem in thirteen 8-line stanzas, beginning ‘As ofte as syghes ben in herte trewe.’ One stanza begins with these lines:—
I quote this for the sake of the extremely rare Chaucerian word spelt radevore in the Legend of Good Women. The same line occurs in another copy of the same poem in MS. Ff., fol. 12, back.
Ar. (Arch. Seld. B. 24) is a Scottish MS., apparently written in 1472, and contains, amongst other things, the unique copy of the Kingis Quair, by James I. of Scotland. This is the MS. wherein the scribe attributes pieces to Chaucer quite recklessly: see p. 47. It is also the authority for the pieces called Prosperity and Leaulte vault Richesse. Here, once more, we find the Letter of Cupid and the Cuckoo and Nightingale; it is remarkable how often these poems occur in the same MS. It also contains Troilus and the Legend of Good Women.
D. (Digby 181) contains, besides two of the Minor Poems, an imperfect copy of Troilus; also the Letter of Cupid and Complaint of the Black Knight. At fol. 52 is a piece entitled ‘Here Bochas repreuyth hem that yeue hasti credence to euery reporte or tale’; and it begins—‘All-though so be in euery maner age’; in nineteen 7-line stanzas. This is doubtless a part of chapter 13 of Book I. of Lydgate’s Fall of Princes.
R. (Rawlinson, Poet. 163) contains a copy of Chaucer’s Troilus, followed by the Balade to Rosemounde. Both pieces are marked ‘Tregentyll’ or ‘Tregentil’ to the left hand, and ‘Chaucer’ to the right.
Ff. (Ff. 1. 6) contains, besides five of the Minor Poems, many other pieces. One is a copy of Pyramus and Thisbe, being part of the Legend of Good Women. There are four extracts from various parts of Gower’s Confessio Amantis; the Cuckoo and Nightingale and Letter of Cupid; the Romance of Sir Degrevaunt; La Belle Dame sans Merci. Some pieces from this MS. are printed in Reliquiae Antiquae, i. 23, 169, 202; and two more, called The Parliament of Love and The Seven Deadly Sins, are printed in Political, Religious, and Love Poems, ed. Furnivall (E. E. T. S.), pp. 48, 215. We also find here a copy of Lydgate’s Ballad of Good Counsail, printed in the old editions of Chaucer (piece no. 40; see above, p. 33).
Gg. (Gg. 4. 27) is the MS. which contains so excellent a copy of the Canterbury Tales, printed as the ‘Cambridge MS.’ in the Chaucer Society’s publications. Four leaves are lost at the beginning. On leaf 5 is Chaucer’s A. B. C.; on leaf 7, back, the Envoy to Scogan; and on leaf 8, back, Chaucer’s Truth, entitled Balade de bone conseyl. This is followed by a rather pretty poem, in 15 8-line stanzas, which is interesting as quoting from Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules. Examples are: ‘Qui bien ayme tard oublye’ (l. 32; cf. P. F. 679): ‘The fesaunt, scornere of the cok Be nihter-tyme in frostis colde’ (ll. 49, 50; cf. P. F. 357); ‘Than spak the frosty feldefare’ (l. 89; cf. P. F. 364). Line 41 runs—‘Robert redbrest and the wrenne’; which throws some light on the etymology of robin. This valuable MS. also contains Troilus and the Legend of Good Women, with the unique earlier form of the Prologue; The Parlement of Foules; and Lydgate’s Temple of Glas. At fol. 467 is a Supplicacio amantis, a long piece of no great value, but the first four lines give pretty clear evidence that the author was well acquainted with Chaucer’s Anelida, and aspired to imitate it.
It seems to be a continuation of the Temple of Glas, and is probably Lydgate’s own.
Hh. (Camb. Univ. Lib. Hh. 4. 12) contains much of Lydgate, and is fully described in the Catalogue.
P. (Pepys 2006) consists of 391 pages, and contains Lydgate’s Complaint of the Black Knight, and Temple of Glass, part of the Legend of Good Women, the A. B. C., House of Fame, Mars and Venus (two copies), Fortune, Parlement of Foules, The Legend of the Three Kings of Cologne, The War between Caesar and Pompey, a Translation of parts of Cato, the Tale of Melibeus and Parson’s Tale, Anelida, Envoy to Scogan, A. B. C. (again), Purse, Truth, and Merciless Beauty.
Trin. (Trin. Coll. Camb. R. 3. 19) not only contains two of the Minor Poems, but a large number of other pieces, including the Legend of Good Women and many of Lydgate’s Poems. In particular, it is the source of most of Stowe’s additions to Chaucer: I may mention The Craft of Lovers, dated 1448 in the MS. (fol. 156), but 1348 in Stowe; the Ten Commandments of Love, Nine Ladies worthy, Virelai (fol. 160), Balade beginning In the seson of Feuerer (fol. 160), Goddesses and Paris (fol. 161, back), A balade plesaunte (fol. 205), O Mossie Quince (fol. 205), Balade beginning Loke well aboute (fol. 207); and The Court of Love; see the pieces numbered 46, 48, 49, 50, 51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 59 (p. 33). The piece numbered 41 also occurs here, at the end of the Parliament of Foules, and is headed ‘Verba translatoris.’ One poem, by G. Ashby, is dated 1463, and I suppose most of the pieces are in a handwriting of a later date, not far from 1500. It is clear that Stowe had no better reason for inserting pieces in his edition of Chaucer than their occurrence in this MS. to which he had access. If he had had access to any other MS. of the same character, the additions in his book would have been different, and The Court of Love would never have been ‘Chaucer’s.’ Yet this is the sort of evidence which some accept as being quite sufficient to prove that Chaucer learnt the language of a century after his own date, in order to qualify himself for writing that poem.
Ad. (MS. Addit. 16165). One of Shirley’s MSS., marked with his name in large letters. It contains a copy of Chaucer’s Boethius; Trevisa’s translation of the gospel of Nichodemus; the Maistre of the game (on hunting); the Compleint of the Black Knight and the Dreme of a Lover, both by Lydgate. The latter is the same poem, I suppose, as The Temple of Glas. It is here we learn from Shirley that the Complaint of the Black Knight is Lydgate’s. Not only is it headed, on some pages, as ‘The complaynte of a knight made by Lidegate,’ but on fol. 3 he refers to the same poem, speaking of it as being a complaint—
Here also we find two separate fragments of Anelida2 ; the two stanzas mentioned above (p. 52, l. 20), called by Shirley ‘two verses made in wyse of balade by Halsham, Esquyer’; Chaucer’s Proverbs; the poem no. 45 above (p. 33), attributed in this MS. to Lydgate; &c. At fol. 256, back, is the Balade of compleynte printed in this volume as poem no. XXIII.
Add. (MS. Addit. 22139). This is a fine folio MS., containing Gower’s Confessio Amantis. At fol. 138 are Chaucer’s Purse, Gentilesse, Lak of Stedfastnesse, and Truth.
At. (MS. Addit. 10340). Contains Chaucer’s Boethius (foll. 1-40); also Truth, with the unique envoy, and the description of the ‘Persone,’ from the Canterbury Tales, on fol. 41, recto3 .
Ct. (MS. Cotton, Cleopatra, D. 7). The Chaucer poems are all on leaves 188, 189. They are all ballads, viz. Gentilesse, Lak of Stedfastness, Truth, and Against Women Unconstaunt. All four are in the same hand; and we may remark that the last of the four is thus, in a manner, linked with the rest; see p. 58, l. 5, p. 26, l. 29.
H. (MS. Harl. 2251). Shirley’s MS. contains a large number of pieces, chiefly by Lydgate. Also Chaucer’s Prioresses Tale, Fortune (fol. 46), Gentilesse (fol. 48, back), A. B. C. (fol. 49), and Purse (fol. 271). The Craft of Lovers also occurs, and is dated 1459 in this copy. Poem no. 56 (p. 34) also occurs here, and is marked as Lydgate’s. We also see from this MS. that the first four stanzas of no. 52 (p. 33) form part of a poem on the Fall of Man, in which Truth, Mercy, Righteousness, and Peace are introduced as allegorical personages. The four stanzas form part of Mercy’s plea, and this is why the word mercy occurs ten times. At fol. 153, back (formerly 158, back), we actually find a copy of Henry Scogan’s poem in which Chaucer’s Gentilesse is not quoted, the requisite stanzas being entirely omitted. At fol. 249, back, Lydgate quotes the line ‘this world is a thurghfare ful of woo,’ and says it is from Chaucer’s ‘tragedyes.’ It is from the Knightes Tale, l. 1989 (A 2847).
Ha. (Harl. 7578). Contains Lydgate’s Proverbs; Chaucer’s Pite (fol. 13, back), Gentilesse and Lak of Stedfastnesse (fol. 17), immediately followed by the Balade against Women unconstaunt, precisely in the place where we should expect to find it; also Chaucer’s Proverbs, immediately followed by the wholly unconnected stanzas discussed above; p. 52, l. 20. At fol. 20, back, are six stanzas of Chaucer’s A. B. C.
Harl. (MS. Harl. 7333). This is a fine folio MS., and contains numerous pieces. At fol. 37, recto, begins a copy of the Canterbury Tales, with a short prose Proem by Shirley; this page has been reproduced in facsimile for the Chaucer Society. At fol. 129, back, begins the Parliament of Foules, at the end of which is the stanza which appears as poem no. 41 in Stowe’s edition (see p. 33). Then follow the Broche of Thebes, i. e. the Complaint of Mars, and Anelida. It also contains some of the Gesta Romanorum and of Hoccleve’s De Regimine Principum. But the most remarkable thing in this MS. is the occurrence, at fol. 136, of a poem hitherto (as I believe) unprinted, yet obviously (in my opinion) written by Chaucer; see no. XXII. in the present volume. Other copies occur in F. and B.
Sh. (MS. Harl. 78; one of Shirley’s MSS.). At fol. 80 begins the Complaint to Pity; on fol. 82 the last stanza of this poem is immediately followed by the poem here printed as no. VI; the only mark of separation is a star-like mark placed upon the line which is drawn to separate one stanza from another. At the end of fol. 83, back, l. 123 of the poem occurs at the bottom of the page, and fol. 84 is gone; so that the last stanza of 10 lines and the ascription to Chaucer in the colophon do not appear in this MS.
MS. Harl. 372. This MS. contains many poems by Lydgate. Also a copy of Anelida; followed by La Belle Dame sans mercy, ‘translatid out of Frenche by Sir Richard Ros,’ &c.
MS. Lansdowne 699. This MS. contains numerous poems by Lydgate, such as Guy of Warwick, the Dance of Macabre, the Horse, Sheep, and Goose, &c.; and copies of Chaucer’s Fortune and Truth.
I. A. B. C.
This piece was first printed in Speght’s edition of 1602, with this title: ‘Chaucer’s A. B. C. called La Priere de Nostre Dame: made. as some say, at the Request of Blanch, Duchesse of Lancaster, as a praier for her priuat vse, being a woman in her religion very deuout.’ This is probably a mere guess, founded on the fact that Chaucer wrote the Book of the Duchess. It cannot be literally true, because it is not strictly ‘made,’ or composed, but only translated. Still, it is just possible that it was translated for her pleasure (rather than use); and if so, must have been written between 1359 and 1369. A probable date is about 1366. In any case, it may well stand first in chronological order, being a translation just of that unambitious character which requires no great experience. Indeed, the translation shews one mark of want of skill; each stanza begins by following the original for a line or two, after which the stanza is completed rather according to the requirements of rime than with an endeavour to render the original at all closely. There are no less than thirteen MS. copies of it; and its genuineness is attested both by Lydgate and Shirley1 . The latter marks it with Chaucer’s name in the Sion College MS. Lydgate’s testimony is curious, and requires a few words of explanation.
Guillaume De Deguilleville, a Cistercian monk in the royal abbey of Chalis2 , in the year 1330 or 13313 , wrote a poem entitled Pèlerinage de la Vie humaine. Of this there are two extant English translations, one in prose and one in verse, the latter being attributed to Lydgate. Of the prose translation4 four copies exist, viz. in the MSS. which I call C., Gl., Jo., and L. In all of these, Chaucer’s A. B. C. is inserted, in order to give a verse rendering of a similar prayer in verse in the original. Of Lydgate’s verse translation there is a copy in MS. Cotton, Vitell. C. xiii. (see foll. 255, 256); and when he comes to the place where the verse prayer occurs in his original, he says that, instead of translating the prayer himself, he will quote Chaucer’s translation, observing:—
Curiously enough, he does not do so; a blank space was left in the MS. for the scribe to copy it out, but it was never filled in1 . However, it places the genuineness of the poem beyond doubt; and the internal evidence confirms it; though it was probably, as was said, quite an early work.
In order to illustrate the poem fully, I print beneath it the French original, which I copy from the print of it in Furnivall’s One-text Print of Chaucer’s Minor Poems, Part I. p. 84.
It is taken from Guillaume De Deguilleville’s Pèlerinage de l’Ame, Part I, Le Pèlerinage de la Vie humaine. Edited from the MS. 1645, Fonds Français, in the National Library, Paris (A), and collated with the MSS. 1649 (B), 376 (C), and 377 (D), in the same collection, by Paul Meyer. I omit, however, the collations; the reader only wants a good text.
Chaucer did not translate the last two stanzas. I therefore give them here.
MS. C. affords, on the whole, the best text, and is therefore followed, all variations from it being duly noted in the footnotes, except (occasionally) when i is put for y, or y for i. The scribes are very capricious in the use of these letters, using them indifferently; but it is best to use i when the vowel is short (as a general rule), and y when it is long. Thus, it is is better than yt ys, and wyse than wise, in order to shew that the vowel is long in the latter case. I also use y at the end of a word, as usual; as in lady, my. When the spelling of the MS. is thus slightly amended, it gives a fair text, which can easily be read with the old and true pronunciation.
We may roughly divide the better MSS. into two sets, thus: (a) C. Gl. L. Jo.; (b) F. B. Gg. The rest I have not collated. See Koch, in Anglia, iv. b. 100.
The metre of this poem is worthy of notice. Chaucer uses it again, in the Former Age (IX), Lenvoy to Bukton (XVII), and in the Monkes Tale. More complex examples of it, with repeated rimes, are seen in the Balade to Rosemounde (XII), Fortune (X), and Venus (XVIII). See also the two stanzas on p. 47.
II. The Compleynt unto Pite.
The word compleynt answers to the O. F. complaint, sb. masc., as distinguished from O. F. complainte, sb. fem., and was the technical name, as it were, for a love-poem of a mournful tone, usually addressed to the unpitying loved one. See Godefroy’s Old French Dictionary1 . Dr. Furnivall’s account of this poem begins as follows: ‘In seventeen 7-line stanzas: 1 of Proem, 7 of Story, and 9 of Complaint, arranged in three Terns [sets of three] of stanzas; first printed by Thynne in 1532 . . . The poem looks not easy to construe; but it is clearly a Complaint to Pity, as 5 MSS. read, and not of Pity, as Shirley reads in MS. Harl. 78. This Pity once lived in the heart of the loved-one of the poet . . . But in his mistress’s heart dwells also Pity’s rival, Cruelty; and when the poet, after waiting many years2 , seeks to declare his love, even before he can do so, he finds that Pity for him is dead in his mistress’s heart, Cruelty has prevailed, and deprived him of her.’ His theory is, that this poem is Chaucer’s earliest original work, and relates to his own feelings of hopeless love; also, that Chaucer was not married till 1374, when he married his namesake Philippa Chaucer3 . If this be so, a probable conjectural date for this poem is about 1367. I have remarked, in the note to l. 14, that the allegory of the poem is somewhat confused; and this implies a certain want of skill and clearness, which makes the supposition of its being an early work the more probable1 . It is extremely difficult to determine to what extent the sentiments are artificial. If a French poem of a similar character should one day be found, it would not be very surprising. Meanwhile, it is worth observing that the notion of personifying Pity is taken from Chaucer’s favourite author Statius; see the Thebaid, bk. xi. 458-496, and compare the context, ll. 1-457. It is this which enables us to explain the word Herenus in l. 92, which is an error for Herines, the form used by Chaucer to denote the Erinnyes or Furies2 . The Erinnyes are mentioned in Statius, Theb. xi. 345 (cf. ll. 58, 60, 383); and Statius leads up to the point of the story where it is an even chance whether there will be peace or war. The Furies urge on the combatants to war; and at this crisis, the only power who can overrule them is Pietas, personified by Statius for this express purpose (ll. 458, 465, 466). The struggle between Pity and Cruelty in Chaucer’s poem is parallel to the struggle between Pietas and the fury Tisiphone as told in Statius. Pity is called Herines quene, or queen of the Furies, because she alone is supposed to be able to control them. See my notes to ll. 57, 64, and 92.
The poem is extant in nine MSS. It is attributed to Chaucer by Shirley in MS. ‘Sh.,’ and the internal evidence confirms this. There is a fairly good copy in MS. F., on which my edition of it is based. There is, further, an excellent critical edition of this poem by Prof. Ten Brink, in Essays on Chaucer, Part II, p. 170 (Chaucer Soc.); this I carefully consulted after making my own copy, and I found that the differences were very slight. The least valuable MSS. seem to be Ff., Ph., and Lt. Omitting these, the MSS. may be divided into three sets, viz. A, Ba, and Bb, the two last going back to a common source B. These are: (A.)—Sh. Ha.; (Ba.)—F. B.; (Bb.)—Tn. Trin. See Koch, in Anglia, iv. b. 96.
In this poem we have the earliest example, in English, of the famous 7-line stanza.
III. The Book of the Duchesse.
Here we are on firm ground. The genuineness of this poem has never been doubted. It is agreed that the word Whyte in l. 948, which is given as the name of the lady lately dead, is a translation of Blanche, and that the reference is to the wife of the Duke of Lancaster (John of Gaunt), who died Sept. 12, 1369, at the age of twenty-nine, her husband being then of the same age. As the poem would naturally be written soon after this event, the date must be near the end of 1369. In fact, John of Gaunt married again in 1372, whereas he is represented in the poem as being inconsolable. Chaucer’s own testimony, in the Legend of Good Women, l. 418, is that he made ‘the deeth of Blaunche the Duchesse’; and again, in the Introduction to the Man of Law’s Prologue, l. 57, that ‘In youthe he made of Ceys and Alcion.’ In 1369, Chaucer was already twenty-nine years of age (taking the year of his birth to be 1340, not 1328), which is rather past the period of youth; and the fact that he thus mentions ‘Ceys and Alcion’ as if it were the name of an independent poem, renders it almost certain that such was once the case. He clearly thought it too good to be lost, and so took the opportunity of inserting it in a more ambitious effort. The original ‘Ceys and Alcion’ evidently ended at l. 220; where it began, we cannot say, for the poem was doubtless revised and somewhat altered. Ll. 215, 216 hint that a part of it was suppressed. The two subjects were easily connected, the sorrow of Alcyone for the sudden and unexpected loss of her husband being the counterpart of the sorrow of the duke for the loss of his wife. The poem of ‘Ceys and Alcion’ shews Chaucer under the influence of Ovid, just as part of his Complaint to Pity was suggested by Statius; but in the later part of the poem of the Book of the Duchesse we see him strongly influenced by French authors, chiefly Guillaume de Machault and the authors of Le Roman de la Rose. His familiarity with the latter poem (as pointed out in the notes) is such as to prove that he had already been previously employed in making his translation of that extremely lengthy work, and possibly quotes lines from his own translation1 .
The relationship between the MSS. and Thynne’s edition has been investigated by Koch, in Anglia, vol. iv. Anzeiger, p. 95, and by Max Lange, in his excellent dissertation entitled Untersuchungen über Chaucer’s Boke of the Duchesse, Halle, 1883. They both agree in representing the scheme of relationship so as to give the following result:
Here α represents a lost original MS., and β and γ are lost MSS. derived from it. Thynne follows β; whilst γ is followed by the Tanner MS. and a lost MS. δ. The Fairfax and Bodley MSS., which are much alike, are copies of δ. The MS. γ had lost a leaf, containing ll. 31-96; hence the same omission occurs in the three MSS. derived from it. However, a much later hand has filled in the gap in MS. F, though it remains blank in the other two MSS. On the whole, the authorities for this poem are almost unusually poor; I have, in general, followed MS. F, but have carefully amended it where the other copies seemed to give a better result. Lange gives a useful set of ‘Konjecturen,’ many of which I have adopted. I have also adopted, thankfully, some suggestions made by Koch and Ten Brink; others I decline, with thanks.
This poem is written in the common metre of four accents, which was already in use before Chaucer’s time, as in the poem of Havelok the Dane, Robert of Brunne’s Handling Synne, Hampole’s Pricke of Conscience, &c. Chaucer only used it once afterwards, viz. in his House of Fame. It is the metre employed also in his translation (as far as we have it) of the French Roman de la Rose.
IV. The Compleynt of Mars.
Lydgate tells us that this poem is Chaucer’s, referring to it as containing the story of ‘the broche which that Vulcanus At Thebes wrought,’ &c. Internal evidence clearly shews that it was written by the author of the Treatise on the Astrolabie. In MS. Harl. 7333, Shirley gives it the title ‘The broche of Thebes, as of the love of Mars and Venus.’ Bale oddly refers to this poem as De Vulcam veru, but broche is here an ornament, not a spit. With the exception of two lines and a half (ll. 13-15), the whole poem is supposed to be sung by a bird, and upon St. Valentine’s day. Such a contrivance shews a certain lack of skill, and is an indication of a comparatively early date. The poem begins in the ordinary 7-line stanza, rimed a b a b b c c; but the Complaint itself is in 9-line stanzas, rimed a a b a a b b c c, and exhibits a considerable advance in rhythmical skill. This stanza, unique in Chaucer, was copied by Douglas (Palace of Honour, part 3), and by Sir D. Lyndesay (Prol. to Testament of Papyngo).
At the end of the copy of this poem in MS. T., Shirley appends the following note:—‘Thus eondethe here this complaint, whiche some men sayne was made by [i. e. with respect to] my lady of York, doughter to the kyng of Spaygne, and my lord huntingdon, some tyme Duc of Excestre.’ This tradition may be correct, but the intrigue between them was discreditable enough, and would have been better passed over in silence than celebrated in a poem, in which Mars and Venus fitly represent them. In the heading to the poem in the same MS., Shirley tells us further, that it was written to please John of Gaunt. The heading is:—‘Loo, yee louers, gladethe and comfortethe you of thallyance etrayted1 bytwene the hardy and furyous Mars the god of armes and Venus the double [i. e. fickle] goddesse of loue; made by Geffrey Chaucier, at the comandement of the renommed and excellent Prynce my lord the Duc Iohn of Lancastre.’ The lady was John of Gaunt’s sister-in-law. John of Gaunt married, as his second wife, in 1372, Constance, elder daughter of Pedro, king of Castile; whilst his brother Edmund, afterwards duke of York, married Isabel, her sister. In Dugdale’s Baronage, ii. 154, we read that this Isabel, ‘having been somewhat wanton in her younger years, at length became a hearty penitent; and departing this life in 1394, was buried in the Friers Preachers at Langele,’ i. e. King’s Langley in Hertfordshire; cf. Chauncy’s Hertfordshire, p. 455; Camden’s Anglica, p. 350. It is possible that Chaucer addressed his Envoy to the Complaint of Venus to the same lady, as he calls her ‘Princess.’
Mars is, accordingly, intended to represent John Holande, half-brother to Richard II, Earl of Huntingdon, and afterwards Duke of Exeter. He actually married John of Gaunt’s daughter, Elizabeth, whose mother was the Blaunche celebrated in the Book of the Duchess.
If this tradition be true, the date of the poem must be not very many years after 1372, when the Princess Isabel came to England. We may date it, conjecturally, about 1374. See further in Furnivall’s Trial Forewords, pp. 78-90. I may add that an attempt has been made to solve the problem of the date of this poem by astronomy (see Anglia, ix. 582). It is said that Mars and Venus were in conjunction on April 14, 1379. This is not wholly satisfactory; for Chaucer seems to refer to the 12th of April as the time of conjunction. If we accept this result, then the year was 1379. The date 1373-9 is near enough.
The poem is remarkable for its astronomical allusions, which are fully explained in the notes. The story of Mars and Venus was doubtless taken from Ovid, Metam. iv. 170-189. The story of the brooch of Thebes is from Statius, ii. 265, &c.; see note to l. 245.
I shall here add a guess of mine which possibly throws some light on Chaucer’s reason for referring to the brooch of Thebes. It is somewhat curious that the Princess Isabel, in a will made twelve years before her death, and dated Dec. 6, 1382, left, amongst other legacies, ‘to the Duke of Lancaster, a Tablet of Jasper which the King of Armonie gave her’; see Furnivall’s Trial Forewords, p. 82. Here Armonie means, of course, Armenia; but it is also suggestive of Harmonia, the name of the first owner of the brooch of Thebes. It seems just possible that the brooch of Thebes was intended to refer to this tablet of jasper, which was doubtless of considerable value and may have been talked about as being a curiosity.
MSS. F. Tn. and Lt. are much alike; the rest vary. I follow F. mainly, in constructing the text.
V. The Parlement of Foules.
This poem is undoubtedly genuine; both Chaucer and Lydgate mention it. It is remarkable as being the first of the Minor Poems which exhibits the influence upon Chaucer of Italian literature, and was therefore probably written somewhat later than the Complaint of Mars. It is also the first of the Minor Poems in which touches of true humour occur; see ll. 498-500, 508, 514-6, 563-575, 589-616. Dr. Furnivall (Trial Forewords, p. 53) notes that the MSS. fall into two principal groups; in the first he places Gg., Trin., Cx., Harl., O., the former part of Ff., (part of) Ar., and the fragments in Hh. and Laud 416; in the second he places F., Tn., D., and the latter part of Ff. Lt. also belongs to the second group. See further in Anglia, vol. iv. Anzeiger, p. 97. The whole poem, except the Roundel in ll. 680-692, is in Chaucer’s favourite 7-line stanza, often called the ballad-stanza, or simply balade in the MSS.
The poem itself may be roughly divided into four parts. The first part, ll. 1-84, is mainly occupied with an epitome of the general contents of Cicero’s Somnium Scipionis. The second part, ll. 85-175, shews several instances of the influence of Dante, though the stanza containing ll. 99-105 is translated from Claudian. The third part, ll. 176-294, is almost wholly translated or imitated from Boccaccio’s Teseide. And the fourth part, ll. 295 to the end, is occupied with the real subject of the poem, the main idea being taken, as Chaucer himself tells us, from Alanus de Insulis. The passages relating to the Somnium Scipionis are duly pointed out in the notes; and so are the references to Dante and Claudian. The history of the third and fourth parts requires further explanation.
We have already seen that Chaucer himself tells us, in the Prol. to the Legend, 420, that he made—‘al the love of Palamon and Arcyte Of Thebes, thogh the story is knowen lyte.’ (N.B. This does not mean that Chaucer’s version of the story was ‘little known,’ but that Boccaccio speaks of the story as being little known—‘che Latino autor non par ne dica’; see note to Anelida, l. 8.) Now, in the first note on Anelida and Arcite, it is explained how this story of Palamon and Arcite was necessarily translated, more or less closely, from Boccaccio’s Teseide, and was doubtless written in the 7-line stanza; also that fragments of it are preserved to us (1) in sixteen stanzas of the Parliament of Foules, (2) in the first ten stanzas of Anelida, and (3) in three stanzas of Troilus. At a later period, the whole poem was re-written in a different metre, and now forms the Knightes Tale. The sixteen stanzas here referred to begin at l. 183 (the previous stanza being also imitated from a different part of the Teseide, bk. xi. st. 24), and end at l. 294. Chaucer has somewhat altered the order; see note to l. 183. I here quote, from Furnivall’s Trial Forewords, pp. 60-66, a translation by Mr. W. M. Rossetti, of Boccaccio’s Teseide, bk. vii. stanzas 51-66; and I give, beneath it, the Italian text, from an edition published at Milan in 1819. This passage can be compared with Chaucer’s imitation of it at the reader’s leisure.
I note, beforehand, that, in the first line of this translation, the word whom refers to Vaghezza, i. e. Grace, Allurement; whilst she is the prayer of Palemo, personified.
At l. 298 we are introduced to a queen, who in l. 303 is said to be the noble goddess Nature. The general idea is taken from Aleyn’s Pleynt of Kynde (l. 316), i. e. from the Planctus Naturae of Alanus de Insulis; see note to l. 298 of the poem. I here quote the most essential passage from the Anglo-Latin Satirical Poets, ed. T. Wright, ii. 437. It describes the garment worn by the goddess Nature, on which various birds were represented. The phrase animaliumconcilium may have suggested the name given by Chaucer to our poem. But see the remark on p. 75, l. 21.
‘Haec autem [vestis] nimis subtilizata, subterfugiens oculorum indaginem, ad tantam materiae tenuitatem advenerat, ut ejus aerisque eandem crederes esse naturam, in qua, prout oculis pictura imaginabatur, animalium celebratur concilium. Illic aquila, primo juvenem, secundo senem, induens, tertio iterum reciprocata priorem, in Adonidem revertebatur a Nestore. Illic ancipiter (sic), civitatis praefectus aeriae, violenta tyrannide a subditis redditus exposcebat. Illic milvus, venatoris induens personam, venatione furtiva larvam gerebat ancipitris. Illic falco in ardeam bellum excitabat civile, non tamen aequali lance divisum. Non enim illud pugnae debet appellatione censeri, ubi tu pulsas, ego vapulo tantum. Illic struthio, vita seculari postposita, vitam solitariam agens, quasi heremita factus, desertarum solitudines incolebat. Illic olor, sui funeris praeco, mellitae citherizationis organo vitae prophetabat apocopam. Illic in pavone tantum pulcritudinis compluit Natura thesaurum, ut eam postea crederes mendicasse. Illic phoenix, in se mortuus, redivivus in alio, quodam Naturae miraculo, se sua morte a mortuis suscitabat. Illic avis concordiae (ciconia) prolem decimando Naturae persolvebat tributum. Illic passeres in atomum pygmeae humilitatis relegati degebant, grus ex opposito in giganteae quantitatis evadebat excessum.
‘Illic phasianus, natalis insulae perpessus angustias, principum futurus deliciae, nostros evolabat in orbes. Illic gallus, tanquam vulgaris astrologus, suae vocis horologio horarum loquebatur discrimina. Illic gallus silvestris, privatioris galli deridens desidiam, peregre proficiscens, nemorales peragrabat provincias. Illic bubo, propheta miseriae, psalmodias funereae lamentationis praecinebat. Illic noctua tantae deformitatis sterquilinio sordescebat, ut in ejus formatione Naturam crederes fuisse somnolentam. Illic cornix, ventura prognosticans, nugatorio concitabatur garritu. Illic pica, dubio picturara colore, curam logices perennebat insomnem. Illic monedula, latrocinio laudabili reculas thesaurizans, innatae avaritiae argumenta monstrabat. Illic columba, dulci malo inebriata Diones, laborabat Cypridis in palaestra. Illic corvus, zelotypiae abhorrens dedecus, suos foetus non sua esse pignora fatebatur, usque dum comperto nigri argumento coloris, hoc quasi secum disputans comprobat. Illic perdix nunc aeriae potestatis insultus, nunc venatorum sophismata, nunc canum latratus propheticos abhorrebat. Illic anas cum ansere, sub eodem jure vivendi, hiemabat in patria fluviali. Illic turtur, suo viduata consorte, amorem epilogare dedignans, in altero bigamiae refutabat solatia. Illic psittacus cum sui gutturis incude vocis monetam fabricabat humanae. Illic coturnicem, figurae draconis ignorantem fallaciam, imaginariae vocis decipiebant sophismata. Illic picus, propriae architectus domunculae, sui rostri dolabro clausulam fabricabat in ilice. Illic curruca, novercam exuens, materno pietatis ubere alienam cuculi prolem adoptabat in filium; quae tamen capitali praemiata stipendio, privignum agnoscens, filium ignorabat. Illic hirundo, a sua peregrinatione reversa, sub trabe nidi lutabat hospitium. Illic philomena, deflorationis querelam reintegrans, harmoniaca tympanizans dulcedine, puritatis dedecus excusabat. Illic alauda, quasi nobilis citharista, non studii artificio, sed Naturae magisterio, musicae praedocta scientiam, citharam praesentabat in ore . . . . Haec animalia, quamvis illic quasi allegorice viverent, ibi tamen esse videbantur ad litteram.’
As to the date of this poem, Ten Brink (Studien, p. 127) shews that it must have been written later than 1373; and further, that it was probably written earlier than Troilus, which seems to have been finished in 1383. It may therefore have been written in 1382, in which case it may very well refer to the betrothal (in 1381) of King Richard II to Queen Anne of Bohemia. See, on this subject, Dr. Koch’s discussion of the question in Essays on Chaucer, p. 407, published by the Chaucer Society. Prof. Ward (who follows Koch) in his Life of Chaucer, p. 86, says:—‘Anne of Bohemia, daughter of the great Emperor Charles IV., and sister of King Wenceslas, had been successively betrothed to a Bavarian prince and to a Margrave of Meissen, before—after negotiations which, according to Froissart, lasted a year1 —her hand was given to young King Richard II. of England. This sufficiently explains the general scope of the Assembly of Fowls, an allegorical poem written on or about St. Valentine’s Day, 13812 —eleven months or nearly a year after which date the marriage took place3 .’
I here note that Lydgate’s Flour of Curtesie is a palpable imitation of the Parliament of Foules; so also is the earlier part of his Complaint of the Black Knight.
On the other hand, it is interesting to find, in the Poésies de Marie de France, ed. Roquefort, Paris, 1820, that Fable 22 (vol. i. p. 130) is entitled:—‘Li parlemens des Oiseax por faire Roi.’ In this fable, the Birds reject the Cuckoo, and choose the Eagle as king.
VI. A Compleint to his Lady.
We may fairly say that this poem is attributed to Chaucer by Shirley, since in MS. Harl. 78 it is copied out by him as if it were a continuation of the Complaint to Pity, and the pages are, throughout, headed with the words—‘The Balade of Pytee. By Chauciers.’ Stowe implies that he had seen more than one MS. copy of this poem, and says that ‘these verses were compiled by Geffray Chauser,’ for which he may have found authority in the MSS.4 Moreover, the internal evidence settles the matter. It is evident that we have here a succession of metrical experiments, the last of which exhibits a ten-line stanza resembling the nine-line stanza of his Anelida; in fact, we here have that Complaint in a crude form, which was afterwards elaborated; see the references, in the Notes, to the corresponding passages in that poem. But a very great and unique interest is attached to lines 16 to 43. For here we have the sole example, in English literature of that period, of the use of terza rima, obviously copied from Dante; and Chaucer was the only writer who then had a real acquaintance with that author. I know of no other example of the use of this metre before the time of Lord Surrey and Sir Thomas Wiat, when Englishmen once more sought acquaintance with Italian poetry. Consequently, we have here the pleasure of seeing how Chaucer handled Dante’s metre; and the two fragments here preserved shew that he might have handled it quite successfully if he had persevered in doing so.
It is to be regretted that Shirley’s spelling is so indifferent; he was rather an amateur than a professional scribe. Some of his peculiarities may be noticed, as they occur not only here, but also in the two last pieces, nos. XXII. and XXIII. He constantly adds a final e in the wrong place, producing such forms as fallethe, howe, frome, and the like, and drops it where it is necessary, as in hert (for herte). He is fond of eo for ee or long e, as in beo, neodethe. He writes ellas for allas; also e in place of the prefix y-, as in eknytte for y-knit. This last peculiarity is extremely uncommon. I have removed the odd effect which these vagaries produce, and I adopt the ordinary spelling of MSS. that resemble in type the Ellesmere MS. of the Canterbury Tales.
This piece exhibits three distinct metres, viz. the 7-line stanza, terza rima, and the 10-line stanza. Of the last, which is extremely rare, we have here the earliest example. Lines 56 and 59 are lost, and some others are imperfect.
VII. Anelida and Arcite.
The genuineness of this poem is obvious enough, and is vouched for both by Lydgate and Shirley, as shewn above. It is further discussed in the Notes. I may add that Lydgate incidentally refers to it in his Complaint of the Black Knight, l. 379:—‘Of Thebes eke the false Arcite.’ Much later allusions are the following:—
The first three stanzas are from Boccaccio’s Teseide, as shewn in the Notes; so also are stanzas 8, 9, and 10. Stanzas 4-7 are partly from Statius. The origin of ll. 71-210 is at present unknown. It is difficult to date this poem, but it must be placed after 1373, because of its quotations from the Teseide, or rather from Chaucer’s own Palamon and Arcite. The mention of ‘the quene of Ermony’ in l. 72 suggests that Chaucer’s thoughts may have been turned towards Armenia by the curious fact that, in 1384, the King of Armenia came to England about Christmas time, stayed two months, and was hospitably entertained by King Richard at Eltham; see Fabyan’s Chronicles, ed. Ellis, p. 532. At an earlier time, viz. in 1362, Walsingham says that some knights of Armenia appeared at a tournament in Smithfield. In the Transactions of the Cambridge Philological Society, May 13, 1886, there is a short paper by Prof. Cowell, from which we learn that Mr. Bradshaw believed the name of Anelida to be identical ‘with Anáhita (Ἀναΐτις), the ancient goddess of Persia and Armenia. . . He supposed that Chaucer got the name Anelida from a misreading of the name Anaetidem or Anaetida in some Latin MS., the t being mistaken for l.’ We must remember that Creseide represents a Greek accusative form Χρυσηΐδα, of which the gen. Χρυσηΐδος occurs in Homer, Il. i. 111; and perhaps the form Dalida (for Dalilah) in the Septuagint is also due to association with Greek accusatives in -ιδα. The genitive Anaetidos occurs in Pliny, xxxiii. 4; in Holland’s translation of Pliny, ii. 470, she appears as ‘the goddesse Diana syrnamed Anaitis.’ It may be as well to explain to those who are unaccustomed to MSS. of the fourteenth century, that it was then usual to write e in place of ae or æ, so that the name would usually be written, in the accusative case, Anetida. This suggests that Anelida should be spelt with but one n; and such is the practice of all the better MSS.
It remains to be added that one source of the part of the poem called the Complaint (ll. 211-350) is the piece printed in this volume as no. VI. That piece is, in fact, a kind of exercise in metrical experiments, and exhibits specimens of a 10-line stanza, resembling the nine-line stanza of this Complaint. Chaucer seems to have elaborated this into a longer Complaint, with additional varieties in the metre; and then to have written the preceding story by way of introduction. One line (vi. 50) is repeated without alteration (vii. 237); another (vi. 35) is only altered in the first and last words (vii. 222). Other resemblances are pointed out in the Notes.
It is also worth while to notice how the character of the speaking falcon in the second part of the Squire’s Tale is precisely that of Anelida. The parallel lines are pointed out in the Notes. The principal MSS. may be thus grouped: Aa.—F.B. Ab.—Tn. D. Lt. B.—Harl. Cx. Here A and B are two groups, of which the former is subdivided into Aa and Ab. See Koch, in Anglia, iv. b. 102.
VIII. Chaucer’s Wordes unto Adam.
This is evidently a genuine poem, written by the author of the translation of Boethius and of the story of Troilus.
IX. The Former Age.
First printed in 1866, in Morris’s Chaucer, from a transcript made by Mr. Bradshaw, who pointed out its genuineness. It is ascribed to Chaucer in both MSS., and belongs, in fact, to his translation of Boethius, though probably written at a later date. In MS. I. the poem is headed:—‘Chawcer vp-on this fyfte metur of the second book.’ In MS. Hh., the colophon is: ‘Finit Etas prima: Chaucers.’ Dr. Koch thinks that the five poems here numbered IX. X. XIII-XV. ‘form a cyclus, as it were, being free transcriptions of different passages in Boethius’ Consolatio Philosophiae.’ There is, in fact, a probability that these were all written at about the same period, and that rather a late one, some years after the prose translation of Boethius had been completed; and a probable date for this completion is somewhere about 1380.
Both MS. copies are from the same source, as both of them omit the same line, viz. l. 56; which I have had to supply by conjecture. Neither of the MSS. are well spelt, nor are they very satisfactory. The mistake in riming l. 47 with l. 43 instead of l. 45 may very well have been due to an oversight on the part of the poet himself. But the poem is a beautiful one, and admirably expressed; and its inclusion among the Minor Poems is a considerable gain.
Dr. Furnivall has printed the Latin text of Boethius, lib. ii. met. 5, from MS. I., as well as Chaucer’s prose version of the same, for the sake of comparison with the text of the poem. The likeness hardly extends beyond the first four stanzas. I here transcribe that part of the prose version which is parallel to the poem, omitting a few sentences which do not appear there at all; for the complete text, see vol. ii.
‘Blisful was the first age of men. They helden hem apayed with the metes that the trewe feldes broughten furthe. They ne distroyede nor deceivede not hem-self with outrage. They weren wont lightly to slaken hir hunger at even with acornes of okes. [Stanza 2.] They ne coude nat medly1 the yifte of Bachus to the clere hony; that is to seyn, they coude make no piment nor clarree. [Stanza 3.] . . they coude nat deyen whyte fleeses2 of Serien contree with the blode of a maner shelfisshe that men finden in Tyrie, with whiche blode men deyen purpur. [Stanza 6.] They slepen hoolsum slepes upon the gras, and dronken of the renninge wateres [cf. l. 8]; and layen under the shadwes of the heye pyn-trees. [Stanza 3, continued.] Ne no gest ne no straungere ne carf yit the heye see with ores or with shippes; ne they ne hadde seyn yit none newe strondes, to leden marchaundyse in-to dyverse contrees. Tho weren the cruel clariouns ful hust3 and ful stille. . . [Stanza 4.] For wherto or whiche woodnesse of enemys wolde first moeven armes, whan they seyen cruel woundes, ne none medes4 be of blood y-shad5 ? . . Allas! what was he that first dalf6 up the gobetes7 or the weightes of gold covered under erthe, and the precious stones that wolden han ben hid? He dalf up precious perils; . . . for the preciousnesse of swiche thinge, hath many man ben in peril.’
The metre is the same as that of the ABC.
Attributed to Chaucer by Shirley in MSS. A. and T.; also marked as Chaucer’s in MSS. F. and I. In MS. I., this poem and the preceding are actually introduced into Chaucer’s translation of Boethius, between the fifth metre and the sixth prose of the second book, as has been already said. The metre is the same as that of the ABC and The Former Age, but the same rimes run through three stanzas. The Envoy forms a 7-line stanza, but has only two rimes; the formula is ababbab. For further remarks, see the Notes.
XI. Merciles Beaute.
The unique copy of this poem is in MS. P1 . It is the last poem in the MS., and is in excellent company, as it immediately follows several other of Chaucer’s genuine poems2 . This is probably why Bp. Percy attributed it to Chaucer, who himself tells us that he wrote ‘balades, roundels, virelayes.’ It is significant that Mätzner, in his Altenglische Sprachproben, i. 347, chose this poem alone as a specimen of the Minor Poems. It is, in fact, most happily expressed, and the internal evidence places its authenticity beyond question. The three roundels express three ‘movements,’ in the poet’s usual manner; and his mastery of metre is shewn in the use of the same rime in -en-e in the first and third roundels, requiring no less than ten different words for the purpose; whilst in the second roundel the corresponding lines end in -eyn-e, producing much the same effect, if (as is probable) the old sounds of e and ey were not very different. We at once recognise the Chaucerian phrases I do no fors (see Cant. Ta. D 1234, 1512), and I counte him not a bene (see Troil. v. 363).
Very characteristic is the use of the dissyllabic word sen-e (l. 10), which is an adjective, and means ‘manifest,’ from the A. S. geséne, (gesýne), and not the past participle, which is y-seen. Chaucer rimes it with clen-e (Prol. to C. T. 134), and with gren-e (Kn. Tale, A 2298). The phrase though he sterve for the peyne (l. 23) reminds us of for to dyen in the peyne (Kn. Ta. A 1133).
But the most curious thing about this poem is the incidental testimony of Lydgate, in his Ballade in Commendacion of our Ladie; see poem no. 26 above, discussed at p. 38. I here quote st. 22 in full, from ed. 1561, fol. 330:
I ought to add that this poem is the only one which I have admitted into the set of Minor Poems (nos. I-XX) with incomplete external evidence. If it is not Chaucer’s, it is by some one who contrived to surpass him in his own style. And this is sufficient excuse for its appearance here.
Moreover, Lydgate’s testimony is external evidence, in a high degree. Even the allusion in l. 27 to the Roman de la Rose points in the same direction; and so does Chaucer’s statement that he wrote roundels. Excepting that in the Parl. of Foules, ll. 680-692, and the three here given, no roundels of his have ever been found1 .
XII. To Rosemounde.
This poem was discovered by me in the Bodleian Library on the 2nd of April, 1891. It is written on a fly-leaf at the end of MS. Rawlinson Poet. 163, which also contains a copy of Chaucer’s Troilus. At the end of the ‘Troilus’ is the colophon: ‘Here endith the book of Troylus and of Cresseyde.’ This colophon is preceded by ‘Tregentyll,’ and followed by ‘Chaucer.’ On the next leaf (no. 114) is the Balade, without any title, at the foot of which is ‘Tregentil’—‘Chaucer,’ the two names being written at a considerable distance apart. I believe ‘Tregentil’ to represent the name of the scribe2 . In any case, ‘Chaucer’ represents the name of the author. It is a happy specimen of his humour.
This famous poem is attributed to Chaucer in MS. F., also (thrice) by Shirley, who in one of the copies in MS. T. (in which it occurs twice) calls it a ‘Balade that Chaucier made on his deethbedde’; which is probably a mere bad guess1 . The MSS. may be divided into two groups; the four best are in the first group, viz. At., E., Gg., Ct., and the rest (mostly) in the second group. Those of the first group have the readings Tempest (8), Know thy contree (19), and Hold the hye wey (20); whilst the rest have, in the same places, Peyne (8), Look up on hy (19), and Weyve thy lust (20). It is remarkable that the Envoy occurs in MS. At. only. It may have been suppressed owing to a misunderstanding of the word vache (cow), the true sense of which is a little obscure. The reference is to Boethius, bk. v. met. 5, where it is explained that quadrupeds look down upon the earth, whilst man alone looks up towards heaven; cf. lok up in l. 19 of the poem. The sense is therefore, that we should cease to look down, and learn to look up like true men; ‘only the linage of man,’ says Chaucer, in his translation of Boethius, ‘heveth heyeste his heye heved2 . . this figure amonesteth3 thee, that axest the hevene with thy righte visage, and hast areysed thy fore-heved to beren up a-heigh thy corage, so that thy thoght ne be nat y-hevied4 ne put lowe under fote.’
It is curious that this Balade not only occurs as an independent poem, as in MSS. T., Harl., Ct., and others, but is also quoted bodily in a poem by Henry Scogan in MS. A. It is attributed to Chaucer by Shirley in MSS. T. and Harl.; and still more satisfactory is the account given of it by Scogan. The title of Scogan’s poem is:—‘A moral balade made by Henry Scogan squyer. Here folowethe nexst a moral balade to my lorde the Prince, to my lord of Clarence, to my lord of Bedford, and to my lorde of Gloucestre; by Henry Scogan, at a souper of feorthe merchande (sic) in the vyntre in London, at the hous of Lowys Iohan.’ It is printed in all the old editions of Chaucer; see poem no. 33, p. 32. Scogan tells us that he was ‘fader,’ i.e. tutor, to the four sons of Henry IV. above-mentioned1 . His ballad is in twenty-one 8-line stanzas, and he inserts Chaucer’s Gentilesse, distinguished by being in 7-line stanzas, between the 13th and 14th stanzas of his own work. He refers to Chaucer in the 9th stanza thus (in MS. A.):—
This is a reference to ll. 16, 17 of Chaucer’s poem. Again, in his 13th stanza, he says:—
He here refers to lines 15-17, and lines 1-4 of Chaucer’s poem; and then proceeds to quote it in full. Having done so, he adds:—
Scogan’s advice is all good; and, though he accuses himself of having misspent his youth, this may very well mean no more than such an expression means in the mouth of a good man. He is doubtless the very person to whom Chaucer’s ‘Lenvoy a Scogan’ was addressed, and Chaucer (l. 21) there gives him an excellent character for wisdom of speech. Accordingly, he is not to be confused with the Thomas Scogan or Scogin to whom is attributed an idle book called ‘Scoggins Iests,’ which were said to have been ‘gathered’ by Andrew Boord or Borde, author of the Introduction of Knowledge2 . When Shakespeare, in 2 Hen. IV. iii. 2. 33, says that Sir John Falstaff broke Scogan’s head, he was no doubt thinking of the supposed author of the jest-book, and may have been led, by observation of the name in a black-letter edition of Chaucer, to suppose that he lived in the time of Henry IV. This was quite enough for his purpose, though it is probable that the jester lived in the time of Edward IV.; see Tyrwhitt’s note on the Envoy to Scogan. On the other hand, we find Ben Jonson taking his ideas about Scogan solely from Henry Scogan’s poem and Chaucer’s Envoy, without any reference to the jester. See his Masque of the Fortunate Isles, in which Scogan is first described and afterwards introduced. The description tells us nothing more than we know already.
As for Lewis John (p. 82), Tyrwhitt says he was a Welshman, ‘who was naturalised by Act of Parliament, 2 Hen. V., and who was concerned with Thomas Chaucer in the execution of the office of chief butler; Rot. Parl. 2 Hen. V. n. 18.’
Caxton’s printed edition of this poem seems to follow a better source than any of the MSS.
XV. Lak of Stedfastnesse.
Attributed to Chaucer by Shirley in MSS. Harl. and T., and sent to King Richard at Windsor, according to the same authority. The general idea of it is from Boethius; see the Notes. Shirley refers it to the last years of Richard II., say 1397-9. We find something very like it in Piers Plowman, C. iv. 203-210, where Richard is told that bribery and wicked connivance at extortion have almost brought it about —
‘That no lond loveth the, and yut leest thyn owene.’
In any case, the date can hardly vary between wider limits than between 1393 and 1399. Richard held a tournament at Windsor in 13991 , which was but thinly attended; ‘the greater part of the knights and squires of England were disgusted with the king.’
Of this poem, MS. Ct. seems to give the best text.
XVI. Lenvoy a Scogan.
This piece is attributed to Chaucer in all three MSS., viz. F., P., and Gg.; and is obviously genuine. The probable date of it is towards the end of 1393; see the Notes.
For some account of Scogan, see above (p. 83).
XVII. Lenvoy a Bukton.
This piece is certainly genuine. In MS. F., the title is—‘Lenvoy de Chaucer a Bukton.’ In Julian Notary’s edition it is—‘Here foloweth the counceyll of Chaucer touching Maryag, &c. whiche was sente te (sic) Bucketon, &c.’ In all the other early printed editions it is inserted without any title immediately after the Book of the Duchess.
The poem is one of Chaucer’s latest productions, and may safely be dated about the end of the year 1396. This appears from the reference, in l. 23, to the great misfortune it would be to any Englishmen ‘to be take in Fryse,’ i. e. to be taken prisoner in Friesland. There is but one occasion on which this reference could have had any point, viz. during or just after the expedition of William of Hainault to Friesland, as narrated by Froissart in his Chronicles, bk. iv. capp. 78, 79. He tells that William of Hainault applied to Richard II. for assistance, who sent him ‘some men-at-arms and two hundred archers, under the command of three English lords1 .’ The expedition set out in August, 1396, and stayed in Friesland about five weeks, till the beginning of October, when ‘the weather began to be very cold and to rain almost daily.’ The great danger of being taken prisoner in Friesland was because the Frieslanders fought so desperately that they were seldom taken prisoners themselves. Then ‘the Frieslanders offered their prisoners in exchange, man for man; but, when their enemies had none to give in return, they put them to death.’ Besides this, the prisoners had to endure all the miseries of a bad and cold season, in an inclement climate. Hence the propriety of Chaucer’s allusion fully appears. From l. 8, we learn that Chaucer was now a widower; for the word eft means ‘again.’ His wife is presumed to have died in the latter part of 1387. We should also observe the allusion to the Wife of Bath’s Tale in l. 29.
XVIII. The Compleynt of Venus.
This poem is usually printed as if it formed part of the Complaint of Mars; but it is really distinct. It is attributed to Chaucer by Shirley both in MS. T. and in MS. A. It is not original, but translated from the French, as appears from l. 82. Shirley tells us that the author of the French poem was Sir Otes de Graunson, a worthy knight of Savoy. He is mentioned as receiving from King Richard the grant of an annuity of 126l. 13s. 4d. on 17 Nov. 1393; see Furnivall’s Trial Forewords, p. 123. The association of this poem with the Complaint of Mars renders it probable that the Venus of this poem is the same as the Venus of the other, i. e. the Princess Isabel of Spain, and Duchess of York. This fits well with the word Princess at the beginning of the Envoy; and as she died in 1394, whilst Chaucer, on the other hand, complains of his advancing years, we must date the poem about 1393, i. e. just about the time when Graunson received his annuity. Chaucer, if born about 1340, was not really more than 53, but we must remember that, in those days, men often aged quickly. John of Gaunt, who is represented by Shakespeare as a very old man, only lived to the age of 59; and the Black Prince died quite worn out, at the age of 46. Compare the notes to ll. 73, 76, 79, and 82.
Much new light has lately been thrown upon this poem by Dr. A. Piaget, who contributed an article to Romania, tome xix., on ‘Oton de Granson et ses Poésies,’ in 1890. The author succeeded in discovering a large number of Granson’s poems, including, to our great gain, the three Balades of which Chaucer’s ‘Compleynt of Venus’ is a translation. I am thus enabled to give the original French beneath the English version, for the sake of comparison.
He has also given us an interesting account of Granson himself, for which I must refer my readers to his article. It appears that Froissart mentions Granson at least four times (twice in bk. i. c. 303, a. d. 1372, once in c. 305, and once in c. 331, a. d. 1379), as fighting on the side of the English; see Johnes’ translation. He was in Savoy from 1389 to 1391; but, in the latter year, was accused of being concerned in the death of Amadeus VII., count of Savoy, in consequence of which he returned to England, and in 1393 his estates in Savoy were confiscated. It was on this occasion that Richard II. assigned to him the pension above mentioned. With the hope of clearing himself from the serious charge laid against him. Granson fought a judicial duel, at Bourg-en-Bresse, on Aug. 7, 1397, in which, however, he was slain.
Now that we have the original before us, we can see clearly, as Dr. Piaget says, that Chaucer has certainly not translated the original Balades ‘word for word’ throughout. He does so sometimes, as in ll. 27, 28, 30, 31, in which the closeness of the translation is marvellous; but, usually, he paraphrases the original to a considerable extent. In the first Balade, he has even altered the general motive; in the original, Granson sings the praises of his lady; in Chaucer, it is a lady who praises the worthiness of her lover.
It also becomes probable that the title ‘The Compleynt of Venus,’ which seems to have been suggested by Shirley, is by no means a fitting one. It is not suitable for Venus, unless the ‘Venus’ be a mortal; neither is it a continuous ‘Compleynt,’ being simply a linking together of three separate and distinct Balades.
It is clear to me that, when Chaucer added his Envoy, he made the difficulties of following the original ‘word by word’ and of preserving the original metre his excuse; and that what really troubled him was the difficulty of adapting the French, especially Balade I., so as to be acceptable to the ‘Princess’ who enjoined him to translate these Balades. In particular, he evidently aimed at giving them a sort of connection, so that one should follow the other naturally; which accounts for the changes in the first of them. It is significant, perhaps, that the allusion to ‘youth’ (F. jeunesce) in l. 70 is entirely dropped.
On the whole, I think we may still accept the theory that this poem was written at the request (practically, the command) of Isabel, duchess of York, the probable ‘Venus’ of the ‘Compleynt of Mars.’ Chaucer seems to have thrown the three Balades together, linking them so as to express a lady’s constancy in love, and choosing such language as he deemed would be most acceptable to the princess. He then ingeniously, and not without some humour, protests that any apparent alterations are due to his own dulness and the difficulties of translating ‘word for word,’ and of preserving the rimes.
In l. 31, the F. text shews us that we must read Pleyne, not Pleye (as in the MSS.). This was pointed out by Mr. Paget Toynbee.
XIX. The Compleint to his Purse.
Attributed to Chaucer by Shirley, in MS. Harl. 7333; by Caxton; by the scribes of MSS. F., P., and Ff.; and by early editors. I do not know on what grounds Speght removed Chaucer’s name, and substituted that of T. Occleve; there seems to be no authority for this change. I think it highly probable that the poem itself is older than the Envoy; see note to l. 17. In any case, the Envoy is almost certainly Chaucer’s latest extant composition.
Attributed to Chaucer in MSS. F. and Ha.; see further in the Notes. From the nature of the case, we cannot assign any probable date to this composition. Yet it was, perhaps, written after, rather than before, the Tale of Melibeus.
XXI. Against Women Unconstaunt.
For the genuineness of this Balade, we have chiefly the internal evidence to trust to; but this seems to me to be sufficiently strong. The Balade is perfect in construction, having but three rimes (-esse, -ace, -ene), and a refrain. The ‘mood’ of it strongly resembles that of Lak of Stedfastnesse; the lines run with perfect smoothness, and the rimes are all Chaucerian. It is difficult to suppose that Lydgate, or even Hoccleve, who was a better metrician, could have produced so good an imitation of Chaucer’s style. But we are not without strong external evidence; for the general idea of the poem, and what is more important, the whole of the refrain, are taken from Chaucer’s favourite author Machault (ed. Tarbé, p. 56); whose refrain is—‘En lieu de bleu, Damë, vous vestez vert.’ Again, the poem is only found in company with other poems by Chaucer. Such collocation frequently means nothing, but those who actually consult1 MSS. Ct. and Ha. will see how close is its association with the Chaucerian poems in those MSS. I have said that it occurs in MSS. F., Ct., and Ha. Now in MS. Ct. we find, on the back of fol. 188 and on fol. 189, just four poems in the same hand. These are (1) Gentilesse; (2) Lak of Stedfastnesse; (3) Truth; and (4) Against Women Unconstaunt. As three of these are admittedly genuine, there is evidence that the fourth is the same. We may also notice that, in this MS., the poems on Lak of Stedfastnesse and Against Women Unconstaunt are not far apart. On searching MS. Ha. (Harl. 7578), I again found three of these poems in company, viz. (1) Gentilesse; (2) Lak of Stedfastnesse; and (3) Against Women Unconstaunt; the last being, in my view, precisely in its right place. (This copy of the poem was unknown to me in 1887.)
XXII. An Amorous Complaint.
Whilst searching through the various MSS. containing Minor Poems by Chaucer in the British Museum, my attention was arrested by this piece, which, as far as I know, has never before been printed. It is in Shirley’s handwriting, but he does not claim it for Chaucer. However, the internal evidence seems to me irresistible; the melody is Chaucer’s, and his peculiar touches appear in it over and over again. There is, moreover, in the last stanza, a direct reference to the Parliament of Foules1 .
I cannot explain the oracular notice of time in the heading; even if we alter May to day, it contradicts l. 85, which mentions ‘seint Valentines day.’ The heading is—‘And next folowyng begynnith an amerowse compleynte made at wyndesore in the laste May tofore Nouembre’ (sic). The date is inexplicable2 ; but the mention of locality is interesting. Chaucer became a ‘valet of the king’s chamber’ in 1367, and must frequently have been at Windsor, where the institution of the Order of the Garter was annually celebrated on St. George’s Day (April 23). Some of the parallelisms in expression between the present poem and other passages in Chaucer’s Works are pointed out in the Notes.
This Complaint should be compared with the complaint uttered by Dorigen in the Cant. Tales, F. 1311-1325, which is little else than the same thing in a compressed form. There is also much resemblance to the ‘complaints’ in Troilus; see the references in the Notes.
Since first printing the text in 1888, I found that it is precisely the same poem as one extant in MSS. F. and B., with the title ‘Complaynt Damours.’ I had noticed the latter some time previously, and had made a note that it ought to be closely examined; but unfortunately I forgot to do so, or I should have seen at once that it had strong claims to being considered genuine. These claims are considerably strengthened by the fact of the appearance of the poem in these two Chaucerian MSS., the former of which contains no less than sixteen, and the latter seven of the Minor Poems, besides the Legend and the Hous of Fame.
In reprinting the text in the present volume, I take occasion to give all the more important results of a collation of the text with these MSS. In most places, their readings are inferior to those in the text; but in other places they suggest corrections.
In MS. F. the fourth stanza is mutilated; the latter half of lines 24-28 is missing.
In B., below the word Explicit, another and later hand has scrawled ‘be me Humfrey Flemyng.’ ‘Be me’ merely means—‘this signature is mine.’ It is a mere scribble, and does not necessarily relate to the poem at all.
The readings of F. and B. do not help us much; for the text in Harl., on the whole, is better.
It is not at all improbable that a better copy of this poem may yet be found.
XXIII. Balade of Compleynt.
This poem, which has not been printed before, as far as I am aware, occurs in Shirley’s MS. Addit. 16165, at fol. 256, back. It is merely headed ‘Balade of compleynte,’ without any note of its being Chaucer’s. But I had not read more than four lines of it before I at once recognised the well-known melodious flow which Chaucer’s imitators (except sometimes Hoccleve) so seldom succeed in reproducing. And when I had only finished reading the first stanza, I decided at once to copy it out, not doubting that it would fulfil all the usual tests of metre, rime, and language; which it certainly does. It is far more correct in wording than the preceding poem, and does not require that we should either omit or supply a single word. But in l. 20 the last word should surely be dere rather than here; and the last word in l. 11 is indistinct. I read it as reewe afterwards altered to newe; and newe makes very good sense. I may notice that Shirley’s n’s are very peculiar: the first upstroke is very long, commencing below the line; and this peculiarity renders the reading tolerably certain. Some lines resemble lines in no. VI., as is pointed out in the Notes. Altogether, it is a beautiful poem, and its recovery is a clear gain.
I regret that this Introduction has run to so great a length; but it was incumbent on me to shew reasons for the rejection or acceptance of the very large number of pieces which have hitherto been included in editions of Chaucer’s Works. I have now only to add that I have, of course, been greatly indebted to the works of others; so much so indeed that I can hardly particularise them. I must, however, mention very gratefully the names of Dr. Furnivall, Professor Ten Brink, Dr. Koch, Dr. Willert, Max Lange, Rambeau, and various contributors to the publications of the Chaucer Society; and though I have consulted for myself such books as Le Roman de la Rose, the Teseide, the Thebaid of Statius, the poems of Machault, and a great many more, and have inserted in the Notes a large number of references which I discovered, or re-discovered, for myself, I beg leave distinctly to disclaim any merit, not doubting that most of what I have said may very likely have been said by others, and said better. Want of leisure renders it impossible for me to give to others their due meed of recognition in many instances; for I have often found it less troublesome to consult original authorities for myself than to hunt up what others have said relative to the passage under consideration.
I have relegated Poems no. XXI., XXII., and XXIII. to an Appendix, because they are not expressly attributed to Chaucer in the MSS. Such evidence has its value, but it is possible to make too much of it; and I agree with Dr. Koch, that, despite the MSS., the genuineness of no XX. is doubtful; for the rime of compas with embrace is suspicious. It is constantly the case that poems, well known to be Chaucer’s, are not marked as his in the MS. copies; and we must really depend upon a prolonged and intelligent study of the internal evidence. This is why I admit poems nos. XXI-XXIII into the collection; and I hope it will be conceded that I am free from recklessness in this matter. Certainly my methods differ from those of John Stowe, and I believe them to be more worthy of respect.[Back to Table of Contents]
THE ROMAUNT OF THE ROSE.[Back to Table of Contents]
G. = Glasgow MS.; Th. = Thynne’s ed. (1532).
1-44. Lost inG.; fromTh.