The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited from numerous manuscripts by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899). 7 vols. https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1991,
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The late 19th century Skeat edition with copious scholarly notes and a good introduction to the texts.
The text is in the public domain.
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§ 1. It is needless to say that this Poem is genuine, as Chaucer himself claims it twice over; once in his Prologue to the Legend of Good Women, l. 417, and again by the insertion in the poem itself of the name Geffrey (l. 729)1.
§ 2. Influence of Dante. The influence of Dante is here very marked, and has been thoroughly discussed by Rambeau in Englische Studien, iii. 209, in an article far too important to be neglected. I can only say here that the author points out both general and particular likenesses between the two poems. In general, both are visions; both are in three books; in both, the authors seek abstraction from surrounding troubles by venturing into the realm of imagination. As Dante is led by Vergil, so Chaucer is upborne by an eagle. Dante begins his third book, Il Paradiso, with an invocation to Apollo, and Chaucer likewise begins his third book with the same; moreover, Chaucer’s invocation is little more than a translation of Dante’s.
Among the particular resemblances, we may notice the method of commencing each division of the Poem with an invocation2. Again, both poets mark the exact date of commencing their poems; Dante descended into the Inferno on Good Friday, 1300 Edition: current; Page: [viii] (Inf. xxi. 112); Chaucer began his work on the 10th of December, the year being, probably, 1383 (see note to l. 111).
Chaucer sees the desert of Lybia (l. 488), corresponding to similar waste spaces mentioned by Dante; see note to l. 482. Chaucer’s eagle is also Dante’s eagle; see note to l. 500. Chaucer gives an account of Phaethon (l. 942) and of Icarus (l. 920), much like those given by Dante (Inf. xvii. 107, 109); both accounts, however, may have been taken from Ovid1. Chaucer’s account of the eagle’s lecture to him (l. 729) resembles Dante’s Paradiso, i. 109-117. Chaucer’s steep rock of ice (l. 1130) corresponds to Dante’s steep rock (Purg. iii. 47). If Chaucer cannot describe all the beauty of the House of Fame (l. 1168), Dante is equally unable to describe Paradise (Par. i. 6). Chaucer copies from Dante his description of Statius, and follows his mistake in saying that he was born at Toulouse; see note to l. 1460. The description of the house of Rumour is also imitated from Dante; see note to l. 2034. Chaucer’s error of making Marsyas a female arose from his misunderstanding the Italian form Marsia in Dante; see note to l. 1229.
These are but some of the points discussed in Rambeau’s article; it is difficult to give, in a summary, a just idea of the careful way in which the resemblances between these two great poets are pointed out. I am quite aware that many of the alleged parallel passages are too trivial to be relied upon, and that the author’s case would have been strengthened, rather than weakened, by several judicious omissions; but we may fairly accept the conclusion, that Chaucer is more indebted to Dante in this poem than in any other; perhaps more than in all his other works put together.
It is no longer possible to question Chaucer’s knowledge of Italian; and it is useless to search for the original of The House of Fame in Provençal literature, as Warton vaguely suggests that we should do (see note to l. 1928). At the same time, I can see no help to be obtained from a perusal of Petrarch’s Trionfo della Fama, to which some refer us.
§ 3. Testimony of Lydgate. It is remarkable that Lydgate Edition: current; Page: [ix] does not expressly mention The House of Fame by name, in his list of Chaucer’s works. I have already discussed this point in the Introduction to vol. i. pp. 23, 24, where I shew that Lydgate, nevertheless, refers to this work at least thrice in the course of the poem in which his list occurs; and, at the same time, he speaks of a poem by Chaucer which he calls ‘Dant in English,’ to which there is nothing to correspond, unless it can be identified with The House of Fame1. We know, however, that Lydgate’s testimony as to this point is wholly immaterial; so that the discussion as to the true interpretation of his words is a mere matter of curiosity.
§ 4. Influence of Ovid. It must, on the other hand, be obvious to all readers, that the general notion of a House of Fame was adopted from a passage in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, xii. 39-63. The proof of this appears from the great care with which Chaucer works in all the details occurring in that passage. He also keeps an eye on the celebrated description of Fame in Vergil’s Æneid, iv. 173-183; even to the unlucky rendering of ‘pernicibus alis’ by ‘partriches winges,’ in l. 13922.
I here quote the passage from Ovid at length, as it is very useful for frequent reference (cf. Ho. Fame, 711-24, 672-99, 1025-41, 1951-76, 2034-77):—
A few other references to Ovid are pointed out in the Notes.
By way of further illustration, I here quote the whole of Golding’s translation of the above passage from Ovid:—
§ 5. Date of the Poem. Ten Brink, in his Chaucer Studien, pp. 120, 121, concludes that Ten House of Fame was, in all probability, composed shortly after Troilus, as the opening lines reproduce, in effect, a passage concerning dreams which appears in the last Book of Troilus, ll. 358-385. We may also observe the following lines in Troilus, from Book I, 517-8:—
These lines, jestingly applied to Troilus by Pandarus, are in the House of Fame, 639, 640, applied by Chaucer to himself:—
Again, the House of Fame preceded the Legend of Good Women, because he here complains of the hardship of his official duties (652-660); whereas, in the Prologue to the Legend, he rejoices at obtaining some release from them. We may also note the quotation from Boethius (note to l. 972). As Boethius and Troilus seem to have been written together, somewhere about 1380, and took up a considerable time, and the apparent date of the Legend is 1385, the probable date of the House of Fame is about 1383 or 1384. Ten Brink further remarks that the references to Jupiter suggest to the reader that the 10th of December was a Thursday (see note to 111). This would give 1383 for beginning the poem; and perhaps no fitter date than the end of 1383 and the spring of 1384 can be found.
§ 6. Metre. Many of Chaucer’s metres were introduced by him from the French; but the four-accent metre, with rime as here employed, was commonly known before Chaucer’s time. It was used by Robert of Brunne in 1303, in the Cursor Mundi, and in Havelok. It is, however, of French origin, and occurs in the very lengthy poem of Le Roman de la Rose. Chaucer only employed it thrice: (1) in translating the Roman de la Rose; (2) in the Book of the Duchesse; and (3) in the present poem.
For normal lines, with masculine rimes, see 7, 8, 13, 14, 29, Edition: current; Page: [xii] 33, &c. For normal lines, with feminine rimes, see 1, 2, 9, 15, 18, &c. Elision is common, as of e in turne (1), in somme (6), in Devyne (14); &c. Sometimes there is a middle pause, where a final syllable need not always be elided. Thus we may read:—
Two short syllables, rapidly pronounced, may take the place of one:—
The first foot frequently consists of a single syllable; see 26, 35, 40, 44; so also in l. 3, where, in modern English, we should prefer Unto.
The final e, followed by a consonant, is usually sounded, and has its usual grammatical values. Thus we have think-e, infin. (15); bot-e, old accus. of a fem. sb. (32); swich-e, plural (35); oft-e, adverbial (35); soft-e, with essential final e (A.S. sōfte); find-e, pres. pl. indic. (43); com-e, gerund (45): gret-e, pl. (53); mak-e, infin. (56); rod-e, dat. form used as a new nom., of which there are many examples in Chaucer (57); blind-e, def. adj. (138). The endings -ed, -en, -es, usually form a distinct syllable; so also -eth, which, however, occasionally becomes ’th; cf. comth (71). A few common words, written with final e, are monosyllabic; as thise (these); also shulde (should), and the like, occasionally. Remember that the old accent is frequently different from the modern; as in orácles, mirácles (11, 12): distaúnc-e (18), aventúres, figúres (47, 48): povért (88): málicióus (93): &c. The endings -i-al, -i-oun, i-ous, usually form two distinct syllables.
For further remarks on Metre and Grammar, see vol. v.
§ 7. Imitations. The chief imitations of the House of Fame are The Temple of Glas, by Lydgate1; The Palice of Honour, by Gawain Douglas; The Garland of Laurell, by John Skelton; and Edition: current; Page: [xiii] The Temple of Fame, by Pope. Pope’s poem should not be compared with Chaucer’s; it is very different in character, and is best appreciated by forgetting its origin.
§ 8. Authorities. The authorities for the text are few and poor; hence it is hardly possible to produce a thoroughly satisfactory text. There are three MSS. of the fifteenth century, viz. F. (Fairfax MS. 16, in the Bodleian Library); B. (MS. Bodley, 638, in the same); P. (MS. Pepys 2006, in Magdalene College, Cambridge). The last of these is imperfect, ending at l. 1843. There are two early printed editions of some value, viz. Cx. (Caxton’s edition, undated); and Th. (Thynne’s edition, 1532). None of the later editions are of much value, except the critical edition by Hans Willert (Berlin, 1883). Of these, F. and B., which are much alike, form a first group; P. and Cx. form a second group; whilst Th. partly agrees with Cx., and partly with F. The text is chiefly from F., with collations of the other sources, as given in the footnotes, which record only the more important variations.
§ 9. Some emendations. In constructing the text, a good deal of emendation has been necessary; and I have adopted many hints from Willert’s edition above mentioned; though perhaps I may be allowed to add that, in many cases, I had arrived at the same emendations independently, especially where they were obvious. Among the emendations in spelling, I may particularise misdemen (92), where all the authorities have mysdeme or misdeme; Dispyt, in place of Dispyte (96); barfoot, for barefoot or barefote (98); proces (as in P.) for processe, as in the rest (251); delyt, profyt, for delyte, profyte (309, 310); sleighte for sleight (462); brighte1, sighte, for bright, sight (503, 504); wighte, highte, for wight, hight (739, 740); fyn, Delphyn (as in Cx.), for fyne, Delphyne (1005, 1006); magyk, syk, for magyke, syke (1269, 1270); losenges, for losynges (1317), and frenges (as in F.) for frynges, as in the rest (1318); dispyt for dispite (1716); laughe for laugh (Cx. lawhe, 1809); delyt for delyte (P. delit, 1831); thengyn (as in Th.) for thengyne (1934); othere for other (2151, footnote). Edition: current; Page: [xiv] These are only a few of the instances where nearly all the authorities are at fault.
The above instances merely relate to questions of spelling. Still more serious are the defects in the MSS. and printed texts as regards the sense; but all instances of emendation are duly specified in the footnotes, and are frequently further discussed in the Notes at the end. Thus, in l. 329, it is necessary to supply I. In 370, allas should be Eneas. In 513, Willert rightly puts selly, i. e. wonderful, for sely, blessed. In 557, the metre is easily restored, by reading so agast for agast so. In 621, we must read lyte is, not lytel is, if we want a rime to dytees. In 827, I restore the word mansioun; the usual readings are tautological. In 911, I restore toun for token, and adopt the only reading of l. 912 that gives any sense. In 1007, the only possible reading is Atlantes. In 1044, Morris’s edition has biten, correctly; though MS. F. has beten, and there is no indication that a correction has been made. In 1114, the right word is site; cf. the Treatise on the Astrolabe (see Note). In 1135, read bilt (i. e. buildeth); bilte gives neither sense nor rhythm. In 1173, supply be. Ll. 1177, 1178 have been set right by Willert. In 1189, the right word is Babewinnes1. In 1208, read Bret (as in B.). In 1233, read famous. In 1236, read Reyes2. In 1303, read hatte, i. e. are named. In 1351, read Fulle, not Fyne. In 1372, adopt the reading of Cx. Th. P., or there is no nominative to streighte; and in 1373, read wonderliche. In 1411, read tharmes (=the armes). In 1425, I supply and hy, to fill out the line. In 1483, I supply dan; if, however, poete is made trisyllabic, then l. 1499 should not contain daun. In 1494, for high the, read highte (as in l. 744). In 1527, for into read in. In 1570, read Up peyne. In 1666, 1701, and 1720, for werkes read werk. In 1702, read clew (see note)3. In 1717, lyen is an error for lyuen, i. e. live. In 1750, read To, not The. In 1775, supply ye; or there is no sense. In 1793, supply they for a like reason. In 1804, 5, supply the, and al; for the scansion. In 1897, read Edition: current; Page: [xv] wiste, not wot. In 1940, hattes should be hottes; this emendation has been accepted by several scholars. In 1936, the right word is falwe, not salwe (as in Morris). In 1960, there should be no comma at the end of the line, as in most editions; and in 1961, 2 read werre, reste (not werres, restes). In 1975, mis and governement are distinct words. In 2017, frot1 is an error for froyt; it is better to read fruit at once; this correction is due to Koch. In 2021, suppress in after yaf. In 2049, for he read the other (Willert). In 2059, wondermost is all one word. In 2076, I read word; Morris reads mothe, but does not explain it, and it gives no sense. In 2156, I supply nevene.
I mention these as examples of necessary emendations of which the usual editions take no notice.
I also take occasion to draw attention to the careful articles on this poem by Dr. J. Koch, in Anglia, vol. vii. App. 24-30, and Englische Studien, xv. 409-415; and the remarks by Willert in Anglia, vii. App. 203-7. The best general account of the poem is that in Ten Brink’s History of English Literature.
In conclusion, I add a few ‘last words.’
L. 399. We learn, from Troil. i. 654, that Chaucer actually supposed ‘Oënone’ to have four syllables. This restores the metre. Read:—And Paris to Oënone.
503. Read ‘brighte,’ with final e; ‘bright’ is a misprint.
859. Compare Cant. Tales, F 726.
1119. ‘To climbe hit,’ i. e. to climb the rock; still a common idiom.
2115. Compare Cant. Tales, A 2078. Perhaps read ‘wanie.’
§ 1. Date of the Poem: ad 1385. The Legend of Good Women presents several points of peculiar, I might almost say of unique interest. It is the immediate precursor of the Canterbury Tales, and enables us to see how the poet was led on towards the composition of that immortal poem. This is easily seen, upon consideration of the date at which it was composed.
The question of the date has been well investigated by Ten Brink; but it may be observed beforehand that the allusion to the ‘queen’ in l. 496 has long ago been noticed, and it has been thence inferred, by Tyrwhitt, that the Prologue must have been written after 1382, the year when Richard II. married his first wife, the ‘good queen Anne.’ But Ten Brink’s remarks enable us to look at the question much more closely.
He shows that Chaucer’s work can be clearly divided into three chief periods, the chronology of which he presents in the following form1.
|1366 (at latest).||The Romaunt of the Rose.|
|1369.||The Book of the Duchesse.|
|1372.||(end of the period).|
|1373.||The Lyf of Seint Cecile.|
|The Assembly of Foules.|
|Palamon and Arcite.|
|Translation of Boethius.|
|Troilus and Creseide.|
|1384.||The House of Fame.|
|1385.||Legend of Good Women.|
|1391.||Treatise on the Astrolabe.|
It is unnecessary for our present purpose to insert the conjectured dates of the Minor Poems not here mentioned.
According to Ten Brink, the poems of the First Period were composed before Chaucer set out on his Italian travels, i. e. before December, 1372, and contain no allusions to writings by Italian authors. In them, the influence of French authors is very strongly marked.
The poems of the Second Period (he tells us) were composed after that date. The Life of Seint Cecile already marks the author’s acquaintance with Dante’s Divina Commedia; lines 36-51 are, in fact, a free translation from the Paradiso, canto xxxiii. ll. 1-21. See my note to this passage, and the remarks on the ‘Second Nun’s Tale’ in vol. v. The Parlement of Foules contains references to Dante and a long passage translated from Boccaccio’s Teseide; see my notes to that poem in vol. i. The original Falamon and Arcite was also taken from the Teseide; for even the revised version of it (now known as the Knightes Tale, and containing, doubtless, much more of Chaucer’s own work) is founded upon that poem, and occasionally presents verbal imitations of it. Troilus is similarly dependent upon Boccaccio’s Filostrato. The close connexion between Troilus and the translation of Boethius is seen from several considerations, of which it may suffice here to mention two. The former is the association of these two works in Chaucer’s lines to Adam—
And the latter is, the fact that Chaucer inserts in Troilus (book iv. Edition: current; Page: [xviii] stanzas 140-154) a long passage on predestination and free-will, taken from Boethius, book v. proses 2, 3; which he would appear to have still fresh in his mind. It is probable that his Boethius preceded Troilus almost immediately; indeed, it is conceivable that, for a short season, both may have been in hand at the same time.
There is also a close connexion between Troilus and the House of Fame, the latter of which shows the influence of Dante in a high degree; see p. vii. This connexion will appear from comparing Troil. v. stt. 52-55 with Ho. Fame, 2-54; and Troil. i. st. 74 (ll. 517-8) with Ho. Fame, 639, 640. See Ten Brink, Studien, p. 121. It would seem that the House of Fame followed Troilus almost immediately. At the same time, we cannot put the date of the House of Fame later than 1384, because of Chaucer’s complaint in it of the hardship of his official duties, from much of which he was released (as we shall see) early in 1385. Further, the 10th of December is especially mentioned as being the date on which the House of Fame was commenced (l. 111), the year being probably 1383 (see Note to that line).
It would appear, further, that the Legend was begun soon after the House of Fame was suddenly abandoned, in the very middle of a sentence. That it was written later than Troilus and the House of Fame is obvious, from the mention of these poems in the Prologue; ll. 332, 417, 441. That it was written at no great interval after Troilus appears from the fact that, even while writing Troilus, Chaucer had already been meditating upon the goodness of Alcestis, of which the Prologue to the Legend says so much. Observe the following passages (cited by Ten Brink, Studien, p. 120) from Troilus, bk. v. stt. 219, 254:—
There is also a striking similarity between the argument in Troilus, bk. iv. st. 3, and ll. 369-372 (B-text) of the Prologue to the Legend. The stanza runs thus:—
I will here also note the fact that the first line of the above stanza is quoted, almost unaltered, in the earlier version of the Prologue, viz. at l. 265 of the A-text, on p. 88.
From the above considerations we may already infer that the House of Fame was begun, probably, in December, 1383, and continued in 1384; and that the Legend of Good Women, which almost immediately succeeded it, may be dated about 1384 or 1385; certainly after 1382, when King Richard was first married. But now that we have come so near to the date, it is possible to come still nearer; for it can hardly be doubted that the extremely grateful way in which Chaucer speaks of the queen may fairly be connected with the stroke of good fortune which happened to him just at this very period. In the House of Fame we find him groaning about the troublesomeness of his official duties; and the one object of his life, just then, was to obtain greater leisure, especially if it could be had without serious loss of income. Now we know that, on the 17th of February, 1385, he obtained the indulgence of being allowed to nominate a permanent deputy for his Controllership of the Customs and Subsidies; see Furnivall’s Trial Forewords to the Minor Poems, p. 25. If with our knowledge of this fact we combine these considerations, viz. that Chaucer expresses himself gratefully to the queen, that he says nothing more of his troublesome duties, and that Richard II. is known to have been a patron of letters (as we learn from Gower), we may well conclude that the poet’s release from his burden was brought about by the queen’s intercession with the king on his behalf. We may here Edition: current; Page: [xx] notice Lydgate’s remarks in the following stanza, which occurs in the Prologue to the Fall of Princes1:—
Lydgate can hardly be correct in his statement that Chaucer wrote ‘at the request’ of the queen: for, had our author done so, he would have let us know it. Still, he has seized the right idea, viz. that the queen was, so to speak, the moving cause which effected the production of the poem.
It is, moreover, much to the point to observe that Chaucer’s state of delightful freedom did not last long. Owing to a sudden change in the government we find that, on Dec. 4, 1386, he lost his Controllership of the Customs and Subsidies; and, only ten days later, also lost his Controllership of the Petty Customs. Something certainly went wrong, but we have no proof that Chaucer abused his privilege.
On the whole we may interpret ll. 496, 7 (p. 101), viz.
as giving us a date but little later than Feb. 17, 1385, and certainly before Dec. 4, 1386. The mention of the month of May in ll. 36, 45, 108, 176, is probably conventional; still, the other frequent references to spring-time, as in ll. 40-66, 130-147, 171-174, 206, &c., may mean something; and in particular we may note the reference to St. Valentine’s day as being past, in ll. 145, 146; seeing that chees (chose) occurs in the past tense. We can hardly resist the conviction that the right date Edition: current; Page: [xxi] of the Prologue is the spring of 1385, which satisfies every condition.
§ 2. The two forms of the Prologue. So far, I have kept out of view the important fact, that the Prologue exists in two distinct forms, viz. an earlier and a revised form. The lines in which ‘the queen’ is expressly mentioned occur in the later version only, so that some of the above arguments really relate to that alone. But it makes no great difference, as there is no reason to suppose that there was any appreciable lapse of time between the two versions.
In order to save words, I shall call the earlier version the A-text, and the later one the B-text. The manner of printing these texts is explained at p. 65. I print the B-text in full, in the lower half of the page. The A-text appears in the upper half of the same, and is taken from MS. C. (Camb. Univ. Library, Gg. 4. 27), which is the only MS. that contains it, with corrections of the spelling, as recorded in the footnotes. Lines which appear in one text only are marked with an asterisk (*); those which stand almost exactly the same in both texts are marked with a dagger (†) prefixed to them; whilst the unmarked lines are such as occur in both texts, but with some slight alteration. By way of example, observe that lines B. 496, 497, mentioning the queen, are duly marked with an asterisk, as not being in A. Line 2, standing the same in both texts, is marked with a dagger. And thirdly, line 1 is unmarked, because it is slightly altered. A. has here the older expression ‘A thousand sythes,’ whilst B. has the more familiar ‘A thousand tymes.’
The fact that A. is older than B. cannot perhaps be absolutely proved without a long investigation. But all the conditions point in that direction. In the first place, it occurs in only one MS., viz. MS. C., whilst all the others give the B-text; and it is more likely that a revised text should be multiplied than that a first draft should be. Next, this MS. C. is of high value and great importance, being quite the best MS., as regards age, of the whole set; and it is a fortunate thing that the A-text has been preserved at all. And lastly, the internal evidence tends, in my opinion, to shew that B. can be more easily evolved from A. than conversely. I am not aware that any one has ever doubted this result.
We may easily see that the A-text is, on the whole, more general and vague, whilst the B-text is more particular in its references. Edition: current; Page: [xxii] The impression left on my mind by the perusal of the two forms of the Prologue is that Chaucer made immediate use of the comparative liberty accorded to him on the 17th of February, 1385, to plan a new poem, in an entirely new metre, and in the new form of a succession of tales. He decided, further, that the tales should relate to women famous in love-stories, and began by writing the tale of Cleopatra, which is specially mentioned in B. 566 (and A. 542)1. The idea then occurred to him of writing a preface or Prologue, which would afford him the double opportunity of justifying and explaining his design, and of expressing his gratitude for his attainment of greater leisure. Having done this, he was not wholly satisfied with it; he thought the expression of gratitude did not come out with sufficient clearness, at least with regard to the person to whom he owed the greatest debt. So he at once set about to amend and alter it; the first draught, of which he had no reason to be ashamed, being at the same time preserved. And we may be sure that the revision was made almost immediately; he was not the man to take up a piece of work again after the first excitement of it had passed away2. On the contrary, he used to form larger plans than he could well execute, and leave them unfinished when he grew tired of them. I therefore propose to assign the conjectural date of the spring of 1385 to both forms of the Prologue; and I suppose that Chaucer went on with one tale of the series after another during the summer and latter part of the same year till he grew tired of the task, and at last gave it up in the middle of a sentence. An expression of doubt as to the completion of the task already appears in l. 2457.
§ 3. Comparison of the two forms of the Prologue. A detailed comparison of the two forms of the Prologue would extend to a great length. I merely point out some of the more remarkable variations.
The first distinct note of difference that calls for notice is at line A. 89 (B. 108), p. 72, where the line—
is altered to—
This is clearly done for the sake of greater definiteness, and because of the association of the 1st of May with certain national customs expressive of rejoicing. It is emphasized by the statements in B. 114 as to the exact position of the sun (see note to the line). In like manner the vague expression about ‘the Ioly tyme of May’ in A. 36 is exchanged for the more exact—‘whan that the month of May Is comen’; B. 36. In the B-text, the date is definitely fixed; in ll. 36-63 we learn what he usually did on the recurrence of the May-season; in ll. 103-124, we have his (supposed) actual rising at the dawn of May-day; then the manner in which he spent that day (ll. 179-185); and lastly, the arrival of night, his return home, his falling asleep, and his dream (ll. 197-210). He awakes on the morning of May 2, and sets to work at once (ll. 578, 579).
Another notable variation is on p. 71. On arriving at line A. 70, he puts aside A. 71-80 for the present, to be introduced later on (p. 77); and writes the new and important passage contained in B. 83-96 (p. 71). The lady whom he here addresses as being his ‘very light,’ one whom his heart dreads, whom he obeys as a harp obeys the hand of the player, who is his guide, his ‘lady sovereign,’ and his ‘earthly god,’ cannot be mistaken. The reference is obviously to his sovereign lady the queen; and the expression ‘earthly god’ is made clear by the declaration (in B. 387) that kings are as demi-gods in this present world.
In A., the Proem or true Introduction ends at l. 88, and is more marked than in B., wherein it ends at l. 102.
The passage in A. contained in ll. 127-138 (pp. 75, 76) is corrupt and imperfect in the MS. The sole existing copy of it was evidently made from a MS. that had been more or less defaced; I have had to restore it as I best could. The B-text has here been altered and revised, though the variations are neither extensive nor important; but the passage is immediately followed by about 30 new lines, in which Mercy is said to be a greater power than Right, or strict Justice, especially when Right is overcome ‘through innocence and ruled curtesye’; the application of which expression is obvious.
In B. 183-187 we have the etymology of daisy, the declaration Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] that ‘she is the empress of flowers,’ and a prayer for her prosperity, i. e. for the prosperity of the queen.
In A. 103 (p. 73), the poet falls asleep and dreams. In his dream, he sees a lark (A. 141, p. 79) who introduces the God of Love. In the B-text, the dream is postponed till B. 210 (p. 79), and the lark is left out, as being unnecessary. This is a clear improvement.
An important change is made in the ‘Balade’ at pp. 83, 84. The refrain is altered from ‘Alceste is here’ to ‘My lady cometh.’ The reason is twofold. The poet wishes to suppress the name of Alcestis for the present, in order to introduce it as a surprise towards the end (B. 518)1; and secondly, the words ‘My lady cometh’ are used as being directly applicable to the queen, instead of being only applicable through the medium of allegory. Indeed, Chaucer takes good care to say so; for he inserts a passage to that effect (B. 271-5); where we may remember, by the way, that free means ‘bounteous’ in Middle English. We have a few additional lines of the same sort in B. 296-299.
On the other hand, Chaucer suppressed the long and interesting passage in A. 258-264, 267-287, 289-312, for no very obvious reason. But for the existence of MS. C., it would have been wholly lost to us, and the recovery of it is a clear gain. Most interesting of all is the allusion to Chaucer’s sixty books of his own, all full of love-stories and personages known to history, in which, for every bad woman, mention was duly made of a hundred good ones (A. 273-277, p. 88)2. Important also is his mention of some of his authors, such as Valerius, Livy, Claudian, Jerome, Ovid, and Vincent of Beauvais.
If, as we have seen, Alcestis in this Prologue really meant the queen, it should follow that the God of Love really meant the king. This is made clear in B. 373-408, especially in the comparison between a just king (such as Richard, of course) and the tyrants of Lombardy. In fact, in A. 360-364, Chaucer said Edition: current; Page: [xxv] a little too much about the duty of a king to hear the complaints and petitions of the people, and he very wisely omitted it in revision. In A. 355, he used the unlucky word ‘wilfulhed’ as an attribute of a Lombard tyrant; but as it was not wholly inapplicable to the king of England, he quietly suppressed it. But the comparison of the king to a lion, and of himself to a fly, was in excellent taste; so no alteration was needed here (p. 94).
In his enumeration of his former works (B. 417-430), he left out one work which he had previously mentioned (A. 414, 415, p. 96). This work is now lost1, and was probably omitted as being a mere translation, and of no great account. Perhaps the poet’s good sense told him that the original was a miserable production, as it must certainly be allowed to be, if we employ the word miserable with its literal meaning (see p. 307).
At pp. 103, 104, some lines are altered in A. (527-532) in order to get rid of the name of Alcestis here, and to bring in a more immediate reference to the Balade. Line B. 540 is especiall curious, because he had ot, in the first instance, forgotten to put her in his Balade (see A. 209); but he now wished to seem to have done so.
In B. 552-565, we have an interesting addition, in which Love charges him to put all the nineteen ladies, besides Alcestis, into his Legend; and tells him that he may choose his own metre (B. 562). Again, in B. 568-577, he practically stipulates that he is only to tell the more interesting part of each story, and to leave out whatever he should deem to be tedious. This proviso was eminently practical and judicious.
§ 4. The subject of the Legend. We learn, from B. 241, 283, that Chaucer saw in his vision Alcestis and nineteen other ladies, and from B. 557, that he was to commemorate them all in his Legend, beginning with Cleopatra (566) and ending with Alcestis (549, 550). As to the names of the nineteen, they are to be found in his Balade (555).
Upon turning to the Balade (p. 83), the names actually mentioned include some which are hardly admissible. For example, Absalom and Jonathan are names of men; Esther is hardly Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] a suitable subject, whilst Ysoult belongs to a romance of medieval times. (Cf. A. 275, p. 88.) The resulting practicable list is thus reduced to the following, viz. Penelope, Marcia, Helen, Lavinia, Lucretia, Polyxena, Cleopatra, Thisbe, Hero, Dido, Laodamia, Phyllis, Canace, Hypsipyle, Hypermnestra, and Ariadne. At the same time, we find legends of Medea and Philomela, though neither of these are mentioned in the Balade. It is of course intended that the Balade should give a representative list only, without being exactly accurate.
But we are next confronted by a most extraordinary piece of evidence, viz. that of Chaucer himself, when, at a later period, he wrote the Introduction to the Man of Lawes Prologue (see vol. iv. p. 131). He there expressly refers to his Legend of Good Women, which he is pleased to call ‘the Seintes Legende of Cupide,’ i. e. the Legend of Cupid’s Saints. And, in describing this former work of his, he introduces the following lines:—
We can only suppose that he is referring to the contents of his work in quite general terms, with a passing reference to his vision of Alcestis and the nineteen ladies, and to those mentioned in his Balade. There is no reason for supposing that he ever wrote complete tales about Deianira, Hermione, Hero, Helen, Briseis, Laodamia, or Penelope, any more than he did about Alcestis. But it is highly probable that, just at the period of writing his Introduction to the Man of Lawes Prologue, he was seriously intending to take up again his ‘Legend,’ and was planning how to continue it. But he never did it.Edition: current; Page: [xxvii]
On comparing these two lists, we find that the following names are common to both, viz. Penelope, Helen, Lucretia, Thisbe, Hero, Dido, Laodamia, Phyllis, Canace, Hypsipyle, Hypermnestra, Ariadne, and (in effect) Alcestis. The following occur in the Balade only, viz. Marcia, Lavinia, Polyxena, Cleopatra. And the following are mentioned in the above-quoted passage only, viz. Deianira, Hermione, Briseis, Medea. We further know that he actually wrote the Legend of Philomela, though it is in neither of the above lists; whilst the story of Canace was expressly rejected. Combining our information, and rearranging it, we see that his intention was to write nineteen Legends, descriptive of twenty women, viz. Alcestis and nineteen others; the number of Legends being reduced by one owing to the treatment of the stories of Medea and Hypsipyle under one narrative. Putting aside Alcestis, whose Legend was to come last, the nineteen women can be made up as follows:—
1. Cleopatra. 2. Thisbe. 3. Dido. 4 and 5. Hypsipyle and Medea. 6. Lucretia. 7. Ariadne. 8. Philomela. 9. Phyllis. 10. Hypermnestra (all of which are extant). Next come—11. Penelope: 12. Helen: 13. Hero: 14. Laodamia (all mentioned in both lists). 15. Lavinia: 16. Polyxena1 (mentioned in the Balade). 17. Deianira: 18. Hermione: 19. Briseis (in the Introduction to the Man of Lawe).
This conjectural list is sufficient to elucidate Chaucer’s plan fully, and agrees with that given in the note to l. 61 of the Introduction to the Man of Lawes Tale, in vol. v.
If we next enquire how such lists of ‘martyred’ women came to be suggested to Chaucer, we may feel sure that he was thinking of Boccaccio’s book entitled De Claris Mulieribus, and of Ovid’s Heroides. Boccaccio’s book contains 105 tales of Illustrious Women, briefly told in Latin prose. Chaucer seems to have partially imitated from it the title of his poem—‘The Legend of Good Women’; and he doubtless consulted it for his purpose. But he took care to consult other sources also, in order to be able to give the tales at greater length, so that the traces of his debt to the above work by Boccaccio are very slight.
We must not, however, omit to take notice that, whilst Chaucer Edition: current; Page: [xxviii] owes but little to Boccaccio as regards his subject-matter, it was from him, in particular, that he took his general plan. This is well shewn in the excellent and careful essay by M. Bech, printed in ‘Anglia,’ vol. v. pp. 313-382, with the title—‘Quellen und Plan der Legende of Goode Women und ihr Verhältniss zur Confessio Amantis.’ At p. 381, Bech compares Chaucer’s work with Boccaccio’s, and finds the following points of resemblance.
1. Both works treat exclusively of women; one of them speaks particularly of ‘Gode Women,’ whilst the other is written ‘De Claris Mulieribus.’
2. Both works relate chiefly to tales of olden time.
3. In both, the tales follow each other without any intermediate matter.
4. Both are compacted into a whole by means of an introductory Prologue.
5. Both writers wish to dedicate their works to a queen, but effect this modestly and indirectly. Boccaccio addresses his Prologue to a countess, telling her that he wishes to dedicate his book to Joanna, queen of Jerusalem and Sicily; whilst Chaucer veils his address to queen Anne under the guise of allegory.
6. Both record the fact of their writing in a time of comparative leisure. Boccaccio uses the words: ‘paululum ab inerti uulgo semotus et a ceteris fere solutus curis.’
7. Had Chaucer finished his work, his last Legend would have related to Alcestis, i. e. to the queen herself. Boccaccio actually concludes his work with a chapter ‘De Iohanna Hierusalem et Sicilie regina.’
See further in Bech, who quotes Boccaccio’s ‘Prologue’ in full.
To this comparison should be added (as Bech remarks) an accidental coincidence which is even more striking, viz. that the work ‘De Claris Mulieribus’ bears much the same relation to the more famous one entitled ‘Il Decamerone,’ that the Legend of Good Women does to the Canterbury Tales.
Boccaccio has all of Chaucer’s finished tales, except those of Ariadne, Philomela, and Phyllis1; he also gives the stories of some whom Chaucer only mentions, such as the stories of Deianira Edition: current; Page: [xxix] (cap. 22), Polyxena (cap. 31), Helena (cap. 35), Penelope (cap. 38); and others. To Ovid our author is much more indebted, and frequently translates passages from his Heroides (or Epistles) and from the Metamorphoses. The former of these works contains the Epistles of Phyllis, Hypsipyle, Medea, Dido, Ariadne, and Hypermnestra, whose stories Chaucer relates, as well as the letters of most of those whom Chaucer merely mentions, viz. of Penelope, Briseis, Hermione, Deianira, Laodamia, Helena, and Hero. It is evident that our poet was chiefly guided by Ovid in selecting stories from the much larger collection in Boccaccio. At the same time it is remarkable that neither Boccaccio (in the above work) nor Ovid gives the story of Alcestis, and it is not quite certain whence Chaucer obtained it. It is briefly told in the 51st of the Fabulae of Hyginus, but it is much more likely that Chaucer borrowed it from another work by Boccaccio, entitled De Genealogia Deorum1, where it appears amongst the fifty-one labours of Hercules, in the following words:—
‘Alcestem Admeti regis Thessaliae coniugem retraxit [Hercules] ad uirum. Dicunt enim, quod cum infirmaretur Admetus, implorassetque Apollinis auxilium, sibi ab Apolline dictum mortem euadere non posse, nisi illam aliquis ex affinibus atque necessariis subiret. Quod cum audisset Alcestis coniunx, non dubitauit suam pro salute uiri concedere, et sic ea mortua Admetus liberatus est, qui plurimum uxori compatiens Herculem orauit, vt ad inferos uadens illius animam reuocaret ad superos, quod et factum est.’—Lib. xiii. c. 1 (ed. 1532).
§ 5. The Daisy. To this story Chaucer has added a pretty addition of his own invention, that this heroine was finally transformed into a daisy. The idea of choosing this flower as the emblem of perfect wifehood was certainly a happy one, and has often been admired. It is first alluded to by Lydgate, in a Poem against Self-Love (see Lydgate’s Minor Poems, ed. Halliwell, p. 161):—
And again, in the same author’s Temple of Glas, ll. 71-74:—
The anonymous author of the Court of Love seized upon the same fancy to adorn his description of the Castle of Love, which, as he tells us, was—
The mention of ‘the ladies good ninetene’ at once shews us whence this mention of Alcestis was borrowed.
In a modern book entitled Flora Historica, by Henry Phillips, 2nd ed. i. 42, we are gravely told that ‘fabulous history informs us that this plant [the daisy] is called Bellis because it owes its origin to Belides, a granddaughter of Danaus, and one of the nymphs called Dryads, that presided over the meadows and pastures in ancient times. Belides is said to have encouraged the suit of Ephigenus, but whilst dancing on the green with this rural deity she attracted the admiration of Vertumnus, who, just as he was about to seize her in his embrace, saw her transformed into the humble plant that now bears her name.’ It is clear that the concocter of this stupid story was not aware that Belides is a plural substantive, being the collective name of the fifty daughters of Danaus, who are here rolled into one in order to be transformed into a single daisy; and all because the words bellis and Belides happen to begin with the same three letters! It may also be noticed that ‘in ancient times’ the business of the Dryads was to preside over trees rather than ‘over meadows and pastures.’ Who the ‘rural deity’ was who is here named ‘Ephigeus’ I neither know nor care. But it is curious to observe the degeneracy of the story for which Chaucer was (in my belief) originally responsible2. See Notes and Queries, 7th S. vi. 186, 309.Edition: current; Page: [xxxi]
Of course it is easy to see that this invention on the part of Chaucer is imitated from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, where Clytie becomes a sun-flower, Daphne a laurel, and Narcissus, Crocus, and Hyacinthus become, respectively, a narcissus, a crocus, and a hyacinth. At the same time, Chaucer’s attention may have been directed to the daisy in particular, as Tyrwhitt long ago pointed out, by a perusal of such poems as Le Dit de la fleur de lis et de la Marguerite, by Guillaume de Machault (printed in Tarbe’s edition, 1849, p. 123), and Le Dittié de la flour de la Margherite, by Froissart (printed in Bartsch’s Chrestomathie de l’ancien Français, 1875, p. 422); see Introduction to Chaucer’s Minor Poems, in vol. i. p. 36. In particular, we may well compare lines 42, 48, 49, 60-63 of our B-text with Machault’s Dit de la Marguerite (ed. Tarbé, p. 123):—
And again, we may compare ll. 53-55 with the lines in Machault that immediately follow, viz.
The resemblance is, I think, too close to be accidental.
We may also compare (though the resemblance is less striking) ll. 40-57 of the B-text of the Prologue (pp. 68, 69) with ll. 22-30 of Froissart’s poem on the Daisy:—
At l. 68 of the same poem, as pointed out by M. Sandras (Étude sur G. Chaucer, 1859, p. 58), and more clearly by Bech (Anglia, v. 363),) we have a story of a woman named Herés—‘une pucelle [qui] ama tant son mari’—whose tears, shed for the loss of her husband Cephëy, were turned by Jupiter into daisies as they fell upon the green turf. There they were discovered, one January, by Mercury, who formed a garland of them, which he sent by a messenger named Lirés to Serés (Ceres). Ceres was so pleased by the gift that she caused Lirés to be beloved, which he had never been before.
This mention of Ceres doubtless suggested Chaucer’s mention of Cibella (Cybele) in B. 531. In fact, Chaucer first transforms Alcestis herself into a daisy (B. 512); but afterwards tells us that Jupiter changed her into a constellation (B. 525), whilst Cybele made the daisies spring up ‘in remembrance and honour’ of her. The clue seems to be in the name Cephëy, representing Cephei, gen. case of Cepheus. He was a king of Ethiopia, husband of Cassiope, father of Andromeda, and father-in-law of Perseus. They were all four ‘stellified,’ and four constellations bear their names even to the present day. According to the old mythology, it was not Alcestis, but Cassiope, who was said to be ‘stellified1.’ The whole matter is thus sufficiently illustrated.
§ 6. Agaton. This is, perhaps, the most convenient place for explaining who is meant by Agaton (B. 526). The solution of this difficult problem was first given by Cary, in his translation of Dante’s Purgatorio, canto xxii. l. 106, where the original has Agatone. Cary first quotes Chaucer, and then the opinion of Tyrwhitt, that there seems to be no reference to ‘any of the Agathoes of antiquity,’ and adds: ‘I am inclined to believe that Chaucer must have meant Agatho, the dramatic writer, whose name, at least, appears to have been familiar in the Middle Ages; for, besides the mention of him in the text, he is quoted by Dante in the Treatise de Monarchia, lib. iii. “Deus per nuncium facere Edition: current; Page: [xxxiii] non potest, genita non esse genita, iuxta sententiam Agathonis.” ’ The original is to be found in Aristotle, Ethic. Nicom. lib. vi. c. 2:—
Agatho is mentioned by Xenophon in his Symposium, by Plato in the Protagoras, and in the Banquet, a favourite book with our author [Dante], and by Aristotle in his Art of Poetry, where the following remarkable passage occurs concerning him, from which I will leave it to the reader to decide whether it is possible that the allusion in Chaucer might have arisen: ἐν ἐνίαις μὲν ἓν ἢ δύο τω̑ν γνωρίμων ἐστὶν ὀνομάτων, τὰ δὲ ἄλλα πεποιημένα· ἐν ἐνίαις δὲ οὐθέν· οἱ̑ον ἐν τῳ̑ Ἀγάθωνος Ἄνθει. ὁμοίως γὰρ ἐν τούτῳ τά τε πράγματα καὶ τὰ ὀνόματα πεποίηται, καὶ οὐδὲν ἡ̑ττον εὐϕραίνει. Edit. 1794, p. 33. “There are, however, some tragedies, in which one or two of the names are historical, and the rest feigned; there are even some, in which none of the names are historical; such is Agatho’s tragedy called ‘The Flower’; for in that all is invention, both incidents and names; and yet it pleases.” Aristotle’s Treatise on Poetry, by Thos. Twining, 8vo. edit. 1812, vol. i. p. 128.’
The peculiar spelling Agaton renders it highly probable that Chaucer took the name from Dante (Purg. xxii. 106), but this does not wholly suffice1. Accordingly, Bech suggests that he may also have noticed the name in the Saturnalia of Macrobius, an author whose Somnium Scipionis Chaucer certainly consulted (Book Duch. 284; Parl. Foules, 111). In this work Macrobius mentions, incidentally, both Alcestis (lib. v. c. 19) and Agatho (lib. ii. c. 1), and Chaucer may have observed the names there, though he obtained no particular information about them. Froissart (as Bech bids us remark), in his poem on the Daisy, has the lines:—
The remark—‘ce dist li escripture,’ ‘as the book says’—may Edition: current; Page: [xxxiv] well have suggested to Chaucer that he ought to give some authority for his story, and the name of Agatho (of whom he probably knew nothing more than the name) served his turn as well as another. His easy way of citing authors is probably, at times, humorously assumed; and such may be the explanation of his famous ‘Lollius.’ It is quite useless to make any further search.
I may add that this Agatho, or Agathon (Ἀγάθων), was an Athenian tragic poet, and a friend of Euripides and Plato. He was born about bc 447, and died about bc 400.
Lounsbury (Studies in Chaucer, ii. 402) rejects this explanation; but it is not likely that we shall ever meet with a better one.
§ 7. Chief Sources of the Legend. The more obvious sources of the various tales have frequently been pointed out. Thus Prof. Morley, in his English Writers, v. 241 (1890), says that Thisbe is from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, iv. 55-166; Dido, from Vergil and Ovid’s Heroides, Ep. vii; Hypsipyle and Medea from Ovid (Met. vii., Her. Ep. vi, xii); Lucretia from Ovid (Fasti, ii. 721) and Livy (Hist. i. 57); Ariadne and Philomela from Ovid (Met. viii. 152, vi. 412-676), and Phyllis and Hypermnestra also from Ovid (Her. Ep. ii. and Ep. xiv). He also notes the allusion to St. Augustine (De Civitate Dei, cap. xix.) in l. 1690, and observes that all the tales, except those of Ariadne and Phyllis1, are in Boccaccio’s De Claris Mulieribus. But it is possible to examine them a little more closely, and to obtain further light upon at least a few other points. It will be most convenient to take each piece in its order. For some of my information, I am indebted to the essay by Bech, above mentioned (p. xxviii).
§ 8. Prologue. Original. Besides mere passing allusions, we find references to the story of Alcestis, queen of Thrace (4322, 518). As she is not mentioned in Boccaccio’s book De Claris Mulieribus, and Ovid nowhere mentions her name, and only alludes in passing to the ‘wife of Admetus’ in two passages (Ex Ponto, iii. 1. 106; Trist. v. 14. 37), it is tolerably certain that Chaucer must have read her story either in Boccaccio’s book De Genealogia Deorum, lib. xiii. c. 1 (see p. xxix), or in the Fables of Hyginus (Fab. 51). A large number of the names Edition: current; Page: [xxxv] mentioned in the Balade (249) were suggested either by Boccaccio’s De Claris Mulieribus, or by Ovid’s Heroides; probably, by both of these works. We may here also note that the Fables of Hyginus very briefly give the stories of Jason and Medea (capp. 24, 25); Theseus and Ariadne (capp. 41-43); Philomela (cap. 45); Alcestis (cap. 51); Phyllis (cap. 59); Laodamia (cap. 104); Polyxena (cap. 110); Hypermnestra (cap. 168); Nisus and Scylla (cap. 198; cf. ll. 1904-1920); Penelope (cap. 126); and Helena (capp. 78, 92). The probability that Chaucer consulted Machault’s and Froissart’s poems has already been discussed; see p. xxxi.
It is interesting to note that Chaucer had already praised many of his Good Women in previous poems. Compare such passages as the following:—
The last quotation proves clearly, that Chaucer was already meditating a new version of the Legend of Dido, to be made up from the Æneid and the Heroides, whilst still engaged upon the House of Fame (which actually gives this story at considerable length, viz. in ll. 140-382); and consequently, that the Legend of Good Women succeeded the House of Fame by a very short interval. But this is not all; for only a few lines further on we find the following passage:—
Here we already have an outline of the Legend of Phyllis; a reference to Briseis; to Jason, Hypsipyle, Medea, and to Deianira; a sufficient sketch of the Legend of Ariadne; and another version of the Legend of Dido.
We trace a lingering influence upon Chaucer of the Roman de la Rose; see notes to ll. 125, 128, 171. Dante is both quoted Edition: current; Page: [xxxvii] and mentioned by name; ll. 357-360. Various other allusions are pointed out in the Notes.
In ll. 280, 281, 284, 305-308 of the A-text of the Prologue (pp. 89, 90), Chaucer refers us to several authors, but not necessarily in connexion with the present work. Yet he actually makes use (at second-hand) of Titus (i. e. Livy, l. 1683), and also further of the ‘epistles of Ovyde.’ He takes occasion to refer to his own translation of the Roman de la Rose (B. ll. 329, 441, 470), and to his Troilus (ll. 332, 441, 469); besides enumerating many of his poems (417-428).
I. The Legend of Cleopatra. The source of this legend is by no means clear. As Bech points out, some expressions shew that one of the sources was the Epitome Rerum Romanarum of L. Annæus Florus, lib. iv. c. 11; see notes to ll. 655, 662, 679. No doubt Chaucer also consulted Boccaccio’s De Claris Mulieribus, cap. 86, though he makes no special use of the account there given. The story is also in the history of Orosius, bk. iv. c. 19; see Sweet’s edition of King Alfred’s Orosius, p. 247. Besides which, I think he may have had access to a Latin translation of Plutarch, or of excerpts from the same; see the notes.
It is worth while to note here that Gower (ed. Pauli, iii. 361) has the following lines:—
It is clear that he here refers to Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women, because he actually repeats Chaucer’s very peculiar account of the manner of Cleopatra’s death. See § 9, p. xl. Compare L. G. W. ll. 695-697; and note that, both in Chaucer and Gower, the Legend of Thisbe follows that of Cleopatra; whilst the Legend of Philomela immediately follows that of Ariadne. This is more than mere coincidence. See Bech’s essay; Anglia, v. 365.
II. The Legend of Thisbe. This is from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, iv. 55-166, and from no other source. Some of the lines are closely translated, but in other places the phraseology is entirely recast. The free manner in which Chaucer treats Edition: current; Page: [xxxviii] his original is worthy of study; see, as to this, the excellent criticism of Ten Brink, in his Geschichte der Englischen Litteratur; ii. 117. Most noteworthy of all is his suppression of the mythological element. The story gains in pathos in a high degree by the omission of the mulberry-tree, the colour of the fruit of which was changed from white to black by the blood of Pyramus; see note to l. 851. This is the more remarkable, because it was just for the sake of this very metamorphosis that Ovid admitted the tale into his series. See also notes to ll. 745, 784, 797, 798, 814, 835, 869, &c.; and cf. Gower’s Confessio Amantis, ed. Pauli, i. 324.
III. The Legend of Dido. Chiefly from Vergil’s Aeneid, books i-iv. (see note to l. 928, and compare the notes throughout); but ll. 1355-1365 are from Ovid’s Heroides, vii. 1-8, quoted at length in the note to l. 1355. And see, particularly, the House of Fame, ll. 140-382. Cf. Gower, C. A. ii. 4-61.
IV. The Legends of Hypsipyle and Medea. The sources mentioned by Morley are Ovid’s Metamorphoses, bk. vii., and Heroides, epist. vi.; to which we must add Heroides, epist. xii. But this omits a much more important source, to which Chaucer expressly refers. In l. 1396, all previous editions have the following reading—‘In Tessalye, as Ovyde telleth us’; but four important MSS. read Guido for Ovyde, and they are quite right2. The false reading Ovyde is the more remarkable, because all the MSS. have the reading Guido in l. 1464, where a change would have destroyed the rime. As a matter of fact, ll. 1396-1461 are from Guido delle Colonne’s Historia Troiana, book i. (see notes to ll. 1396, 1463); and ll. 1580-3, 1589-1655 are also from the same, book ii. (see notes to ll. 1580, 1590). Another source which Chaucer may have consulted, though he made but little use of it, was the first and second books of the Argonautica of Valerius Flaccus, expressly mentioned in l. 1457 (see notes to ll. 1457, 1469, 1479, 1509, 1558)3. The use made of Ovid, Met. vii., Edition: current; Page: [xxxix] is extremely slight (see note to l. 1661). As to Ovid, Her. vii., xii., see notes to ll. 1564, 1670. The net result is that Guido is a far more important source of this Legend than all the passages from Ovid put together. Chaucer also doubtless consulted the fifth book of the Thebaid of his favourite author Statius; see notes to ll. 1457, 1467. Perhaps he also consulted Hyginus, whose 14th Fable gives the long list of the Argonauts, and the 15th, a sketch of the story of Hypsipyle. Compare also Boccaccio, De Claris Mulieribus, capp. 15, 16; and the same, De Genealogia Deorum, lib. xiii. c. 26. Observe also that Gower gives the story of Medea, and expressly states that the tale ‘is in the boke of Troie write,’ i. e. in Guido. See Pauli’s edition, ii. 236.
V. The Legend of Lucretia. Chaucer refers to Livy’s History (bk. i. capp. 57-59); and to Ovid (Fasti, ii. 721-852). With a few exceptions, the Legend follows the latter source. He also refers to St. Augustine; see note to l. 16901. Cf. Boccaccio, De Claris Mulieribus, cap. 46, who follows Livy. Several touches are Chaucer’s own; see notes to ll. 1812, 1838, 1861, 1871, 1881.
Gower has the same story (iii. 251), and likewise follows Ovid and Livy.
VI. The Legend of Ariadne. From Ovid, Met. vii. 456-8, viii. 6-182; Her. Epist. x. (chiefly 1-74); cf. Fasti, iii. 461-516. But Chaucer consulted other sources also, probably a Latin translation of Plutarch’s Life of Theseus; Boccaccio, De Genealogia Deorum, lib. xi. capp. 27, 29, 30; also Vergil, Aen. vi. 20-30; and perhaps Hyginus, Fabulae, capp. 41-43. Cf. House of Fame, 405-426; and Gower, ii. 3022.
VII. The Legend of Philomela. Chiefly from Ovid, Met. vi. 424-605; and perhaps from no other source, though the use of the word radevore in l. 2352 is yet to be accounted for. Cf. Boccaccio, De Genealogia Deorum, lib. ix. c. 8; and Gower, Conf. Amantis, ii. 313, who refers us to Ovid.
VIII. The Legend of Phyllis. Chiefly from Ovid, Her. Edition: current; Page: [xl] Epist. ii.; cf. Remedia Amoris, 591-608. But a comparison with the story as told by Gower (C. A. ii. 26) shews that both poets consulted some further source, which I cannot trace. The tale is told by Hyginus (Fab. capp. 59, 243) and Boccaccio in a few lines. Cf. House of Fame, 388-396. A few lines are from Vergil, Æn. i. 85-102, 142; iv. 373. And see notes to Lydgate’s Temple of Glas, ed. Schick, p. 75.
IX. The Legend of Hypermnestra. Chiefly from Ovid, Her. Epist. xiv. But Ovid calls her husband Lynceus, whereas Chaucer calls him Lino. Again, Ovid does not give the name of Lynceus’ father. Chaucer not only transposes the names of the two fathers1, but calls Ægyptus by the name of Egiste or Egistes. Hence we see that he also consulted Boccaccio, De Genealogia Deorum, lib. ii. c. 22, where we find the following account: ‘Danaus Beli Prisci fuit filius, ut asserit Paulus2, et illud idem affirmat Lactantius, qui etiam et ante Paulum Orosium, dicit Danaum Beli filium ex pluribus coniugibus .l. filias habuisse, quas cum Ægistus frater eius, cui totidem erant melioris sexus filii, postulasset in nurus, Danaus oraculi responso comperto se manibus generi moriturum, uolens euitare periculum, conscensis nauibus in Argos uenit . . . . Ægistus autem, quod spretus esset indignans, ut illum sequerentur filiis imperauit, lege data ut nunquam domum repeterent, ni prius Danaum occidissent. Qui cum apud Argos oppugnarent patruum, ab eo diffidente fraude capti sunt. Spopondit enim se illis iuxta Ægisti uotum filias daturum in coniuges, nec defuit promisso fides. Subornatae enim a patre uirorum intrauere thalamos singulis cultris clam armatae omnes, et cum uino laetitiaque calentes iuuenes facile in soporem iuissent, obedientes patri uirgines, captato tempore iugulauerunt uiros, unaquaeque suum, Hypermestra excepta, quae Lino seu Linceo uiro suo miserta pepercit.’ We may note, by the way, that Chaucer’s spelling Hypermistre is nearer to Boccaccio’s Hypermestra than to the form in Ovid.
§ 9. Gower’s Confessio Amantis. The relationship of Edition: current; Page: [xli] Gower’s Confessio Amantis to Chaucer’s Legend has been investigated by Bech; in Anglia, v. 365-371. His conclusion is, that the passages in Gower which resemble Chaucer are only three at most; and I am here concerned to shew that, in two of these, the supposed resemblance is delusive.
1. In Gower’s introduction, at the very beginning, ed. Pauli, i. 4, we are told that, but for books, the renown of many excellent people would be lost. This seems to be copied from Chaucer’s Prologue to the Legend, ll. 17-28. I have no doubt that such is the case; but we must be careful to remember that these lines by Gower form part of the prologue to his second edition, and were not written till 1393; by which time Chaucer’s lines were common property, and could be imitated by any one who chose to do it; so we really learn nothing at all from this comparison.
2. In Gower, i. 45-48, there is a passage which bears some resemblance to Chaucer’s Prologue to the Legend. But if it be considered impartially, I believe it will be found that the resemblance is too vague to be of any value, and cannot be relied upon. We really must not set much store by such generalities as the mention of the month of May; the address of the poet to Cupid and Venus; the wrathful aspect of Cupid; and the graciousness of Venus, who bids him disclose his malady and shrive himself. If Gower could not ‘invent’ such common poetical talk, he had small business to write at all. I would rather conclude, that Gower had no opportunity of seeing Chaucer’s poem till somewhat later; for it is a striking fact, that, whereas Gower seized the opportunity of copying some of Chaucer’s phrases in the Tale of Constance (see this discussed at p. 415), he tells several of Chaucer’s Legends, such as those of Thisbe, Dido, Medea, Lucrece, Ariadne, Philomela, and Phyllis in a wholly independent manner; and, when telling the tale of Alcestis (iii. 149), he had no idea that she was ever transformed into a daisy. Moreover, if he had been able to refer to the Legend, l. 1355-6, he would hardly have translated ‘Maeandri’ by ‘king Menander’ (ii. 5).
Without hesitation, I dismiss these alleged resemblances as trifling, and the deduction from them as misleading.
3. But when we come to the very end of Gower’s work (iii. 357-367), the case is entirely altered, and the resemblances are striking and irrefragable. This is best seen by comparing the whole passage. Gower is in the midst of lamenting his old age, Edition: current; Page: [xlii] a subject to which he afterwards returns, when he suddenly introduces a digression, in which he sees
After which we are introduced to Tristram and Isolde, Jason and Hercules, Theseus and Phedra, Troilus and Criseide and Diomede, Pyramus, Dido, Phyllis, Adriane, Cleopatra, Tisbe, Progne and Philomene and Tereus, Lucrece, Alcestis; and even Ceyx and Alcyone (cf. Chaucer’s youthful poem). The matter is put beyond doubt by Gower’s adoption of Chaucer’s peculiar account of Cleopatra’s death, as already noted above; see p. xxxvii.
The conclusion to be drawn from these facts is obvious. We see that, in the year 1385, Gower had almost completed his long poem, and communicated the fact to his friend Chaucer; and Chaucer, in return, told him of the new poem (the Legend) upon which he was then himself engaged, so planned as to contain nineteen tales or sections, and likely to extend to some 6,000 lines. Moreover, it was written in a new metre, such as no Englishman had ever employed before. Gower was allowed to see the MS. and to read a considerable portion of it. He was so struck with it as to make room for some remarks about it; and even went out of his way to introduce a personal reference to his friend. He makes Venus say to himself (iii. 374):—
That is to say, Chaucer, being the poet of Venus, is to make his testament of love, or final declaration concerning love, in a form suitable for being recorded in the court of the goddess. This ‘testament’ is, of course, the Legend of Good Women, in which the martyrs of love are duly recorded; and their stories, written at the command of Cupid and by way of penance for what he had missaid against women, were to be placed to the good side of the author’s account with Venus and her son. Moreover, they were finally to be sent in to the visible representative of the court of Love, viz. to the queen of England and her court.
It is interesting to observe that Gower, like Chaucer himself at the moment, regarded this poem as the crowning effort of Chaucer’s poetical career. Neither of them had, at the time, any suspicion that Chaucer would, after all, ‘sette an ende of alle his werke’ in a very different manner. We may thus confidently date the first edition of Gower’s Confessio Amantis in the year 1385, before the Legend of Hypermnestra was abandoned in the middle of a sentence. The date of the second edition of the same is 1393; and it is a great help to have these dates thus settled.
§ 10. Metre. The most interesting point about this poem is that it is the first of the ‘third period’ of Chaucer’s literary work. Here, for the first time, he writes a series of tales, to which he prefixes a prologue; he adopts a new style, in which he seeks to delineate characters; and, at the same time, he introduces a new metre, previously unknown to English writers, but now famous as ‘the heroic couplet.’ In all these respects, the Legend is evidently the forerunner of the Canterbury Tales, and we see how he was gradually, yet unconsciously, preparing himself for that supreme work. In two notable respects, as Ten Brink remarks, the Legend is inferior to the Tales. The various legends composing it are merely grouped together, not joined by connecting links which afford an agreeable relief. And again, the Prologue to the Legend is mere allegory, whilst the famous Prologue to the Tales is full of real life and dramatic sketches of character.Edition: current; Page: [xliv]
Chaucer had already introduced the seven-line stanza, unknown to his predecessors—the earliest example being the Compleint unto Pite—as well as the eight-line stanza, employed in his earliest extant poem, the A. B. C. For the hint as to this form of verse, he was doubtless indebted in the first instance to French poets, such as Guillaume de Machault, though he afterwards conformed his lines, as regarded their cadence and general laws, to those of Boccaccio and Dante1.
The idea of the heroic couplet was also, I suppose, taken from French; we find it in a Complainte written by Machault about 1356-8 (see below, p. 383); but here, again, Chaucer’s melody has rather the Italian than the French character. The lines in Froissart’s poem on the Daisy (p. xxxi) are of the same length, but rime together in groups of seven lines at a time, separated by short lines having two accents only. Boccaccio’s favourite stanza in the Teseide, known as the ottava rima, ends with two lines that form an heroic couplet2.
§ 11. ‘Clipped’ Lines. It ought to be clearly understood that the introduction of the new metre was quite an experiment, for which Chaucer himself offers some apology when he makes the God of Love say expressly: ‘Make the metres of hem as thee leste’ (l. 562). Hence it was that he introduced into the line a variety which is now held to be inadmissible; though we must not forget that even so great a master of melody as Tennyson, after beginning his ‘Vision of Sin’ with lines of normal length, begins the second portion of it with the lines:—
It is precisely this variation that Chaucer sometimes allowed himself, and it is easy to see how it came to pass.
In lines of a shorter type we constantly find a similar variation. There are a large number of ‘clipped’ lines in the House of Fame. Practically, their first foot consists of a single syllable, and they may be scanned accordingly, by marking off that syllable at the beginning. Thus, ll. 2117-2120 run thus:—
This variation is still admissible, and is, of course, common enough in such poems as Milton’s L’Allegro and Il Penseroso. It is considered a beauty.
The introduction of two more syllables in lines of the above type gives us a similar variation in the longer line. If, for example, after the word thousand in the third of the above lines, we introduce the word freres (dissyllabic), we obtain the line:—
It is a remarkable fact, that this very line actually occurs in the Canterbury Tales (Group D, 1695); as I have pointed out in the note to l. 2119 of the House of Fame, at p. 286 below. Persistent efforts have often been made to deny this fact, to declare it ‘impossible,’ and to deride me for having pointed it out (as I did in 1866, in Morris’s edition of Chaucer, i. 174); but I believe that the fact is now pretty generally admitted. It is none the less necessary to say here, that there is rather a large number of such lines in the Legend of Good Women; precisely as we might expect to find in a metre which was, in fact, a new experiment. As it is advisable to present the evidence rather fully, I here cite several of these lines, marking off the first syllable in the right way:—
It is worth notice that they become scarcer towards the end of the poem. For all that, Chaucer regarded this form of the line as an admissible variety, and Hoccleve and Lydgate followed him in this peculiarity. The practice of Hoccleve and Lydgate is entirely ignored by those to whom it is convenient to ignore it. Perhaps they do not understand it. The usual argument of those who wish to regulate Chaucer’s verse according to their own preconceived ideas, is to exclaim against the badness of the MSS. and the stupidity of the scribes. This was tolerably safe before Dr. Furnivall printed his valuable and exact copies of the MSS., but is less safe now. We now have twelve MSS. (some imperfect) in type, besides a copy of Thynne’s first edition of the poem in 1532, making thirteen authorities in all. Now, as far as this particular matter is concerned, the chief MSS. shew a wonderful unanimity. In ll. 41, 111, 224, 722, 797, 901, 911, 1076, 1187, 1996, there is no variation that affects the scansion. And this means a great deal more than it seems to do at first sight. For the scribes of MSS. A. and T. evidently did not like these lines, and sometimes attempted emendations with all the hardihood of modern editors. The fact that the scribes are unwilling witnesses, with a tendency to corrupt the evidence, makes their testimony upon this point all the stronger. Added to which, I here admit that, wherever there seemed to be sufficient evidence, I have so far yielded to popular prejudice as to receive the suggested emendation. I now leave this matter to the consideration of the unprejudiced reader; merely observing, that I believe a considerable Edition: current; Page: [xlvii] number of lines in the Canterbury Tales have been ‘emended’ in order to get rid of lines of this character, solely on the strength of the Harleian MS., the scribe of which kept a keen look-out, with a view to the suppression of this eccentricity on the part of his author. To give him much encouragement seems inconsistent with strict morality.
The introduction (ll. 249-269) of a Balade of twenty-one lines makes every succeeding couplet end with a line denoted by an odd number. The whole number of lines is 2,723. Dr. Furnivall was the first person who succeeded in counting their number correctly.
§ 12. Description of the Manuscripts. The MSS. easily fall into two distinct classes, and may be separated by merely observing the reading of l. 1396: see note to that line. MSS. C., T., A. here read Guido or Guydo; whilst MSS. F., Tn., B. read Ouyde. MS. P. is here deficient, but commonly agrees with the former class. Those of the same class will be described together. Besides this, MS. C. is, as regards the Prologue only, unique of its kind; and is throughout of the highest authority, notwithstanding some unpleasant peculiarities of spelling. It is necessary to pay special attention to it.
The list of the MSS. (including Thynne’s edition) is as follows:—
They may be thus described.
C. (Camb. Univ. Lib. Gg. 4. 27) is the famous Cambridge MS., Edition: current; Page: [xlviii] containing the Canterbury Tales, denoted by the symbol ‘Cm.’ in the footnotes to vol. iv (i. e. throughout the Canterbury Tales); also by the symbol ‘Gg.’ in vol. i., i. e. in the Minor Poems; see p. 49 of the Introduction to vol. i. It also contains some other pieces by Chaucer, viz. the A. B. C., Envoy to Scogan, Truth, Troilus, and the Parlement of Foules. It is of early date, and altogether the oldest, best, and most important of the existing copies of the Legend. I shall call all those that resemble it MSS. of the first class.
Its great peculiarity is that it possesses the unique copy of the early draught of the Prologue; see p. xxi. Upon comparison of it with the Fairfax MS. (the best MS. of the second class), it is found to offer slight differences in many places throughout the various Legends, besides presenting large differences throughout the Prologue. The variations are frequently for the better, and it becomes clear that the first class of MSS. is of an older type. The second class is of a later type, and differs in two ways, in one way for the worse, and in another way for the better. In the former respect, it presents corrupted or inferior readings in several passages; whilst, on the other hand, it presents corrections that are real improvements, and may have been due to revision. No doubt there was once in existence a correct edition of the revised text, but no existing MS. represents it. We can, however, practically reconstruct it by a careful collation of MS. C. with MS. F.; and this I have attempted to do. Throughout the Prologue, I take MS. C. as the basis of the ‘A-text,’ correcting its eccentricities of spelling, but recording them in footnotes wherever the variation is at all important; such a variation as hym for him, or yt for hit, I regard as being of no value. At the same time, I take MS. F. as the basis of the B-text, and correct it, where necessary, by collation with the rest. Throughout the Legends themselves, I take MS. F. as the basis of the text, collating it with C. throughout, so that the text really depends on a comparison of these MSS.; if MS. C. had been made the basis, the result would have been much the same. It was convenient to take F. as the basis, because it agrees, very nearly, with all previous editions of the poem. Unfortunately, leaf 469 of MS. C. has been cut out of it; and, in consequence, ll. 1836-1907 are missing. The scribe has missed ll. 1922, 1923, 2506, 2507, in the process of copying.Edition: current; Page: [xlix]
Addit. 9832. This is an imperfect MS., ending at l. 1985, no more leaves of the MS. being left after that line. Besides this, the scribe has omitted several lines, viz. ll. 166, 233, 234, 332, 333, 351, 865-872, 960, 961, 1255, 1517, 1744-1746, 1783, 1895, 1945. It belongs to the first class of the MSS., but is an unsatisfactory copy, and I have not fully collated it. It confirms, however, several of the readings of this edition, as distinguished from former editions.
Addit. 12524. This also is only a fragment. The first leaf begins at l. 1640 of the poem, from which point it is complete to the end, though ll. 2454-2461 are partially effaced. It belongs to the first class of MSS., but is a late copy, and I have not fully collated it. It confirms several of my readings.
T.—MS. Trin. Coll. Cam. R. 3. 19. Denoted by the symbol ‘Trin.’ in my edition of the Minor Poems, and described in vol. i., Introd. p. 56. It is of rather late date, about 1500, but belongs to the first class of MSS. The scribe has omitted the following lines, viz. 233, 234, 332, 333, 489, 960, 961, 1627, 2202, 2203, 2287-2292, and 2509.
A.—MS. Arch. Selden B. 24 (Bodley). Denoted by the symbol ‘Ar.’ in my edition of the Minor Poems, and described in vol. i., Introd. p. 54. A Scottish copy, written about 1472. It belongs to the first class of MSS., but the Scottish scribe sometimes takes liberties, and gives us a reading of his own. For example, l. 714 becomes:—‘As in grete townis the maner is and wone.’ But its readings, on the whole, are good. It alone preserves the word ‘almychti’ in l. 1538, which in all the rest is too short; this may not have been the original reading, but it gives a fair line, and furnishes as good an emendation as we are likely to get. The scribe has omitted ll. 860, 861, 960, 961, 1568-1571, 2226, and 2227; besides which, one leaf of the MS. is missing, causing the loss of ll. 2551-2616.
P.—Pepys 2006, Magd. Coll., Cambridge. Denoted by ‘P.’ in my edition of the Minor Poems, of which it contains ten. It belongs, on the whole, to the first class of MSS. The scribe has omitted ll. 232, 437, 623, and 1275. Besides this, it has lost at least one leaf, causing the complete loss of ll. 706-776, whilst ll. 777-845 are in a different handwriting. At l. 1377 it breaks off altogether, so that it is only a fragment. It gives l. 1377 in the following extraordinary form:—‘And thow wer not fals to oon, Edition: current; Page: [l] but thow wer fals to twoo’; giving six feet at least to the line, and a syllable over.
α.—Addit. 28617. A fair MS., but only a fragment, as already noted (p. xlvii). It confirms many of my readings; as, e.g., in ll. 1995, 2019, 2020, 2199, &c. It varies in l. 1999, but gives there an excellent reading:—That is nat derk, and ther is roum and space.
β.—Camb. Univ. Library, Ff. 1. 6. Contains the Legend of Thisbe only. A late and poor MS., of small account.
γ.—Rawl. C. 86 (Bodleian Library). Contains the Legend of Dido only. A poor text, with many errors. Yet it seems to be of the first class, and preserves ll. 960-1. It confirms my readings of ll. 1048, 1074, 1079, 1139, 1144, 1159, 1174, 1195, 1196, 1215, 1366.
F.—Fairfax 16 (Bodleian Library). This is the valuable MS. which contains so many of the Minor Poems. It is described in my Introd. to the Minor Poems; vol. i. p. 51. I have taken it as the basis of the edition, though it was necessary to correct it in all the places where the MSS. of the first class have better readings. It is the best MS. of the second class, and Bell’s edition does little more than follow it, almost too faithfully, though the editor professes to have collated with it the MS. A. described above. The same text, in the main, reappears in the editions by Thynne, Morris, Corson, Gilman. The scribe is careless, and frequently leaves out essential words; he also omits ll. 249, 487, 846, 960, 961, 14901, 1643, 1693, 1998, part of 2150, 2151, 2152, part of 21532, 2193, 2338 (in place of which a spurious line is inserted in a wrong place), and 2475. Besides this, the scribe often ruins the scansion of a line by omitting an essential word in it, as has already been mentioned. Thus in l. 614, he drops the word for, which occurs in all the other MSS. The scribe often wrongly adds or omits a final e, and is too fond of substituting y for i in such words as him, king. When these variations are allowed for, the spelling of the MS. is, for the most part, clear and satisfactory, and a fair guide to the right pronunciation. Rejected spellings are given in footnotes as far as l. 924; after which I have made such alterations as are purely trivial without giving notice. Even in ll. 1-924 I have changed hym into him, and kyng into king; Edition: current; Page: [li] and, conversely, strif into stryf, (where the y denotes that the vowel is long), without hesitation and without recording the change. My text is, in fact, spelt phonetically; and, after all, the test of a text of Chaucer is to read it with the Middle-English pronunciation as given by Dr. Sweet in his Second Middle-English Primer, and to observe whether the result is perfectly in accord with the flowing melody so manifest in the Canterbury Tales.
B.—Bodley 638. Closely related to MS. F., and almost a duplicate of it, both being derived from a common source. B. is sometimes right where F. is wrong; thus in l. 1196 it has houyn, where F. has heuen. See Introd. to the Minor Poems, vol. i. p. 53. Of course this MS. belongs, like F., to the second class. It preserves l. 1693 (missing in F.); otherwise it omits all the lines that are omitted in F., as well as ll. 157, 262, 623, 1345, 1866; all of which F. retains. Like F., it has a spurious line in place of l. 2338.
Tn.—Tanner 346 (Bodley). This is a MS. of the second class, strongly resembling F.; see Introd. to the Minor Poems, vol. i. p. 54. It preserves ll. 1693, 2193, 2475; otherwise it omits all the lines omitted in F., as well as the latter half of l. 1378 and the former half of l. 1379. It has a spurious line in place of l. 2338. It is clear that F., B., and Tn. are all from a common source, which was an older MS. not now known.
§ 13. Description of the Printed Editions. Th.—Thynne’s edition; ad 1532. This follows, mainly, the MSS. of the second class; its alliance with F., B., and Tn. is shewn by its containing the spurious form of l. 2338. But it gives the genuine form also, so that in this place three lines rime together. It is more complete than any of those MSS., preserving the lines which they omit (excepting ll. 960, 961), save that it omits ll. 1326, 1327 (doubtless by oversight), which are found in these three MSS., and indeed in all the copies. Probably Thynne used more than one MS., as he sometimes agrees with the MSS. of the first class. Thus, in l. 1163, he reads vpreysed had, as in C., T., A., P., instead of vp-reyseth hath, as in F., Tn., B. He might, however, have corrected this by the light of nature. In ll. 1902, 1923, Thynne alone gives the right reading Alcathoe; unfortunately, both these lines are missing in MS. C. The chief faults of Thynne’s edition are its omission of ll. 960, 961, 1326, 1327, and its spurious l. 2338. Thynne was also unfortunate in following, in general, the authority of a MS. of the second class.Edition: current; Page: [lii]
Some later editions.—Later editions appeared in the collected editions of Chaucer’s Works, viz. in 1542, (about) 1550, 1561, 1598, 1602, 1687; after which came Urry’s useless edition of 1721. Excepting the last, I suppose the editions are all mere reprints; each being worse than its predecessor, as is almost always the case. At any rate, the edition of 1561 is a close reprint of Thynne, with a few later spellings, such as guide in place of Thynne’s gyde in l. 969. This edition of course omits ll. 960, 961, 1326, 1327; and gives the spurious l. 2338.
According to Lowndes, other later editions of Chaucer’s Works are the following:—Edinburgh, 1777; 18mo. 12 vols.—Edinburgh, 1782; 12mo. 14 vols.—In Anderson’s British Poets, Edinburgh, 1793-1807; royal 8vo. 13 vols.—In Cooke’s British Poets, London, 1798, &c., 18mo. 80 parts.—In Chalmers’ English Poets, London, 1810; royal 8vo. 21 vols. I suppose that all of these are mere reprints; such is certainly the case with the edition by Chalmers, which merely reproduces Tyrwhitt’s edition of the Canterbury Tales, and follows ‘the black-letter editions’ throughout the other poems. The same remark applies to the edition printed by Moxon in 1855, and attributed to Tyrwhitt as editor.
Other editions are those by S. W. Singer, London, 1822, fcp. 8vo. 5 vols.; by Sir H. Nicolas (in the Aldine edition of English Poets), London, 1845, post 8vo. 6 vols.; and by Robert Bell, London, 1855, 12mo. 8 vols. The last was really edited by Mr. Jephson.
Bell’s (so-called) edition was conveniently reprinted in four volumes, in Bohn’s Standard Library; a revised edition of this was published in 1878, with a Preliminary Essay by myself. Of the Legend of Good Women, the editor (Mr. Jephson) remarks that ‘the text of the present edition is founded upon a careful collation of the MS. Fairfax 16, in the Bodleian Library, and MS. Arch. Seld. B. 24’; i.e. upon a collation of F. with A. It gives us the text of MS. F., with the missing lines supplied from Thynne or from MS. A. It omits ll. 960, 961, and inserts ll. 1326, 1327 in the wrong place, viz. after l. 1329. At l. 2338, it gives both the correct and the spurious forms of the line; so that here (as in Thynne) three lines rime together. In l. 2150-3, the same confusion occurs as is noticed below, in the account of Morris’s edition. The chief gain in this edition is that it has a few explanatory notes. Of these I have freely availed myself, marking them with the word ‘Bell’ whenever I quote them exactly; though Edition: current; Page: [liii] they were really written, as I am told, by Mr. Jephson, whose name nowhere appears, except at p. 12 of my Essay, as prefixed to the revised edition.
The Aldine edition was reprinted in 1866, on which occasion it was edited by Dr. Morris. With respect to the Legend of Good Women, Dr. Morris says that it is copied from MS. F., collated with MSS. A., C. (privately printed at Cambridge by Mr. H. Bradshaw, 1864), and MSS. Addit. 9832 and 12524. In this edition, variations from the MS. (F.) are denoted by italic letters, but such variations are very few. Practically, we here find a correct print of MS. F., with most of the missing lines supplied by collation, and with very few corrections. Lines 960, 961 are, however, still omitted, though found in MS. C.; but ll. 1326, 1327 (also omitted by Thynne) are duly given, being found, in fact, in MS. F. At l. 2338, the correct line is given, but the spurious line is also retained; so that (as in Thynne) three lines here rime together. In the former part of l. 2153, a part of l. 2150 is repeated, giving us by instead of eek; the fact is that the scribe slipped from gayler in l. 2150 to gayler in l. 2153, omitting all that came between these words. Nothing is said about the interesting form of the Prologue as existing in MS. C. There are no explanatory notes.
Besides the English editions, two editions of the Legend of Good Women have appeared in America, which demand some notice.
Of these, the former is a very handy edition of the Legend of Good Women, published separately for the first time, and edited by Professor Hiram Corson. The text is that of Bell’s edition; but the explanatory notes are fuller and better, and I have carefully consulted them. At the end is an Index of all the words explained, which really serves the purpose of a glossary. This is certainly the best edition I have met with.
The other edition is that of Chaucer’s Works, edited by Arthur Gilman, and published at Boston in 1879, in three volumes. The Legend of Good Women occurs in vol. iii. pp. 79-183. The harder words are explained in footnotes, and there are just a few notes on the subject-matter. The chief point in this edition is that the editor quotes some of the more remarkable variations in the Prologue from MS. C., which he says is ‘evidently an earlier one than the one followed in the text, Fairfax 16, in Edition: current; Page: [liv] the Bodleian Library, Oxford.’ Yet his text is a mere reprint from that of Morris; it omits ll. 960, 961, and gives l. 2338 both in its correct and in its spurious form. Consequently, it contains 2722 lines instead of 2723. The true number of lines is odd, because of the Balade of 21 lines at l. 249.
The net result is this; that none of the editions are complete, and they are all much the same. After twenty editions, we are left almost where we started at first. Thynne’s edition was founded on a MS. very closely resembling F., but more complete; still it omits four lines, and gives l. 2338 twice over, in different forms. The same is true of all the numerous reprints from it. Bell’s edition restores ll. 1326, 1327, but in the wrong place; whilst Morris’s edition restores them in the right place. These lines actually occur in MS. F. (in the right place), and could hardly have been unnoticed in collating the proofs with the MS. These editions are both supposed to be collated with MS. A. at least, but the results of such collation are practically nil, as that MS. was merely consulted to supply missing lines. The editors practically ignore the readings of that MS., except where F. is imperfect. Hence they did not discover that MS. A. belongs to a different class of MSS., and that it frequently gives earlier and better readings. But even A. omits ll. 960, 961, though it also rightly suppresses the spurious form of l. 2338.
§ 14. Some Improvements in my Edition of 1889. No real advance towards a better text was made till Dr. Furnivall brought out, for the Chaucer Society, his valuable and exact prints of the manuscripts themselves. This splendid and important work gives the texts in extenso of all the MSS. above mentioned, viz. MSS. C., F., Tn., T., A., and Th. (Thynne’s ed.) in the ‘Parallel-Text edition of Chaucer’s Minor Poems,’ Part III; MSS. B., Addit. 9832, P., and Addit. 12524, in the ‘Supplementary Parallel-Texts,’ Part II; and MSS. α, β, γ, in ‘Odd Texts,’ 1880. But for the invaluable help thus rendered, the edition of 1889 would never have been undertaken, and I should never have attained to so clear an understanding of the text. I have already said that Dr. Furnivall was the first person who succeeded in numbering the lines of the poem correctly; indeed, most editions have no numbering at all.
I have not thought it necessary to encumber the pages with wholly inferior readings that are of no value, but I have carefully Edition: current; Page: [lv] collated the best MSS., viz. C., F., Tn., T., A., B., and sometimes P., besides keeping an eye upon Th., i.e. Thynne’s edition. I thus was enabled to see the true state of the case, viz. that the MSS. of the first class (C., T., A., P., Addit. 9832, 12524, and 28617) have been practically neglected altogether; whilst, of the MSS. &c. of the second class (F., Tn., B., Th.), only F. and Th. have received sufficient attention. It is now abundantly clear that the best authorities are C. and F., as being of different classes, and that the right plan is to consult these first, and then to see how the other MSS. support them. A long list of important emendations, and an exposure of the extreme inaccuracy of most of the previous editions, will be found in the Introduction to my edition of 1889, and need not be repeated here.
§ 15. Conclusion. In conclusion, I may mention the Poem in MS. Ashmole 59, entitled ‘The Cronycle made by Chaucier. ¶ Here nowe folowe the names of the nyene worshipfullest Ladyes . . . by Chaucier.’ It is a poor production, perhaps written by Shirley, and merely gives a short epitome of the contents of the Legend of Good Women. The words ‘by Chaucier’ refer to Chaucer’s authorship of the Legend only, and not to the authorship of the epitome, which, though of some interest, is practically worthless. The author makes the odd mistake of confusing the story of Alcestis with that of Ceyx and Alcyone in the Book of the Duchesse (62-230). This ‘Cronycle’ was printed by Dr. Furnivall in his Odd-texts of Chaucer’s Minor Poems, Part i.
I have now only to record my indebtedness to others, especially to Dr. Furnivall for his invaluable prints in the Parallel-Texts; to the excellent essay by M. Bech, in vol. v. of Anglia1; to Mr. Jephson for his notes in ‘Bell’s’ edition; and to the notes in the edition by Professor Corson. Also to Professor Ten Brink, the second part of whose second volume of the Geschichte der englischen Litteratur has just appeared (1893).Edition: current; Page: [lvi]
Note.—If the reader finds the two forms of the Prologue troublesome, he has only to confine his attention to the ‘B-text,’ in the lower part of pp. 65-105. The text agrees with that usually given, and contains 579 lines. The first line of ‘Cleopatra’ is l. 580, the numbering being continuous. Besides this, the lines of each Legend are given separately, within marks of parenthesis. Thus l. 589 is the 10th line of ‘Cleopatra’; and so in other cases.
I here subjoin an Additional Note to lines 1896-8.
At p. xxxix. above (footnote no. 2), I give Bech’s reference to Godfrey of Viterbo. The passage runs thus:—
§ 1. Description of the MSS. The existing MSS. of the ‘Astrolabe’ are still numerous. I have been successful in finding no less than twenty-two, which I here describe. It is remarkable that, although many printed editions of the treatise have appeared, no first-class MS. has ever hitherto come under the notice of any one of the various editors. This point will appear more clearly hereafter.
§ 2. A.—MS. Dd. 3. 53 (part 2) in the Cambridge University Library. The ‘Treatise on the Astrolabie’ begins at fol. 212 of the MS. considered as a whole, but the folios are now properly renumbered throughout the treatise. The MS. is of vellum, and the writing clear and good, with a great number of neatly drawn diagrams, which appear wherever the words ‘lo here thi figure’ occur in the text. This MS. I have made the basis of the text, and it is followed with sufficient exactness, except when notice to the contrary is given in the Critical Notes.
This MS. is of considerable importance. The handwriting exactly resembles that in MS. B., and a comparison of these MSS. leads to the following results. It appears that MSS. A. and B. were written out by the same scribe, nearly at the same time. The peculiarities of spelling, particularly those which are faulty, are the same in both in a great many instances. It is also clear that the said scribe had but a very dim notion of what he was writing, and committed just such blunders as are described in Edition: current; Page: [lviii] Chaucer’s Lines to Adam Scriveyn, and are there attributed to ‘negligence and rape1.’ It is still more interesting to observe that Chaucer tells us that he had to amend his MSS. by ‘rubbing and scraping’ with his own hand; for MS. A. and B. differ precisely in this point, viz. that while the latter is left uncorrected, the former has been diligently ‘rubbed and scraped’ by the hand of a corrector who well knew what he was doing, and the right letters have been inserted in the right places over the erasures. These inserted letters are in the hand of a second scribe who was a better writer than the first, and who was entrusted with the task of drawing the diagrams. The two hands are contemporaneous, as appears from the additions to the diagrams made by the writer of the text. Unfortunately, there are still a good many errors left. This is because the blunders were so numerous as to beguile the corrector into passing over some of them. When, for example, the scribe, having to write ‘lo here thy figure’ at the end of nearly every section, took the trouble to write the last word ‘vigure’ or ‘vigour’ in nearly every instance, we are not surprised to find that, in a few places, the word has escaped correction. It further appears that some of the later sections, particularly sections 39 and 40, have not been properly revised; the corrector may very well have become a little tired of his task by the time he arrived at them. It must also be remembered, that such blunders as are made by a scribe who is not clear as to the meaning of his subject-matter are by no means the blunders which are most puzzling or most misleading; they are obvious at once as evident blotches, and the general impression left upon the mind by the perusal of this MS. is—that a careless scribe copied it from some almost perfect original, and that his errors were partially corrected by an intelligent corrector (possibly the author), who grew tired of his task just towards the end.
The order of the Conclusions in Part ii. differs from that in all the editions hitherto printed, and the MS. terminates abruptly in the middle of a sentence, at the words ‘howre after howre’ in Conclusion 40 (p. 223). A portion of the page of the MS. below these words is left blank, though the colophon ‘Explicit tractatus,’ &c. was added at the bottom of the page at a later period.Edition: current; Page: [lix]
Certain allusions in the former part of the MS. render it probable that it was written in London, about the year 1400.
§ 3. B.—MS. E Museo 54, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. This is an uncorrected duplicate of the preceding, as has been explained, and ends in the same way, at the words ‘howre after howre,’ followed by a blank space. The chief addition is the rubricated title—‘Bred and mylk For childeren,’ boldly written at the beginning; in the margin are the following notes in a late hand—‘Sir Jiffray Chaucer’—‘Dominus Gaufredus Chaucerus’—‘Galfredi Chauceri Tractatus de Ratione et vsu Astrolabij ad Ludouicum filium.’
§ 4. C.—MS. Rawlinson, Misc. 1262, otherwise 1370 (leaves 22-42), in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
This is a beautifully written MS., on vellum, with 38 pages of text, and 4 blank pages. It has the Conclusions in the same order as the preceding, six well-executed diagrams, and corrections on nearly every page. It is of early date, perhaps about ad 1420, and of considerable importance. It agrees closely with the text, and, like it, ends with ‘howre after howre.’ Some variations of spelling are to be found in the Critical Notes. In this MS. the Conclusions are numbered in the margin, and the numbers agree with those adopted in this edition.
§ 5. D.—MS. Ashmole 391, in the Bodleian Library. I have made but little use of this MS., on account of its being very imperfect.
§ 6. E.—MS. Bodley 619. This MS., like B., has the title—‘Brede and Milke for children.’ Like other good MSS., it ends sect. 40 with ‘houre after houre.’ But after this, there occurs an additional section, probably not genuine, but printed here (for the sake of completeness) as section 46; see p. 229. Cf. § 17.
At fol. 21 is an additional section, not found elsewhere, which is printed in the Notes; see p. 360. This Conclusion has some claims to our notice, because, whether genuine or not, it is translated from Messahala.
§ 7. F.—MS. 424, in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Very imperfect, especially at the beginning, where a large portion has been lost.
The Conclusions follow the right order, as in the best MSS.
§ 8. G.—MS. R. 15, 18, in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge. This is a curious and interesting volume, as it Edition: current; Page: [lx] contains several tracts in English on astrology and astronomy, with tables of stars, &c.
The copy of the ‘Astrolabe’ in this MS. is not a good one. It ends in Part ii. sect. 34, l. 14. The Conclusions are in the right order, and there are a few diagrams.
§ 9. H.—MS. Sloane 314, British Museum. A late MS. on paper, absurdly said in a note to be in Chaucer’s handwriting, whereas it is clearly to be referred to the end of the fifteenth century.
§ 10. I.—MS. Sloane 261. This is an ‘edited’ MS., having been apparently prepared with a view to publication. Mr. Brae has made considerable use of it, and gives, in his preface, a careful and interesting account of it. He concludes that this MS. was written by Walter Stevins in 1555, and dedicated by him to Edward Earl of Devonshire; and that MS. H. was one of those which Stevins especially consulted, because it contains marginal notes in Stevins’ handwriting. The contents of this MS. can be so well ascertained from Mr. Brae’s edition that it is unnecessary to say more about it here. The Conclusions are arranged in the same order as in other MSS. that are not of the first class.
§ 11. K.—MS. Rawlinson Misc. 3, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. On vellum, 49 folios, with rich gold capitals, beautifully ornamented; in a large clear handwriting, with red rubrics. Title—‘Astralabium.’ Begins—‘Lityl lowys my sone,’ &c.—and ends—“For þe mone meuyth the contrarie from other planetys. as yn here epicircle. but in none other maner’; see end of Part ii. sect. 35; p. 217. Order of Conclusions in Part ii. as follows; 1-12, 19-21, 13-18, 22-35; as in other late MSS. There are no diagrams, and the MS., though well written, may perhaps be referred to the latter half of the fifteenth century.
§ 12. L.—MS. Additional 23002, British Museum. A fair MS., on vellum, without diagrams; imperfect. See description of MS. R. in § 17. And see the Note on Part ii. sect. 3 (p. 360).
§ 13. M.—MS. E. 2 in the Library of St. John’s College, Cambridge. Small MS. on vellum, without diagrams. The leaves have been misplaced, and bound up in a wrong order, but nothing is lost. I have printed from this MS. the last five words of sect. 40; also 41-43, and 41a-42b; besides collating it for the improvement of the text in sect. 44; sect. 45 is missing. I have also been indebted to it for the Latin rubrics to the Conclusions, which Edition: current; Page: [lxi] I have not found elsewhere. Several various readings from this MS. appear in the Critical Notes (pp. 233-241).
§ 14. N.—MS. Digby 72, in the Bodleian Library. From this MS. I have printed the text of sections 44 and 45 (pp. 226-9), but have made little further use of it.
§ 15. O.—MS. Ashmole 360, in the Bodleian Library. Late MS., on paper; former owner’s name, Johan Pekeryng; without diagrams. There are evidently some omissions in it. But it includes sections 44 and 45, and I have given various readings from it in those sections (p. 240). It ends at the end of sect. 43a, with the words—‘one to twelfe. & sic finis’; see p. 232.
§ 16. P.—MS. Dd. 12. 51 in the Cambridge University Library. Small MS. on vellum; written in the fifteenth century. The text is by no means a bad one, though the spelling is peculiar. Some of the pages are very much rubbed and defaced. I have taken from it some various readings, recorded in the Critical Notes.
One point deserves particular attention. It not only contains the Conclusions of Part ii. in the right order, but continues it without a break to the end of Conclusion 43 (p. 225); at the end of which is the colophon—Explicit tractatus astrolabii.
§ 17. Q.—MS. Ashmole 393, in the Bodleian Library; on paper. Of little importance.
R.—MS. Egerton 2622, in the British Museum. A neat MS., but without diagrams. Contains: Part I. (except 15-23); Part II. §§ 1-12, 19-21, 13-18, 22-35, 41-43, 44, 45; 41a, 41b, 42a, 43a, 42b, 36, 37. Thus it has all the additional sections except 46; but 38-40 are missing. MS. L. contains the same sections in the same order; see § 12.
S.—MS. Addit. 29250. A poor MS., but remarkable for containing the scarce section no. 46; of which there is but one other copy, viz. that in MS. E (§ 6); cf. pp. 240, 241.
T.—MS. Phillipps 11955; at Cheltenham. On vellum; 31 leaves; said to be of the fourteenth century, which is improbable.
U.—MS. Bodley 68. Imperfect; ends at Part ii. § 36.
W.—MS. E Museo 116, in the Bodleian Library. A mere fragment.
X.—A MS. at Brussels, no. 1591. See F. J. Mone, Quellen und Forschungen, (Aachen, 1830); pp. 549-551.
§ 18. Of the above MSS., Mr. Brae describes H., I., and L. only, and does not seem to have made use of any others. Mr. Todd, in Edition: current; Page: [lxii] his Animadversions on Gower and Chaucer, p. 125, enumerates only four MSS., which are plainly A., P., F., and G. The rest seem to have escaped attention.
In addition to the MS. authorities, we have one more source of text, viz. the Editio Princeps, which may be thus described.
Th.—The edition of Chaucer’s Works by Wm. Thynne, printed at London by Thomas Godfray in 1532. This is the first edition in which the Treatise on the Astrolabe appeared; it begins at fol. ccxcviii, back. The Conclusions in Part ii. are in the order following, viz. 1-12, 19-21, 13-18, 22-40; after which come 41-43, and 41a-42b. This order does not agree precisely with that in any MS. now extant, with the exception of I., which imitates it. It has some corrupt additions and exhibits many grave errors. All later editions, down to Urry’s in 1721, contribute no new information. The few slight alterations which appear in them are such as could have been made without reference to MSS. at all.
§ 19. Remarks on the Classes of the MSS. On comparing the MSS., it at once appears that they do not agree as to the order of the Conclusions in Part ii. The MSS. A., B., C. (which are unquestionably the oldest), as well as E., F., G., and P., adopt the order which appears in this edition, but which has never appeared in any previous edition. In all other editions we find the three sections 19-21 made to precede sections 13-18. Now we might here appeal to authority only, and say that the order in the oldest MSS. ought to be preferred. But it so happens that we can appeal to internal evidence as well, and there are two considerations which shew that the oldest MSS. are certainly correct. These are as follows. In the first place, sect. 18 amounts to finding the degree of the zodiac which souths with any star, and begins with the words ‘Set the centre of the sterre upon the lyne meridional’; whilst sect. 19 amounts to finding the degree of the zodiac that rises with any star, and begins with the words ‘Set the sentre of the sterre upon the est orisonte.’ Clearly, these Conclusions are closely linked together, and one ought to follow the other. But, in all the editions, this continuity is broken. In the second place, the rubric of sect. 21 is—‘To knowe for what latitude in any regioun,’ &c.; whilst that of sect. 22 is—‘To knowe in special the latitude of oure countray,’ &c. Clearly, these Conclusions are closely linked, and in their right order. But, in all the editions, this continuity is again broken; and we have Edition: current; Page: [lxiii] this absurd result, viz. that a proposition headed—‘To knowe the degrees of the longitudes of fixe sterres’ is followed by one headed—‘To knowe in special the latitude of oure countray.’ Hence we are enabled to draw a line, and to divide the MSS. into two classes; those in which the order of sections is correct, and those in which it has suffered misplacement, the number in each class being much the same. This gives us the following result.
First Class. A., B., C., (probably D.,) E., F., G., P.
Second Class. H., I., K., L., M., N., O., R.; to which add Th.
But this division immediately leads to another very curious result, and that is, a certain lack of authority for sections after the fortieth, which ends on p. 223.
A. ends with an incomplete sentence, in sect. 40, with the words—‘howre after howre.’ B., C. end exactly at the same place.
E. ends sect. 40 with the same words; and, after this, has only one additional section (46), which is, in my opinion, spurious; especially as it does not appear in Messahala, of which more anon.
D., F., and G. all fail at an earlier point.
In none of the first-class MSS. (excepting P., which terminates with section 43) is there a word about umbra recta or umbra versa.
Even in the second class of MSS., we find H. breaking off at sect. 36, and K. at sect. 35; so that the sections on the umbrae rest only on MSS. I. (obviously an edition, not a transcript), L., M., N., O., P., and R. Putting aside the first of these, as being ‘edited,’ we have but six left; and in the first four and the last of these we find that the additional Conclusions appear in a certain order, viz. they insert 44 and 45 (on the ‘mene mote’) between three sections 41-43 on the ‘umbrae’ and five other sections 41a-42b on the same.
§ 20. The last five sections spurious. This at once suggests two results. The first is, that, as this gives two sets of sections on the ‘umbrae,’ we can hardly expect both to be genuine; and accordingly, we at once find that the last five of these are mere clumsy repetitions of the first three; for which reason, I unhesitatingly reject the said last five as spurious. This view is strikingly confirmed by MS. P.; for this, the only first-class MS. that is carried on beyond section 40, contains the first three sections on the ‘umbrae’ only. The second result is, that if the first three sections on the ‘umbrae’ are to be received, there is Edition: current; Page: [lxiv] good reason why we should consider the possible genuineness of sections 44 and 45 on the ‘mene mote,’ which rest very nearly on the same authority.
Now the sections on the ‘mene mote’ have in their favour one strong piece of internal evidence; for the date 1397 is mentioned in them more than once as being the ‘root’ or epoch from which to reckon. In most cases, the mention of a date 1397 would lead us to attribute the writing in which it occurs to that year or to a later year, but a date fixed on for a ‘root’ may very well be a prospective one, so that these sections may have been written before 1397; an idea which is supported by the line ‘behold whether thy date be more or lasse than the yere 1397’; sect. 44, l. 5. But I suspect the date to be an error for 1387, since that [see Somer in Tyrwhitt’s Glossary] was really the ‘rote’ used by Nicholas Lenne. In either case, I think we may connect these sections with the previous sections written in 13911. Besides which, Chaucer so expressly intimates his acquaintance with the subjects of these sections in the Canterbury Tales2, that we may the more readily admit them to be really his. There is still less difficulty about admitting the first three sections (41-43) on the ‘umbrae,’ because we find similar matter in the treatise of Messahala, from which, as will appear, he derived so much. And hence we may readily conclude that, in the second part, the first forty sections, found in the oldest MSS., are certainly genuine, whilst sections 41-43, as well as 44 and 45, have every claim to be considered genuine also. This need not, however, force us to accept the remaining sections, since they may easily have been added by another hand; a circumstance which is rendered the Edition: current; Page: [lxv] more probable by the fact that sections 41a-42b merely repeat 41-43 in a more clumsy form, and by the consideration that, if genuine, they should have occupied their proper place immediately after sect. 43, instead of being separated from the former set. As to sect. 46, I pronounce no decided opinion; there is but little to be said either for or against it, and it is of little consequence.
§ 21. Gap between §§ 40 and 41. But admitting the genuineness of sections 40-45, it at once becomes evident that there are two distinct gaps or breaks in the continuity of the treatise; the first between 40 and 41; and the second between 43 and 44. A little consideration will account for these. Looking at the Canterbury Tales, we observe the very same peculiarity; at certain points there are distinct breaks, and no mending can link the various groups together in a satisfactory manner. This can be accounted for in part by our knowledge of the fact that the poet died before he had completed the proper linking-together of the tales which he had more or less finished; but I think it also shews him to have been a fragmentary worker. To suppose that, upon reaching Conclusion 40, he suddenly turned to the sections upon the ‘umbrae,’ which are at once more easy to explain, more suitable for a child, and illustrative of a different and more practical use of the Astrolabe, seems to me natural enough; and more probable than to suppose that anything is here lost. For, in fact, it is to the very MSS. that contain sections 41-43 that we are indebted for the last five words of sect. 40, so curiously omitted in the oldest and best MSS.; and this is a direct argument against the supposition of any matter having been here lost.
§ 22. Gap between §§ 43 and 44. The break between sections 43 and 44 may be explained in a totally different manner. In this case, the break indicates a real, not an accidental, gap. I suppose section 43 to have been really the last section of Part ii, and I refer sections 44 and 45 to the Fourth Part of the Treatise, and not to the Second at all1. For if we run through the contents of Parts Three and Four (p. 177), we observe that they chiefly involve tables, with reference to one of which we find the words ‘upon which table ther folwith a canon,’ &c. Now sections 44 and Edition: current; Page: [lxvi] 45 exactly answer the description; they are alternative canons, shewing how certain tables may be used. It happens that Conclusion 40 is particularly dependent upon tables. To supply these was partly the object of Part iv—‘the whiche ferthe partie in special shal shewen a table of the verray moeving of the mone from houre to houre, every day and in every signe, after thyn almenak; upon which table ther folwith a canon, suffisant to teche as wel the maner of the wyrking of that same conclusioun, as to knowe in oure orizonte with which degree of the zodiac that the mone ariseth in any latitude; and the arising of any planete after his latitude fro the ecliptik lyne.’ The opening words of the same Conclusion are—‘Knowe by thyn almenak the degree of the ecliptik of any signe in which that the planete is rekned for to be:’ (p. 221). This is easily said; but I suppose that it was not so easy in olden times to know off-hand the exact position of a planet. It must have been shewn by tables, and these tables chiefly considered the ‘mene mote,’ or average motion of the planets, and that only for periods of years. If you wanted the position of a planet at a given hour on a given day, you had to work it out by figures; the rule for which working was called a ‘canon.’ This very ‘canon’ is precisely given at length in sect. 44; and sect. 45 is only another way of doing the same thing, or, in other words, is an alternative canon. When all this is fairly and sufficiently considered, we shall find good grounds for supposing that these sections on the ‘mene mote’ are perfectly genuine, and that they really belong to Part iv. of the Treatise.
I will only add, that the fact of sections 41a-42b being thus placed after a portion of Part iv. is one more indication that they are spurious.
§ 23. Conclusion 40. But it may be objected, as Mr. Brae has fairly objected, that Conclusion 40 itself ought to belong to Part iv. So it ought perhaps, if Chaucer had followed out his own plan. But it is clear from its contents that the Prologue to the ‘Astrolabie’ was written before the commencement of the treatise itself, and not, as prefaces generally are, afterwards. He was pleased with his son’s progress. Little Lewis had asked him if he might learn something about an astrolabe. The father at once sent him a small astrolabe1 by way of reward, constructed Edition: current; Page: [lxvii] for the latitude of Oxford, and having 45 circles of latitude on the flat disc (see Fig. 5) instead of having 90 such circles, as the best instruments had1. This, however, was a ‘sufficient’ astrolabe for the purpose. But he believes the Latin treatises to be too hard for his son’s use, and the Conclusions in them to be too numerous. He therefore proposes to select some of the more important Conclusions, and to turn them into English with such modifications as would render them easier for a child to understand. He then lays down a table of contents of his proposed five parts, throughout which he employs the future tense, as ‘the first partie shal reherse,’—‘the second partie shal teche,’ &c. This use of the future would not alone prove much, but taken in connexion with the context, it becomes very suggestive. However, the most significant phrase is in the last line of the Prologue, which speaks of ‘other noteful thinges, yif god wol vouche-sauf & his modur the mayde, mo than I behete,’ i. e. other useful things, more than I now promise, if God and the Virgin vouchsafe it. In accordance with his habits of seldom finishing and of deviating from his own plans at pleasure, we have but an imperfect result, not altogether answerable to the table of contents. I therefore agree with Mr. Brae that the 40th Conclusion would have done better for Part iv., though I do not agree with him in rejecting it as spurious. This he was led to do by the badness of the text of the MSS. which he consulted, but we can hardly reject this Conclusion without rejecting the whole Treatise, as it is found in all the oldest copies. By way of illustration, I would point out that this is not the only difficulty, for the Conclusions about astrology ought certainly to have been reserved for Part v. These are Conclusions 36 and 37, which concern the ‘equaciouns of houses’; and this is probably why, in three of the MSS. (viz. L., N., and R.), these two conclusions are made to come at the end of the Treatise. There is nothing for it but to accept what we have, and be thankful.
§ 24. Extant portion of the Treatise. If, then, the questions be asked, how much of the Treatise has come down to us, and what was to have been the contents of the missing portion, the account stands thus.Edition: current; Page: [lxviii]
Of Part i. we have the whole.
Of Part ii. we have nearly all, and probably all that ever was written, including Conclusions 1-40 on astronomical matters, and Conclusions 41-43 on the taking of altitudes of terrestrial objects. Possibly Conclusion 46 is to be added to these; but Conclusions 41a-42b are certainly spurious.
Part iii. probably consisted entirely of tables, and some at least of these may very well have been transmitted to little Lewis. Indeed, they may have been prepared by or copied from Nicholas of Lynn and John Somer, before Chaucer took the rest in hand. The tables were to have been (and perhaps were) as follows:—
1. Tables of latitude and longitudes of the stars which were represented on the ‘Rete’ of the Astrolabe. Specimens of such tables are found in MSS.
2. Tables of declinations of the sun, according to the day of the year.
3. Tables of longitudes of cities and towns.
4. Tables for setting clocks and finding the meridian altitudes (of the sun, probably).
Such tables as these are by no means lost. There are MSS. which contain little else, as e. g. MS. Hh. 6. 8 in the Cambridge University Library. The longitudes of towns are given in MS. Camb. Ii. 3. 3, at fol. 214b. Again, in MS. F. 25, in St. John’s College Library, Cambridge, we find tables of fixed stars, tables of latitudes and longitudes of towns, tables of altitudes of the sun at different hours, and many others.
Part iv. was to explain the motions of the heavenly bodies, with their causes. This was probably never written, though there is an allusion to it in Part ii. § 11, l. 12. It was also to contain a table to shew the position of the moon, according to an almanac; and such a table is given in the St. John’s MS. above mentioned, and in MS. Camb. Ii. 3. 3, at fol. 143. This was to have been followed by a canon, and an explanation of the working of the Conclusion—‘to knowe with which degree of the zodiac that the mone ariseth,’ and ‘the arising of any planete,’ &c. The canon is partly accounted for, as regards the planets at least, by sections 44 and 45, and the ‘Conclusion’ by section 40.
Part v. was to contain the general rules of astrology, with tables of equations of houses, dignities of planets, and other useful things which God and the Virgin might vouchsafe that the author Edition: current; Page: [lxix] should accomplish. Sections 36 and 37 tell us something about the equations of houses; but, in all probability, none (or, at least, no more) of this fifth Part was ever written. Tables of equations of houses, for the latitude of Toledo, are given in MS. Camb. Ii. 3. 3, at fol. 177, and elsewhere. Of the general rules of astrology we find in old MSS. somewhat too much, but they are generally in Latin; however, the Trinity MS. R. 15. 18 has some of them in English.
On the whole, we have quite as much of Chaucer’s Treatise as we need care for; and he may easily have changed his mind about the necessity of writing Part v; for we actually find him declaring (and it is pleasant to hear him) that ‘natheles, thise ben observauncez of iudicial matiere & rytes of payens, in which my spirit ne hath no feith’; ii. 4. 36; (p. 192).
§ 25. Sources of the Treatise. I next have to point out the sources whence Chaucer’s treatise was derived. Mr. Halliwell, in a note at the end of his edition of Mandeville’s Travels, speaks of the original treatise on the Astrolabe, written in Sanskrit, on which he supposes Chaucer’s treatise to have been founded. Whether the Latin version used by Chaucer was ultimately derived from a Sanskrit copy or not, need not be considered here. The use of the Astrolabe was no doubt well known at an early period in India and among the Persians and Arabs; see the ‘Description of a Planispheric Astrolabe constructed for Sháh Sultán Husain Safawí, King of Persia,’ by W. H. Morley, in which elaborate and beautifully illustrated volume the reader may find sufficient information. Marco Polo says (bk. ii. c. 33) that there were 5000 astrologers and soothsayers in the city of Cambaluc, adding—‘they have a kind of Astrolabe, on which are inscribed the planetary signs, the hours, and critical points of the whole year’; Marco Polo, ed. Yule, i. 399. Compare also the mention of the instrument in the 161st night of the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, where a translation which I have now before me has the words—‘instead of putting water into the basin, he [the barber] took a very handsome astrolabe out of his case, and went very gravely out of my room to the middle of the yard, to take the height of the sun’; on which passage Mr. Lane has a note (chap. v. note 57) which Mr. Brae quotes at length in his edition. There is also at least one version of a treatise in Greek, entitled περὶ τη̑ς του̑ ἀυτρολάβ[Editor: illegible character]υ χρήσεως, by Johannes Philoponus, of which Edition: current; Page: [lxx] the Cambridge University Library possesses two copies, viz. MSS. Dd. 15. 27 and Gg. 2. 33. But it is clear, from his own words, that Chaucer followed the Latin, and I can point out1 one of the Latin treatises to which he was very considerably indebted. This is the ‘Compositio et Operatio Astrolabie,’ by Messahala2, of which copies are, I have no doubt, sufficiently numerous. The Cambridge Library has four, viz. Hh. 6. 8, Ii. 1. 13, Ii. 3. 33, and Kk. 1. 1, and there is another copy in St. John’s College Library, Cambridge, marked F. 25. The title should be particularly observed; for the treatise is distinctly divisible into two separate parts, viz. the ‘Compositio Astrolabii’ and the ‘Operatio Astrolabii.’ The former begins with the words—‘Scito quod astrolabium sit nomen Graecum,’ and explains how to make an astrolabe, and how to inscribe on it the various necessary lines and circles with sufficient exactness. It is much the longer portion of the treatise, and (in MS. Ii. 3. 3) is illustrated by numerous diagrams, whilst the second part has no such illustrations. But it does not appear that Chaucer made any use of this former part, as his astrolabe had been procured ready-made. The second part of the treatise, or ‘Operatio Astrolabii,’ begins with the words ‘Nomina instrumentorum sunt hec.’ This is evidently one of the sources from which Chaucer drew largely4. Chaucer’s Part i. is almost wholly taken from this, but he has expanded it in several places, with the evident intention of making it more easy to understand. In Part ii. he has taken from it, with more or less exactness, sections 1-3, 5-8, 10, 11, 13-18, 20, 21, 24, 25, 27-31, 33-37, 41 and 42; whilst sections 4, 9, 12, 19, 22, 23, 26, 32, 38-40 and 43 do not appear in it. In other words, Messahala’s treatise accounts for Edition: current; Page: [lxxi] thirty-one conclusions out of forty-three, or about two-thirds of the whole. In some places, Chaucer has translated almost word for word, so as to leave no doubt as to his authority. Besides which, I have already remarked that Chaucer’s version is directly connected with Messahala by the quotations from the latter which appear in MS. E.; see description of this MS. at p. lix. If it be inquired, whence did Chaucer derive the remaining third of his Second Part, I think it very likely that some of it may be found amongst the varied and voluminous contents of such a MS. as Ii. 3. 3, which is a sort of general compendium of astronomical and astrological knowledge. The complete solution of this question I leave to some one with more leisure than myself, being satisfied that to have found the original of Part i. and two-thirds of Part ii. is to have made a good start. It must not be omitted, that the MSS. of Messahala are not all alike; that some copies have propositions which are not in others; and that the order of the Conclusions is not invariable. The chief noteworthy difference between Chaucer’s version and the Latin original is in the order of the Conclusions; it is clear that Chaucer not only took what he liked, but rearranged his materials after his own fashion.
§ 26. Various Editions. About the early printed editions of the Astrolabe, I have not much to say. The Editio Princeps of 1532 was clearly derived from some MS. of the second class, and, what between the errors of the scribes and printers, absurdities abound. After a careful examination of the old editions, I came to the conclusion that the less I consulted them the better, and have therefore rather avoided them than sought their assistance. All the editions not only give the conclusions in a wrong order, but (like the MSS. of the second class) absurdly repeat Conclusion I. of Part ii., and reckon the repetition of it as Conclusion III. MSS. of the first class are free from this defect, and may thus be easily known. The only edition worth consulting is that by Mr. A. E. Brae, published quite recently, in 1870. Mr. Brae made much use of MS. I., besides which he consulted the Printed Editions, and MSS. H. and L. See the descriptions of these MSS. above. From this edition I have taken many hints, and I wish to express, very thankfully, my obligations to it. Mr. Brae has brought to bear upon his work much skill and knowledge, and has investigated many points with much patience, minuteness, and critical ability. But I cannot but perceive that he has often Edition: current; Page: [lxxii] expended his labour upon very inferior materials, and has been sometimes misled by the badness of those MSS. to which alone he had access1.
Besides his print of Chaucer’s Astrolabe, Mr. Brae has reprinted some curious and interesting critical notes of his own, and has added some essays on Chaucer’s ‘prime,’ on ‘the Carrenare,’ and ‘shippes opposteres.’ To all that he has done I am much indebted.
§ 27. Works on the Subject. The works upon, and descriptions of, the astrolabe, are numerous. I have had neither time nor inclination to make researches into the subject; for which reason I here note the names of a few books which may be examined by the curious reader.
In his Universal Lexicon, Zedler explains that astrolabes are of two kinds, ‘universal’ and ‘particular.’ He speaks of the astrolabes (1) of Gemma Frisius; see Petri Apiani Cosmographia, per Gemmam Phrysium restituta; (2) of Johan de Rojas, a Spaniard, ad 1550; (3) of De la Hire the elder, professor of mathematics at Paris, ad 1702; (4) of Johannes Stoflerinus (or Stöffler), ad 1510. The last of these varied from the others in adopting a different and more convenient system of projection, viz. that upon the plane of the equator, or one parallel to it, the eye being in the antarctic pole, and the arctic pole being made the centre of the instrument. This projection is the same as that which was used by Ptolemy, and it is adopted in the diagrams which accompany Chaucer’s treatise in some of the MSS. It should be observed here that the term ‘astrolabe’ alone is vague; it was originally a general name for any circular instrument used for observation of the stars; but in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it was restricted to the particular kind called the ‘Astrolabe Planisphere,’ or astrolabe on a flat surface, in which sense alone the word is used throughout this volume. See the English Cyclopaedia, Arts and Sciences, s. v. Astrolabe.
The simplest work is that by Stöffler or Stoflerinus, as he calls himself; see also Gemma Frisius, Metius, Clavius Bambergensis the Cursus Mathematicus of Dechales, vol. iv. p. 161, Delambre’s History of Astronomy, and other works. The plates in Metius Edition: current; Page: [lxxiii] are most exquisitely engraved, and on a large scale, and give a better representation of the instrument than any others that I have seen.
One of the MSS., viz. MS. E., refers to an astrolabe belonging to Merton College, Oxford1. There is a very nice one, made of brass, and by a Dutch engraver, in the library of King’s College, Cambridge. It has several discs or plates, or, as Chaucer calls them, ‘tables2.’ Of this instrument the same library contains a written description, with some account of the problems it will solve, and an investigation of its probable date, by H. Godfray, Esq., of St. John’s College.
There is a book entitled ‘A verie briefe and most plaine description of Mr. Blagrave his Astrolabe,’ &c., by Mr. Blundevill; London, printed by William Stansby. But it turns out to be of little practical assistance, because Blagrave’s astrolabe was on a different principle.
§ 28. Description of the Astrolabe Planisphere. There is not, however, much need of reference to books to understand what the astrolabe used by Chaucer was like. The instrument may be readily understood from a brief description, and from the Plates in this volume.
The most important part of the ‘astrolabe planisphere’ consisted of a somewhat heavy circular plate of metal from four to seven inches in diameter, which could be suspended from the thumb by a ring (i. 1), working with such freedom as would allow the instrument to assume a perfectly perpendicular position (i. 2). One side of the plate was perfectly flat, and was called the back. This is represented in Fig. 1. On it was described a number of concentric rings, marked with various divisions, which may be readily understood from the figure. Beginning at the outermost ring, the first two represent the ninety degrees into which each quadrant of a circle can be divided (i. 7). The next two represent Edition: current; Page: [lxxiv] the signs of the zodiac, each subdivided into thirty degrees (i. 8). The next two represent the days of the year, and are rather difficult to mark, as the circle has, for this purpose, to be divided into 3651/4 equal parts (i. 9). The next three circles shew the names of the months, the number of days in each, and the small divisions which represent each day, which coincide exactly with those representing the days of the year (i. 10). The two innermost rings shew the saints’ days, with their Sunday-letters. Thus, above the 21st of December is written ‘Thome,’ i.e. St. Thomas’s day, its Sunday-letter being E; the rest can easily be traced by the tables in a Prayer-book (i. 11). These may be thus briefly recapitulated:—
Within all these, are the Scales of Umbra Recta and Umbra Versa, in each of which the scale is divided into twelve equal parts, for the convenience of taking and computing altitudes (i. 12). This primitive and loose method of computation has long been superseded by the methods of trigonometry. Besides these circles, there is a perpendicular line, marking the South and North points, and a horizontal line from East to West.
The other side of the plate, called the front, and shewn in Fig. 2, had a thick rim with a wide depression in the middle (i. 3). The rim was marked with three rings or circles, of which the outermost was the Circle of Letters (A to Z) representing the twenty-four hours of the day, and the two innermost the degrees of the quadrants (i. 16). The depressed central portion of the plate was marked only with three circles, the ‘Tropicus Cancri,’ the ‘Æquinoctialis,’ and the ‘Tropicus Capricorni’ (i. 17); and with the cross-lines from North to South, and from East to West (i. 15). But several thin plates or discs of metal were provided, which were of such a size as exactly to drop into the depression spoken of. The principal one of these, called the ‘Rete,’ is shewn in Fig. 2. It consisted of a circular ring marked with the zodiacal signs, subdivided into degrees, with narrow branching limbs both within and without this ring, having smaller Edition: current; Page: [lxxv] branches or tongues terminating in points, each of which denoted the exact position of some well-known star. The names of these stars, as ‘Alhabor,’ ‘Rigel,’ &c., are (some of them) written on the branches (i. 21). The ‘Rete’ being thus, as it were, a skeleton plate, allows the ‘Tropicus Cancri,’ &c., marked upon the body of the instrument, to be partially seen below it. Another form of the ‘Rete’ is shewn in Fig. 9, and other positions of the Rete in Fig. 11 and Fig. 12. But it was more usual to interpose between the ‘Rete’ and the body of the instrument (called the ‘Mother’) another thin plate or disc, such as that in Fig. 5, so that portions of this latter plate could be seen beneath the skeleton-form of the ‘Rete’ (i. 17). These plates are called by Chaucer ‘tables,’ and sometimes an instrument was provided with several of them, differently marked, for use in places having different latitudes. The one in Fig. 5 is suitable for the latitude of Oxford (nearly). The upper part, above the Horizon Obliquus, is marked with circles of altitude (i. 18), crossed by incomplete arcs of azimuth tending to a common centre, the zenith (i. 19). The lower part of the same plate is marked with arcs denoting the twelve planetary hours (i. 20).
At the back of the astrolabe revolved the ‘rule,’ made of metal, and fitted with sights, represented in Fig. 3 (i. 13). At the front of it revolved the ‘label,’ represented in Fig. 6 (i. 22).
All the parts were held together by the central pin (Fig. 4) which passed through the holes in the ‘moder,’ plates, ‘Rete,’ rule, and label1, and was secured by a little wedge (i. 14), which was sometimes fancifully carved to resemble a horse (Fig. 7).
Another ‘table’ or disc is shewn in Fig. 14, and was used for ascertaining the twelve astrological houses.
§ 29. Uses of the Astrolabe Planisphere. I here briefly enumerate such principal uses of the instrument as are mentioned by Chaucer.
The back (Fig. 1) shews at once the degree of the zodiac answering to every day in the year (ii. 1). The altitude of the sun can be taken by the ‘Rule,’ elevated at the proper angle (ii. 2). If the Rete be properly adjusted to this altitude, we can thus tell the hour of the day (ii. 3). The duration of twilight can Edition: current; Page: [lxxvi] be calculated by observing when the sun is 18° below the horizon (ii. 6). Observe the times of sunrise and sundown, and the interval is the ‘artificial day’ (ii. 7). This day, with the duration of morning and evening twilights added to it, is called the ‘vulgar day’ (ii. 9). The plate in Fig. 5 shews the planetary hours (ii. 12). The placing of the sun’s degree on the South-line gives the sun’s meridian altitude (ii. 13), and conversely (ii. 14). The back of the instrument can shew what days in the year are of equal length (ii. 15). The degree of the zodiac which souths with any star can be ascertained by observing two altitudes of the star; but the observations must be made when the star is very near the meridian (ii. 17). If the star be marked on the Rete, the said degree is easily found by use of the Rete (ii. 18). We can also find with what degree of the zodiac the same star rises (ii. 19). The use of the Rete also shews the declination of every degree in the zodiac (ii. 20). We can always tell for what latitude a disc such as that in Fig. 5 is constructed, by properly examining it (ii. 21). The latitude of any place can be found by two observations of the altitude of the Pole-star (ii. 23); or of any circumpolar star (ii. 24); or by observing the sun’s meridional altitude (ii. 25). The Rete also tells us the ‘ascensions of signs,’ or how many degrees of the equinoctial circle pass the meridian with a given sign (ii. 27); as also the ‘oblique ascensions’ of the same (ii. 28). The astrolabe can also be used to discover (but only in an imperfect and approximate manner) the four cardinal points of the compass (ii. 29). We can also compare the altitude of a planet with that of the sun (ii. 30). We can find in what part of the horizon the sun rises (ii. 31); and in what direction to look for a conjunction of the sun and moon (ii. 32); also near what point of the compass the sun is at any given hour (ii. 33). The moon’s observed altitude will shew her longitude (ii. 34). We can tell, from two observations of a planet properly made, whether the planet’s movement is direct or retrograde (ii. 35). The disc shewn in Fig. 14 helps to shew the ‘equations of houses’ (ii. 36). The four cardinal points can be found without an astrolabe, by an experiment properly conducted (ii. 38). The astrolabe can be used to find the degree of the zodiac with which any planet ascends, even when the planet is not situated in the ecliptic (ii. 40).
By the use of the Umbra Recta on the back of the instrument, we can take the altitude of an accessible object by a single Edition: current; Page: [lxxvii] observation (ii. 41); or of an inaccessible object by two observations (ii. 43). Or, the height of an inaccessible object may likewise be taken by two observations, by the scale marked Umbra Versa (ii. 42).
The few Conclusions not here referred to are chiefly explanatory, or of minor interest.
§ 30. Stars marked on the Rete. Several of the Latin MSS. upon the Astrolabe give a list of the stars marked upon the Rete. There is a double list, for example, in MS. Ii. 3. 3, in the Cambridge University Library, fol. 70, back. It is given in the form of two tables; the first mentions forty-nine stars, with the degrees of the zodiac which south along with them, and their declinations from the equinoctial line. The second table mentions some only of the same stars, with their longitudes and latitudes, as referred to the ecliptic.
A list of the principal stars usually marked upon the Rete, as shewn in Fig. 2, is given in the Note to Part i. § 21. 4 (p. 357). Fig. 9 shews another Rete, with many of the same stars, with the addition of Markep (Argous). Alchimech is the same as Azimech, i.e. α Virginis; Cor Leonis is α Leonis; and Alfart is α Hydræ.
§ 31. Astrological Notes. For a general sketch of Astrology, see the English Cyclopaedia, s. v. Worthless as the science is, it is useful to have a few ‘facts’ for handy reference. I therefore attempt a synopsis of the chief points of it, drawn from Johannis Hispalensis Isagoge in Astrologiam.
To save space, I give the information in a tabular form, wherein I denote the twelve Signs by A., T., G., C., L., V., Li., S., Sa., Cp., Aq., P.; and the seven Planets, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, by St., J., Ms., Sn., V., My., Mo. What the table exactly means shall be explained presently.
|Signs.||Man.||Ex.||Day.||Nt.||Com.||Face 1.||Face 2.||Face 3.|
The first line is to be read thus.
Aries is the mansion (or house) of Mars; the exaltation (or honour) of the Sun, in the 19th degree of the sign; the lord of the Triplicity of Aries with its attendant signs is the Sun by day, Jupiter by night, and Saturn in Common, both by day and night; the first Face of Aries (degrees 1 to 10) is that of Mars; the second Face (degrees 11 to 20) is that of the Sun; the third Face (degrees 21 to 30) is that of Venus. And so on for the rest; noting that Gemini is the Exaltation of the Dragon’s Head (D. H.), and Sagittarius that of the Dragon’s Tail (D. T.).
The meanings of the words are as follows:—
A Mansion or House appears to be that sign in which the planet is peculiarly at home for some reason or other.
The Exaltation or Honour is that degree of a sign in which the planet named has its greatest power; but the degree was often neglected, and Aries was called the Exaltation of the Sun, simply.
The Fall (Lat. occasus vel detrimentum) of a planet is the sign opposite its mansion. Libra is opposite Aries; therefore Libra is the Fall of Mars.
The Dejection or Depression (Lat. dedecus) of a planet is the sign opposite to that of its exaltation. Libra is opposite Aries; therefore Libra is the Dejection of the Sun. And so on.
A Triplicity is a combination of three signs in the form of a triangle, each 120° apart. Thus Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius form the first triplicity; Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn, the second; Gemini, Libra, Aquarius, the third; Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, the fourth. Equal divisions of a sign (third-parts, namely) are called Faces. There were also unequal divisions called Terms.
The ‘mobill’ or movable signs are Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn. The ‘fixe’ or fixed signs are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius. The ‘common’ signs are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces.
The signs Aries, Gemini, Leo, &c. (taking every other sign) are diurnal or masculine. The rest, Taurus, Cancer, &c., are nocturnal or feminine.
The first six signs, Aries to Virgo, are northern or sinister signs. So called because astrologers looked towards the east or ascendent.
The last six, Libra to Pisces, are southern or dexter signs.Edition: current; Page: [lxxix]
The signs Cancer to Sagittarius are western, sovereign, right, or direct signs. Cf. Astrol. ii. 28, and see Fig. 2.
The rest, Capricorn to Gemini, are eastern, obedient, tortuous, or oblique signs.
This is all that a reader is likely to want. For other points, see the authorities.
§ 32. Plate I. Fig. 1. The flat back of the Astrolabe; see § 28.
Plate II. Fig. 2. The front of the Astrolabe, with raised border. In the wide depression in the middle, the plate called the ‘Rete’ is dropped in, and is shewn in its primary position. Other positions of it are sketched in Fig. 11 and Fig. 12.
Plate III. Fig. 3. The ‘Rewle’ carrying two sights, which revolved at the back of the Astrolabe. Astrol. i. 13.
Fig. 4. The central ‘Pin,’ shewn with the ‘Wedge’ inserted through it. Astrol. i. 14; cf. Fig. 7.
Fig. 5. One of the Tables or discs, used by being dropped within the depression on the front of the Astrolabe; i. 17. They were marked differently, according to the latitude of the place. The one here drawn is suitable for the latitude of Oxford, nearly.
Fig. 6. The ‘Label,’ which revolved at the front of the Astrolabe; i. 22.
Plate IV. Fig. 7. Another form of the ‘Pin,’ shewing the Wedge cut into the shape of a Horse (i. 14); from MS. Camb. Ii. 3. 3.
Fig. 8. Diagram, shewing how to draw the three ‘principal circles’; see footnote on p. 183.
Fig. 9. Another form of the ‘Rete,’ from MS. Ii. 3. 3; cf. Fig. 2. This figure shews the ‘Almury’ very clearly; Astrol. i. 23.
Plate V. Fig. 10. Diagram of the nine spheres; from MS Camb. Ii. 3. 3. Astrol. i. 17.
Fig. 11. Rough sketch of the position of the ‘Rete’ in Astrol. ii. 3 (first part). Denticle opposite C, and first point of Aries opposite X; 9 a.m.Edition: current; Page: [lxxx]
Fig. 12. Rough sketch of the position of the ‘Rete’ in Astrol. ii. 3 (second part). Denticle near O; first point of Aries near H; 8h. 8m. p.m.
Fig. 13. Diagram of the Elevation of the Pole; Astrol. ii. 23. The arc AN is 56°; A′N is 48°; A′P is 4°; and PN is 52°. A, A′ are two positions of the Pole-star.
Plate VI. Fig. 14. A ‘Table’ or disc shewing the twelve astrological ‘Houses’; Astrol. ii. 36 and 37.
Fig. 15. Diagram shewing how to ascertain the meridional line from two shadows of an upright gnomon; Astrol. ii. 38.
Fig. 16. Diagram illustrating the use of the Umbra Recta; Astrol. ii. 41, 41a, and 41b.
Fig. 17. Diagram of the use of the Umbra Versa, at two observations; Astrol. ii. 42, 42a, and 42b.
Fig. 18. Use of the Umbra Recta, at two observations; Astrol. ii. 43 and 43a.
The authorities are F. (Fairfax 16); B. (Bodley 638); P. (Pepys 2006); Cx. (Caxton’s ed.); Th. (Thynne’s ed. 1532). I follow F. mainly, correcting the spelling.
Explicit liber primus.
Incipit liber secundus.
Colophon and Title. So in Cx.; the rest omit them.
Explicit liber secundus.
Colophon.—From Cx. Th.
Incipit liber tercius.
The Prologue to this Poem exists in two different versions, which differ widely from each other in many passages. The arrangement of the material is also different.
For the sake of clearness, the earlier version is here called ‘Text A,’ and the later version ‘Text B.’
‘Text A’ exists in one MS. only, but this MS. is of early date and much importance. It is the MS. marked Gg. 4. 27 in the Cambridge University Library, and is here denoted by the letter ‘C.’ It is the same MS. as that denoted by the abbreviation ‘Cm.’ in the footnotes to the Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde. This text is printed in the upper part of the following pages. The footnotes give the MS. spellings, where these are amended in the text.
‘Text B’ occupies the lower part of the following pages. It follows the Fairfax MS. mainly, which is denoted by ‘F.’ In many places, the inferior spellings of this MS. are relegated to the footnotes, amended spellings being given in the text. Various readings are given from Tn. (Tanner MS. 346); T. (Trinity MS., R. 3. 19); A. (Arch. Seld. B. 24 in the Bodleian Library); Th. (Thynne’s Edition, 1532); B. (Bodley MS. 638); P. (Pepys MS. 2006); and sometimes from C. (already mentioned) or Add. (Addit. 9832).
Lines which occur in one text only are marked (in either text) by a prefixed asterisk. Lines marked with a dagger (†) stand just the same in both texts. The blank space after A 60 (p. 70) shews that there is nothing in Text A corresponding to B 69-72. Where the corresponding matter is transposed to another place, one or other text has a portion printed in smaller type.
Incipit Legenda Cleopatrie, Martiris, Egipti regine.
N.B.—Readings not marked with any letter are from F. (Fairfax MS.)
Explicit Legenda Cleopatrie, martiris.
Incipit Legenda Tesbe Babilonie, Martiris.
Explicit legenda Tesbe.
N.B. From this point onward obvious corrections in the spelling of MS. F. are unnoticed.
Incipit Legenda Didonis martiris, Cartaginis regine.
Explicit Legenda Didonis martiris, Cartaginis regine.
Incipit Legenda Ysiphile et Medee, Martirum.
Explicit Legenda Ysiphile et Medee, Martirum.
Incipit Legenda Lucrecie Rome, martiris.
Explicit Legenda Lucrecie Rome, Martiris.[ ]
Incipit Legenda Adriane de Athenes.