Chaucer's Works (ed. Skeat) Vol. III/Sources of the Canterbury Tales
SOURCES OF THE CANTERBURY TALES.
§ 1. The series of Tales. § 2. The Prologues to Piers the Plowman and to the Canterbury Tales compared. § 3. Date of the Tales; from 1386 onwards. § 4. Number of the Tales. § 5. Old and new material. § 6. Days of the month for the various Groups. § 7. Arrangement of the Groups. § 8. Group A nearly finished. § 9. The Tale of Gamelyn. § 10. The Plowman's Tale. § 11. Early and late Tales. § 12. The test of rhythm. § 13. Origin of the heroic couplet. § 14. Modification of Chaucer's original scheme. § 15. The Tale of Beryn. § 16. Lydgate's Storie of Thebes. § 17. Group A. The Prologue. § 18. The Knightes Tale: Palamon and Arcite. § 19. Boccaccio's Teseide. § 20. Tyrwhitt's analysis of the Teseide. § 21. Resemblances to Troilus. § 22. Later versions of the Knightes Tale. § 23. The Miller's Prologue. § 24. The Milleres Tale. § 25. The Reeve's Prologue. § 26. The Reves Tale. § 27. The Cook's Prologue. § 28. The Cokes Tale. §§ 29-34. The Tale of Gamelyn. § 35. Group B. The Words of the Host to the Company. § 36. The Man of Law's Prologue. § 37. The Man of Lawes Tale. § 38. The same Tale, as told by Gower. § 39. The Shipman's Prologue. § 40. The Shipmannes Tale. § 41. The Prioress's Prologue. § 42. The Prioresses Tale. § 43. Prologue to Sir Thopas. § 44. Sir Thopas. § 45. Prologue to Melibeus. § 46. The Tale of Melibeus. § 47. The Monk's Prologue. § 48. The Monkes Tale. § 49. The Prologue of the Nonne Preestes Tale. § 50. The Nonne Preestes Tale. § 51. Epilogue to the Nonne Preestes Tale. § 52. Group C. The Spurious Prologues to the Phisiciens Tale. § 53. The Phisiciens Tale. § 54. Words of the Host to the Phisicien and the Pardoner. § 55. Prologue of the Pardoneres Tale. § 56. The Pardoneres Tale. § 57. Group D. The Wife of Bath's Prologue. § 58. The Wyf of Bathes Tale. § 59. The Friar's Prologue. § 60. The Freres Tale. § 61. The Somnour's Prologue. § 62. The Somnours Tale. § 63. Group E. The Clerk's Prologue. § 64. The Clerkes Tale. § 65. The Merchant's Prologue. § 66. The Marchantes Tale. § 67. Group F. The Squire's Prologue. § 68. The Squieres Tale. § 69. Words of the Frankeleyn. § 70. The Franklin's Prologue. § 71. The Frankeleyns Tale. § 72. Group G. The Seconde Nonnes Tale. § 73. The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue and Tale. § 74. Group H. The Manciple's Prologue. § 75. The Manciples Tale. § 76. Group I. The Parson's Prologue. § 77. The Persones Tale.
ACCOUNT OF THE SOURCES OF THE CANTERBURY TALES.
The Nine Groups.
§ 1. The idea of joining together a series of Tales by means of fitting them into a common frame-work is a very old one, and doubtless originated in the East. There is an English collection of this character known as 'The Seven Sages,' of which various versions have come down to us. The earliest of these, as published in the second volume of Weber's Metrical Romances, has been dated about 1320; and is, at any rate, older than any of Chaucer's poems. Another collection, of a similar character, and likewise of Eastern origin, is a Latin work by Petrus Alphonsus, a converted Spanish Jew, entitled De Clericali Disciplina. See Dunlop's History of Fiction, chap. vii. From one of these Chaucer may have taken the general idea of arranging his tales in a connected series; and we must not forget that his Legend of Good Women, which was the immediate forerunner of his greater work, is likewise, practically, a collection of Tales, though sadly lacking in variety, as he discovered for himself in the course of writing it. It is highly improbable that he was indebted for the idea to Boccaccio's Decamerone, as has been sometimes hastily suggested; since we might, in that case, have expected that he would also have drawn from that collection the plot of some one of his tales; which is not found to be the case. The Clerk's Tale occurs, indeed, in the Decamerone; but we know it to have been borrowed from Petrarch's Latin version of it. The Franklin's Tale has some resemblance to another tale in the same collection, but was evidently not taken from it directly, and the same is true in other cases; so that we are quite justified in supposing that Chaucer was wholly unacquainted, at first hand, with Boccaccio's work.
§ 2. It was suggested by Professor Seeley that we may profitably compare the form of Chaucer's Prologue with that of the somewhat similar Prologue to William's Vision concerning Piers the Plowman, a work which was very popular in England just at the same time. William introduces us to a Vision, in which he first of all beholds a Field full of Folk, and describes, in succession, the various sets of folk of which the company consisted; such as ploughmen, anchorites, hermits, chapmen, minstrels, beggars, pilgrims, palmers, friars, a pardoner, parish-priests, bishops, lawyers, and stewards. Chaucer seized upon the happy idea of limiting each class to a single individual, and the still happier idea of combining them into a company with a common object which allowed them to associate together on nearly equal terms. And having thus chosen his representative of each class, he employed his wonderful dramatic power in producing an exact description of each; so that, to quote the words of Dryden, 'he has taken into the compass of his Canterbury Tales the various manners and humours (as we now call them) of the whole English nation, in his age.'
§ 3. As to the date when this idea of forming a continuous series of tales was first entertained, we can hardly be wrong in dating it from 1386 or 1387 onwards. As it was left in an incomplete state, it was most likely in hand up to the time of his death, though he probably neglected it towards the last. The year 1385 is, almost certainly, the date of his Prologue to the Legend of Good Women, and of his first attempt to write in heroic couplets. He was then full of the idea of writing a series of stories concerning 'Good Women,' and himself tells us that he intended to write stories of nineteen Women, to be followed by the Legend of Alcestis; but we find him suddenly desisting from his task without completing his ninth Legend, that of Hypermnestra. For this we may reasonably assign two causes; he was probably already somewhat weary of his self-imposed task, and he also began to see his way to a still grander collection, on a larger scale. It is important to observe that Chaucer was, throughout life, haunted by great ideas; and especially, by the desire to leave behind him at least some one great work which would attract general attention. Thus it was that he attempted a translation of the huge French poem of Le Roman de La Rose, which he probably never finished, though we do not know how far he proceeded. He planned the poem of Troilus and Criseyde, which terminates rather suddenly, but not until it had extended to the great length of more than eight thousand lines. Next he planned the House of Fame, which was to be largely a work of imagination; but here once more he was dissatisfied, and abandoned it whilst still incomplete. Almost at once he took up the Legend of Good Women, with its Prologue and twenty stories, but again abandoned it for a larger scheme. It is also tolerably clear that the Monkes Tale originally took its rise from a similar desire to write a succession of lives of illustrious men; and that the first conception of this idea preceded that of the Canterbury Tales. We thus see our author constantly striving after the endeavour to produce some great original work; and the Canterbury Tales was, in fact, the result of the latest and greatest of these endeavours.
To assign any exact date for the Man of Lawes Prologue, which mentions April 18, is difficult. Yet we must exclude 1389, when that day was Easter Sunday, a day unsuitable for travelling and telling tales; as well as 1390, when April 17 was Sunday, which would have prevented the pilgrims, at any rate, from making an early start (Prol. 822-5).
The year 1391 is certainly too late; so that only 1386, 1387, and 1388 are left for consideration. But in 1386, Easter-day fell on April 22, and Good Friday on April 20; and we cannot suppose that the pilgrimage could have taken place in Passion-week, when the Parson and others would be much in request for the duties which the season imposed upon them.
In 1387 and 1388, however, Easter fell early, and left the pilgrims free to take a holiday. In 1388, April 18 was a Saturday, so that the pilgrims must have travelled on Sunday, since they certainly stopped one night on the road at Ospringe, and probably also stopped elsewhere; and surely, if Sunday travelling had been intended, something would have been said about the hearing of mass. But in 1387, everything comes right; they assembled at the Tabard on Tuesday, April 16, and had four clear days before them. And when we consider how particular our author is as to dates, we shall do well to consider the probability that this result is correct. We should remember, at the same time, that this date is, for other reasons, more likely than any other. The fact that the Legend of Good Women, begun in 1385, terminates so suddenly, points to the inception of a still greater work, probably in 1386; and this leads up to 1387 as the date when the supposed times assigned to the various Tales were being arranged. And I still think that we ought to attach some significance to the fact (pointed out by me in 1868) that the year 1387 suits the scheme of days mentioned in the Knightes Tale. See note to A 1850, in vol. v.
§ 4. Chaucer tells us, in his Prologue, ll. 791-795, that it was his intention to make each of the pilgrims tell four tales, two on the way to Canterbury and two on the return-journey. But so far from fulfilling his proposed plan, he did not even complete so much as a quarter of it, since the number of tales do not even suffice to go once round, much less four times. No pilgrim tells two stories, though the poet represents himself as being interrupted in his Rime of Sir Thopas, and telling the tale of Melibeus in its stead; and we have no story from the Yeoman, the Haberdasher, the Carpenter, the Weaver, the Dyer, the Tapiser, or the Ploughman. The series being thus incomplete, it only remains to investigate to what degree of completeness the author succeeded in attaining.
§ 5. It is easy to see that Chaucer may have had a good deal of material in hand before the idea of writing a connected series of tales occurred to him. The Prologue, answering somewhat to a preface, is one of his very latest works, and in his best manner; and before writing it, he had in some measure arranged a part of his materials. His design was to make a collection of tales which he had previously written, to write more new tales to go with these, and to unite them all into a series by means of connecting links, which should account for the change from one narrator to the next in order. In doing this, he did not work continuously, but inserted the connecting links as they occurred to him, being probably well aware that this was the best way of avoiding an appearance of artificiality. The result is that some links are perfectly supplied, and others not written at all, thus affording a series of fragments or Groups, complete in themselves, but having gaps between them. A full account of these Groups, showing which tales are inseparably linked together, and which are not joined at all, is given in Dr. Furnivall's Temporary Preface to the Six-text Edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, published for the Chaucer Society in 1868. The resulting Groups are nine. Between these are distinct gaps, and it is by no means clear that the order of the Groups relatively to each other was finally determined upon. This relative order is, however, settled to some extent by occasional references to places passed on the road, and to times of the day. We are also perfectly certain that the Knight was to tell the first tale, and the Parson the last of the whole or partial series, thus leaving us only seven Groups to arrange. Another question at once arises, however, which must be settled before we can proceed, viz. whether the pilgrimage was intended to be performed all in one day, or in two, or three, or more. Any one who knows what travelling was in the olden time must be well aware that the notion of performing the whole distance in one day is out of the question, especially as the pilgrims were out more for a holiday than for business, that some of them were but poorly mounted (Prol. 287, 541), and some of them but poor riders (Prol. 390, 469, 622). In fact, such an idea is purely modern, adopted from thoughtlessness almost as a matter of course by many modern readers, but certainly not founded upon truth. Fortunately, too, the matter is put beyond argument by some incidental remarks. In the first Group, or Group A (l. 3906), occurs the line—
'Lo Depeford, and it is half-way pryme'—
i.e. it is now half-past seven o'clock. After which the Reve is made to tell a story, and the Cook also, bringing the time of day to about nine o'clock at the least. But in Group F, l. 73, the Squire remarks that 'it is pryme,' it is nine o'clock, which can only mean that hour of another day, not of the same one. Still clearer is the allusion, in the Canon's Yeoman's Prologue (G 588), to the pilgrims having passed the night in a hostelry, as I understand the passage. This once perceived, it is not of much consequence whether we allow the pilgrims two days, or three, or four; but the most convenient arrangement is that proposed by Mr. Furnivall, viz. to suppose four days (or three and a half) to have been occupied; the more so, as this supposition disposes of another extremely awkward allusion to time, viz. the mention of ten o'clock in the morning in Group B, l. 14, which must refer to yet a third morning, in order not to clash with the two notes of time already alluded to; whilst the passage in the Canon's Yeoman's Prologue absolutely requires a fourth morning, because of the pilgrims having passed the night at a hostelry. The references to places on the road can cause no trouble; on the contrary, these allusions afford much help, for we cannot rest satisfied with the arrangement in Tyrwhitt's edition, which makes the pilgrims come to Sittingbourne before arriving at Rochester.
§ 6. But the data are not yet all disposed of: for we can fix the very days of the month on which the pilgrims travelled. This is discussed in the note to B 5, where the day recognised by the Host is shown to have been the 18th of April, and not the 28th, as in some editions; which agrees with the expression in the Prologue, l. 8.
Putting all the results together, we get the following convenient scheme for the Groups of tales. It is copied from Dr. Furnivall's Preface, with the mere addition of the dates.
April 16. The guests arrive at the Tabard, late in the evening (Prol. 20, 23).
April 17. Group A. General Prologue; Knight's Tale; Miller's Prologue and Tale; Reeve's Prologue and Tale; Cook's Prologue and Tale (the last unfinished). Gap.
Notes of time and place. In the Miller's Prologue, he tells the company to lay the blame on the ale of Southwark if his tale is not to their liking; he had hardly yet recovered from its effects.
In the Reeve's Prologue, A 3906, 3907, are the lines—
'Lo Depeford, and it is half-way pryme;
Lo Grenewich, ther many a shrewe is inne.'
That is, they are in sight of Deptford and Greenwich at about half-past 7 o'clock in the morning.
This Group is incomplete; I shall give my reasons presently for supposing that the Yeoman's Tale was to have formed a part of it. Probably the pilgrims reached Dartford that night, and halted there, at a distance of fifteen miles from London.
April 18. Group B. Man-of-Law Head-link, his Prologue, and Tale (1-1162); Shipman's Prologue and Tale (1163-1624); Shipman End-link (1625-1642); Prioress's Tale (1643-1880); Prioress End-link (1881-1901); Sir Thopas (1902-2156); Tale of Melibeus (2157-3078); Monk's Prologue and Tale (3079-3956); Nun's Priest's Prologue and Tale (3957-4636); End-link (4637-4652). Gap.
Notes of time and place. In the Man-of-Law Head-link, we learn that it was 10 o'clock (l. 14), and that it was the 18th of April (l. 5). In the Monk's Prologue, l. 3116, we find that the pilgrims were soon coming to Rochester. This Group is probably incomplete, rather at the beginning than at the end. Something is wanted to bring the time to 10 o'clock, whilst the travellers would hardly have cared to pass Rochester that night. Suppose them to have halted there, at thirty miles from London.
April 19. Group C. Doctor's Tale (1-286); Words of the Host to the Doctor and the Pardoner (287-328); Pardoner's Preamble, Prologue, and Tale (329-968). Gap.
Group D. Wife of Bath's Preamble (1-856); Wife's Tale (857-1264); Friar's Prologue and Tale (1265-1664); Sompnour's Prologue and Tale (1665-2294). Gap.
Group E. Clerk's Prologue and Tale (1-1212); Merchant's Prologue and Tale (1213-2418); Merchant End-link (2419-2440). Gap; but the break is less marked than usual.
Notes of place, &c. At the end of the Wife of Bath's Preamble is narrated a verbal quarrel between the Sompnour and the Friar, in which the former promises to tell some strange tales about friars before the company shall arrive at Sittingbourne. Again, at the end of his Tale, he says—
'My tale is doon, we been almost at toune.'—D 2294.
After which, we may suppose the company to have halted awhile at Sittingbourne, forty miles from London.
It must also be noted that there are at least two allusions to the Wife of Bath's Preamble in the course of Group E; namely, in the Clerk's Tale, l. 1170, and in the Merchant's Tale, E 1685; and probably a third allusion in the Merchant End-link, E 2438. These prove that Group D should precede Group E, and suggest that it should precede it immediately.
April 20. Group F. Squire's Tale (1-672); Squire-Franklin Link (673-708); Franklin's Tale (709-1624). Gap.
Group G. Second Nun's Tale (1-553); Canon's Yeoman's Tale (554-1481). Gap.
Group H. Manciple's Prologue and Tale (1-362). Gap.
Group I. Parson's Prologue and Tale.
Notes of time and place. In the Squire's Tale, F 73, the narrator remarks that he will not delay the hearers, 'for it is prime,' i.e. 9 a.m.
In the Canon's Yeoman's Prologue (G 588) is a most explicit statement, which is certainly most easily understood as having reference to a halt for the night on the road, at a place (probably Ospringe) five miles short of Boughton-under-Blee (G 555). The Canon's Yeoman says plainly that he had seen the pilgrims ride out of their hostelry in the morrow-tide. In the Manciple's Prologue (H 2) there is mention of a little town called Bob-up-and-down, 'under the Blee, in Canterbury way'; and the Cook is taken to task for sleeping on the road in the morning (H 16), which cannot, in any case, be the morning of the day on which they started from Southwark. In the Parson's Prologue (I 5) there is mention of the hour of 4 p.m., and the Parson undertakes to tell the last tale before the end of the journey.
§ 7. The above account is useful as shewing the exact extent to which Chaucer had carried out his intention; and at the same time shews what is, on the whole, the best arrangement of the Tales. This arrangement is not much affected by the question of the number of days occupied by the pilgrims on the journey. It possesses, moreover, the great advantage of stamping upon the whole work its incomplete and fragmentary character. The arrangement of the Tales in the various MSS. varies considerably, and hence Tyrwhitt found it necessary in his edition to consider the question of order, and to do his best to make a satisfactory arrangement. The order which he finally adopted is easily expressed by using the names already given to the Groups, only Group B must be subdivided into two parts (a) and (b), the first of these containing the Man of Law's Prologue and Tale only, and the second all the rest of the Tales, &c. in the Group. This premised, his result is as follows: viz. Groups A, B (a), D, E, F, C, B (b), G, H, I. The only two variations between the two lists are easily explained. In the first place, Group C is entirely independent of all the rest, and contains no note of time or place, so that it may be placed anywhere between A and G; in this case therefore the variation is of no importance. In the other case, however, Tyrwhitt omitted to see that the parts of Group B are really bound together by the expressions which occur in them. For, whereas the Man of Law declares in l. 46, Group B—
'I can right now no thrifty tale seyn,'
the Host, at the beginning of the Shipman's Prologue, l. 1165, is pleased to give his verdict thus—
'This was a thrifty tale for the nones,'
and proceeds to ask the Parson for a tale, declaring that 'ye lerned men in lore,' i.e. the Man of Law and the Parson, know much that is good: whence it is evident that B (b) must be advanced so as to follow B (a) immediately; and the more so, as there is authority for this in MS. Arch. Seld. B 14 in the Bodleian Library; while many MSS. suggest a similar arrangement (§ 39). The correctness of this emendation is proved by the fact that it is necessary for the mention of Rochester in B (b) to precede that of Sittingbourne in D.
It deserves to be mentioned further, that, of the four days supposed to be consumed on the way, some of them are inadequately provided for. This furnishes no real objection, because the unwritten tales of the Yeoman, Haberdasher, Carpenter, Weaver, Dyer, Tapiser, and Ploughman, would have helped in some degree to fill up the gaps which have been noticed above.
§ 8. The whole of Group A is so admirably fitted together, and its details so well worked out, that it may fairly be looked upon as having been finally revised, as far as it goes; and I am disposed accordingly to look upon the incomplete Cook's Tale as almost the last portion of his great work which the poet ever revised in its intended final form. There is, in this Group A, only one flaw, one that has often been noted, viz. the mention of three Priests in the Prologue (l. 164), whereas we know that there was but one Nun's Priest, his name being Sir John. At the same place there is a notable omission of the character of the Nun, and the two things together point to the possibility that Chaucer may have drawn her character in too strong strokes, and have then suddenly determined to withdraw it, and to substitute a new character at some future time. If we suppose him to have left the line 'That was hir chapeleyne' unfinished, it is easy to see how another hand would have put in the words 'and preestes three' for the mere sake of the rime, without having regard to reason. We ought to reject those three words as spurious.
§ 9. That Chaucer's work did receive, in some small degree, some touching-up, is rendered yet more probable by observing how Group A ends. For here, in several of the MSS., we come upon an additional fragment which, on the face of it, is not Chaucer's at all, but a work belonging to a slightly earlier period; I mean the Tale of Gamelyn. Some have supposed, with great reason, that this tale occurs amongst the rest because it is one which Chaucer intended to recast, although, as a fact, he did not live to rewrite a single line of it. This is the more likely because the tale is a capital one in itself, well worthy of being rewritten even by so great a poet; indeed, it is well known that the plot of the favourite play known to us all by the title of As You Like It, was derived from it at second-hand. But I cannot but protest against the stupidity of the botcher whose hand wrote above it 'The Cokes Tale of Gamelyn.' That was done because it happened to be found next after the Cook's Tale, which, instead of being about Gamelyn, is about Perkin the reveller, an idle apprentice.
The fitness of things ought to shew at once that this Tale of Gamelyn, a tale of the woods, in the true Robin-Hood style, could only have been placed in the mouth of him 'who bare a mighty bow,' and who knew all the usage of woodcraft; in one word, of the Yeoman. (Gandelyn is the name of an archer in Ritson's Ancient Songs, i. 82). And we get hence the additional hint, that the Yeoman's Tale was to have followed the Cook's Tale, a tale of fresh country-life succeeding one of the close back-streets of the city. No better place can be found for it.
§ 10. There is yet one more Tale, found only in the edition of 1542 and some later printed editions, but in none of the MSS., viz. the Ploughman's Tale. This is admittedly spurious, in the sense that it is not Chaucer's; but it is a remarkable poem in its way. The author never intended it for an imitation of Chaucer, nor pretended any disguise about it; on the contrary, he says plainly that he was the author of the well-known poem in alliterative verse commonly known as Pierce the Ploughman's Crede. It can only have been inserted by inadvertence, but we need not blame the editor for doing this, since otherwise the poem would not have been preserved at all, no MS. of it being now in existence.
§ 11. The next question that presents itself is this—Have we any means of telling which of the Tales are of early, and which of late workmanship? In reply to this, we may note, in the first place, the following facts and probabilities.
The Knight's Tale was certainly re-written from beginning to end. In its original form, Chaucer took a good deal of it from Boccaccio's Teseide, and gave it the name of 'Palamon and Arcite'; see Prologue to Legend of Good Women, l. 420; this he would naturally do not long before writing his Troilus, in which he follows the same author. Moreover, this original 'Palamon' was written in the seven-line stanza; see notes to Anelida.
It must next be noted that Dr. Furnivall, who has drawn up, tentatively, a list of Chaucer's works in their supposed order, puts down amongst the works of the 'Second Period,' i.e. prior to the Canterbury Tales, that Tale which is now known as the Second Nun's, though formerly called by Chaucer himself the Life of Saint Cecile. Of this result there has never been a doubt; Tyrwhitt says expressly, 'The Tale of the Nonne is almost literally translated from the Life of St. Cecilia in the Legenda Aurea of Jacobus Januensis. It is mentioned by Chaucer as a separate work in his Legend of Good Women, l. 426, under the title of the Life of Seint Cecile, and it still retains evident marks that it was not originally composed in the form of a Tale to be spoken by the Nonne.' It is, then, little more than a translation, and it is in seven-line stanzas.
Dr. Furnivall assigns to the Second Nun's Tale the conjectural date of 1373, being the very year when Chaucer perhaps met Petrarch at Padua (see note to E 27), and learnt from him the tale of Griseldis, now known as the Clerk's Tale. This tale is likewise, for the most part, a translation, and in seven-line stanzas.
The Prioress's Tale is a short one. Although written in seven-line stanzas, it is probably later than others in the same metre.
The Man of Law's Tale will be considered hereafter; and it will be shewn that it was written independently of other Tales.
The Monk's Tale is in a very peculiar metre, which appears nowhere else in Chaucer, except in the unoriginal poem called the ABC (probably written before A.D. 1369), and in some other of Chaucer's minor poems, such as the Former Age, Fortune, the Envoy to Bukton, &c.; so that, considered with reference to metre, this Tale may be of any date. The main part of it shews very little originality, and is clearly rather early than late.
§ 12. Having premised these considerations, it is easy to see that the metrical form suggests, to a useful extent, a possible distinction between the earlier and the later Tales. Nearly all of Chaucer's tales that are in stanzas are early, whilst all that are in decasyllabic couplets are late. We have seen that this is known to be true in the case of the Second Nun's Tale, that it is highly probable in the case of the Clerk's Tale (of which more hereafter), and there is nothing against it in the case of the Monk's Tale, written in the same metre as a poem which was probably his very first, or nearly so, if there be any truth in the statement that it was written for the use of the Duchess Blanche, who died in 1369. At the same time, it can be shewn that 'Palamon and Arcite' was written in stanzas, so that the present metre of the Knight's Tale presents no difficulty. Of course it will be understood that there is, in these stanza-tales, some of Chaucer's latest work, but I shall presently shew that this late work is easily picked out. I have already pointed out that the Prioress's Tale (of unusual brevity) is an exception to the general rule.
§ 13. The above distinction was suggested to me by the simple fact, that Chaucer cannot be proved to have used his couplets till he was well advanced in composition. Indeed, it has always been remarked that no English poet before him ever dreamt of such a metre, and it has been a source of wonder, for hundreds of years, whence he derived it. To say that it was derived from the French ten-syllable verse is not a complete solution of the mystery; for nearly all such verse is commonly either in stanzas, or else a great number of successive lines are rimed together. We have to discover a specimen of French ten-syllable verse in which only two successive lines are rimed together; and these, I believe, are very scarce. After some search I have, however, fortunately lighted upon a very interesting specimen, among the poems of Guillaume de Machault, a French writer whom Chaucer is known to have imitated, and who died in 1377. In the edition of Machault's poems edited by Tarbé, Reims and Paris, 1849, p. 89, there is a poem of exactly this character, of no great length, and fortunately dated; for its title is—'Complainte écrite après la bataille de Poitiers et avant le siège de Reims par les Anglais' (1356-1358). The first four lines run thus:—
'A toy, Henry, dous amis, me complain,
Pour ce que ne cueur ne mont ne plein;
Car a piet suy, sans cheval et sans selle,
Et si n'ay mais esmeraude, ne belle.'
The last couplet (the second line of which has two examples of the fully-sounded final e) is as follows:—
'Et que jamais ne feray chant ne lay,
Adieu te di: car toutë joië lay.'
As some of Machault's poems seem to have been lost, he may have written several more poems in the same metre. In any case, we know that Chaucer was well acquainted with his works, and it is also almost certain that the earliest attempt to use this metre in English was made by Chaucer, in his Legend of Good Women, commenced, according to Professor Ten Brink, in the year 1385 (Furnivall's Trial Forewords, p. 111). Surely this date is one of considerable importance; for we at once derive from it the probability that all of the Canterbury Tales written in this metre were written after 1385, whilst those not in this metre may have been earlier, though one of them and a part of some others appear to be later.
§ 14. It appears that the original scheme, whereby each pilgrim was to tell two Tales on the way to Canterbury, and two on his return, was modified, at the time of writing the Parson's Prologue, to a less ambitious scheme whereby each pilgrim was to tell but one Tale apiece. Indeed, the expressions—'Almost fulfild is al myn ordinaunce' in the Parson's Prologue (I 19), and again—'To knitte up al this feeste, and make an ende' in the same (I 47), clearly indicate that the author would, by that time, have been content with the far humbler task of providing but one Tale apiece for the outward journey only. This would have reduced the original scheme to only a quarter of what had been intended; but even thus far the work was never completed. All that finally appeared consists of nine separate fragments; yet they amount to more than 17,000 lines, besides two Tales in prose. It would have been well if the latest scheme, i.e. the quarter of the first scheme, could have been thoroughly carried out; but we must be thankful for what we have.
§ 15. Two attempts were made by subsequent authors to continue the Canterbury Tales; it may be worth while to give here a brief notice of them.
The Tale of Beryn, by an anonymous author, belongs to the early part of the fifteenth century. It has been printed for the Chaucer Society from the Duke of Northumberland's MS. no. 55, where it occurs at leaf 180, after the Canon's Yeoman's Tale. This Tale is supposed to have been the first one told after leaving Canterbury on the return journey, and is put into the mouth of the Merchant, who volunteers to tell it without troubling the host to go through the process of casting lots. It is preceded by a Prologue, which accounts for the manner in which the time was passed in Canterbury. A considerable portion of it is taken up by an account of an amour of the Pardoner; but we also learn several particulars which are of interest, as they refer to the pilgrimage of the characters imagined by Chaucer, and serve to fill in the general idea.
Following this guide, we learn that, on arriving at Canterbury, the Pilgrims lodged at an inn called 'The Cheker of the Hope,' or Chequer of the Hoop; and as soon as they had taken up their quarters there, proceeded to the cathedral, headed by the Knight, to make their offerings at the shrine, of silver brooches and the like. On arriving at the door, the question of precedence arose, as to which should first enter; but this was settled by the Knight, who gave way to 'the prelatis, the person and his fere.' Hereupon a monk appears, who sprinkles the company with holy water; and we find that the Friar was very anxious to be allowed to perform this duty for him—'so longid his holy conscience to se the Nonnys face.' The Knight and others repair to the shrine, but the Pardoner and the Miller, with others of like mind, chiefly occupy themselves with wandering about the cathedral, poring upon the stained glass in the windows, and discussing the coats-of-arms there displayed, as well as the chief subjects there depicted. However, the Host goes after them, and persuades them to visit the shrine, and pay their offerings. After kneeling down before the shrine, and kissing the various relics, they stay to hear the service, and afterwards repair to the inn to dinner, as it is now near noon.
On their way, they buy, according to custom, some pilgrims' 'signs' or tokens; on which occasion the Miller and Pardoner obtain several 'Canterbury brooches' by the cheap process of stealing them. They afterwards display the signs, as usual, by wearing them stuck in their hats.
On returning to the inn, they wash and sit down to dinner, and are soon in loud talk, greatly enjoying themselves. The Host then formally thanks the company for having, each of them, told 'a tale' according to the original compact. All that is now required, he says, is 'that wee must so, homward, eche man tel anothir.' The Friar reminds the Host that they were all to sup with him on their return to Southwark (Prol. 799, 815). The Host says he is ready to do his part, and the company disperse for a time. They again meet at supper; and afterwards go to bed for the night.
The next morning, the Knight and his son the Squire each 'cast on a fressher gown,' an example followed by several others, and all sally out to see the town. The Knight and Squire are particularly interested in the town-walls and the fortifications, which they examine critically, though the Squire's mind is occasionally distracted by irrepressible thoughts of his lady-love. The Clerk of Oxford harangues the Sompnour, and tells him that he ought not to be angry with the Friar for knowing so much about evil-doings, and for telling a Tale about a false Sompnour; for it is well to have some knowledge both of good and evil, and it is admitted that there must always be some evil members of every calling; of which doctrine the Knight approves. The Monk takes the Parson and the Grey Friar to call on a friend of his; and we are told that they did not drink water together on this occasion; 'for spycys and eke wyne Went round aboute.' The Wife of Bath and the Prioress repair to the garden behind the inn, which they greatly admire; whilst the Merchant, the Manciple, the Miller, the Reeve, and others roam about the town. In the evening, all the pilgrims meet at supper-time, after which the steadier members of the company go early to bed, whilst the Miller and the Cook sit up drinking. Here follows, at considerable length, the adventure of the Pardoner. Next morning, the whole company leave Canterbury early, in splendid weather, and are all in excellent spirits. The tale-telling commences, and the Merchant undertakes to tell the Tale of Beryn.
§ 16. The other projected continuation of the Canterbury Tales is Lydgate's poem called the Storie of Thebes, first printed as an appendix to the Tales in Stowe's edition of 1561. It is preceded by a Prologue in which Lydgate, with some humour, makes the Host remark that the poet's bridle has neither boss nor bell, and that the poet himself is pale, and 'all deuoide of blood', and wears upon his head 'a wonder thredbare hood', being moreover 'Well araied for to ride late'; which I take to mean that, if his late riding caused him to fall among thieves, there was not much spoil to be obtained from him.
Lydgate had, he tells us, just recovered from a sickness, and went on a pilgrimage to Canterbury on his own account. By good fortune, he went to the same inn as Chaucer's pilgrims, and found there the whole company. The Host invites him to supper, offering him a great pudding or a round haggis, and prescribing for him, after supper, some red fennel, anise, cummin, or coriander-seed. The pilgrims are to leave Canterbury next morning at daybreak, and Lydgate agrees to accompany them.
Accordingly, on the morrow, they make an early start, designing to reach Ospringe by dinner-time, i.e. by about ten o'clock in the forenoon. They had only just left the precincts of the town, when the Host calls upon Lydgate to tell the first Tale of the day; whereupon he commences the long 'Storie of Thebes', in three parts. He succeeded in finishing the first part just at nine o'clock, as they 'passed the thrope of Broughton on the Blee'. Near the end of the third part there is an interesting allusion to the opening lines of the Knightes Tale, where the mourning ladies await the coming of Theseus—
'And, as my master Chaucer list to endite,
All clad in blacke with hir wimples white'—
take up their position 'in the temple of the goddesse Clemence.' When Theseus comes, they beseech him to redress their harms:—
'But if ye list to see the gentillesse
Of Theseus, and how he hath him borne,
If ye remember, ye have heard to-forne
Well rehearsed, at Depeford in the vale,
In the beginning of the Knightes tale.'
It should be particularly noted that, like the author of the Tale of Beryn, Lydgate assumes that each pilgrim tells one Tale only on the journey to Canterbury, and one on the way home. The Host explains to him that it is 'the custome of this companie' for each member of it 'To tell a tale,' and that they 'will homeward the same custome vse.' It is clear that Chaucer's theory about the scheme of his Tales was entirely lost sight of, and that only his practice was regarded, which implied that half the number would suffice. Tyrwhitt's proposal, to alter the text of the Prologue so as to make it square better with the facts, contradicts all that we know about Chaucer. To formulate larger schemes than he could carry out was his constant habit.
§ 17. The Prologue is chiefly occupied with the description of the company. As to their number, there is a little difficulty. In l. 24, we are told that it was 'wel nyne and twenty,' i.e. about 29. The question as to whether this number includes Chaucer himself seems to be settled by l. 29, where he employs the word 'we'; and we shall find that to include the poet among the 29 suits best with all that is said about them; cf. l. 544. Nevertheless, the actual number described (if we include Chaucer) is 31, owing to the mention of 'the preestes three' in l. 164. This has been commented on in § 8; and, as we have the authority of Chaucer himself for supposing that one of the tellers of Tales is the Nonnes Preest, which presupposes but one Preest, we are justified in looking upon these three words as having been interpolated. We might even suppose that Chaucer himself made such an alteration himself at a later time, forgetting the inconsistency which was thus introduced. I shall now assume the truth of this correction, and give the list of the 29. At the same time, I print in italics the names of those who are tellers of Tales, and we thus see the result at a glance.
1. The Knight. 2. The Squyer. 3. The Yeman. 4. The Prioresse. 5. The Second Nonne. 6. The Nonnes Preest. 7. The Monk. 8. The Frere. 9. The Marchaunt. 10. The Clerk. 11. The Sergeant of the Lawe, or Man of Lawe. 12. The Frankeleyn. 13. The Haberdasher. 14. The Carpenter. 15. The Webbe. 16. The Dyere. 17. The Tapicer. 18. The Cook. 19. The Shipman. 20. The Doctour, or Phisicien. 21. The Wyf of Bathe. 22. The Persoun. 23. The Plowman. 24. The Miller. 25. The Manciple. 26. The Reve. 27. The Somnour. 28. The Pardoner. 29. Chaucer. Besides these, we find (ll. 803, 4) that mine Host of the Tabard, by name Harry Bailly (A 4358), volunteered to accompany and guide the pilgrims, thus bringing their total number up to thirty. To which it is very necessary to add, that the number of pilgrims was increased, during the journey, by the accession of the Chanouns Yeman (G 703).
The Host proposes that each pilgrim shall tell two Tales on the outward, and two on the homeward journey; a proposal which afterwards dwindled down, as explained above, to one only, on the outward journey alone. Even this scheme was not fulfilled, nor did the pilgrims ever arrive at their destination. We only know that the Persones Tale was to have been the last, as the Knightes was the first. The best tale-teller, in the judgment of mine host, was to have a supper in his honour, at the expense of all the rest; but the prize was never awarded.
Chaucer's description of his characters is dramatic and masterly; and nothing more need be said about them here, though some further particulars are given in the Notes. His sketches are doubtless original, with the remarkable exception of certain lines in the descriptions of the Prioresse and the Wyf of Bathe, which are transcribed or imitated from Le Roman de la Rose. We even find in Marsh (Eng. Language, p. 419) the remark, that Chaucer was 'a dramatist before that which is technically known as the drama was invented.'
§ 18. The Knightes Tale. It is certain that this poem was rewritten, for the purpose of being placed at the head of the Tales. In its original form, it constituted the poem of 'Palemon and Arcite' as referred to in the Legend of Good Women; see the note to l. 420 of that poem, and the introductory remarks to Anelida and Arcite in vol. i. p. 529. We thus see (as was duly noted by Ten Brink) that the original Palemon and Arcite was written in seven-line stanzas, and that some fragments that once belonged to it have found their way into other poems. The opening stanzas of Palemon and Arcite are preserved in the poem of Anelida, ll. 22-46; and we can easily see how they were rewritten so as to form ll. A 859-873 of the Knightes Tale. Above Anelida, l. 22, and again above A 859, the same quotation from Statius is still found in the MSS.
Sixteen stanzas which probably belonged to Palemon and Arcite are preserved in the Parl. Foules, 183-294. These lines were entirely recast and condensed, with additions of Chaucer's own, and answer to Kn. Ta., A 1918-1935. The likeness is so slight that it is worth while to shew wherein it consists. I quote first from the Parl. Foules, and afterwards from the Knightes Tale, merely giving such lines as shew a faint likeness, and printing unchanged words in italics.
(1) From the Parliament of Foules:—
246. Within the temple [sc. of Venus], of syghes hote as fyr
I herde a swogh that ganne aboute renne;
Which syghes were engendred with desyr....
218. Tho was I war of Plesaunce anon-right,
225. I saw Beautee, withouten any atyr,
And Youthe, ful of game and Iolitee
Fool-hardinesse, Flaterye, and Desyr,
Messagerye, and Mede, and othere three....
261. Fond I Venus and her porter Richesse.
221. To doon by force a wight to do folye.
252. ... the bitter goddesse Ialousye.
197. Of instruments of strenges....
232. Aboute the temple daunceden alway....
219. And of Aray, and Lust.
(2) From the Knightes Tale: A 1918, &c.:—
First in the temple of Venus maystow see....
The broken slepes and the sykes colde....
The fyry strokes of the desiring....
Plesaunce and hope, desyr, fool-hardinesse,
Beautee and youthe, bauderie, richesse,
Charmes and force, lesinges, flaterye,
Dispense, bisynesse, and Ielousye....
Festes, instruments, caroles, daunces,
Lust and array.
The above is an excellent example of the manner in which Chaucer was capable of absorbing ideas, and reproducing them in a form almost wholly his own. If we were not aware beforehand that both these passages are due to stanzas 53-64 of Book VII. of Boccaccio's Teseide, it would be easy to miss even their general resemblance.
Lastly, we find that the lines in Troilus, v. 1807-27, are really imitated from the Teseide, xi. stt. 1-3, where they refer to the death of Arcite. In the Knightes Tale, all that answers to the same passage is a part of lines A 2809-15; and all the resemblance is in the following expressions.
(1) From Troilus, v. 1808, &c.:—
His lighte goost ful blisfully is went
Up to the holownesse of the seventh spere....
And forth he wente, shortly for to telle,
Theras Mercurie sorted him to dwelle.
(2) From the Knightes Tale; A 2809:—
His spirit chaunged hous, and wente ther,
As I cam never, I can nat tellen wher....
... wher they dwelle;
Arcite is cold, ther Mars his soule gye.
The change from Mercury, as the conductor of souls in general, to Mars, as the conductor of the martial soul of Arcite, is well worth notice.
§ 19. These specimens furnish good examples of Chaucer's method. Palemon and Arcite was, at first, a reasonably close imitation of Boccaccio's poem of the Teseide, which took its name from the hero Theseus. But in its second form, it was so much altered as to become, to all intents, a truly original poem. Thanks to the patient labour of Mr. Henry Ward, who collated the Teseide and the Knightes Tale throughout, line by line, we can now tell that 'out of 2250 of Chaucer's lines, he has only translated 270 (less than one-eighth); that only 374 more lines bear a general likeness to Boccaccio's, and only 132 more, a slight likeness; [so that] any talk of the Knightes Tale being a "translation only," or "taken bodily from the Teseide" (of 9054 lines), is of course absurd. Chaucer's work is an adaptation of his original.'—F. J. Furnivall, A Temporary Preface of the Six-text Edition of the Canterbury Tales, p. 104.
A table shewing the general resemblance between certain lines in the Knightes Tale and lines in the Teseide, is given in the Notes; to which I must refer the reader for further information. I will merely add here that Chaucer also consulted the Thebais of Statius, which was one of Boccaccio's authorities.
§ 20. In order to give a clear idea of the general contents of Boccaccio's poem, I here quote in full the analysis of it made by Tyrwhitt, and printed in his Introductory Discourse:—
'The Teseide is distributed into twelve Books or Cantoes.
'Bk. i. Contains the war of Theseus with the Amazons, their submission to him, and his marriage with Hippolyta.
'Bk. ii. Theseus, having spent two years in Scythia, is reproached by Perithous in a vision, and immediately returns to Athens with Hippolyta and her sister Emilia. He enters the city in triumph; finds the Grecian ladies in the temple of Clemenzia; marches to Thebes; kills Creon, &c., and brings home Palemone and Arcita who are "Damnati—ad eterna presone."
'Bk. iii. Emilia, walking in a garden and singing, is heard and seen first by Arcita, who calls Palemone. They are both equally enamoured of her, but without any jealousy or rivalship. Emilia is supposed to see them at the window, and to be not displeased with their admiration. Arcita is released at the request of Perithous; takes his leave of Palemone, with embraces, &c.
'Bk. iv. Arcita, having changed his name to Pentheo, goes into the service of Menelaus at Mycenae, and afterwards of Peleus at Aegina. From thence he returns to Athens and becomes a *favourite servant of Theseus, being known to Emilia, though to nobody else; till after some time he is overheard making his complaint in a wood, to which he usually resorted for that purpose, by Pamphilo, a servant of Palemone.
'Bk. v. Upon the report of Pamphilo, Palemone begins to be jealous of Arcita, and is desirous to get out of prison in order to fight with him. This he accomplishes with the assistance of Pamphilo, by changing clothes with Alimeto, a physician. He goes armed to the wood in quest of Arcita, whom he finds sleeping. At first, they are very civil and friendly to each other. Then Palemone calls upon Arcita to renounce his pretensions to Emilia, or to fight with him. After many long expostulations on the part of Arcita, they fight, and are discovered first by Emilia, who sends for Theseus. When he finds who they are, and the cause of their difference, he forgives them, and proposes the method of deciding their claim to Emilia by a combat of a hundred on each side, to which they gladly agree.
'Bk. vi. Palemone and Arcita live splendidly at Athens, and send out messengers to summon their friends, who arrive; and the principal of them are severally described, viz. Lycurgus, Peleus, Phocus, Telamon, &c.; Agamemnon, Menelaus, Castor and Pollux, &c.; Nestor, Evander, Perithous, Ulysses, Diomedes, &c.; with a great display of ancient history and mythology.
'Bk. vii. Theseus declares the laws of the combat, and the two parties of a hundred on each side are formed. The day before the combat, Arcita, after having visited the temples of all the gods, makes a formal prayer to Mars. The prayer, being personified, is said to go and find Mars in his temple in Thrace, which is described; and Mars, upon understanding the message, causes favourable signs to be given to Arcita. In the same manner Palemone closes his religious observances with a prayer to Venus. His prayer, being also personified, sets out for the temple of Venus on Mount Citherone, which is also described; and the petition is granted. Then the sacrifice of Emilia to Diana is described, her prayer, the appearance of the goddess, and the signs of the two fires. In the morning they proceed to the theatre with their respective troops and prepare for the action. Arcita puts up a private prayer to Emilia, and harangues his troop publickly; and Palemone does the same.
'Bk. viii. Contains a description of the battle, in which Palemone is taken prisoner.
'Bk. ix. The horse of Arcita, being frighted by a Fury, sent from Hell at the desire of Venus, throws him. However, he is carried to Athens in a triumphal chariot with Emilia by his side; is put to bed dangerously ill; and there by his own desire espouses Emilia.
'Bk. x. The funeral of the persons killed in the combat. Arcita, being given over by his physicians, makes his will, in discourse with Theseus, and desires that Palemone may inherit all his possessions and also Emilia. He then takes leave of Palemone and Emilia, to whom he repeats the same request. Their lamentations. Arcita orders a sacrifice to Mercury, which Palemone performs for him, and dies.
'Bk. xi. Opens with the passage of Arcita's soul to heaven, imitated from the Ninth Book of Lucan. The funeral of Arcita. Description of the wood felled takes up six stanzas. Palemone builds a temple in honour of him, in which his whole history is painted. The description of this painting is an abridgement of the preceding part of the Poem.
'Bk. xii. Theseus proposes to carry into execution Arcita's will by the marriage of Palemone and Emilia. This they both decline for some time in formal speeches, but at last are persuaded and married. The kings, &c. take their leave, and Palemone remains—in gioia e in diporto con la sua dona nobile e cortese.'
§ 21. It is remarkable how many expressions that occur in the Knightes Tale are repeated from Troilus. Examples are: A 925, from Tr. iv. 2; A 1010, from Tr. iv. 627; A 1101, from Tr. i. 425; 1133, cf. Tr. i. 674; 1155, cf. Tr. v. 332; 1163, cf. Tr. iv. 618; 1401, from Tr. iv. 865; 1500, from Tr. ii. 112; 1509, from Tr. ii. 920; 1566, from Tr. iii. 733; 1838, from Tr. v. 1433; 2449, from Tr. iv. 1456. Besides this, l. 301 of the Prologue is from Tr. iv. 1174. This tends to shew that the Knightes Tale (rather than the original Palamon and Arcite) was written not very long after Troilus; rather in 1386 or 1387 than in 1388.
I also note that ll. 1035-6, 1196, and 1502, are echoes of ll. 2425-6, 2282, and 1204, of the Legend of Good Women.
§ 22. An early play called 'Palamon and Arcite,' by Richard Edwards, was produced at Oxford in 1566 before Queen Elizabeth; and Henslowe mentions a play with the same name in 1594. Hence also the play of 'The Two Noble Kinsmen,' printed in 1634, with a title-page in which it was attributed to Shakespeare and Fletcher; see my edition, published for the Cambridge University Press in 1875. Dryden's fine poem of Palamon and Arcite is well known; we need not compare it with Chaucer's work very closely. Though inferior to the original, it has a certain excellence of its own. A modernisation of the Knightes Tale by Lord Thurlow appeared in 1822; concerning which nothing need be said. For further remarks on this Tale, consult Warton, History of Eng. Poetry, sect. xii, who, by the way, characterises the description of Lycurgus as being 'very great in the gothic style of painting'; where it is charitable to suppose that by 'gothic' he meant 'English,' but lacked the courage to use the word. And see Morley, Eng. Writers, v. 312; Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer; an essay by Dr. J. Koch, in Essays on Chaucer, p. 359 (Chaucer Society); and remarks by Ten Brink, in his Chaucer Studien, p. 62, and Geschichte der englischen Litteratur, book v.
We may observe that Chaucer has evidently assigned the first place to the Knightes Tale, as being, in his own opinion, the best. It was probably intended that the Knight, the most worshipful person in the company, should succeed in 'winning the supper.'
§ 23. The Miller's Prologue. The Knightes Tale ended, the Host calls upon the Monk to tell the second Tale; but the drunken Miller, notwithstanding the fact that he is perfectly aware of his condition, churlishly insists on telling a Tale to the grave discredit of a Carpenter. This announcement is resented, somewhat strangely, not by the Carpenter who is expressly named as being among the pilgrims (Prol. 361), but by the Reeve, who had learnt a carpenter's trade in his youth (Prol. 614). But remonstrance is vain, and the Miller proceeds. Chaucer is careful to advise those who object to a coarse story to 'turne over the leef; and he has good reason for giving the hint.
§ 24. The Milleres Tale. 'When,' says Tyrwhitt, 'the Knight has finished his Tale, the Host with great propriety calls upon the Monk, as the next in rank among the men, to tell the next Tale; but as it seems to have been the intention of Chaucer to avail himself of the variety of his characters, in order to distribute alternate successions of serious and comic, in nearly equal proportions, throughout his work, he has contrived that the Hostes arrangement shall be set aside by the intrusion of the drunken Miller, whose Tale is such as might be expected from his character and condition, a complete contrast to the Knightes.'
No early Tale resembling this has yet been pointed out. Nevertheless, it is not likely that the main details were of Chaucer's own invention, as clear traces of the same story have been found in Germany. This was pointed out by R. Köhler, of Weimar, in Anglia, vol. i. p. 38; who gives a summary of a very similar story occurring in a book entitled Nachtbüchlein, by Valentin Schumann, which appeared in 1559. At the beginning of the first Part of this work is a tale entitled: 'Ein andere Hystoria von einem Kauffmann der forcht sich vor dem Jüngsten Tage,' or the Tale of a Merchant who dreaded the advent of the Last Day.
The latter part of the story, about Absolon and Nicholas, occurs (says Köhler) in an Italian novel, viz. in novel no. 49 in the collection by Massuccio di Salerno, who flourished about 1470; see chap. viii. of Dunlop's Hist. of Fiction. It is also found, as he further tells us, in a carnival-play by Hanz Folz (in Keller, i. 330).
Another German version similar to that in the Nachtbüchlein, is found in a modern collection entitled 'Sagen, Märchen, und Lieder der Herzogtümer Schleswig-Holstein und Lauenburg,' Kiel, 1845, p. 589 (Anglia, i. 186).
A third German version occurs in a book of the 17th century, entitled 'Lyrum Larum, seu Nugae Venales Ioco Seriae'; see Anglia, ii. 135.
Some have imagined a resemblance between this Tale and one in Boccaccio's Decamerone, Day 3, Nov. 4; but it is a very remote one, so that the reference is practically worthless.
Chaucer's story reappears in an English imitation of it, very briefly told in prose, in a book entitled 'The Life and Death of the merry Deuill of Edmonton, with the pleasaunt prancks of Smug the Smith, &c. By T[homas] B[rewer]. Printed by T. P. for F. Faulkner; 1631.' The chapter is headed: 'How Smug was reuenged upon a Barber (his riuall) that made him kisse his tayle.' The story is reprinted in full by L. Proescholdt, of Homburg, in Anglia, vii. 117.
Lounsbury, in his Studies of Chaucer, iii. 89, mentions a worthless book by Richard Braithwaite, dated 1665, called 'A Comment upon the Two Tales of our ancient, renowned, and ever-living poet, Sir Jeffray Chaucer, Knight.' The 'Two Tales' are those of the Miller and the Wife of Bath. From the same work (iii. 188) we learn that Samuel Cobb published a modernised version of the Tale in 1712, which adheres rather closely to the original, but is of no value.
§ 25. The Reeve's Prologue. Oswold, the Reeve, being by trade a carpenter, is somewhat offended by the Miller's discourse; and, after a little moral talk, which the Host speedily cuts short, undertakes to tell a similar Tale to the discredit of a miller; and certainly succeeds in requiting him in kind. Chaucer's former hint, to turn over the leaf (A 3183), may be applied to this Tale also. But no such hint is given.
§ 26. The Reves Tale. This story resembles one which occurs in Boccaccio's Decamerone, Day 9, Nov. 6; but this only proves that both are derived from a common source. A closer resemblance to Chaucer's story, as pointed out by Mr. T. Wright, occurs in a French Fabliau found in MS. Berne, no. 354, fol. 164, back. It was first printed in Wright's Anecdota Litteraria, p. 15, and is reprinted in Originals and Analogues, p. 93 (Chaucer Society). We find in it very similar incidents. Two clerks take a sack of wheat to a mill to be ground. They throw down the sack on the mill-floor, and turn their mare loose in a meadow. One of them stays to watch the sack, whilst the other seeks the miller, who is in a neighbouring wood. The first clerk grows tired of waiting, and goes after the other. Meanwhile, the miller returns, and secretes the sack. The clerks, returning, can find neither sack nor mare. At last they ask the miller to take them in for the night. The story proceeds nearly as in Chaucer; and, in the sequel, the clerks regain both wheat and mare, and take the wheat to be ground elsewhere. Perhaps it is needless to add that Chaucer's Tale is none the less original. His mode of telling it is such as to render it wholly his own.
Another story, of a similar cast, occurs in another French Fabliau, by Jean de Boves, entitled De Gombert et des Deux Clers. It is printed in Méon's edition of Barbazan's Fabliaux et Contes, vol. iii. pp. 239-44, Paris, 1808; and is reprinted, from two MSS. in the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris (nos. 837, 2168), in Originals and Analogues, p. 87 (Chaucer Society). This story is less complete, as it omits all the former part, about taking the wheat to be ground. Two clerks seek lodging with a vilain, named Gombert; one of them falls in love with Gombert's wife, and the other, with his daughter. The rest of the story is much the same as before.
A later version occurs in a black-letter quarto volume printed by Wynkyn de Worde, entitled 'A mery Iest of the Mylner of Abyngton with his Wyfe and his Doughter, and the two poore scholers of Cambridge'; reprinted in Hazlitt's Early Popular Poetry, iii. 98. I do not agree with Hazlitt's opinion that this story has 'little or nothing in common' with the Reves Tale; on the contrary, I should say that the author took his story from Chaucer, as is tolerably obvious from the mention of Cambridge, but took some pains to disguise its origin. Although he alters Trumpington to Abington, many particulars are closely copied, as, e.g. the precise manner in which the two clerks watch the grinding of the wheat, one from above, and one from below. I equally dissent from Hazlitt's other opinion, that, 'in an artistic and constructive point of view, the "Mylner of Abyngton" is superior to its predecessor.' The decisions of some critics are simply inexplicable.
In the Preface to Dyce's edition of Skelton, vol. i. p. lxvi., there is a 'Merie Tale' of Skelton, entitled 'How Master Skeltons miller deceyued hym manye times by playinge the theefe,' &c. It illustrates the tricks of millers, but the story is different.
Besides these, two German versions of the story occur in MSS., and there is a short Latin version of it in De Generibus Ebriosorum (1516). See an able discussion of the whole matter in an excellent article by H. Varnhagen, printed in Englische Studien, vol. ix. pp. 240-266. Varnhagen reprints the French Fabliau given in Wright's Anecdota Litteraria, but from another MS., of the 13th century, found at Berlin. He also reprints the Milner of Abington, with a better arrangement of the text, shewing its true metrical form. He then investigates the relationship to one another of all the various versions, exhibiting the result in a table printed at p. 266.
As to the connexion between Chaucer's Tale and the French Fabliau in the Berne MS., Varnhagen points out some interesting resemblances, such as the following:—
Diu povre clerc furent jadis.—1.
Than were ther yonge povre clerkes two.—A 4002.
Né d'une vile et d'un pais.—2.
Of o toun were they born.—A 4014.
Il a son conpaignon bouté.—190.
He poked Iohn.—A 4169.
Qant il oït lo coc chanter.—257.
Til that the thridde cok bigan to singe.—A 4233.
Tantost prant lo clerc par la gole.—288.
And by the throte-bolle he caughte Alayn.—A 4273.
§ 27. The Cook's Prologue. The Cook heartily approves of the Reves Tale, and informs the company that his name is Hogge (Hodge) of Ware; at the same time volunteering a story. The Host approves the offer—
'Now telle on, Roger; loke that it be good'—
but accuses him of cheating his customers. The Cook replies good-humouredly, calling the Host by his name, 'Herry Bailly,' and suggests that he knows a tale not much to the credit of 'an hostileer.' However, he will not tell that tale now.
§ 28. The Cokes Tale. This Tale, as found in all the MSS., is a mere fragment, extending to only 58 lines; and this portion is insufficient to shew the form which the Tale was meant to take. The portrait of Perkin Revelour, the idle apprentice, is, however, clearly drawn.
It would seem as if this fragment was meant to be suppressed; for, in the Manciple's Prologue, the Host calls upon the Cook to tell a tale, even if it be worthless; but the Manciple intercedes, and the Host excuses him, because he is so helplessly drunk (H 13, 29). This seems to presuppose that the Cook had told no tale as yet; for, by this time, Chaucer had arrived at his modified plan, which required only one Tale from each pilgrim on the outward journey (§ 14); and the Manciple is called upon to tell his own Tale instead, as he had hitherto told none.
§ 29. The Tale of Gamelyn. This Tale is, of course, not Chaucer's, and is never found in MSS. of the A-type (see Pref. to vol. iv). Perhaps we may hence infer that MSS. of that type represent the text of the Tales as it stood before Chaucer's death; whereas, after that event, 'Gamelyn' was inserted amongst them by scribes or friends who found it amongst the writings which he had left behind him. We cannot doubt that, if Chaucer had rewritten this Tale, he would have placed it in the mouth of the Yeman. As, however, it happens to have been inserted immediately after the Cook's Tale, a late hand, in the Harl. MS. 7334, has scribbled above it—'The Cokes Tale of Gamelyn'; whence the blunder arose of connecting it with the Cook.
As the Tale is found in several of the MSS., I have printed it in the Appendix to vol. iv., pp. 645-667, in smaller type. The text is mainly from MS. Harl. 7334, collated with Harl. Cp., Ln., Pt., Rl., and Sl.; see footnote on p. 645 of vol. iv., and the description of the MSS. in the Introduction to that volume.
The Tale is evidently of some antiquity, and may be dated, approximately, about 1340. One line which occurs in it twice over (see ll. 277, 764) is quoted, almost exactly, from l. 475 of a Poem on the Evil Times of Edward II., as printed by Mr. Wright for the Camden Society in 1839, the probable date of which is about 1320.
The dialect is more northern than that of the Canterbury Tales, and resembles that of Lincolnshire. The proportion of French words is much smaller: see, e. g., ll. 5-7, 9-13, 16, 20-30, in which no French words occur. The proportion of Scandinavian words is larger; we may notice serk (Lowl. Sc. sark) in l. 259, skeet, quickly, in l. 187, which do not occur in Chaucer. The very name of Gamelyn is of Scandinavian origin, answering to a form Gamel-īn, from the Norse word for 'old,' as seen in Icel. gamall, Swed. gammal, Dan. gammel. It is perhaps the original of Gandeleyn, which occurs in a ballad entitled 'Robyn and Gandeleyn,' belonging to the cycle of the Robin Hood ballads (cf. p. 381). The exploits of Gamelyn remind us somewhat of those of Havelok; in particular, the marvellous way in which Gamelyn lays about him, at one time with a 'pestle' (l. 128) and at another with a 'cart-staff' (l. 500), recalls Havelok's feat in killing twenty men with the bar of a door; see the Lay of Havelok the Dane, ed. Skeat, ll. 1794-1859. On the whole, we may fairly connect this Tale with the neighbourhood of Sherwood Forest, to which so many of the Robin Hood ballads belong; and its considerable antiquity gives it a peculiar interest.
§ 30. The story evidently belongs to that highly popular class in which it is the youngest of three brothers who is the successful hero. I should be inclined to believe that the Tale is not wholly due to the invention of its author, but is derived, like the Lay of Havelok, from some Anglo-French original; whilst there are, at the same time, some traces (as in that poem) of Scandinavian influence. The name Sir Johan of Boundes is French; since Boundes is the pl. of bound, from the Old French bonne, a limit; the equivalent English phrase for 'of Boundes' would be 'of the Marches.' The name of his second son is Otes (l. 727) or Ote (l. 731), which is the nom. case of the F. Otoun, from the Lat. Othonem, accusative of Otho (cf. G. Otto). Otoun is the name of a French knight who was vanquished by Sir Guy of Warwick.
§ 31. Some of the rimes in this poem are imperfect, as wit, bet, 111; whilst gat-e, scap-e, 575, form a mere assonance. We also find mere repetitions, such as now, now, 93; thee, thee, 399; another, other, 445. The rime thare, yare, 793, is certainly Northern. So also ying, king, 887; yet, at l. 169, we find tonge, yonge, shewing that the author was not very particular.
The metre is not easy to follow, being very variable; it resembles that of such popular nursery rimes as 'Sing a song of sixpence,' wherein two consecutive accents, as in 'And snápped óff her nose,' excite no surprise or difficulty. Each verse is divided into two parts by a metrical pause, denoted in this edition by a raised full stop (·). Each part is of variable length, and may be considered separately. In the former part the chief varieties conform to the following types, where 'A' denotes an accented syllable, and 'b' an unaccented one.
(1) A b A b A b; as in l. 12:—
Hów his chíldren shóld-e.
So also ll. 15, 21, 22, 23, 26, 28, 49.
(2) b A b A b A; as in l. 71:—
He toók intó his hónd.
So also ll. 88, 93, 105, 143, 200, 287.
(3) b A b A b A b; as in l. 2:—
And yé schull' héer' a tálking.
So also ll. 9, 17, 19, 27, 29, 32, 42, 61, 64.
The above half-lines contain three accents; but four accents occur also, chiefly in the following types.
(4) A b A b A b A; as in l. 120:—
Gámelýn was wár anón.
So also ll. 123, 135, 139, 252, 280, 282, 306. Also ll. 199, 207, where Good-e marks the vocative case.
(5) A b A b A b A b; as in l. 34:—
Bót' of bál-e gód may sénd-e.
So also ll. 118, 336.
(6) b A b A b A b A; as in l. 6:—
The éldest wás a móche schréw'.
So also ll. 55 (neyh-e-bours having three syllables), 62, 80, 94, 96, 99, 100, 107, 109, 125, 136, 153.
(7) b A b A b A b A b; as in ll. 31, 58:—
And séyd-e, sír', for góddes lóv-e.
That wás my fádres héritág-e.
Most of the further variations are caused by the slurring of a slight syllable which is practically superfluous; or, on the other hand, by the omission of an unaccented syllable where we should expect to hear one. The former of these processes is simple and common. Thus, in l. 18, we have:—
To hélp-e délen his lóndes,
where the two syllables italicised are run together, and the line is really of the type no. 3.
It is the other process, viz. the omission of an expected syllable, which jars so disagreeably on the modern ear; though common (as was said) in nursery rimes. Thus, in l. 23:—
On his déth-bédd-e.
In l. 41:—
Tho léet-e théy the kníght lý-en.
In l. 68:—
And déyd-e whán tým-e cóm.
These are of the types A b A A b (cf. no. 1); b A b A b A A b (cf. no. 7); and b A b A A b A (cf. no. 6); and were no doubt considered sufficiently good. The lilt of the verse carried the reciter along.
The latter half-verse is usually of types (1), (2), or (3), with three accents. Examples of (1) occur in 3, 16, 17, 20, 41, 50; of (2), in 1, 7, 8, 26, 32; of (3), in 10, 18, 19, 28, 39. But some occur of a still shorter type, viz. A b A b A; as in—ón his fáir-e fél, 76; so also in 79, 107, 109, 128. When an unaccented syllable is dropped, we even find such lines as—sýk thér he láy, 11 (A A b A); sýk thát he láy, 21 (the same); whán he góod cówd-e, 48 (A b A A b); he láy stóon-stíll-e, 67 (b A A A b); and the like. Whether the number of accents in the second half-line was ever diminished to two, may be doubted. Rather we may suppose that, in reciting the lines slowly but emphatically, a fictitious additional accent was placed upon the italicised syllables in such half-lines as—by sé-ÿnt Mar-týn, 53; wálk-yng-e thár-e, 89; be bét-en anón, 115; and árt so yíng, 148; a rám and a ríng, 172; to wénd-e ther-tó, 173. This slippery matter I leave to the reader's discretion.
§ 32. An excellent critical examination of the Tale of Gamelyn, by E. Lindner, appeared in the Englische Studien, ed. E. Kölbing, vol. ii. pp. 94, 321 (1878). He made, however, the unlucky mistake of confusing MS. Harl. 1758 with MS. Harl. 7334, not being aware that there are two copies of the poem in the Harleian collection; thus unfortunately missing the readings of MS. Harl. 7334, which is much the best copy, and would have solved some at least of his difficulties. Nevertheless, his article is highly useful, and I must refer the reader to it for further information. I here briefly note a few of his results.
He remarks that Gamelyn was first composed for recitation; observe the frequent use of litheth, i.e. 'listen ye,' at the beginning of each section of the lay; see ll. 1, 169, 289, 341, 551, 769; cf. l. 615. For a comparison of Gamelyn with Lodge's novel called 'Euphues golden Legacie' (see § 34), he refers us to Delius' edition of Shakespeare, ii. 347 (1872). At p. 101, he gives a complete Rime-index to the whole poem, and at p. 107 notices some false rimes. The rimes (he says) are chiefly of the most ordinary character, and the poem is very inartificial; see, e.g., ll. 135-8, 261-270, 315-8, 529-534, 649-652, 729-732, 811-4; &c. The author constantly repeats himself; note the repetition of sore, 10, 11; for to dele, 42, 43; ll. 72, 73; 85-6, compared with 97-8; al that my fader me biquath, 99, 157, 160, 360; 120-1; 149, 150, compared with 151-4; 190-1, &c. Short expressions or 'tags' occur over and over again; as ther he lay, 11, 21, 25, 33, 50, 52, 66; Cristes curs mot he have, 106, 114, 116, 818; by Cristes ore, 139, 159, 231, 323; he began to goon, 126, 220, 236, 498; evel mot ye thee, 131, 363, 448, 720; cf. 379, 413, 517; whyl he was on lyve, 20, 58, 157, 225, 228. There are frequent examples of alliteration, as litheth and lesteneth, 1; bote of bale, 32, 34; stondeth alle stille, 55; stoon-stille, 67, &c.; more examples can easily be found. We also find repetitions of ideas, the latter part of the verse merely reproducing the former, as in 107, 174, 217, 221, 381, 699, 732. At p. 324, is an analysis of some of the looser rimes. At p. 328, is an analysis of the grammatical forms and of the varieties of spelling. At p. 113, Lindner is inclined to connect the story with the time of Fulke Fitz Warin, i.e. with the time of King John; see Ten Brink, Early Eng. Literature (English version), p. 149. At p. 321, he says that the description of Gamelyn's brother's house, with its hall-door (461), outer gate (286), postern-gate (589), bower (405), &c., suits the description of an Anglo-Norman manor-house of the thirteenth century; see T. Wright, A History of English Culture, London, 1874. The father of the hero was evidently a Norman knight; cf. l. 108.
§ 33. Little need be said of previous editions of the Tale of Gamelyn. It was first printed, in a worthless text, with capricious alterations, by Urry, in 1721. But in 1847, Mr. T. Wright printed it for the Percy Society, from the best text, viz. that in MS. Harl. 7334; yet he, somewhat carelessly, omitted three lines (563, 601, 602). This was reprinted in Bell's Chaucer, with the omission of the same three lines. In Morris's Chaucer, the three missing lines are restored; but in some other places, the edition follows Mr. Wright's text rather than the MS. Dr. Furnivall's Six-text edition contains the text of six other MSS.; he purposely omitted MS. Harl. 7334, on the ground that it was already in type; whence Lindner's very natural mistake. I have thus had the great advantage of collating the readings of MS. Harl. 7334 with those of six other MSS., to the improvement of the text as a whole. All the copies go back to one original; the second best copy is in the Corpus MS., from which the Lansdowne MS. does not greatly vary. The other MSS. give inferior readings, the Sloane MS. being the worst. For further particulars, I refer the reader to the Notes in vol. v.; and to the somewhat fuller account in my separate edition of the Tale of Gamelyn, published at Oxford in 1884.
§ 34. Long before the Tale of Gamelyn first appeared in print, a MS. copy was consulted by Thomas Lodge, who founded upon it part of a prose story, which was afterwards printed at London in 1592 with the title: 'Euphues golden Legacie, found after his death in his Cell at Silexedra, bequeathed to Philavtus Sonnes, nvrsed vp with their Father in England.' Of this novel there is a convenient reprint in Shakespeare's Library, ed. W. C. Hazlitt, vol. ii. An analysis of this story, comparing it with 'Gamelyn,' is given in my separate edition already referred to; and copious extracts from it are given by Mr. W. Aldis Wright in his Introduction to his edition of As you Like It. The result is interesting; for it is abundantly clear that this play of Shakespeare's is founded upon Lodge's novel, and that Lodge's novel is a re-cast of the Tale of Gamelyn.
I must not omit to add that I am under considerable obligation to an excellent article on Gamelyn by Prof. Zupitza, which appeared in the Jahrbuch der deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft, vol. xxi. p. 69 (Weimar, 1886).
§ 35. The Words of the Host to the Company. Group A terminates abruptly, and is wholly unconnected with all that follows. Group B introduces us to a new Fragment, longer and more complete than any other in the Series. The Man of Lawe, the Shipman, the Prioresse, the Poet himself, the Monk, and the Nun's Priest, follow each other in unbroken succession; the only hitch being in the connexion between the Man of Lawe and the Shipman, which is explained in its due place. The Group is incomplete, rather at the beginning than at the end; see above.
The opening passage (B 1-98) is of considerable importance, as it contains the line (l. 5) which gives the date, viz. April 18, of one of the days of the pilgrimage, and the statement, that on that day the sun's altitude was 45 degrees at 10 A.M. (B 12-14); and further, because it gives a list of the Tales which Chaucer meant to include in his Legend of Good Women, in order to complete it, though this, after all, was left undone. These points are discussed in the Notes to B 3 and B 61, which see. In ll. 78 and 81, it has usually been supposed (and probably with justice) that Chaucer is referring to Gower's Confessio Amantis, inasmuch as Gower actually gives the stories of Canacee and Apollonius. As this is a point of some difficulty (for it cannot be settled without carefully considering the dates at which Chaucer's Man of Lawes Tale and Gower's long poem were, respectively, written), it is again considered below, in the remarks upon the Tale itself.
The reference (in B 61) to the Legend of Good Women shews that these 'Wordes of the Host' were written after 1385, but before the idea of continuing the Legend had been definitely abandoned, as, in course of time, was certainly the case. This will suit very well with the supposed date of 1387, which, from other considerations, is probably the correct one; see § 3, above, p. 374.
The reference in l. 96—'I speke in prose'—looks, at the first glance, as if Chaucer had originally intended to assign a prose Tale to the Man of Lawe; and indeed, the Tale of Melibeus would have suited him well enough, for Albertano of Brescia, its real author, was actually bred up to the law. As it stands, I take it to mean that speke is here used in a technical sense—i.e. I am accustomed, in the law-courts, to speak in prose, whereas riming is Chaucer's business; if then, I tell a tale in my ordinary manner, it will, as compared with his manner, seem like 'baked haws' as compared with excellent fare. We may even suppose it to be feigned that the Man of Lawe did really, at the time, relate the story in prose, on the understanding that Chaucer might versify it afterwards: 'lat him rymes make,' i.e. let him make verse of it. This is a natural interpretation to put upon the matter; moreover, it left Chaucer free, after all, to tell the story after his own fashion, and even to insert, as we shall soon see, a portion of one of his own early translations into various parts both of the Prologue and of the Tale.
We may also observe the great skill with which Chaucer evades the difficulty of assigning to the Man of Law a Tale which is not particularly suited for him. The speaker says below (B 131) that it is not a tale of his own, but was 'taught' him by 'a marchaunt.' Accordingly, in B 135, we learn that the Tale came originally from some Syrian 'chapmen,' who learnt it when sojourning in Rome (148). It thus becomes, as it were, a merchant's Tale.
The apostrophe addressed to Poverty, in ll. 99-121 (really taken from one of Chaucer's own poems, as shewn in § 36), is by no means out of place; for it leads up to the mention of the 'rich merchants' in l. 122, who toil to avoid it. And it is to one of these that the Tale is supposed to be due.
§ 36. The Man of Law's Prologue. This Prologue has a peculiar and special interest, from the fact that, in the first three stanzas and part of the fourth (as well as in some stanzas of the Tale), the poet has preserved for us a portion of one of his early works. In ll. 414-5 of the older Prologue to the Legend of Good Women, Chaucer tells us that he not only translated Boece in prose, but also (the piece called) 'Of the Wreched Engendring of Mankinde, As man may in Pope Innocent y-finde'; i.e. the treatise by Innocent, afterwards Pope Innocent III., entitled De Contemptu Mundi sive de Miseria Conditionis Humanae. In the present passage (B 99-111), we have a portion of this same treatise in a verse form, as becomes evident upon comparison. This interesting discovery was first made by Prof. Lounsbury, and announced in the 'Nation' (an American journal) for July, 1889; and soon after (quite independently, as I have reason to know, and as Prof. Lounsbury very properly acknowledges) by Dr. E. Köppel, in an article contributed to the 'Archiv für das Studium der Neueren Sprachen und Litteraturen,' vol. 84, (1890), p. 405. See Lounsbury's Studies in Chaucer, ii. 333. Neither does the present passage exhaust this source; for there are yet four more stanzas inserted in the Tale itself, which really belong to the same treatise. These passages being all of high interest, owing to the peculiar use made of them by Chaucer, the original Latin is here given.
(a) B 99-121. The original is from De Cont. Mundi, lib. 1. cap. 16. 'Pauperes enim premuntur inedia, cruciantur aerumna, fame, siti, frigore, nuditate: uilescunt, tabescunt, spernuntur, et confunduntur. O miserabilis mendicantis condicio; et si petit, pudore confunditur; et si non petit, egestate consumitur, sed ut mendicet, necessitate compellitur.
(106) Deum causatur iniquum, quod non recte diuidat; proximum criminatur malignum, quod non plene subueniat. Indignatur, murmurat, imprecatur.
(113) Aduerte super hoc sententiam Sapientis: Melius est, inquit, mori quam indigere [Ecclus. xl. 28]. Etiam proximo suo pauper odiosus erit [Prov. xiv. 20]. Omnes dies pauperis mali, [Prov. xv. 15]—
(120) fratres hominis pauperis oderunt eum. Insuper et amici procul recesserunt ab eo' [Prov. xix. 7.]
(b) B 421-427. From De Cont. Mundi, lib. i. cap. 23; headed De Inopinato Dolore. 'Semper enim mundanae laetitiae tristitia repentina succedit. Et quod incipit a gaudio, desinit in moerore. Mundana quippe felicitas multis amaritudinibus est respersa. Nouerat hoc qui dixerat: Risus dolore miscebitur, et extrema gaudii luctus occupat [Prov. xiv. 13].... Attende salubre consilium: In die bonorum, non immemor sis malorum' [cf. Eccles. vii. 14; xi. 8].
(c) B 771-7. From De Cont. Mundi, lib. ii. c. 19; De Ebrietate. 'Quid turpius ebrioso? cui fetor in ore, tremor in corpore, qui promittit multa, promit occulta, cui mens alienatur, facies transformatur? Nullum enim secretum ubi regnat ebrietas' [Prov. xxxi. 4; in the Vulgate].
(d) B 925-931. From De Cont. Mundi, lib. ii. c. 21. 'O extrema libidinis turpitudo, quae non solum mentem effeminat, sed etiam corpus eneruat; non solum maculat animam, sed foedat personam.'
(e) B 1134-1141. From De Cont. Mundi, lib. i. c. 22; De Breui Laetitia Hominis. 'A mane usque ad uesperam mutabitur tempus [Ecclus. xviii. 26].... Quis unquam uel unicum diem totum duxit in sua delectatione iucundum, quem in aliqua parte diei reatus conscientiae, uel impetus irae, uel motus concupiscentiae non turbauerit? Quem liuor inuidiae uel ardor auaritiae, uel tumor superbiae non uexauerit? Quem aliqua iactura, uel offensa, uel passio non commouerit?'
It thus becomes evident that this Prologue is closely related to the inserted stanzas in B 421-7, 771-7, 925-31, and 1135-41. All of these insertions are, in fact, digressions, and have nothing to do with the story. I conclude that the Prologue and the four inserted stanzas were placed where they now are at the time of the revision of what was once an independent tale, written at an earlier period, viz. before 1385, and probably about 1380. The poem 'Of the Wrecched Engendring of Mankinde' was in existence still earlier. Observe further, that lines 131-3 may be taken to mean, in plain English, that 'I, the poet, should be in want of a Tale to insert here, and should have to write one for the occasion, only I happen, by good fortune, to have one by me which will do very well.' Thus the obliging 'Merchant' who 'taught' Chaucer the Man of Lawes Tale was his industrious younger self. The word 'Merchant' clearly refers to the chapmen or merchants mentioned in B 135, 148, 153, who are supposed to have picked up the story, as has been already said (§ 35).
§ 37. The Man of Lawes Tale. The Words of the Host and the Prologue together contain 133 lines, so that the Tale itself begins with l. 134. We can easily see, from the style and by the metrical form, that this Tale is a piece of Chaucer's early workmanship, and was revised for insertion among the Tales, with the addition of a Prologue and four stanzas, about 1387.
Tyrwhitt has drawn attention to the fact that a story, closely agreeing with the Man of Lawes Tale, is found in Gower's Confessio Amantis, Book II (ed. Pauli, i. 179-213). The expression 'som men wolde seyn,' in ll. 1009 and 1086, led him to suppose that Chaucer took the story from Gower; but this expression can be otherwise explained (see notes to the lines), and the borrowing seems to have been the other way, as will appear if the question be handled with the necessary care.
Before comparing Chaucer's Tale with Gower's, it is first of all necessary to observe that, for the most part, they drew their materials from a common source; a fact which has been completely proved by Lücke, who clearly shews that each of the poets preserves details which the other omits. Their common original is found in the Life of Constance, as narrated in the Anglo-Norman Chronicle of Nicholas Trivet, written about A.D. 1334. Mr. Thomas Wright, in his edition of the Canterbury Tales, pointed out that Trivet's Chronicle contains the original of the story as told by Gower. That it also contains the original of the story as told by Chaucer is evident from the publications of the Chaucer Society. Trivet's version of the story was edited for that Society by Mr. Brock in 1872, with an English translation, and a careful line-by-line analysis of it, shewing clearly the exact extent to which Chaucer followed his original. The name of the publication is 'Originals and Analogues of some of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales,' published for the Chaucer Society; Part I, 1872; Part II, 1875. To this I am indebted for much of the information here given. It appears that Nicholas Trivet was an English Dominican friar, who died some time after 1334. A short account of him in Latin, with a list of works ascribed to him, is to be found in Quetif and Echard's Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum, tom. i. pp. 561-565; and a notice in English of his life and some of his works, in the Preface to T. Hog's edition of Trivet's Annales. Mr. Brock notices eighteen of his works, amongst which it will suffice to mention here (a) his Annales ab origine mundi ad Christum (Royal MS. 13 B. xvi, &c.); (b) his Annales sex Regum Angliae, qui a comitibus Andegavensibus [counts of Anjou] originem traxerunt (Arundel MSS. 46 and 220, Harl. MSS. 29 and 4322, &c.); and (c) his Anglo-Norman Chronicle, quite a distinct work from the Latin Annales (MS. Arundel 56, &c.). Of the last there are numerous copies, MS. Arundel 56 being one of the best, and therefore selected to be printed from for the Chaucer Society. The heading runs thus:—'Ci comence les Cronicles qe Frere Nichol Trivet escript a dame Marie, la fille moun seignour le Roi Edward, le fitz Henri'; shewing that it was written for the princess Mary, daughter of Edward I, born in 1278, who became a nun at Amesbury in 1285. The story of Constance begins on leaf 45, back. Gower follows Trivet rather closely, with but few omissions, and only one addition of any importance, about thirty lines long. 'Chaucer tells the same story as Trivet, but tells it in his own language, and in much shorter compass. He omits little or nothing of importance, and alters only the details.... Chaucer's additions are many; of the 1029 lines of which the Tale consists, about 350 are Chaucer's additions. The passages are these:—ll. 190-203; 270-287; 295-315; 330-343; 351-71; 400-10; 421-7; 449-62; 470-504; 631-58; 701-14; 771-84; 811-9; 825-68; 925-45; 1037-43; 1052-78; 1132-41' (Brock).
As to these additions, I have already shewn (in § 36) the origin of ll. 421-7, 771-7, 925-31, and 1135-1141. It is worth notice that the following passages have also very much the appearance of being added, by way of commentary, at the time of revision; viz. 190-203, 295-315, 358-371, 449-462, 631-658, 701-714, 827-868. They form no essential part of the story, whilst, at the same time, some of them are of high excellence.
Tyrwhitt pointed out that much the same story is to be found in the Lay of Emarè (MS. Cotton, Calig. A. ii, fol. 69), printed by Ritson in the second volume of his Metrical Romances. He observes: 'The chief differences are, that Emarè is originally exposed in a boat for refusing to comply with the desires of the Emperour her father; that she is driven on the coast of Galys, or Wales, and married to the King of that country. The contrivances of the step-mother, and the consequences of them, are the same in both stories.' In the Romance of Sir Eglamour (Thornton Romances, ed. Halliwell, p. 154), the heroine is sent to sea in a ship by herself.
Mr. Thomas Wright further observes: 'The treachery of King Ælla's mother enters into the French Romance of the Chevalier au Cigne, and into the still more ancient Anglo-Saxon romance of King Offa, preserved in a Latin form by Matthew Paris. It is also found in the Italian collection, said to have been composed in 1378, under the title of Il Pecorone di Ser Giovanni Fiorentino (an imitation of the Decameron), gior. x. no. 1. The treason of the Knight who murders Hermengilde is an incident in the French Roman de la Violette, and in the English metrical romance of Le Bone Florence of Rome (printed in Ritson's collection); and is found in the English Gesta Romanorum, c. 69 (ed. Madden), joined, in the latter place, with Constance's adventure with the steward. It is also found in Vincent of Beauvais, and other writers.' The tale in the Gesta Romanorum is called 'Merelaus the Emperor' (MS. Harl. 7333, leaf 201), and is printed in the Originals and Analogues (Chaucer Society), Part I, pp. 57-70. Mr. Furnivall adds—'This tale was versified by Occleve, who called Merelaus "Gerelaus;" and Warton quotes Occleve's lines describing how the "the feendly man" stabs the Earl's child, and then puts the bloody knife into the sleeping Empress's hand—
For men shoulde have noon othir deeming
But she had gilty ben of this murdring.'
See Warton, Hist. Eng. Poetry, ed. 1871, i. 296.
See the whole story in Hoccleve's Works, ed. Furnivall, p. 140. In the Originals and Analogues, Part I. pp. 71-84, is also printed an extract from Matthew Paris, Vita Offae Primi, ed. Wats, 1684, pp. 965-968, containing the story of 'King Offa's intercepted Letters and banished Queen.'
Some account of Ser Giovanni is given in Dunlop's History of Fiction, 3rd ed. 1845, p. 247. He was a Florentine notary, who began his Tales in 1378, at a village in the neighbourhood of Forli. His work is called Il Pecorone, i.e. the Dunce, 'a title which the author assumed, as some Italian academicians styled themselves Insensati, Stolidi, &c., appellations in which there was not always so much irony as they imagined.' The first tale of the tenth Day is thus analysed by Dunlop: 'Story of the Princess Denise of France, who, to avoid a disagreeable marriage with an old German prince, escapes in disguise to England, and is there received in a convent. The king, passing that way, falls in love with and espouses her. Afterwards, while he was engaged in a war in Scotland, his wife brings forth twins; but the queen-mother sends to acquaint her son that his spouse had given birth to two monsters. In place of his majesty's answer, ordering them to be nevertheless brought up with the utmost care, she substitutes a mandate for their destruction, and also for that of the queen. The person to whom the execution of this command is entrusted, allows the queen to depart with her twins to Genoa. At the end of some years she discovers her husband at Rome, on his way to a crusade; she there presents him with his children, and is brought back with them in triumph to England.' Dunlop points out the likeness of this story to those told by Chaucer and Gower, mentions the Lay of Emarè, and adds: 'it is the subject, too, of a very old French romance, published in 4to without date, entitled Le Roman de la Belle Helene de Constantinople. There, as in Emarè, the heroine escapes to England to avoid a marriage, &c. At length she is ordered to be burnt, but is saved by the Duke of Gloster's niece kindly offering to personate her on that occasion.' The story appears again in a collection of tales by Straparola, in the fourth tale of the first night; but Straparola merely borrowed it from Ser Giovanni. See Dunlop, Hist. Fiction, 3rd ed. p. 268.
A very similar story is told in the Roman de la Manekine, by Philippe de Reimes, edited by F. Michel for the Bannatyne Club in 1840. For a brief analysis of this story, see Bibliographia Britannica Literaria (Anglo-Norman Period); by T. Wright, p. 344.
Ten Brink bids us observe the strong Christian element in the original story. Constance herself is almost a personification of the Christian Church, afflicted and persecuted, but at last victorious.
It occurs to me that Shakespeare, in delineating Imogen, did not forget Chaucer's portrait of Constance.
§ 38. We must now compare Gower's version of this Tale with Chaucer's, which at once raises the question as to priority of composition; and there can be little doubt that, as a matter of fact, Chaucer's story was written first. We must first of all notice that both stories really existed in two editions; and it is precisely this fact that makes caution necessary. Most likely, Chaucer first wrote his story about 1380 or even earlier, and revised it about 1387. But meanwhile Gower had been busy with his Confessio Amantis, which was certainly written before 1386, and seems to have been in hand in 1382-5; see Dr. Pauli's preface to Gower, pp. xxviii, xxxii. It was revised, as Gower himself tells us, in the sixteenth year of king Richard II., i.e. in 1392-3. From this the order of things readily appears, and may conveniently be tabulated as follows:—
(a) Chaucer's first edition; ab. 1380.
(b) Gower's first edition; ab. 1382-5.
(c) Chaucer's second edition; ab. 1387.
(d) Gower's second edition; ab. 1393.
We can hence understand what happened. After Chaucer had written his story, he doubtless lent Gower, then his particular friend, a copy. Gower took advantage of the occasion to introduce some expressions which certainly give the impression that he copied them; for several of these verbal resemblances occur in places where there was little or nothing in the original to suggest the phrases which he actually used. Lücke (in Anglia, xiv. 183) gives twenty-seven examples of this, and draws what is, in my opinion, the erroneous conclusion, that it was Chaucer who copied Gower; which seems like suggesting that Tennyson was capable of borrowing from Martin Tupper.
We may readily understand that, if Chaucer observed this use of his work, it could not have given him much pleasure; and perhaps we may here see some reason for the seemingly undue asperity with which, in his revised edition, he refers to Gower's performance; see B 77-89, and the notes. On the other side Gower, who in his first edition, just near the end, had introduced a complimentary allusion to Chaucer, may well have thought fit to suppress that passage in his revised copy, from which it is certainly absent. This seems to me to be the simplest solution of the facts as they stand.
I here take occasion to give my proposed explanation of Gower's reference to Chaucer in his first edition, where he puts into the mouth of the goddess Venus the following words (ed. Pauli, iii. 374):—
'And grete wel Chaucer, whan ye mete,
As my disciple and my poete.
For, in the floures of his youthe,
In sondry wyse, as he wel couthe,
Of ditees and of songes glade,
The which he for my sake made,
The lond fulfild is overal;
Wherof to him in special
Above al other I am most holde.
Forthy now, in his dayes olde,
Thou shalt him telle this message,
That he, upon his later age,
To sette an ende of al his werke,
As he, which is myn owne clerke,
Do make his testament of love,
As thou hast do thy shrifte above,
So that my court it may recorde.'
These lines are followed by a laudation of King Richard, which Gower afterwards conscientiously suppressed. The course of events had shewn him that such praise was unfitting.
I take it that these lines were written in 1385, at the very time when the author learnt that his friend Chaucer was at work upon a new poem which he meant to be a great work, viz. the Legend of Good Women. This poem Venus might well claim as being written by her own clerk, as a testament of love, containing legacies of bright examples set by Love's martyrs; and, just as Gower wrote his own poem as a 'shrift,' Chaucer was writing his as a 'penance' (Leg. Good Women, 491) at the command of Cupid (437, 548), a command which was given at his court (352). We can readily understand how Venus could speak of Cupid's court as being her own court; it makes no practical difference.
It remains to shew (with Lücke) that Chaucer and Gower both knew Trivet, and that Gower's language sometimes resembles Chaucer's rather than Trivet's.
The former proposition is soon settled. Where Trivet says, 'et ferri tiel coup en le haterel le feloun' (p. 23, l. 30), Chaucer has, 'A hand him smoot upon the nekke-bon' (669); but Gower omits to mention the 'nekke-bone,' which translates haterel. This shews that Chaucer used Trivet's text. On the other hand, Gower mentions Knaresburgh (i. 191), which he found in Trivet, whilst Chaucer says nothing about it; see note to B 729.
As to the instances in which one poet has copied the other, whilst at the same time Trivet does not suggest the phraseology which they employ, Lücke gives twenty-seven examples in Anglia, xiv. 183. Some of these are rather far-fetched and doubtful, and not many of them are very clear; but their cumulative evidence sufficiently proves the fact. I shall only adduce the clearer cases.
'Ch.' means Chaucer, and 'G.' is Gower. I correct Pauli's spelling.
Ch. B 430:—
Ben al to-hewe and stiked at the bord.
G. i. 182, l. 29:—
Endlong the bord as they be set
Trivet merely says that they killed all the Christians.
Ch. B 436:—
That of the conseil of the sowdan woot.
G. 182, l. 25:—
And alle tho, that hadden be...
Of counseil to the mariage.
Trivet merely says—the other converts to the faith.
Ch. B 438 (not in Trivet):—
And Custance han they take anon, foot-hoot.
G. 183, l. 15:—
This olde fend, this Sarazin
Let take anon this Constantin.
Ch. B 439:—
And in a shippe al sterelees, god woot.
G. 183, l. 19:—
A naked ship, withoute stere.
This instance is the more remarkable because Trivet says, 'saunz sigle et sauntz neuiroun,' i.e. without sail or oar, without any mention of the stere or rudder. Ch. B 535 (not in Trivet):—
But Hermengild lovede hir right as hir lyf.
G. 184, l. 29:—
Dame Hermegild ...
... liche her owne lyf
This, at any rate, is a clear case.
Ch. B 562:—
Dame Hermengild, yif me my sighte agayn.
G. 185, ll. 13, 15:—
O Hermegilde ... yif me my sighte.
Trivet's expression is different, viz. 'Hermegild, ... I pray thee to make the sign of the rood on my blind eyes.'
Ch. B 599:—
Al softely is to the bed y-go.
G. 187, l. 18:—
And to the bed he stalketh stille.
Trivet does not refer to this motion towards the bed; he merely says that Constance and Hermegild were both in the same bed.
Ch. B 620:—
Berth hir on hand that she hath doon this thing.
G. 188, l. 15:—
Saith that Custance hath don this dede.
Trivet puts it differently—'he heaped the death hugely on the maid.'
Ch. B 685:—
The king, and many another in that place,
G. 190, l. 7:—
The king, with many another mo,
It is remarkable that Trivet says that king Alle caused himself to be baptized; there is not a word about others.
Ch. B 721, 2:—
She halt hir chambre, abyding Cristes wille.
The tyme is come, a knave-child she ber.
G. 191, ll. 1-3:—
The tyme set of kinde is come,
This lady hath her chambre nome,
And of a sone bore fulle, &c.
A clear case; Trivet uses no such expressions.
Ch. B 759:—
But of his owene bond he wroot ageyn.
G. 193, l. 3:—
He wroot ayein.
Here the French text has 'rescrit,' wrote back.
Ch. B 799:—
But in the same ship as he hir fond.
G. 194, l. 11:—
That ye the same ship vitaille,
In which that she took arrivaille.
A remarkable case; for Trivet makes it a new ship—'vne neef.'
Ch. B 825:—
kneling on the stronde (not in Trivet).
G. 195, l. 7:—
Knelend upon her bare knee.
Ch. B 916:—
Com into ship.
G. 196, l. 28:—
cam to ship.
Trivet uses the expression 'descendi,' i.e. came down.
Ch. B 1045:—
Goth Alla, for to seen this wonder chaunce.
G. 207, l. 23:—
To see this Custe goth the king.
Trivet has it differently.
Ch. B 1093:—
The emperour hath graunted gentilly.
G. 209, l. 19:—
This lord hath graunted his requeste.
Taken altogether, these appropriations by Gower, though not in themselves very marked, must have been annoying to his brother-poet.
It is worth while to notice that, in the three cases of the Wyf of Bathes Tale, the Phisiciens Tale, and the Maunciples Tale, Chaucer and Gower again tell the same stories; and though Chaucer wrote at a later date, he certainly has not copied.
§ 39. The Shipman's Prologue. This Prologue is assigned to the Shipman in MS. Arch. Seld. only; see the footnote to B 1179. MS. Harl. 3774 assigns it to the Sompnour; whilst very many MSS. assign it to the Squire. The three chief MSS. (E., Hn., Cm.) omit it altogether; from which we may perhaps infer that it was a very late addition to the set of Tales.
In order to exhibit the variations of the MSS. more clearly, Dr. Furnivall has printed this Prologue from no less than twenty-two MSS., with the result that only one, viz. MS. Arch. Seld. above, rightly assigns it to the Shipman and, at the same time, places it after the Man of Lawes Tale. Three of the MSS., viz. Harl. 7334, Rawl. Misc. 1133, and Royal 17 D. XV, assign it to the Sompnour, but they are all clearly wrong, because, notwithstanding this mention of the Sompnour, the Tale that follows is assigned, in the first, to the Wyf of Bathe, and, in the others, to the Squire! Eighteen of the MSS. assign this Prologue to the Squire, and insert his Tale after it. We may hence conclude that, in some early copies, a displacement of the Tales occurred at this point.
But it is easy to see that MS. Arch. Seld., the sole authority for the present arrangement, is here quite right. The latter part of the Prologue (B 1178-90) is quite unsuited to the character of the Squire, but in keeping with that of the Shipman. Further, the Squire has a Prologue of his own, though it is incomplete in the sense that there is no indication whom the Squire is to follow (F 1-8). But the clearest proof that the author's latest intention was to place both the Shipman's Prologue and Tale precisely here, and nowhere else, appears from the following facts. First, we see, as above, that it is clearly a Shipman's Prologue, and therefore precedes the Shipman's Tale; whilst there is an obvious allusion in it to the Man of Lawes Tale as being the one which it must needs follow. The former of these points was seen by Tyrwhitt long ago; and he accordingly assigned this Prologue to the Shipman. The latter point was made by Mr. Henry Bradshaw, who conclusively shewed that no other arrangement would suit, by pointing to the author's own words. Thus, in B 46, the Man of Lawe says—'I can right now no thrifty tale seyn,' and is inclined to be apologetic; but, after the tale is told, the Host is well pleased, and consoles him in express terms in the words—'This was a thrifty tale for the nones.' And, to put the matter beyond dispute, turns to the Persone, with the words—'I see wel that ye lerned men in lore,' meaning the Persone and the Man of Lawe. In most MSS., the Shipman's Tale follows the Pardoner's; which involves the difficulty of making the Host call the Pardoner 'a lerned man in lore.' The proof that this is the very last title the Host would have bestowed on the Pardoner, is given in C 942-968, where the Host's contempt of the Pardoner is expressed in the strongest terms which he could command; and his capabilities of expression were considerable. Few happier hits have been made than the convincing argument which we are glad to owe to Mr. Bradshaw, whose knowledge of Chaucer's text was believed by many scholars to be without parallel.
But the story of the Shipman's Prologue is not yet ended. Many scribes perceived how ill suited this Prologue was for following the Pardoner's Tale, or the Cook's Tale, or the Tale of Gamelyn, which were the places it was sometimes made to occupy. In order to remedy this apparent defect, a spurious Shipman's Prologue was concocted, consisting of but twelve lines. This is the Prologue given in the black-letter editions, which, in order to make the true Shipman's Prologue do duty for a Squire's Prologue, actually resorted to the arbitrary process of suppressing the true Squire's Prologue altogether! I here give this spurious Prologue, but in true Chaucerian spelling, in order to shew more clearly how ill some of the lines scan. I follow mainly the Petworth MS., denoted by 'Pt.'; and give all the variations worth mentioning that occur in the other eight MSS., viz. Roy. (Royal 18 C ii), Sl. (Sloane 1685), B. (Barlow 20), H. (Hatton 1), M. (Camb. Univ. Lib. Mm. 2. 5), R. (Rawl. Poet. 149), L. (Laud 739), and I. (Camb. Univ. Lib. li. 3. 26).
Spurious Shipman's Prologue.
'Now freendes,' seide our Host so dere,
'How lyketh yow by Iohn the Pardonere?
For he hath unbokeled wel the male;
He hath us told right a thrifty tale,
As touching of misgovernaunce. 5
I prey to God, yeve him good chaunce,
As ye han herd of thise ryotoures three.
Now, gentil Mariner, hertely I preye thee,
Tel us a good tale, and that right anon.'
'It shal be doon, by God and by Seint Iohn,' 10
Seide this Mariner, 'as wel as ever I can':
And right anon his tale he bigan. 12
1. Now] Sl. How. 2. H. L. J. om. the. 4. Roy. B. H. told; rest tolde (!). 5. of] H. of his; I. his. 6. good] Sl. H. M. goode; B. right goode. 7. B. riatoures; H. M. R. Sl. riatours; L. ryotours; Pt. retourues (!). 8. Roy. H. M. R. B. L. hertly; I. nowe hertely; Sl. om. Pt. preye; rest pray (prey). 9. Pt. Roy. R. I. good; rest gode (goode). 12. And] R. om.
As to these lines, I will merely make the following remarks. Line 1 is too short by a whole foot; and so is l. 5. Lines 8 and 11 are somewhat too long. Line 4 will scan well, if we substitute told-e for told, as some of the MSS. do; but, unfortunately, told-e is here an impossible form. Line 3 is imitated from A 3115; and l. 10 from B 1019. In l. 7, we must suppress of, in order to make the line run well; only this destroys the sense. It is not easy to imitate Chaucer's language for twelve lines together, especially when sense has to be regarded. Moreover, the way in which l. 7 is made to depend on l. 6 is extremely awkward.
In the true Prologue, the Shipman gives due notice that he is going to tell a 'merry,' i.e. a licentious story; which he proceeds to do.
§ 40. The Shipmannes Tale. A similar Tale occurs in Boccaccio's Decamerone, Day 8, Nov. 1. The scene is laid in Milan; the husband is a rich merchant named Guasparruol Cagastraccio; and his wife's name is Ambruogia. The gallant is Gulfardo, a German, and not a priest. The sum borrowed is 200 florins; which Gulfardo restores to the wife in the presence of a witness, so that she is obliged to admit its repayment. The place to which the merchant goes, on a business errand, is Genoa.
It is not at all likely that Chaucer took this from the Decamerone, which he seems never to have read. He probably found it in some French fabliau, and treated the story, as usual, so as to make it all his own. In B 1404, we find the French phrase 'Qui la?' The scene is laid near Paris, and France is specially mentioned in B 1306, 1341, 1384. The merchant's business calls him away to Bruges (1448).
There is a curious difficulty in the opening lines of this Tale. The use of the words us (B 1202, 1209), we (1204), and our (1208), certainly shew that, in the first instance, this Tale was meant to be told by a woman; and, obviously, by the Wyf of Bathe in particular (cf. D 337-356). When Chaucer changed his mind, he forgot to make here the necessary corrections.
'The same fable ... is repeated by La Fontaine (Contes, ii. 9), in his usual forcible and witty way; but neither Boccaccio nor La Fontaine can vie with Chaucer's art.'—Ten Brink.
§ 41. The Prioress's Prologue. This Prologue requires no explanation. The responsibility passes from the Shipman to the Prioress with perfect ease.
§ 42. The Prioresses Tale. The real Prologue to this Tale is contained in B 1637-1642. What is called, in MSS. E. and Hn., the Prologue is, more strictly, a Proem; and the Tale itself is, more strictly, a Legend, or (as the author calls it) a 'song'; B 1677. The Legend, although in stanzas, is told with practised skill, and probably belongs to the later period. The Proem resembles that to the Life of Seint Cecile, and contains a similar invocation to the Virgin. The third stanza reminds us of one in the A. B. C., viz. that beginning with M. We may note the introduction of the words 'quod she' (1644), and the line 'To telle a storie I wol do my labour' (1653).
The Tale itself is taken from a source similar to that of the Legend of Alphonsus of Lincoln, a story reprinted by the Chaucer Society from the Fortalitium Fidei; Lugdun. 1500, fol. ccviii. In another edition, printed in 1485, the Legend of Alphonsus is said to have been composed in 1459, and it is stated to be the work of a Minorite friar, whose name, according to Hain and others, was Alphonsus a Spina. The story is, that a widow residing in Lincoln has a son named Alphonsus, ten years of age, who goes daily to school, singing 'Alma Redemptoris' as he passes through the street where the Jews dwell. One day the Jews seize him, cut out his tongue, tear out his heart, and throw his body into a filthy pit. But the Virgin appears to him, gives him a precious stone in place of a tongue, and enables him to sing 'Alma Redemptoris' for four days. His mother seeks and finds him, and he is borne to the cathedral, still singing. The bishop celebrates mass; the boy reveals the secret, resigns the precious stone to the bishop, gives up the ghost, and is buried in a marble tomb. A similar legend is narrated concerning Hugh of Lincoln; see note to B 1874.
In Originals and Analogues of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, pt. iii. (Chaucer Soc. 1876), is the story of the Paris Beggar-boy murdered by a Jew, printed from the Vernon MS., leaf 123, back. It is well told, and has some remarkable points of agreement with the Prioresses Tale. It clearly identifies the hymn Alma Redemptoris Mater as agreeing with the second anthem mentioned in the Note to B 1708, which is partly translated as follows:—
'Godus Moder, mylde and clene,
Heuene ȝate and sterre of se,
Saue þi peple from synne and we' [woe].
The same publication contains a similar story, in French verse, of a boy killed by a Jew for singing 'Gaude Maria'; from MS. Harl. 4401. The author was Gautier de Poincy.
Tyrwhitt's account of the Prioresses Tale is as follows: 'The transition from the Tale of the Shipman to that of the Prioresse is happily managed. I have not been able to discover from what Legende of the Miracles of Our Lady the Prioresses Tale is taken. From the scene being laid in Asia, it should seem, that this was one of the oldest of the many stories which have been propagated, at different times, to excite or justify several merciless persecutions of the Jews, upon the charge of murthering Christian children. The story of Hugh of Lincoln, which is mentioned in the last stanza, is placed by Matthew Paris under the year 1255. In the first four months of the Acta Sanctorum by Bollandus, I find the following names of children canonized, as having been murthered by Jews: xxv Mart. Willielmus Norvicensis, 1144; Richardus, Parisiis, 1179; xvii Apr. Rudolphus, Bernae, 1287; Wernerus, Wesaliae, anno eodem; Albertus, Poloniae, 1598. I suppose the remaining eight months would furnish at least as many more. See a Scottish Ballad (Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry, i. 32) upon one of these supposed murthers. The editor [Percy] has very ingeniously conjectured that "Mirryland" in verse 1 is a corruption of "Milan." Perhaps the real occasion of the Ballad may have been what is said to have happened at Trent, in 1475, to a boy called Simon. The Cardinal Hadrian, about fifty years after, mentioning the Rocks of Trent, adds—"quo Iudaei ob Simonis caedem ne aspirare quidem audent;" Praef. ad librum de Serm. Lat. The change of the name in the Song, from Simon to Hugh, is natural enough in this country, where similar stories of Hugh of Norwich and Hugh of Lincoln had been long current.'
The Ballad alluded to is called 'The Jew's Daughter' by Percy, and is to the effect that a boy named Hugh was enticed to play and then stabbed by a Jew's daughter, who threw him into a draw-well. His mother, Lady Helen, finds him by hearing his voice.
For 'Hugh of Norwich,' as mentioned by Tyrwhitt, we should read 'William of Norwich.' His story is given in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, under the date 1137, on which Prof. Earle remarks—'St. William seems to have retained his celebrity down to the time of the reformation, at least in Norfolk. In Loddon church, which is advanced perpendicular of about 1500, there is a painting of his crucifixion on a panel of the rood-screen, still in fair preservation.' A wood engraving of this picture is given on the same page (A.S. Chron., ed. Earle, p. 371). As to the cruel treatment of the Jews, see the note on 'The Jews in England' in Annals of England, p. 162.
I may add that the story of Hugh of Lincoln, and a picture of the martyrdom of Simon at Trent, are given in an excellent chapter in Manners, Customs, and Dress, during the Middle Ages, by P. Lacroix, pp. 434-455.
A modernised version of the Prioresses Tale will be found among Wordsworth's Poems. It can hardly be said to be satisfactory; and the language of the original is, for the most part, so simple that the attempt to modernise it was a needless task. The old idea, that the attempt to read Chaucer in the original requires almost superhuman ability, will, I hope, soon be a thing of the past. As a matter of fact, his language is easier than that of Homer or Vergil; and Englishmen are already ceasing to be overpowered by a dread of learning facts that concern their own language.
§ 43. Prologue to Sir Thopas. This passage, like the Prologues in rimed couplets, evidently belongs to the late period; we recognise here some of the author's best work. Notice, in particular, his description of himself.
§ 44. Sir Thopas. Judging by the rhythm-test, this might be of early workmanship; but judging by the language, it is late. Like the exceptional Tale last discussed, it probably belongs to the late period, although not written in rimed couplets. Tyrwhitt's estimate of it is judicious and correct. He says—'The Rime of Sir Thopas was clearly intended to ridicule the "palpable gross" fictions of the common Rimers of that age, and still more, perhaps, the meanness of their language and versification. It is full of phrases taken from Isumbras, Li Beaus Desconus, and other Romances in the same style, which are still extant.... For the more complete reprobation of this species of Riming, even the Host, who is not to be suspected of too refined a taste, is made to cry out against it, and to cut short Sire Thopas in the midst of his adventures. Chaucer has nothing to say for his Rime, but that "it is the best he can" (B 2118), and readily consents to tell another Tale; but having just laughed so freely at the bad poetry of his time, he might think it, perhaps, too invidious to exhibit a specimen of better in his own person, and therefore his other Tale is in prose, a mere translation from Le Livre de Melibee et de dame Prudence, of which several copies are still preserved in MS. [See p. 426]. It is in truth, as he calls it, "a moral tale vertuous," and was probably much esteemed in its time; but in this age of levity, I doubt some readers will be apt to regret that he did not rather give us the remainder of Sire Thopas.'
Sir Thopas is admittedly a burlesque, and several of the passages imitated are quoted in the Notes; but I cannot quite resist the suspicion that Chaucer may himself, in his youth, have tried his hand at such romance-writing in all seriousness, but lived to have a good-humoured laugh even in some degree at his own expense; and he seems as if endeavouring to make his readers feel that they could wish there was somewhat more of it. Yet we cannot but allow that to
'Praise syr Topas for a noble tale,
And scorne the story that the Knight told'
is much the same as to
'say that Pan
Passeth Appollo in musike manifold,'
as Sir Thomas Wiat has remarked in his second satire. It may be added that the usual metrical laws are not quite strictly observed in this Tale.
A dissertation on Sir Thopas by C. J. Bennewitz, of Magdeburg, appeared at Halle, 1879, with some useful notes; and a still fuller and more elaborate article, by Prof. E. Kölbing, will be found in the Englische Studien, xi. 495. In the latter especially, a large number of parallel passages are pointed out, some of which will be found in the Notes. Chaucer has seized the characteristics of the Romance-writers so well, that it would be an endless task to exhibit all his imitations. Some of the peculiarities of our old minstrels are well noted by Bennewitz. For example, they usually begin by requesting the company to listen (B 1902, 2083). They revel in similes (B 1915-7, 1920). They often divide their poems into cantos, each of which was called 'a fit' (B 2078). Sometimes they give us lists of heroes, as at the beginning of Richard Coer de Lion (B 2088- 2090); and a description of the particular hero of the romance (B 1914). They are very fond of hideous giants (B 1997), and of fairies (B 1978, 1992); and, of course, the heroes are continually riding up and down in quest of some adventure (B 1988). Of course, we expect occasional mention of the singing of birds (B 1956); of the springing of herbs (B 1950); and of instruments of music (B 2005). The knight's steed is often over-ridden (B 1965); and the knight himself must be consumed by love-longing (B 1975).
It is delightful to observe how Chaucer contrives, often by a mere word, to give the story a ludicrous turn, as in 1919—'He hadde a semely nose.' The hero's face is not, as usual, as white 'as a lyly,' but as white 'as payndemayn,' i.e. the finest bread (1915). His complexion was like 'scarlet in grain,' i.e. it would not wash out (1917). Among the wild beasts of the forest are both 'bukke and hare' (1946). Among the growing herbs he enumerates nutmeg 'to putte in ale' (1953); and so on. The most curious example of this kind of humour appears in the behaviour of the knight when attacked by the giant; he quietly makes his escape, on the plea that he will return next day; and this evasion of present battle is attributed to God's grace, and to his own 'fair beringe' (2022). It is needless to give further instances.
Prof. Kölbing bids us observe the varieties in the metre; it would seem that Chaucer deliberately intended to exhibit the most characteristic forms of the romantic stanza; for in five cases his examples are unique. The varieties are eight in all. Examples of these variable stanzas are as follows. (1) Stanzas with the rimes aabccb (2017). (2) Rimes aabaab (1914). (3) Rimes aabaab, ccbccb, i.e. two stanzas with the same middle and final rimes (1902-13). (4) A stanza with the rimes aabbbg, where denotes a line with but one accent, riming with the line denoted by g (1980). (5) A stanza of ten lines, aabccbddg (2071). (6) A stanza of 10 lines, aabaabccg (1997). (7) A stanza of 10 lines, aabaabaag (1987). (8) A stanza of ten lines, aabccbccg (2007). The use of short lines, with but one accent, as in 1983, is of frequent occurrence in romances; for examples, see Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight, ed. Morris; Sir Tristrem, ed. McNeill (Scottish Text Soc.); The Pistill of Susan, in Scottish Allit. Poems, ed. Amours (id.); and cf. York Plays, ed. Miss T. Smith, p. 359, &c. In Sir Beves of Hamptoun, ed. Kölbing, we find a stanza with the rimes aabccb, followed by one with the rimes aabaab (ll. 55-60, 61-66).
§ 45. Prologue to Melibeus. When the Host suddenly cuts short the Tale of Sir Thopas, Chaucer takes refuge in prose. The Tale of Melibeus is one which we should now deem portentously dull; but his hearers were, we must suppose, highly interested in listening to the various arguments used by Melibeus and his wife Prudence as to their proper course of action. Indeed, the Host highly approves of it, and thinks it would have tended to his own wife's edification. Chaucer also, for his part, undertakes the Tale as a solemn task, begging pardon beforehand for any variation he may make from the true and exact version (B 2131).
§ 46. The Tale of Melibeus. This prose story is merely a translation, and not always an exact one, of a French treatise entitled Le Livre de Melibee et de dame Prudence, of which there are two MS. copies in the British Museum, viz. MSS. Royal 19 C. vii, and 19 C. xi. Tyrwhitt also tells us that Dufresnoy, in his Bibliothèque des Romans, ii. 248, mentions two copies in verse, in the Bibliothèque Seguier. Le Livre de Melibee is likewise not an original work, but an adaptation, with some omissions and alterations, probably made by Jean de Meun, of a treatise in Latin, viz. the Liber Consolationis et Consilii of Albertano of Brescia. This work was admirably edited for the Chaucer Society in 1873 by Thor Sundby, who took much pains to trace out the originals of the numerous quotations with which the work abounds; and I am much indebted to him for my Notes. (We are bidden to observe that there also exists a second version in French prose, by an anonymous author, of a much more literal character, which is still unprinted.) Jean de Meun's version was first printed, separately, at the end of the fifteenth century; again, in 1504, together with the French translation of the Solatium Ludi Scachorum by Jacques de Cessoles; and lastly, it appears in the Ménagier de Paris, an early work on domestic economy which has been lately published by the Société des Bibliophiles Français. Chaucer's version is from Jean de Meun. Of course, the Latin original is the ultimate authority in difficult or corrupt passages; on which account it is often cited in the Notes. I have there given some curious examples of mistranslation or corruption of the text.
Albertano, born about 1192, was a judge at Brescia in Lombardy (not far west of the Lago di Garda), and died soon after 1250. He is an author of some importance to the Chaucer-student, as the poet refers to no less than three of his works. These are: (1) Liber Consolationis et Consilii (as above), completed in May, 1246; (2) De Arte Loquendi et Tacendi, cited in the Notes to the Maunciples Tale; and (3) De Amore et Dilectione Dei, written in 1238, cited in the Notes to the Marchantes Tale.
§ 47. The Monk's Prologue. This Prologue connects Melibeus with the Monkes Tale. It contains a contribution to the exhibition of the Host's true character. In B 3116, we are told that the pilgrims are drawing near to Rochester. The Host then calls upon the Monk for a Tale, who replies that he can easily relate the Life of Saint Edward, but they would probably prefer to hear a few Tragedies about the downfall of some illustrious persons.
§ 48. The Monkes Tale. Judged by the rhythm, this Tale might belong to the early period. The subject-matter shews, however, that is was probably written at different times, part of it at an early period, and part at the period of revision. It can hardly be called, in strictness, a tale at all, but consists of a whole series of them, and has all the appearance of having been originally an independent work, which Chaucer had at one time begun, but, in his accustomed manner, had left a little less than half finished. It is formed on the model of Boccaccio's book De Casibus Virorum Illustrium, the title of which is actually retained in the rubric printed at p. 244 of vol. iv. The manner in which the poet contrives to assign this string of tragedies to the monk is highly ingenious. The Host expects to hear rather a merry and lively story from the jovial and corpulent Monk, and rallies him upon his sleek appearance; but the Monk, taking all in patience, volunteers either the Life of Saint Edward the Confessor or else a few of his 'hundred' tragedies; and then, fearful of interruption, proceeds to define the word Tragedy, and to start off before any of the pilgrims have had time to offer any opinion upon the matter. He also offers an apology for not telling all his stories in strictly chronological order. This apology is the real key to the whole matter. We may well believe that, whilst the collection of tragedies was still an independent work, the arrangement was strictly chronological, or was intended to have been made such when the work was completed. Such was the usual formula; and accordingly the author begins, in the most approved fashion, with Lucifer, and then duly proceeds to Adam and all the rest. But as, in the course of composition, he would naturally first write such lives as most pleased him, and by no means succeeding in writing anything like a complete collection—for out of the 'hundred' that existed 'in his cell' he produced only seventeen in all—it clearly became his simplest plan to give specimens only, and to abandon the chronological arrangement as no longer necessary. Yet it is worth remarking that the tragedies are more clearly in chronological order than may at first sight appear. If they be compared with such a book as Peter Comestor's Historia Scholastica, we shall see this the better. Peter Comestor takes the Bible as the foundation of his history, noticing secular history as he goes on. We thus find a mention of Hercules in the time of Jephthah, judge of Israel. Strictly, then, Hercules should precede Samson; but as they come so near together, the scriptural character takes precedence. Again, the tragedies of Antiochus and Alexander both belong, in this way, to the first book of Maccabees, and therefore come next after the tragedy of Holofernes, which belongs to the book of Judith. Here, again, Alexander should, in strictness, precede Antiochus, but this consideration is overridden by the fitness of coupling Antiochus with Holofernes, and Alexander with Caesar. Allowing, then, that Samson may precede Hercules, and that Antiochus may precede Alexander, we may divide the whole series into six groups, as follows:—(a) Lucifer, Adam, Samson, Hercules, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar; (e) Zenobia; (f) Pedro of Spain, Pedro of Cyprus, Barnabo, Ugolino; (d) Nero; (c) Holofernes, Antiochus, Alexander, Caesar; and (b) Crœsus. This grouping is far more suggestive than might be expected, for it throws some additional light upon the matter, if duly considered. In the first place, group (f) consists wholly of what have been called 'modern instances,' as referring to matters that happened in Chaucer's own time, instead of containing examples from ancient history; three of the four are remarkably short, and all four only make up eleven stanzas. One of them, the tragedy of Barnabo, contains the latest allusion in the whole of the Canterbury Tales, as it has reference to the year 1385, the probable date of the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women. The difference in style between the tragedy of Ugolino and such a tragedy as that of Samson or Hercules, must strike the most careless reader; and it is easy to see that this group (f) was an afterthought, being a piece added at the period of revision. So much we can tell from internal evidence, but the fact is curiously corroborated by evidence that is external. For of course, if the poet added a few tragedies as an afterthought, he would naturally add them at the end; and it is accordingly a fact that in several good MSS., including the Ellesmere, the Hengwrt, and the Cambridge MSS., this group is placed at the end, after the tragedy of Crœsus. But Chaucer's apology for want of order left him free to insert them where he pleased; and he was accordingly pleased to put them in the order in which they appear in the present edition, which follows the arrangement of the Harleian, Corpus, Petworth, and Lansdowne MSS. That this removal of group (f) from the end to an earlier place is in accordance with the author's latest intention, is proved by observing that the tragedy of Crœsus must come last: (1) because it repeats, in the last stanza, the monk's previous definition of tragedy, a repetition of which the Knight does not approve, and takes occasion to say so (B 3961); and (2) because the Host also quotes from this last stanza, and ridicules the expression about Fortune 'covering things with a cloud'; see B 3956, 3972.
But we may, with patience, learn a few things more from the grouping of the tragedies. Putting aside group (f) as an addition at the time of revision, we may note that group (e) follows (a), for the simple reason that the story of Zenobia is in Boccaccio, whom Chaucer was imitating. We then have only groups (d), (c), and (b) to consider, and we notice at once that Chaucer has purposely somewhat mixed up these; for, if we merely transpose (d) and (c), we bring the tragedy of Nero next that of Crœsus, and immediately preceding it. That is the original order of things, since the stories of Nero and Crœsus are both taken from the Romaunt of the Rose, where they appear together, and Nero preceded Crœsus in Chaucer's work as a matter of course, because his story preceded that of Crœsus in the original. We have thus the pleasure of seeing Chaucer actually at work; he begins with Boccaccio and the Vulgate version of the Bible, drawing upon his recollections of Boethius for the story of Hercules; he next takes a leaf or two from the Romaunt of the Rose; the story of Alexander, suggested (see B 3845) by the book of Maccabees, leads him on to write the tragedy of Caesar; then he tires of his work, and breaks off. Returning to it for the purpose of filling up his great work, he adds a few 'modern instances'; mixes up the order of tales; writes an apology for their want of order; humorously assigns them to the Monk, from whom the Host had expected something widely different; and makes the Knight cut him short when the right moment comes. The pilgrims had heard enough about tragedies, and began to want something more cheerful.
The great collection of tragedies which Chaucer may have originally contemplated, in imitation of Boccaccio, was fully carried out by his successor Lydgate, one of whose best works is the 'Falls of Princes.' This poem, written in Chaucer's favourite seven-line stanza, was not, however, taken from Boccaccio directly, but through the version of a Frenchman named Laurent de Premierfait, an ecclesiastic of the diocese of Troyes; see Morley's Eng. Writers, vi. 112, and the excellent dissertation by Dr. Köppel entitled 'Laurents de Premierfait und John Lydgates Bearbeitungen von Boccaccios De Casibus Virorum Illustrium'; München, 1885. Lydgate's poem long continued in favour, and in its turn suggested the famous series of tragedies by Sackville, Baldwin, and others, known by the name of the Mirror for Magistrates; see Morley's First Sketch of Eng. Lit., pp. 335-337. The most interesting point in Lydgate's version is his recognition of Chaucer's Monkes Tale in the following stanza of his prologue:—
'My mayster Chaucer with his fressh commedies
Is dede, allas, cheif poete of Bretayne,
That sumtyme made full pitous tragidies;
The "fall of princes" he dide also compleyne,
As he that was of makynge souereyne;
Whom all this londe of right[e] ought preferre,
Sith of oure langage he was the lode-sterre.'
There is a poem entitled the Fall of Princis in the Percy Folio MS., ed. Hales and Furnivall, iii. 168; but it is of no great merit.
The original sources of the various Tragedies are sufficiently indicated in the Notes.
The metre employed is of some interest. It exhibits the simplest form of stanza employed by Chaucer, with the rimes arranged in the order a b a b b c b c, and was probably the first French metre which he ever used. It occurs in his A B C, though the original of that poem is in short lines. A good example of it, in French, will be found in a ballad by Eustache Deschamps, written on the death of Machault in 1377; see Tarbe's edition, p. 30. Hence Spenser probably derived his famous stanza, by appending to it an Alexandrine line.
In this Tale, there are two clear examples of lines in which the first foot consists of a single syllable. These are:—
Al | forbrúsëd, bóth-e bákk' and syd-e (3804):
Wheth | er só he wóok or éllës slépt-e (3809).
And probably l. 3535 is of the same character (see note).
§ 49. The Prologue of the Nonne Prestes Tale. This excellent Prologue, which links the Monkes Tale with that of the Nonne Preest, needs no comment. It is in Chaucer's best manner, like the Tale itself; both clearly belong to the period of the formation of the Tales into a series. It shews, moreover, that Chaucer's later taste had taught him to reprobate a style of writing which he, doubtless, at one time admired. See Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, iii. 334.
§ 50. The Nonne Preestes Tale. This is the best specimen of our author's humour. An early version of the Tale occurs in a short fable by Marie de France, afterwards amplified in the old French Roman du Renart. The fable by Marie de France consists of thirty-eight short lines, and is printed in Dr. Furnivall's Originals and Analogues (Chaucer Society), p. 116, from MS. Harl. 978, leaf 56 (formerly 76). The corresponding portion of Le Roman de Rénart, as edited by Méon in 1826, vol. i. p. 49, is also printed in the same, p. 117; it comprises 454 lines (ll. 1267-1720), and contains the account of the cock's dream about a strange beast, and other particulars of which Chaucer makes some use. Professor Ten Brink shews that Marie's fable closely resembles one found in a Latin collection of Æsopian fables in a MS. at Göttingen, which he quotes in full (id. p. 114), and refers us for it to Oesterley, 'Romulus,' Berlin, 1870, p. 108.
A translation of Marie's fable, by myself, was printed in 'The Academy,' July 23, 1887 (p. 56); and is here reprinted for the purpose of comparison with Chaucer's story.
The Cock and the Fox.
A Cock our story tells of, who
High on a dunghill stood and crew.
A Fox, attracted, straight drew nigh,
And spake soft words of flattery.
'Dear Sir!' said he, 'your look's divine;
I never saw a bird so fine!
I never heard a voice so clear
Except your father's—ah! poor dear!
His voice rang clearly, loudly—but
Most clearly, when his eyes were shut!'
'The same with me!' the Cock replies,
And flaps his wings, and shuts his eyes.
Each note rings clearer than the last—
The Fox starts up, and holds him fast;
Towards the wood he hies apace.
But as he crossed an open space,
The shepherds spy him; off they fly;
The dogs give chase with hue and cry.
The Fox still holds the Cock, though fear
Suggests his case is growing queer.—
'Tush!' cries the Cock, 'cry out, to grieve 'em,
"The cock is mine! I'll never leave him!"'
The Fox attempts, in scorn, to shout,
And opes his mouth; the Cock slips out,
And, in a trice, has gained a tree.
Too late the Fox begins to see
How well the Cock his game has play'd;
For once his tricks have been repaid.
In angry language, uncontrolled,
He 'gins to curse the mouth that's bold
To speak, when it should silent be.
'Well,' says the Cock, 'the same with me;
I curse the eyes that go to sleep
Just when they ought sharp watch to keep
Lest evil to their lord befall.'
Thus fools contrariously do all:
They chatter when they should be dumb,
And, when they ought to speak, are mum.
Dryden's version of this Tale, entitled The Cock and the Fox, must be familiar to all readers.
In Reliquiae Antiquae, ed. Halliwell and Wright, ii. 272, a humorous fable, entitled the Vox [Fox] and the Wolf, is printed from MS. Digby, 86. The first sixty-four lines give an account of a hungry fox, who breaks into a farm-yard and has a parley with a cock who had 'flowen on hey.' The fox tries to persuade the cock to come down from his lofty position:—
'Quath the wox, "Sire chauntecler,
Thou fle adoun, and com me ner."'
But in this case, the cock knows better, and tells the fox to go away; and Reynard retires in disgust.
Such 'animal stories' are, of course, of great antiquity. See the remarks in Jacobs' edition of Caxton's 'Fables of Aesop,' vol. i. 253. Caxton's fable 'Of the foxe and of the cocke' is the third fable in Book V. A similar story, entitled 'A Fox and a Divining Cock,' occurs in the Fables of Æsop, by Sir Roger L'Estrange. It is needless to pursue the subject.
§ 51. Epilogue to the Nonne Preestes Tale. These characteristic lines are obviously genuine, but are only extant in three MSS. (footnote to vol. iv. p. 289). The use of the word 'another' in the last line shews that they were composed with the view of being used as a Prologue to some Tale, but that the author had not, at the moment, decided what Tale was to come next. This point was, after all, never settled; and hence there is nothing to shew what was to follow. This brings us, of necessity, to the conclusion of Group B.
In the old black-letter editions, which retain this Epilogue, it is followed by the Manciple's Prologue. But this cannot be right, for there (H 5) the Host does not address 'another,' but the whole company. One of the three MSS. which retain this Epilogue (Addit. 5140) reads 'the Nunne' instead of 'another,' because the next Tale in the MS. is that of the Second Nun. This also is unsuitable, for the Host does not introduce that Tale at all.
Tyrwhitt introduces a row of asterisks after this Epilogue, to shew that there is no connexion with the following Tale.
§ 52. The Spurious Prologue to the Phisiciens Tale. This Tale has no genuine Prologue, and some MSS., including E., do not contain one. In MS. Dd. is the rubric: 'Here endeth the Frankeleins Tale, and biginneth the Phisiciens Tale without a Prologe.' In the best MSS., it follows the Frankeleins Tale; and such is, in my belief, its proper position. This arrangement was arbitrarily altered by Dr. Furnivall, in order, I suppose, to emphasize the fact that the relative order of the Groups may be altered at pleasure; but this might have been understood without forcible dislocation; and I think that no good has been effected by it. I have been obliged to follow suit, but I wish to make a note that the right order of the Groups is A, B, D, E, F, C, G, H, I.
On the supposition that the Phisicien follows the Frankeleyn, Tyrwhitt inserted here a short Prologue of six lines, merely to fill up the gap, without accepting it as genuine. These six lines he found in one MS. only, viz. in MS. Harl. 7735; and I have reprinted them from his edition in the foot-note to vol. iv. p. 289.
In most MSS. the original position of the Tales has been altered, so as to make the Phisicien follow the Chanouns Yeman; and this is the arrangement in the black-letter editions. Two spurious Prologues have been written to connect these Tales; both being very bad. One of these appears in the black letter editions; and I here give it, from the edition of 1532.
Whan this yeman his tale ended had
Of this false chanon, which was so bad,
Our Hoste gan say, 'truely and certayne,
This preest was begyled, sothe for to sayne,
He wenyng for to be a phylosopher, 5
Tyl he right no golde lefte in his cofer.
And sothly, this preest had a lither iape;
This cursed chanon put in his hoode an ape.
But al this passe I ouer as now.
Sir Doctour of Phisyke, yet I pray you, 10
Tel vs a tale of some honest matere.'
'It shal be done, if that ye wol it here,'
Sayd this Doctour, and his tale bygan anon:
'Now good men (quod he) herkeneth euerychon.'
It will be seen that lines 7-9 are imitated from B 1629, 1630, and 1633; and lines 9-14 coincide, very nearly, with the spurious Prologue of six lines which I have already discussed.
The other Prologue is still worse; Mr. Wright has printed it, in a note, from the Lansdowne MS., and I here reproduce it.
'Now trewly,' quod oure Oste, 'this is a prati tale;
For litel merveile it is that thou lokest so pale,
Sethen thou hast medeled with so mony thinges;
With bloweinge att the cole to melte bothe brochez and ringes,
And other many Iewels, dar I undertake, 5
And that thi lorde couthe us tel, if we might him overtake.
But lat him go a devel waye, the compaigny is never the wers;
And al suche fals harlotes, I sette not be hem a kers.
But latt pas overe nowe al thes subtilitees,
And sume worthi man tel us summe veritees; 10
As ye, worschipful Maister of Phisike,
Tellith us somme tale that is a cronyke,
That we may of yowe leren sum witte.'
Quod the Maister of Phisik, 'a tale that I finde writte
In [a] cronyke passed of olde tyme; 15
Herkeneth, for I wil tel it yow in rime.'
These lines are instructive, as shewing that we must not accept lines as genuine merely because they occur in a MS. of some authority. And this circumstance should warn us against the folly of accepting the genuineness of such a poem as the 'Court of Love,' merely on the authority of the edition of 1561, which is a third reprint of the edition by Thynne, with arbitrary additions.
§ 53. The Phisiciens Tale. This is the well-known story of Virginia, which Chaucer tells, as usual, in his own way. Although he appeals to Livy as his author, he really follows the account in Le Roman de la Rose, ll. 5613-82; which contains all the particulars which he introduces, except such as are of his own invention. It is interesting to compare ll. 3-120 of this Tale, which are practically Chaucer's own, with ll. 255-76, where he follows Jean de Meun rather closely. In order to illustrate this, I give the whole passage of the French text, from Méon's edition, lines 5613-82; t. ii. p. 74:—
Comment Virginius plaida
Devant Apius, qui jugea
Que sa fille, à tout bien taillée,
Fust tost à Claudius baillée.
Ne fist bien Apius à pendre,
Qui fist à son serjant emprendre
Par faus tesmoings, fauce querele 5615
Contre Virgine la pucele,
Qui fu fille Virginius,
Si cum dist Titus Livius
Qui bien set le cas raconter,
Por ce qu'il ne pooit donter 5620
La pucele, qui n'avoit cure
Ne di li, ne de sa luxure.
Li ribaus dist en audience:
'Sire juges, donnes sentence
Por moi, car la pucele est moie; 5625
Por ma serve la proveroie
Contre tous ceus qui sunt en vie:
Car où qu'ele ait été norrie,
De mon ostel me fu emblée
Dès-lors par poi qu'ele fu née, 5630
Et baillie à Virginius.
Si vous requier, sire Apius,
Que vous me délivrés ma serve,
Car il est drois qu'ele me serve,
Non pas celi qui l'a norrie: 5635
Et se Virginius le nie,
Tout ce sui-ge prest de prover,
Car bons tesmoings en puis trover.'
Ainsinc parloit li faus traïstre
Qui du faus juge estoit menistre; 5640
Et cum li plais ainsinc alast,
Ains que Virginius parlast,
Qui tout estoit prest de respondre
Por ses aversaires confondre,
Juga par hastive sentence 5645
Apius que, sans atendence,
Fust la pucele au serf renduë.
Et quant la chose a entenduë,
Li bons prodons devant nommés,
Bons chevaliers, bien renommés, 5650
C'est assavoir Virginius,
Qui bien voit que vers Apius
Ne puet pas sa fille deffendre,
Ains li convient par force rendre,
Et son cors livrer à hontage, 5655
Si change honte por damage
Par merveilleus apensement,
Se Titus-Livius ne ment.
Comment après la jugement
A sa fille le chief couppa,
Dont de la mort point n'échappa;
Et mieulx ainsi le voulut faire
Que la livrer à pute affaire;
Puis le chief presenta au juge
Qui en escheut en grant déluge.
Car il par amors, sans haine,
A sa belle fille Virgine 5660
Tantost a la teste copée,
Et puis au juge présentée
Devant tous en plain consistoire;
Et li juges, selonc l'estoire,
Le commanda tastost à prendre 5665
Por li mener ocir ou pendre.
Mès ne l'occit ne ne pendi,
Car li pueples le deffendi
Qui fu tous de pitié méus
Si tost cum li fais fu séus; 5670
Puis fu por ceste mesprison
Apius mis en la prison,
Et là s'occist hastivement
Ains le jor de son jugement;
Et Claudius li chalangieres 5675
Jugiés fu à mort comme lieres,
Se ne l'en éust respitié
Virginius par sa pitié,
Qui tant volt li pueple proier,
Qu'en essil le fist envoier, 5680
Et tuit cil condampnés moururent
Qui tesmoingz de la cause furent.
We thus see that the remark 'as seith the storie,' in C 258, simply translates the French—'selonc l'estoire.' It is to be regretted that Chaucer was unacquainted with Livy's version; see Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, ii. 283. Gower (ed. Pauli, iii. 264) tells the same story; but I find no points of close resemblance, and many of divergence.
§ 54. Words of the Host to the Phisicien and the Pardoner. These 'Words' connect the Phisiciens Tale with that of the Pardoner. There are some curious variations in the copies, which suggest that some alterations were here made by the author. The chief variations are the following.
C 289. E. Hn. fals cherl and; Cp. Pt. Ln. Hl. cursed theef.
C 290. E. Hn. Cp. Pt. sham(e)ful; Ln. Hl. schendful.
C 291, 2. E. Hn. Pt. wholly vary from Cp. Ln. Hl.; see footnote in vol. iv. p. 299.
C 297-8. E. Hn. Pt. omit these lines.
C 299, 300. Hl. (and others) omit these lines.
I suppose that lines C 297-8, omitted in E. Hn., are a later (genuine) insertion. And perhaps the readings cursed theef and schendful are also corrections. But I follow MS. E. as the best guide, inserting 297-8 (as in the Six-text edition), that they may not be lost.
§ 55. Prologue of the Pardoners Tale. This is really a preamble; and the Tale itself has a long digression from the main subject. The portrait of the Pardoner, as here painted by himself, is historically valuable and minutely accurate; see the paper on 'Chaucer's Pardoner and the Pope's Pardoners,' by Dr. J. J. Jusserand, in Essays on Chaucer, p. 423 (Chaucer Society). The descriptions by Chaucer, Langland, Heywood (who plagiarises Chaucer mercilessly), and Sir David Lyndsay are, in this essay, supported by extracts from a papal letter by Boniface IX, written in 1390; by statements made by Richard d'Angerville, bp. of Durham, given in the Registrum Palatinum Dunelmense, iii. 325 (Rolls Series); and by extracts from Wilkins, Concilia, ii. 747, iii. 84, 131, 365. There is nothing to shew that the picture is unfair or overdrawn.
It may well be compared with one of the Tales in Boccaccio's Decamerone, Day 6, Nov. 10, which is given in full in a cheap reprint of selections from this work, edited by Prof. H. Morley, according to an English version made in the time of James I. There is nothing to shew that Chaucer had read this story; and, as has often been remarked above, he seems to have been unacquainted with the Decamerone. Some account of this Tale, with remarks, is given in Dunlop's History of Fiction, chap. vii. The hero of it is a certain friar Cipolla (i.e. Onion), whose account of himself is amusing. 'He gave a long account (says Dunlop) of his travels as far as India, and told how on his return he had visited the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who had shewn him innumerable relics; among others, a lock of the hair of the seraph that appeared to St. Francis, a paring of the cherub's nail, a few of the rays of the blessed star that guided the Magi in the east, the jaw-bone of Lazarus,' &c. He adds: 'This tale of Boccaccio drew down the censure of the Council of Trent, and is the one which gave the greatest umbrage to the church. The author has been defended by his commentators, on the ground that he did not intend to censure the respectable orders of friars, but to expose those wandering mendicants who supported themselves by imposing on the credulity of the people; that he did not mean to ridicule the sacred relics of the church, but those which were believed so in consequence of the fraud and artifice of monks.' But it must have been hard to draw this line. In the note to C 349, I have drawn attention to Heywood's close plagiarism from Chaucer, in the passage from the Four P.'s, printed in the note to l. 701 of Morris's edition of Chaucer's Prologue; also to Sir David Lyndsay's Satyre of the Three Estates, ll. 2037-2121.
§ 56. The Pardoneres Tale. A considerable part of this Tale is taken up with a digression; the Tale itself is told simply and well, occupying ll. 463-484, 661-894. Mr. Wright remarks: 'This beautiful moral story appears to have been taken from a Fabliau, now lost, but of which the mere outline is preserved [as first noted by Tyrwhitt] in the Cento Novelle Antiche, Nov. lxxxii, as well as the story itself by Chaucer.' Dunlop, in his History of Fiction, p. 203, says: 'It is evident from the title of the Cento Novelle Antiche, that it was not a new and original production, but a compilation of stories already current in the world. The collection was made towards the end of the thirteenth century, and was formed from episodes in Romances of chivalry; the Fabliaux of the French Trouveurs; the ancient chronicles of Italy; recent incidents; or jests and repartees current by oral tradition. That the stories derived from these sources were compiled by different authors, is evident from the great variety of style; but who those authors were, is still a problem in the literary annals of Italy.' The story is not exactly the same in all the editions of the Cento Novelle; and two different forms of it have been printed by Dr. Furnivall, in his Originals and Analogues (Chaucer Soc.), Pt. ii. pp. 131-133. Of these, the former is from the edition of 1525, with the title Le Ciento Novelle Antike, where it appears as Nov. lxxxiii. It is very brief, and to this effect. As Christ was walking with His disciples through a wild country, they suddenly espied some bright golden piastres, and said, 'Let us take some of these for our use.' But Christ reproved them, warning them that they would soon see the fatal effects of avarice. Soon after, two men found the gold; and one of them went to fetch a mule to carry it off, whilst the other remained to guard it. On his return with the mule, the former offered to his companion two loaves which he had bought for him. The latter refused at the moment, and shortly afterwards took an opportunity of stabbing the other as he chanced to be stooping down. He then took the two loaves, gave one to the mule, and ate the other himself. The loaves were poisoned; and man and mule fell dead. Then our Lord, passing by once more, pointed out to His disciples the three dead bodies.
The other version is from the edition of 1572, entitled Libro di Novelle, et di bel Parlar Gentile; where it is Nov. lxxxii. This is much more like Chaucer's story, and is occasionally quoted in the Notes as the 'Italian text.' Dr. Furnivall's analysis of the story is as follows:—
'A hermit lying down in a cave, sees there much gold. At once he runs away, and meets three robbers. They see no one chasing the hermit, and ask him what he is running away from. "Death, which is chasing me." "Where is he? shew him us." "Come with me, and I will." The hermit takes them to the cave, and shews them Death—the gold. They laugh at him, and make great joy, and say, "The hermit is a fool." Then the three robbers consult as to what they shall do. The second proposes that one shall go to the town, buy bread and wine and all things needful; but the crafty Devil puts into the heart of the robber who goes to the town, that he shall feed himself, poison his mates, and then have all the treasure, and be the richest man in that country. Meantime, the other robbers plot to murder their mate as soon as he comes back with the bread and wine, and then share the treasure. Their mate returns from the city, and they murder him at once. Then they eat the food he has brought, and both fall dead. Thus doth our Lord God requite traitors. The robbers found death. The wise man fled, and left the gold free.'
As the original is not long, I here reprint it, for the reader's convenience:—
'Qui conta d'uno Romito che andando per un luogo foresto trouo molto grande Tesoro.
'Andando vn giorno vn Romito per vn luogo foresto: si trouò vna grandissima grotta, laquale era molo celata, et ritirandosi verso là per riposarsi, pero che era assai affaticato; come e' giunse alla grotta si la vide in certo luogo molto tralucere, impercio che vi hauea molto oro: e si tosto come il conobbe, incontanente si partio, et comincio a correre per lo deserto, quanto e' ne potea andare. Correndo cosi questo Romito s'intoppo in tre grandi scherani, liquali stauano in quella foresta per rubare chi unque vi passaua. Ne gia mai si erano accorti, che questo oro vi fosse. Hor vedendo costoro, che nascosti si stauano, fuggir cosi questo huomo, non hauendo persona dietro che 'l cacciasse, alquanto hebbero temenza, ma pur se li pararono dinanzi per sapere perche fuggíua, che di cio molto sí marauígliauano. Ed elli rispose et disse: "Fratelli miei, io fuggo la morte, che mi vien dietro cacciando mi." Que' non vedendo ne huomo, ne bestia, che il cacciasse, dissero: "Mostraci chi ti caccia: et menaci cola one ella è." Allhora il Romito disse loro, "venite meco, et mostrerollaui," pregandoli tutta via che non andassero ad essa, impercio che elli per se la fuggia. Ed eglino volendola trouare, per vedere come fosse fatta, nol domandouano di altro. Il Romito vedendo che non potea piu, et hauendo paura di loro, gli condusse alla grotta, onde egli s'era partito, e disse loro, "Qui è la morte, che mi cacciaua," et mostra loro l'oro che u' era, ed eglino il conobbero incontanente, et molto si cominciarano a rallegrare, et a fare insieme grande sollazzo. Allhora accommiatarono questo buono huomo; et egli sen'ando per i fatti suoi: et quelli cominciarono a dire tra loro, come elli era semplice persona. Rimasero questi scherani tutti e tre insieme, a guardare questo hauere, e incominciarono a ragionare quello che voleano fare. L'uno rispuose et disse: "A me pare, da che Dio ci ha dato cosi alta ventura, che noi non ci partiamo di qui, insino a tanto che noi non ne portiamo tutto questo hauere." Et l'altro disse: "non facciamo cosi; l' vno di noi ne tolga alquanto, et vada alla cittade et vendalo, et rechi del pane et del vino, et di quello che ci bisogna, e di cio s'ingegni il meglio che puote: faccia egli, pur com' elli ci fornisca." A questo s'accordarono tutti e tre insieme. Il Demonio ch'è ingegnoso, e reo d'ordinare di fare quanto male e puote, mise in cuori a costui che andaua alla citta per lo fornimento, "da ch'io sarò nella cittade" (dicea fra se medesimo) "io voglio mangiare et bere quanto mi bisogna, et poi fornirmi di certe cose delle quali io ho mestiere hora al presente: et poi auuelenero quello che io porto a miei compagni: si che, da ch elli saranno morti amendue, si saro io poi Signore di tutto quello hauere, et secondo che mi pare egli è tanto, che io saio poi il piu ricco huomo di tutto questo paese da parte d'hauere:" et come li venne in pensiero, cosi fece. Prese viuanda per se quanta gli bisogno, et poi tutta l'altra auuelenoe, e cosi la porto a que suoi compagni. Intanto ch'ando alla cittade secondo che detto hauemo: se elli pensoe et ordinoe male per uccidere li suoi compagni, accio che ogni cosa li rimanesse: quelli pensaro di lui non meglio ch'elli di loro, et dissero tra loro: "Si tosto come questo nostro compagno tornera col pane et col vino, et con l'altre cose che ci bisognano, si l'uccideremo, et poi mangeremo quanto uorremo, e sara poi tra noi due tutto questo grande hauere. Et come meno parti ne saremo, tanto n'haueremo maggior parte ciascuno di noi." Hor viene quelli, che era ito alla cittade a comperare le cose che bisognaua loro. Tornato a suoi compagni incontanente che 'l videro, gli furono addosso con le lancie et con le coltella, et l'uccisero. Da che l'hebbero morto, mangiarono di quello che egli hauea recato: et si tosto come furono satolli, amendue caddero morti: et cosi morirono tutti e tre: che l' vno vccise l'altro si come vdito hauete, et non hebbe l'hauere: et cosi paga Domenedio li traditori, che egli andarono caendo la morte, et in questo modo la trouarono, et si come ellino n'erano degni. Et il saggio sauiamente la fuggio, e l'oro rimase libero come di prima.'
Dr. Furnivall has also reprinted Novella xlii. from the Novellae of Morlinus, ed. Naples, 1520 (reprinted at Paris in 1799); corrected by the Paris edition of Morlinus' Works, 1855. The story is very brief, being as follows:—
'De illis qui, in Tiberi reperto thesauro, ad inuicem conspirantes, ueneno et ferro periere.
'Magus magico susurro in Tiberi delitere thesaurum, quadam in cauea spirituum reuelatione cognouit: quo reperto, cum magnum siclorum cumulum aspiceret, communi uoto pars sociorum proximum oppidum seu castellum, epulas aliasque res comparaturi, accedunt: ceteri uero copiosum interea ignem instruunt, thesaurumque custodiunt. Dumque in castellum conuenissent, radice malorum cupiditate affecti, ut consocios thesauri parte priuarent, diro ueneno illos interimere statuerunt: cum dicto, in caupona epulantes, ebrii ac uino sepulti, aliquatenus moram fecere. In Tiberi expectantes atque esurientes, consocios de mora incussabant: Iouemque adiurauerunt, repedantes ex oppido atque castello et uita et thesauri parte priuare. Sicque ad inuicem conspirantes, non multo post adueniunt ex pago illi, uinarios utres, pullos, pisces, aliaque tucetosi saporis pulmentaria atque prelectum hircum ferentes. Quibus obuiam dederunt ieiuni, illosque omnes morti imparatos incautosque insecauere atque crudeli strage perdiderunt. Pone sumptis cibariis diro ueneno tabefactis, insigni iocunditate gnauiter cuncta ministrare incipiunt; alter uerrit, alter sternit, pars coquit, atque tuceta concinnat. Pone omnibus scitule appositis, ac mensa largiter instructa edere ceperunt, omniaque ingurgitauerunt. Commodum ex eis mensa erectis erant (sic) quod, morte preuenti, cum sociis uitam fato reddentes, sub elemento mortui et sepulti remansere.
'Nouella indicat: nec esse de malo cogitandum: nam quod quis seminat, metit.'
It has lately been discovered that this striking story is unquestionably of Asiatic origin. Numerous analogous stories have been collected and printed for the Chaucer Society by Mr. W. A. Clouston. At pp. 417-436 of these 'Originals and Analogues' is printed a Buddhist original of great antiquity, together with varying versions in several languages, viz. Persian, Arabic, Kashmiri, and Tibetan. Versions also occur in French, Italian, German, and Portuguese.
The Buddhist story is one entitled 'Vedabbha Játaka,' being the 48th story in Fausböll's edition of the Páli text of the Játaka-book. Mr. Clouston says (p. 418): 'The first to point out the identity of the Pardoner's Tale with one of those Buddhist "Birth"-stories was the Rev. Dr. Richard Morris, in the Contemporary Review, May, 1881, vol. xxxix. p. 738, and afterwards two other scholars each made the same discovery independently: Mr. H. T. Francis, in The Academy, Dec. 22, 1883, and Prof. C. H. Tawney, in the Journal of Philology, 1883, vol. xii. pp. 203-8. The Bishop of Colombo, in the Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1884, published translations of the first 50 Játakas, the 48th of which, as already stated, is the Vedabbha Játaka.' Mr. Clouston then gives a complete translation of this Játaka, from which I extract, for comparison, a few sentences:—
'But those two men [two robbers] deftly carried off that wealth, and hid it in a thicket near a village, and one remained guarding it, sword in hand, while the other took some rice and went off to the village to get it cooked. Truly this passion of avarice is the root of destruction, for the one who was guarding the wealth said to himself: "When my fellow returns, this wealth will have to be divided into two portions, so I had better kill him with a sword-cut as soon as he arrives." So he made ready his sword, and remained watching for his return. The other said to himself: "This wealth will have to be divided into two portions so I had better put poison in the rice, and give it to my fellow to eat and so kill him, and take all the wealth for myself." Accordingly as soon as the rice was cooked, he ate all he wanted, and put poison in the rest, and set out with it in his hand. No sooner had he put the rice down than the other cut him in two with his sword and threw his body into a tangled thicket. Then he ate the rice, and fell dead on the spot.'
The Persian Version follows, from a poem in the 'Book of Calamities,' made in the twelfth century by Ferídu-'d-Dín 'Attár, a celebrated philosopher and poet. In this version, as in Chaucer, there are three men; one of them goes to the town to buy bread, some of which he eats, and poisons the rest. The other two slay him on his return, eat the poisoned bread, and perish.
Of the Arabic versions, one occurs in the Breslau edition of the Book of the Thousand and One Nights (Burton's Supplementary Nights, vol. i p.250).
The Kashmírí version is given in Mr. Knowles' Dictionary of Kashmírí Proverbs and Sayings, Bombay, 1885, p. 45. Here there are four men, two of whom conspire against the other two, and slay them with axes; but afterwards eat the poisoned bread which the latter couple had prepared for them.
I must refer the reader to Mr. Clouston's essay for further particulars.
I must not omit to notice here the instances in which Chaucer has borrowed some of his moral reflexions from the treatise De Contemptu Mundi, by Pope Innocent, which has already been discussed above; see § 36. Dr. E. Köppel has noticed the following, in the Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen, ed. L. Herrig, vol. 84, p. 411.
C 483, 4. 'Propterea dicit apostolus: Nolite inebriari vino, in quo est luxuria:' lib. ii. cap. 19.
C 505-7; 491. 'Gula paradisum clausit; decollauit Baptistam:' lib. ii. cap. 18.
C 513-6; 521-3. 'Inde non salus et sanitas, sed morbus et mors. Audi super hoc sententiam Sapientis: "Noli auidus esse in omni epulatione, et non te effundas super omnem escam. In multis enim escis erit infirmitas; et propter crapulam multi perierunt." "Esca uentri, et uenter escis; Deus autem et hunc et hanc destruet":' lib. ii. cap. 17.
C 517-520. 'Nunc autem gulosis non sufficiunt fructus arborum, non genera leguminum, non radices herbarum, non pisces maris, non bestiae terrae, non aues coeli.' ... 'Tam breuis est gulae uoluptas, ut spatio loci uix sit quatuor digitorum,' &c.: lib. ii. cap. 17.
C 534-6. 'Quanto sunt delicatoria cibaria, tanto foetidiora sunt stercora. Turpius egerit, qui turpiter ingerit, superius et inferius horribilem flatum exprimens, et abominabilem sonum emittens:' lib. ii. cap. 18.
C 537-546. 'Quaeruntur pigmenta, comparantur aromata ... quae studiose coquuntur arte coquorum.... Alius contundit et colat, alius confundit et conficit, substantiam conuertit in accidens ... ut fastidium reuocet appetitum, ad irritandum gulam:' lib. ii. cap. 17.
C 551-2; 560-1. 'Quid turpius ebrioso? cui fetor in ore ... cui facies transformatur? "Nullum enim secretum, ubi regnat ebrietas":' lib. ii. cap. 19. Cf. Man of Lawes Tale, B 771-2, 776-7. See above, p. 408.
All these passages are probably versified from Chaucer's lost prose translation of Innocent's treatise. Observe that all the passages quoted lie close together, viz. in lib. ii. capp. 17-19.
A modernized version of the Pardoner's Tale was brought out by the Rev. Wm. Lipscomb, in 1792; and another version, made with some spirit, but far inferior to the original, will be found among Leigh Hunt's Poems, with the title 'Death and the Ruffians.'
§ 57. The Wife of Bath's Prologue. In some MSS., as in E. and Cm., this Prologue follows the Man of Lawes Tale, but without any connecting link. In others, as in Pt. and in the black-letter editions, it follows the Marchants Tale; and rarely, as in Cp. and Ln., it follows the Squieres Tale; but in no case are there any genuine lines to link it with what precedes. Two spurious prologues are, however, found. The former occurs in MS. Royal 18 C. II., and in MSS. Laud 739 and Barlow 20 (in the Bodleian Library). Tyrwhitt prints it from the first of these, 'to justify himself for not inserting them in the text'; as follows:—
Oure oost gan tho to loke[n] up anon:
'Gode men,' quod he, 'herkeneth everichone;
As evere mote I drynke wyn or ale,
This Marchaunt hath itold a mery tale,
Howe Ianuarie hadde a lither Iape; 5
His wyf put in his hood an ape.
But hereoff I wil leve off as now.
Dame Wyf of Bathe,' quod he, 'I pray[e] you,
Telle us a tale now nexte after this.'
'Sir Oost,' quod she, 'so god my soule blis, 10
As I fully therto wil consente;
And also it is myn hole entente
To done yow alle disporte as that I can.
But holde me excused: I am a woman.
I can not reherse as these clerkes kunne.' 15
And right anon she hath hir tale bygunne.
Here ll. 5 and 6 are imitated from B 1629 and 1630.
The Lansdowne MS. subjoins eight spurious lines at the end of the Squieres Tale, and prefixes to the Wife's Tale the four lines that follow:—
Than shortly ansewarde the wife of Bathe,
And swore a wonder grete hathe,
'Be goddes bones, I wil tel next;
I will nouht glose, bot saye the text.'
Here hathe (for aath) means 'oath,' and is a purely Northern form.
As to the Prologue itself, Wright remarks:—'The Wife of Bath's Prologue may be considered as a separate Tale, and belongs to a class of which there are several examples among the literature of the middle ages. One of the latest is "The twa Maryit Wemen and the Wedo" [Widow], of William Dunbar. The popular literature of what is commonly looked upon as the age of chivalry shews us that the female character was then estimated at the lowest possible rate.'
Tyrwhitt's remarks on this Prologue are excellent. 'The extraordinary length of it, as well as the vein of pleasantry that runs through it, is very suitable to the character of the speaker. The greatest part must have been of Chaucer's own invention, though we may plainly see that he had been reading the popular invectives against marriage and women in general; such as the Roman de la Rose; Valerius ad Rufinum de non ducenda uxore; and particularly, Hieronymus contra Iouinianum.' Of the last of these he says:—'The holy Father, by way of recommending celibacy, has exerted all his learning and eloquence (and he certainly was not deficient in either) to collect together and aggravate whatever he coud find to the prejudice of the female sex. Among other things he has inserted his own translation (probably) of a long extract from what he calls "Liber aureolus Theophrasti de nuptiis."
'Next to him in order of time was the treatise entitled Epistola Valerii ad Rufinum de non ducenda uxore (MS. Reg. 12 D. III). It has been printed, for the similarity of its sentiments, I suppose, among the works of St. Jerome, though it is evidently of a much later date. Tanner (from Wood's MS. Coll) attributes it to Walter Map (Bib. Brit., v. Map). I should not believe it to be older; as John of Salisbury, who has treated of the same subject in his Polycraticus, lib. viii. cap. 11, does not appear to have seen it.
'To these two books Jean de Meun has been obliged for some of his severest strokes in his Roman de la Rose; and Chaucer has transfused the quintessence of all the three works, upon the subject of Matrimony, into his Wife of Bathes Prologue and Merchant's Tale.'
Dr. Köppel has shewn that, in one passage (D 278), there is a trace of a quotation from Pope Innocent's treatise De Contemptu Mundi, lib. i. c. 18. This passage introduces the word 'smoke,' which is not in the wording of Prov. xxvii. 15, the ultimate authority for the quotation. Similarly, when Innocent cites the same text, he introduces the word fumus.
§ 58. The Tale of the Wyf of Bathe. The various Tales analogous to this have been discussed by Mr. W. A. Clouston, in the 'Originals and Analogues' published by the Chaucer Society in 1887, p. 483. Mr. Clouston calls the Tales of this class 'The Knight and the Loathly Lady.' He begins by observing that 'Gower anticipated the Wife of Bath's characteristic Tale by a few years in his Confessio Amantis, but there seems no good reason to suppose Chaucer to have borrowed from his friend, the two versions differing so very considerably in details; and it is probable that both poets drew their materials independently from a French source, or sources.' He then quotes Gower's tale, from MS. Harl. 3869; cf. Pauli's edition, i. 89-104. Here the hero is named Florent and is supposed to be the nephew of the emperor Claudius. Florent has slain one Branchus, whose grandmother plots a plan of revenge. She sends for Florent, offering him a full pardon if he can answer a certain question; but if he fails, he must forfeit his life. To this he agrees, and is allowed a term of days for the solution of the question. The question is—'What do all women most desire?'
After much vain enquiry, Florent finds a loathly old woman, who tells him that she can save him from death; but if she does this, he must marry her; and to this he desperately consents. She tells him that women desire sovereignty, and to have all their will. The answer is correct; his life is saved, and he must perform his promise. He weds her, and is at last persuaded that he ought to kiss her; whereupon she is transformed into a young girl, of eighteen years of age. She explains that she had been bewitched, and his courtesy had broken the charm.
A similar story is the subject of the 'Weddynge of Syr Gawen and Dame Ragnell,' printed by Sir F. Madden in his 'Syr Gawayne,' from MS. Rawlinson C. 86. The outline of it is given by Prof. Child in his English and Scottish Ballads, Boston (U. S.), 1884, Part ii., pp. 289, 290, and is reprinted by Mr. Clouston. In this story, it is King Arthur who, to save his life, undertakes to solve, within a twelvemonth, the question—'What do women love most?' Soon after, Arthur tells his adventure to Sir Gawain, who is willing to help him. Gawain meets a hideous hag who offers to tell him the answer on the usual terms; her name is Dame Ragnell. Gawain learns the answer, imparts it to Arthur, and kisses Dame Ragnell, who is transformed into the fairest creature he had ever seen.
This is the story on which is founded the ballad of the Marriage of Sir Gawaine, a fragmentary piece printed in the Percy Folio MS., ed. Hales and Furnivall, i. 103.
Another version, perhaps older than either of the foregoing, is the Border Ballad of King Henrie, printed by Scott in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. William Tytler's version of this ballad was adapted by Lewis for his Tales of Wonder, with the new title of 'Courteous King Jamie'; vol. ii. 453. Mr. Clouston adds:—'A similar ballad, "Of a Knight and a Fair Virgin," is found in Johnson's Crown Garland of Golden Roses, printed about 1600. And Voltaire has followed Chaucer in his tale Ce qui plaît aux Dames.
'Scott, in his prefatory note to the ballad of King Henrie, after referring to its resemblance to the Marriage of Sir Gawaine and the Wife of Bath's Tale, cites what he considers as "the original" [viz. an Icelandic version] from Torfeus (Hrolffi Krakii Hist., Hafn. 1715, p. 49).'
Another Icelandic version is given by Clouston (from Prof. Child), in the form of an abstract.
Another version follows, from the Gaelic, taken from the story of The Daughter of King Under-Waves; given in Campbell's Popular Tales of the West Highlands, iii. 403.
A similar notion occurs in Mandeville's Travels, ed. Halliwell, chap. iv. pp. 23-26. His story is to the effect that in the Isle of Lango is to be found the daughter of Ypocras (Hippocrates), who has been transformed into a loathsome Dragon, a hundred fathoms long. 'But whan a Knyghte comethe, that is so hardy to kisse hire, he schalle not dye: but he schalle turne the Damysele in-to hire righte Forme and kyndely Schapp; and he schal be Lord of alle the Contreyes and Iles aboveseyd.' It is disappointing to find that no one ever performed the task; so that, in fact, the lady remains a dragon to the present day.
Mr. Clouston adds a Turkish Analogue from a story-book entitled Phantasms from the Presence of God, written in 1796-7, by ‘Ali ‘Aziz Efendi, the Cretan; and refers to similar ideas found in Sanskrit stories. He concludes by saying:—'Legends similar to the tale of the Knight and the Loathly Lady seem to be of universal currency and of very ancient date. Have we not all listened to them in the nursery, and been especially charmed with the tale of the Frog-Prince? And there are several parallels to it among the nations of South Africa.' He appends two Kaffir analogues from Theal's Kaffir Folk-Lore.
The Wife of Bath's Tale has been retold by Dryden, in a way peculiarly his own. If compared with the original, it suffers sadly by the comparison. The poet Gay wrote a comedy called The Wife of Bath, which appeared in 1713. A later edition, 'revised and altered by the author,' appeared in 1730.
§ 59. The Friar's Prologue. This is closely linked with the preceding tale, and is chiefly remarkable for the Friar's outburst against the Somnour, which shews such rancour that even the Host interferes. As Tyrwhitt here notes—'The Regular Clergy, and particularly the Mendicant Friars, affected a total exemption from all ecclesiastical jurisdiction, except that of the Pope, which made them exceedingly obnoxious to the Bishops, and of course to all the inferior orders of the national hierarchy.'
§ 60. The Freres Tale. Warton, in his History of Eng. Poetry (ed. Hazlitt, i. 302), after speaking of the collection of stories in the Gesta Romanorum, tells us that 'rather before the year 1480, a Latin volume was printed in Germany, written by John Herolt, a Dominican friar of Basle, better known by the adopted and humble appellation of Discipulus, and who flourished about the year 1418.' The first part of this work consists of sermons. The second part is 'a Promptuary or ample repository of examples for composing sermons,' and contains 'a variety of little histories.' Among these is one analogous to Chaucer's Freres Tale.
The Latin story was first printed by Mr. T. Wright in the Archæologia, vol. xxxii., and again in Originals and Analogues, Chaucer Soc., 1872, p. 105, from MS. Cotton, Cleop. D. 8, leaf 110; and is as follows:—
Narratio de Quodam Senescallo Sceleroso.
Erat uir quidam Senescallus et placitator, pauperum calumpniator, et bonorum huiusmodi spoliator. Qui die quadam forum iudiciale causa contencionis faciende et lucrandi adiuit. Cui quidam obuiauit in itinere dicens ei: 'Quo uadis, et quid habes officii?' Respondit primus: 'Uado lucrari.' Et ait secundus: 'Ego tui similis sum. Eamus simul.' Primo consenciente, dixit secundus ei: 'Quid est lucrum tuum?' Et ille: 'emolumentum pauperum, quamdiu aliquid habent, ut per lites, contenciones et uexationes, siue iuste siue iniuste. Modo dixi tibi lucrum meum, unde est. Die mihi, queso, unde est et tuum?' Respondit secundus dicens: 'Quicquid sub maledictione traditur diabolo, computo mihi pro lucro.' Risit primus, et derisit secundum, non intelligens quod esset diabolus.
Paulo post cum transirent per ciuitatem, audierunt quemdam pauperem maledicere cuidam uitulo quem duxit ad uendendum, quia indirecte ibat. Item audierunt consimilem de muliere fustigante puerum suum. Tunc ait primus ad secundum: 'Ecce potes lucrari, si uis. Tolle puerum et uitulum.' Respondit secundus: 'Non possum, quia non maledicunt ex corde.'
Cum uero paululum processissent, pauperes euntes versus iudicium, uidentes illium Senescallum, ceperunt omnes unanimiter maledictiones in ipsum ingerere. Et dixit secundus ad primum: 'Audis quid isti dicunt?' 'Audio,' inquit, 'sed nichil ad me.' Et dixit secundus: 'Isti maledicunt ex corde, et te tradunt diabolo; et ideo meus eris.' Qui statim ipsum arripiens, cum eo disparuit.
A similar story is printed in a Selection of Latin Stories, edited by Mr. T. Wright for the Percy Society, vol. viii. p. 70. It is entitled 'De Aduocato et Diabolo,' and was taken from the printed Promptuarium Exemplorum, compiled in the early part of the fifteenth century. It is reprinted in the Originals and Analogues, p. 106, and I here quote Dr. Furnivall's abstract of it.
'A grasping lawyer, out to gather prey, met the Devil in the form of a man, and could not get quit of him. A poor man, angry with his perverse pig, said: "Devil take you!" But as he did not say it from his heart, the Devil could not take the pig; nor could he a child, to which its mother said: "Devil take you!" When, however, some townsmen saw the lawyer coming, they all cried out: "May the Devil take you!" And, as they did it from the bottom of their hearts, the Devil carried the lawyer off; as his man bore witness.'
This Tale furnishes an admirable example of Chaucer's method; the mere outline of the story is little altered, but his mode of telling gives it a new spirit, and quiet touches of humour are abundant throughout.
A modernised version of this Tale, by Jeremiah Markland, was included in Ogle's 'Canterbury Tales of Chaucer modernized by several hands,' published by Tonson in 1741. Another such version, by Leigh Hunt, was included in Horne's 'Poems of Geoffrey Chaucer Modernized,' published in 1841. See Lounsbury's Studies in Chaucer, iii. 190, 217, 223.
§ 61. The Somnour's Prologue. The Freres Tale rouses the Somnour almost to fury; and he begins by retorting that Friars have a peculiar knowledge of hell, for obvious reasons; and emphasises his statement by a brief story, which was probably a current popular joke. He then proceeds with his Tale.
§ 62. The Somnours Tale. The analogous French story was first pointed out by M. Sandras, in his Étude sur Chaucer, 1859, p. 237. It is entitled Li Dis de la Vescie a Prestre, the Story of the Priest's Bladder, and was written by Jakes de Basiu, or Baisieux. It is printed in a collection entitled Fabliaux ou Contes, Fables et Romans du xiie et du xiiie Siècle, par Legrand D'Aussy; 1829; vol. iv. p. 18 of the Appendix. An analysis of the story, in modern French, is given at p. 177 of the same.
The Dis is reprinted among the Originals and Analogues, Chaucer Society, 1875, p. 137. I subjoin a very brief outline of it.
A Priest, dwelling near Antwerp, a wise man and a rich, falls ill, and is about to die. He sends for his dean and his friends, to dispose of his property. Two Jacobin friars come to visit him and to beg. The Priest explains that all his property is settled. The friars insist on the merit of giving to them above all others, and are very importunate. At last, to quiet them, he tells them he will leave them a jewel for which he would not take a thousand marks; and their Prior must come next day, to learn where the jewel is kept.
Next day, five of the friars again visit the Priest, but leave the Prior at home. The Priest says he will only reveal the secret in the presence of the Sheriffs and the Mayor, who are duly sent for. On their arrival, the Priest explains all about the cupidity and importunity of the two friars, and how, in order to get rid of them, he promised to give them something which he valued very much. He then reveals the secret, that the jewel is his own bladder; and the Jacobins retire crest-fallen.
In the same volume of Fabliaux ou Contes, p. 184, M. Legrand d'Aussy says that a somewhat similar story used to be told of the poet Jean de Meun, who, it was said, left to the Jacobin friars some heavy coffers of treasure, which were not to be opened till they had duly said a mass for the repose of his soul. Of course the coffers were filled with pieces of slate.
It is interesting to notice how Chaucer localises the story. He transfers the scene from Antwerp to Holderness, just as, in the Reves Tale, he boldly transfers it to Trumpington. The friar satirised in the Tale is clearly an Englishman, and the whole is rendered definite and vivid.
In 1733, a Mr. Grosvenor wrote a sort of imitation of the Somnours Tale, under the title of The Whimsical Legacy, as a contribution to Eustace Budgell's periodical entitled The Bee. It is only a third of the length of the original. It was reprinted by Ogle, in his Canterbury Tales Modernized, in 1741. The poet Gay wrote another poor imitation, entitled An Answer to the Sompner's Prologue in Chaucer, printed anonymously in Lintot's Miscellany, entitled Poems on Several Occasions (1717), p. 147. See Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, iii. 125, 190, 192.
§ 63. The Clerk's Prologue. This begins a new Group of Tales. There is nothing to connect this Prologue with any of the rest of the Tales. It usually follows the Somnours Tale, as in most MSS. and in the early editions.
The Prologue, in the usual riming couplets, is evidently later than the Tale, and was supplied at the time of revision. It contains an interesting allusion to Petrarch, whose death took place in July, 1374; see remarks upon the Tale itself below. The latter part of the Prologue describes briefly the contents of the Latin Proem prefixed to Petrarch's tale.
§ 64. The Clerkes Tale. Of this tale, the main part is a rather close translation from Petrarch's De obedientia et fide uxoriâ Mythologia, as explained in the Notes; and it must be added that Petrarch had it from Boccaccio. It is the very last tale—the tenth tale of the tenth day—in the Decamerone, written shortly after the year 1348. Whether Boccaccio invented it or not can hardly be determined; for an expression of Petrarch, to the effect that he had heard it 'many years' (multos annos) before 1373, is not at all decisive on this point, as he may easily have heard it twenty years before then, even though he had never before read the Decamerone, as he himself asserts. There has been some unnecessary mystification about the matter. Tyrwhitt wonders why Chaucer should have owned an obligation to Petrarch rather than to Boccaccio; but a very cursory examination shews the now undoubted fact, that Chaucer follows Petrarch almost word for word in many passages, though Petrarch by no means closely follows Boccaccio. In fact, ll. 41-55 settle the matter. The date of Petrarch's version, though a little uncertain, seems to have been 1373; and Chaucer himself tells us that he met Petrarch at Padua. We may therefore readily adopt Dr. Furnivall's suggestion, that 'during his Italian embassy in 1373, Chaucer may have met Petrarch.' Only let us suppose for a moment that Chaucer himself knew best, that he is not intentionally and unnecessarily inventing his statements, and all difficulty vanishes. We know that Chaucer was absent from England on the king's business, visiting Florence and Genoa, from December 1, 1372, till some time before November 22, 1373. We know that Petrarch's letter to Boccaccio, really forming a preface to the tale of Griselda, and therefore written shortly after he had made his version of it, is dated in some copies June 8, 1373, though in other copies no date appears. And we know that Petrarch, on his own shewing, was so pleased with the story of Griselda that he learnt it by heart as well as he could, for the express purpose of repeating it to friends, before the idea of turning it into Latin occurred to him. Whence we may conclude that Chaucer and Petrarch met at Padua early in 1373; that Petrarch told Chaucer the story by word of mouth, either in Italian or French; and that Chaucer shortly after obtained a copy of Petrarch's Latin version, which he kept constantly before him whilst making his own translation. At this rate, the main part of the Clerk's Tale was probably written in 1373 or early in 1374, and required but little revision to make it suitable for one of the tales of the Canterbury series. The test of metre likewise suggests that it was probably one of his early works. The closeness of the translation also proves the same point. Chaucer, in his revised version, adds the Prologue, containing an allusion to Petrarch's death (which took place in 1374), and eulogises the great Italian writer according to his desert. At the end of the translation, which terminates with l. 1162, he adds two new stanzas, and the Envoy. The lateness of this (undramatic) addition is proved at once by the whole tone of it, and, in particular, by the mention of the Wife of Bath in l. 1170. The Envoy is a marvel of rhythm, since, though it consists of thirty-six lines, it contains but three rime-endings, viz. -ence, -aille, and -inde. Besides this addition, there is yet one more, in the middle of the tale, viz. the two stanzas in ll. 995-1008, as pointed out in the Notes; they are conspicuous for their excellence.
The story of Griselda, as told by Boccaccio, together with Petrarch's Latin version of it, and the letter of Petrarch to Boccaccio concerning it, are all reprinted in the 'Originals and Analogues of some of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales,' Part II, published for the Chaucer Society, and dated (in advance) 1875. Were any additional proof needed that Chaucer had Petrarch's version before him, it is supplied by the fact that numerous quotations from that version are actually written in the margins of the pages of the Ellesmere and Hengwrt MSS., each in its proper place. All the passages that are made clearer by a comparison with the Latin text are duly considered in the Notes. Speaking of the story of Griselda, Warton remarks that it 'soon became so popular in France, that the comedians of Paris represented a mystery in French verse, entitled Le mystere de Griselidis Marquis[e] de Saluces, in the year 1393. Before, or in the same year, the French prose version in Le Ménagier de Paris was composed, and there is an entirely different version in the Imperial library. Lydgate, almost Chaucer's contemporary, in his poem entitled the Temple of Glass, among the celebrated lovers painted on the walls of the Temple, mentions Dido, Medea and Jason, Penelope, Alcestis, Patient Griselda, Belle Isoulde and Sir Tristram, Pyramus and Thisbe, Theseus, Lucretia, Canace, Palamon, and Emilia.' Elsewhere Warton remarks (Hist. Eng. Poetry, ed. Hazlitt, iv. 229, note 3) that 'the affecting story of Patient Grisild seems to have long kept up its celebrity. In the books of the Stationers, in 1565, Owen Rogers has a licence to print "a Ballat intituled the Songe of Pacyent Gressell vnto hyr make" [husband]; Registr. A. fol. 132, b. Two ballads are entered in 1565, "to the tune of pacyente Gressell"; ibid. fol. 135, a. In the same year T. Colwell has licence to print The History of meke and pacyent Gresell; ibid. fol. 139, a. Instances occur much lower.' See also Hazlitt's Handbook of Early English Literature.
In Originals and Analogues, published by the Chaucer Society, 1887, p. 527, there is an article by Mr. Clouston giving an abstract of an Early French version of this story which was printed in Le Grand's Fabliaux ou Contes, du XIIIe et du XIIIIe siècle, ed. 1781, tome ii. 232-252. Mr. Clouston draws the conclusion that both the Latin version in Petrarch and the Italian version in Boccaccio were taken from a common source closely resembling this Early French fabliau. 'The differences,' he observes, 'between the French and Latin versions are few and immaterial. As Petrarch plainly states that he was familiar with the tale long before he had read it in the Decameron, we may, I think, safely conclude that he knew it from a fabliau, which was probably also the source of Boccaccio's novel.'
Similar tales are not common in Asiatic literature; but 'in the earlier literature of India,' says Mr. Clouston, 'before it could be affected by baleful Muslim notions regarding women, there occur several notable tales of faithful, virtuous, obedient wives.' One is the tale of a queen, as given in the Kathá Sárit Ságara (Tawney's translation, vol. i. p. 355); see the abstract by Mr. Clouston. Another faithful wife appears in Sitá, the spouse of Ráma, in the great Hindú epic, the Rámayana; and again, in Damayanti, wife of Nala, in the beautiful episode called the Tale of Nala, in the great poem entitled the Mahábhárata.
Two English versions of the Tale of Griselda are printed in vol. iii. of the Percy Society's publications. One is in prose, dated 1610, and is said to have been 'written first in French'; the other, in ballad form, is said to be 'translated out of Italian.'
There is a ballad called 'Patient Grissell,' in the Percy Folio MS., ed. Hales and Furnivall, iii. 421; and there is one by Thomas Deloney in Professor Child's English and Scottish Ballads, vol. iv. Professor Child remarks that 'two plays upon the subject are known to have been written, one of which (by Dekker, Chettle, and Haughton) has been printed by the Shakespeare Society, while the other, an older production of the close of Henry VIII's reign, is lost.' Pepys refers to the 'puppet-play' of Patient Grizell in his Diary, Aug. 30, 1667. Butler, in his Hudibras (pt. i. c. 2. 772), couples Grizel with Job.
In Italy the story is so common that it is still often acted in marionette theatres; it is to be had, moreover, in common chap-books, and a series of cheap pictures representing various scenes in it may often be seen decorating cottage-walls. (Notes and Queries, 5th S. i. 105, 255). The same thing was done in England.
We in the country do not scorn
Our walls with ballads to adorn
Of patient Grissel and the Lord of Lorn.'
Ritson's Ancient Songs, i. xcviii.
Several scenes of the tale are well exhibited in an excellent picture by Pinturicchio, in the National Gallery (London).
For remarks upon the conduct of the tale and the character of the heroine, see Prof. Hales's criticisms in the Percy Folio MS., iii. 421, and in Originals and Analogues of Chaucer, Part II, pp. 173-176. There are also a few good remarks on it in Canterbury Tales from Chaucer, by J. Saunders, ed. 1889, p. 308, where the author points out that, as the Marquis was Griselda's feudal lord, she could but say 'yes' when asked to marry him, the asking being a mere form; and that the spirit of chivalry appears in her devotion of herself to his every wish.
§ 65. The Merchant's Prologue. It seems to have been Chaucer's first intention to end the Clerkes Tale at l. 1163. He then began writing a new Prologue, but only finished one stanza of it. This stanza is given in the footnote at p. 424 of vol. iv. He then changed his mind, rejected this stanza, and wrote (instead of it) the late addition to the Clerkes Tale given on pp. 424-5, lines 1163-1212. The last line (l. 1212) ends with—'care, and wepe, and wringe, and waille.' Then, with reference to this line, he makes the Merchant's Prologue begin with the words 'Weping, and wayling, care,' &c. In this way, the Clerkes Tale and that of the Marchant are indissolubly connected, as in the Ellesmere MS. and most others. There is, however, one set of MSS. which disconnects these Tales, as explained in the Introduction to vol. iv. p. xxiii. This is the set there marked D. Unfortunately, Thynne followed a MS. of this class, in which the worst arrangement of the Tales occurs. Hence in all the black-letter editions, the Tales are sadly out of order, and the Clerkes Tale is wrongly followed by that of the Frankeleyn. This causes a breaking up of Group F as well as of Group E, the Squieres Tale being followed by that of the Marchant, as noted in § 69 below.
The close connexion between this Prologue and the preceding Tale is further seen in the whole tenor of ll. 1213-39; note particularly the express mention of Grisildis in l. 1224.
In consequence of their dislocation of the order of the Tales, the black-letter editions substitute the word Marchant for Frankeleyn in F 675 and 696, and even alter the ending of F 699, viz. 'quod the frankeleyn,' into 'quod the marchant certeyn,' a forced alteration which is obviously spurious. They then place F 673-708 before E 1213; which is an extremely clumsy arrangement. Tyrwhitt put this matter right in his edition, being here guided by the authority of the majority of the MSS.
§ 66. The Marchantes Tale. This Tale is certainly a late addition. Dr. Köppel has shewn that several lines in this Tale are imitated from Albertano of Brescia, so that it becomes clear that the Tale of Melibeus (which is little else than a translation from that author) had already been written before the Marchantes Tale was begun. This easily appears by comparing the following passages: (a) E 1362-1374 with B 2287-91, where Jacob, Judith, Abigail, and Hester are mentioned, in both passages, in the same order: (b) E 1483-6 with B 2193: (c) E 2246-8 with B 2247, and E 2250 with B 2249: (d) E 2277-81 and 2286-90 with B 2266-70: (e) E 2365 with B 2167. Moreover, in two instances at least, Chaucer follows the Latin text of Albertano even where there is no corresponding passage in the Tale of Melibeus. Thus, in E 1373, there is mention of Mardochee; but he is not named in B 2291. However, the Latin text has: 'Simili modo et Hester Iudaeos per suum bonum consilium simul cum Mardochaeo, in regno Assueri regis, sublimauit'; cap. v. (ed. T. Sundby, p. 17). Again, the lines E 1375-6 do not appear after B 2298 (their proper place), but only occur in the Latin text: 'Quartam uero rationem ad hoc inducit Seneca, commendans super omnia benignas coniuges; ait enim: Sicut nihil est superius benigna coniuge, ita nihil est crudelius infesta muliere'; (p. 18).
Dr. Köppel has further pointed out, in the same article, that Chaucer has also introduced into this Tale some quotations from another work by Albertano, entitled Liber de amore et dilectione Dei; for examples, see the Notes. Moreover, this Tale also exhibits quotations from Boethius, as, e.g. in E 2021-2, for which see Boethius, bk. iii. pr. 2. 55; and, in one passage, E 1582, we find a reminiscence both of Boethius, bk. v. met. 4. 8, and of Troilus, i. 365. But, beyond all this, there is the somewhat extraordinary reference to the Wife of Bath's Prologue in E 1685, where we are told that she had already discussed the question of marriage 'in litel space.' This shews at once, past all doubt, that the Marchantes Tale was not only written later than Melibeus, Boethius, and Troilus; but even later than the highly mature performance written in the Wife's name, as the result of her wide experience.
The Tale practically consists of three parts. The first part (E 1245-1688) is a discourse upon marriage, somewhat in the style of the Wife of Bath's Prologue, but treating it from a more favourable point of view, with the addition of some hints from Albertano of Brescia. The second part describes the wedding of January and May, and the love-languor of Damian (E 1689-2056). The third part describes how January became blind, and the means whereby he was restored to sight (E 2057-2418). The last part has several analogues, and is, in fact, founded on a story once widely current. For a full account of this story, see Originals and Analogues, Chaucer Society, pp. 177 and 341. Chaucer probably took the outline of his story from some French or Latin source. Tyrwhitt says:—'The scene of the Marchantes Tale is laid in Italy, but none of the names, except Damian and Justin, seem to be Italian, but rather made at pleasure; so that I doubt whether the story be really of Italian growth. The adventure of the Pear-tree I find in a small collection of Latin fables, written by one Adolphus, in elegiac verses of his fashion, in the year 1315. The same story is inserted among the Fables of Alphonse, printed by Caxton in English, with those of Æsop, Avian, and Pogge, without date; but I do not find it in the original Latin of Alphonsus (MS. Bibl. Reg. 10 B xii), or in any of the French translations of his work that I have examined.'
Five 'Pear-tree' stories are printed in the Originals and Analogues. The first is the fable of Adolphus, above mentioned. It is the first fable in Adolphi Fabulae, printed in Polycarpi Leyseri Historia Poetarum et Poematum Medii Ævi: Halae Magdelburgiae, 1721, p. 2008. It consists of thirty-six elegiac lines, and tells how a blind man's wife ascended a pear-tree in which her lover was hidden; whereupon the blind man's sight was suddenly restored, and she explains that the cure was due to her contrivance. Another very similar story occurs in an Appendix to the Latin editions of Æsop's Fables printed in the fifteenth century, and was reprinted by Wright in his 'Latin Stories,' for the Percy Society, 1842, p. 78. This is the same story, or nearly so, as the fable of Alphonsus which Tyrwhitt failed to find, and is written in prose. The English version (as Tyrwhitt says) was printed by Caxton in 1483, in The Book of the subtyl hystoryes and Fables of Esope, at leaf 132. The title runs, 'The xii fable is of a blynd man and of hys wyf.'
A third Latin 'Pear-tree' story occurs in the Comoedia Lydiae, by Matthieu de Vendôme, and was printed from a MS. at Vienna, in Anecdota Poetica, &c.: Poésies Inédites du moyen áge; par Edélestand du Méril; 1854, p. 370. This is in seventy-two elegiac lines, and gives names to the personages mentioned. The husband and wife are Duke Decius and Lydia; her lover is Pyrrhus, and her maid is Lusca. Hence it is evidently the source of the similar story in Boccaccio's Decamerone, Day 7, Nov. 9, in which the husband and wife are Nicostratus and Lydia, and the lover is Pyrrhus, as before. In this third version of the story the husband is not blind, but the pear-tree is supposed to be enchanted, and to cause false illusions to appear.
In the same Originals and Analogues, at p. 343, Mr. Clouston has collected several Asiatic stories of a similar character, including one in the Bahár-i Dánush, or Spring of Knowledge; a Turkish Version in the romance of The Forty Vazírs, about an enchanted tree which is supposed to cause illusions; and an Arabian Version found in the Breslau printed text of the Arabian Nights, ed. Habicht and Fleischer, and printed in English in Tales from the Arabic, by John Payne (London, printed for the Villon Society, 1884), vol. i. p. 270. Of a similar type is the story of The Officious Father-in-Law, occurring in the Persian Sindibád Náma (second tale of the Fifth Vazír), in the Túti Náma (eighth night, story of the Fifth Vazír), and in the Sanskrit Suka Saptati (fifteenth night). A similar story to that in the Bahár-i Dánush is current in Ceylon; and a translation of it is given in the Orientalist, vol. ii. (1885), p. 148, reprinted by Mr. Clouston. Other examples are added, which, however, bear but a remote resemblance to the Tale in Chaucer.
I may add that I find a French variant of the story in the Poésies de Marie de France, ed. Roquefort, Paris, 1820; 2 vols. It is the fortieth Fable in that work, and is headed, 'Dou vileins qui vit un autre Hom od sa femme.' But this version omits the husband's blindness and the pear-tree, and merely says that a thing is not necessarily true because you see it. In conclusion, Mr. Clouston says:—'The model of both Boccaccio's and Chaucer's tales seems to have been the version found in the Comoedia Lydiae, or one similar to it. The story may perhaps exist in some of the great medieval monkish collections of sermons, or of exempla designed for the use of preachers, such as the Sermones of Jacques de Vitry; the Liber de Donis of Étienne de Bourbon; the Promptuarium Exemplorum of John Herolt; the Summa Praedicantium of John Bromyard. In the absence of any Eastern version representing the cuckolded husband as being blind and having his sight miraculously restored to discover himself dishonoured, we must conclude that this form of the story is of European invention. It is needless to add that Chaucer's tale of January and May is incomparably the best-told of all the versions, whether Asiatic or European.'
One peculiarity of this Tale requires further notice, viz. the mention of Pluto. As to this, Tyrwhitt well remarks—'The machinery of the Faeries, which Chaucer has used so happily, was probably added by himself; and indeed I cannot help thinking, that his Pluto and Proserpina were the true progenitors of Oberon and Titania.... In the rest of his Faery system, Shakespeare seems to have followed the popular superstitions of his own time.'
§ 67. The Squire's Prologue. Ten Brink assumes that Groups E and F constitute but one Group; for which there is no certain evidence. Many MSS., including Pt., make the Wife's Tale follow the Marchantes Tale; and there is nothing in the text itself to shew that the Epilogue to the Marchantes Tale is inseparably connected with the Squire's Prologue. Nevertheless, many good MSS., including E., write that Epilogue and the Squire's Prologue continuously, and E. prefixes to the Epilogue a rubric—'The Prologe of the Squieres Tale'; see vol. iv. p. 460, footnote. The easiest way out of the difficulty is to adopt the arrangement in the Six-text edition, which separates Group E from Group F as to the numbering of the lines, but makes F follow E immediately.
The black-letter editions omit E 2419-2440 and F 1-8 altogether; so that Tyrwhitt was the first to print these lines. He says: 'The Prologue to the Squieres Tale [by which he means E 2419-40 and F 1-8] appears now for the first time in print. Why it has been omitted by all former editors I cannot guess, except, perhaps, because it did not suit with the place which, for reasons best known to themselves, they were determined to assign to the Squieres Tale, that is, after the Man of Lawes and before the Marchantes. I have chosen rather to follow the MSS. of the best authority in placing the Squieres Tale after the Marchantes, and in connecting them together by this Prologue, agreeably, as I am persuaded, to Chaucer's intention. The lines which have been usually printed by way of Prologue to the Squieres Tale, as I believe them to have been really composed by Chaucer, though not intended for the Squieres Prologue, I have prefixed to the Shipmannes Tale, for reasons which I shall give when I come to speak of that Tale.'
In F 1, MSS. Hn. and Pt., and others, substitute Sire Frankeleyn for Squyer. This is obviously wrong, because it increases the number of syllables in the line from ten syllables to twelve, and the number of accents from five to six. Cf. § 69.
§ 68. The Squieres Tale. As to this Tale, Tyrwhitt remarks: 'I have never been able to discover the probable original of this Tale, and yet I should be very hardly brought to believe that the whole, or even any considerable part of it, was of Chaucer's invention.'
The general tone of it points to an Eastern, and especially to an Arabian origin. In this connection, it is worth remarking that there is at least one other case in which Chaucer is conected with an Arabian writer. I have shewn, in the Introduction to the Treatise on the Astrolabe, that a large part of it is immediately derived from a Latin version of a treatise written by Messahala, an Arabian astronomer, by religion a Jew, who flourished towards the end of the eighth century. So also in the case of The Squieres Tale, we may suspect that it was through some Latin medium that Chaucer made acquaintance with Arabian fiction. But I am fortunate in having found a more direct clue to some part, at least, of the poem. I shall shew presently that one of his sources was the Travels of Marco Polo.
Warton, in his History of English Poetry, took much pains to gather together some information on the subject, and his remarks are therefore quoted here, nearly at length, for the reader's convenience. I omit most of his references.
'The Canterbury Tales,' says Warton, 'are unequal, and of various merit. Few perhaps, if any, of the stories are the invention of Chaucer. I have already spoken at large of the Knight's Tale, one of our author's noblest compositions. That of the Canterbury Tales which deserves the next place, as written in the higher strain of poetry, and the poem by which Milton describes and characterises Chaucer, is the Squire's Tale. The imagination of this story consists in Arabian fiction engrafted on Gothic chivalry. Nor is this Arabian fiction purely the sport of arbitrary fancy: it is in great measure founded on Arabian learning. Cambuscan, a King of Tartary, celebrates his birthday festival in the hall of his palace at Sarra with the most royal magnificence. In the midst of the solemnity, the guests are alarmed by a miraculous and unexpected spectacle: the minstrels cease on a sudden, and all the assembly is hushed in silence, surprise, and suspense; see ll. 77-88.
'These presents were sent by the King of Arabia and India to Cambuscan, in honour of his feast. The Horse of Brass, on the skilful movement and management of certain secret springs, transported his rider into the most distant region of the world in the space of twenty-four hours; for, as the rider chose, he could fly in the air with the swiftness of an eagle: and again, as occasion required, he could stand motionless in opposition to the strongest force, vanish on a sudden at command, and return at his master's call. The Mirror of Glass was endued with the power of shewing any future disasters which might happen to Cambuscan's kingdom, and discovered the most hidden machinations of treason. The Naked Sword could pierce armour deemed impenetrable, "were it as thikke as is a branched ook" (l. 159); and he who was wounded with it could never be healed, unless its possessor could be entreated to stroke the wound with its edge. The Ring was intended for Canace, Cambuscan's daughter, and while she bore it in her purse, or wore it on her thumb, enabled her to understand the language of every species of birds, and the virtues of every plant.
'I have mentioned, in another place, the favourite philosophical studies of the Arabians. In this poem the nature of those studies is displayed, and their operations exemplified: and this consideration, added to the circumstances of Tartary being the scene of action, and Arabia the country from which these extraordinary presents are brought, induces me to believe this story to be identical with one which was current at a very ancient date among the Arabians. At least it is formed on their principles. Their sciences were tinctured with the warmth of their imaginations, and consisted in wonderful discoveries and mysterious inventions.
'This idea of a Horse of Brass took its rise from their chemical knowledge and experiments in metals. The treatise of Jeber, a famous Arab chemist of the middle ages, called Lapis Philosophorum, contains many curious and useful processes concerning the nature of metals, their fusion, purification, and malleability, which still maintain a place in modern systems of that science. The poets of romance, who deal in Arabian ideas, describe the Trojan horse as made of brass. These sages pretended the power of giving life or speech to some of their compositions in metal. Bishop Grosseteste's speaking brazen head, sometimes attributed to Roger Bacon, has its foundation in Arabian philosophy. In the romance of Valentine and Orson, a brazen head fabricated by a necromancer in a magnificent chamber of the castle of Clerimond, declares to those two princes their royal parentage. We are told by William of Malmesbury that Pope Sylvester II, a profound mathematician who lived in the eleventh century, made a brazen head, which would speak when spoken to, and oracularly resolved many difficult questions. Albertus Magnus, who was also a profound adept in those sciences which were taught by the Arabian schools, is said to have framed a man of brass, which not only answered questions readily and truly, but was so loquacious, that Thomas Aquinas, while a pupil of Albertus Magnus, and afterwards an Angelic doctor, knocked it in pieces as the disturber of his abstruse speculations. This was about the year 1240. Much in the same manner, the notion of our knight's horse being moved by means of a concealed engine corresponds with their pretences of producing preternatural effects, and their love of surprising by geometrical powers. Exactly in this notion, Rocail, a giant in some of the Arabian romances, is said to have built a palace, together with his own sepulchre, of most magnificent architecture and with singular artifice: in both of these he placed a great number of gigantic statues or images, figured of different metals by talismanic skill, which in consequence of some occult machinery, performed actions of real life, and looked like living men. We must add that astronomy, which the Arabian philosophers studied with a singular enthusiasm, had no small share in the composition of this miraculous steed. For, says the poet,
"He that it wroughte coude ful many a gin;
He wayted many a constellacioun,
Er he had doon this operacioun." (ll. 128-130.)
'Thus the buckler of the Arabian giant Ben Gian, as famous among the Orientals as that of Achilles among the Greeks, was fabricated by the powers of astronomy; and Pope Sylvester's brazen head, just mentioned, was prepared under the influence of certain constellations.
'Natural magic, improperly so called, was likewise a favourite pursuit of the Arabians, by which they imposed false appearances on the spectator.... Chaucer, in the fiction before us, supposes that some of the guests in Cambuscan's hall believed the Trojan horse to be a temporary illusion, effected by the power of magic (l. 218)....
'Optics were likewise a branch of study which suited the natural genius of the Arabian philosophers, and which they pursued with incredible delight. This science was a part of the Aristotelic philosophy which, as I have before observed, they refined and filled with a thousand extravagances. Hence our strange knight's Mirror of Glass, prepared on the most profound principles of art, and endued with preternatural qualities (ll. 225-234, 132-141).
'Alcen, or Alhazen, mentioned in l. 232, an Arabic philosopher, wrote seven books of perspective, and flourished about the eleventh century. Vitellio, formed on the same school, was likewise an eminent mathematician of the middle ages, and wrote ten books on Perspective. The Roman Mirror here mentioned by Chaucer, as similar to this of the strange knight, is thus described by Gower:—
"Whan Rome stood in noble plite,
Virgile, which was tho parfite,
A mirrour made of his clergye [by his skill],
And sette it in the townes ye [eye, sight]
Of marbre on a piller withoute,
That they, by thritty mile aboute,
By day and eek also by nighte
In that mirrour beholde mighte
Her ennemies, if any were";
Conf. Amant. bk. v. (ii. 195).
'The Oriental writers relate that Giamschid, one of their kings, the Solomon of the Persians and their Alexander the Great, possessed among his inestimable treasures cups, globes, and mirrors, of metal, glass, and crystal, by means of which he and his people knew all natural as well as supernatural things. The title of an Arabian book translated from the Persian is—The Mirror which reflects the World. There is this passage in an ancient Turkish poet: "When I am purified by the light of heaven, my soul will become the mirror of the world, in which I shall discern all abstruse secrets." Monsieur Herbelot is of opinion that the Orientals took these notions from the patriarch Joseph's cup of divination and Nestor's cup in Homer, on which all nature was symbolically represented. Our great countryman Roger Bacon, in his Opus Majus, a work entirely formed on the Aristotelic and Arabian philosophy, describes a variety of Specula, and explains their construction and uses. This is the most curious and extraordinary part of Bacon's book, which was written about the year 1270. Bacon's optic tube, with which he pretended to see future events, was famous in his age, and long afterwards, and chiefly contributed to give him the name of a magician. This art, with others of the experimental kind, the philosophers of those times were fond of adapting to the purposes of thaumaturgy; and there is much occult and chimerical speculation in the discoveries which Bacon affects to have made from optical experiments. He asserts (and I am obliged to cite the passage in his own mysterious expressions) "omnia sciri per Perspectivam, quoniam omnes actiones rerum fiunt secundum specierum et virtutum multiplicationem ab agentibus hujus mundi in materias patientes," &c. Spenser feigns that the magician Merlin made a glassy globe, and presented it to King Ryence, which showed the approach of enemies, and discovered treasons (F. Q. iii. 2. 21). This fiction, which exactly corresponds with Chaucer's Mirror, Spenser borrowed from some romance, perhaps of King Arthur, fraught with Oriental fancy. From the same sources came a like fiction of Camoens in the Lusiad (canto x), where a globe is shown to Vasco de Gama, representing the universal fabric or system of the world, in which he sees future kingdoms and future events. The Spanish historians report an American tradition, but more probably invented by themselves, and built on the Saracen fables in which they were so conversant. They pretended that some years before the Spaniards entered Mexico, the inhabitants caught a monstrous fowl, of unusual magnitude and shape, on the lake of Mexico. In the crown of the head of this wonderful bird there was a mirror or plate of glass, in which the Mexicans saw their future invaders the Spaniards, and all the disasters which afterwards happened to their kingdom. These superstitions remained, even in the doctrines of philosophers, long after the darker ages. Cornelius Agrippa, a learned physician of Cologne about the year 1520, and author of a famous book on the Vanity of the Sciences, mentions a species of mirror which exhibited the form of persons absent, at command. In one of these he is said to have shown to the poetical Earl of Surrey the image of his mistress, the beautiful Geraldine, sick and reposing on a couch. Nearly allied to this was the infatuation of seeing things in a beryl, which was very popular in the reign of James I, and is alluded to by Shakespeare....
'The Naked Sword, another of the gifts presented by the strange knight to Cambuscan, endued with medical virtues, and so hard as to pierce the most solid armour, is likewise an Arabian idea. It was suggested by their skill in medicine, by which they affected to communicate healing qualities to various substances, and by their knowledge of tempering iron and hardening all kinds of metal. It is the classical spear of Peleus, perhaps originally fabricated in the same regions of fancy; see ll. 236-246.
'The sword which Berni, in the Orlando Innamorato, gives to the hero Ruggiero, is tempered by much the same sort of magic:—
"Il brando con tal arte fabbricato,
Che taglia incanto, ed ogni fatagione";
Orl. Innamor. ii. 17, st. 5.
So also his continuator Ariosto:—
"Non vale incanto, ov'ella mette il taglio";
Orl. Fur. xli. 83.
And the notion that this weapon could resist all incantations is like the fiction above mentioned of the buckler of the Arabian giant Ben Gian, which baffled the force of charms and enchantments made by giants or demons. Spenser has a sword endued with the same efficacy, the metal of which the magician Merlin mixed with the juice of meadow-wort, that it might be proof against enchantment; and afterwards, having forged the blade in the flames of Etna, he gave it hidden virtue by dipping it seven times in the bitter waters of Styx; F. Q. ii. 8. 20. From the same origin is also the golden lance of Berni, which Galafron, King of Cathaia, father of the beautiful Angelica and the invincible champion Argalia, procured for his son by the help of a magician. This lance was of such irresistible power, that it unhorsed a knight the instant he was touched with its point; Orl. Innamor. i. 1. 43. Britomart in Spenser is armed with the same enchanted spear, which was made by Bladud, an ancient British king skilled in magic; F. Q. iii. 3. 60; iv. 6. 6; iii. 1. 10.
'The Ring, a gift to the king's daughter Canace, which taught the language of birds, is also quite in the style of some others of the occult sciences of these inventive philosophers; and it is the fashion of the Oriental fabulists to give language to brutes in general. But to understand the language of birds was peculiarly one of the boasted sciences of the Arabians, who pretend that many of their countrymen have been skilled in the knowledge of the language of birds ever since the time of King Solomon. Their writers relate that Balkis, the Queen of Sheba or Saba, had a bird called Hudhud, that is, a lapwing, which she dispatched to King Solomon on various occasions, and that this trusty bird was the messenger of their amours. We are told that Solomon having been secretly informed by this winged confidant that Balkis intended to honour him with a grand embassy, enclosed a spacious square with a wall of gold and silver bricks, in which he ranged his numerous troops and attendants in order to receive the ambassadors, who were astonished at the suddenness of these splendid and unexpected preparations. Herbelot tells a curious story of an Arab feeding his camels in a solitary wilderness, who was accosted for a draught of water by Alhejaj, a famous Arabian commander, who had been separated from his retinue in hunting. While they were talking together, a bird flew over their heads, making at the same time an unusual sort of noise, which the camel-feeder hearing, looked steadfastly on Alhejaj, and demanded who he was. Alhejaj, not choosing to return him a direct answer, desired to know the meaning of that question. "Because," replied the camel-feeder, "this bird assures me that a company of people is coming this way, and that you are the chief of them." While he was speaking, Alhejaj's attendants arrived.
'This wonderful Ring also imparted to the wearer a knowledge of the qualities of plants, which formed an important part of the Arabian philosophy; see ll. 146-155.
'Every reader of taste and imagination must regret that, instead of our author's tedious detail of the quaint effects of Canace's ring, in which a falcon relates her amours, and talks familiarly of Troilus, Paris, and Jason, the notable achievements we may suppose to have been performed by the assistance of the horse of brass are either lost, or that this part of the story, by far the most interesting, was never written. After the strange knight has explained to Cambuscan the management of this magical courser, he vanishes on a sudden, and we hear no more of him; ll. 302-343.
'By such inventions we are willing to be deceived. These are triumphs of deception over truth:—
"Magnanima mensogna, hor quando è il vero
Si bello, che si possa à te preporre?"'
This learned and curious discourse is well worth perusal; but the reader will probably be led to remark, that Warton does not after all tell us whence Chaucer drew his materials, but only proves that he drew them from some Arabian source. That source may be indicated a little more distinctly; for, as will be shewn more fully below, nearly all the magical particulars are to be found in the collection now known as the Arabian Nights' Entertainments. For the rest, we may trace most of the descriptions to the travels of Marco Polo, with which Chaucer must have been acquainted to some extent, either immediately or through some channel not easily now pointed out. This suggestion occurred to me on reading a note by Colonel Yule on the name of Cambuscan; but in this I have been long anticipated by Mr. Keightley, as noted above (p. 463, note 2). The passage in Colonel Yule's edition of Marco Polo to which I refer, is as follows:—
'Before parting with Chingis [or Gengis Khan] let me point out what has not to my knowledge been suggested before, that the name of "Cambuscan bold" in Chaucer's tale is only a corruption of the name of Chinghiz. The name of the conqueror appears in Friar Ricold as Camiuscan, from which the transition to Cambuscan presents no difficulty. Camius was, I suppose, a clerical corruption out of Canjus or Cianjus.'—Marco Polo, ed. Yule, i. 218.
On applying to Professor Palmer for information as to the meaning of the name, he kindly pointed out to me that, in the Dictionnaire Turk-Oriental by M. Pavet de Courteille (Paris, 1870), p. 289, the word djenguiz (as M. de Courteille spells it) is explained to mean simply great. Thus Chinghiz Khan is no more than Great Khan; and Cambinskan merely represents the same title of Great Khan, which appears so repeatedly in Marco Polo's travels. The succession of supreme or Great Khans was as follows:—(1) Chinghiz; (2) Okkadai; (3) Kuyuk; (4) Mangku; (5) Kublai, &c. The first of these is always known by the simple title, though his real name was Temugin; the second was his son; and the third, fourth, and fifth were all his grandsons. The descriptions in Marco Polo refer to Kublai Khan, who died in 1294. Marco describes his person with some minuteness:—
'The personal appearance of the Great Kaan, Lord of Lords, whose name is Cublay, is such as I shall now tell you. He is of a good stature, neither tall nor short, but of a middle height. He has a becoming amount of flesh, and is very shapely in all his limbs. His complexion is white and red, the eyes black and fine, the nose well formed and well set on': ed. Yule, i. 318. A portrait of him, from a Chinese engraving, is given by Colonel Yule on the next page. Kublai was succeeded by his grandson Teimur, to the exclusion of his elder brothers Kambala (who squinted) and Tarmah (who was of a weak constitution). Here we might perhaps think to see the original of Chaucer's Camballo, but I suspect the real interpretation to be very different. It is far more probable that the name Camballo was caught, not from this obscure Kambala, but from the famous word Cambaluc, really the name (not of a person, but) of the celebrated capital which Kublai built and where he resided; so that the name may easily have suggested itself from this connexion. For example, in the splendid Bodleian MS. No. 264, generally known as the 'Alexander MS.,' there is a copy of Marco Polo's Travels, with the colophon—Explicit le Livre nommé du Grant Caan de la Graunt Cité de Cambaluc; Dieux ayde; Amen. In fact, Cambaluc is but the old name of the city which is still the capital of China, but better known as Pekin; the etymology of the word being merely Kaan-baligh, i.e. the city of the Khan. All this may seem a little uncertain at first sight; but if the reader can turn to the second book of Marco Polo, he will soon see clearly enough that Chaucer's Cambinskan (though the name itself is formed from Chinghiz Khan) is practically identical with Marco's Kublai Khan, and that it is to Marco's description of him and his court that Chaucer is ultimately indebted for some of his details. This will be best illustrated by examples of correspondences.
'Of a surety he [Kublai Khan] hath good right to such a title [that of Kaan or Emperor], for all men know for a certain truth that he is the most potent man, as regards forces and lands and treasure, that existeth in the world, or ever hath existed from the time of our first father Adam until this day'; Marco Polo, ed. Yule, i. 295. Cf. Sq. Ta. 14.
'The empire fell to him because of his ability and valour and great worth, as was right and reason'; id. i. 296. Cf. Sq. Ta. 16.
'He had often been to the wars, and had shown himself a gallant soldier and an excellent captain'; id. i. 296. Cf. Sq. Ta. 23.
In Book ii. ch. 4, is an account of his taking the field in person, and acting with astonishing vigour and rapidity, even at the age of seventy-three.
In Book ii. ch. 5, it is related that the enemy whom he then subdued had Christians in his army, some of whom bore standards on which the Cross was displayed. After the battle, the Christians were bitterly taunted with this, and were told that their Cross had not helped them. But Kublai reproved the scoffers, saying that the Cross had done its part well in not assisting the rebels. 'The Cross of your God did well in that it gave him [the rebel chief] no help against the right.' Cf. Sq. Ta. 16-21.
His rewards to his captains are described fully in chap. 7. He gave them silver plate, ornaments, 'fine jewels of gold and silver, and pearls and precious stones; insomuch that the amount that fell to each of them was something astonishing.' Cf. Sq. Ta. 26.
His palace, 'the greatest palace that ever was,' is described in chap. 10. It was situate 'in the capital city of Cathay, which is called Cambaluc.' The hall of the palace 'could easily dine 6000 people.' The parks within its enclosure were full of fine trees and 'beasts of sundry kinds, such as white stags and fallow deer, gazelles and roebucks,' &c. Cf. Sq. Ta. 60-62, 392.
'And when the great Kaan sits at table on any great court occasion, it is in this fashion. His table is elevated a good deal above the others, and he sits at the north end of the hall, looking towards the south, with his chief wife beside him on the left,' &c.; i. 338. Near the table is a golden butt, at each corner of which is one of smaller size holding a firkin, 'and from the former the wine or beverage flavoured with fine and costly spices is drawn off into the latter'; i. 339. 'And when the Emperor is going to drink, all the musical instruments, of which he has vast store of every kind, begin to play'; i. 340. 'I will say nought about the dishes, as you may easily conceive that there is a great plenty of every possible kind. And when all have dined and the tables have been removed, then come in a great number of players and jugglers, adepts at all sorts of wonderful feats,' &c.; i. 340. Cf. Sq. Ta. 59-68, 77-79, 266-271, 218, 219.
'You must know that the Tartars keep high festival yearly on their birthdays.... Now on his birthday, the Great Kaan dresses in the best of his robes, all wrought with beaten gold'; i. 343. 'On his birthday also, all the Tartars in the world, and all the countries and governments that owe allegiance to the Kaan, offer him great presents according to their several ability, and according as prescription or orders have fixed the amount'; i. 344. Cf. Sq. Ta. 44-47, 110-114.
The Kaan also holds a feast called the 'White Feast' on New-year's day, i.e. at the vernal equinox. 'On that day, I can assure you, among the customary presents there shall be offered to the Kaan from various quarters more than 100,000 white horses, beautiful animals and richly caparisoned'; i. 346.
When he goes on a hunting expedition, 'he takes with him fully 10,000 falconers, and some 500 gerfalcons besides peregrines, sakers, and other hawks in great number'; i. 358. He also has another 'grand park' at Chandu, 'where he keeps his gerfalcons in mew'; i. 365. At p. 260 he is described again as 'very fond of hawking.' At p. 237 the peregrine falcons are described particularly. At p. 220 we are told that the Tartars 'eat all kinds of flesh, including that of horses and dogs, and Pharaoh's rats.' Cf. Sq. Ta. 424-429, 69-71.
In the great city of Kinsay 'there is an eminence on which stands a tower.' This was used as an alarm-tower in case of fire; see vol. ii. p. 148. This may serve to illustrate Chaucer's 'maister tour.' Still more curious is the account of the city of Mien, with its two towers covered with plates of gold and silver, which 'form one of the finest sights in the world'; ii. 73. These towers were, however, part of a mausoleum. Cf. Sq. Ta. 176, 226.
The following note about the Tartar invasion of Russia is also worthy of attention:—
'Rosia [Russia] is a very great province, lying towards the north.... There are many strong defiles and passes in the country; and they pay tribute to nobody except to a certain Tartar king of the Ponent [i.e. West], whose name is Toctai; to him indeed they pay tribute, but only a trifle.'—Marco Polo, ed. Yule, ii. 417. On this passage Col. Yule has the note: 'Russia was overrun with fire and sword as far as Tver and Torshok by Batu Khan (123-38), some years before his invasion of Poland and Silesia. Tartar tax-gatherers were established in the Russian cities as far as Rostov and Jaroslawl, and for many years Russian princes as far as Novgorod paid homage to the Mongol Khans in their court at Sarai. Their subjection to the Khans was not such a trifle as Polo seems to imply; and at least a dozen princes met their death at the hands of the Mongol executioner.'
Some of the Mongolian Tartars, known as the 'Golden Horde,' conquered a part of S. E. Russia in 1223; in 1242 they established the Empire of the Khan of Kaptschak (S. E. Russia), and exercised great influence there. In 1380 was another Tartar war; and in 1383 Moscow was burnt. The Tartar power in Russia was crushed by the general of Ivan III in 1481. See Haydn's Dictionary of Dates, under Golden Horde and Russia.
The whole subject of magic is so vast that it is not easy to deal with it within a reasonable space. I must therefore content myself with pointing out a few references, &c., that seem most worthy of being here noted.
The Magic Horse appears in the tale of Cleomades and Claremond; see Keightley's Tales and Popular Fictions. Cervantes has put him to memorable use in his Don Quixote, where he describes him as 'aquel mismo caballo de madera sobre quien llevo el valeroso Pierres robada á la linda Magalona'—'that very wooden horse upon which the valiant Peter of Provence carried off the fair Magalona. This horse is governed by a pin he has in his forehead, which serves for a bridle,' &c.; see Jarvis's translation, vol. ii. chap, xl., ed. 1809. But the best story of the Enchanted Horse is in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, where he is said to have been presented by an Indian to the king of Persia on the New Day, i.e. on the first day of the solar year, at the vernal equinox. This horse is governed by a peg in his neck, which was turned round when it was necessary for him to fly: see the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, published by Nimmo, 1865, p. 483; or the excellent edition by Lane, vol. ii. p. 463, which varies considerably from the more popular editions.
The tale of Cleomades is alluded to, says Mr. Keightley, in Caxton's edition of Reynard the Foxe, printed in 1481, in the 32nd chapter. He also cites a note by Sir F. Madden that a copy of the poem of Cleomades was purchased by Sir Thomas Phillipps at Mr. Lang's sale in 1828; that an undated edition of the Histoire Plaisante et Récréative du noble et excellent chevalier Clamades et de la belle Clermonde was printed at Troyes; and that Les Aventures de Clamades et Clarmonde appeared in Paris in 1733. Mr. Lane agrees with Mr. Keightley in considering the Tale of Cleomades identical with that of the Enchanted Horse in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, and in supposing that it was originally a Persian story. Mr. Lane thinks it is derived from the 'Hezár Afsaneh'; see his edition, ii. 491.
It is not out of place to observe that the town of Seville is frequently mentioned in Cleomades, and we have seen that Cervantes had heard of the story. Perhaps, then, we may suppose that the story, originally Persian, found its way into Arabic, and thence into Spain; it would then soon be written down in Latin, and thence be translated into French, and become generally known. This must have happened, too, at an early period; for the French romance of Cleomades, extending to some 19,000 octosyllabic lines, was written by a poet named Adenet surnamed le Roi, a native of Brabant, between the years 1275 and 1283; see Keightley's Tales, p. 40.
The Magic Mirror is a common fiction, and we may connect it with the magic ivory tube, furnished with glass, which enabled the user of it to see whatever object he might wish to behold. This fancy occurs in the tale of the Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Pari Banou, as told in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments (Nimmo, 1865), p. 501. It is hardly worth while to pursue the subject further, as Warton's comments have already been cited, and Mr. Clouston's essay (mentioned below) can be consulted.
The Magic Ring is to be referred to the story of the seal-ring made partly of brass and partly of iron, by which Solomon obtained power over the evil Jinn; see Lane's Arabian Nights, i. 31. The ineffable name of Allah was engraved upon it, and gave it its virtue. The notion of its conferring upon the wearer the power of understanding the language of birds is connected with it, because this was one of the faculties which Solomon possessed; for we read in the Koran, as translated by Sale, that 'Solomon was David's heir; and he said, "O men, we have been taught the speech of birds";' ch. xxvii. A clever Arabic epigram of the thirteenth century, ascribing to King Solomon a knowledge of the language of birds and beasts, is cited in Professor Palmer's History of the Jewish Nation, at p. 93. Even Hudibras understood the language of birds; Hudib. pt. 1. c. 1. l. 547. See further, as to this subject, in the remarks below, upon the Manciples Tale (Group H); § 75.
With regard to the Falcon, Leigh Hunt has well observed, in his Essay on Wit and Humour, that this bird is evidently 'a human being, in a temporary state of metempsychosis, a circumstance very common in tales of the East.' This is probably true, as otherwise the circumstances of the story become poor and meaningless; it is something more than a mere fable like that of the Cock and Fox. If the story had been completed, shewing how the Falcon 'gat her love again,' we should have seen how she was restored to her first shape, by means, as Chaucer hints, of the magic ring. A talking bird appears in the Story of the Sisters who envied their Younger Sister, the last in some editions of the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, but it is not transformed. On the other hand, in the story of Beder, Prince of Persia, in the same collection—which, by the way, mentions a magic ring—we find Prince Beder transformed into a white bird, and recovering his shape on being sprinkled with magic water; but he does not speak while so metamorphosed. The story of a boy who understands the language of birds occurs in the Seven Sages, ed. Wright, p. 106; and Mr. Wright shews, in his Introduction, that such oriental tales are of great antiquity, and known in Europe in the thirteenth century. He refers us to an Essai sur les Fables Indiennes, et sur leur Introduction en Europe, by M. Deslongchamps, published in 1838. Cf. Weber, Met. Rom. iii. 137.
The reader should not forget the hint in the Notes to the Minor Poems (vol. i. p. 534), that some expressions in the Squieres Tale are taken from the poem of Queen Anelida.
With respect to the ending of the Squieres Tale, two attempts at least have been made to complete it. Spenser, in his Faerie Queene (bk. iv. c. 2. 30-3. 52), accounts for the fighting for Canacee, but he omits all about Cambinskan and the Falcon. Another ending was written by John Lane in 1630, and is contained in MSS. Douce 170 and Ashmole 53, in the Bodleian Library. Warton (Observations on the Fairy Queen, p. 214) justly calls it a weak performance.
Dr. Furnivall has printed the whole of this poem, in twelve tedious parts, for the Chaucer Society; and the result shews that Lane's work is bad almost beyond belief. It is the duty of every man who values his time to decline to read 237 pages of such stuff as this:—
Algarsif at his broother shooke his pike:
Camballo stowtlie did att him the like;
naie, quicklie, with a shock of pikes, chargd home,
theare right to make his rendeuous first known:
gainst whome Algarsif rann from thambuscado,
to prove his ernest provd no French bravado.'
Since I wrote the preceding remarks, which were formerly printed in my edition of The Prioresses Tale, &c., for the Clarendon Press, Mr. Clouston has taken up the subject in a very exhaustive manner. I must therefore refer the reader to his essay 'On the Magical Elements in Chaucer's Squire's Tale, with Analogues,' printed for the Chaucer Society in 1889. He there deals fully with the subjects of Magic Horses, Chariots, &c., Magic Mirrors and Images, Magic Rings and Gems, the Language of Animals, and Magic Swords and Spears. He lays particular stress upon the Romance of Cléomadès and Claremonde above mentioned, to which Keightley had already drawn attention. 'The French prose version, called L'Histoire et Chronique du vaillant Chevallier Cléomadès et la belle Claremonde, appeared about the year 1480; and of this work Count Tressan published an extrait in the Bibliothèque des romans, April 1777, t. i. 169 ff.; see also Œuvres du Conte de Tressan, Paris, 1822, t. iii. pp. 255-298. Of this abstract Keightley gives an English translation in his Tales and Popular Fictions, pp. 43-69.
'Keightley has remarked that the name of Claremonde occurs in the romance of Valentine and Orson, it being that of the lady beloved by the valiant hero, and also that a magic horse figures in the same work; but he has strangely overlooked a number of incidents which have evidently been adopted from the story of Cléomadès and Claremonde. The magic horse is described in the 21st chapter of a chap-book version of The Renown'd History of Valentine and Orson, the two Sons of the Emperor of Greece.
'I quite agree with M. Paris in considering that the origin of the French metrical romance was Morisco-Spanish, whether Adenès derived his materials from Blanche of Castile, or otherwise.'
With respect to the story of the Falcon, Mr. Clouston observes: 'The scene between Canacé and the Falcon is essentially Asiatic, and Warton's complaint that the bird is represented as talking of Troilus, Paris, and Jason, is utterly absurd. It is, in fact, an Indian fable, with a bird talking out of the Grecian classics instead of out of the Vedas and the Shastras. If the poet had any purpose in writing the story of the deserted Falcon, it could only have been that of any Asiatic fabler, namely, to convey certain moral lessons through the feigned speech of a bird. That Chaucer had before him, or in his memory, a model for his story of the Falcon is not only possible but highly probable. There exists a somewhat analogous ancient Indian tale of two birds—a male parrot and a hen-maina, a species of hill-starling—in which, however, it is the male bird who is distressed at the female's treachery, and is about to cast himself into the midst of a forest-fire, when he is rescued by a benevolent traveller, to whom he relates the story of his woes. This tale forms the third of the Twenty-five Tales of a Vampyre (Vetála panchavinsati), and may be found in Tawney's translation of the Kathá Sarit Ságara, vol. ii. pp. 245-250.'
It is necessary to mention here that Prof. Brandl, of Göttingen, in Englische Studien, xii. 161, actually propounded a theory that Cambinskan was intended to represent Edward III., and that Canacee does not mean 'the king's daughter,' as Chaucer (who might be supposed to know) expressly says, but his daughter-in-law Constance, second wife of John of Gaunt; with much more to the same effect, all purely gratuitous. Fortunately, his theory was promptly shewn to be untenable by Prof. Kittredge, of Harvard University, in a paper which also appeared in Englische Studien, xiii. 1; and we may dismiss this dream as being wholly unfounded. The Tale was written after Edward's death.
§ 69. Words of the Frankeleyn. See F 673-708. In at least fifteen MSS. and in the black-letter editions, the Squieres Tale is followed by the Marchantes Tale. In order to suit this arrangement, the word Frankeleyn in F 675 is altered to Marchant. So again, in ll. 696 and 699. In the last case, the rime is affected; and, to bring this right, the words the frankeleyn are altered to the marchant, certeyn. Tyrwhitt well points out two grave objections to this arrangement. The former is, that, in this case, the Marchant is made (in F 682, 690) to say that he has a son who has learnt to play at dice, and only a few lines further on (in E 1233-4) that he has been married just two months, and not more! The latter is, that the sentiments attributed to the speaker, who laments his son's extravagance and praises 'gentillesse,' are suitable to the character of the honest and hospitable Frankeleyn, but not to that of the Marchant, if we may judge of his sentiments from the loose character of his Tale. In the same editions and in most of the MSS., the Frankeleyns Tale follows the Clerkes Tale, causing further trouble. The editions also transpose one of the stanzas in Chaucer's Envoy to the Clerkes Tale, so as to make E 1195-1200 come at the end. They then insert the (genuine) stanza printed in the footnote to vol. iv. p. 424, and afterwards pass on at once to F 709. The same arrangement occurs in MS. Harl. 7333. Other MSS. insert (after the Clerkes Tale) various scraps taken from E 2419-40, followed by lines corresponding to F 1-8, at the same time changing Squyer (in F 1) to Sire Frankeleyn, which makes the line too long. Cf. § 67.
However, the best MSS., including E. and Dd., are here correct; and we have only to follow their guidance. In these, the Words of the Frankeleyn (F 673-708) are immediately followed by the true Prologue to the Frankeleyns Tale (F 709-728).
§ 70. The Franklin's Prologue. This Prologue is rightly placed before the Tale even in the black-letter editions and in the MSS. which assign lines 673-708 to the Marchant. In the old editions, it follows the (once final) stanza of the Clerkes Tale which is printed in the footnote to p. 424 (vol. iv).
§ 71. The Frankeleyns Tale. We cannot doubt that Chaucer adapted this Tale, as he himself asserts, from a Breton lay; cf. note to F 709. Not only is the scene laid in Brittany (F 729), but we find special mention of Penmark (801) and of Kayrrud (808); see notes. The story itself turns upon the magical removal of rocks on the Breton coast (993). This is particularly worthy of notice, because (as will be seen below) Boccaccio altered this circumstance in order to render the story more congruous to an Italian location and scenery; a fact which shews at once that Chaucer did not adopt the story from the Italian, as some have inconsiderately assumed. It must be said once more, that Chaucer does not seem to have read the Decamerone.
The whole character of the story agrees well with that of the Breton lays versified by Marie de France; indeed, it is almost a wonder that her collection does not include the story now under consideration.
The ultimate source of the Tale is certainly Eastern, as shewn in Mr. Clouston's essay on the story of 'The Damsel's Rash Promise,' printed in Originals and Analogues (Chaucer Soc.), p. 291. I cannot do better than transcribe his remarks:—
'The oldest known form of Chaucer's well-told Tale of the chaste Dorigen is probably found in a group of Indian fictions entitled Vetála Panchavinsati, "Twenty-five Tales of a Vetála," or Vampyre, which are incorporated with the great Sanskrit collection, Kathá Sarit Ságara, "Ocean of the Rivers of Story"; but they still exist as a separate and distinct work, though considerably abridged, in most of the vernacular languages of India: in Tamil, Vedála Kadai; in Hindí, Bytál Pachísí, &c.... This is the Vetála story, from Prof. C. H. Tawney's translation of the Kathá Sarit Ságara, published at Calcutta, vol. ii. p. 278.
'The Story of Madanasená.
'There was an excellent King of the name of Vírabáhu, who imposed his orders on the heads of all kings. He had a splendid city named Anangapura, and in it there lived a rich merchant, named Arthadatta; that merchant-prince had for elder child a son called Dhanadatta, and his younger child was a pearl of maidens, named Madanasená.
'One day, as she was playing with her companions in her own garden, a young merchant, named Dharmadatta, a friend of her brother, saw her. When he saw that maiden ..., he was at once robbed of his senses by the arrows of love, that fell upon him in showers.... Then Madanasená entered her house, and grief at no longer beholding her entered the breast of Dharmadatta....
'In the meanwhile Dharmadatta went home, and thinking upon that fair one, he remained tossing to and fro upon his bed, smitten by the rays of the moon.... And in the morning he woke up, and went and saw her once more in that very garden, alone and in privacy. So he went up to her, longing to embrace her, and falling at her feet, he tried to coax her with words tender from affection. But she said to him with great earnestness: "I am a maiden, betrothed to another ... for my father has bestowed me on the merchant Samudradatta, and I am to be married in a few days."... But Dharmadatta said to her: "Happen what may, I cannot live without you." When the merchant's daughter heard this, she was afraid that he would use force to her, so she said to him: "Let my marriage first be celebrated here; let my father reap the long-desired fruit of bestowing a daughter in marriage; then will I certainly visit you, for your love has gained my heart." When he heard this, he said: "I love not a woman that has been embraced by another man."... She replied: "Then I will visit you as soon as I am married, and afterwards I will go to my husband." But though she made this promise, he would not let her go without further assurance; so she confirmed the truth of her promise with an oath. Then he let her go, and she entered the house in low spirits.
'And when the lucky day had arrived, and the auspicious ceremony of marriage had taken place, she went to her husband's house, and spent that day in merriment, and then retired with him. But she repelled her husband's caresses, and said slowly, with downcast face: "I love you more than my life, but hear what I have to say. Rise up cheerfully, and promise me immunity from punishment; take an oath to that effect, my husband, in order that I may tell you." [She then repeats the story.]
'Samudradatta ... being bound by the necessity of keeping his word ... gave her leave to go where she would; and she rose up, and left her husband's house....
'A certain thief saw Madanasená, as she was going along alone at night, and rushing upon her, seized her by the hem of her garment.... The helpless merchant's daughter told him her story, and entreated him as follows: "Excuse me for a moment that I may keep my word, and as soon as I have done that, I will quickly return to you, if you remain here. Believe me, my good man, I will never break this true promise of mine." When the thief heard that, he let her go.... She, for her part, went to the merchant Dharmadatta. And when he saw that she had come to that wood, he asked how it happened; and then, though he had longed for her, he said to her, "I am delighted at your faithfulness to your promise: What have I to do with you, the wife of another? So go back, as you came, before any one sees you."... [Then] she went to the thief, who was waiting for her in the road.... She told him how the merchant let her go. Then the thief said: "Since this is so, then I also will let you go, being pleased with your truthfulness: return home with your ornaments."
'So he, too, let her go, and ... [she] went delighted to her husband, and ... she told him the whole story. And Samudradatta, perceiving that his good wife had kept her word without losing her honour, ... welcomed her as a pure-minded woman, who had not disgraced her family, and lived happily with her ever afterwards.
'When the Vétála had told this story ... to king Trivikramasena, he went on to say to him: "So tell me, King, which was the really generous man of those three—the two merchants and the thief?"... The king said to him: "Of those three the thief was the only really generous man.... For of course her husband let her go ... how could a gentleman desire to keep a wife that was attached to another? And the other resigned her because his passion was dulled by time, and he was afraid that her husband, knowing the facts, would tell the king the next day. But the thief, a reckless evil-doer, working in the dark, was really generous to let go a lovely woman, ornaments and all."'
The resemblance of this to Chaucer's story is certainly striking. The chief variation is in changing the thief into a magician who performs wonders for a large sum of money.
Mr. Clouston subjoins many variants of the story. One, originally in Burmese, is from Captain Sparks' translation of the Decisions of Princess Thoodhamma Tsari. A Persian analogue is given from Sir John Malcolm's Sketches of Persia, chap. xx.; and another from the celebrated Persian collection, entitled Tútí Náma, or Parrot-Book. A somewhat different version follows, from the Bahár-i-Dánush, or Spring of Knowledge, a translation of which was given by Dr. Jonathan Scott in 1799. The story is also known to the Jews; and two Hebrew versions are given, both from a Parisian journal entitled Mélusine; 1885, tome ii. c. 542-6. A Siberian version follows, from Radloff's Proben der Volksliteratur der türkischen Stämme des Süd-Siberiens, vol. iii. s. 389; and next, a Turkish version, from Mr. Gibb's translation of the Forty Vazírs, London, 1886; p. 105. Curiously enough, a very similar version is found in Gaelic, and was probably introduced into the Highlands by the Norsemen; see Campbell's Popular Tales of West Highlands, vol. ii. p. 16. Mr. Clouston next discusses the European versions of the story. Of these, the most important is that in Boccaccio's Decamerone, Day 10. nov. 5, of which Professor Morley has the following epitome:—
'Dianora, the wife of the rich Gilberto, being immodestly affected by Messer Ansaldo, to free herself from his tedious importunity, she appointed him to perform, in her judgment, an act of impossibility—namely, to give her a garden as plentifully stored with fragrant flowers in January as in the flourishing month of May. Ansaldo, by means of a bond which he made to a magician, performed her request. Messer Gilberto, the lady's husband, gave consent that his wife should fulfil her promise made to Ansaldo; who hearing the bountiful mind of her husband released her of her promise, and the magician likewise discharged Ansaldo, without taking aught of him.'
We may be sure that Boccaccio and Chaucer drew their versions from very similar sources, as shewn by the introduction of the magician. At the same time, we not only notice how Boccaccio has given Italian names to his characters, but has even altered the chief circumstance on which the story depends, by substituting a flower-garden in January for the removal of the rocks. This notion he found ready to hand in the legend of St. Dorothea, familiar to all readers of Massinger and Dekker's Virgin Martyr.
Beaumont and Fletcher dramatised Chaucer's story in their one-act play called The Triumph of Honour, which forms one of the set entitled Four Plays in One. They preserve the name Dorigen, though the husband is Sophocles, duke of Athens, and the lover is Martius, a Roman general. They also retain the notion of the removal of the rocks; for Dorigen exclaims:—
'For here I vow unto the gods, these rocks,
These rocks we see so fixed, shall be removed,
Made champain field, ere I so impious prove
To stain my lord's bed with adulterous love.'
The supposed miracle is achieved by Valerius, the brother of Martius, who had been trained 'in the mathematics' by an 'old Chaldean.'
Finally, 'part of the plot of a comedy, printed in 1620, entitled The Two Merry Milkmaids ... seems founded on Boccaccio's novel, yet the heroine's name [Dorigena] is that of the lady in Chaucer's version.'
Tyrwhitt bids us remark that 'the long list of virtuous women in Dorigen's soliloquy is plainly copied from Hieronymus contra Iouinianum.' Cf. Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, ii. 293.
§ 72. The Seconde Nonnes Tale. There is a peculiar interest about this Tale, because, as compared with the rest, it so clearly shews us Chaucer's mode of compilation; his advance from close translation to a more free handling of materials; and his change of rhythm, from stanzas to rimed couplets. The closeness of the translation and the rhythm alike point to early workmanship; and, most fortunately, we are not left to conjecture in this matter, since our author himself refers to this piece, by the Title of the Lyf of Seint Cecyle, in his Prologue to the Legend of Good Women, l. 426. It was probably written some time before the Legend. Dr. Furnivall assigns to it the conjectural date of 1373, which many critics have accepted. The expression in l. 78, 'Yet preye I yow that reden that I wryte,' clearly shews that it was neither originally written as a tale of the series, nor properly revised; and the expression in l. 62, 'And though that I, unworthy sone of Eve,' cannot fail to strike the reader as a singular one to be put into the mouth of a nun. We possess, in fact, the Tale in its original shape, without either revision or introduction; though I fully suspect ll. 36-56, which are largely from Dante, was a later insertion. What is called the 'Prologue' is, in fact, nothing of the sort; it is merely such an introduction as was suitable for the Legend at the time of translation. We have no description of the Second Nun, no introduction of her as a narrator, nor anything to connect the Tale with those that precede it. There is no authority, indeed, for attributing it to the Second Nun at all beyond the mere rubrics printed at pp. 509, 513, and 526 of vol. iv.
It is not even made quite clear to us who the Second Nun was. We may, however, conclude that, as the Prioresse was herself a Nun, i.e. the first nun (see Prol. l. 118), the person intended is the 'Another Nonne' mentioned in the Prologue, l. 163, but mentioned nowhere else. The first line of the Canon's Yeoman's Prologue, G 554, merely mentions 'the lyf of Seint Cecyle,' without any hint as to the supposed narrator of it. The Prioress herself, on the other hand, is properly introduced to us, and her Tale is carefully inserted in its right place.
An analysis of the so-called Prologue to this Tale is given in the Notes, at the beginning; cf. note to l. 84. Tyrwhitt pointed out that the Tale itself is translated from the Life of St. Cecilia as given in the Legenda Aurea (or Golden Legend) of Jacobus Januensis, or Jacobus a Voragine, who was archbishop of Genoa at the close of the thirteenth century; compare the heading above, l. 85. But Dr. Kölbing has since shewn, in an able article which appeared in Englische Studien, i. 215, that Tyrwhitt's suggestion is only partially correct. As a matter of fact, Chaucer followed a Latin original which agreed rather closely with the account in the Legenda Aurea down to l. 348, or thereabouts. But after this point (and in a few places even before it) his translation better agrees with another Latin Life of St. Cecilia, derived from Simeon Metaphrastes. This account is quoted by Dr. Kölbing from the printed edition in Historiae Aloysii Lipomani de vitis sanctorum, pars II., Lovanii, 1571, p. 32; which he denotes by the symbol 'Lip.' Of this work, the only edition accessible to me is that entitled De Vitis Sanctorum, ab Aloysio Lipomano, episcopo Veronae, a F. L. Surio emendatis et auctis, Venetiis, 1581, p. 161; this I shall quote by the same symbol, as I suppose there is no material difference between the two editions.
The best text of the former Life of St. Cecilia (which I denote by 'LA') is that given in the second edition of the Legenda Aurea by Dr. Th. Grässe, published at Leipsic in 1850. Dr. Furnivall has printed it at length, from Grässe's first edition, 1846, in his Originals and Analogues, Pt. ii. pp. 192-205; side by side with the French version of La Legende Dorée, as translated by Jehan de Vignay, printed at Paris in 1513. The suggestion was made in 'Bell's' edition of Chaucer (really edited by Mr. Jephson), that Chaucer's original was not the Latin, but the French text. A very slight comparison shews at once that this idea is wrong (as Dr. Furnivall points out), and that Chaucer unquestionably followed one or more Latin versions. It is, however, probable that Chaucer may have seen the French version also, as he seems to have taken from it the idea of his first four stanzas, ll. 1-28. But he has taken thence merely the general idea, and no more; see notes to l. 1 and to l. 7. The Invocation to the Virgin bears some resemblance to the Prioresses Prologue; see note to l. 50. It contains, moreover, a passage (36-56) which is a free translation of one in Dante's Paradiso; see note to l. 36. I may add here that Dr. Furnivall has also reprinted two more lives of St. Cecilia, one from Caxton's Golden Legende, in English prose, ed. 1483, fol. ccclxxvij, back; the other in English verse, in a metre similar to that used by Robert of Gloucester, from MS. Ashmole 43, leaf 185, back, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Another copy of the latter, found in MS. Laud 108, is printed in the Early South-English Legendary, ed. C. Horstmann, p. 490 (Early Eng. Text Society). There is yet another Middle-English version, in short rimed lines, found in MS. Harl. 4196 and MS. Cott. Tib. E 7; it is printed (from the former MS.) in Englische Studien, i. 235. These do not throw much further light upon the matter; and, in fact, the chief texts worth consulting are the Latin one of Jacobus a Voragine (or 'LA'), and the somewhat different version due to Simeon Metaphrastes (or 'Lip.'). Of these Dunlop says, in his History of Fiction, 3rd ed. p. 286—'The grand repertory of pious fiction seems to have been the Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine, a Genoese Dominican, a work entitled Golden from its popularity, on the same principle that this epithet was bestowed on the 'Ass' of Apuleius. A similar composition in Greek, by Simon Metaphrastes, written about the end of the tenth century, was the prototype of this work of the thirteenth century, which comprehends the lives of individual saints, whose history had already been written, or was current from tradition. The Golden Legend, however, does not consist solely of the lives of saints, but is said in the colophon to be interspersed with many other beautiful and strange relations, which were probably extracted from the Gesta Longobardorum, and other sources too obscure and voluminous to be easily traced; indeed, one of the original titles of the Legenda Aurea was Historia Lombardica. The work of [Jacobus a] Voragine was translated into French by Jean de Vignai, and was one of the three books from which Caxton's Golden Legend was compiled.'
Dr. Kölbing further shews that Chaucer also took a few particulars from the Lives of Valerian and Tiburtius, as given in the Acta Sanctorum (April 14). For a curious example of this, see note to l. 369, on the word corniculere.
Dr. Kölbing's article should be consulted. I here subjoin only some of the more important points. The numbers refer to the lines of the Tale, in Group G.
85-348. Chiefly from LA. 189: 'for Ioye.' Cf. Lip.: [Urbanus] magno gaudio est affectus, ... et manibus in caelum extensis. LA has: ille manus ad caelum expandens.
218, 9. Cf. Lip.: Inuenit Caeciliam orantem in cubiculo, et Angelum Domini stantem prope eam. LA has: Caeciliam cum angelo loquentem in cubiculo inuenit.
233. Lip.: assensus es; LA: credidisti.
265. Lip.: Quomodo hoc cognouisti; LA: unde hoc nosti.
315. Lip.: et nos quoque cum eo puniemur, si inuenti fuerimus ad eum ambulantes; LA: et nos in illius flammis pariter inuoluemur.
349-357. Lip.: Tunc Valerianus deduxit fratrem suum ad sanctissimum Papam Vrbanum. Cui postquam narrauit omnia ... benigno Deo egit gratias. Acceptum autem cum omni gaudio et exultatione Tiburtium, cum ... baptizasset, &c. Quae quidem cum perfecta fuissent eius doctrina, post septem dies Christi militem restituit. Here LA merely has: Ductus igitur et purificatus. Whence we see the importance of here consulting the second Latin text. Many similar examples occur throughout the latter part of the Tale, for which I must refer the reader to Dr. Kölbing's article and to the Notes in vol. v.
The earliest English Life of St. Cecilia is the Anglo-Saxon version printed at p. 149 of Cockayne's 'Shrine,' of which I here offer a rather close translation:—
'On the 22nd day of this month [November] is the martyrdom of St. Cecilia, the holy woman. She was wedded in her youth to a noble man, who was a heathen; but she was a Christian. She was clothed with a hair-cloth upon her body; and above the hair-cloth she was clothed with garments enwoven with gold. And, on the night when she was led into the bride-chamber, she said to the bridegroom that she saw an angel from heaven, who would slay him with a sudden death if ever he touched her with unclean love. Then she instructed the bridegroom, so that he received baptism, and believed in God. When he was baptised, and entered the bride-chamber, then stood the angel beside her with shining wings; and he had in his hand two crowns, that sometimes glistened like rose-blossoms and sometimes like lily-blossoms; and he gave one of the crowns to the woman, and the other to the bridegroom, and said: "Keep ye these crowns by cleanly deeds, because I have brought them to you from God's paradise."
'This woman suffered martyrdom for Christ. The prefect [lit. reeve] of the city of Rome was named Almatheus, who strove to compel her to forsake Christ; to which when she would not consent, he commanded her to be enclosed in a boiling [lit. burning] bath, in which she remained, without sweating, for a day and a night. Then the executioner approached her with a sword, and struck her thrice therewith, but was unable to strike off her head. But she commended herself to the pope, who was named Urbanus; and then, in the pope's presence, distributed all that she had, and gave it him, and said: "For three days' space I have prayed to the Lord that I might give thee this, in order that thou mightest hallow my house for a church." And thereupon she gave up her spirit to God.'
The Life of St. Cecilia occurs also in Ælfric's Lives of the Saints, as given in MS. Julius E vii, a portion of which I have edited for the Early English Text Society, though this passage is not as yet in type. I do not find that this Life differs from that in the Aurea Legenda in any particular that deserves especial mention, except that it is somewhat briefer, and omits, as might be expected, the passage in Chaucer's Tale, ll. 270-283.
The chief interest of the Life of St. Cecilia in Caxton's Golden Legende is that, as Dr. Kölbing has shewn, his translation exhibits clear traces of the influence of Chaucer. A single example will perhaps suffice. In l. 432, Chaucer has: 'Of whennes comth thyn answering so rude?' And Caxton has: 'Fro whens cometh thy rude answer?' Yet neither of the Latin texts suggests this exact expression. LA has: 'Unde tibi tanta praesumtio respondendi?' Lip.: 'Undenam est tibi haec fiducia?'
In The Military and Religious Life in the Middle Ages, by Paul Lacroix, at p. 426, is the following brief account of Saint Cecilia: 'Under the reign of Alexander Severus, many illustrious martyrs were put to death: St. Cecilia, her husband, and her brother-in-law among the number. St. Cecilia was descended from a very ancient family which dated back to the time of Tarquin the Proud; she belonged to the same house as Metella, many of whose children were raised to the honours of triumph and of the consulate in the heyday of the Roman republic. Her parents gave her in marriage to a young Roman patrician, named Valerian. But Cecilia had dedicated her virginity to God, and her husband, converted to the faith by her arguments and entreaties, respected her vow, and himself converted his brother Tiburtius. They all three relieved their persecuted brethren, and this Christian charity betrayed them. In spite of their distinguished birth, their wealth and their connexions, they were arrested, and their refusal to sacrifice to the false gods led to their being condemned to death. We find a multitude of analogous occurrences in Gaul, and also in the most distant provinces of the East.' On the preceding page of the same book is figured a copy of a piece of mosaic work of the third or fourth century, which was taken from the cemetery of St. Sixtus, and is preserved in the church of St. Cecilia, at Rome. It represents St. Cecilia and St. Valerian, with roses and lilies in bloom at their feet, and having on each side of them a palm-tree laden with fruit, a symbol of their victories and of their meritorious martyrdom. Upon one of the palm-trees is a phoenix with a 'gloria' round its head, the ancient symbol of resurrection.
The following interesting account of the church and statue of St. Cecilia is extracted from Mrs. Jameson's beautiful work upon Sacred and Legendary Art:—
'According to her wish, the house of Cecilia was consecrated as a church, the chamber in which she suffered martyrdom being regarded as a spot of peculiar sanctity. There is mention of a council held in the church of St. Cecilia by Pope Symmachus, in the year 500. Afterwards, in the troubles and invasions of the barbarians, this ancient church fell into ruin, and was rebuilt by Pope Paschal I. in the ninth century. It is related that, while engaged in this work, Paschal had a dream, in which St. Cecilia appeared to him, and revealed the spot in which she lay buried; accordingly search was made, and her body was found in the cemetery of Calixtus, wrapt in a shroud of gold tissue, and round her feet a linen cloth dipt in her blood: near her were the remains of Valerian, Tibertius, and Maximus, which, together with hers, were deposited in the same church, now St. Cecilia-in-Trastevere. The little room, containing her bath, in which she was murdered or martyred, is now a chapel. The rich frescoes with which it was decorated are in a state of utter ruin from age and damp; but the machinery for heating the bath, the pipes, the stoves, yet remain. This church, having again fallen into ruin, was again repaired, and sumptuously embellished in the taste of the sixteenth century, by Cardinal Sfondrati. On this occasion the sarcophagus containing the body of St. Cecilia was opened with great solemnity in the presence of several cardinals and dignitaries of the Church, among others Cardinal Baronius, who has given us an exact description of the appearance of the body, which had been buried by Pope Paschal in 820, when exhumed in 1599. "She was lying," says Baronius, "within a coffin of cypress wood, enclosed in a marble sarcophagus; not in the manner of one dead and buried, that is, on her back, but on her right side, as one asleep; and in a very modest attitude; covered with a simple stuff of taffety, having her head bound with cloth, and at her feet the remains of the cloth of gold and silk which Pope Paschal had found in her tomb." Clement VIII ordered that the relics should remain untouched, inviolate; and the cypress coffin was enclosed in a silver shrine, and replaced under the altar. This re-interment took place in presence of the pope and clergy, with great pomp and solemnity, and the people crowded in from the neighbouring towns to assist at the ceremony. Stefano Maderno, who was then in the employment of the Cardinal Sfondrati as sculptor and architect, and acted as his secretary, was not, we may suppose, absent on this occasion; by the order of the Cardinal he executed the beautiful and celebrated statue of "St. Cecilia lying dead," which was intended to commemorate the attitude in which she was found. It is thus described by Sir Charles Bell:—"The body lies on its side, the limbs a little drawn up; the hands are delicate and fine,—they are not locked, but crossed at the wrists: the arms are stretched out. The drapery is beautifully modelled, and modestly covers the limbs. The head is enveloped in linen, but the general form is seen, and the artist has contrived to convey by its position, though not offensively, that it is separated from the body. A gold circlet is round the neck, to conceal the place of decollation (?). It is the statue of a lady, perfect in form, and affecting from the resemblance to reality in the drapery of white marble, and the unspotted appearance of the statue altogether. It lies as no living body could lie, and yet correctly, as the dead when left to expire,—I mean in the gravitation of the limbs."
'It must be remembered that Cecilia did not suffer decollation; that her head was not separated from the body; and the gold band is to conceal the wound in the neck; otherwise, this description of the statue agrees exactly with the description which Cardinal Baronius has given of the body of the saint when found in 1599.
'The ornaments round the shrine, of bronze and rare and precious marbles, are in the worst taste, and do not harmonize with the pathetic simplicity of the figure.
'At what period St. Cecilia came to be regarded as the patron saint of music, and accompanied by the musical attributes, I cannot decide. It is certain that in ancient devotional representations she is not so distinguished; nor in the old Italian series of subjects from her life have I found any in which she is figured as singing, or playing upon instruments.'
§ 73. The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue, and Tale. The Prologue, as well as the Tale itself, belongs to the very latest period of Chaucer's work. This is clear at once, from its originality, as well as from the metre, and the careless ease of the rhythm, which sometimes almost degenerates into slovenliness, as though our author had written some of it in hot haste, with the intention of revising it more carefully afterwards. Besides, the poet has boldly improved upon his plan of the pilgrims' stories as laid down in his Prologue. We have there no hint of the Canon nor of his Yeoman; they are two new pilgrims who join themselves to the rest upon the road. A dispute arising between the master and the man, the former is put out of countenance, and actually rides away for very sorrow and shame (l. 702); but the man remains, to denounce the cupidity of the alchemists and to expose their trickery. Tyrwhitt remarks:—'The introduction of the Chanouns Yeman to tell a tale, at a time when so many of the original characters remain to be called upon, appears a little extraordinary. It should seem, that some sudden resentment had determined Chaucer to interrupt the regular course of his work, in order to insert a satire against the alchemists. That their pretended science was much cultivated about this time, and produced its usual evils, may fairly be inferred from the Act, which was passed soon after, 5 Henry IV, cap. iv. to make it Felonie to multiplie gold or siluer, or to vse the art of multiplication.' He adds—'The first considerable coinage of gold in this country was begun by Edward III in the year 1343, and according to Camden (in his Remains, art. Money), "the Alchemists did affirm, as an unwritten verity, that the Rose-nobles, which were coined soon after, were made by projection or multiplication Alchemical of Raymund Lully in the Tower of London." Ashmole, in his Theatrum Chemicum, p. 443, has repeated this ridiculous story concerning Lully with additional circumstances, as if he really believed it; though Lully, by the best accounts, had been dead above twenty years before Edward III began to coin gold.'
The above-mentioned volume by Ashmole, entitled Theatrum Chemicum, is a very singular production. And, perhaps, not the least singular circumstance is that Ashmole actually gives 'The Tale of the Chanon's Yeman, written by our ancient and famous poet, Geoffry Chaucer,' Prologue and all, at full length (pp. 227-256), under the impression, apparently, that Chaucer was really a believer in the science! He says—'One reason why I selected out of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales that of the Chanon's Yeoman was, to let the world see what notorious cheating there has beene ever used, under pretence of this true (though injur'd) Science; Another is, to shew that Chaucer himselfe was a Master therein.' It is indeed true that Chaucer had examined into alchemy very closely; but it is perfectly clear that he had made up his mind, with his strong English common sense, that the whole matter was a delusion. Had he lived in the present century, he could hardly have spoken out in more assured terms. In a similar manner he had studied astrology, and was equally a disbeliever in all but the terms of it and a few of its most general and vague assertions. He says expressly, in his Treatise on the Astrolabe, pt. ii. sec. 4, l. 36:—'natheles, thise ben observauncez of iudicial matiere and rytes of payens [pagans], in which my spirit ne hath no feith, ne no knowing of hir horoscopum.' But it is evident that the believers in alchemy had to make the best use they could of Chaucer's language, by applying it as being directed only against notorious cheats; and accordingly, we find in The Ordinall of Alchimy, by Thomas Norton of Bristol, printed in Ashmole's collection, various passages imitated from Chaucer, such as, e.g. that at p. 17:—
'The fals man walketh from Towne to Towne,
For the most parte in a threed-bare Gowne,' &c.
And again, George Ripley, in his Compound of Alchymie, dedicated to King Edward IV., printed in the same collection, says, at p. 153:—
'Their Clothes be bawdy and woryn threde-bare,
Men may them smell for Multyplyers where they go,' &c.
Ashmole's work contains several treatises which profess to explain alchemy, nearly all alike couched in mysterious, and often in ridiculous language. Such are Norton's Ordinall of Alchimy, Ripley's Compound of Alchymie, Liber Patris Sapientiae, Hermes Bird (really Lydgate's poem of The Churl and the Bird), Chaucer's Canon's Yeoman's Tale (!), Pearce the Blacke Monke upon the Elixir, Charnock's Breviary of Naturall Philosophy, Ripley's Mistery of Alchymists, an extract from Gower's Confessio Amantis, Aristotle's Secreta Secretorum, translated by Lydgate; and so on. On the whole, the book is equally curious and dull.
It would hardly be possible to give much idea of alchemy in a brief space, and it would certainly be unprofitable. The curious will find an excellent article upon it (entitled 'Alchemy') in the new edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica; and a history of it, by no means uninteresting, in the first volume of Thomson's History of Chemistry. In Whewell's History of the Inductive Sciences, 2nd edition, 1847, vol. i. p. 320, the following notice of it occurs, which I quote for the reader's convenience:—'Like other kinds of Mysticism, Alchemy seems to have grown out of the notions of moral, personal, and mythological qualities, which men associated with terms, of which the primary application was to physical properties. This is the form in which the subject is presented to us in the earliest writings which we possess on the subject of chemistry, those of Geber of Seville, who is supposed to have lived in the eighth or ninth century. The very titles of Geber's works show the notions on which this pretended science proceeds. They are, "Of the Search of Perfection;" "Of the Sum of Perfection or of the Perfect Magistery;" "Of the Invention of Verity, of Perfection." The basis of this phraseology is the distinction of metals into more or less perfect; gold being the most perfect, as being the most valuable, most beautiful, most pure, most durable; silver the next; and so on. The "Search of Perfection" was, therefore, the attempt to convert other metals into gold; and doctrines were adopted which represented the metals as all compounded of the same elements, so that this was theoretically possible. But the mystical trains of association were pursued much further than this; gold and silver were held to be the most noble of metals; gold was their King, and silver their Queen. Mythological associations were called in aid of these fancies, as had been done in astrology. Gold was Sol, the sun; silver was Luna, the moon; copper, iron, tin, lead, were assigned to Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. The processes of mixture and heat were spoken of as personal actions and relations, struggles and victories. Some elements were conquerors, some conquered; there existed preparations which possessed the power of changing the whole of a body into a substance of another kind: these were called magisteries. When gold and quicksilver are combined, the king and the queen are married, to produce children of their own kind. It will easily be conceived, that when chemical operations were described in phraseology of this sort, the enthusiasm of the fancy would be added to that of the hopes, and observation would not be permitted to correct the delusion, or to suggest sounder and more rational views.
'The exaggeration of the vague notion of perfection and power in the object of the alchemist's search was carried further still. The same preparation which possessed the faculty of turning baser metals into gold, was imagined to be also a universal medicine, to have the gift of curing or preventing diseases, prolonging life, producing bodily strength and beauty: the philosopher's stone was finally invested with every desirable efficacy which the fancy of the "philosophers" could devise.'
See also Dr. Whewell's account of the doctrine of 'the four elements' in the same work; vol. iii. p. 121.
The history of the rise and growth of the ideas involved in alchemy is ably treated of in the article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica already referred to; it is of some interest to note how some of the more important notions were developed. From ancient Persia came the idea of a correspondence between the heavenly bodies and parts of the human frame, alluded to in Chaucer's Treatise on the Astrolabe, and in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, i. 3. 148. From ancient India came the idea of a peregrination of sinful souls through the animal, vegetable, and even the mineral world, till they were absorbed into Deity. Hence was further evolved the notion of a transmutation of elements. The Greeks held that different deities had under their protection and guidance different types of men; an idea still preserved in our words mercurial, jovial, and saturnine. The school of Hippocrates held the doctrine of the four elements, or primary substances of which all others were made, an idea first mentioned (it is said) by Empedocles; to which Aristotle added a fifth element, that of ether (Arist. de Caelo, i. 2). But this idea is probably older; for we find five bhútas, or elements, enumerated in Sanskrit, viz. earth, water, fire, air, and ether; see Benfey's Skt. Dict. s.v. bhú, p. 658. Another very ancient notion is that male and female principles existed in all three worlds alike, animal, vegetable, and mineral; from which it followed that the union of two metals could produce a third. It was argued that 'monstrosities are the productions of diseased metals (really alloys), which, if properly treated, may be cured, and will turn to gold, or at least silver. The second stage in this imitation of nature is to obtain, by tincture or projection, solid or liquid gold, the cure of all evils'; Encycl. Brit. i. 463, col. 2. This notion is still preserved in the word arsenic (Gk. , male). It was universally believed that nature produced changes in the substance of various metals by slow degrees, and the great object of alchemy was to produce the same changes quickly. The chief names in connexion with the progress of alchemy are Geber, a Sabaean, who flourished about A.D. 800; Avicenna, a native of Shiraz, born A.D. 980, died June, 1037; Albertus Magnus, born about 1193, died Nov. 15, 1280, who uses much more intelligible language than alchemists usually indulge in; Raymund Lully, born at Majorca in 1235, a scholar of Roger Bacon, who was himself deeply imbued with the mystery of alchemy; Arnoldus de Villa Nova (mentioned by Chaucer), so named because born at Villeneuve, in Provence, in 1240; and others. Paracelsus, a Swiss physician (born in 1493, died 1541) was somewhat better than a mere alchemist. He did something towards destroying the notion of the necessity of consulting astrological influences, and prepared the way for the discoveries of Van Helmont (born at Brussels in 1577, died 1644), with whom the history of modern chemistry may be said to begin. Van Helmont was the inventor of two new terms, gas and blas, the former of which remains in common use, though the latter is wholly forgotten.
The great storehouse of treatises upon alchemy is the Latin collection, in five volumes, called Theatrum Chemicum. I have made considerable use of the edition of this work published in 1660, which I have frequently quoted in the Notes. We hence gather that most of the authors upon the subject wished men to believe that the true secrets of the science were known to themselves only; yet they all learnt more or less of a certain jargon which they continually repeated, attributing their empirical rules to Hermes, or Geber, or other supposed masters. The same ideas, alleged results, and supposed principles continually recur; and the brief statement of a few of these will at once shew what the reader of an alchemical treatise may expect to find. Much depended on the supposed powers of certain numbers. Thus, there were three primary colours, black, white, and red, from which all others were produced by combination; Theat. Chem. iv. 536. According to Gower, there were really three kinds of the philosopher's stone, viz. animal, vegetable, and mineral. Some said it was composed of three parts; body, spirit, and soul—corpus, spiritus, and anima; Ashmole's Th. Ch. p. 382. Again, there were four elements; four complexions of nature or temperaments; four colours (said some), viz. white, black, citrine (i.e. gold-coloured, with a purple tinge), and red; four savours, insipid, acid, sweet, and bitter; four odours, sweet, fetid, intense, and slight (remissus); Theat. Chem. iii. 82. In particular, there were four spirits, sulphur, sal ammoniac, quicksilver, and arsenic; see note to line 778; also four states or conditions, hot, cold, wet, and dry; Theat. Chem. iv. 537. There were seven planets; and because there were seven planets, it followed that every planet had a corresponding note in the musical scale of seven notes. Every planet had its proper colour; and, in this view, there were seven colours, sable, vert, gules, or, argent, sanguine, and umber; Batman upon Bartholome, lib. 19, c. 37. Every planet had its proper metal; there were therefore seven metals; see the extract from Gower, in the note to l. 820. Now, as all substances are made of the same four elements, it follows that if a substance can be decomposed, and reunited in different proportions, its nature may be so changed that it shall become another substance. Many substances, if subjected to heat, are destroyed; but metals are not so, and therefore became the favourite subject for experiments. It was laid down that one metal could be transmuted into another, but only after having been first reduced into its primary elements; Theat. Chem. iv. 531. Ere long, it was accepted as an axiom that all baser metals could be transmuted either into gold (or sol), typified by the sun, or into silver (or luna), typified by the moon; these being the two extremes between which the other five metals were ranged. It was agreed that the chief agents in producing this transmutation were quicksilver and sulphur, and of these quicksilver was the more important; so much so, that the mention of quicksilver meets us everywhere, and no alchemist could work without it. It was also agreed that certain processes must be gone through in a due order, generally ten or twelve in number; and if any one of them failed, the whole work had to be begun afresh. They are commonly described as (1) calcination, (2) solution, (3) separation of the elements, (4) conjunction, (5) putrefaction, (6) coagulation, (7) cibation, (8) sublimation, (9) fermentation, (10) exaltation, (11) augmentation or multiplication; and (12) projection; Theat. Chem. ii. 175, and Ripley's Compound of Alchemy. By insisting on the necessity of all these processes, alchemists sufficiently guarded against all chances of an unfavourable result, viz. by securing that a result could not very well be arrived at.
The moment that we attempt to analyse their processes more closely, we are met by two difficulties that are simply insuperable: the first, that the same name is clearly used to denote quite different substances; and the second, that the same substance is called by many different names. Hence also arose endless evasions, and arrogant claims to pretended secrets; it was often said that the quicksilver of the alchemists was a substance only known to adepts, and that those who used only ordinary quicksilver knew nothing of the matter. The master could thus always mystify his pupils, and make it appear that he alone, and no one else, knew what he was talking about.
Yet it was frequently alleged that the experiments did succeed. The easiest explanation of this matter is, that the hopes of the alchemists were doubtless buoyed up by the fact that every now and then the experiments appeared to succeed; and it is easy to shew how. The close affinity of quicksilver for gold is well known. I copy the following from a book on experiments, which really suffices to explain the whole matter. 'If a sovereign be rubbed with mercury, it will lose its usual appearance, and appear as if silvered over; the attraction of the gold for the mercury being sufficient to cause a coating of it to remain. When it is wished to remove the silvery appearance, dip the sovereign in a dilute solution of nitric acid, which will entirely take it off.' Now the alchemists tell us that quicksilver must always be used in all experiments; and they constantly recommend the introduction into the substances experimented on of a small quantity of gold, which they thought would be increased. The experiments constantly failed; and whenever they failed, the pieces of molten metal were carefully saved, to be used over and over again. The frequent introduction of small quantities of gold caused that metal to accumulate; and if, by any favourable process, the quicksilver was separated from the mass, a considerable quantity of gold would now and then actually appear. This account is so much in accordance with all that we read, that we may confidently accept the conclusion of Dr. Thomson, the author of the History of Chemistry, that the vaunted philosopher's stone was certainly an amalgam of gold; which, 'if projected into melted lead or tin, and afterwards cupellated, would leave a portion of gold; all the gold, of course, that existed previously in the amalgam.' He adds that 'the alchemists who prepared the amalgam could not be ignorant that it contained gold'; a statement which I am inclined to modify by suggesting that it may very easily have contained more gold than they supposed it did. In a word, we may conclude that some deceived themselves, and others were conscious cheats.
§ 74. The Manciple's Prologue. In the black-letter editions, this Prologue begins with the 16 lines printed at p. 289 (vol. iv) as the Epilogue to the Nonne Prestes Tale; because, in them, that Tale precedes. See remarks on § 51 above (p. 433).
The Prologue is self-explanatory; we see how the responsibility passed from the Cook to the Manciple. It is curious that the Cook is addressed as if he had told no Tale hitherto; see, as to this, the remarks on § 28 above (p. 399).
§ 75. The Maunciples Tale. With respect to this story, Tyrwhitt briefly remarks that 'The Fable of the Crow has been related by so many authors, from Ovid down to Gower, that it is impossible to say whom Chaucer principally followed. His skill in new dressing an old story was never, perhaps, more successfully exerted.'
Chaucer was so familiar with Ovid, and, in particular, with the Metamorphoses, that we may fairly suppose that this was the real source of his Tale; see Metam. ii. 534-632. The last line of his story (H 308), excluding the moral, closely agrees in sense with the last line in Ovid's tale—'Inter aues albas uetuit considere coruum.'
Gower's story is in his Confessio Amantis, bk. iii, ed. Pauli, i. 305-6; but it is so briefly sketched, in 35 lines, that Chaucer could have derived nothing from it, even if he had wished to do so.
Another Middle-English analogue, much more important than Gower's, is the story of the Magpie, being the 10th Tale in the collection known as The Seven Sages, printed in Weber's Metrical Romances, iii. 86. It is much the same as the story of the Popinjay in Wright's edition of the Seven Sages, p. 73. The version in the Seven Sages clearly points to an Eastern origin for the story. See Mr. Clouston's essay on The Tell-tale Bird, in Originals and Analogues (Chaucer Soc.), p. 437; to which I refer the reader for further information.
Dr. Köppel has shewn that several passages in the moral advice with which the Tale concludes (including nearly the whole of lines H 325-358), are taken from a work by Albertano of Brescia, entitled De Arte Loquendi et Tacendi, written in 1245, and newly edited by Thor Sundby in the second Appendix to his work called Brunetto Latinos levnet og skrifter (Life and Writings of Brunetto Latino), Copenhagen, 1869. See further in my Notes.
§ 76. The Parson's Prologue. Most copies place this after the Manciples Tale, and insert the word maunciple in the first line. The black-letter edition of 1542 added the spurious Plowman's Tale after the Parson's, i.e. at the end of all. But all the later editions in black-letter inserted this spurious Tale before the Parson's, and hence the editors had to alter the word maunciple (above) into Plowman; which they did.
The Persones Tale was clearly meant to come last (I 47), and there is an allusion to the hour of 4 P. M. (I 5, and note). The Maunciples Tale well precedes it, because the Prologue to that Tale says they were approaching Canterbury (H 2, 3). But there is a great difficulty in the mention of the early morning (H 16); and this is why Group I has to be taken as a separate Fragment.
The reading Foure, in l. 5, is explained and justified in the Notes.
Some German commentators have endeavoured to discover the date of the Tales from lines 10, 11, by giving these lines a wholly gratuitous and impossible interpretation, as if they were meant to express that the moon's position was in Libra! But Chaucer says nothing of the sort; he is speaking of the moon's exaltation, and adds, parenthetically, 'I mean (to say) Libra.' Unluckily, he happens to go wrong; for Libra was the exaltation of Saturn: but this does not alter the fact, that exaltation never denotes position, but was a common astrological term. It invariably refers to a sign of the Zodiac; and although Chaucer, for the moment, forgot to which planet Libra caused an exaltation or increase of strength, he really did know the meaning of one of the commonest terms in all astrology. It is much to be regretted that theories should be founded on such gross misconceptions.
§ 77. The Persones Tale. It is now known that this Tale is little else than an adaptation (with alterations, omissions, and additions, as usual with Chaucer) of a French treatise by Frère Lorens, entitled La Somme des Vices et des Vertus, written in 1279. The English work by Dan Michel of Northgate, usually known by the title of The Ayenbite of Inwyt, or Remorse of Conscience, is a much more literal and closer translation of the same treatise, and thus affords a good guide for comparison between Chaucer and the French original. The French treatise has never been printed, but exists in two MSS. in the British Museum, viz. Cleop. A v, and Royal 19 C ii.
An excellent dissertation on this Tale, in which a close comparison with its original is duly made, was written in German by Dr. W. Eilers in 1882, and has been rendered more accessible to Chaucer students by an English translation made in 1884, and printed in Essays on Chaucer (Chaucer Soc.), p. 501. Of this Essay I have made much use in the Notes, to which I refer the reader for further information.
It is clear that this Tale was once an independent Treatise (see § 104, in vol. iv. p. 644), which people could either 'herkne or rede'; and it was probably written before 1380, at much the same time as the Tale of Melibeus, which it somewhat resembles in style. It was obvious that, if this treatise was to be inserted among the Canterbury Tales, it could only be assigned to the Parson, who is made, accordingly, to warn the company that he dislikes rime, and can only tell them 'a mery tale in prose'; see I 46. The word mery sometimes meant what we should now call 'interesting'; and it probably interested a much larger number of people in those days than it can possibly do at the present time. Our ancestors, at times, certainly inclined to serious discourses, such as the present age has no relish for.
It is quite clear that a few paragraphs near the end (iv. 644, I 1084-90)—beginning with and namely, and ending with my soule—were inserted at a much later time, probably on one of the last occasions when the poet revised his work. This passage has sometimes been called his 'Retractation'; but this term is a bad one. The phrase used is 'the whiche I revoke in my retracciouns,' i.e. among the things which I disclaim; and the word revoke, i.e. recall, means that he wishes to disclaim many of his works, as being deficient in such theological merit as would conduce to the salvation of his soul; a disclaimer which he at once follows up by thanking 'oure lord and his blisful moder and alle the seintes,' for such works as were of a moral and meritorious character. This I believe to be the real meaning, and to refer to the prevalent idea that many evil deeds and sayings could be out-balanced, even at the last moment, by an appeal to a few good actions; of which medieval literature affords us many examples. Perhaps it is fair to add that the poet had good cause to regret such Tales as those of the Miller, the Reeve, and the Merchant.
In Essays on Chaucer, p. 227, is printed an Essay on this Tale by H. Simon, of Schmalkalden. The object of the Essay is to prove that Chaucer was a Wycliffite; and, filled with this idea (the truth of which I am not particularly careful either to deny or assert), the author endeavours to shew that the Persones Tale is full of interpolations made by some designing and fraudulent person. He even goes so far as to give us what he considers to be 'the original Tale' (p. 283). The French text tends to upset at least some portions of this superfluous theory, and Dr. Köppel has written an excellent article to shew—what to a plain person needs but little proof—that the Persones Tale is to be considered as wholly genuine, inasmuch as a considerable number of conspicuous passages reappear, in a slightly modified form, in other parts of the Canterbury Tales. If we are to go through the Tales, picking out, and setting aside as spurious, every passage which does not please us, the result can only be unsatisfactory. Different readers will eliminate different phrases and opinions, and the residuum will be valueless. I see no reason why we may not be content with the Tales in the form presented by the best MSS.
P. 395.—In a small book by Professor G. Stephens, entitled Förteckning öfver de fornämsta Brittiska och Fransyska Handskrifterna i Stockholm (Stockholm, 1847), at p. 20, is a description of a MS. which contains a copy of Palamon and Arcite in French verse, and was written early in the fifteenth century. It is remarkable that the metre is the same as that of the Knightes Tale; from which, perhaps, it was borrowed.
In Anglia, XVI. 261, L. Fränkel, of Munich, reprints a Latin fable by Casparus Cropacius, which first appeared in 1581, in illustration of the Milleres Tale. This fable follows Chaucer closely in the principal details, but omits the humour of the original. I fail to see any merit in this form of the story, and therefore refrain from reproducing it.
P. 423. See Dr. Jessopp's article on 'William of Norwich' in The Nineteenth Century, May, 1893.
- 1385 is also the date of the latest allusion in the Canterbury Tales; see note to B 3589.
- King John of France travelled from Canterbury to Dover (16 miles) on Sunday, July 5, 1360; but he heard mass in the cathedral before starting.—Temporary Pref. to the Six-text Edition, p. 131.
- Tyrwhitt says 'at least one Tale'; but see Prol. 792. The fact is that Chaucer himself tacitly modified his plan afterwards, and altered the two tales to one; see the Parson's Prologue, I 16-29.
- Warton wrongly adds, or the Host. But the Host was the umpire, not a tale-teller himself.
- The term 'link,' and such terms as 'head-link,' 'end-link,' and the like, are to be found in the Six-text edition published by the Chaucer Society, whence I have copied them.
- In 1749, the coach from Edinburgh to Glasgow, forty-four miles, took two days for the journey. Twenty miles a day was fast. We may allow the pilgrims about fifteen miles a day. See Chambers' Book of Days, ii. 228. Once more, it is absurd to suppose Chaucer capable of proposing to crowd about sixty tales or so into a single day! A day of ten hours would, with interruptions, leave each speaker less than ten minutes apiece. See also Temporary Pref. to the Six-text, p. 119, shewing that Queen Isabella, in 1358, arrived at Canterbury from London in three or four days; stopping at Dartford, Rochester, and Ospringe. From the same, p. 129, we find that King John of France went from London to Eltham, June 30, 1360 (Tuesday); to Dartford (Wednesday); to Rochester (Thursday); to Ospringe (Friday); and to Canterbury (Saturday). Cf. Notes and Queries, 8th S. i. 474, 522.
- By 'B 5' I mean Group B, l. 5, as numbered in the Chaucer Society's Six-text edition; the arrangement of which I have adopted throughout.
- See note to l. 8 of the Prologue.
- Except as regards convenience of reference. It was Dr. Furnivall who placed C more forward; nothing is gained by it, and it complicates references. I heartily wish this had never been done.
- Tyrwhitt suggests the same thing, in a note to his Introductory Discourse.
- In the Proem, the Nun calls herself an 'unworthy son of Eve'; G 62.
- See the extracts from Chaucer's Book of the Duchess as compared with some from Machault's Remède de Fortune in Furnivall's Trial Forewords, p. 47, where he quotes from Étude sur G. Chaucer, by M. Sandras, p. 290. Or consult the Notes, in vol. i., to the Book of the Duchesse, ll. 155, 250, 634, 779, 805, 919, 950, 1037.
- Observe particularly this rime of complain with plein. This shews whence Chaucer derived such rimes as seke, seke; Prol. 17, 18. There is a poem of 92 lines called Le Dit de la Harpe, printed in Bartsch's Crestomathie Française, p. 408, in which more than half the rimes are of this character.
- It is none too clear who are meant by 'the parson and his companion.' Perhaps it means the Parson and the Ploughman (his brother).
- Observe this substitution of one Tale for two, tacitly accepted by Chaucer's readers as better suiting the circumstances.
- This statement, that the Frere was 'a grey frere,' is of some interest.
- See Morley's English Writers, vi. 115-8, where an analysis of the Tale is given.
- I.e. thorpe, village; I quote from the edition of 1561. Broughton is an error for Boughton.
- Ed. 'as ye'; which gives no sense.
- For a good account of the Tabard Inn and a discussion of the pilgrims, see Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, by J. Saunders, ed. 1889.
- Compare the articles by Koch and Kölbing, in Englische Studien, i. 249, ii. 528, and in Essays on Chaucer, p. 357.
- 'In describing the commencement of this amour, which is to be the subject of the remainder of the poem, Chaucer has entirely departed from his author in three principal circumstances, and, I think, in each with very good reason, (1) By supposing Emilia to be seen first by Palamon, he gives him an advantage over his rival which makes the catastrophe more consonant to poetical justice. (2) The picture which Boccaccio has exhibited of two young princes violently enamoured of the same object, without jealousy or rivalship, if not absolutely unnatural, is certainly very insipid and unpoetical. (3) As no consequence is to follow from their being seen by Emilia at this time, it is better, I think, to suppose, as Chaucer has done, that they are not seen by her.'—Tyrwhitt.
- The same story has been imitated in the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, and in the Berceau of Lafontaine (Morley).
- I.e. Abington, seven miles to the S.E. of Cambridge, and nearly as far from Trumpington. In one way, it suits better; Trumpington is too near Cambridge for the clerks to have been benighted there.
- For an analysis of the Tale, see Morley, Eng. Writers, v. 321.
- Se-ïnt seems to have been occasionally dissyllabic, as in Chaucer's Prologue, A 697.
- This may be true of some of the traditions embodied in the story; but as we have it, the date is much later.
- Or of the fourteenth century; they did not much vary.
- Reprinted in Chalmers' English Poets, i. 607 (1810).
- The objection is made that all people 'speak in prose'; but I think Chaucer refers to something more rhetorical than ordinary conversation.
- All adapted from his early work, Of the Wretched Engendering of Mankinde; see p. 407. The four stanzas are: B 421-7, 771-7, 925-31, and 1135-41.
- Chaucer is, in fact, alluding to Trivet.
- In Anglia, xiv. 77-122, 147-185.
- I sometimes copy Mr. Brock's very words.
- The Dominican friars were also called Friars Preachers.
- Reprinted for the Early Eng. Text Soc., ed. S. J. Herrtage, 1879; see pp. 311, 493 of this edition.
- Warton gives the reference, viz. to his Speculum Historiale, lib. vii. c. 90, fol. 86 a.
- I.e. it is the sole authority for placing both the Shipman's Prologue and his Tale precisely here. At the same time, at least seventeen other MSS. make the Shipman's Prologue follow the Man of Law's Tale; only they turn it into a Prologue for the Sompnour or Squire.
- The Monk's cell is mentioned in the Prologue, l. 172; Chaucer's was his 'celle fantastyk'; Kn. Ta. 518 (A 1376).
- I put (e) not (b), in order to show the chronological order, which is that of the letters, a, b, c, d, e, f.
- The group (f) has nothing to do with (e); as will appear.
- I say 'recollections' advisedly; see note to B 3293. The mistake of confusing 'Busirus' with Diomedes, king of Thrace, suggests that Chaucer had not as yet written out his translation of Boethius, but had read it hastily. In other words, part of the Monkes Tale must be earlier than 1380.
- Printed 'Chauncer' in the old edition which I here follow.
- Ed. 1532, alther; Edd. 1550, 1561, all ther; Morris corrects to a lither.
- Compare C 1.
- C 164.
- C 165-170; 178-189.
- C 154.
- C 142.
- C. 192-9.
- C 203-206.
- C 254-276.
- A remarkable coincidence with the language of St. Paul in 1 Tim. vi. 10.
- But this passage still more resembles Jerome against Jovinian; see note to the line.
- Cf. Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, ii. 292.
- I.e. the first edition of Gower's poem certainly preceded the Wife's Tale, though the second edition did not appear till 1393.
- Lat. 'nepos'; but later on, Claudius is called his eme, i.e. uncle.
- To which it is not unusual to object, by insisting that it was not Chaucer himself who met Petrarch, but the Clerk who tells the tale. I doubt if this amounts to more than a quibble. There is nothing out of place in Chaucer's reference to an incident in his own life, inasmuch as he was a clerk himself, in the sense of being a student. Otherwise, we have to explain how the poor clerk raised the money to pay for this long journey; how it came to pass that he met Petrarch, and when; and how he acquired a copy of Petrarch's tale.
- See E 27, 40.
- See E 1147—'Petrark wryteth.' And yet Warton could imagine that Chaucer did not use a copy of Petrarch's version, but only wrote from recollection of what he had heard! If we enquire, how did Chaucer obtain this version, no answer is so likely as the supposition that Petrarch gave it him at parting. It is difficult to see how he could have got it otherwise.
- The words 'He is now deed,' in E 29, suggest that Petrarch was still living when Chaucer first wrote the Tale.
'There was also Grisildis innocence,
And al hir mekenes and hir pacience.'
Lydgate, Temple of Glas, ed. Schick, l. 75.
- It occurs also in the black-letter editions, and in MSS. Harl. 1758 and 7333, Barlow 20, and Royal 18 C. ii; as well as in E., Hn., Cm., and Dd. Several MSS. follow it up by various scraps, taken from E. 2419-40 and F 1-8, with the false substitution of Sire Frankeleyn for Squier in F 1, which makes the line too long. See Part I of the Six-text edition, pp. xvii*-xx*.
- Chaucer und Albertanus Brixiensis; in Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen; vol. 86, p. 29.
- To which are appended fables by Avian (leaf 106); by Alfonce (leaf 120, back); and by Poge the Florentyn (leaf 134).
- The 'reasons' are not recondite; for fifteen MSS., at the least, have this arrangement.
- Tyrwhitt is quite right; he is alluding to the true Shipman's Prologue; B 1163-90.
- Only a few hours after writing this sentence, I found that Mr. Keightley, in his Tales and Popular Fictions, published in 1834, at p. 76, distinctly derives Chaucer's Tale from the travels of Marco Polo. I let the sentence stand, however, as an example of undesigned coincidence.
- So in Mr. Hazlitt's edition; Warton originally wrote—'to believe this story to be one of the many fables which the Arabians imported into Europe.'
- 'All things can be known by Perspective, because all operations of things take place according to the multiplication of forms and forces, by means of this world's agents, upon yielding materials.'—Opus Minus (see Warton).
- 'That sword, wrought with such art, that it cuts through enchantment and every charm.' I correct the errors in these quotations.
- 'Enchantment avails not, where it inflicts a cut.'
- 'O splendid falsehood, when is truth so beautiful that one can prefer her to thee?' In Warton's book, the Italian quotations abound in misprints, not all of which are removed in Hazlitt's edition. I cannot construe 'al vero,' as there printed.
- I would ask the reader to observe that the seven best MSS. all have the spelling Cambynskan or Kambynskan. The form Cambuscan (in Milton, Il Pens. 110) is found in the old black-letter editions. It is strange that Milton should accent the wrong syllable. Cambynskan arose from reading Camiuscan as Caminskan.
- I find that Mr. Keightley has already suggested this.
- Evidently Shangtu, Coleridge's Xanadu. See his well-known lines—'In Xanadu did Kubla Khan,' &c.
- This is Chaucer's 'Sarra'; see note to F 9.
- Mr. Keightley shews, in his Tales and Popular Fictions, p. 75, that Cervantes has confused two stories, (1) that of a prince carrying off a princess on a wooden horse; and (2) that of Peter of Provence running away with the fair Magalona.
- See Arber's reprint, p. 85, where 'the hors of tree' [i.e. wood], ridden by 'Cleomedes the kynges sone,' is expressly mentioned, and is said to be 'torned' by 'a pynne that stode on his brest.'
- This magic ring is likewise referred to in chap. 32 of Caxton's Reynard the Fox. It had 'thre hebrews names therin,' and it contained 'a stone of thre maner colours.' The same chapter mentions the magic mirror.
- A friend of Milton's father; see Masson, Life of Milton, i. 42.
- Printed at Brussels, 1865; ed. A. van Hasselt.
- I take the liberty of abridging the story by omitting several details.
- It had previously appeared in the fifth book of his Philocopo, a juvenile work.
- But Dr. Köppel argues that the date must be several years later. See his article in Anglia, xiv. 227; and observe Chaucer's use of Dante, Par. xxxiii. 1-21, in ll. 36-56, which may, however, be due to the insertion of ll. 36-56 at a later time. His argument that the Lyf of Seint Cecyle was written after Troilus, because it contains neither forthy nor forwhy, seems to me entirely valueless. The whole Tale only contains 553 lines, whereas we find in Troilus 777 consecutive lines in which neither word occurs, viz. in V. 351-1127.
- In l. 32, we have 'Thou comfort of us wrecches,' and in l. 58, 'Me flemed wrecche.' I suspect that these lines were, in the original draught, not far apart. l. 57 would follow l. 35 very suitably.
- Compare the section in the Acta Sanctorum, April 14, p. 209, headed: 'Nova corporum inventio sub Clemente VIII, A.D. MDXCIX.'
- See my note to l. 134 of the Tale.
- Tyrwhitt further explains that a poem in Ashmole's volume, called Hermes Bird, and by him attributed to Raymund Lully, is really a poem of Lydgate's, printed by Caxton with the title The Chorle and the Bird.
- It is a totally different work from the Latin collection of alchemical works, also called Theatrum Chemicum, so often cited in my notes.
- At p. 470, Ashmole gives a brief account of Chaucer, made up from Speght, Bale, Pits, and others, of no particular value. At p. 226, he gives an engraving of the marble monument erected to Chaucer's memory in Westminster Abbey, by Nicholas Brigham, A.D. 1556.
- This is somewhat amusing. Charnock describes his numerous misadventures, and it is not clear that he preserved his faith in alchemy unshaken.
- Thomson's Hist. Chemistry, i. 25.
- 'Sir To. What shall we do else? Were we not born under Taurus? Sir And. Taurus! that's sides and heart. Sir To. No, sir; it's legs and thighs.' Both are wrong, of course, as Shakespeare knew. Chaucer says—'Aries hath thin heved [head], and Taurus thy nekke and thy throte;' Astrolabe, pt. i. sec. 21. l. 52.
- See Browning's drama entitled 'Paracelsus.'
- It is useless to try and discover an etymology for this word. It was invented wittingly. The most that can be said was that Van Helmont may have been thinking of the Dutch geest, a spirit; E. ghost.
- This seems to us a strange selection; red, green, and violet would have been better. But this scale of colours is due to Aristotle, De Sensu, ii.; cf. Bartholomeus, De Proprietatibus Rerum, bk. xix. c. 7.
- The Indian god Siva, was actually worshipped under the form of quicksilver. Professor Cowell refers me to Marco Polo, ed. Yule, ii. 300, and to his own edition of Colebrooke's Essays, i. 433; also to the semi-mythic life of Sankara Áchárya, the great reformer of the eighth century.
- This explains why the alchemists, in seeking gold, sometimes supposed that they had obtained silver.
- Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen, ed. L. Herrig; vol. 86, p. 44.
- MS. Douce 162 has a copy of the treatise in Provençal.
- Urry, the worst of editors, originated it.
- Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen, ed. L. Herrig, vol. 87, p. 33.