Chaucer's Works (ed. Skeat) Vol. I/Notes IX
[ Text of the Poem ]
IX. The Former Age.
'The former Age' is a title taken from l. 2 of the poem. In MS. Hh., at the end, are the words—'Finit Etas prima: Chaucers.'
Both MSS. are poor, and omit a whole line (l. 56), which has to be supplied by conjecture; as we have no other authority. The spelling requires more emendation than usual.
The poem is partly a verse translation of Boethius, De Consolatione Philosophiæ, lib. ii. met. 5. We possess a prose translation by Chaucer of the entire work (see vol. II. p. 40). This therefore contains the same passage in prose; and the prose translation is, of course, a much closer rendering of the original. Indeed there is nothing in the original which corresponds to the last four stanzas of the present poem, excepting a hint for l. 62.
The work of Boethius, in Latin, consists of five books. Each book contains several sections, written in prose and verse alternately. Hence it is usual to refer to bk. ii. prose 5 (liber ii. prosa 5); bk. ii. metre 5 (liber ii. metrum 5); and the like. These divisions are very useful in finding one's place.
Chaucer was also indebted to Ovid, Metam. i. 89-112, for part of this description of the Golden Age; of which see Dryden's fine translation. See also Le Roman de la Rose, ll. 8395-8492: and compare the Complaint of Scotland, ed. Murray, p. 144; and Dante, Purg. xxii. 148. For further remarks, see the Introduction.
1. 'Decaearchus ... refert sub Saturno, id est, in aureo saeculo, cum omnia humus funderet, nullum comedisse carnes: sed uniuersos uixisse frugibus et pomis, quae sponte terra gignebat'; Hieron. c. Iouin. lib. ii.
2. The former age; Lat. prior etas.
3. Payed of, satisfied with; Lat. contenta.
4. By usage, ordinarily; i. e. without being tilled.
5. Forpampred, exceedingly pampered; Lat. perdita. With outrage, beyond all measure.
6. Quern, a hand-mill for grinding corn. Melle, mill.
7. Dr. Sweet reads hawes, mast instead of mast, hawes. This sounds better, but is not necessary. Haw-es is dissyllabic. Pounage,mod. E. pannage, mast, or food given to swine in the woods; see the Glossary. Better spelt pannage or paunage (Manwood has pawnage), as cited in Blount's Nomolexicon. Koch wrongly refers us to O.F. poün, poön, a sickle (Burguy), but mast and haws were never reaped. Cf. Dante, Purg. xxii. 149.
11. 'Which they rubbed in their hands, and ate of sparingly.' Gnodded is the pt. t. of gnodden or gnudden, to rub, examples of which are scarce. See Ancren Riwle, pp. 238, 260 (footnotes), and gnide in Halliwell's Dictionary. But the right reading is obviously gniden or gnide (with short i), the pt. t. pl. of the strong verb gniden, to rub. This restores the melody of the line. In the Ancren Riwle, p. 260, there is a reference to Luke vi. 1, saying that Jesus' disciples 'gniden the cornes ut bitweonen hore honden'; where another MS. has gnuddeden. The Northern form gnade (2 p. sing.) occurs in the O.E. Psalter, Ps. lxxxviii. 45. Dr. Sweet reads gnodde, but the pt. t. of gnodden was gnodded. Nat half, not half of the crop; some was wasted.
16. 'No one as yet ground spices in a mortar, to put into clarrè or galantine-sauce.' As to clarre, see Knightes Tale, 613 (A 1471); R. Rose, 6027; and the Babees Book, ed. Furnivall, p. 204, and Index.
In the Liber Cure Cocorum, ed. Morris, p. 30, is the following recipe for Galentyne:—
'Take crust of brede and grynde hit smalle,
Take powder of galingale, and temper with-alle;
Powder of gyngere and salt also;
Tempre hit with venegur er þou more do;
Drawȝe hit þurughe a streynour þenne,
And messe hit forth before good menne.'
'Galendyne is a sauce for any kind of roast Fowl, made of Grated Bread, beaten Cinnamon and Ginger, Sugar, Claret-wine, and Vinegar, made as thick as Grewell'; Randell Holme, bk. iii. ch. iii. p. 82, col. 2 (quoted in Babees Book, ed. Furnivall, p. 216). Roquefort gives O.F. galatine, galantine, galentine, explained by 'gelée, daube, sauce, ragoût fort épicé; en bas Latin, galatina.' Beyond doubt, Chaucer found the word in the Roman de la Rose, l. 21823—'En friture et en galentine.' See Galantine in Littré, and see note to Sect. XII. l. 17. Cf. Rom. de la Rose, 8418:—
'Et de l'iaue simple bevoient
Sans querre piment ne clare,' &c.
17. 'No dyer knew anything about madder, weld, or woad.' All three are plants used in dyeing. Madder is Rubia tinctoria, the roots of which yield a dye. I once fancied weld was an error for welled (i. e. flowed out); and Dr. Sweet explains welde by 'strong.' Both of these fancies are erroneous. Weld is the Reseda Luteola of Linnæus, and grows wild in waste places; I have seen it growing near Beachey Head. It is better known as Dyer's Rocket. In Johns' Flowers of the Field, we duly find—'Reseda Luteola, Dyer's Rocket,weed, or Weld.' Also called Ash of Jerusalem, Dyer's Weed, &c.; see Eng. Plant-names, by Britten and Holland. It appears in mod. G. as Wau (Du. wouw), older spelling Waude. Its antiquity as a Teut. word is vouched for by the derivatives in the Romance languages, such as Span. gualda, Port. gualde, F. gaude; see Gualda in Diez. Weld is a totally distinct word from woad, but most dictionaries confound them. Florio, most impartially, coins a new form by mixing the two words together (after the fashion adopted in Alice through the Looking-glass). He gives us Ital. gualdo, 'a weede to die yellow with, called woald.' The true woad is the Isatis tinctoria, used for dyeing blue before indigo was known; the name is sometimes given to Genista tinctoria, but the dye from this is of a yellow colour. Pliny mentions the dye from madder (Nat. Hist. xix. 3); and says the British women used glastum, i. e. woad (xxii. 1).
18. Flees, fleece; Lat. 'uellera.'
20. 'No one had yet learnt how to distinguish false coins from true ones.'
27-9. Cf. Ovid, Metam. i. 138-140.
30. Ri-ver-es; three syllables. Dr. Sweet suggests putting after in place of first.
33. 'These tyrants did not gladly venture into battle to win a wilderness or a few bushes where poverty (alone) dwells—as Diogenes says—or where victuals are so scarce and poor that only mast or apples are found there; but, wherever there are money-bags,' &c. This is taken either from Jerome, in his Epistle against Jovinian, lib. ii. (Epist. Basil. 1524, ii. 73), or from John of Salisbury's Policraticus, lib. viii. c. 6. Jerome has: 'Diogenes tyrannos et subuersiones urbium, bellaque uel hostilia, uel ciuilia, non pro simplici uictu holerum pomorumque, sed pro carnibus et epularum deliciis asserit excitari.' John of Salisbury copies this, with subuersores for subuersiones, which seems better. Gower relates how Diogenes reproved Alexander for his lust of conquest; Conf. Amantis, ed. Pauli, i. 322.
41. This stanza seems more or less imitated from Le Rom. de la Rose, 8437:—
'Et quant par nuit dormir voloient,
En leu de coites [quilts] aportoient
En lor casiaus monceaus de gerbes,
De foilles, ou de mousse, ou d'erbes;....
Sor tex couches cum ge devise,
Sans rapine et sans convoitise,
S'entr'acoloient et baisoient....
Les simples gens asséurées,
De toutes cures escurées.'
47. 'Their hearts were all united, without the gall (of envy).' Curiously enough, Chaucer has here made an oversight. He ends the line with galles, riming with halles and walles; whereas the line shouldend with a word riming to shete, as, e.g. 'Hir hertes knewen nat to counterfete.'
49. Here again cf. Rom. de la Rose, 8483:—
'N'encor n'avoit fet roi ne prince
Meffais qui l'autrui tolt et pince.
Trestuit pareil estre soloient,
Ne riens propre avoir ne voloient.
55, 6. 'Humility and peace, (and) good faith (who is) the empress (of all), filled the earth full of ancient courtesy.' Line 56 I have supplied; Dr. Koch supplies the line—'Yit hadden in this worlde the maistrie.' Either of these suggestions fills up the sense intended.
57. Jupiter is mentioned in Ovid's Metamorphoses immediately after the description of the golden, silver, brazen, and iron ages. At l. 568 of the same book begins the story of the love of Jupiter for Io.
59. Nembrot, Nimrod; so that his toures hye refers to the tower of Babel. In Gen. x, xi, the sole connection of Nimrod with Babel is in ch. x. 10—'And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel.' But the usual medieval account is that he built the tower. Thus, in the Cursor Mundi, l. 2223:—
'Nembrot than said on this wise, ...
"I rede we bigin a laboure,
And do we wel and make a toure,"' &c.
So also in Sir D. Lyndsay, Buke of the Monarché, bk. ii. l. 1625.
62-4. These last lines are partly imitated from Boethius; lines 33-61 are independent of him.