Chaucer's Works (ed. Skeat) Vol. I/Notes V
[ Text of the Poem ]
V. The Parlement of Foules.
Title. Gg. has Here begynyth the parlement of Foulys; Harl. has The Parlament of Foules; Tn. has The Parlement of Briddis; Trin. has Here foloweth the parlement of Byrdes reducyd to loue, &c. We also find, at the end of the poem, such notes as these: Gg. Explicit parliamentum Auium in die sancti Valentini tentum secundum Galfridum Chaucer; Ff. Explicit parliamentum Auium; Tn. Explicit tractatus de Congregacione volucrum die Sancti Valentini; and in MS. Arch. Seld. B. 24—Here endis the parliament of foulis Quod Galfride Chaucere.
1. Part of the first aphorism of Hippocrates is—. This is often quoted in the Latin form—Ars longa, uita brevis. Longfellow, in his Psalm of Life, well renders it by—'Art is long, but life is fleeting.'
2. Several MSS. transpose hard and sharp; it is of small consequence.
3. Slit, the contracted form of slideth, i. e. passes away; cf. 'it slit awey so faste,' Can. Yeom. Tale; C. T., Group G, l. 682. The false reading flit arose from mistaking a long s for f.
4. By, with respect to. In l. 7, wher = whether.
8. Evidently this disclaimer is a pretended one; the preceding stanza and ll. 13, 14 contradict it. So does l. 160. In this stanza we have an early example of Chaucer's humour, of which there are several instances below, as e. g. in ll. 567-570, 589, 599, 610, &c. Cf. Troilus, i. 15, where Chaucer again says he is no lover himself, but only serves Love's servants.
15. Cf. Prol. to Legend of Good Women, 29-39.
22. Men is here a weakened form of man, and is used as a singular sb., with the same force as the F. on or the G. man. Hence the vb. seith is in the singular. This construction is extremely common in Middle English. In ll. 23 and 25 com'th is monosyllabic.
31. Tullius, i. e. M. Tullius Cicero, who wrote a piece entitled Somnium Scipionis, which originally formed part of the sixth book of the De Republica. Warton (Hist. Eng. Poetry, ed. Hazlitt. iii. 65) remarks:—'Had this composition descended to posterity among Tully's six books De Republica, to the last of which it originally belonged, perhaps it would have been overlooked and neglected. But being preserved and illustrated with a prolix commentary by Macrobius, it quickly attracted the attention of readers who were fond of the marvellous, and with whom Macrobius was a more admired classic than Tully. It was printed [at Venice] subjoined to Tully's Offices, in . It was translated into Greek by Maximus Planudes, and is frequently [i. e. four times] quoted by Chaucer.... Nor is it improbable that not only the form, but the first idea, of Dante's Inferno was suggested by this apologue.' The other allusions to it in Chaucer are in the Nonnes Prestes Tale, B 4314; Book of the Duchesse, 284; Ho. of Fame, 514.See also l. 111 below, where Macrobie is expressly mentioned. In the E. version of the Romance of the Rose, l. 7, he is called Macrobes.
Aurelius Theodosius Macrobius, about A.D. 400, not only preserved for us Cicero's Somnium Scipionis, but wrote a long commentary on it in two books, and a work called Saturnalia in seven books. The commentary is not very helpful, and discusses collateral questions rather than the dream itself.
32. Chaucer's MS. copy was, it appears, divided into seven chapters. A printed copy now before me is divided into nine chapters. As given in an edition of Macrobius printed in 1670, it is undivided. The treatise speaks, as Chaucer says, of heaven, hell, and earth, and men's souls. It recalls the tale of Er, in Plato's Republic, bk. x.
35. The grete, the substance. Accordingly, in the next seven stanzas, we have a fair summary of the general contents of the Somnium Scipionis. I quote below such passages as approach most closely to Chaucer's text.
36. Scipioun, i. e. P. Cornelius Scipio Æmilianus Africanus Minor, the hero of the third Punic War. He went to Africa in B.C. 150 to meet Masinissa, King of Numidia, who had received many favours from Scipio Africanus Major in return for his fidelity to the Romans. Hence Masinissa received the younger Africanus joyfully, and so much was said about the elder Africanus that the younger one dreamt about him after the protracted conversation was over, and all had retired to rest. The younger Africanus was the grandson, by adoption, of the elder.
'Cum in Africam venissem, ... nihil mihi potius fuit, quam ut Masinissam convenirem ... Ad quem ut veni, complexus me senex collacrymavit ... multisque verbis ... habitis, ille nobis consumptus est dies ... me ... somnus complexus est ... mihi ... Africanus se ostendit'; &c.
43. 'Ostendebat autem Carthaginem de excelso, et pleno stellarum ... loco ... tu eris unus, in quo nitatur civitatis salus, &c.... Omnibus qui patriam conservârint, adiuverint, auxerint, certum esse in cælo definitum locum, ubi beati ævo sempiterno fruantur.'
50. 'Quæsivi tamen, viveretne ipse et Paullus pater et alii, quos nos exstinctos arbitraremur. Immo vero, inquit, ii vivunt ... vestra vero, quæ dicitur vita, mors est ... corpore laxati ilium incolunt locum, quem vides. Erat autem is splendissimo candore inter flammas circus elucens, quem vos, ut a Graiis accepistis, orbem lacteum nuncupatis.'
56. Galaxye, milky way; see note to Ho. Fame, 936.
57. 'Stellarum autem globi terræ magnitudinem facile vincebant. Iam ipsa terra ita mihi parva visa est, &c.... Novem tibi orbibus, vel potius globis, connexa sunt omnia ... Hic, inquam, quis est, qui complet aures meas, tantus et tam dulcis sonus? ... impulsu et motu ipsorum orbium conficitur.'
59. The 'nine spheres' are the spheres of the seven planets (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn), that of the fixed stars, and the primum mobile; see notes to the Treatise on the Astrolabe, part 1, § 17, in vol. iii.
61. This is an allusion to the so-called 'harmony of the spheres.' Chaucer makes a mistake in attributing this harmony to all of the nine spheres. Cicero plainly excludes the primum mobile, and says that, of the remaining eight spheres, two sound alike, so that there are but seven tones made by their revolution. 'Ille autem octo cursus, in quibus eadem vis est duorum, septem efficiunt distinctos intervallis sonos.' He proceeds to notice the peculiar excellence of the number seven. By the two that sounded alike, the spheres of Saturn and the fixed stars must be meant; in fact, it is usual to ignore the sphere of fixed stars, and consider only those of the seven planets. Macrobius, in his Commentary, lib. ii. c. 4, quite misses this point, and clumsily gives the same note to Venus and Mercury. Each planetary sphere, in its revolution, gives out a different note of the gamut, so that all the notes of the gamut are sounded; and the result is, that the 'music of the spheres' cannot be heard at all, just as the dwellers by the cataract on the Nile fail to hear the sound of its fall. 'Hoc sonitu oppletæ aures hominum obsurduerunt; nec est ullus hebetior sonus in vobis; sicut ubi Nilus ad illa, quæ Catadupa nominantur, præcipitat ex altissimis montibus, ea gens, quæ illum locum accolit, propter magnitudinem sonitus, sensu audiendi caret.' Macrobius tries to explain it all in his Commentary, lib. ii. c. 1-4. The fable arose from a supposed necessary connection between the number of the planets and the number of musical notes in the scale. It breaks down when we know that the number of the planets is more than seven. Moreover, modern astronomy has exploded the singular notion of revolving hollow concentric spheres, to the surface of which each planet was immoveably nailed. These 'spheres' have disappeared, and their music with them, except in poetry.
Shakespeare so extends the old fable as to give a voice to every star. See Merch. of Venice, v. 60:—
'There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st,
But in his motion like an angel sings,' &c.
The notion of the music of the spheres was attributed to Pythagoras. It is denied by Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum Naturale, lib. xv. c. 32—Falsa opinio de concentu cæli. Vincent puts the old idea clearly—'Feruntur septem planetæ, et hi septem orbes (vt dicitur) cum dulcissima harmonia mouentur, ac suauissimi concentus eorum circumitione efficiuntur. Qui sonus ad aures nostras ideo non peruenit, quia vltra ærem fit':—a sufficient reason. He attributes the notion to the Pythagoreans and the Jews, and notes the use of the phrase 'concentum cæli' in Job xxxviii. 37, where our version has 'the bottles of heaven,' which the Revised Version retains. Cf. also—'Cum me laudarent simul astra matutina'; Job xxxviii. 7.
Near the end of Chaucer's Troilus, v. 1811, we have the singular passage:—
'And ther he saugh with ful avysement
The erratik sterres, herkening armonye
With sounes fulle of hevenish melodye'; &c.
This passage, by the way, is a translation from Boccaccio, Teseide, xi. 1. Cf. Rom. de la Rose, 17151-5.
See also Longfellow's poem on the Occultation of Orion, where the poet (heretically but sensibly) gives the lowest note to Saturn, and the highest to the Moon; whereas Macrobius says the contrary; lib. ii. c. 4.
A. Neckam (De Naturis Rerum, lib. i. c. 15) seems to say that the sound of an eighth sphere is required to make up the octave.
64. 'Sentio, inquit, te sedem etiam nunc hominum ac domum contemplari: quæ si tibi parva, ut est, ita videtur, hæc cælestia semper spectato; illa humana contemnito.... Cum autem ad idem, unde semel profecta sunt, cuncta astra redierint, eandemque totius anni descriptionem longis intervallis retulerint, tum ille vere vertens annus appellari potest.... Sermo autem omnis ille ... obruitur hominum interitu, et oblivione posteritatis exstinguitur.'
The great or mundane year, according to Macrobius, Comment, lib. 2. c. 11, contained 15,000 common years. In the Roman de la Rose, l. 17,018, Jeun de Meun makes it 36,000 years long; and in the Complaint of Scotland, ed. Murray, p. 33, it is said, on the authority of Socrates, to extend to 37,000 years. It is not worth discussion.
71. 'Ego vero, inquam, o Africane, siquidem bene mentis de patria quasi limes ad cæli aditum patet,' &c. 'Et ille, Tu vero enitere, et sic habeto, non esse te mortalem, sed corpus hoc.... Hanc [naturam] tu exerce in optimis rebus; sunt autem optimæ curæ de salute patriæ: quibus agitatus et exercitatus animus velocius in hanc sedem et domum suam pervolabit.'
78. 'Nam eorum animi, qui se corporis voluptatibus dediderunt,... corporibus elapsi circum terram ipsam volutantur; nec hunc in locum, nisi multis exagitati sæculis, revertuntur.' We have here the idea of purgatory; compare Vergil, Æn. vi.
80. Whirle aboute, copied from volutantur in Cicero; see last note. It is remarkable that Dante has copied the same passage, and has the word voltando; Inf. v. 31-8. Cf. 'blown with restless violence round about The pendent world'; Meas. for Meas. iii. 1. 125; and 'The sport of winds'; Milton, P.L. iii. 493.
85. Imitated from Dante, Inf. ii. 1-3 (with which cf. Æneid, ix. 224). Cary's translation has—
'Now was the day departing, and the air,
Imbrowned with shadows, from their toils released
All animals on earth.'
90. 'I had what I did not want,' i. e. care and heaviness. 'And I had not what I wanted,' i. e. my desires. Not a personal reference, but borrowed from Boethius, bk. iii. pr. 3; see vol. ii. p. 57, l. 24. Moreover, the same idea is repeated, but in clearer language, in the Complaint to his Lady, ll. 47-49 (p. 361); and again, in the Complaint to Pity, ll. 99-104 (p. 276).
99. Chaucer discusses dreams elsewhere; see Ho. of Fame, 1-52; Nonne Prestes Tale, 76-336; Troil. v. 358. Macrobius, Comment. in Somn. Scipionis, lib. i. c. 3, distinguishes five kinds of dreams, giving the name to the kind of which Chaucer here speaks. 'Est enim quotiens oppressi animi corporisve sive fortunæ, qualis vigilantem fatigaverat, talem se ingerit dormienti: animi, si amator deliciis suis aut fruentem se videat aut carentem: ... corporis, si ... esuriens cibum aut potum sitiens desiderare, quærere, vel etiam invenisse videatur,' &c. But the real original of this stanza (as shewn by Prof. Lounsbury) is to be found in Claudian, In Sextum Consulatum Honorii Augusti Præfatio, ll. 3-10.
'Venator defessa toro cum membra reponit,
Mens tamen ad silvas et sua lustra redit.
Iudicibus lites, aurigæ somnia currus,
Vanaque nocturnis meta cavetur equis.
Furto gaudet amans; permutat navita merces;
Et vigil elapsas quærit avarus opes.
Blandaque largitur frustra sitientibus ægris
Irriguus gelido pocula fonte sopor.'
Cf. Vincent of Beauvais, lib. xxvi. c. 62 and c. 63; Batman upon Bartholome, lib. vi. c. 27, ed. 1582, fol. 84. And see the famous passage in Romeo and Juliet, i. 4. 53; especially ll. 70-88. The Roman de la Rose begins with remarks concerning dreams; and again, at l. 18564, there is a second passage on the same subject, with a reference to Scipio, and a remark about dreaming of things that occupy the mind (l. 18601).
109. Compare Dante, Inf. i. 83; which Gary translates—
'May it avail me, that I long with zeal
Have sought thy volume, and with love immense
Have conn'd it o'er. My master thou, and guide!'
111. 'Of which Macrobius recked (thought) not a little.' In fact, Macrobius concludes his commentary with the words—'Vere igitur pronunciandum est nihil hoc opere perfectius, quo universa philosophiæ continetur integritas.'
113. Cithérea, Cytherea, i. e. Venus; see Kn. Tale, 1357 (A 2215).
114. In the Roman de la Rose, 15980, Venus speaks of her bow (F. arc) and her firebrand or torch (brandon). Cf. Merch. Tale, E 1777.
117. 'As surely as I saw thee in the north-north-west.' He here refers to the planet Venus. As this planet is never more than 47° from the sun, the sun must have been visible to the north of the west point at sunset; i. e. the poem must have been written in the summer-time. The same seems to be indicated by l. 21 (the longe day), and still more clearly by ll. 85-88; Chaucer would hardly have gone to bed atsunset in the winter-time. It is true that he dreams about Saint Valentine's day, but that is quite another matter. Curiously enough, the landscape seen in his dream is quite a summer landscape; see ll. 172, 184-210.
120. African, Africanus; as above.
122. Grene stone, mossy or moss-covered stone; an expression copied by Lydgate, Complaint of the Black Knight, l. 42.
Prof. Hales, in the Gent. Magazine, April, 1882, has an interesting article on 'Chaucer at Woodstock.' He shews that there was a park there, surrounded by a stone wall; and that Edward III. often resided at Woodstock, where the Black Prince was born. It is possible that Chaucer was thinking of Woodstock when writing the present passage. See the account of Woodstock Palace in Abbeys, Castles, &c. by J. Timbs; vol. ii. But Dr. Köppel has shewn (Anglia, xiv. 234) that Chaucer here partly follows Boccaccio's poem, Amorosa Visione, ii. 1-35, where we find 'un muro antico.' So also the Roman de la Rose has an allusion to Scipio's dream, and the following lines (129-131, p. 99, above):—
'Quant j'oi ung poi avant alé
Si vi ung vergier grant et lé,
Tot clos d'ung haut mur bataillié;' &c.
123. Y-wroght-e; the final -e here denotes the plural form.
125. On eyther halfe, on either side; to right and left.
127. Imitated from Dante, Inf. iii. 1; Cary's translation has—
'Through me you pass into the city of woe:...
Such characters in colour dim, I mark'd
Over a portal's lofty arch inscribed.'
See also l. 134. The gate is the entrance into Love, which is to some a blessing, and to some a curse; see ll. 158, 159. Thus men gon is, practically, equivalent to 'some men go'; and so in l. 134. The idea is utterly different from that of the two gates in Vergil, Æn. vi. 893. The successful lover finds 'the well of Favour,' l. 129. The unsuccessful one encounters the deadly wounds caused by the spear (or dart) guided to his heart by Disdain and Power-to-harm (Daunger); for him, the opened garden bears no fruit, and the alluring stream leads him only to a fatal weir, wherein imprisoned fish are left lying dry.
Cf. 'As why this fish, and nought that, comth to were';
Troil. iii. 35.
140. 'Avoiding it is the only remedy.' This is only another form of a proverb which also occurs as 'Well fights he who well flies.' See Proverbs of Hending (in Spec. of English), l. 77; Owl and Nightingale, l. 176. Sir T. Wiat has—'The first eschue is remedy alone'; Spec. of Eng. Part III. p. 235. Probably from the Roman de la Rose, l. 16818—'Sol foïr en est medicine.' (O.F. foir = Lat. fugere.)
141. The alluring message (ll. 127-133) was written in gold; the forbidding one (ll. 134-140) in black; see Anglia, xiv. 235.
142. A stounde, for a while (rightly); the reading astonied is to be rejected. The attitude is one of deliberation.
143. That oon, the one, the latter. In l. 145, it means the former.
148. An adamant was, originally, a diamond; then the name was transferred to the loadstone; lastly, the diamond was credited with the properties of the loadstone. Hence we find, at the end of ch. 14 of Mandeville's Travels, this remarkable experiment:—'Men taken the Ademand, that is the Schipmannes Ston, that drawethe the Nedle to him, and men leyn the Dyamand upon the Ademand, and leyn the Nedle before the Ademand; and yif the Dyamand be good and vertuous, the Ademand drawethe not the Nedle to him, whils the Dyamand is there present.' Cf. A. Neckam, De Naturis Rerum, lib. ii. c. 98, where the story is told of an iron statue of Mahomet, which, being surrounded by adamants (lapides adamantini), hangs suspended in the air. The modern simile is that of a donkey between two bundles of hay. For adamaunt, see Rom. of the Rose, 1182 (p. 142).
156. Errour, doubt; see l. 146 above.
158. 'This writing is not at all meant to apply to thee.'
159. Servant was, so to speak, the old technical term for a lover; cf. serveth, Kn. Tale, 2220, 2228 (A 3078, 3086); and servant in the same, 956 (A 1814); and in Two Gent, of Verona, ii. 1. 106, 114, 140, &c.
163. I. e. 'at any rate you can come and look on.'
169. Imitated from Dante, Inf. iii. 19. Cary has—
'And when his hand he had stretch'd forth
To mine, with pleasant looks, whence I was cheer'd,
Into that secret place he led me on.'
171. Cf. 'So Iolyf, nor so wel bigo'; Rom. Rose, 693.
176. Imitated by Spenser, F. Q. i. 1. 8, 9. Chaucer's list of trees was suggested by a passage in the Teseide, xi. 22-24; but he extended his list by help of one in the Roman de la Rose, 1338-1368; especially ll. 1363-8, as follows (see p. 151, above)—
'Et d'oliviers et de cipres,
Dont il n'a gaires ici pres;
Ormes y ot branchus et gros,
Et avec ce charmes et fos,
Codres droites, trembles et chesnes,
Erables haus, sapins et fresnes.'
Here ormes are elms; charmes, horn-beams; fos, beeches; codres, hasels; trembles, aspens; chesnes, oaks; erables, maples; sapins, firs; fresnes, ashes. Hence this list contains seven kinds of trees out of Chaucer's thirteen. See also the list of 21 trees in Kn. Tale, A 2921. Spenser has—
'The builder oake, sole king of forrests all.'
This tree-list is, in fact, a great curiosity. It was started by Ovid, Metam. x. 90; after whom, it appears in Seneca, Œdipus, 532; in Lucan, Phars. iii. 440; in Statius, Thebaid, vi. 98; and in Claudian, De Raptu Proserpinae, ii. 107. Statius was followed by Boccaccio, Tes. xi. 22-24; Rom. de la Rose, 1361; Chaucer (twice); Tasso, Gier. Lib. iii. 73; and Spenser. Cf. Vergil, Æn. vi. 179.
I here quote several notes from Bell's Chaucer, marked 'Bell.'
'The reader will observe the life and spirit which the personification of the several trees gives to this catalogue. It is common in French, even in prose; as, for instance, the weeping willow is le saule pleureur, the weeper willow. The oak is called builder, because no other wood was used in building in this country in the middle ages, as may be seen in our old churches and farm-houses, in which the stairs are often made of solid blocks of the finest oak.'—Bell.
177. 'The elm is called piler, perhaps because it is planted as a pillar of support to the vine [cf. Spenser's 'vine-prop elme']; and cofre unto careyne because coffins for carrion or corpses were [and are] usually made of elm.'—Bell. In fact, Ovid has 'amictae uitibus ulmi,' Met. x. 100; Claudian has 'pampinus induit ulmos'; and Boccaccio—'E l'olmo, che di viti s'innamora'; Tes. xi. 24.
178. Piper, suitable for pipes or horns. 'The box, being a hard, fine-grained wood, was used for making pipes or horns, as in the Nonne Prestes Tale, B 4588—"Of bras they broghten bemes [trumpets] and of box."'—Bell. Boxwood is still used for flutes and flageolets.
Holm to whippes lasshe; 'the holm used for making handles for whip-lashes.'—Bell. Spenser calls it 'The carver holm,' i. e. the holm suitable for carving. It is the holly (A. S. holegn), not the holm-oak.
179. The sayling firr; this 'alludes to the ship's masts and spars being made of fir.'—Bell. 'Apta fretis abies'; Claudian, De Raptu Proserpinae, ii. 107. Spenser substitutes for it 'The sailing pine.' The cipres; 'tumulos tectura cupressus,' in Claudian.
180. The sheter ew. 'The material of our [ancient] national weapon, the bow, was yew. It is said that the old yews which are found in country churchyards were planted in order to supply the yeomanry with bows.'—Bell. Spenser has—'The eugh, obedient to the benders will.'
'The asp is the aspen, or black poplar, of which shafts or arrows were made.'—Bell. Spenser has—'The aspine good for staves'; and 'The birch for shaftes.' See Ascham's Toxophilus, ed. Arber, p. 126.
181. The olive is the emblem of peace; and the palm, of victory. Boccaccio has—'e d'ogni vincitore Premio la palma'; Tes. xi. 24; from Ovid—'uictoris praemia palmae'; Met. x. 102.
182. 'The laurel (used) for divination,' or 'to divine with.' 'Venturi praescia laurus'; Claudian, de Raptu Proserpinae, ii. 109. It was 'sacred to Apollo; and its branches were the decoration of poets, and of the flamens. The leaves, when eaten, were said to impart the power of prophesying; Tibull. 2. 5. 63; Juvenal, 7. 19.'—Lewis and Short's Lat. Dict., s.v. laurus.
183. In a note to Cant. Tales, l. 1920, Tyrwhitt says—'Chaucer has [here] taken very little from Boccace, as he had already inserted a very close imitation of this part of the Teseide in his Assemblee of Foules, from verse 183 to verse 287.' In fact, eleven stanzas (183-259) correspond to Boccaccio's Teseide, Canto vii. st. 51-60; the next three stanzas (260-280) to the same, st. 63-66; and the next two (281-294) to the same, st. 61, 62. See the whole extract from Boccaccio, given and translated in the Introduction; see p. 68, above.
On the other hand, this passage in Chaucer is imitated in the Kingis Quair, st. 31-33, 152, 153; and ll. 680-9 are imitated in the same, st. 34.
The phrase 'blosmy bowes' occurs again in Troilus, ii. 821.
185. 'There where is always sufficient sweetness.'
214. According to Boccaccio, the name of Cupid's daughter was Voluttade (Pleasure). In the Roman de la Rose, ll. 913, 927 (Eng. version, 923, 939), Cupid has two bows and ten arrows.
216. Read: 'aft'r ás they shúld-e.' So Koch. Or read 'couch'd.'
217. See Ovid, Metam. i. 468-471.
218. This company answer to Boccaccio's Grace, Adornment, Affability, Courtesy, Arts (plural), Vain Delight, and Gentleness. Instead of Craft, Boccaccio speaks of 'the Arts that have power to make others perforce do folly, in their aspect much disfigured.' Hypocritical Cajolery seems to be intended. Cf. 'Charmes and Force'; Kn. Tale, 1069 (A 1927).
225. Ed. 1561 has with a nice atire, but wrongly; for compare Boccaccio. Cf. Kn. Tale, 1067-9 (A 1925-7).
226. Cf. 'Jest and youthful Jollity'; L'Allegro, 26.
228. Messagerye and Mede represents the sending of messages and giving of bribes. For this sense of Mede, see P. Plowman, C. iv. (or B. iii.). The other three are Audacity (too forward Boldness), Glozings (Flatteries), and Pimps; all of bad reputation, and therefore not named. Boccaccio's words are—'il folle Ardire Con Lusinghe e Ruffiani.'
231. Bras, brass. Boccaccio has rame, i. e. copper, the metal which symbolised Venus; see Can. Yeom. Tale, G 829. In fact, this temple is the very temple of Venus which Chaucer again describes in the Knightes Tale, ll. 1060-1108 (A 1918); which see.
234. Faire, beautiful by nature; gay, adorned by art.
236. Office, duty; viz. to dance round.
237. These are the dowves flikeringe in Kn. Tale, 1104 (A 1962).
243. Sonde, sand. 'Her [Patience's] chief virtue is quiet endurance in the most insecure and unhopeful circumstances'; Bell.
245. Answering to Boccaccio's 'Promesse ad arte,' i. e. 'artful Promises.'
246. Cf. Kn. Tale, 1062-1066, 1070 (A 1920-4, 1928).
255. 'The allusion is to the adventure of Priapus, related by Ovid in the Fasti, lib. i. 415'; Bell. The ass, by braying, put Priapus to confusion.
261. But in Kn. Tale, 1082 (A 1940), the porter of Venus is Idleness, as in the Rom. de la Rose, 636 (E. version, 643, at p. 120, above).
267. Gilte; cf. Leg. of Good Women, 230, 249, 1315.
272. Valence, explained by Urry as Valentia in Spain. But perhaps it may refer to Valence, near Lyons, in France; as Lyons is especially famous for the manufacture of silks, and there is a considerable trade in silks at Valence also. Probably 'thin silk' is here meant. Boccaccio merely speaks of 'texture so thin,' or, in the original 'Testa, tanto sottil,' which accounts for Chaucer's 'subtil.' Coles's Dict. (1684) gives: 'Valence,-tia, a town in Spain, France, and Milan.' In the Unton Inventories, for the years 1596 and 1620, ed. J. G. Nichols, I find: 'one covering for a fielde bedde of green and valens,' p. 4; 'one standinge bedsteed with black velvett testern, black vallance fringed and laced,' p. 21; 'one standinge bed with yellow damaske testern and vallence,' p. 21; 'vallance frindged and laced,' p. 22; 'one bedsteed and testern, and valance of black velvett,' p. 22; 'one bedsteed ... with vallance imbroydered with ash couler,' p. 23; 'one bedsteed, with ... vallance of silke,' p. 29. It is the mod. E. valance, and became a general term for part of the hangings of a bed; Shakespeare has 'Valance of Venice gold,' spelt Vallens in old editions, Tam. Shrew, ii. 1. 356. Spenser imitates this passage, F. Q. ii. 12.77.
275. Compare the well-known proverb—'sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus'; Terence, Eun. 2. 3. 4.
277. Read Cipryde, not Cupide; for in l. 279 we have hir twice, once in the sense of 'their,' but secondly in the sense of 'her.' Boccaccio also here speaks of Venus, and refers to the apple which she won from Paris. Cipride is regularly formed from the accus. of Cypris (gen. Cypridis), an epithet of Venus due to her worship in Cyprus. Chaucer found the genitive Cypridis in Alanus de Planctu Naturæ (ed. Wright, p. 438); see note to l. 298. Cf. 'He curseth Ceres, Bacus, and Cipryde'; Troilus, v. 208.
281. The best way of scansion is perhaps to read despyt-e with final e, preserved by cæsura, and to pronounce Diane as Dián'. So in Kn. Tale, 1193 (A 2051), which runs parallel with it.
282. 'Trophies of the conquest of Venus'; Bell.
283. Maydens; of these Callisto was one (so says Boccaccio); and this is Chaucer's Calixte (l. 286), and his Calístopee in the Kn. Tale, l. 1198 (A 2056). She was the daughter of the Arcadian king Lycaon, and mother of Arcas by Jupiter; changed by Juno, on account of jealousy, into a she-bear, and then raised to the heavens by Jupiter in the form of the constellation Helice or Ursa Major; see Ovid, Fasti, ii. 156; Metamorph. ii. 401; &c. (Lewis and Short).
286. Athalaunte, Atalanta. There were two of this name; the one here meant (see Boccaccio) was the one who was conquered in a foot-race by the lover who married her; see Ovid, Metam. x. 565. The other, who was beloved by Meleager, and hunted the Calydonian boar, is the one mentioned in the Kn. Tale, A 2070; see Ovid, Metam.viii. 318. It is clear that Chaucer thought, at the time, that they were one and the same.
287. I wante, I lack; i. e. I do not know. Boccaccio here mentions the mother of Parthenopæus, whose name Chaucer did not know. She was the other Atalanta, the wife of Meleager; and Boccaccio did not name her, because he says 'that other proud one,' meaning the other proud one of the same name. See the story in Dryden; tr. of Ovid's Metamorphoses, bk. viii. Cf. Troilus, v. 1473.
288. Boccaccio only mentions 'the spouse of Ninus,' i. e. Semiramis, the great queen of Assyria, Thisbe and Pyramus, 'Hercules in the lap of Iole,' and Byblis. The rest Chaucer has added. Compare his lists in Prol. to Leg. of Good Women, 250, and in Cant. Tales, Group B, 63; see the note. See the Legend for the stories of Dido, Thisbe and Pyramus, and Cleopatra. Paris, Achilles, Troilus, and Helen are all mentioned in his Troilus; and Hercules in Cant. Ta., B 3285.
Candace is mentioned again at p. 410, above, l. 16. There was a Candace, queen of Meroë, mentioned by Pliny, vi. 29; and there is the Candace in the Acts of the Apostles, viii. 27. But the Candace of fiction was an Indian queen, who contrived to get into her power no less a person than the world's conqueror, Alexander the Great. See King Alisaunder, ed. Weber, l. 7646, and the Wars of Alexander, ed. Skeat, l. 5314. It is probable that Candace was sometimes confused with the Canace of Ovid's Heroides, Epist. xi. (wholly translated by Dryden). In fact, we have sufficient proof of this confusion; for one MS. reads Candace in the Legend of Good Women, 265, where five other MSS. have Canace or Canacee. Biblis is Byblis, who fell in love with Caunus, and, being repulsed, was changed into a fountain; Ovid, Metam. ix. 452.
Tristram and Isoude are the Tristran (or Tristan) and Ysolde (or Ysolt) of French medieval romance; cf. Ho. Fame, 1796, and Balade to Rosemounde, l. 20. Gower, in his Conf. Amantis, bk. 8 (ed. Pauli, iii. 359) includes Tristram and Bele Isolde in his long list of lovers, and gives an outline of the story in the same, bk. 6 (iii. 17). Ysolde was the wife of King Mark of Cornwall, and the mistress of her nephew Sir Tristram, of whom she became passionately enamoured from having drunk a philter by mistake; see Wheeler, Noted Names of Fiction, s. v. Isolde. The Romance of Sir Tristram was edited by Sir W. Scott, and has been re-edited by Kölbing, and by G. P. McNeill (for the Scottish Text Society). The name Ysoude constantly misprinted Ysonde, even by the editors. Chaucer mentions her again; see Leg. G. Women, 254; Ho. of Fame, 1796.
292. Silla, Scylla; daughter of Nisus, of Megara, who, for love of Minos, cut off her father's hair, upon which his life depended, and was transformed in consequence into the bird Ciris; see Ovid, Metam. viii. 8. Another Scylla was changed by Circe into a sea-monster; Ovid, Metam. xiv. 52. Their stories shew that the former is meant; see Leg. of Good Women, 1910, and the note.
Moder of Romulus, Ilia (also called Rhæa Silvia), daughter of Numitor, dedicated to Vesta, and buried alive for breaking her vows; see Livy, bk. 1; Verg. Æn. i. 274.
The quotation from Boccaccio ends here.
296. Of spak, spake of; see l. 174.
298. This quene is the goddess Nature (l. 303). We now come to a part of the poem where Chaucer makes considerable use of the work which he mentions in l. 316, viz. the Planctus Naturæ (Complaint of Nature) by Alanus de Insulis, or Alein Delille, a poet and divine of the 12th century. This work is printed in vol. ii. of T. Wright's edition of the Anglo-Latin Satirical Poets (Record Series), which also contains the poem called Anticlaudianus, by the same author. The description of the goddess is given at great length (pp. 431-456), and at last she declares her name to be Natura (p. 456). This long description of Nature and of her vesture is a very singular one; indeed, all the fowls of the air are supposed to be depicted upon her wonderful garments (p. 437). Chaucer substitutes a brief description of his own, and represents the birds as real live ones, gathering around her; which is much more sensible. For the extracts from Alanus, see the Introduction, p. 74. As Prof. Morley says (Eng. Writers, v. 162)—'Alain describes Nature's changing robe as being in one of its forms so ethereal that it is like air, and the pictures on it seem to the eye a Council of Animals (Animalium Concilium). Upon which, beginning, as Chaucer does, with the Eagle and the Falcon, Alain proceeds with a long list of the birds painted on her transparent robe, that surround Nature as in a council, and attaches to each bird the most remarkable point in its character.' Professor Hales, in The Academy, Nov. 19, 1881, quoted the passages from Alanus which are here more or less imitated, and drew attention to the remarkable passage in Spenser's F. Q. bk. vii. c. 7. st. 5-10, where that poet quotes and copies Chaucer. Dunbar imitates Chaucer in his Thrissill and Rois, and describes Dame Nature as surrounded by beasts, birds, and flowers; see stanzas 10, 11, 18, 26, 27 of that poem.
The phrase 'Nature la déesse' occurs in Le Roman de la Rose, l. 16480.
309. Birds were supposed to choose their mates on St. Valentine's day (Feb. 14); and lovers thought they must follow their example, and then 'choose their loves.' Mr. Douce thinks the custom of choosing valentines was a survival from the Roman feast of the Lupercalia. See the articles in Brand, Pop. Antiq. i. 53; Chambers, Book of Days, i. 255; Alban Butler, Lives of Saints, Feb. 14; &c. The custom is alluded to by Lydgate, Shakespeare, Herrick, Pepys, and Gay; and in the Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner, iii. 169, is a letter written in Feb. 1477, where we find: 'And, cosyn, uppon Fryday is Sent Volentynes Day, and every brydde chesyth hym a make.' See also the Cuckoo and Nyghtingale, l. 80.
316. Aleyn, Alanus de Insulis; Pleynt of Kynde, Complaint ofNature, Lat. Planctus Naturæ; see note to l. 298. Chaucer refers us to Aleyn's description on account of its unmerciful length; it was hopeless to attempt even an epitome of it. Lydgate copies this passage; see Political, Religious and Love Poems, ed. Furnivall, p. 45, l. 17; or his Minor Poems, ed. Halliwell, p. 47.
323. Foules of ravyne, birds of prey. Chaucer's division of birds into birds of prey, birds that eat worms and insects, water-fowl, and birds that eat seeds, can hardly be his own. In Vincent of Beauvais, lib. xvi. c. 14, Aristotle is cited as to the food of birds:—'quædam comedunt carnem, quædam grana, quædam utrumque; ... quædam vero comedunt vermes, vt passer.... Vivunt et ex fructu quædam aues, vt palumbi, et turtures. Quædam viuunt in ripis aquarum lacuum, et cibantur ex eis.'
330. Royal; because he is often called the king of birds, as in Dunbar's Thrissill and Rois, st. 18. Vincent of Beauvais, Spec. Nat., lib. xvi. c. 32, quotes from Iorath (sic):—'Aquila est auis magna regalis.' And Philip de Thaun, Bestiary, 991 (in Wright's Pop. Treatises, p. 109) says:—'Egle est rei de oisel.... En Latine raisun clerveant le apellum, Ke le solail verat quant il plus cler serat.'
331. See the last note, where we learn that the eagle is called in Latin 'clear-seeing,' because 'he will look at the sun when it will be brightest.' This is explained at once by the remarkable etymology given by Isidore (cited by Vincent, as above), viz.:—'Aqu-ila ab acumine oculorum vocata est.'
332. Pliny, Nat. Hist. bk. x. c. 3, enumerates six kinds of eagles, which Chaucer leaves us to find out; viz. Melænaetos, Pygargus, Morphnos, which Homer (Il. xxiv. 316) calls perknos, Percnopterus, Gnesios (the true or royal eagle), and Haliæetos (osprey). This explains the allusion in l. 333.
334. Tyraunt. This epithet was probably suggested by the original text in Alanus, viz.—'Illic ancipiter [accipiter], civitatis præfectus aeriæ, violenta tyrannide a subditis redditus exposcebat.' Sir Thopas had a 'grey goshauk'; C. T., Group B, 1928.
337. See note on the faucon peregrin, Squi. Tale, 420 (F 428). 'Beautifully described as "distreining" the king's hand with its foot, because carried by persons of the highest rank'; Bell. Read, 'with 's feet.'
339. Merlion, merlin. 'The merlin is the smallest of the long-winged hawks, and was generally carried by ladies'; Bell.
342. From Alanus (see p. 74):—'Illic olor, sui funeris præco, mellitæ citherizationis organo vitæ prophetabat apocopam.' The same idea is mentioned by Vincent of Beauvais, Spec. Nat. lib. xvi. c. 50; Pliny says he believes the story to be false, Nat. Hist. lib. x. c. 23. See Compl. of Anelida, l. 346. 'The wild swan's death-hymn'; Tennyson, The Dying Swan. Cf. Ovid, Heroid. vii. 2.
343. From Alanus:—'Illic bubo, propheta miseriæ, psalmodias funereæ lamentationis præcinebat.' So in the Rom. de la Rose, 5999:—
'Li chahuan ...
Prophetes de male aventure,
Hideus messagier de dolor.'
Cf. Vergil, Æn. iv. 462; Ovid, Metam. v. 550, whence Chaucer's allusion in Troilus, v. 319; Shakespeare, Mid. Nt. D. v. 385.
344. Geaunt, giant. Alanus has:—'grus ... in giganteæ quantitatis evadebat excessum.' Vincent (lib. xvi. c. 91) quotes from Isidore:—'Grues nomen de propria voce sumpserunt, tali enim sono susurrant.'
345. 'The chough, who is a thief.' From Alanus, who has:—'Illic monedula, latrocinio laudabili reculas thesaurizans, innatæ avaritiæ argumenta monstrabat.' 'It was an old belief in Cornwall, according to Camden (Britannia, tr. by Holland, 1610, p. 189) that the chough was an incendiary, "and thievish besides; for oftentimes it secretly conveieth fire-sticks, setting their houses a-fire, and as closely filcheth and hideth little pieces of money."'—Prov. Names of Brit. Birds, by C. Swainson, p. 75. So also in Pliny, lib. x. c. 29, choughs are called thieves. Vincent of Beauvais quotes one of Isidore's delicious etymologies:—'Monedula dicitur quasi mone-tula, quæ cum aurum inuenit aufert et occultat'; i. e. from monetam tollere. 'The Jackdaw tribe is notoriously given to pilfering'; Stanley, Hist. of Birds, ed. 1880, p. 203.
Iangling, talkative; so Alanus:—'Illic pica... curam logices perennabat insomnem.' So in Vincent—'pica loquax'—'pica garrula,' &c.; and in Pliny, lib. x. c. 42.
346. Scorning, 'applied to the jay, probably, because it follows and seems to mock at the owl, whenever the latter is so unfortunate as to be caught abroad in the daylight; for this reason, a trap for jays is always baited with a live owl'; Bell.
'The heron will stand for hours in the shallow water watching for eels'; Bell. Vincent quotes from Isidore:—'Ciconeæ ... serpentium hostes.' So also A. Neckam, De Naturis Rerum, lib. i. c. 64:—'Ranarum et locustarum et serpentum hostis est.'
347. Trecherye, trickery, deceit. 'During the season of incubation, the cock-bird tries to draw pursuers from the nest by wheeling round them, crying and screaming, to divert their attention ... while the female sits close on the nest till disturbed, when she runs off, feigning lameness, or flaps about near the ground, as if she had a broken wing; cf. Com. Errors, iv. 2. 27; Much Ado, iii. 1. 24;' Prov. Names of Brit. Birds, by C. Swainson, p. 185. And cf. 'to seem the lapwing and to jest, Tongue far from heart'; Meas. for Meas. i. 4. 32.
348. Stare, starling. As the starling can speak, there is probably 'an allusion to some popular story like the Manciple's Tale, in which a talking starling betrays a secret'; Bell. The same story is in Ovid, Metam. bk. ii. 535; and in Gower, Conf. Amant. bk. iii. 'Germanicus and Drusus had one stare, and sundry nightingales, taught to parle Greeke and Latine'; Holland's Pliny, bk. x. c. 42. In the Seven Sages, ed. Weber, p. 86, the bird who 'bewrays counsel' is a magpie.
349. Coward kyte. See Squi. Tale, F 624; and note. 'Miluus ... fugatur a niso, quamuis in triplo sit maior illo'; Vincent of Beauvais, lib. xvi. c. 108. 'A kite is ... a coward, and fearefull among great birds'; Batman on Bartholomè, lib. xii. c. 26.
350. Alanus has:—'Illic gallus, tanquam vulgaris astrologus, suæ vocis horologio horarum loquebatur discrimina.' Cf. Nonne Prestes Tale, B 4044. We also see whence Chaucer derived his epithet of the cock—'common astrologer'—in Troilus, iii. 1415. Tusser, in his Husbandry, ed. Payne, § 74, says the cock crows—'At midnight, at three, and an hower ere day.' Hence the expressions 'first cock' in K. Lear, iii. 4. 121, and 'second cock' in Macbeth, ii. 3. 27.
351. The sparrow was sacred to Venus, from its amatory disposition (Meas. for Meas. iii. 2. 185). In the well-known song from Lyly's Alexander and Campaspe, Cupid 'stakes his quiver, bow, and arrows, His Mother's doves, and team of sparrows; 'Songs from the Dramatists, ed. R. Bell, p. 50.
352. Cf. Holland's Pliny, bk. x. c. 29—'The nightingale ... chaunteth continually, namely, at that time as the trees begin to put out their leaues thicke.'
353. 'Nocet autem apibus sola inter animalia carnem habentia et carnem comedentia'; Vincent of Beauvais, De hyrundine; Spec. Nat. lib. xvi. c. 17. 'Culicum et muscarum et apecularum infestatrix'; A. Neckam, De Naturis Rerum (De Hirundine), lib. i. c. 52. 'Swallowes make foule worke among them,' &c.; Holland's Pliny, bk. xi. c. 18. Cf. Vergil, Georg. iv. 15; and Tennyson, The Poet's Song, l. 9.
Flyes, i. e. bees. This, the right reading (see footnote), occurs in two MSS. only; the scribes altered it to foules or briddes!
355. Alanus has:—'Illic turtur, suo viduata consorte, amorem epilogare dedignans, in altero bigamiæ refutabat solatia.' 'Etiam vulgo est notum turturem et amoris veri prærogativa nobilitari et castitatis titulis donari'; A. Neckam, i. 59. Cf. An Old Eng. Miscellany, ed. Morris, p. 22.
356. 'In many medieval paintings, the feathers of angels' wings are represented as those of peacocks'; Bell. Cf. Dunbar, ed. Small, 174. 14: 'Qhois angell fedderis as the pacok schone.'
357. Perhaps Chaucer mixed up the description of the pheasant in Alanus with that of the 'gallus silvestris, privatioris galli deridens desidiam,' which occurs almost immediately below. Vincent (lib. xvi. c. 72) says:—'Fasianus est gallus syluaticus.' Or he may allude to the fact, vouched for in Stanley's Hist. of Birds, ed. 1880, p. 279, that the Pheasant will breed with the common Hen.
358. 'The Goose likewise is very vigilant and watchfull: witnesse the Capitoll of Rome, which by the means of Geese was defended and saued'; Holland's Pliny, bk. x. c. 22.
'There is no noise at all
Of waking dog, nor gaggling goose more waker then the hound.'
Golding, tr. of Ovid's Metam. bk. xi. fol. 139, back.
Unkinde, unnatural; because of its behaviour to the hedge-sparrow; K. Lear, i. 4. 235.
359. Delicasye, wantonness. 'Auis est luxuriosa nimium, bibitque vinum'; Vincent (quoting from Liber de Naturis Rerum), lib. xvi. c. 135, De Psittaco; and again (quoting from Physiologus)—'cum vino inebriatur.' So in Holland's Pliny, bk. x. c. 42—'She loueth wine well, and when shee hath drunk freely, is very pleasant, plaifull, and wanton.'
360. 'The farmers' wives find the drake or mallard the greatest enemy of their young ducks, whole broods of which he will destroy unless removed.'—Bell. Chaucer perhaps follows the Liber de Naturis Rerum, as quoted in Vincent, lib. xvi. c. 27 (De Anate):—'Mares aliquando cum plures fuerint simul, tanta libidinis insania feruntur, vt fœminam solam ... occidant.'
361. From A. Neckam, Liber de Naturis Rerum (ed. Wright, lib. i. c. 64); cited in Vincent, lib. xvi. c. 48. The story is, that a male stork, having discovered that the female was unfaithful to him, went away; and presently returning with a great many other storks, the avengers tore the criminal to pieces. Another very different story may also be cited. 'The stork is the Embleme of a grateful Man. In which respect Ælian writeth of a storke, which bred on the house of one who had a very beautiful wife, which in her husband's absence used to commit adultry with one of her base servants: which the storke observing, in gratitude to him who freely gave him house-roome, flying in the villaines face, strucke out both his eyes.'—Guillim, Display of Heraldry, sect. iii. c. 19.
In Thynne's Animadversions on Speght's Chaucer, ed. Furnivall, p. 68 (Chau. Soc.), we find:—'for Aristotle sayethe, and Bartholomeus de proprietatibus rerum, li. 12. c. 8, with manye other auctors, that yf the storke by any meanes perceve that his female hath brooked spousehedde, he will no moore dwell with her, but strykethe and so cruelly beateth her, that he will not surcease vntill he hathe killed her yf he maye, to wreake and reuenge that adulterye.' Cf. Batman vppon Bartholome, ed. 1582, leaf 181, col. 2; Stanley, Hist, of Birds, 6th ed. p. 322; and story no. 82 in Swan's translation of the Gesta Romanorum. Many other references are given in Oesterley's notes to the Gesta; and see the Exempla of Jacques de Vitry, ed. Crane (Folklore Soc.), 1890, p. 230. Cf. Skelton's Phyllyp Sparowe, 469-477.
362. 'The voracity of the cormorant has become so proverbial, that a greedy and voracious eater is often compared to this bird'; Swainson, Prov. Names of British Birds, p. 143. See Rich. II, ii. 1. 38.
363. Wys; because it could predict; it was therefore consecrated to Apollo; see Lewis and Short, s. v. corvus. Care, anxiety; hence, ill luck. 'In folk-lore the crow always appears as a bird of the worst and most sinister character, representing either death, or night, or winter'; Prov. Names of British Birds, by C. Swainson, p. 84; which see.
Chaucer here mistranslates Vergil precisely as Batman does (l. xii. c. 9).'Nunc plena cornix pluuiam uocat improba uoce'; Georg. i. 388. 'That is to vnderstande, Nowe the Crowe calleth rayne with an eleinge voyce'; Batman vppon Bartholome, as above.
364. Olde. I do not understand this epithet; it is usually the crow who is credited with a long life. Frosty; i. e. that is seen in England in the winter-time; called in Shropshire the snow-bird; Swainson's Prov. Names of Brit. Birds, p. 6. The explanation of the phrase 'farewell feldefare,' occurring in Troil. iii. 861 and in Rom. Rose, 5510, and marked by Tyrwhitt as not understood, is easy enough. It simply means—'good bye, and we are well rid of you'; when the fieldfare goes, the warm weather comes.
371. Formel, perhaps 'regular' or 'suitable' companion; as F. formel answers to Lat. formalis. Tyrwhitt's Gloss. says: 'formel is put for the female of any fowl, more especially for a female eagle (ll. 445, 535 below).' It has, however, no connection with female (as he seems to suppose), but answers rather, in sense, to make, i. e. match, fit companion. Godefroy cites the expression 'faucon formel' from L'Aviculaire des Oiseaux de proie (MS. Lyon 697, fol. 221 a). He explains it by 'qui a d'amples formes,' meaning (as I suppose) simply 'large'; which does not seem to be right; though the tercel or male hawk was so called because he was a third less than the female. Ducange gives formelus, and thinks it means 'well trained.'
379. Vicaire, deputy. This term is taken from Alanus, De Planctu Naturæ, as above, where it occurs at least thrice. Thus, at p. 469 of Wright's edition, Nature says:—'Me igitur tanquam sui [Dei] vicariam'; at p. 511—'Natura, Dei gratia mundanæ civitatis vicaria procuratrix'; and at p. 516, Nature is addressed as—'O supracælestis Principis fidelis vicaria!' M. Sandras supposes that Chaucer took the term from the Rom. de la Rose, but it is more likely that Chaucer and Jean de Meun alike took it from Alanus.
'Cis Diex meismes, par sa grace,...
Tant m'ennora, tant me tint chiere,
Qu'il m'establi sa chamberiere ...
Por chamberiere! certes vaire,
Por connestable, et por vicaire', &c.
Rom. de la Rose, 16970, &c.
Here Nature is supposed to be the speaker. Chaucer again uses vicaire of Nature, Phis. Tale, D 20, which see; and he applies it to the Virgin Mary in his A B C, l. 140. See also Lydgate, Compl. of Black Knight, l. 491.
380. That l. 379 is copied from Alanus is clear from the fact that ll. 380-1 are from the same source. At p. 451 of Wright's edition, we find Nature speaking of the concordant discord of the four elements—'quatuor elementorum concors discordia'—which unites the buildings of the palace of this world—'mundialis regiæ structuras conciliat.' Similarly, she says, the four humours are united in the human body:'quæ qualitates inter elementa mediatrices conveniunt, hæ eædem inter quatuor humores pacis sanciunt firmitatem'; &c.
Compare also Boethius, bk. iii. met. 9. 13, in Chaucer's translation. 'Thou bindest the elements by noumbres proporcionables, that the colde thinges mowen acorden with the hote thinges, and the drye thinges with the moiste thinges; that the fyr, that is purest, ne flee nat over hye, ne that the hevinesse ne drawe nat adoun over-lowe the erthes that ben plounged in the wateres. Thou knittest togider the mene sowle of treble kinde, moeving alle thinges'; &c.
'Et froit, et chaut, et sec, et moiste';
Rom. Rose, 17163.
'For hot, cold, moist, and dry, four champions fierce,
Strive here for mastery.' Milton, P. L. ii. 898.
386. Seynt, &c.; i. e. on St. Valentine's day; as in l. 322.
388. 'Ye come to choose your mates, and (then) to flee (on) your way.'
411. It appears that Chaucer and others frequently crush the two words this is into the time of one word only (something like the modern it's for it is). Hence I scan the line thus:—
This 's oúr | uság' | alwéy, | &c.
So again, in the Knight's Tale, 233 (A 1091):—
We mót | endúr' | it thís 's | the shórt | and pleýn.
And again, in the same, 885 (A 1743):—
And seíd | e thís 's | a shórt | conclú | sioun.
And frequently elsewhere. In the present case, both this and is are unaccented, which is much harsher than when this bears an accent.
I find that Ten Brink has also noted this peculiarity, in his Chaucers Sprache, § 271. He observes that, in C. T. Group E, 56, the Ellesmere and Hengwrt MSS. actually substitute this for this is; see footnote; and hence note that the correct reading is—'But this his tale, which,' &c. See This in Schmidt, Shak. Lexicon. Cf. l. 620.
413. Com, came. The o is long; A.S. cóm, Goth. kwam.
417. 'I choose the formel to be my sovereign lady, not my mate.'
421. 'Beseeching her for mercy,' &c.
435. Read lov'th; monosyllabic, as frequently.
464. 'Ye see what little leisure we have here.'
471. Read possíbl', just as in French.
476. Som; quite indefinite. 'Than another man.'
482. Hir-ës, hers; dissyllabic. Whether = whe'r. Cf. l. 7.
485. 'The dispute is here called a plee, or plea, or pleading; and in the next stanza the terms of law, adopted into the Courts of Love, are still more pointedly applied'; Bell.
499. Hye, loudly. Kek kek represents the goose's cackle; and quek is mod. E. quack.
504. For, on behalf of; see next line.
507. For comune spede, for the common benefit.
508. 'For it is a great charity to set us free.'
510. 'If it be your wish for any one to speak, it would be as good for him to be silent; it were better to be silent than to talk as you do.' That is, the cuckoo only wants to listen to those who will talk nonsense. A mild rebuke. The turtle explains (l. 514) that it is better to be silent than to meddle with things which one does not understand.
518. Lit. 'A duty assumed without direction often gives offence.' A proverb which appears in other forms. In the Canon's Yeoman's Tale, G 1066, it takes the form—'Profred servyse stinketh'; see note on the line. Uncommitted is not delegated, not entrusted to one. Cotgrave has: 'Commis, assigned, appointed, delegated.'
524. I Iuge, I decide. Folk, kind of birds; see note to l. 323.
545. Oure, ours; it is the business of us who are the chosen spokesmen. The Iuge is Nature.
556. Goler in the Fairfax MS. is doubtless merely miswritten for golee, as in Ff.; Caxton turns it into golye, to keep it dissyllabic; the reading gole (in O. and Gg.) also = golee. Godefroy has: 'Golee, goulee, goullee, gulee, geulee, s. f. cri, parole'; and gives several examples. Cotgrave has: 'Goulée, f. a throatfull, or mouthful of, &c.' One of Godefroy's examples gives the phrase—'Et si dirai ge ma goulee,' and so I shall say my say. Chaucer uses the word sarcastically: his large golee = his tedious gabble. Allied to E. gullett, gully.
564. Which a reson, what sort of a reason.
568. Cf. Cant. Tales, 5851, 5852 (D 269, 270). Lydgate copies this line in his Hors, Shepe, and Goos, l. 155.
572. 'To have held thy peace, than (to have) shewed.'
574. A common proverb. In the Rom. de la Rose, l. 4750 (E. version, l. 5265), it appears as: 'Nus fox ne scet sa langue taire,' i. e. No fool knows how to hold his tongue. In the Proverbs of Hendyng, it is: 'Sottes bolt is sone shote,' l. 85. In later English, 'A fool's bolt is soon shot'; cf. Henry V, iii. 7. 132, and As You Like It, v. 4. 67. Kemble quotes from MS. Harl. fol. 4—'Ut dicunt multi, cito transit lancea stulti.'
578. The sothe sadde, the sober truth.
595. Another proverb. We now say—'There's as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it'; or, 'as ever was caught.'
599. See Chaucer's tr. of Boethius, bk. iv. pr. 4. l. 132.
603. 'Pushed himself forward in the crowd.'
610. Said sarcastically—'Yes! when the glutton has filled his paunch sufficiently, the rest of us are sure to be satisfied!'
Compare the following. 'Certain persones ... saiyng that Demades had now given over to bee sache an haine [niggardly wretch] as he had been in tymes past—"Yea, marie, quoth Demosthenes, for now ye see him full paunched, as lyons are." For Demades was covetous and gredie of money, and indeed the lyons are more gentle when their bealyes are well filled.'—Udall, tr. of Apothegmes of Erasmus;Anecdotes of Demosthenes. The merlin then addresses the cuckoo directly.
612. Heysugge, hedge-sparrow; see note to l. 358.
613. Read rewtheles (reufulles in Gg); cf. Cant. Ta., B 863; and see p. 361, l. 31. Rewtheles became reufulles, and then rewful.
614. 'Live thou unmated, thou destruction (destroyer) of worms.'
615. 'For it is no matter as to the lack of thy kind,' i. e. it would not matter, even if the result was the loss of your entire race.
616. 'Go! and remain ignorant for ever.'
620, 1. Cf. note to l. 411. Read th'eleccioun; i. e. the choice.
623. Cheest, chooseth; spelt chyest, Ayenbite of Inwyt, p. 126; spelt chest (with long e) in Shoreham's Poems, ed. Wright, p. 109, where it rimes with lest = leseth, i. e. loseth; A. S. císt, Deut. xxviii. 9.
626. Accent favour on the second syllable; as in C. T., Group B, 3881 (Monkes Tale). So (perhaps) colóur-ed in l. 443.
630. 'I have no other (i. e. no wrongful) regard to any rank,' I am no respecter of persons.
633. 'I would counsel you to take'; two infinitives.
640. 'Under your rod,' subject to your correction. So in the Schipmannes Tale, C. T. 13027 (B 1287).
641. The first accent is on As.
653. Manér-e is trisyllabic; and of is understood after it.
657. For tarying, to prevent tarrying; see note to C. T. Group B, 2052.
664, 5. 'Whatever may happen afterwards, this intervening course is ready prepared for all of you.'
670. They embraced each other with their wings and by intertwining their necks.
675. Gower, Conf. Amant, bk. i. (ed. Pauli, i. 134) speaks of 'Roundel, balade, and virelay.' Johnson, following the Dict. de Trevoux, gives a fair definition of the roundel; but I prefer to translate that given by Littré, s. v. rondeau. '1. A short poem, also called triolet, in which the first line or lines recur in the middle and at the end of the piece. Such poems, by Froissart and Charles d'Orleans, are still extant. 2. Another short poem peculiar to French poetry, composed of thirteen lines broken by a pause after the fifth and eighth lines, eight having one rime and five another. The first word or words are repeated after the eighth line and after the last, without forming part of the verse; it will readily be seen that this rondeau is a modification of the foregoing; instead of repeating the whole line, only the first words are repeated, often with a different sense.' The word is here used in the former sense; and the remark in Morley's Eng. Writers (v. 271), that the Roundel consists of thirteen lines, eight having one rime, and five another, is not to the point here, as it relates to the later French rondeau only. An examination of Old French roundels shews us that Littré's definition of the triolet is quite correct, and is purposely left somewhat indefinite; but we can apply a somewhat more exactdescription to the form of the roundel as used by Machault, Deschamps, and Chaucer.
The form adopted by these authors is the following. First come three lines, rimed abb; next two more, rimed ab, and then the first refrain; then three more lines, rimed abb, followed by the second refrain. Now the first refrain consists of either one, or two, or three lines, being the first line of the poem, or the first two, or the first three; and the second refrain likewise consists of either one, or two, or three lines, being the same lines as before, but not necessarily the same number of them. Thus the whole poem consists of eight unlike lines, three on one rime, and five on another, with refrains of from two to six lines. Sometimes one of the refrains is actually omitted, but this may be the scribe's fault. However, the least possible number of lines is thus reduced to nine; and the greatest number is fourteen. For example, Deschamps (ed. Tarbé) has roundels of nine lines—second refrain omitted—(p. 125); of ten lines (p. 36); of eleven lines (p. 38); of twelve lines (p. 3); and of fourteen lines (pp. 39, 43). But the prettiest example is that by Machault (ed. Tarbé, p. 52), which has thirteen lines, the first refrain being of two, and the second of three lines. And, as thirteen lines came to be considered as the normal length, I here follow this as a model, both here and in 'Merciless Beaute'; merely warning the reader that he may make either of his refrains of a different length, if he pleases.
There is a slight art in writing a roundel, viz. in distributing the pauses. There must be a full stop at the end of the third and fifth lines; but the skilful poet takes care that complete sense can be made by the first line taken alone, and also by the first two lines taken alone. Chaucer has done this.
Todd, in his Illustrations of Chaucer, p. 372, gives a capital example of a roundel by Occleve; this is of full length, both refrains being of three lines, so that the whole poem is of fourteen lines. This is quite sufficient to shew that the definition of a roundel in Johnson's Dictionary (which is copied from the Dict. de Trevoux, and relates to the latter rondeau of thirteen lines) is quite useless as applied to roundels written in Middle English.
677. The note, i. e. the tune. Chaucer adapts his words to a known French tune. The words Qui bien aime, a tard oublie (he who loves well is slow to forget) probably refer to this tune; though it is not quite clear to me how lines of five accents (normally) go to a tune beginning with a line of four accents. In Furnivall's Trial Forewords, p. 55, we find:—'Of the rondeau of which the first line is cited in the Fairfax MS., &c., M. Sandras found the music and the words in a MS. of Machault in the National Library, no. 7612, leaf 187. The verses form the opening lines of one of two pieces entitled Le Lay de plour:—
'Qui bieu aime, a tart oublie,
Et cuers, qui oublie a tart,
Ressemble le feu qui art,' &c.
M. Sandras also says (Étude, p. 72) that Eustache Deschamps composed, on this burden slightly modified, a pretty ballad, inedited till M. Sandras printed it at p. 287 of his Étude; and that, a long time before Machault, Moniot de Paris began, by this same line, a hymn to the Virgin that one can read in the Arsenal Library at Paris, in the copy of a Vatican MS., B. L. no. 63, fol. 283:—
'Ki bien aime a tart oublie;
Mais ne le puis oublier
La douce vierge Marie.'
In MS. Gg. 4. 27 (Cambridge), there is a poem in 15 8-line stanzas. The latter half of st. 14 ends with:—'Qui bien ayme, tard oublye.'
In fact, the phrase seems to have been a common proverb; see Le Roux de Lincy, ii. 383, 496. It occurs again in Tristan, ed. Michel, ii. 123, l. 700; in Gower, Balade 25 (ed. Stengel, p. 10); in MS. Digby 53, fol. 15, back; MS. Corp. Chr. Camb. 450, p. 258, &c.
683. See note above, to l. 309.
693. This last stanza is imitated at the end of the Court of Love, and of Dunbar's Thrissill and Rois.
- In old French, a tard means 'slowly, late'; later French drops a, and uses tard only.