Chaucer's Works (ed. Skeat) Vol. I/Notes XI
[ Text of the Poem ]
XI. Merciless Beauty.
The title 'Mercilesse Beaute' is given in the Index to the Pepys MS. As it is a fitting title, and no other has been suggested, it is best to use it.
I think this Roundel was suggested by one written in French, in the thirteenth century, by Willamme d'Amiens, and printed in Bartsch, Chrestomathie de l'ancien Français. It begins—
'Jamais ne serai saous
D'esguarder les vairs ieus dous
Qui m'ont ocis';—
i. e. I shall never be sated with gazing on the gray soft eyes which have slain me.
1. The MS. has Yowre two yen; but the scribe lets us see that this ill-sounding arrangement of the words is not the author's own; for in writing the refrain he writes 'Your yen, &c.' But we have further evidence: for the whole line is quoted in Lydgate's Ballade of our Ladie, printed in Chaucer's Works, ed. 1550, fol. 347 b, in the form—'Your eyen two wol slee me sodainly.' The same Ballad contains other imitations of Chaucer's language. Cf. also Kn. Tale, 260 and 709 (A 1118, 1567).
3. So woundeth hit ... kene, so keenly it (your beauty) wounds (me). The MS. has wondeth, which is another M. E. spelling of woundeth. Percy miscopied it wendeth, which gives but poor sense; besides, Chaucer would probably have used the contracted form went as his manner is. In l. 5, the scribe writes wound (better wounde).
4. And but, and unless. For word Percy printed words, quite forgetting that the M.E. plural is dissyllabic (word-es). The final d has a sort of curl to it, but a comparison with other words shews that it means nothing; it occurs, for instance, at the end of wound (l. 5), and escaped (l. 27).
Wounde (MS. wound) is dissyllabic in Mid. English, like mod. G. Wunde. See wunde in Stratmann.
6. I give two lines to the first refrain, and three to the second. The reader may give three lines to both, if he pleases; see note to sect. V, l. 675. We cannot confine the first refrain to one line only, as there is no stop at the end of l. 14.
8. Trouth-e is dissyllabic; see treouthe in Stratmann.
15. Ne availeth; with elided e. MS. nauailleth; Percy prints n'availeth.
16. Halt, i. e. holdeth; see Book of Duch. 621.
17. MS. han ye me, correctly; Percy omits me, and so spoils both sense and metre.
27. Lovers should be lean; see Romaunt of the Rose (E. version), 2684. The F. version has (l. 2561):—
'Car bien saches qu'Amors ne lesse
Sor fins amans color ne gresse.'
28. MS neuere; Percy prints nere; but the syllables in his occupy the time of one syllable. I suspect that the correct reading is thenke ben; to is not wanted, and thenke is better with a final e, though it is sometimes dropped in the pres. indicative. Percy prints thinke, but the MS. has thenk; cf. AS. þencan. With l. 29 cf. Troil. v. 363.
31. I do no fors, I don't care; as in Cant. Ta. 6816 (D 1234).