Chaucer's Works (ed. Skeat) Vol. I/Notes XV
[ Text of the Poem ]
XV. Lak of Stedfastnesse.
In MS. Harl. 7333 is the following note, probably correct:—'This balade made Geffrey Chauuciers the Laureall Poete of Albion, and sent it to his souerain lorde kynge Rycharde the secounde, thane being in his Castell of Windesore.' In MS. T. is the heading:—'Balade Royal made by oure laureal poete of Albyon in hees laste yeeres'; and above l. 22 is:—'Lenvoye to Kyng Richard.' In MS. F. it is simply headed 'Balade.' For another allusion to King Richard at Windsor, see note to Lenvoy to Scogan, l. 43.
The general idea is taken from Boethius, bk. ii. met. 8, which Chaucer thus translates:—'That the world with stable feith varieth acordable chaunginges, that the contrarious qualitee of elements holden among hem-self aliaunce perdurable, ... al this acordaunce of thinges is bounden with love, that governeth erthe and see, and hath also commaundements to the hevenes. And yif this love slakede the brydeles, alle thinges that now loven hem to-gederes wolden maken a bataile continuely, and stryven to fordoon the fasoun of this worlde, the whiche they now leden in acordable feith by faire moevinges.... O weleful were mankinde, yif thilke love that governeth hevene governed youre corages!'
4. Word and deed; or read Word and werk, as in Harl. 7333 and T.
5. Lyk, alike; or read oon, one, as in Harl. and T. Up so doun is the old phrase, and common. Modern English has 'improved' it into upside down, where side has to mean 'top.'
10. Unable, not able, wanting in ability or strength.
21. Here the Bannatyne MS. inserts a spurious fourth stanza. It runs thus:—
'Falsheid, that sowld bene abhominable,
Now is regeing, but reformatioun,
Quha now gifis lergly ar maist dissavable,
For vycis are the grund of sustentatioun;
All wit is turnit to cavillatioun,
Lawtie expellit, and al gentilnes,
That all is loist for laik of steidfastnes.'
This is very poor stuff.
24, 25. Suffre ... don, suffer (to be) done; correct as being an old idiom. See my note to the Clerkes Tale, E 1098.
28. For wed, two MSS. have drive; a reading which one is glad to reject. It would be difficult to think of a more unfitting word.