Open main menu

Chaucer's Works (ed. Skeat) Vol. III/Legend of Good Women Notes

[ 288 ]



*** N.B. The references are to the B-text, except where special mention of the A-text is made. The latter is denoted by the letter 'A', preceded by a short line.

2. Compare Chaucer's Troilus, book ii. ll. 894-6.

5. Nis noon = ne is noon, is not none, i.e. is no one. This use of the double negative, as in modern provincial English, is extremely common, and need not be again remarked upon. Cf. ll. 7, 15, &c.

9. 'For there may no man prove it by actual trial.'

10. Leve, believe. Notice the numerous senses of leve, viz. (1) believe; (2) leave, v.; (3) grant; (4) dear; (5) leave, sb.; (6) leaf (dat. case).

11. Wel more thing, many more things. The word thing was originally neuter, and long remained unchanged in the plural. In l. 23, we have thinges. The M.E. more usually means 'greater'; it is seldom used (as here) in the modern sense.

12. Men shal nat, people ought not to. The use of men in the general sense of 'people' is extremely common in Chaucer, and the student should notice that it usually takes a singular verb, when thus used. With ll. 12, 13 cf. Hamlet, i. 5. 166.

13. But-if, unless, except. Great attention should be paid to the exact sense of these apparently less important words. Frequently the whole sense of a sentence is missed, even by editors, owing to inattention to their use.

14. 'For, God knoweth, a thing is none the less true, although no one can see it.'

[ 289 ]16. In the margins of MSS. C. and F. is written the Latin proverb here referred to, viz. 'Bernardus monachus non uidit omnia'; i.e. Bernard the monk (even) did not see everything. The reference is to the great learning and experience of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (born A.D. 1091, died Aug. 20, 1153). This we know from an entry in J. J. Hofmann's Lexicon Universale (Basileæ, 1677), s.v. Bernardus, where we find: 'Nullos habuit præceptores præter quercus et fagos. Hinc proverb: Neque enim Bernardus vidit omnia.' See an account of St. Bernard in Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints, or in Chambers' Book of Days, under the date of Aug. 20.

18. Minde, remembrance; see l. 26. Cf. 'to bear in mind.'

25. Cf. Le Rom. de la Rose, ed. Méon, 9669-72:—

'Car par l'escript que nous avons,
Les fais des anciens savons;
Si les en devons mercier,
Et loer et regracier.'

26. Rémembráunce; accented on the first and last syllables. The melody of innumerable lines in Chaucer is only apparent to those who perceive the difference between the present and the old accentuation, especially in the case of French words. Besides, such accent is frequently variable; Chaucer has hónour, rénoun, &c. at one time, and honóur, renóun, &c. at another. Thus in l. 27 we have honóuren; and in l. 31 credénce.

27. Wel oghte us, it is very necessary for us, it well behoves us. Us is here the dative case, and oghte is the impersonal verb; in accordance with Chaucer's usual method. But, in this case, there is a grammatical difficulty; for the past tense oghte is here used with the sense of the present; the right form would be expressed, in modern English, by oweth, and in M.E. by ah (also awe, oȝe). Such use of the right form of the present tense is exceedingly rare; and (possibly owing to a sense of uncertainty about its true form) the form of the past tense was used both for past and present, whether personal or impersonal, precisely as we now use must in place both of M.E. mot (present) and moste (past). Mätzner only gives three examples of the present tense of this verb, when used impersonally; viz. 'Hym awe to rise,' it behoves him to rise, Metrical Homilies, p. 77; 'Vus oȝe,' it behoves us, Allit. Poems, ed. Morris, i. 552; 'Him owith to mynystre,' Reliquiæ Antiquæ, ii. 48.

The only right way of thoroughly understanding Chaucer's grammar is by comparing one passage with another, observing how particular expressions occur. This is best done by the proper process of reading the text; but even the usual glossarial indexes will often furnish ready examples. Thus the glossary to the Prioresses Tale gives the following examples:—

'And ther she was honoured as hir oughte'; E 1120.

[ 290 ]

—'wel more us oughte
Receyven al in gree that god us sent'; E 1150.

The glossary to the Man of Law's Tale gives:—

'Alla goth to his in, and, as him oughte,' &c.; B 1097.

'But that they weren as hem oughte be'; G 1340.

'Wel oughten we to doon al our entente'; G 6.

'Wel oughte us werche, and ydelnes withstonde'; G 14.

As to the spelling of the word, it may be remarked that oghte is the more correct form, because ō answers to A.S. ā, and gh to A.S. h in the A.S. form āhte. But a confusion between the symbols ogh, ugh, and ough soon arose, and all three were merged in the form ough; hence neither ogh nor ugh occurs in modern English. See Skeat, Eng. Etymology, § 333, p. 361.

The full explanation of this and similar phrases would extend these notes to an inordinate length. Only brief hints can here be given.

28. Ther, where. The sense 'where' is commoner than the sense 'there.'

29. Can but lyte, know but little. Cf. Prior. Tale, B 1726, 1898.

30. For to rede, to read. The use of for to with the gerundial infinitive is found in Layamon and the Ormulum, and may have been suggested by the like use of the French pour, O. Fr. por (and even por a). See Mätzner, Engl. Grammatik, ii. 2. 54. Compare Parl. Foules, 16, 695; Ho. Fame, 657.

36. This connection of 'the month of May' with song and poetry is common in Mid. Eng. poetry, from the natural association of spring with a time of joy and hope. We even find something of the kind in A.S. poetry. See The Phœnix, l. 250; Menologium, l. 75.

The earliest song in Middle English relates to the cuckoo; and, before Chaucer, we already find, in the Romance of Alexander, l. 2049, such lines as—

'In tyme of May hot is in boure;
Divers, in medewe, spryngith floure;
The ladies, knyghtis honourith;
Treowe love in heorte durith'; &c.

See also the poem on Alisoun, in Morris and Skeat, Spec. of Eng., part ii. p. 43. Again, we have a like mention of the May-season and of the singing of birds in the introduction to the Roman de la Rose; see vol. i. p. 96.

Nevertheless, the whole of the present passage is highly characteristic of the author, and extremely interesting. Cf. ll. 108, 176.

40. Condicioun, temperament, character, disposition. Prof. Corson here refers us to Shakespeare, Merch. Ven. i. 2. 143; Cor. v. 4. 10; Oth. iv. 1. 204; Jul. Cæs. ii. 1. 254, &c.

41. On the scansion, see note to l. 67.

[ 291 ]43. Daysyes, daisies; here dissyllabic. But in l. 182 we have the full form day-es-y-e, of four syllables, answering to the A.S. dæges éage (or ége), lit. day's eye, or eye of day, as Chaucer himself says in l. 184. And it is worth adding that his etymology is perfectly correct; for, in the few instances in which etymologies are suggested in Middle English, they are usually ludicrously wrong. In l. 184, the word is only trisyllabic (day-es-y'), the last syllable suffering elision. The A.S. dægesége occurs in a list of plants in A.S. Leechdoms, ed. Cockayne, iii. 292, l. 8; and we also find in Wright's A.S. Vocabularies, ed. Wülker, col. 135, l. 22, and col. 322, l. 11, the following entries:—'Consolda, dægesege,' and 'Consolda, dægeseage.'

The primary meaning of dæges éage is doubtless the sun; the daisy is named from its supposed likeness to the sun, the white petals being the rays, and the yellow centre the sun's sphere.

Compare Lydgate's Troy-book, ed. 1555, fol. K 6, back:—

'And next, Appollo, so clere, shene, and bright,
The dayes eye, and voyder of the nyght.'

46. 'That, when in my bed, no day dawns upon me on which I am not (at once) up, and (am soon) walking in the meadow.' Nam = ne am, am not.

49. By the morwe, with the (dawn of the) morning.

50. Sight-e is dissyllabic, as the scansion shews. In l. 15, wight is monosyllabic. It is often difficult to ascertain Chaucer's usage of such forms, and we have to observe, where we can, any instances that are helpful. The Rime-Indexes to the Canterbury Tales and to the Minor Poems are often of great service. We learn from them that wight rimes with the monosyllables bright, knight, might, night, right, &c., whereas sighte rimes with the infin. moods light-e, fight-e, &c., as well as with monosyllables, and is therefore used somewhat capriciously. Another helpful list is that given in Ellis's Early Eng. Pronunciation, ch. iv. § 5, founded upon Prof. Child's articles on Chaucer and Gower. This at once refers us to C. T. 2118 (It were a lusty sight-e for to see); 2335 (But sodeinly she saugh a sight-e queynte); &c.

We should also consider the etymology. Now wight = A.S. wiht, is monosyllabic, and gives no difficulty. On the other hand, the A.S. for 'sight' is gesiht or gesihþ; but it is a fem. sb., and makes all its oblique cases with a final -e, viz. gesiht-e or gesihþ-e. In such instances, the nominative case often lost its distinctive form, and took the form of the other cases, so that already in the Ormulum (l. 12670) we find the nom. case sihhþ-e, dissyllabic. Such usages have received careful attention in the present edition, and in almost every case the addition of a final e in an unexpected place can be amply justified by instances of Chaucer's usage in other passages. If the student will endeavour to verify some of the examples here given, he will soon come to a clearer knowledge of the matter.

[ 292 ]52. Hit, it, i.e. the daisy. But in l. 53 it is referred to as she. We shall see why this is hereafter. As a mere flower, it is neuter; but as being the type of Alcestis, it is feminine. Cf. ll. 62, 63.

53. We have come to the first instance in which Chaucer transposed the order of his material in the course of revision. Line 53 of the B-text corresponds to A. 55, whilst B. 61 corresponds to A. 51. All such instances are clearly shewn by printing the transposed passages twice over, once in their right place, and again in their changed place in a smaller type. By this arrangement all such transpositions can be understood at a glance.

The blank space which here appears in the A-text corresponds to ll. 50-52 in B, which are marked with an asterisk as being peculiar to the latter text. In order to save space, a small blank space (of one or two lines only) often corresponds to an insertion in the other text of some length.

56. 'And I love it, and ever (do so) equally anew,' i.e. unalterably.

57. The word herte is so common that it is worth while to remember that it is usually dissyllabic; the A.S. form being heorte.

58. Al, although (very common). Of this, in this matter.

61. Weste, is here a verb; 'to turn to the west.' See l. 197.

65. Probably to be scanned thus: Óf | the sónn' | for thér | hit wól | unclós-e. See note to l. 67, and cf. l. 111.

66. Ne had, pronounced as nad; and often so written.

67. The first syllable of a line is often wanting in Chaucer; so that the first foot consists of a single emphatic syllable. Such lines are now considered faulty, though examples may be found in Tennyson's 'Vision of Sin,' which cannot be called unmelodious; but they were once common, especially in Lydgate. Some examples from the present poem are the following:—

That | of alle the floures in the mede; 41.

Suf | fisant this flour to preyse aright; 67.

Of | this flour, whan that hit shulde unclose; 111.

Made | hir lyk a daysie for to sene; 224.

So also ll. 245, 303, 722, 783, 797, 859, 863, 901, 911, 1024, 1030, 1076, 1187, 1275, 1324, 1342, 1498, 1551, 1828, 1996, 2471, 2575.

68. Conning, knowledge. Many words now used with a changed signification are well explained in Trench's Select Glossary, which should be consulted for them. Thus, in the article upon cunning, Trench quotes the following from the examination of Wm. Thorpe, as preserved in Foxe's Book of Martyrs:—'I believe that all these three Persons [in the Godhead] are even in power and in cunning and in might'.

69. Make, compose poetry; of sentement, concerning your feelings. So in l. 74, making is 'poetry.' See Trench, s.v. make; where it is shewn that the use of the word arose quite independently of the Gk. use of ποιεῖν and ποιητής. 'One of the earliest instances of the use of [ 293 ]makyere in the sense of "author" occurs in the Kentish Ayenbite of Inwyt, ed. Morris, p. 269; written A.D. 1340. The A.S. scóp and O.H.G. scóf mean "a shaper." The G. Dichter means an "arranger"; the Fr. trouvère, Provençal troubadour, and Ital. trovatore means a "finder."'—Skeat, note to P. Plowman, B. xii. 16 (where makynges means 'poems').

72. Cf. l. 193. There appears to be here some reference to a poem of the kind called in F. tenson (O.F. tençon) or in O. Provençal tenso, i.e. 'dispute,' in which the relative merits of two subjects are discussed. An early example in English is the poem called The Owl and the Nightingale, in which these birds contend for the superiority. In the present case, the suggestion is to discuss the value of the Leaf, representing no doubt constancy or any enduring virtue, as compared with that of the Flower, the representative of perishable beauty and the freshness of first love. Chaucer probably refers to some such poem in French, but I cannot point out the exact source.

On the other hand, the present passage doubtless suggested the poem called 'The Flower and the Leaf,' a pretty but somewhat tedious poem of the fifteenth century, in which Chaucer's style is imitated with no remarkable exactness or success. This poem was formerly rashly attributed to Chaucer himself without any evidence, though it was printed for the first time as late as 1598. See it discussed in vol. i. p. 44. Gower also refers to the present passage; C. A. iii. 358.

In scanning this line, remember to pronounce Whether as Whe'r, a monosyllable. This is common also in Shakespeare, as in his 59th Sonnet: 'Whe'r we are mended, or whe'r better they.'

74. Making, poetry; ropen, reaped. 'For I well know, that ye (poets) have long ere this reaped the field of poetry, and carried away the corn from it; and I come after you as a gleaner.' See note to l. 69. Compare Parl. Foules, 22-25.

The A.S. rípan, to reap, was a strong verb; pt. t. ráp, pp. ripen. The M.E. forms are various and corrupt, and not very common. In P. Plowman, B. xiii. 374, the pt. t. is rope, pl. ropen. The proper form of the pp. is rĭpen; the form ropen is due to that confusion between the past tense and past participle which is so extremely common in English. See Morris, Hist. Outlines of Eng. Accidence, p. 160.

80. Evel apayd, ill pleased, displeased; a common phrase. See Cler. Tale, E 1052; Can. Yem. Tale, G 921, 1049. Apayd, pleased, occurs in the Kn. Tale, 1010 (A 1868).

85. Wynt, windeth, turns (me) about, directs (me). These contracted forms of the third person singular of the present indicative are almost universal in Anglo-Saxon, and very common in M.E. Chaucer has fynt = findeth, rit = rideth, hit = hideth, et = eateth, l. 1389, &c. A much earlier example of wint for windeth is in the Ancren Riwle, p. 296.

86. In-with, within. This curious form is not very common in Chaucer. Still it occurs in l. 228 below; in the Prior. Tale, B 1794; [ 294 ]Cler. Tale, E 870; March. Tale, E 1944; Troilus, ii. 508, iii. 1499, &c. See Mätzner.

88. Nothing I, I am not at all (the master of it).

90. This is a fine simile. His lady sovereign can evoke from him any tone at will. And maketh = and (the hand) makes. Bell puts That for And, without authority.

93. Yow list, it pleases you. List = listeth; cf. note to l. 85.

97. 'But why said I that we should give credence?' See ll. 10, 20.

In the A-text (l. 81) But wherfor is used differently, and means—'But the reason why,' &c.

100. Seen at eye, see evidently. So in the Can. Yem. Tale, G 1059. Cf. fair at yë, fair to the sight, id. G 964; Cler. Tale, E 1168. The promise made in l. 101 was not fulfilled.

103. Besy gost, active spirit. Thrusteth, thirsteth.

105. Gledy, glowing; an adj. formed from gleed, a glowing coal. I know of no other example of this word. The compound adj. gled-read, glede-red, i.e. red as a glowing coal, occurs in O. Eng. Homilies, ed. Morris, i. 249.

108. The first of May was a favourite time for joyful observances. See note to Kn. Tale, A 1500.

109. Dredful, timid, timorous; as in Kn. Tale, A 1479.

112. Agayn, against, towards, turned towards; as in l. 48.

113. The beste, i.e. the Bull, the sign Taurus. Agenores doghter is Europa, daughter of Agenor of Phœnicia, who, according to the fable, was carried off by Jupiter in the form of a bull. Hence Ovid uses the expression 'Agenoreus bos,' Fast. vi. 712; and calls Europa 'Agenore nata,' Met. ii. 858. For the story, see the latter reference.

Chaucer here tells us that the Sun, on the 1st of May, was 'in the breast' of Taurus, i.e. in the middle of it. It was, in fact, far advanced in the sign, near the 20th degree. See Fig. 1 in this volume, which shews the back of the Astrolabe.

118. Cf. Book of the Duchesse, 399.

125. Cf. Book of the Duchesse, ll. 410-2, which is a parallel passage. Both passages are borrowed from the Roman de la Rose, 55-58; see vol. i. p. 95.

126. Mat, dead; a term borrowed from the game of chess. See Anelida, 176; Book Duch., 660; and Kn. Tale, A 955.

128. Atempre, temperate, mild. See Book of the Duch., 341, and the note. This again is from the Rom. de la Rose, 125. Releved, raised up again, revived. Cotgrave gives: 'Relevé, raised, lift, or set up again; relieved, revived, fully restored.'

130. 'In the classical and middle ages small birds were a common article of food, as they are on the continent at the present time; and the season for catching them with a panter, or bag-net, was winter, when the scarcity of food made them tame. The poet here represents their songs in the spring, as the expression of their exultation [ 295 ]at having baffled the stratagems, quaintly called sophistries, by which the fowler had endeavoured to lure them to their destruction.'—Bell.

The word panter is curiously preserved in the mod. E. painter, a rope for mooring a boat. I quote the following from my Etym. Dict.: '"Painter, a rope employed to fasten a boat"; Hawkesworth's Voyages, 1773, vol. i. p. xxix. Corrupted (by assimilation to the ordinary sb. painter) from M.E. panter, a noose, esp. for catching birds. See Chaucer, Leg. of Good Women, 131; Prompt. Parv., p. 381; spelt paunter, Polit. Songs, ed. Wright, p. 344.—O.F. pantiere, a kind of snare for birds, Roquefort; panthiere, "a great swoop-net"; Cotgrave. Cf. Ital. pantiera, "a kind of tramell or fowling net"; Florio; panthera, "a net or haie to catch conies with, also a kind of fowling-net"; id.—Lat. panther, a hunting-net for catching wild beasts. Cf. panthera, an entire capture.—Gk. πανθηρός, catching all; cf. πανθήρα, the whole booty (a very late word).—Gk. πᾶν, neut. of πᾶς, every; and θήρ, a wild beast.

'The Irish painteir, Gael. painntear, a gin, snare, are forms of the same word [but were borrowed from English or French]. It is remarkable that, in America, a panther is also called a painter. See Cooper, The Pioneers, cap. xxviii.'

132. Upon, against, in scorn of; cf. in his despyt, l. 134. A-whaped, scared.

—A. 127. The A-text is hereabouts very imperfect, and some lines are too short. I supply words within square brackets, in order to fill out the lines, and to make sense.

145. See Parl. of Foules, 309, 683, and the note to the former passage in vol. i. p. 516. Birds were supposed to choose their mates on St. Valentine's day (Feb. 14).

146. Chees, chose: the past tense; A.S. céas.

154. Tydif, the name of some small bird, guessed by Skinner to be the titmouse; more probably the tydy mentioned by Drayton, which is supposed to mean a wren. See Tydy in Nares. Cf. Squi. Tale, F 648; id. 610, 611.

158. 'Provided that their mates would pity them.'

160. Daunger usually means 'power to harm.' These allegorical personages were suggested by the Roman de la Rose. In the English version (l. 3018) Daunger is the name of the 'foul churl,' who is set beside the Rose, to prevent strangers from plucking it. In Chaucer's Complaint unto Pite, he introduces such personages as Crueltee (corresponding to Daunger), Pite, Bountee, Gentilesse, and Curtesye. So here, we are told that although Daunger (i.e. power to harm or to repel) seemed for a time to have the upper hand, yet at the last Pity induced relenting, and caused Mercy to surpass (or prevail over) Right (or Justice). Just as Pity is opposed to Danger or Cruelty, so we find, in the old theological allegories, that Mercy is opposed to Justice. The pleading of Mercy against Justice will be found at length in Grosteste's [ 296 ]Chastel d'Amour, in the Cursor Mundi, p. 550, and in the Gesta Romanorum, Tale 55. See my note to P. Plowman, C. xxi. 120.

163. 'By means of innocence and well-mannered courtesy.'

164. 'But I do not call folly, or false pity, by the name of innocence'; i.e. the poet does not approve of immodesty or weakness, because in all things the chief virtue is moderation, or the 'golden mean.' Beauty should be neither too yielding nor too pitiless.

166. Etik, Lat. Ethica; alluding to the Ethics of Aristotle, in which happiness and virtue are discussed, and the nature of virtue is said to shew itself in its appearing as the medium or mean between two extremes. Similarly, Gower in his Conf. Amantis (ed. Pauli, iii. 153) refers us to Aristotle's advice to Alexander, to keep the mean between avarice and prodigality. See also Gower's remarks on ethique; id. iii. 140. Cf. Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, ii. 387.

170. So in the Parl. of Foules, 680, the birds are described as joining in the roundel—'Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe.'

171. Here again is a reminiscence of the Roman de la Rose, ll. 8449-51:—

'Zephirus et Flora, sa fame,
Qui des flors est deesse et dame,
Cil dui font les floretes nestre,' &c.

i.e. Zephirus and his wife Flora, who is the goddess and lady of flowers, these two make the little flowers grow. See Book of the Duchesse, 402; and the note upon it.

184. 'The daisy, or, otherwise, the eye of day'; see note to l. 43.

186. 'I pray that she may fall fairly,' that she may light upon good fortune. All the MSS. have she; otherwise we might read her, as such is the more usual idiom, in which case it would mean—'that it may befall her fairly.' We have a similar case in the Manciple's Prologue, H 40, where six MSS. have the usual idiom 'foule mot thee falle,' whilst the Ellesmere MS. alone has 'foule mot thou falle.' For a similar variation, cf. l. 277 below with A. 180, i.e. with the corresponding line in the earlier text.

191. 'For, as regards me, neither of them is dearer or more hateful than the other; I am not yet retained on the side of either of them.' The sense with-holden is detained, kept back, hence reserved to one side, committed to a particular view.

195. Thing = werk (A. 79), i.e. poem. Of another tonne, out of quite a different cask. Cf. 'Nay, thou shalt drinken of another tonne Er that I go'; C. T., D 170. Cf. Rom. Rose (French Text), 6838.

196. Swich thing, such a thing as the strife between the Leaf and the Flower. The A-text (l. 80) helps us here, as it reads 'swich stryf.'

203. Herber, an arbour. This difficult word is fully explained in the New E. Dict., s.v. arbour. It is there shewn that the original sense of the M.E. herber or erber was 'a plot of ground covered with grass or turf; a garden-lawn or green.' In the Medulla Grammatices, ab. [ 297 ]1460, we find:—'Viretum, locus pascualis virens, a gres-yerd, or an herber.' Subsequently it meant a herb-garden or flower-garden; a fruit-garden or orchard; trees or shrubs trained on frame-work; and then a bower, or 'shady retreat, of which the sides and roof are formed by trees and shrubs closely planted or intertwined, or of lattice-work covered with climbing shrubs and plants, as ivy, vine, &c.' Dr. Murray remarks that 'the original characteristic of the arbour seems to have been the floor and benches of herbage [as here]; in the modern idea the leafy covering is the prominent feature.'

The present passage was imitated and amplified by the authoress of The Flower and the Leaf, beginning at l. 49:—

'a pleasaunt herber well ywrought,
That benched was, and with turfes new,
Freshly turved, wherof the grene gras,
So small, so thicke, so short, so fresh of hew,
That most like unto green woll wot I it was;
The hegge also, that yede in compas
And closed in all the grene herbere,
With sicamour was set and eglatere'; &c.

So too, in the Assembly of Ladies, st. 7:—

'Which broght me to an herber fair and grene
Made with benches ful crafty and clene.'

208. Hed, hidden. This rare form occurs again in Will. of Palerne, 688. The usual M.E. forms are hud and hid. Similarly Chaucer uses ken for 'kin' in Book Duch. 438, the usual M.E. forms being kun and kin; and we find ken also in Will. of Palerne, 722. These forms are Southern, and mostly Kentish.

213. The god of love, Cupid; cf. Parl. Foules, 212. Cf. the description in the E. version of the Rom. of the Rose, ll. 890, 1003.

In his hande, i.e. leading by the hand; see l. 241.

A quene, a queen, viz. Alcestis, as we afterwards learn. She is so clothed as to represent a daisy; hence her green dress, golden hair-ornament or caul, and white crown; see l. 218, and note to l. 227.

215. Fret here means a caul of gold wire. They were sometimes set with stones. Cf. Rom. Rose, 1108, and The Flower and the Leaf, 152:—'A riche fret of gold,' &c. See Fairholt, Costume in England.

217. The pause after smale saves the final e from elision. See examples in the Cant. Tales, B 2153, 3281, 3989; &c. We may translate the phrase and I shal nat lye by 'if I am not to lie'; see l. 357, and the note.

221. Oriental, eastern; here, of superior quality. 'The precious stones called by lapidaries oriental ruby, oriental topaz, oriental amethyst, and oriental emerald are red, yellow, violet, and green sapphires, distinguished from the other gems of the same name which have not [ 298 ]the prefix oriental, by their greatly superior hardness, and greater specific gravity'; Engl. Cyclopædia, s.v. Adamantine Spar. Cf. P. Plowman, B. 2. 14.

223. For which, by means of which, whereby.

227. In the Rom. of the Rose the 'god of love' is said to be clothed 'not in silk, but all in flowers'; his garment was all covered with flowers, intermingled with rose-leaves; and he had a chaplet of red roses upon his head. See the E. version, l. 890. In l. 228, fret means merely 'ornament' or 'border' of embroidery, whereas in l. 215 it is used in the sense of a caul or net worn on the head. The A-text (160) has garlond, and adds that lilies were stuck about among the rose-leaves. Moreover, a 'rose-leaf' here means a petal, or it would not be described as red. Greves is properly 'groves or bushes,' but must here mean sprays or small boughs.

231. For hevinesse, to save him from the heaviness and weight of gold. The peculiar use of for in the sense of 'against,' or 'to prevent,' should be noticed. See the note to Sir Thopas, B 2052.

242. Corouned is pronounced as Coróun'd.

—A. 179. Notice this mention of Alcestis in the A-text. This is altered in the later version, so that the poet does not know who the queen is till l. 511, though she actually announces herself in l. 432. See note to l. 255 (B.) below.

249. Absolon, Absalom; remarkable for the beauty of his hair; see 2 Sam. xiv. 26. Cf. 'Absalom o ses treces soves'; Rom. de la Rose, 14074. I have little doubt that the general idea of this Ballade is taken from one quoted from MS. du Roi, à Paris (fonds de Saint-Victor, no. 275, fol. 45, recto, col. 2), by M. Michel, in his edition of Tristan, i. lxxxviii. It begins as follows:—

'Hester, Judith, Penelope, Helaine,
Sarre, Tisbe, Rebeque, et Sairy,
Lucresse, Yseult, Genèvre, chastelaine
La très loial nommée de Vergy,
Rachel, et la dame de Fayel
Onc ne furent si precieulx jouel
D'onneur, bonté, senz, beauté et valour
Con est ma très doulce dame d'onnour.

Se d'Absalon la grant beauté humaine,' &c.

The refrain being, as before, 'Con est ma très doulce dame d'onnour.'

250. Ester, Esther; cited as an example of 'debonairte' in the Book of the Duch. 986; see also C. T., E 1371, 1744 (Merch. Tale); and the Tale of Melibeus, B 2291.

251. Ionathas, Jonathan; remarkable for his 'friendliness' towards David; 1 Sam. xix. 2.

252. Penalopee, Penelope, wife of Ulysses; see the note to Book of the Duch. 1081; and Ovid, Her. i. Marcia Catoun, formerly said to [ 299 ]be Marcia, wife of M. Cato Uticensis [not Cato the Censor, as Bell says]. Bell notes that 'her complaisance, apparently, in consenting to be lent to Cato's friend, Hortensius, is the ground of her praise in this place.' Gilman refers us to Clough's tr. of Plutarch, iv. 394, where the story is given. This, however, is not the right solution. Prof. Lounsbury (Studies in Chaucer, ii. 294) points out that the reference is clearly to Marcia, daughter of the same Cato, because Chaucer got the story from Hieronymus contra Iovinianum (i. 46), where we find:—'Marcia Catonis filia minor, quum quæreretur ab ea, cur post amissum maritum, denuo non nuberet, respondit, non se inuenire uirum, qui se magis vellet quam sua.' A much better example would have been her sister Porcia, the devoted wife of Marcus Brutus (Jul. Cæsar, ii. 1).

254. Isoude, the heroine of the romance of Sir Tristram; see Parl. of Foules, 288 (and the note on the line); also Ho. Fame, 1796. Eleyne, Helen, heroine of the Trojan war.

255. Note how the original refrain of this Balade, beginning 'Alceste is here,' is altered to 'My lady cometh'; in order to prevent the premature mention of Alcestis' name. See note to A. 179 above, following the note to l. 242. Disteyne, bedim; viz. by outshining them.

257. Lavyne, Lavinia, the heroine of the latter part of the Æneid; cf. Book of the Duch. 331; Ho. Fame, 458. Lucresse, Lucretia of Rome, whose 'Legend' is related at length below; l. 1680. Cf. Cant. Tales, F 1405.

258. Polixene, Polyxena, daughter of Priam, who, like Lucretia, bought love too dearly; for she was sacrificed on the tomb of Achilles, according to Ovid, Met. xiii. 448. But according to Guido delle Colonne, whom Chaucer probably regarded as a better authority, she was slain by Pyrrhus. Cf. Book of the Duch. 1071. Note also:—'Alas, your love, I bye hit al to dere'; Anelida, 255.

259. Cleopatre, Cleopatra; whose Legend is the first of the series below: l. 580.

261. Tisbe, Thisbe; whose Legend follows that of Cleopatra; l. 706.

263. Herro, Hero of Sestos, beloved by Leander; see Ovid, Her. xviii, xix. Spelt Erro, Pref. to Man of Law, B 69; whence we learn that the Legend of Hero was intended to be one of the set. Dido; whose Legend occurs below; l. 924. Laudomia, Laodamia, wife of Protesilaus; see Ovid, Her. xiii. Spelt Ladomea, and accented (as here) on the o; Pref. to Man of Law, B 71. And see Cant. Tales, F 1445.

264. Phyllis; whose Legend occurs at l. 2394.

265. Canace, daughter of Æolus, beloved by Macareus; see Ovid, Her. xi. See Pref. to Man of Law, B 78; whence we learn that Chaucer had no intention of including her Legend in the set, but expressly rejected it. Chere, sad countenance.

266. Ysiphile, Hypsipyle; whose Legend occurs at l. 1368.

[ 300 ]268. Ypermistre, Hypermnestra; whose Legend occurs at l. 2562.

Adriane, Ariadne; whose Legend occurs at l. 1886.

For further remarks, see my long note to the Man of Law's Tale, B 61.

270. Bell remarks that the above beautiful Balade has been often imitated; and cites a poem by Surrey with the title 'A Praise of his Love, wherein he reproveth them that compare their ladies with his,' and beginning—'Geue place, ye louers, here before That spent your bostes and bragges in vaine.' See Tottell's Miscellany, ed. Arber, p. 20. Another such poem occurs in the same collection, at p. 163; beginning—'Geue place, you Ladies, and begon'; this, it appears, was written by John Heywood; Warton, Hist. E. Poet. (1840), iii. 56 (note). With respect to Surrey's verses, Warton (Hist. E. P. 1840, iii. 33) remarks that 'the leading compliment, which has been used by later writers, is in the spirit of Italian fiction.' But it is probable that we here see Surrey's original before us. Among the beautiful songs on this theme, we should not neglect 'You meaner beauties of the night,' by Sir Henry Wotton. Cf. ll. 274, 275 below.

271. By, with respect to. My lady is the queen Alcestis, whose name Chaucer is supposed not to know as yet. See l. 432.

277. See note to l. 186 above.

278. Nadde = ne hadde. 'For, had not the comfort of her presence existed.' We should now say, 'Had it not been for the comfort.' Cf. Spec. Eng. Literature, pt. iii. note to § xv (b). l. 96.

295. For the nones, for the once, for this special occasion. See the note to Chaucer's Prologue, l. 379. The phrase was first explained, carefully and fully, by Price, in a note to Warton's Hist. Eng. Poet. ed. 1840, ii. 74, 75.

298. 'That bears away the prize from us all in external beauty or figure.' Our alder, of us all; where our = A.S. úre, gen. pl. of the first personal pronoun, and alder is a more emphatic form of aller (A.S. ealra), gen. pl. of all. See Chaucer's Prol. 586, 710, 799, 823. Hence alderliefest, dearest of all, in 2 Hen. VI. i. 1. 28; probably borrowed from alderlevest in Chaucer's Troilus, v. 576 (in vol. ii.). Prof. Corson cites altherbeste, best of all, from Gower, C. A. ed. Pauli, i. 106; althermest, most of all, from the same, i. 147; althertrewest, id. i. 176; altherwerst, id. i. 53. In Chaucer's Minor Poems the reader will find our alder, of us all, ABC, 84; also alderbeste, Book Duch. 246; alderfaireste, id. 1050; and aldernext, Parl. Foules, 244.

300. A-compas enviroun, in a circle, all round about.

304. By and by, one after another, in order; see the New E. Dict.

307. Furlong-wey, lit. two minutes and a-half; or the time of walking a furlong, at 3 miles an hour. See Anelida, 328; Ho. Fame, 2064.

314. Hit am I, it is I; the usual M.E. idiom. See Kn. Tale, A 1736; Man of Law's Tale, B 1109, and note. Him neer, nearer to him: neer is the comparative of neh or nigh; cf. l. 316.

[ 301 ]318. Dante has 'che noi siam vermi'; Purg. x. 124.

323. Servaunt in Chaucer frequently means 'lover'; such is necessarily the case here.

329. Chaucer here certainly seems to imply that he translated the whole of the Romance of the Rose, or at any rate that part of it which is especially directed against women. The existing English version consists of three fragments, apparently by different authors, and I see little reason for connecting more than fragment A (ll. 1-1705) with Chaucer. None of the fragments contain such passages as the God of Love would most have objected to; but we find some of them practically reproduced in the Prologue to the Wyf of Bathes Tale. We also find numerous imitations of passages from that poem scattered up and down throughout Chaucer's works; and it is remarkable that such passages usually lie outside the contents of the English fragments. Where they do not, Chaucer frequently varies from the English version of the Romance. Thus where Chaucer (Book Duch. 419) has:—

'And every tree stood by himselve
Fro other wel ten foot or twelve.
So grete trees, so huge of strengthe'—

the Eng. version of the Rom. of the Rose (1391) has:—

'These trees were set, that I devyse,
Oon from another, in assyse,
Five fadome or sixe, I trowe so,
But they were hye and grete also.'

We may here note the variation between ten foot or twelve and five fadom or six; the original has cinq toises, ou de sis. Other passages in the Book of the Duchesse which resemble the existing E. version of the Rom. of the Rose are these. (1) Book Duch. 424; cf. R. R. 1396. (2) Book Duch. 291; cf. R. R. 49. (3) Book Duch. 410; cf. R. R. 59. (4) Book Duch. 283; R. R. 7. (5) Book Duch. 340; R. R. 130. (6) Book Duch. 1152; R. R. 2084.

For a fuller discussion of this question, see the Pref. to Ch. Minor Poems, in vol. i. p. 1.

—A. 260. Paramours seems to be an adverb here, meaning 'with a lover's affection.' So in the Kn. Tale, A 1155:—

'For par amour I loved hir first er thow.'

And again, in A 2112:—

'Ye knowen wel, that every lusty knight
That loveth paramours, and hath his might.'

So also in Troilus, v. 158, 332, and in Barbour's Bruce, xiii. 485—'he lufit his [Ross's] sistir paramouris.' Tyrwhitt quotes from Froissart, bk. i. c. 196—'Il aima adonc par amours, et depuis espousa, Madame Ysabelle de Juiliers.'

[ 302 ]The following phrase 'too hard and hot' merely intensifies the sense of paramours.

332. Criseyde. The allusion is to Chaucer's long poem entitled Troilus and Criseyde (or Creseyde). The A-text is more outspoken here, as it alludes to the inconstancy of the heroine in direct terms.

—A. 280. Valerie, Valerius; see note to A. 281 below.

Titus; Titus Livius; see l. 1683, and the note. Claudian; Claudius Claudianus, who wrote, amongst other things, a poem De Raptu Proserpinae, to which Chaucer refers; see Ho. Fame, 449, 1509. He flourished about A.D. 400.

—A. 281. Ierome; Hieronymus, usually known as St. Jerome, a celebrated father of the Latin Church; died Sept. 30, 420. In the Wyf of Bathes Prologue (C. T. 6251, Group D, l. 669) we find:—

'He hadde a book, that gladly, night and day,
For his desport he wolde rede alway;
He cleped it Valerie and Theofraste,
At whiche book he lough alwey ful faste.
And eek ther was somtyme a clerk at Rome,
A cardinal, that highte Seint Ierome,
That made a book agayn Iovinian'; &c.

In Tyrwhitt's Introductory discourse, he says of this Prologue—'The greatest part must have been of Chaucer's own invention, though one may plainly see 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 Iovinianum.' He adds, in a note—'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 could 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 contents, I suppose, among the works of St. Jerome, though it is evidently of a much later date.... To these two books Jean de Meun has been obliged for some of the severest strokes in his [part of the] 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.'

Tyrwhitt further observes that the Epistola Valerii was written, according to Tanner, by Walter Map; of this there appears to be no doubt. Lounsbury (Studies, ii. 276) takes Valerie to mean Valerius Maximus, which is here improbable.

It is, at first, not very clear why the God of Love is here represented [ 303 ]as appealing to books against women; but we are bidden to observe that, even there, good women are incidentally mentioned; see A. 284. Even Valerius praises Lucretia and Penelope.

—A. 288. Cf. the long passage in the Franklein's Tale about chaste women; C. T. 11676-11766 (F 1364-1456). It is nearly all taken from Jerome.

—A. 305. Epistels rather than epistelle in the singular. The reference is to Ovid's Heroides, which contains twenty-one love-letters. Cf. Chaucer's Introd. to Man of Law, B 55, where he alludes to Ovid's mention of lovers 'in his Epistelles.'

—A. 307. Vincent is Vincent of Beauvais, who compiled an encyclopædia of universal knowledge in the 13th century. One portion of this great work, treating of universal history, is called Speculum Historiale, which Chaucer has here turned into Storial Mirour. See Lounsbury's Studies in Chaucer, ii. 375.

338. As Chaucer is pleased to call his poem by the name of 'seintes legende of Cupyde' in the Introd. to Man of Law, B 61, he here turns Venus into a saint, to keep up the analogy between his present undertaking and the Legenda Sanctorum. But John de Meun had previously said much the same thing. In Le Rom. de la Rose, 10863, Cupid is made to swear 'par sainte Venus ma mere.' See the Eng. version, l. 5953. (Perhaps read seynte in Text B.)

343. In accordance with the proverb—'Audi alteram partem.' See A. 325. Cf. Seneca, Medea, 195.

348. 'And even if you were not an omniscient god.'

352. From the Rom. of the Rose; the E. version has (ll. 1050, 1):—

'Hir court hath many a losengere,
And many a traytour envious.'

Again repeated in Cant. Tales, B 4515-8.

353. Totelere (C. totulour), tattling; properly a sb., meaning 'tattler,' but here used in apposition, and, practically, as an adjective. Tyrwhitt explains it by 'whisperer.' Halliwell quotes 'Be no totiler' from MS. Bibl. Reg. 17 B. xvii. fol. 141. It clearly means a gossiping tattler, or tale-bearer.

The word is scarce, but we find a helpful passage in P. Plowman, B. xx. 297:—

'Of alle taletellers and tyterers in ydel.'

Here tyterers means gossipers, or retailers of tittle-tattle; and various readings give the forms titeleris (as printed by Wright) and tutelers (as printed by Crowley). The last form tuteler is clearly identical with Chaucer's totelere, spelt tutelere in MS. Arch. Selden B. 24.

357. 'These are the causes why, if I am not to lie'; &c. See note to l. 217.

358. Lavender, laundress, washerwoman; (Bell's interpretation of [ 304 ]'gutter' is utter nonsense). See Laundress in my Etym. Dict., where I refer to the present passage. Laundress is formed by adding -ess to launder or laundre, the contracted form of lavender as here used. In Barbour's Bruce, ed. Skeat, xvi. 273, 292, the word for 'washerwoman' is spelt lauender, laynder, and landar. Palsgrave's Eng. and Fr. Dict. gives—'Laundre, that wassheth clothes; lauendiere'; and Cotgrave explains the Fr. lauandiere by the Eng. launderesse. Chaucer's presentation to us of Envy as the person who washes all the dirty linen in the court, is particularly happy. As a matter of fact, he is here quoting Dante, but he has substituted lavender (perhaps in an ill sense, though I do not feel sure of this) for the meretrice of the original. The passage referred to is in the Inferno, xiii. 64:—

'La meretrice, che mai dall' ospizio
Di Cesare non torse gli occhi putti,
Morte comune, e delle corti vizio,
Infiammò contre me gli animi tutti.'

Cary's translation has:—

'The harlot, who ne'er turned her gloating eyes
From Cæsar's household, common vice and pest
Of courts, 'gainst me inflamed the minds of all.'

Gower (C. A. ed. Pauli, i. 263) says:—

'Senec witnesseth openly
How that envie properly
Is of the court the comun wenche.'

Note that parteth in l. 359 means 'departeth.'

361. 'Whoever goes away, at any rate she will not be wanting.' Men come and go, but Envy remains. This is the right sense; but Bell, whom Prof. Corson follows, gives it quite a false twist. He says, 'Whosoever goes, i.e. falls, she will not be in want'; a desperate and unmeaning solution, due to not appreciating the force of the verb to want, which here simply means 'to be absent,' and can be applied to persons as well as to things. 'There wanteth but a mean to fill your song'; Two Gent. of Verona, i. 2. 295; 'though bride and bridegroom wants,' i.e. are absent, Tam. Shrew, iii. 2. 248: 'There wanteth now our brother of Gloucester here'; Rich. III. ii. 1. 43.

364. 'But only because he is accustomed to write poems.'

366. 'Or it was enjoined him by some patron to compose those two poems (the Romaunce of the Rose and Troilus; see A. 344); and he did not dare to refuse.'

371. As thogh that, as he would have done if.

372. And had, i.e. and had composed it all himself.

374. 'The allusion is to the several successful adventurers, like the Visconti, who in the 13th and 14th centuries succeeded in seizing upon [ 305 ]the governments of Milan, and other free cities of Lombardy'; Bell. See the article Visconti in the Eng. Cyclopædia; we are there referred to Verri, Storia di Milano, and to Muratori, Annali d' Italia. Cf. Dante, Inf. xxviii. 74, 81; and see Chaucer's reference to 'Barnabo Viscounte' in the Monkes Tale, B 3589.

375. Reward at, regard to. Reward and regard are etymologically identical. Observe the accent on the former syllable. Cf. l. 399.

378. Fermour, a farmer of taxes; who is naturally exacting and oppressive.

380. Before is supply hit, which, as in l. 379, refers to a suppliant culprit. His own vassals are a lord's treasures, to be cherished, not oppressed.

381. Bech refers us to Seneca, De Clementia, lib. i. c. 3, § 3; c. 5, § 4. Or perhaps Aristotle is meant, whose supposed advice to Alexander is fully given in Gower's Confessio Amantis, bk. vii. See particularly the passage in Pauli's edition, iii. 176:—

'What is a king in his legeaunce,
Wher that ther is no law in londe?'

There is a similar long and tedious passage in Lancelot of the Laik, ed. Skeat, ll. 1463-1998. Gower calls Aristotle 'the philosophre'; C. A. iii. 86. We may also compare Hoccleve, De Regimine Principum, ed. Wright, pp. 102-3, translated from Ægidius, De Reg. Princ., lib. i. pars 1, cap. xiv; where the reference to Aristotle is:—'Propter quod V. Ethicorum scribitur, quod principatus uirum ostendit.'

384. Al, although. 'Although he will preserve their rank for his lords.' Note that his lordes is in the dative case. It was probably from not observing this that Thynne's edition and the Pepys MS. have needlessly inserted the word in before hir. Cf. A. 370.

387. Half-goddes, demi-gods. Cf. 'the demi-god Authority'; Meas. for Meas. i. 2. 124.

391. So, in his Epitaph on Inigo Jones, Ben Jonson says:—'The Libyan lion hunts no butterflies'; which he took from Martial, Epig. xii. 61. 6. And see Pliny, Nat. Hist. viii. 16.

397. Areste. Bell seems to suggest the sense of 'restraint,' and Prof. Corson, following him, suggests 'self-command'; but such a sense does not exactly appear in Murray's Dictionary. Nevertheless, 'self-restraint' suits not only this passage, but also the passage cited from the Harleian MS. in the foot-note to the Somnour's Tale, D 2048, in vol. iv. p. 381.

399. Here, as in l. 375, reward means 'regard,' and is accented on the e.

400. Maystrie, masterly act; no maystrie, an easy matter.

405. This is not altogether a metaphorical expression. We remember something very like it at the siege of Calais in 1347, when, according to Froissart, Edward III. sent for the six inhabitants of Calais, who were to present themselves 'with bare heads and feet, [ 306 ]with ropes round their necks'; see Froissart, tr. by Johnes, bk. i. c. 145.

415. In the earlier text (A 403), the word He stands alone in the first foot, which is less pleasing.

417. See Introd. to the Minor Poems (in vol. i.) for a discussion of some of the poems here mentioned. He here mentions, first of all, three of his lesser poems, in the order of their length; viz. the Hous of Fame, the Deeth of Blaunche, and the Parlement of Foules.

420. The 'Palamoun and Arcyte' here referred to was no doubt a translation of Boccaccio's Teseide, or of selections from it, in seven-line stanzas. Though not preserved to us in its entirety, several fragments of it remain. These are to be found (1) in sixteen stanzas of the Parl. of Foules (ll. 183-294), translated from the Teseide, bk. vii. st. 51-66; (2) in part of the first ten stanzas of Anelida, from the same, bk. i. st. 1-3, and bk. ii. st. 10-12; (3) in three stanzas near the end of Troilus (viz. st. 7, 8, and 9 from the end), from the same, xi. 1-3; and (4) in a re-written form, in what is now known as the Knightes Tale. See Notes to Anelida, in vol. i. pp. 529, 530.

421. 'Though the story is little known.' Tyrwhitt remarks that these words 'seem to imply that it [Chaucer's original version of Palamon and Arcite] had not made itself very popular.' Unfortunately, Tyrwhitt, who so very seldom goes astray, has here misled nearly all who have consulted him. Chaucer is not referring to his own version of the story, nor even to Boccaccio's version, but to the old story itself; and he is merely repeating Boccaccio's own remark, when (in the Teseide, i. 2) he speaks of it as

'—una storia antica,
Tanto negli anni riposta e nascosa,
Che Latino autor non par ne dica,
Per quel ch'io senta, in libro alcuna cosa.'

And, in truth, the story must have been known but to very few, till Boccaccio rescued it from oblivion. This is all that is meant; and there is no difficulty. Note further that Chaucer refers to the very same passage in another poem; see note to Anelida, l. 8.

423. A Balade is, properly, a poem in three stanzas, in which each stanza ends with the same line, called the refrain. There is also usually a fourth stanza, called Lenvoy, or the Envoy, which is sometimes shorter than the other three. Most of Chaucer's Balades have probably perished, as only a few are now known. These are: Fortune, consisting of 3 Balades, each in 8-line stanzas, followed by a single Envoy; Truth, a Balade with Envoy, in 7-line stanzas; Gentilesse, without Envoy; Lak of Stedfastnesse, with Envoy; (probably) A Balade against women unconstaunt, without Envoy; The Complaint of Venus, consisting of 3 Balades, with a general Envoy; The Compleint to his Purse, with Envoy of five lines only; To Rosemounde, without Envoy; and the Balade included in the present poem, at ll. 249-269 above.

[ 307 ]A Roundel is a poem of from nine to fourteen lines, in which only eight lines are different from each other, the rest being repetitions of lines that have already occurred. See this fully explained in the note to l. 675 of the Parl. of Foules. The one certain example is the Roundel included in the Parl. of Foules, beginning at l. 680. There is also a beautiful example of a Triple Roundel, which I have included in the Minor Poems, with the title of Merciless Beauty. No doubt Chaucer wrote many more, but they are lost.

A Virelay is a poem in an unusual metre, of which examples are very rare. Only one entire poem of this character has been conjecturally assigned to Chaucer, but it is written in later English, and cannot possibly be his. It is not a true Virelay (in the French sense), and first appeared in the edition of 1561; see vol. i. p. 33. In this poem, lines 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 all rime together; and l. 4 rimes with l. 8. Then comes the 'veer' or 'turn,' which requires that, in the next stanza, lines 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15 shall rime with lines 4 and 8, as, in fact, they do; but lines 12 and 16 introduce a new rime, as they should not do. We find, however, two fair examples of the Virelay in the poem of Anelida, viz. in lines 256-271 and 317-332. In the former of these, the rime in -ee (-e) appears in lines 256-8 and 260-2, and the rime in -yte ends lines 259 and 263; whereas, conversely, the rime in -yte ends lines 264-6 and 268-270, whilst lines 267 and 271 repeat the rime in -ee. Similarly, ll. 317-332 exhibit veering rimes in -eye and -ure.

In Hoccleve's Poems, ed. Furnivall (Early Eng. Text Soc., Extra Series, 1892), there are several clever and intricate examples of the Virelay. Thus, in Balade IV, at p. 39, there are five stanzas, but only three rimes, viz. in -al, -ee, and -ay. The formula of rimes, for the first and third stanzas, is a b a b b c b c; for the second and fourth stanzas, c b c b b a b a; and for the fifth stanza, a c a c c b c b. See also the same, pp. 41, 47, 49, 58, 59, 61, 62. Beyond all doubt, Hoccleve copied the forms of Chaucer's lost virelays.

424. Holynesse, holy employment, religious composition. This is, clearly, an intentional substitution for the besinesse, i.e. 'laborious employment,' in the A-text, l. 412.

425. Chaucer made an excellent prose translation of Boethius de Consolatione Philosophiæ, a Latin treatise much admired in the middle ages, and still worthy of admiration. For further remarks, see vol. iii.

—A. 414. This is the only notice we possess of a work by Chaucer which is no longer extant. We gather from it that he made a translation of the Latin prose treatise by Pope Innocent III., entitled De Miseria Conditionis Humanæ, a gloomy enumeration of human woes without a single alleviating touch of hope, fiercely and unrelentingly set forth. It is probable that it was written in 7-line stanzas; for portions of it appear to be preserved in the Prologue to the Man of Lawes Tale, B 99-126, and in other stanzas of the same (B 421-7, 771-7, 925-931, 1135-8).

[ 308 ]426. The Lyf of Seynt Cecyle is happily preserved. It was one of Chaucer's early productions; but he himself rescued it from possible disappearance by introducing it into the Canterbury Tales, with the title of the Second Nonnes Tale.

428. This is another of the lost works. We gather that he made a translation from a piece attributed to Origen, one of the most eminent of the early Christian writers, who was born at Alexandria in 186. Tyrwhitt says the piece meant is doubtless 'the Homily de Maria Magdalena, which has been commonly, though falsely, attributed to Origen; see Opp. Origenis, Tom. ii. p. 291, ed. Paris, 1604.' Tyrwhitt adds, very justly and incontrovertibly—'I cannot believe that the Poem entitled The Lamentation of Marie Magdaleine, which is in all the [older] editions of Chaucer, is really that work of his. It can hardly be considered as a translation, or even as an imitation, of the Homily; and the composition, in every respect, is infinitely meaner than the worst of his genuine pieces.'

432. Here, in the B-text, the name of Alcestis is first mentioned; yet strange to say, Chaucer does not realise who she is till later; see l. 518. She was the wife of Admetus, not king of Thrace (as here said) but of Pheræ in Thessaly. Apollo obtained from the Moiræ a promise to grant Admetus deliverance from death if, at the hour of his death, his father, mother, or wife, would consent to die for him. Alcestis consented to die in his stead, and is therefore here taken as the chief type of wifely devotion. The mention of Alcestis in the Court of Love, st. 15, is merely copied from Chaucer; so also Lydgate's use of Alceste to mean 'a daisy,' in his Legend of St. Edmund, l. 235 of the additional stanzas found in MS. Ashmole 46, as printed in Horstmann, Alteng. Legenden, Neue Folge (1881), p. 443. Gower has the story of Alcestis in his Confessio Amantis; ed. Pauli, iii. 149.

452. An allusion to the common proverb—'Bis dat, qui cito dat'; he who gives at once, gives twice. Publius Syrus has: 'Bis gratum est, quod dato opus est, ultro si offeras,' v. 44; and again: 'Inopi beneficium bis dat, qui dat celeriter'; v. 235.

465. 'Has no participation in the deed of a thief.' Similarly, in the Squi. Tale, F 537, Chaucer tells us that 'A trew wight and a theef thenken nat oon,' i.e. do not think alike. Trew means 'honest.'

466. The first foot contains Ne a trew-; e in Ne is elided.

475, 6. Closely imitated in the Court of Love, st. 61:—

'And argue not for reason ne for skill
Againe thy ladies pleasure ne entent,
For love will not be counterpleted indeede.'

The substitution of the dissyllabic indeede for Chaucer's monosyllabic be just ruins the scansion of the line; but we must not expect always to find melody in that grossly over-rated poem.

496, 7. Observe that these lines are not in the A-text. They must necessarily have been added after 1382, when Richard II. married Anne [ 309 ]of Bohemia, and of course long before 1394, when 'the good queen Anne' died, and her husband at once forsook their favourite residence of Shene, now Richmond; see Annals of England, p. 201.

499. This is a strange question, seeing that Alcestis has already announced her name at l. 432; we must suppose that the poet did not realise that she was the very Alcestis whom he longed to see. But it looks like an oversight, due to his partially rewriting this Prologue.

503. Literally Chaucer's favorite line; for it reappears three times more, viz. in the Kn. Ta., A 1761; March. Ta., E 1986; and Squi. Ta., F 479. And, in the Man of Law's Tale, B 660, we have—'As gentil herte is fulfild of pitee.' It is admirable.

510. Here Chaucer seems to be imitating Froissart; see the Introduction. I cannot find any early account of Alcestis that turns her into a daisy[1]. See notes to ll. 432, 515.

515. Alcestis 'was afterwards brought back from the lower world by Hercules, and restored to her husband'; Lewis and Short, Lat. Dict. s.v. Alcestis. And see the Introduction.

522. Bountee, goodness. See Clerk. Ta., E 157, 415; and Trench, Sel. Glossary.

526. Agaton, Agathon or Agatho; Dante's Agatone (Purg. xxii. 107). An Athenian poet (B.C. 447-400); who wrote a tragedy called 'the Flower.' See the Introduction.

531. Cibella, Cybela, or more commonly Cybele, a Phrygian goddess, later worshipped at Rome as Ops or Mater Magna. She was the goddess of the earth, and especially represented its fertility; hence she is naturally said to produce flowers. She here answers to the 'Ceres' of Froissart; see the Introduction.

533. The reference is to the red tips on the white petals of the daisy, the 'wee, modest, crimson-tippèd flower.' This is said to be the gift of Mars, as he was associated with that colour. He is called 'Mars the rede'; see l. 2589 below; Anelida, l. 1; Kn. Ta., A 1969. The colour of the planet Mars is reddish.

In the present passage reed is a sb.; 'And Mars gave redness to her crown.'

539. Referring to the Balade at l. 249. In the A-text, Alcestis was actually mentioned in the refrain; but Chaucer rewrote it so as to exclude her name. He now writes (in l. 540) as if he had forgotten to put it in. Of course ll. 539-541 are peculiar to the B-text, as marked.

542. Kalender. 'A kalendar is an almanac by which persons are guided in their computation of time; hence it is used, as here, for a guide or example generally'; Bell. The New E. Dict. quotes this passage, and explains the word by 'a guide, directory; an example, model'; and cites Hamlet, v. 2. 114—'He is the card or calendar of [ 310 ]gentry.' Nevertheless, I doubt whether this sense arose from the mere usefulness of the calendar. I believe that Chaucer regarded it in quite another aspect, viz. as containing the record or list of the saints whose lives are worthy of imitation. Hence Schmidt explains the word in Hamlet as 'note-book' or 'record'; as is certainly the case in All's Well, i. 3. 4, which Murray duly quotes with the sense of 'record.' So in the present case kalender does not mean 'example' merely, but a whole list or complete record of examples, which gives the word a much greater force. Compare Chaucer's ABC, under the letter K, and the note (l. 73).

549. We hence learn that Chaucer's nineteenth[2] and last Legend was to have been the Legend of Alcestis; but he never wrote more than the former half of the work. Cf. A-text, 532.

555. Thy balade; see ll. 249-268; F. and Th. read my. We here learn that the Ladies about whom the Legends were to be written (l. 557) are all mentioned in the Ballad, which is an important hint. We must of course remove the names of Absalom and Jonathan; and there is reason for supposing that we should exclude Esther. Next, we set aside Lucretia, Cleopatra, Thisbe, Dido, Phyllis, Hypsipyle, Hypermnestra, and Ariadne, whose Legends we possess; observing at the same time that we also have the Legend of Philomela (though she is not mentioned), and of Medea, who shares a Legend with Hypsipyle. The names still left are those of Penelope, Martia, Isoude, Helen, Lavinia, Polyxena, Hero, Laodamia, Canace, and Alcestis. But this list only partially agrees with Chaucer's scheme as given elsewhere, viz. in the Introduction to the Man of Law's Tale. See further in the Introduction.

574. The grete, the substance; as in Book of the Duch. 1242; Parl. Foules, 35.

575. 'According as these old authors are pleased to treat (them).'

576. Shal telle, has to narrate.


It is not clear what account Chaucer followed; see the Introduction. The chief sources for the history are Plutarch, Appian, Dion Cassius, and Orosius (bk. vi. c. 19). I shall refer to the Life of M. Antonius in my edition of Shakespeare's Plutarch (denoted below by Sh. Plut.). Bech points out that one of Chaucer's sources was Florus; see note to l. 655.

581. Ptolemy XI., or Ptolemy Auletes, king of Egypt, died B.C. 51, leaving two sons, both called Ptolemy, and two daughters, Cleopatra and Arsinoe. Cleopatra was then 17 years of age, and was appointed queen of Egypt in conjunction with her brother, the elder Ptolemy, [ 311 ]whom she was to marry; but she was expelled from the throne by Ptolemy's guardians. In B.C. 47 she was replaced upon it by Julius Cæsar, but still in conjunction with her brother. This led to the Alexandrine war, in the course of which this elder Ptolemy perished. After this, she reigned, nominally, in conjunction with the younger Ptolemy, to whom also she was nominally married; but he was still quite a child, and was murdered by her orders in less than four years, after which she was sole queen, in name as well as in reality.

We thus see that the Ptolemy here mentioned may be either of Cleopatra's brothers of that name; but it is more likely that Chaucer refers to the elder of them. Shakespeare also uses the expression 'queen of Ptolemy'; Ant. i. 4. 6.

583. On a tyme; viz. not long after the battle of Philippi, which took place in B.C. 42. 'Antonius, going to make war with the Parthians, sent to command Cleopatra to appear personally before him when he came into Cilicia, to answer unto such accusations as were laid against her, being this: that she had aided Cassius and Brutus in their war against him ... Cleopatra on the other side ... guessing by the former access and credit she had with Julius Cæsar and C. Pompey (the son of Pompey the Great) only for her beauty, she began to have good hope that she might more easily win Antonius. For Cæsar and Pompey knew her when she was but a young thing, and knew not then what the world meant; but now she went to Antonius at the age when a woman's beauty is at the prime, and she also of best judgment.'—Sh. Plut. p. 174. Almost immediately after this passage follows the celebrated description of Cleopatra in her barge upon the Cydnus, familiar to all in the words of Shakespeare; Ant. and Cleop. ii. 2. 196.

591. 'Octavius Cæsar reporting all these things unto the Senate, and oftentimes accusing him to the whole people and assembly in Rome, he thereby stirred up all the Romans against him.'—Sh. Plut. p. 202.

592. After the death of his first wife, Fulvia, Antony had married Octavia, sister of Octavianus (better known to us as Augustus). But in a few years he deserted her, and surrendered himself wholly to the charms of Cleopatra. Cf. Ant. and Cleop. iii. 6.

597. Cf. Sh. Plut. p. 192; Ant. and Cleop. i. 4. 55.

605. Sterve, to die. See Starve, in Trench, Sel. Glossary.

624. Octovian, Octavianus. 'Now for Cæsar, he had 250 ships of war, 80,000 footmen, and well near as many horsemen as his enemy Antonius'; Sh. Plut. p. 207.

634. See the account of the battle of Actium, B.C. 31; in Sh. Plut. p. 210. The vivid description here given by Chaucer resembles the parallel passage in the Kn. Tale, A 2600-20, which should be compared. 'The soldiers fought with their pikes, halbards and darts, and threw halbards and darts with fire. Antonius' ships, on the other side, bestowed among them, with their crossbows and engines of battery, [ 312 ]great store of shot from their high towers of wood that were set upon their ships.'—Sh. Plut. p. 211. There is some description of the hostile fleets and of the battle in Florus (see note to l. 655), who tells us that, whilst Octavius had 400 ships against the 200 ships of Antony, the latter were nearly double the size of the former; so that the fleets were thus of equal strength.

637. Bell says this is 'a ludicrous anachronism'; but it is nothing of the kind. The word gonne is here used in the sense of 'shot' or 'missile'; and the line means—'with terrible sound out rushes the huge missile,' being hurled from one of the 'engines of battery' mentioned in the last note. It is the missile, not the engine, that 'out goth'; as a moment's reflection would have informed the commentator, whose remark was needless. The use of gonne in the sense of 'missile' is curious, but not unexampled; for, in the Avowynge of Arthur, st. 65, we read that 'there come fliand a gunne,' i.e. there came flying along a missile. I believe it is also used in the sense of missile in Sir Ferumbras, 5176, though the passage is not decisive.

Even if this were not the case, there is no 'anachronism'; for gonne was originally used in the sense of 'catapult,' as may be seen by consulting the Prompt. Parvulorum, where the Latin for it is petraria, and mangonale. The grisly soun alludes to the whizzing of the ponderous missile through the air; Barbour says of a great stone, hurled from a catapult, that 'It flaw out, quhedirand, with a rout,' i.e. it flew out, whirring, with a great noise. See The Bruce, xvii. 684.

On the other hand, in Ho. Fame, 1643, Chaucer certainly uses gonne in the sense of 'cannon'; but that does not affect the sense of the present passage.

638. Hurtlen, push, dash, ram one against the other; cf. Kn. Ta., A 2616. 'Somtyme they hurtled to-gyder that they felle grovelyng on the ground'; Morte Arthure; by Sir T. Malory, bk. vii. c. 12. Heterly, vehemently, fiercely, occurs frequently in the Wars of Alexander, ed. Skeat (E. E. T. S.) Compare Vergil's description of the battle, in Æn. viii. 689, &c.: 'Una omnes ruere.'

640. In goth, in there go. Goth is singular in form, because of its position in the sentence; but it has two nominatives, viz. 'grapnel' and 'shearing-hooks.' The former was a contrivance for clutching the ropes, and the latter for severing them.

642. This is wonderfully graphic. A boarder bursts in with a pole-axe; a sailor, on the defence, flees behind the mast, then dashes forward again, and drives the assailant overboard.

646. Rent, rendeth; the present tense.

648. By pouring hard peas upon the hatches, they became so slippery that the boarders could not stand.

649. Some carried pots full of quicklime, which they threw into the eyes of their enemies. See Notes and Queries, 5 S. x. 188. The English did this very thing, when attacking a French fleet, in the time of Henry III. Strutt (Manners and Customs, 1774, ii. 11) quotes from [ 313 ]Matthew Paris to this effect:—'Calcem quoque vivam et in pulverém subtilem reductam, in altum projicientes, vento illam ferente, Francorum oculos excaecaverunt.' Cf. Æn. viii. 694.

652. Put, short for putteth, puts; pres. tense.

653. To-go, disperse themselves; pres. tense. The prefix to has the same force as the Lat. dis-, i.e. 'in different directions.' We even find to-ga used as a past tense in Barbour's Bruce (viii. 351, ix. 263, 269, xvii. 104, 575), with the sense 'fled in different directions,' or 'fled away.' Cf. 'the wlcne to-gað,' the clouds part asunder; Morris; Spec. of Eng. pt. I. p. 7, l. 169. And again, 'thagh the fourme of brede to-go,' though the form of bread disappear; Shoreham's Poems, p. 29.

That best go mighte, each in the way he could best go; each made the best of his way to a safe place. 'Sauve qui peut.'

655. 'Suddenly they saw the threescore ships of Cleopatra busily about their yard-masts, and hoising sail to fly'; Sh. Plut. p. 212. Cf. Ant. and Cleop. iii. 10. 10; Vergil, Æn. viii. 707-8. The remark about Cleopatra's 'purple sails' may remind us of Plutarch's description of Cleopatra on the Cydnus, already referred to above (note to l. 583):—'the poop [of her barge] was of gold, the sails of purple'; Sh. Plut. p. 174; Ant. and Cleop. ii. 2. 198.

The truth is, however, that (as Bech points out) Chaucer has borrowed this and a few other incidents from L. Annaeus Florus, who wrote an Epitome Rerum Romanarum in the second century. In relating the battle of Actium, he says:—'Prima dux fugae regina, cum aurea puppe ueloque purpureo, in altum dedit. Mox secutus Antonius: sed instare uestigiis Caesar. Itaque nec praeparata in Oceanum fuga, nec munita praesidiis utraque Ægypti cornua, Paraetonium atque Pelusium, profuere: prope manu tenebantur. Prior ferrum occupauit Antonius. Regina ad pedes Caesaris prouoluta tentauit oculos ducis: frustra. Nam pulchritudo intra pudicitiam principis fuit. Nec illa de uita, quae offerebatur, sed de parte regni, laborabat. Quod ubi desperauit a principe, seruarique se triumpho uidit, incautiorem nacta custodiam, in Mausoleum se (sepulcra regum sic uocant) recipit: ibi maximos, ut solebat, induta cultus, in differto odoribus solio, iuxta suum se collocauit Antonium: admotisque ad uenas serpentibus, sic morte quasi somno, soluta est.'—Florus, Epit. Rerum Romanarum, lib. iv. c. 11.

662. Chaucer (following Florus) has hastened the catastrophe. Antony stabbed himself at Alexandria, in the following year, B.C. 30. See Sh. Plut. 221; Ant. and Cleop. iv. 14. 102.

672. Shryne; for 'solio' in Florus; cf. l. 675. Plutarch says only that Cleopatra 'did sumptuously and royally bury him with her own hands'; Sh. Plut. p. 224. Afterwards, however, she 'crowned the tomb with garlands and sundry nosegays, and marvellous lovingly embraced the same'; Sh. Plut. p. 227. But see the account by Florus, in the note to l. 655.

[ 314 ]677. Dede cors, dead body; as in l. 876. Chaucer uses cors of the living body, as, e.g. in Sir Thopas, B 2098.

678. Chaucer seems to think that Florus meant, 'in sepulcrum [suum] se recipit ... iuxta Antonium.'

679. Shakespeare follows closely the account in Plutarch, except that he makes mention of two asps, whereas Plutarch mentions but one, called by Sir Thos. North 'an aspick'; Sh. Plut. p. 227. However, Florus uses the plural serpentibus. Cf. Cower, C. A., iii. 361.

681. Cf. Cleopatra's lament in Sh. Plut. p. 226; Ant. and Cleop. iv. 15. 59; v. 2. 283.

691. Pronounce unreprovable, as unréprovábl'.

694. Sene, evident. Note that this is an adjective (A.S. gesýne), and not the past participle; cf. l. 2655, and note. See also ll. 340, 741, and my note to the Balade against Women Inconstaunt, l. 13.

696. Naked. It looks as if Chaucer took induta (note to l. 655) to mean 'not clothed.' Perhaps he read it as nudata.

702. Storial sooth, historical truth. The old editions actually put the comma after storial instead of after sooth; and modern editors have followed them. Surely the editors, in some passages, have never attempted to construe their own texts.


Chaucer follows Ovid, Metamorph. iv. 55-166; and frequently very closely. The reader should compare the Latin text throughout. For example, Ovid begins thus:—

'Pyramus et Thisbe, iuuenum pulcherrimus alter,
altera, quas Oriens habuit, praelata puellis,
contiguas habuere domos, ubi dicitur altam
coctilibus muris cinxisse Semiramis urbem.'

In Golding's translation, fol. 43, back, thus:—

'Within the town (of whose huge walles so monstrous high and thicke,
The fame is giuen Semiramis for making them of bricke)
Dwelt hard together two young folke in houses ioynde so nere,
That under all one roofe well nie both twaine conuayed were.
The name of him was Pyramus, and Thisbe call'd was she;
So faire a man in all the East was none aliue as he.
Nor nere a woman, mayde, nor wife in beautie like to her.'

This at once explains the allusion to Semiramis, the celebrated but mythical queen who was said to have surrounded Babylon with walls of fabulous strength, having a deep ditch outside them. See Orosius, as translated by King Alfred, in Sweet's A.S. Reader, fourth ed. pp. 28, 29. Gower tells the same story, and likewise follows Ovid; C. A. i. 324.

718. Estward; evidently from Ovid's 'Oriens'; see above.

[ 315 ]722. The first foot consists of the single syllable Mai-.

725. Naso, i.e. Ovid; really named Publius Ouidius Naso.

726. Réport; accented on the e. Y-shove, pushed (into notice); cf. l. 1381.

727. 'Tempore creuit amor'; Met. iv. 60.

730. 'Sed uetuere patres'; id. 61.

735. 'As (to quote the proverb) cover up the glowing coal, and the hotter the fire becomes.' Ovid has—'Quoque magis tegitur, tanto magis aestuat ignis'; 64. Wry is in the imperative mood, singular. Cf. Troilus, ii. 538-9.

741. Sene, visible; see note to l. 694. Dere y-nogh a myte, even in a slight degree; lit. '(to an extent) dear enough at a mite.' A singular use of the phrase. Cf. 'dere ynogh a leek'; Can. Yem. Ta., G 795; 'not worth a myte'; id., G 633.

742. 'Quid non sentit amor?' Met. iv. 68.

745. 'In a tone as low as if uttering a confession.' A curious medieval touch. Ovid says, 'murmure ... minimo'; 70.

756. 'Inuide, dicebant, paries, quid amantibus obstas?' 73.

763. Holde, beholden. 'Nec sumus ingrati'; 76.

773. Chaucer practically transposes the offices of Phoebus and Aurora.

'Postera nocturnos Aurora remouerat ignes,
solque pruinosas radiis siccauerat herbas'; 82.

782. And for, and because, &c.

783. For stands alone in the first foot. Cf. l. 797.

784. 'Conueniant ad busta Nini, lateantque sub umbra Arboris'; 88. Ll. 786, 787 are explanatory, and added by Chaucer. Ninus, the supposed founder of Nineveh, was the husband of Semiramis. Cf. Shak. Mid. Nt. Dr. v. 1. 139.

786. Lounsbury (Studies in Chaucer, i. 403) says that the pt. t. of herien is heried-e, with final e. But the form is right; héried-e is hardly pronounceable, and the final e is naturally dropped when the accent is thrown so far back. The forms of the past tenses of weak verbs are variable; whether they take a final e or not often depends on the form of the stem. See Ten Brink, Chaucer's Sprache, § 194.

797. Y-wimpled, covered with a wimple, or cloth covering the neck and fitting close round the face, chiefly worn by nuns. Another medieval touch. Ovid has 'adopertaque uultum'; 94. See note to l. 813.

798-801. These four lines are mainly original, and quite in Chaucer's own manner. Ovid has merely 'fallitque suos.'

803. 'Audacem faciebat amor'; 96.

804. She gan her dresse, she settled herself, lit. directed herself. Lat. 'sedit.'

810. Rist, riseth; pres. tense, as in l. 887. So arist, Man of Law's Tale, B 265.

[ 316 ]811. With dredful foot; so again in Kn. Ta., A 1479. 'Timido pede fugit in antrum'; 100. See Dreadful in Trench, Select Glossary; and cf. ll. 109, 404 above.

813. 'Dumque fugit, tergo uelamina lapsa reliquit'; 101. 'For fere, and let her wimple falle.'—Gower, Conf. Amant. i. 326.

814-6. These three lines are original. Sit, sitteth. Darketh, lies close. 'The child than darked in his den'; Will. of Palerne, 17; 'drawe [drew] him into his den, and darked ther stille'; id. 44. And again in the same poem, ll. 1834, 2851.

823-31. Considerably expanded from the Latin:—

'Serius egressus uestigia uidit in alto
puluere certa ferae, totoque expalluit ore
Pyramus'; 105.

830. Agroos, shuddered; and again in l. 2314; and in Troil. ii. 930. The infin. agryse is in the Man of Law's Tale, B 614.

834. 'Una duos, inquit, nox perdet amantes'; 108.

835. This line is Chaucer's own.

842. What, whatsoever; 'quicunque ... leones'; 114.

847-9. 'Accipe nunc, inquit, nostri quoque sanguinis haustus'; 118.


'Cruor emicat alte
non aliter quam quum uitiato fistula plumbo
scinditur, et tenues stridente foramine longe
eiaculatur aquas, atque ictibus aera rumpit'; 121.

With much good taste, Chaucer omits the next three lines, just as he has omitted to tell us that the trysting-tree was 'a faire high Mulberie with fruite as white as snow,' as Golding says. The blood of Pyramus turned this fruit black, and so it remains to this day! Gower likewise suppresses the mulberry-tree, but Shakespeare mentions it; see Mid. Nt. Dr. v. 1. 149.

853-61. Admirably expanded out of three lines:—

'Ecce metu nondum posito, ne fallat amantem,
illa redit; iuuenemque oculis animoque requirit;
quantaque uitarit narrare pericula gestit'; 128.

859. The first syllable of Bothe forms a foot by itself. So also in ll. 863, 901, 911, &c.


'Dum dubitat, tremebunda uidet pulsare cruentum
membra solum; retroque pedem tulit; oraque buxo
pallidiora gerens, exhorruit aequoris instar,
quod fremit, exigua quum summum stringitur aura'; 133.

869-82. Fourteen lines where Ovid has eight. Chaucer has greatly improved l. 882, where Ovid makes Thisbe ask Pyramus to lift up his head:—'uultusque attolle iacentes'; 144.

[ 317 ]887. This line is original. Bost, noise, outcry; such is the original sense of the word now spelt boast, which see in the New E. Dict. Cf. 'Now ariseth cry and boost'; King Alisaunder, 5290; and see P. Plowman, C. xvii. 89. Whitaker, writing in 1813, remarks that boost, in the sense of noise, is 'a provincial word still familiar in the Midland counties.'


'Persequar extinctum; letique miserrima dicar
caussa comesque tui'; 151.

905-12. Admirably substituted for Thisbe's address to the mulberry-tree, requesting it to keep its berries always black thenceforth.

913, 14.

'Dixit; et aptato pectus mucrone sub imum
incubuit ferro, quod adhuc a caede tepebat'; 162.

916-23. These lines are original. With l. 917 cf. Le Rom. de la Rose, 14345:—'Mes moult est poi de tex amans.'


This Legend purports to be taken from Vergil and Ovid; see l. 928. There is very little of it from Ovid, viz. only the last 16 lines, which depend on Ovid's Heroides, vii. 1-8, and ll. 1312-6, which owe something to the same epistle.

The rest is from the Æneid, bks. i-iv, as will be pointed out.

Note that Chaucer had already given the story of Dido at some length in his Hous of Fame, 151-382, which should be compared. He mentions Ovid there also; l. 379.

924. Mantuan, born near Mantua. Publius Vergilius [not Virgilius] Maro was born on the 15th Oct., B.C. 70, at Andes, now Pietola, a small village near Mantua in Cisalpine Gaul; and died Sept. 22, B.C. 19. It is said that an inscription was placed on his tomb, beginning 'Mantua me genuit.'

926. Cf. 'chi vi fu lucerna?' Dante, Purg. i. 43.

927. Eneas, Æneas, hero of the Æneid.

928. The late editions, for some mysterious reason, put a full stop after Eneid and insert of before Naso. The sense is—'I will take the general tenour (of the story as I find it) in thine Æneid and in Naso,' i.e. in Ovid; 'and I will versify the chief circumstances.'

Roughly speaking, ll. 930-949 are from the Æneid, bk. ii; ll. 950-957 from bk. iii; ll. 958-1155 from bk. i; and ll. 1156-1351 from bk. iv.

931. 'By the craft of the Greeks, and especially by Sinon.' Sinon allowed himself to be taken prisoner by the Trojans, and persuaded them to take in a wooden horse through the walls, which he said had been made as an atonement to Minerva for the Palladium carried away by the Greeks. In the dead of night Sinon let out the armed [ 318 ]men concealed within the horse, and thus Troy was taken by a stratagem. See Æn. ii. 57-267; and cf. Ho. Fame, 152-6.

934. The ghost of Hector appeared to Æneas, and advised him to flee; Æn. ii. 268-298.

935. The verb agreeing with fyr is appered. 'And there appeared also so mad a fire that it could not be controlled.' See Æn. ii. 311.

936. Ilioun, the usual M.E. form of Ilium; Æn. i. 68, ii. 241, 325, 625. Ilium is only another name for Troy, but the medieval writers invented the explanation here adopted by Chaucer, viz. that it was the palace of Priam, and the castle of Troy in particular. Perhaps they interpreted the word domus in too narrow a sense in the passage—'O patria, O Divum domus Ilium'; Æn. ii. 241. This use of the word is invariable in Guido delle Colonne, author of the Historia Destructionis Troie, a work which was considered of the highest authority in the middle ages, though it was shamelessly copied from the French Roman de Troie by Benoit de Sainte-Maure. In fact, a long description of Priam's palace, called Ilion, is given in the alliterative Troy-book, l. 1629, which is translated from Guido; and in Lydgate's Troy-book, ed. 1555, fol. F 6, back, and R 5, back. See the notes to Book Duch. 1070, Ho. Fame, 158, 1467, 1469, 1477.

939. For the death of Priam, killed by Pyrrhus, see Æn. ii. 531-558. Fordoon, slain. Noght, nothing; this alludes to Vergil's 'sine nomine corpus'; Æn. ii. 558.

940. Venus appears to her son Æneas; Æn. ii. 591. Cf. Ho. Fame, 162.

942. Cf. 'dextrae se paruus Iülus [Ascanius] Implicuit'; Æn. ii. 724. See note to Ho. Fame, 177.

945. Lees, lost; 'erepta Creüsa'; Æn. ii. 738; Ho. Fame, 183.

947. Felawshippe, company, companions; 'ingentem comitum numerum'; Æn. ii. 796.

949. Stounde, hour, time; usually dissyllabic in M.E.

953. For these adventures, see Æn. bk. iii; which Chaucer passes over. But see Ho. Fame, 198-221.

959. Libye, Libya, on the N. coast of Africa; Æn. i. 158. For the seven ships saved, see the same, i. 170.

960, 1. These two lines are in no previous edition, (except my own), being preserved only in MSS. C. and P. But they are obviously genuine and necessary; otherwise, the word So (l. 962) is meaningless.

962. Al to-shake, all shaken to pieces, sorely distressed. Cf. l. 820.

964. Æneas and Achates sally forth, Æn. i. 312; Ho. Fame, 226.

971. Hunteresse, huntress; i.e. Venus so disguised; id. i. 319. 'As she had been an hunteresse'; Ho. Fame, 229.

973. Cutted, cut short; 'nuda genu'; id. i. 320. The same expression occurs as 'cutted to the kne' in P. Ploughman's Crede, 296. Compare also l. 434 of the same poem:—

'His wyf walked him with, with a longe gode [goad],
In a cutted cote, cutted full heyȝe.'

[ 319 ]The editions have knytte, which is an erroneous spelling either of knyt or of knytted; neither of which readings can be right.

978-82. Translated from Æn. i. 321-4.

982. Y-tukked up, with robe tucked up; 'Succinctam.' This settles the meaning of tukked in Ch. Prol. 621.

983-93. Shortened from Æn. i. 325-340.

986. 'Phoebus' sister'; Vergil has 'Phoebi soror'; 329.

994-1001. Alluding to Æn. i. 341-410.

997. Hit nere but, it would only be; nere = ne were.

998. Al and som, the whole matter; wholly and in particulars.

1005. Sitheo, so in all the copies. Nothing is commoner than a confusion between c and t in old MSS.; hence Sitheo is for Sichco, i.e. Sichaeus. Sichaeus (Æn. i. 343) is Vergil's name for Acerbas, a wealthy Tyrian priest, who married Elissa (Vergil's Dido) sister of Pygmalion. Pygmalion murdered Acerbas, hoping to appropriate his treasure; but Elissa fled from Tyre, taking the treasure with her, and founded Carthage. Dante has the form Sicheo; Inf. v. 62.

1010. Fredom, liberality; the old sense of free being 'liberal.' Of here means 'for'; in l. 1012 it means 'by.'

1016. Maister-temple, chief temple; cf. maistre-strete, chief street (Kn. Ta., A 2902), and maistre-tour, chief tower (Squi. Tale, F 226). It was the temple of Juno; Æn. i. 446.

1022. 'So the book says'; Vergil says that Venus shrouded Æneas and Achates with a cloud (i. 412, 516).

1024. The first syllable of Hadden forms a foot by itself; cf. l. 1030. Ov'r al forms the last foot.

1025. 'Uidet Iliacas ex ordine pugnas'; i. 456.

1028. 'Bellaque iam fama totum uulgata per orbem'; i. 457.

1032. Kepe, care; usually with a negative; see Kn. Ta., A 2238, 2960.

1035. See Æn. i. 496, &c. Vergil likens Dido to Diana. In l. 1039 Chaucer uses god in the heathen sense, meaning Jupiter.

1044-6. These lines are original. Fremd, strange; A.S. fremede. In the Squi. Tale, F 429, it means 'foreign.' 'To frende ne to fremmed,' to friend nor to stranger; P. Plowm. B. xv. 137. Misspelt frenne (riming with glenne) in Spenser, Shep. Kal. April, 28, with the sense of 'stranger'; unless he means it for foreign.

1047-60. Epitomised from Æn. i. 509-612.

1048. Wende han loren, he supposed to have lost, he supposed that he had lost.

1050. For which, on which account, wherefore.

1059. Meynee, attendants, followers, lit. household; O.F. meisnee, mesnee, meinee. Very common in Chaucer. The derived adj. menial is still in use. See l. 1089.

1061-5. From Æn. i. 613, 614. Ll. 1066-1074 are from the same, 588-591.

[ 320 ]1075. 'Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco'; id. 630.

1076. The first syllable of Lyked forms a foot by itself. God do bote, may God give (us) help! A parenthetical explanation. All former editions (except my own) omit the necessary comma after as.

1077-85. Chaucer here gives a general outline of the state of the case, without following Vergil's words.

1086-90. This answers to Æn. i. 615-630.

1091-1102. From Æn. i 631-642.

1099. His lyve, in his life, during his life.

1103-27. This passage is, practically, original. Chaucer here tells the story in his own language, and gives it a wholly medieval cast.

1104. The M.E. swolow usually means 'a whirlpool' or 'gulf,' and such is Tyrwhitt's explanation. See the Catholicon Anglicum, p. 373, note 1, for examples. Thus, in Wyclif's Works, ed. Matthew, p. 97, we find—'Swolwis of the see and helle, that resceyuen al that thei may and ȝelden not aȝen.' Very rarely, it is used of an open mouth; thus in Allit. Poems, ed. Morris, iii. 250, it is said that the whale 'opened his swolȝ' to engulf Jonah. Hence, probably, arose the suggestion in Bell's note, that the reference is to the open mouth of hell, as represented in medieval drawings. Nevertheless, I believe Tyrwhitt is right; though either sense will serve. It is the mod. E. swallow, used as a sb. Cf. Dante, Inf. xxxiv. 137-9.

1106. Parements, ornaments; probably hangings. Cf. 'chambre of parementz' in Squi. Ta., F 269, and Tyrwhitt's note, quoted in my note to the line. In the Kn. Ta., A 2501, paramentz means 'rich clothes.' See Æn. i. 637-9.

1107. For ornaments, which is preserved in MSS. C. and T. only, the other MSS. and all the old editions have the odd reading pavements, which is strangely out of place. I think it clear that this arose from a repetition of the word parements, which was afterwards turned into pavements by way of desperate emendation. The letters v and r are often somewhat alike, and have been mistaken for one another, as shewn in my paper on 'ghost-words' in the Phil. Soc. Transactions, 1886.

1109. The MSS. (except T.) and the black-letter editions have he. Morris's, Bell's, and Corson's editions have she, which gives no sense, and will not suit l. 1111. I do not undertake to notice all the vagaries of the various editions, as the readings of the MSS. are so much more satisfactory. In the present case, I suppose that she is a mere misprint in Bell, preserved in the editions that follow him. Sete is short for seten, the usual M.E. pp. of sitten, to sit; see Kn. Ta., A 1452. It answers to the A.S. pp. seten, with short e. The e in mete was also short in A.S.; hence the rime is perfect.

1110. Cf. Squi. Ta., F 294—'The spyces and the wyn is come anon.' This refers to the custom of serving wine mixed with spices to the guests before going to rest; see a long note in Warton, Hist. E. Poetry, [ 321 ]ed. 1840, i. 178 (on the word piment); Weber's note on King Alisaunder, 4178; and Our English Home, p. 85.

1114. The first syllable Ther probably constitutes the first foot of the line. I believe Chaucer accents courser on the former syllable; see Kn. Ta., A 1502, 1704; Squi. Ta., F 195, 310.

1117. Fretted, adorned; not 'fraught,' as in Corson's note.

1119. Shynedè; trisyllabic; in MS. C. only; rest, shyned, shyneth, which will not scan. Cf. lakkedè, Prol. 756; knokkeden, Compl. Mars, 84. Line 2194 has shinèd, and l. 1428 has shoon. Shynede occurs in both the Wycliffite versions of Luke ii. 9; and is therefore an old form. We still have shined as a pt. t. in Ezek. xliii. 2, Acts ix. 3, xii. 7.

1120. 'Nor gentle high-flying falcon for striking herons.' Chaucer has gentil faucon in his Parl. of Foules, 337. Cotgrave, s.v. haultain, has:—'Faulcon haultain, a high-flying hawke.' Heronere means 'used for flying at herons'; only the best hawks would serve for this.

1122. Y-bete, in the Knight's Ta., A 979, means 'ornamented with beaten gold,' or with gold flattened out by the hammer (F. or batu). It might mean 'ornamented by means of the hammer'; but as 'new florins' can hardly be said to be used for decorating cups, it seems best to take with in the sense of 'as well as'; in which case florins newe y-bete means 'florins newly struck.' The allusion to florins is curious; see note to P. Plowman, B. iii. 45. Cf. Æn, i. 640—'Ingens argentum mensis, caelataque in auro Fortia facta patrum.'

1128-35. From Æn. i. 643-656.

1135. Take, present, offer, deliver. This sense was once common; see Sec. Non. Ta., G 223; Can. Yem. Ta., G 1030, 1034, 1365; P. Plowman, B. i. 56, iv. 58, &c.

1136-49. Much abridged from Æn. i. 657-722.

1145. 'Let it be as it may; I care little about it.'

1150-55. Chaucer here comes to the end of Æn. bk. i, and passes over the second book with the remark in l. 1153.

1155. Entendeden, gave their attention. Corson and Gilman explain it by 'attend,' as if it were the present tense.

1156. Chaucer here passes on to Vergil's fourth book, which he epitomises, and seldom follows quite exactly.

1157. Sely, simple, unsuspecting; see l. 1254. See Silly in Trench, Select Glossary.

1161. 'Why I have told the story so far, and must tell the rest.'

1163. The reading his (for her) in MS. C. can be justified, and may be right. The A.S. móna was masculine, but the Lat. luna was feminine. Hence arose a confusion, so that the M.E. mone was of either gender. Hence, in Chaucer's Astrolabe, pt. ii. § 34, l. 12, we find—'And nota, that yif the mone shewe himself by light of day,' &c.; whereas in the same, pt. ii. § 40, l. 54, we find—'the mone, loke thou rekne wel hir cours houre by houre; for she,' &c.

1166. Brayd, start, sudden movement. In the Cursor Mundi, 7169, we read of Samson, that—

[ 322 ]

'Vte of thair handes son he stert
And gaue a braid sa fers and fast,
That all the bandes of him brast.'

See Braid in the New E. Dictionary.

1170-81. From Vergil's Æn. iv. 9-29.

1174. 'And eke so likely to be a hero.' Man is here used emphatically; cf. 'quam forti pectore et armis'; iv. 11.

1182, 3. Cf. Æn. iv. 31-53; but Chaucer cuts it short.

1187. Love (A.S. lufu) is here monosyllabic; cf. Kn. Ta., A 1135. 'Love desires (to have) love; for no one will it desist.' Cf. A.S. wandian, to turn aside, blench, fear. And see wol, in l. 1191.

1188-1211. From Æn. iv. 129-159.

1191. An hunting, on hunting, a-hunting. Here an is another form of the prep. on, and hunting is a substantive, like Lat. uenatio. See Skeat, Principles of Eng. Etymology, Ser. 1, p. 260.

Wol, desires (to go); cf. wol in l. 1187.

1196. Hoven, wait in readiness, hover. Cf. 'where that she hoved and abode'; Gower, C. A. iii. 63; and see P. Plowman, B. prol. 210, xviii. 83. It just expresses the notion of slight movement, whilst remaining nearly in the same place. The old editions read heven, which gives no sense; for it never means 'mount,' as has been suggested. Cf. Vergil's 'expectant'; iv. 134.

1198. Paper-whyt, as white as paper; a curious and rare compound. Printed paper white (as two words!) in former editions.

1200. The 4th sense of Bar in the New E. Dict. is—'An ornamental transverse band on a girdle, saddle, &c.; subsequently, an ornamental boss of any shape.'

1201. Sit, sits. Wrye, covered; A.S. wrigen, pp.

1204. Startling, moving suddenly; the frequentative form of starting, which Chaucer preferred when repeating this same line in his Kn. Tale, A 1502.

1205. A litel wyr, i.e. a small bridle-bit. See l. 1208.

1206. Phebus; Vergil's 'Apollo'; iv. 144. To devyse, to describe (him).

1209. Wold, willed, desired; the pp. of willen. This form is very rare, but we again find hath wold in l. 11 of the Compl. of Venus; and hadde wold in P. Plowman, B. xv. 258. Prof. Corson aptly quotes three examples from Malory's Morte Arthur, ed. T. Wright, with the references 'vol. i. c. 33, vol. iii. c. 119, and vol. iii. c. 123.' The first of these answers to bk. ii. c. 8, p. 54 in the 'Globe' edition, where we find—'Then said Merlin to Balin, Thou hast done thyself great hurt, because thou savedst not this lady that slew herself, that might have saved her and thou wouldest.' Caxton (ed. 1485) also has woldest; but Wright, following the edition of 1634, has had would. For the other passages, see bk. xviii. capp. 15 and 19, where Caxton has 'and he had wold,' and 'and I had wolde.'

1212-31. From Vergil, Æn. iv. 154-170.

[ 323 ]1213. Go bet, go more quickly, hasten; a term of encouragement. See Pard. Tale, C 667, and the note. Prik thou, spur thou, push on; a like term. Lat goon, let (the dogs) go.

1230. 'Ille dies primus leti, primusque malorum Causa fuit'; iv. 169. It looks as if Chaucer has translated leti by 'gladnesse,' as if it were letitiae. (Bech makes a similar remark.)

1232-41. These lines are original. Cf. Ho. Fame, 253-292.

1242. Here follows, in Vergil, the celebrated description of Fame, which Chaucer had already introduced into his Hous of Fame, 1368-1392; it is therefore here omitted. He passes on to Æn. iv. 195.

1245. Yarbas, i.e. Iarbas, son of Ammon; Æn. iv. 196.

1254-84. Original; but see Ho. Fame, 269-292.

1262. Pilled, robbed. 'A knight ... sholde deffenden holy chirche, and nat robben it ne pilen it'; Persones Tale, De Avaritia, I 767.

1277. Ther-as, whereas. Sterve, to die.

1287. Perhaps copied by the author of fragment B. of the Romaunt of the Rose. We there find (l. 4838, Glasgow MS.)—'The hoote ernes [ernest?] they al foryeten'; there being nothing answering to it in the French text.

1288. 'And he secretly causes his ships to be prepared'; lit. 'causes (men) to prepare his ships.'

1289. Shapeth him, intends, purposes. See Prologue, 772.

1295. 'Me patris Anchisae ... Admonet ... imago'; iv. 351.

1297. Mercurie, Mercury; 'interpres Divûm'; iv. 356.

1305. What womman, what sort of a woman.

1310. Seketh halwes, repairs to saints' shrines; a curious medieval touch. Vergil only mentions the sacrifice; iv. 453. Cf. Prologue, 14, and the note. 'To go seken halwes'; C. T. (Wyf of Bathes Prol.), D 657.

1312, 3. 'Si pudet uxoris, non nupta, sed hospita dicar,' &c.; Ovid, Her. vii. 167.

1316. Cf. 'Sed neque fers tecum'; Her. vii. 79.

1317. Thise lordes; 'Nomadumque tyranni'; Æn. iv. 320. Also Pygmalion and Iarbas, id. 325, 6.

1324. The former syllable of Mercy forms the first foot in the line; cf. l. 1342. 'Have pitee on my sorwes smerte!' Ho. Fame, 316; which see.

1331. Lavyne, Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus; Æn. vii. 359.

1332. A cloth. This refers to the Trojan garments left behind by Æneas; 'Iliacas uestes'; iv. 648. The sword is mentioned by Vergil just two lines above; 646.

1338-40. Here the cloth answers to the Lat. exuuiae; and whyl hit leste = whilst it pleased. These three lines are a close imitation of Vergil, Æn. iv. 651-3:—

'Dulces exuuiae, dum fata Deusque sinebant;
Accipite hanc animam, meque his exsoluite curis;
Vixi, et quem dederat cursum fortuna, peregi.'

[ 324 ]We hence see that, in l. 1339, the right reading is unbind me of this unreste, a close translation from the Latin. Me of are run together; see note to Complaint to Pitè, l. 11.

1341. Withouten, without any succour from Æneas.

1346. Her norice, her nurse, or rather the nurse of Sichæus, named Barce; Æn. iv. 632.

1351. 'She roof hir-selve to the herte'; Ho. Fame, 373.

1352. Here Chaucer, having done with Vergil, takes up Ovid, who is intended by the words myn autour.

1354. A lettre, i.e. the 7th Epistle in Ovid's Heroides. See l. 1367.

1355-65. From the first 8 lines in the above Epistle.

'Sic, ubi fata uocant, udis abiectus in herbis,
ad uada Maeandri concinit albus olor.
Nec, quia te nostra sperem prece posse moueri,
alloquor. Aduerso mouimus ista deo.
Sed merita et famam, corpusque animumque pudicum
quum male perdiderim, perdere uerba leue est.
Certus es ire tamen, miseramque relinquere Dido;
atque îdem uenti uela fidemque ferent.'


The chief sources of this fourth Legend are Guido delle Colonne's Historia Troiana, Ovid's Metamorphoses, bk. vii, and Heroides, letters vi. and xii. The story of Hypsipyle is also in Statius' Thebaid, bk. v, and in l. 1437 (see note) there is a reference to the Argonauticon of Valerius Flaccus. See further in the Preface; and see the notes to ll. 1396, 1467.

1368-95. This is a Prologue to the Legend, and is original.

1371. Reclaiming, enticement, power to subdue; lit. a calling back. Halliwell has: 'To reclaim a hawk, to make her gentle and familiar, to bring her to the wrist by a certain call. It is often used metaphorically, to tame.' Cf. 'since this same wayward girl is so reclaimed'; Romeo, iv. 2. 47.

1373. Of, by means of. Farced, stuffed; as in Prol. to C. T., 233.

1377. 'Where others betray one, thou betrayest two.'

1381. Shove, pushed forward, brought into notice; cf. l. 726.

1383. Have at thee! let me attack (or pursue) thee. Thyn horn is blowe, the horn is blown that summons all to pursue thee; a metaphor taken from the chase.

1387. Aboght, bought; pp. of abye, which was corrupted into abide; whence 'thou shalt dearly abide it.'

1388. Box, blow, buffet; now only used of 'a box on the ear.'

1389. Et, eateth; pres. tense. So in the Ayenbite of Inwyt, p. 135, l. 10, and in Ælfric's Grammar, ed. Zupitza, p. 200.

[ 325 ]1391. Prof. Lounsbury would read 'the goodë man that ther-for payede,' and remarks that this gives a false rime, because the preterite form payede will not rime with the pp. betrayed. He adds—'in order to follow the reading of the one MS. that makes payed a participial form, the adj. goode, of the definite declension, has to be shorn of its final e in pronunciation.'—Studies in Chaucer, i. 405. I take good-man to be, practically, one word, as in the A. V., Matt. xx. 11, so that the def. form of the adj. is not really required. And I prefer the reading hath payed, though it rests on the authority of one (the best) MS. only. If, however, we adopt the proposed reading, it makes no difference at all to the rime. For the pt. t. of verbs of F. origin, as payen, serven, is usually payed, served, the full ending -ede (with both syllables sounded) being extremely rare in Chaucer; cf. note to l. 1119. We even have shined, not shinede, in l. 2194, in a word of E. origin. Hence there is really no fault to be found, whichever reading be taken; and the cricitism, which is quite superfluous, comes to nothing.

1394, 5. On, in the case of. Y-sene, evident; as in l. 2655. By, with reference to.

1396. The reading Guido (in MSS. C., T., A.) where the other MSS. and the editions have Ouyde, is important; especially as it is correct, and gives us a new clue. The Historia Troiana of Guido delle Colonne begins with the story of Jason, and it is evident that Chaucer follows him, at least as far as l. 1461. This can easily be seen by comparing the present passage with the beginning of Book I. of the alliterative Troy-book, ed. Panton and Donaldson, otherwise called the Gest Historiale of the Destruction of Troy, which is closely translated from Guido; or else with Lydgate's Troy-book, bk. i. capp. 1-3. Gower also tells the story of Jason (C. A. ii. 236), and says that the tale 'is in the boke of Troie write.'

1397. Pelleus; so spelt in the allit. Troy-book, l. 104; Gower has Peleus. Medieval names are strangely confused. The right form is not Peleus, but Pelias. He was king of Thessaly, half-brother of Æson, and guardian of Jason. The reading king gives him his title in anticipation, but is right. So also, in the allit. Troy-book, l. 103: 'There was a kyng in that coste,' &c.; and Guido has 'rex' here.

1398. Eson (as in Gower); Æson, the aged father of Jason.

1420. Al made he, although he made.

1425. Colcos, properly Colchis, now Mingrelia; between the Caucasus and the Eastern shore of the Black Sea. In the allit. Troy-book, it is called Colchos, l. 152; and so in Gower. It is not really an island, but Chaucer follows the Latin text, which has 'insula'; see note to l. 1590.

1430. Kept, guarded; with, by. Compare the Troy-book, l. 164:—

'Thus coyntly it kept was, all with clene art,
By too oxen, oribull on for to loke,
And a derfe dragon, drede to behold.'

[ 326 ]1438. Oëtes (as in Guido); properly Aeëtes, Ovid, Her. xii. 51. He was king of Colchis, and father of Medea.

1447. 'Then should I be bound to requite thy toil.'

1453. Argus, the builder of the ship Argo, in which Jason undertook the voyage. The name is given by Guido (see the E. Troy-book, l. 273), by Valerius Flaccus, in his Argonauticon, lib. i. 314, and in the Argonautics of Apollonius Rhodius.

1457. As Bech points out, Chaucer here copies the remark in Dares:—'Demonstrare cos qui cum Iasone profecti sunt non uidetur nostrum esse: sed qui uolunt eos cognoscere, Argonautas legant.'—De excidio Troiae historia, ed. Meister, 1873; cap. 1. The reference is to the Argonauticon of Valerius Flaccus, lib. i., where the list of the Argonauts may be found. It also occurs in bk. i. of the Argonautics of Apollonius Rhodius. It is a dreary catalogue; or, as Chaucer says, a sufficiently long tale. There is a shorter list in Statius, Thebaid, bk. v. All the lists make much of Hercules (see l. 1454).

1459. Philotetes (so spelt by Guido, see the Eng. version, p. 12, ll. 6 and 10, where the passage from Guido is quoted) was the name of the pilot to the expedition. Valerius Flaccus identifies him with Philoctetes, son of Pœas or Pæas; as he introduces him by the name of Pœantius; Argon, i. 391.

1463. Lemnoun, Lemnos; it is very common to quote proper names in forms resembling the accusative case. This, as Chaucer says, is not in Guido, but in Ovid; see Ovid's Heroid. vi. 50, 117, 136. At the same time it would be interesting to know what version of Guido Chaucer followed; for it is a very singular fact, that whilst the story of Hypsipyle is neither in the alliterative Eng. version, nor in Lydgate, it does occur, at this point, in a Spanish version, printed at Medina in 1587. There the heading of bk. ii. c. x. is—'Como Iason aporto con tormenta a la Isla de Lemos, y caso con la infanta Hisifile.'

1467. Isiphilee, Hypsipyle, daughter of Thoas, and queen of Lemnos; she saved her father when the women of Lemnos killed all the other men in the island, and subsequently entertained Jason. As the letter in Ovid does not give all the circumstances, perhaps Chaucer consulted Valerius Flaccus, Argonauticon, lib. ii., and Statius, Thebais, lib. v., or, perhaps, the Fables of Hyginus, cap. xv.; but he makes more of Hercules than do these authorities, and seems to be inventing.

1468. Thoas doghter the king, the daughter of king Thoas. This is the usual idiom; see my note to Squi. Tale, F 209.

1469. Cf. Valerius Flaccus, Argon. ii. 311:—

'Ecce procul ualidis Lemnon tendentia remis
Arma notant: rapitur subito regina tumultu,
Conciliumque uocat: non illis obuia tela
Ferre, nec infestos deerat furor improbus ignes,
Ni Ueneris saeuas fregisset Mulciber iras.'

[ 327 ]In Statius, Theb. v., the Lemnian women receive the Argonauts with hostility at first, and attack them with missiles.

1476. Socour; cf. 'succurrere disco'; Verg. Æn. i. 630.

1479. This is a curious error; him should be her. As the Lemnian women had just killed every man in the island, the messenger must needs have been a woman. In fact, her name was Iphinoë; Val. Flacc. Argon. ii. 327. The account in Apollonius Rhodius is somewhat fuller; but I find no mention of the cogge.

1481. Cogge, a cock-boat; from the O. Fr. coque, also spelt cogue, a kind of vessel, sometimes a ship of war, but also a merchant-vessel, and here a small boat. See coque or cogue in Godefroy's O. Fr. Dict. Cogge occurs in the Morte Arthure, 476, 738; Allit. Poems, ed. Morris, iii. 152; &c. 'Cogboote, cokbote, scafa'; Prompt. Parv.

1487. Broken, ship-wrecked. 'The ships were broken' 1 Kings xxii. 48; cf. Jonah i. 4. Oght wo begoon, in any way distressed. Note resemblances to the tale of Dido.

1488. Lodesmen, pilots; see note to Ch. Prol. 403. 'Lodesman of a shippe, pilotte'; Palsgrave.

1509. Cf. Valerius Flaccus, Arg. ii. 351:—

'Praecipueque ducis casus mirata requirit
Hypsipyle; quae fata trahant, quae regis agat uis.'

1514. Los; spelt loos in MS. Tn.; for the o is long. It means 'praise' or 'renown,' and occurs six times in Ho. Fame (1620, 1621, 1626, 1722, 1817, 1900). Los, with short o, means 'loss.'

1515. Read th'áventúres, in four syllables.

1528. Prof. Corson cites some parallel passages, viz:—

'And therto he was hardy, wys, and riche'; Squi. Ta., F 19.

'Hardy, and wyse, and riche, and therto free'; Ship. Ta., B 1366.

'We alle desyren, if hit mighte be,
To have housbondes hardy, wyse, and free,
And secree'; Non. Pr. Ta., B 4103.

1529. Three pointes. The reference is not to l. 1528, which mentions four points, but to ll. 1530-3 following. I.e. the three points are fredom, lustihede, and being a greet gentil-man; or otherwise, liberality, youthful vigour, and high birth. Cf. l. 1405.

1533. Accent Tessálie on the second syllable.

1535. Shamefast (from A.S. sceamu) is here trisyllabic. On the corrupt modern spelling shamefaced see Trench, Eng. Past and Present.

1536. He hadde lever, he would have it dearer, he would rather.

1538-40. In order to scan l. 1538, the word almighty is necessary, though found in MS. A. only. Or else we must insert him, and read—'As wolde God that I hadde him i-yive.' The sense is—'As (I pray) that God would permit that I might have given [him] my blood and flesh, provided that I might still live (to see the result), on the condition that he had anywhere a wife (suitable) to his rank.' So that [ 328 ]means 'provided that'; as in 'so that ye be not wroth,' C. T., D 2248 (Sompnoures Tale), in the Harleian MS.; and in the following:—

'Sche saide, sire, ich wille help the,
So that thou wille spousi me.'—Seven Sages, ed. Weber, 2663.

As to the expression with the nones, we may compare it with such expressions as with-than, with-thon-that, with-tho-the, with-that, all meaning 'provided that,' and all occurring in the Glossary to Spec. of Eng., Part I. And since for the nones means 'for the occasion' (see Prologue to C. T., 379), so with the nones is 'with the occasion,' and hence 'provided that.' I cannot at all agree with what seems to me the ludicrous emendation in some late editions, which change nones into bones, and delete the comma after live; 'provided that I might live with the bones.' At any rate, there is no authority for this. The old editions and MSS. all alike read nones; and we have the phrase again (pronounced with th' non-es), in the Ho. Fame, 2099.

1546. To come to hous upon, to become at home with, to become familiar with.

1551. The former syllable in Yiftes forms a foot by itself.

1552. As wolde god, as (I wish) that God might will or permit; as in l. 1538.

1558. Thoriginal, the original. As this 'tells all the case,' i.e. all Jason's subtlety, he is probably referring to Ovid, Her. Ep. vi. Flaccus says that Hercules induced Jason to quit Lemnos, and proceed on his voyage. Statius mentions Hypsipyle's twin sons, and relates some of her later history.

1564. Chaucer here follows the sixth letter of Ovid's Heroides. Lines 1569-1575 follow four lines of the Latin text, viz. 123-4, and 159-60, which refer to the twins and Medea:—

'Si quaeris, cui sunt similes; cognosceris illis.
Fallere non norunt; caetera patris habent....
Quam fratri germana fuit, miseroque parenti
filia; tam natis, tam sit acerba uiro.'


1580. From this line to l. 1655 Chaucer mainly follows the second book of Guido delle Colonne's Historia Troiana, which he epitomises. See Gower, C. A. ii. 236-258.

1581. 'Who is a devourer of love, and a very dragon'; with reference to the supposed insatiability of dragons.

1582. 'As matter always seeks to have a definite form, and may pass from one form into another.' Mr. Archer Hind refers me to Aristotle, Metaphysica, Λ. vii. 1072 b. 3:—κινεῖ δὲ ὡς ἐρώμενον, κινούμενον δὲ τἆλλα κινεῖ. Bech shews that this is all from Guido, who has: 'Scimus [ 329 ]enim mulieris animum semper uirum appetere, sicut appetit materia semper formam.... Sed sicut ad formam de forma procedere materiam notum est, sic mulieris concupiscentia dissoluta procedere de uiro ad uirum ... sine fine, cum sit quaedam profunditas sine fundo,' &c. Hence Lydgate, in his Troy-book, bk. i. c. 5 (fol. C 6, back) has:—

'For as nature by kyndly appetyte
Kyndly seketh to sewen after fourme,' &c.

1590. Iaconitos, Iaconites. This is a clear proof that Chaucer follows Guido. At p. 12* of the alliterative Troy-book, ed. Panton and Donaldson, the following passage is quoted from Guido, lib. ii.: 'In insula igitur Colcos erat tunc temporis quaedam ciuitas nomine Iaconites, caput regni pro sua magnitudine constituta.' Further extracts from this Latin text are given by Horstmann, in his edition entitled 'Barbours Legendensammlung,' vol. ii. (Heilbronn, 1882), p. 221; where will also be found a parallel passage in a fifteenth-century poem which has wrongly been ascribed to Barbour. Hence Lydgate, in his Troy-book, bk. i. c. 5 (fol. C 3, back), says of the chief city of Colchos:—'And Iaconites tho it bare the name.'

1594. Read Preyíng; and drop the final e of moste.

1597. Compare the allit. Troy-book, ll. 388-391:—

'The kyng was full curtais, calt on a maiden,
Bede his doughter come downe, and his dere heire,
To sit by that semely, and solas to make.
This mayden full mylde Medea was callid.'

1605. 'And in his mien as royal as a lion.'

1606. Famulere, familiar, affable. See Ch. Prol. 215.

1609. 'And, as Fortune owed her an evil mishap.'

1617. Cf. the Troy-book, l. 544:—

'That causes me with counsell to caste for your helpe,
And put you in plite your purpos to wyn,
In sound for to saile home, and your sute all.'

1620. Cf. the same, l. 554:—

'Now louely and leell, for your lefe speche
I thanke you a thowsande tymes in my thro hert,
That ye kythe me suche kyndnes withouten cause why;
And here I put me full plainly in your pure wille,
To do with me, damsell, as your desyre thynke.'

1631. Disioint, perilous situation, peril. Cf. Kn. Ta., A 2962. 'But sith I see I stonde in this disioint'; Shipman's Tale, B 1601.

1639. Cf. the Troy-book, 942; and 711:—

'Yow swiftly shall sweire vppon swete goddes,
This couenaunt to kepe and for no case chaunge.'

[ 330 ]

'And swiftly he sware on that swete[3] god,
All tho couenaundes to kepe, and for no cause let,
Whill hym lastes the lyffe; he laid on his hond.'

1653. Unwist of, unknown to. Cf. Troy-book, 987:—

'Then leuyt thai the lond, and no leue toke,
Stale from the styth king stylle by night;
With the maiden Medea and myche other goodes,
Thai turne into Tessaile with-outen tale more.'

Here Chaucer ceases to follow Guido, except in ll. 1662-6.

1661. Her name was Creusa; cf. Ovid, Met. vii. 391-6; Horace, Epod. v. 64.

1662. Cf. the Troy-book, l. 718:—

'And thou hedis not the harme of that hend lady,
Ne tentes not thy trouth that thou tynt has;
Soche a maiden to mar that the most louet,
That forsec hir fader and hir fre londe.'

1667. Vassalage, prowess; cf. Kn. Ta., A 3054. It is here used ironically. Trench refers us to Lydgate's Minor Poems, ed. Halliwell, p. 176:—

'And Catoun seith, is noon so greet encress
Of wordly tresour, as for to live in pees,
Which among vertues hath the vasselage.'

1670. Lettre, letter; i.e. the 12th letter in Ovid's Heroides; see l. 1678. Lines 1672-7 answer to lines 13, 14, and 19 in Ovid:—

'Cur mihi plus aequo flaui placuere capilli,
et decor, et linguae gratia ficta tuae?...
Quantum perfidiae tecum, scelerate, perîsset!'

1672. Why lyked me, why did it please me? But, in l. 1674, lyked is a personal verb.


Chaucer cites Ovid and Livy, and in l. 1873 again appeals to Livy as the authority. The story is in Livy, bk. i. c. 57-59; and in Ovid, Fasti, ii. 721-852. Chaucer doubtless appeals to Livy as being a professed historian, but the reader will find that, as a matter of fact, he follows mainly the account in Ovid from beginning to end, and sometimes almost word for word. Livy and Ovid were contemporary; the former was born B.C. 59, and died A.D. 17; the latter was born B.C. [ 331 ]43, and died A.D. 18. Gower also tells this story, and likewise follows Ovid and (near the end) Livy; C. A. iii. 251.

1680. Ovid tells the story of Lucretia under the date Feb. 22 (viii Kal. Martii), which was commemorated as 'Fuga Tarquinii Superbi,' and begins his account in the Fasti, ii. 685. Chaucer here borrows from Ovid's first line, viz.:—'Nunc mihi dicenda est regis fuga.'

Ll. 1680-1693 form Chaucer's own Prologue to the story.

1682. The 'last king' of Rome was Tarquinius Superbus, father of the Tarquinius Sextus whom Chaucer calls in l. 1698 'Tarquinius the yonge.' The word And, at the beginning of the line, though absolutely necessary to the sense, is preserved only in MS. Addit. 12524, a bad copy from a good type. It reads:—'And specially off the last king Tarquinius'; but no other MS. retains specially, and of course it makes the line too long.

1684. 'I do not tell the story for the sake of Tarquin's exile.'

1690. 'St. Augustin, commenting on the story in the milder and more rational spirit of Christian morality, while he admires the purity of Lucrece, blames her folly in committing the crime of self-murder as a punishment on herself for that of which she was really innocent. "Si adultera," he asks, "cur laudata? Si pudica, cur occisa?" See August. De Civitate Dei, c. xix.'—Bell.

1694. Here Chaucer begins his close copy of Ovid, Fast. ii. 721:—'Cingitur interea Romanis Ardea signis.' The original should be compared throughout. Ardea, capital of the Rutuli; in Latium.

1696. Wroghte, pt. t. 'The siege (or the besiegers) lay before the city long, and accomplished little'; G. L. Kittredge, Harvard Studies, p. 7.

1698. 'Tarquinius iuuenis'; i.e. Tarquinius Sextus.

1705. Colatyne. Chaucer found the name in Livy (or Augustine). Ovid merely has: 'cui dederat clarum Collatia nomen.' Livy has: 'ubi et Collatinus cenebat Tarquinius, Egerii filius.' Collatinus was the cousin of Sextus, and took his name from Collatia, an ancient town of the Sabines, in the neighbourhood of Rome.

1707. From Ovid: 'Non opus est uerbis, credite rebus, ait.'

1708. From Livy: 'paucis id quidem horis posse sciri, quantum ceteris praestet Lucretia sua.'

1711. 'That pleases me.' Ovid: 'Dicta placent'; l. 736.

1715. Cf. 'And knew the estres bet than dide this John'; C. T., A 4295 (Reves Tale); and see Kn. Ta., A 1971; also, in particular, the Romaunt of the Rose, 1448, where the F. text has l'estre (shewing where Ch. found the word); see vol. i. p. 153.

We may explain estres by 'inner premises' of a house or building. Godefroy's O. Fr. Dict. gives numerous examples. Cotgrave gives the verb estre, to be; whence the sb. estre, a being, substance, state; and then cites: 'les estres d'une maison, the inward conveyances, private windings and turnings within, entries into, issues out of, a house.' The word is very common in Old French, and not uncommon [ 332 ]in Middle English. Gower even has the sing. estre in the sense of 'state'; C. A. i. 272. Cf. F. 'il sait tous les êtres de cette maison.'

For all this, the old editions turned the form into efters, and Bell follows them! Moreover, eftures is gravely quoted in Halliwell's Dictionary, with a reference to Sir T. Malory. The passage is:—'Pleaseth it you to see the eftures of this castle?' bk. xix. c. 7 (p. 444 in the Globe edition). Here eftures is a mere misprint (in Caxton's original edition) for estres, due to reading the long s (ſ) as an f. Efters and Eftures are mere 'ghost-words,' the products of ignorance.

1716, 7. 'Tecta petunt; custos in fore nullus erat'; l. 738.

1720. Dischevele, with hair hanging loose. Malice, evil.

1721. 'Ante torum calathi lanaque mollis erat'; l. 742. Of course 'our book' means Ovid; yet Thynne reads 'saith Liui.'

1729. A fine line; but I think Chaucer has wholly misunderstood l. 752 of the original.


'Desinit in lacrimas, intentaque fila remittit,
in gremium uultum deposuitque suum.
Hoc ipsum decuit: lacrimae decuere pudicae,
et facies animo dignaque parque fuit'; l. 755.

1740-3. 'Pone metum, ueni, coniux ait. Illa reuixit.'

1745-55. Six lines in Ovid; ll. 761-6.

1757. 'Iam dederat cantus lucis praenuntius ales'; l. 767.

1759-71. Twelve lines in Ovid; ll. 769-80.

1765. Al to-shake, wholly tossed about; see l. 962.

1771. 'Or a wicked inclination, with malice.' 'The original meaning (as of talento in Italian, talante in Spanish) was will, inclination, from talentum (τάλαντον), balance, scales, and then inclination of balance.'—Trench, Select Glossary, s.v. Talent.

1773. 'Audentes Forsque deusque iuuant.' We say, 'Fortune favours the bold.' Cf. 'Audentes fortuna iuuat'; Verg. Æn. x. 284; 'Audentes deus ipse iuuat'; Ovid, Met. x. 586.

1774. 'Whatever the event may be, my resolve is taken.' Audebimus ultima, dixit'; l. 781.

1775. Girt, girdeth; pr. t. So rit, rideth, in l. 1776.

1780. Halke, corner, hiding-place; as in Sec. Non. Ta. G 311.

1781. Gan he stalke, he moved stealthily; as in Clerk. Ta. E 525. It is remarkable that Shakespeare uses the same word in his Lucrece, l. 365:—'Into the chamber wickedly he stalks.' Prof. Corson notices its use by Gower; see Pauli's edition, vol. i. pp. 72, 187; ii. 256, 346, 347, 353, 360.

1798. 'Parua sub infesto quum iacet agna lupo'; l. 800.

1800-3. Cf. Fast. ii. 801, 2:—

'Quid faciat? Pugnet? uincetur femina pugna;
Clamet? at in dextra, qui uetet, ensis erat.'

[ 333 ]1812-26. These lines are original, and breathe the spirit of chivalry.

1827-36. Eight lines in Ovid; 815, 816; 813, 814; 817-20.

1838-46. This passage is original.

1847-53. Compare Ovid, 829, 830. But Chaucer here follows Livy, who has: 'Dant ordine omnes fidem; consolantur aegram animi, auertendo noxam ab coacta in auctorem delicti; mentem peccare, non corpus; et unde consilium afuerit, culpam abesse.' Cf. Gower, C. A. iii. 261.

1856-60. Two lines in Ovid; 833, 834:—

'Tunc quoque, iam moriens, ne non procumbat honeste,
respicit. Haec etiam cura cadentis erat.'

1861. Chaucer here tells the tale more succinctly. Ll. 1864-5 answer to ll. 849, 850 in Ovid; l. 1866 answers to l. 847 and l. 1869 to l. 852. The rest is, practically, all Chaucer's own.

1871. This canonisation of Lucretia is strikingly medieval. It was evidently suggested by the fact that Ovid gives her story under a particular date, so that she seemed to have her own day, like a saint. Cf. note to l. 1680.

1880. Probably the syllables That in Is- form the first foot of the line. Otherwise, Israel is dissyllabic.

1881. The reference must be to the Syro-phenician woman; Matt. xv. 28; Mark, vii. 29. But it may be feared that Chaucer was really thinking of the centurion; Matt. viii. 10; Luke, vii. 9. Read he ne as he n'.

1883, 4. As of, in the case of. Alday, always; F. toujours. 'Let whoever wishes (it) test them.'


For a remark upon the title, see note to l. 1966.

It is difficult to say whence Chaucer derived all of this Legend. The beginning is from Ovid, Metam. vii. 456-8, viii. 6-176; the main part of the story is like Plutarch's Life of Theseus, or some similar source; and the conclusion from Ovid's Heroides, epist. x. Further, ll. 2222-4 refer to Met. viii. 176-182. See also Hyginus, Fabulae, capp. xli-xliii; Æneid, vi. 20-30; and cf. Gower, C. A. ii. 302-311.

1886. 'O Minos, king of Crete, judge in the infernal regions, now comes thy lot, now comest thou into the ring (concourse).' In l. 1894 we again have mention of Minos, king of Crete; which looks as if Chaucer has confused the two kings of this name. The 'infernal judge' was, however, the grandfather of the second Minos; at least, such is the usual account. The mention of 'the lot' in connection with Minos looks as if Chaucer was thinking of Vergil's lines, Æn. vi. 431, 2:—

[ 334 ]

'Nec uero hae sine sorte datae, sine iudice sedes.
Quaesitor Minos urnam mouet.'

Cf. also Æn. vi. 22:—'stat ductis sortibus urna.'

1889. Memóri-e has four syllables, and is accented on the second.

1895. Hadde, had, possessed; referring to Crete. This seems better than the reading wan (i.e. won), referring to Minos. Cf. Ovid, Her. x. 67:—'Non ego te, Crete, centum digesta per urbes.'

1896. Cf. Ovid, Met. vii. 456-8:—

'Bella parat Minos ...
Androgeique necem iustis ulciscitur armis.'

Androgeus is again mentioned in Ovid, Her. x. 99; and in Vergil, Æn. vi. 20.

'There came certain of king Minos' ambassadors out of Creta, to ask a tribute, being now the third time that it was demanded; which the Athenians paid for this cause. Androgeus, the eldest son of king Minos, was slain by treason within the country of Attica: for which cause Minos, pursuing the revenge of his death, made very hot and sharp wars upon the Athenians, and did them great hurt.'—Shakespeare's Plutarch, p. 280.

1900. From this point to l. 1921 Chaucer follows Ovid, Met. viii. 6-176, but gives a mere outline of the story of Scylla. See note to l. 1908.

1902. Alcathoe, the citadel of Megara, and hence a name for Megara. It was named after Alcathous, founder of Megara; indeed, in Ovid, Met. viii. 8, it is called Alcathoi urbs; but Chaucer found the right form in Met. vii. 443.

1904. Nisus, Nisus, king of Megara; Met. viii. 8.

1908. Nisus' daughter was named Scylla. In order to gain the love of Minos, she cut off her father's purple hair, on which the safety of his kingdom depended; whereupon Nisus was changed into a sparrow-hawk, and Scylla into the bird ciris; Met. viii. 9-151. But Chaucer omits these details. Cf. Parl. of Foules, 292, and the note.

1922. Chaucer here leaves Ovid; this part of the story is partly given in Plutarch and Hyginus, but Chaucer seems to have filled in details from some source unknown to me.

1925. 'Whereupon the Athenians sent immediately unto him, and intreated him for peace: which he granted them, with condition that they should be bound to send him yearly, into Creta, seven young boys and as many young girls. Now thus far all the historiographers do very well agree, but in the rest not. And they which seem furthest off from the troth [including Chaucer] do declare, that when these young boys were delivered in Creta, they caused them to be devoured by the Minotaur within the labyrinth.'—Shakespeare's Plutarch, p. 280.

1928. The Minotaur was a monster, half bull and half man, dwelling [ 335 ]in a labyrinth at Crete, constructed by Dædalus. He annually devoured the fourteen Athenian young people, as above said, till slain by Theseus. Cf. Ovid, Met. viii. 155.

1932. Every thridde yeer, every third year. This is due to Ovid's expression—'tertia sors annis domuit repetita nouenis' (Met. viii. 171), which Golding translates by—'The third time at the ninth yeares end the lot did chance to light On Theseus,' &c. But Hyginus (Fab. xli) says:—'Instituit autem ut anno unoquoque septenos liberos suos Minotauro ad epulandum mitterent.'

1944. Egeus, Ægeus, king of Athens; Met. vii. 402, 404.

1954. 'That thou wouldst be deeply indebted to any one who,' &c.

1960. 'Furthermore, after he [Theseus] was arrived in Creta, he slew there the Minotaur ... by the means and help of Ariadne: who being fallen in fancy with him, did give him a clue of thread, by the help wherof she taught him, how he might easily wind out of the turnings and crancks of the labyrinth.'—Shak. Plutarch, p. 283. Cf. Ovid, Met. viii. 172; Hyginus, Fab. xlii.

1962. Foreyne, outer chamber; belonging to the chambres grete, or set of larger rooms occupied by the daughters of the king. It seems to answer to the A.S. búr, mod. E. bower, explained in Murray's Dict. as 'an inner apartment, esp. as distinguished from the "hall," or large public room; also, esp. applied to a lady's private apartment; boudoir.' It is merely a peculiar use of our word foreign; the O. Fr. forain (fem. foraine) often meant 'outer,' as in the phrases une foraine rue, an outer (more retired) street; es tenebres forennes, into outer darkness; see Godefroy's F. Dict. I agree with Mätzner, that there is no sufficient reason for explaining the word in this passage by 'privy,' though it admittedly has that meaning also (as given in Levins).

1965. Maister-strete, principal street; as in Kn. Ta., A 2902.

1966. Most MSS. begin the line with Of Athenes, as in l. 2306. This would be a most extraordinary oversight, as the scene is laid in Crete, in the town of Gnossus. MS. T. substitutes 'In mochell myrthe'; and the old printed editions have 'Of the towne,' which scans badly, though 'Of thilke toune' would do well enough. We seem justified in rejecting the reading Of Athenes, because Chaucer distinctly mentions Athenes in ll. 1940, 1944, as being the place whence Theseus was sent 'unto the court of Minos'; l. 1949. Besides this, in l. 2122 Theseus calls Ariadne by the prospective title of 'duchess of Athens'; on which Ariadne playfully remarks that she and her sister are now 'assured to royal positions in Athens'; l. 2128. From all which it does not seem fair to charge the error upon Chaucer himself; and I therefore make the bold alteration suggested by MS. T., and supported by MS. Addit. 9832, which has 'In moche myrth.' In the title of the poem, Ariadne is called 'Adriane de Athenes,' but this is another matter, and has reference to l. 2122. She became 'duchess of Athens' in the right of her husband Theseus.

1969. Adrian or Adriane, the M.E. spellings of Ariadne: see Ho. [ 336 ]Fame, 407; Prol. to Man of Law, B 67. Ariadne and Phædra were the daughters of Minos; Theseus took both of them away from Crete; and, on the voyage, deserted Ariadne for her sister.

1990. 'And make this sorrowful man come with him.'

1992. Quit, free, delivered. It seems to have been an understood thing, that if a captive Athenian should succeed in slaying the Minotaur, he should go free, and the tribute paid by the Athenians should be remitted. One account in Plutarch says that Minos himself 'chose Theseus, upon condition agreed between them; ... and that after the death of the Minotaur this tribute should cease.'—Sh. Plut. p. 282. One condition was, that the captives should be unarmed. This explains Phædra's plan, in l. 1994, for arming Theseus surreptitiously; cf. l. 2011.

1993. Taste, test. The word test was formerly used only as a sb., of a vessel in which gold or silver was tested; the place of the mod. E. verb to test was supplied by the M.E. tasten, and there can be little doubt that the words taste and test have been partially confused; see these words in my Etym. Dict., whence I quote the following: 'The M.E. tasten meant both to feel and to taste. "I rede thee, lat thyn hand upon it falle, And taste it wel, and stoon thou shalt it finde"; Ch. C. T. 15970 (G 502). "Every thyng Himseolf schewith in tastyng;" King Alisaunder, 4042.—F. taster, to taste or take an assay of; also to handle, feel, touch; Cotgrave. Cf. mod. F. tâter; Ital. tastare, "to taste, to assaie, to feele, to grope, to trye, to proofe, to touch"; Florio.'

1996. The former syllable of Fighten forms a foot by itself.

1997. 'Where he will have to descend.'

2002. Shal do, will be sure to do.

2004. Bell remarks that this resembles the stratagem by which Daniel destroyed the dragon at Babylon. 'Tulit igitur Daniel picem, et adipem, et pilos, et coxit pariter: fecitque massas, et dedit in os draconis, et diruptus est draco'; Dan. xiv. 26 (Vulgate).

2009. To-hepe, together; i.e. 'before they come to closer quarters.' Bell alters this, the reading of all the MSS. and old editions, to to kepe, which gives no sense; and Morris and Corson follow suit. Yet to-hepe, lit. 'to a heap,' but used adverbially in the precise sense of 'together,' is not a recondite expression. Morris explains it rightly elsewhere, viz. in Chaucer's tr. of Boethius, bk. iv. pr. 6, l. 182, where 'y-medled to-hepe' means 'mixed together.' It is also in Troil. iii. 1764:—'that Love halt now to-hepe,' which Love now holds together. And yet again, in Ch. Astrolabe, pt. i. § 14. 5. See also P. Plowm. Crede, 727.

2012. The hous, i.e. the famous labyrinth. Crinkled, full of turns or 'cranks'; see note to l. 1960. Cf. Mid. Du. krunckel-winckel, or krinckel-winckel, 'crooked here and there'; Hexham (A.D. 1658); Du. krinkel, a winding, krinkelen or kronkelen, to wind about; all allied to E. crank, a twist, hence a twisted handle. Cf. Ovid, Met. viii. 173; Æn. vi. 27. And see Trevisa, tr. of Higden, i. 9.

[ 337 ]2020. Read drede, dread; not stede, place. The Rime-indexes shew that, in the ending -ede in Chaucer, the former e is usually long (-ēde, -eede). However, stĕde, in the sense of 'stead' (A.S. stĕde), rimes once with drēde, in Ho. Fame, 829.

2028. Sit on his knee, kneels down. We also find to setten him on knees, to fallen on knees, to knelen on knees, he lay on kne, &c. See Mätzner, s.v. cneo, p. 442. 'On knes she sat adoun'; Lay le Freine, 159. Cf. Man of Lawes Tale, B 638.

2029. The righte; here used as a vocative case.

2037. Cf. Arcite's service as a page; Kn. Ta., A 1427.

2040. Nat but, only, merely; the familiar Northern E. nob-but. See l. 2091.

2041. Swinke, toil, labour hard. It is curious that this word should be obsolete. Perhaps no word that is now obsolete was once more common. It occurs in Chaucer, Langland, Gower, Spenser, &c.; but not in Shakespeare.

2044. 'Nor any one else, shall be able to espy me.'

2048. 'In order to have my life, and to retain your presence.' The sense is quite clear. The note in Corson—'presence seems to mean here presentiment or suspicion'—is due to some mistake.

2051. Only MS. C. retains now; and it would be better before is than after it.

2056. Yif, if; answering to than, then, in l. 2059.

2063. 'I pray Mars to do me such a favour.'

2064. Shames deeth, a death of shame; see l. 2072.

2065. Póvert occurs as a dissyllable, in Cant. Ta., C 441.

2066. Pronounce spirit nearly as spir't.

Go, walk about, roam. He prays that he may be punished by being made to walk as a ghost after death. A reference to the supposed restlessness of the spirits of wicked men; see Parl. of Foules, 80. But good spirits also 'walked' sometimes; Wint. Tale, iii. 3. 17.

2069. For which, for which cause, on which account. Go, may walk; the subjunctive mood.

2070. Other degree, i.e. a higher degree than that of page. He professes not to aspire to this, unless she vouchsafes to give it him.

2072. 'May I die by a death of shame.' The of depends on deye; cf. Man of Lawes Tale, B 819.

2075. A twenty, about twenty. A is here used as expressly an approximative result; as in 'an eight days,' Luke ix. 28; so 'a ten,' Squi. Tale, F 383. Only MS. C. retains a, but it is wanted for the metre.

2082. God shilde hit, God defend or forbid it.

2083. Leve, grant. We also find lene, to grant, give, but it is only used with a following case; whilst leve is only used with a following clause. Me is governed by befalle. 'And grant that such a case may never befall me,' i.e. for Theseus to be merely her page.

2086. And leve, and may He also grant.

[ 338 ]2089. 'Yet it would be better'; followed by Then (= than) in l. 2092.

2094. The latter syllable of profit comes at the caesura, and is easily read quickly. We need not change unto into to, as in MS. A. only.

2096. To my, as for my.

2099. That, (I propose) that. Sone, Hippolytus. Yet, in l. 2075, Theseus was only 23 years old! Perhaps she proposes, in banter, a purely whimsical condition; cf. ll. 2102, 2120, 2127.

2100. Hoom-coming, arrival at home; cf. Kn. Tale, 26 (A 884).

2101. Fynal ende, definite settlement.

2105. To borwe, as a pledge; cf. Squi. Ta., F 596.

2107. To draw blood on oneself was a frequent mode of attestation. Cf. Wright's note on K. Lear, ii. I. 34; and note how Faustus stabs his arm in Marlowe's play; Act ii. sc. 1.

2120. Servant, devoted lover; the usual phrase. This asseveration of Theseus shews that he thought Ariadne immeasurably credulous.

2122. Of Athenes duchesse, (whom I hail as) duchess of Athens. That is, he promises her marriage. In l. 2127 Ariadne grows pleasant on the subject.

2128. 'And assured to the royalties (or regal attributes) of Athens'; i.e. we are secure of our future royal rank.

2130. And saved, and we have saved. Chaucer has be just above; so that he has changed the idiom.

2132. Emforth hir might, even-forth with her might, to the extent of her power; cf. Kn. Ta., 1377 (A 2235).

2134. 'It seems to me, no one ought to blame us for this; nor give us an evil name on this account.'

2145. Geeth, goeth, goes; A.S. gǽð. For two more examples, see geð in Gloss. to Spec. of English, Part I.

2150. By, by help of, with the help of.

2151. Of, with. Gan hit charge, did load it. 'And they say, that having killed this Minotaur, he returned back again the same way he went, bringing with him those other young children of Athens [whom Chaucer forgets to mention], whom with Ariadne also he carried afterwards away.'—Sh. Plutarch, p. 283.

2155. Ennopye, Œnopia, another name for Ægina; which was on their way from Crete to Athens. Chaucer got the name from Ovid, Met. vii. 472, 473, 490; and introduces it naturally enough, because Æacus, then dwelling there, was an old ally of the Athenians; id. 485; cf. l. 2156 in our poem. Gilman suggests that Enope (i.e. Gerenia in Messenia) is meant, which is merely a wild guess.

2161. Woon, number. Originally, a hope; also, a resource, a store, a quantity; and hence gret woon = a great number. For examples, see wān in Stratmann; and cf. note to Troil. iv. 1181.

2163. Yle, island; usually said to be Naxos, on the supposition that it is not much out of the way in sailing from Gnossus in Crete to Attica. Chaucer has inadvertently brought Theseus to Ægina [ 339 ]already; but we need not trouble about the geographical conditions. The description of the island is from Ovid, Her. x. 59:—'Uacat insula cultu'; &c.

2167. Lette, tarried; pt. t. of the weak verb letten; quite distinct from leet or lēt (pt. t. of leten), which would not rime with set-te. This latter part of the story is nearly all from Ovid, Her. x.

Compare, e.g. ll. 4-6:—

'unde tuam sine me uela tulere ratem;
In quo me somnusque meus male prodidit, et tu,
pro facinus! somnis insidiate meis.'

2176. To his contre-ward, i.e. toward his country. Cf. 'To Thebes-ward'; Kn. Ta. 109 (A 967).

2177. A twenty devil way, in the way of twenty devils; i.e. in all sorts of evil ways or directions; cf. Can. Yem. Ta., G 782.

2178. His fader, king Ægeus (l. 1944). The story is that Theseus went to Crete in a ship with a black sail, in token of his unhappy fate. He had agreed to exchange this for a white sail, if his expedition was successful; but this he omitted to do. Hence Ægeus, 'seeing the black sail afar off, being out of all hope ever more to see his son again, took such a grief at his heart, that he threw himself headlong from the top of a cliff, and killed himself.'—Shak. Plutarch, p. 284.

2182. Atake, overtaken with sleep; cf. C. T. 6966 (D 1384).

2186. 'Perque torum moueo brachia; nullus erat'; Her. x. 12.

2189, 90.

'Alta puellares tardat arena pedes.
Interea toto clamanti littore, Theseu!' id. 20.

2192. Suggested by Ovid; ll. 81-6.

2193. 'Reddebant nomen concaua saxa tuum'; id. 22. The Latin and English lines are alike beautiful.

2194. 'Luna fuit; specto, si quid, nisi littora, cernam'; id. 17.

2195-7. These three lines represent eight in Ovid; 25-32.

2198. This line answers to the first line in Ovid, Epist. x.

2200, 1. His meiny, its (complete) crew. Inne, within; A.S. innan.

'Quo fugis, exclamo, scelerate? Reuertere, Theseu;
flecte ratem; numerum non habet illa suum'; id. 35.


'Candidaque imposui longae uelamina uirgae,
scilicet oblitos admonitura mei'; id. 41.

2208-17. Paraphrased from Ovid; Her. x. 51-64.

2212. Answere of, answer for; 'redde duos.'

2214. Wher shal I become? Where shall I go to? the old idiom. We now say, 'what will become of me?' On this expression, see Bicome in my Gloss. to P. Plowman (Clar. Press Series).

2215. 'For even if a ship or boat were to come this way, I dare not go home to my country, for fear (of my father).'

[ 340 ]The reading that bote none here come is nonsense, and expresses the converse of what is meant. The corresponding line in Ovid is—'Finge dari comitesque mihi, uentosque, ratemque'; 63.

2218. What, for what, why? See Cant. Ta., B 56, &c.

2220. Naso, Ouidius Naso. Her epistle, the epistle above quoted, the title of which is—'Ariadne Theseo.'

2223, 4. The story is that Bacchus took compassion on Ariadne, and finally placed her crown as a constellation in the heavens; see Ovid, Fasti, iii. 461-516; Met. viii. 178-182. This constellation is the Northern Crown, or Corona Borealis, which is just in the opposite side of the sky from Taurus. Ovid says—'qui medius nixique genu est anguemque tenentis,' Met. viii. 182. Here the holder of the snake is Ophiuchus; and Nixus genu or Engonasin (ἐν γόνασιν) was a name for Hercules; see Hyginus, Poet. Ast. lib. ii. c. 6; lib. iii. c. 5; Ausonius, Eclog. iii. 2. The Northern Crown comes to the meridian with the sign Scorpio, not Taurus. We can only bring the sense right by supposing that in the signe of Taurus means when the sun is in that sign, viz. in April. In the nights of April, in our latitude, the Northern Crown is very conspicuous.

2227. Quyte him his whyle, repay him for his time, i.e. for the way in which he had spent his time; cf. Man of Law's Ta., B 584.


Chaucer's Prologue ends at l. 2243. The tale is from Ovid, Met. vi. 424-605, with some omissions, and ends at l. 2382. Gower has the same story; C. A. bk. v. ed. Pauli, ii. 313.

2228. The words 'Deus dator formarum' are written after the title in MS. B.; and part of the first line corresponds to this expression. In MS. F. it appears as 'Deus dator formatorum[4],' which can hardly be right.

Corson has the following note:—'In these verses (2228-30) the Platonic doctrine of forms or ideas is expressed. For whatever knowledge Chaucer may have had of the philosophy of Plato, he was probably indebted to the Italian poets, with whom, especially Petrarch, Plato was a favourite.' Corson also quotes the following from Sir Wm. Hamilton:—'Plato agreed with the rest of the ancient philosophers in this—that all things consist of matter and form; and that matter of which all things were made, existed from eternity, without form; but he likewise believed that there are external forms of all possible things which exist, without matter; and to these eternal and immaterial forms he gave the name of ideas. In the Platonic sense, then, ideas were the patterns to which the Deity fashioned the phenomenal or ectypal world.' See also Spenser, Hymne in honour of Beautie, st. 5. And cf. l. 1582 above.

[ 341 ]However, Chaucer here follows Boethius, De Consolatione Philosophiae, lib. iii. met. 9:—

... 'Tu cuncta superno
ducis ab exemplo, pulcrum pulcerrimus ipse
mundum mente gerens, similique in imagine formans.'

See Chaucer's version of the same, ll. 1-12. Cf. Le Rom. de la Rose, 16931-8, also copied from Boethius, who follows Plato.

2233. As for that fyn, with that particular object.

2236. Fro this world, i.e. from the centre of the universe; according to the old Ptolemaic system which made the earth the fixed centre of all things. The firste hevene, the first or outermost sphere, that of Saturn; see note to Complaint of Mars, 29.

2237. Understand al (everything) as the nom. case to corrumpeth; i.e. everything becomes corrupt, is infected.

2238. As to me, as for me, in my opinion.

2241. Yit last, still lasts, still endures.

2243. Read—The stóry of Térë-ús, &c.; the -y in story being rapidly slurred over.

2244. Here begins Ovid, Met. vi. 424:—'Threïcius Tereus.' Tereus was king of Thrace; and Ovid says he could trace his descent from Gradivus, i.e. Mars (l. 427).

Marte, Mars. Corson here notes that 'Marte is the ablative case of Mars, as Jove is of Jupiter.' It is worth while to say that this view is quite erroneous; for these forms did not arise in that way. Marte was formed from Martem, the accusative case, by dropping the final m; and, generally, the Romance languages formed most of their substantives from accusative cases, owing to the frequent use of that case, especially in the construction of the accus. with the infinitive, which in medieval Latin was very common. See Sir G. Cornewall Lewis' Essay on the Romance Languages, and Diez, Grammatik der Romanischen Sprachen, vol. ii. Thus the F. corps represents the Lat. acc. corpus, not the abl. corpore; as is sufficiently obvious.

2247. Read—Pán-di-ón-es. Pandion, a king of Athens, was father of Progne and Philomela. Cf. The Passionate Pilgrim, xxi. 395.

2249. The original Latin should be consulted, as Chaucer sometimes copies Ovid literally, and sometimes goes his own way.

'Non pronuba Iuno,
non Hymenaeus adest illi, non Gratia lecto.
Eumenides tenuere faces de funere raptas:
Eumenides strauere torum: tectoque profanus
incubuit bubo, thalamique in culmine sedit.'—428.

2253. Wond, wound; aboute the balkes wond, kept winding (flying in circular wise) round about the balks (or transverse beams beneath the roof). Three good MSS. read wond, which is the past tense of winden, to wind. Bell and others read wonde, explained by [ 342 ]'dwelt'; but this is open to two objections, viz. (1) the pt. t. of wonien to dwell, is woned or wonede, not wonde; and (2) an owl cannot dwell about a balk, but only on it. The pt. pl. woneden (three syllables) occurs in the Kn. Ta. 2069 (A 2927); and we learn from the Clerkes Tale, E 339, that the pp. woned rimes with astoned. Ovid, indeed, has incubuit and sedit; but that does not prove much; for Chaucer expresses things in his own manner at will.

2256. This original line refers to the medieval wedding-feasts, which sometimes lasted even forty days. See Havelok, l. 2344; and the note.

2259-68. From Ovid, Met. vi. 438-442.

2261. Saw not longe, had not seen for a long time.

2264. Moste, might. Ones, for once; lit. once.

2265. And come anoon, and return again soon.

2266. 'Or else, unless she might go to see her.'

2270. 'Caused his ships to be made ready.'

2270-8. From Ovid, Met. vi. 444-450. Chaucer next passes on to ll. 475, 483. Ll. 2288-2294 are abridged from ll. 451-471 of the Latin. Ll. 2295-2301 answer to ll. 495-501; ll. 2302-2307 to ll. 488, 489; but many touches are Chaucer's own, and he is seldom literal.

2282. Read lovede as lov'de; cf. preyde, 2294. This line is imitated in Kn. Ta. 338 (A 1196)—'For in this world he lovede no man so.'

2290, 1. 'And that there was none like her in (royal) array'; Met. vi. 451. Two so riche, twice as rich; cf. ten so wood, in l. 736.

2308. Cf. Ovid, Met. vi. 512.

2312, 3. 'If it might please her, or (even) if it might not please her.'

2318-22. Ovid has these images of the lamb (l. 527) and of the dove (529).

2335. This 'castle' answers to Ovid's 'custodia' (572).

2340. 'God avenge thee, and grant thee thy petition (for vengeance).'

2342-9. Cf. Ovid, Met. vi. 563-570.

2352. Stole, stool, frame for tapestry work. Hexham's Du. Dict. (1658) gives: 'Stoel-doeck, Tapistrie, or Hangings'; lit. stool-cloth. Cf. G. Weberstuhl, a loom; lit. weaver-stool. Radevore, a kind of serge; here, the material on which tapestry-work was executed. The only other example I have met with is in a poem beginning—'As ofte as syghes ben in herte trewe,' in the Tanner MS. 346, fol. 73. One stanza begins thus:—

'As ofte tymes as Penelapye
Renewed her werk in the raduore,
To saue her-selfe onely in honeste
Vnto Vlixes, that she louyd so sore.'

(Another copy of these lines is in MS. Ff. 1. 6 in the Cambridge Univ. Library, fol. 11.)

[ 343 ]Here raduore is clearly an error for radeuore or radevore, as the scansion shews. Urry's Glossary gives the following explanation: 'Ras in French means any stuff [it means serge or satin], as Ras de Chalons, Ras de Gennes; Ras de Vore or Vaur may be a stuff made at such a place.' On which Tyrwhitt remarks—'There is a town in Languedoc called La Vaur; but I know not that it was ever famous for tapestry.' Cotgrave gives: 'Ras, serge'; also 'Ras de Milain, the finest kind of bare serge, or a silke serge.' Littré cites ras de Châlons from Scarron, Virg. iv.; also 'bas de soye, raz de Millan et d'estame.' Ras, in fact, is the same as the Tudor-English word rash. The loss of the s in ras de Vore is regular, because s drops before d in Anglo-French, though it is preserved in ras when used alone. I find, on consulting the English Cyclopædia, that La Vaur, in the department of Tarn, produces silk and serge to this day; so that Urry is certainly right. The whole account in ll. 2350-72 is expanded from five lines in the Latin text, 576-580:—

'Stamina barbarica suspendit candida tela:
purpureasque notas filis intexuit albis'; &c.

Observe that, in l. 2360, the stuff is called 'a stamin.'

2359. By that, by the time that.

2360. A stamin large, a large piece of stamine. Stamin or stamine is usually explained as a kind of woollen cloth. Cotgrave gives: 'Estamine, the stuffe tamine.' Godefroy gives both estamin, masc. and estamine, fem. explained by 'tissu léger de laine ou de coton.' Palsgrave has:—'Stamell, fyne worstede, estamine'; and—'Stamyne, estamine.' The Prompt. Parv. has:—'Stamyn, clothe, stamina.' Stamin was used as a material for shirts, and was worn by way of penance; Fosbrooke explains it as 'a shirt made of woollen and linen, used instead of a penitentiary hair-shirt.' 'Stamin habbe whoso wule,' whoso will may have a stamin; Ancren Riwle, p. 418. Chaucer uses it thus near the end of the Persones Tale (I 1052); 'Also in weringe of heyres or of stamin or of haubergeons on hir naked flesh for Cristes sake, and swiche manere penances.'

MSS. C. T. A. have stamyn, which seems the better form; the rest (like the printed editions) have stames, which may be an error for stamel, O.F. estamel, used in the same sense as O.F. estamine. Else it may answer to O.F. estame, 'laine peignée, tricot de laine' in Godefroy. The fact that Ovid's word is stamina is in favour of the spelling stamin. (Bell remarks that 'the printed copies read flames, which is nonsense.' He seems to have misread stames (with long s) as flames. The editions of 1532, 1550, and 1561 certainly have stames.)

2373-82. Abridged from Met. vi. 581-605. Ovid mentions the triennial festival to Bacchus.

2379. Compleint is a much better reading than the constreynte of the old editions.

2383. No charge, of no consequence; Squi. Ta., F 359.

[ 344 ]2383-93. All Chaucer's own. The last line is characteristic: 'unless it happens to be the case that he cannot get another,' i.e. a new love. For non other, old editions have another!

2385. Here deserved is the usual Chaucerian form of the pt. tense. Prof. Lounsbury (Studies in Chaucer, i. 403) calls this a false form. But cf. wyped, lipsed (in -ed, not -ede); Prol. to C. T., 133, 264.


Gower tells the same story in his Confessio Amantis, bk. iv. (ed. Pauli, ii. 26); and it is likely that he and Chaucer derived it from the same source, whatever that may have been. A portion of the latter part, from l. 2496, is taken from Ovid, Heroides, Ep. ii. And see note to l. 2423.

2395. An allusion to Matt. vii. 16, and to Legend VI, above.

2398. Demophon, usually Demophoön, son of Theseus and Phædra, who, on his return from Troy, gained the love of Phyllis, daughter of Sithon, king of Thrace. Observe that Gower says that Demophoön was on his way towards Troy.

2400. 'Unless it were.'

2401. Observe that grac-e is dissyllabic, as in l. 2433.

2403. 'Now I turn to the effect (the pith) of what I have to say.'

2413. Him seems to stand alone in the first foot; for were, in this phrase, is usually monosyllabic; cf. Mancip. Prol., H 23. But it also occurs as a dissyllable, in which case the line is normal. Or else the -er in lever is dwelt on.

2416. 'And his rudder was broken by a wave.'

2420. For wood, as (if) mad, 'like mad.' For is not a prefix, but a separate word; as shewn by 'for pure wood,' Rom. Rose, 276; and see Ho. Fame, 1747. Posseth, pusheth, tosseth. Bech observes that ll. 2411-21 are from Vergil, Æn. i. 85-90, 102, 142.

2422. Chorus; so in Thynne's edition; the MSS. have Thorus (except T., which has Thora). Both Chorus and Thorus are unknown as sea-divinities; but I think I can guess Chaucer's authority, viz. Verg. Æn. v. 823-5:—

'Et senior Glauci chorus, Inousque Palaemon,
Tritonesque citi, Phoreique exercitus omnis.
Laeua tenent Thetis et Melite, Panopeaque uirgo.'

Here we find Thetis, chorus, Triton; whilst 'and they alle' answers to exercitus omnis. (So also Bech.) Chorus is used for Caurus, the north-east wind, in Chaucer's Boethius, bk. iv. met. 5. 17; but this is not the purpose.

2423. Lond, i.e. Thrace. Phyllis, as said above, was the daughter of Sithon, king of Thrace; but both Chaucer and Gower make her father's name to be 'Ligurgus,' i.e. Lycurgus. This substitution may [ 345 ]have been suggested by Ovid, Her. ii. 111—'quae tibi subieci latissima regna Lycurgi.' He is the same as the Lycurgus in Statius, Theb. iv. 386; in Ovid, Met. iv. 22, and in Homer, vi. 130; and was king of the Edoni, a people of Thrace. This accounts also for the introduction into the Knight's Tale of 'Ligurge himself, the grete king of Thrace'; l. 1271 (A 2129). Prof. Lounsbury (Studies in Chaucer, ii. 232) has usefully pointed out that the immediate authority for making Lycurgus the father of Phyllis was Boccaccio's De Genealogia Deorum, lib. xi. c. 25, headed—'De Phyllidi Lycurgi filia.'

2425. On to sene, to look upon; cf. the parallel line, Kn. Ta., 177 (A 1035).

2427. Is y-wonne, is arrived. Cf. Æn. i. 173.

2434. Chevisaunce, borrowing; properly an agreement for borrowing money. See C. T. 13259, 13277, 13321 (B 1519, 1537, 1581); P. Plowman, B. 5. 249, and the note; and the Gloss. to Spenser.

2438. Rodopeya, the country near Rhodope, which was a mountain-range of Thrace, now a part of the Hæmus range. See l. 2498.

2448. 'As Reynard the fox doth, so (doth) the fox's son.' The line is incomplete, but the sense is clear. 'Reynard, which with us is a duplicate for fox, while in the French renard has quite excluded the older volpils, was originally not the name of a kind, but the proper name of the fox-hero, the vulpine Ulysses, in that famous beast-epic of the middle ages, Reineke Fuchs; the immense popularity of which we gather from many evidences, from none more clearly than this. Chanticleer is in like manner the name of the cock, and Bruin of the bear in the same poem.'—Trench, Eng. Past and Present. Reynard is from M.H.G. ragin-hart, strong in counsel; from ragin, counsel, and hart, strong.

2454. Agroted, surfeited, cloyed. A rare word; used also by Lydgate. See the New E. Dict.

2456. This is a hint that Chaucer was already getting tired of his task.

2477. In a month. So in Ovid; see l. 2503.

2485. With a corde, i.e. by hanging. Cf. Ovid, Her. ii. 141:—

'Colla quoque, infidis quae se nectenda lacertis
praebuerant, laqueis implicuisse libet.'

2493. Hir soules, their souls; of Theseus and Demophoön.

2495. 'Although it be but a small part of the whole letter.' In fact, Chaucer gives us ll. 1-8 of Ovid's second Epistle (in the Heroides); and, from l. 2518 onward, sentences made up from ll. 26, 27, 43, 44, 49-52, 63-68, 73-78, and 134-137 of the same.

2496. Compare these lines with Ovid, Her. ii. 1-8:—

'Hospita, Demophoon, tua te Rhodopeïa Phyllis
ultra promissum tempus abesse queror.
Cornua quum Lunae pleno semel orbe coissent,
litoribus nostris ancora pacta tua est.
[ 346 ]Luna quater latuit, toto quater orbe recrevit,
nec uehit Actæas Sithonis unda rates.
Tempora si numeres, bene quae numeramus amantes,
non uenit ante suum nostra querela diem.'

Hostess-e is trisyllabic; MS. C. has—'Ostess-e thyn.'

2502. Highte, promised. But Chaucer seems to have mistaken the sense of Ovid's fourth line (in the note to l. 2496).

2508. 'Sithonis unda'; see note to l. 2496. Here Sithonis is an adj. (gen. Sithonidis), and means 'Sithonian,' i.e. Thracian; because Sithon or Sitho, her father, was king of Thrace. I substitute Sitho for the MS. spellings.

2518. See note to l. 2495 for references.

2521. For, because: 'quid feci, nisi non sapienter amaui?'

2529. May occupies the first foot of the line.

2534. She prays that the glory of having betrayed her will be the greatest glory he will ever attain to. 'Di faciant, laudis summa sit ista tuae!' (66).

2551. Mote ye, may ye. 'Ad tua me fluctus proiectam littora portent'; (135).

2556. And knew, i.e. and she knew.

2558. Read—'Such sórw' hath shé,' &c. Bell altered the second she in this line to he, without authority, and unnecessarily. The word besette does not mean 'served' or 'treated,' as those who keep this reading have to assert, but 'bestowed' or 'gave up,' and her means 'herself.' The sense is therefore—'Such sorrow hath she, because she so disposed of herself.' See Beset in the New E. Dict. § 7. Caxton has: 'Orgarus thought his doughter shol wel be maryed, and wel beset upon hym'; Chron. Eng. cxii.

2561. Trusteth, imp. pl. As in love, in the matter of love. This playful line is in the same spirit as l. 2393 above.


The story is told in Ovid, Her. xiv. But Chaucer has taken some of the details from Boccaccio, De Genealogia Deorum, lib. ii. c. 22. Cf. Hyginus, Fab. 168. See the Introduction.

2563. Danao, Danaus. Danaus and Ægyptus were twin brothers. Ægyptus had 50 sons, and Danaus 50 daughters. Danaus had reason to fear his nephews, and fled with his daughters to Argos. Thither he was followed by the sons of Ægyptus, who demanded his daughters in marriage, and promised faithful alliance. Danaus distributed his daughters amongst them, but to each of them gave a dagger, with which they were to kill their husbands on the bridal night. They all did so, except Hypermnestra, who saved her husband Lynceus. Thus [ 347 ]the attempt of Danaus failed, and he was slain by Lynceus, in accordance with the destiny predicted for him.

It must be particularly noted that Chaucer makes Ægyptus and Danaus change places. According to him, Ægyptus was the father of the daughters, and consequently attempted the life of Lynceus; whilst Danaus was the father of the sons, and therefore of Lynceus.

2569. Lino; by which perverted name Lynceus is meant; Boccaccio has 'Lino seu Linceo' (dat. case).

2570. Egiste represents Boccaccio's Ægistus, i.e. Ægyptus.

2574. 'And caused (men) to call her,' i.e. had her named.

2575. Ypermistra, i.e. Hypermestra, a corrupter form of Hypermnestra; see the account in the Introduction. Note that the first syllable Y- forms the first foot in the line.

2576. Of her nativitee, by her horoscope; see l. 2584.

2577. Thewes, qualities. Craik has a long note on this word in his edition of Julius Cæsar. It merely comes to this, that thew must have meant strength or some excellent bodily quality in the first instance, and some excellent mental quality afterwards. Nevertheless it is remarkable that (with one exception in Layamon, 6361) the usual old sense is the latter; and the usual modern sense (notably in Jul. Cæs. i. 3. 81, 2 Hen. IV. iii. 2. 276) is the former. The A.S. form is þéaw. Craik's notion that this word was confused with A.S. þéoh, the thigh, is entirely out of the question, and gives no help.

2580. Wirdes, Fates; Lat. Parcæ; Gk. Moiræ. Corson shews that G. Douglas translates the Lat. fata by werdes in Æn. i. 18, and Parcæ by werd sisteris in the same, iii. 379. He also quotes from Holinshed's Hist. of Scotland—'the weird sisters, that is, as ye would say, the goddesses of destinie'; reproduced by Shakespeare in Macb. iv. 1. 136.

2582. The scansion suggests that Pitous-e, sad-de, are treated like French adjectives, the final e denoting the feminine gender. This is natural in the case of pitous-e, fem. of pitous, just as we have dispitous-e, Book of the Duch. 624; but the distinction is not often made in M.E. Sweet's A.S. grammar gives til-u as an occasional fem. form of the nom. of the indef. adjective; so that sæd-u might have been used. Wys-e is likewise dissyllabic, though the A.S. form was wís even in the feminine. But the definite forms of the M.E. adj. were sad-de, wys-e; and there may have been consequent confusion. In fact, Prof. Child gives a list of adjectives of this kind, being monosyllabic in A.S., but dissyllabic in Chaucer. He includes wise, but not sad, his examples being taken from the Canterbury Tales only, and thence only in clear cases. Dispitous-e occurs as a vocative case, in Troil. ii. 435.

2584. Here comes in the old belief in astrology. Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, as here mentioned, are not the gods, but the planets; and each planet had (it was thought) its peculiar influence, which was stronger or weaker according to its position in the heavens at the time [ 348 ]of birth of the person whom it affected. The influences of Venus and Jupiter were for good (see note to Troil. iii. 1417); whilst the influences of Mars and Saturn were evil. See further below.

2585. With is explained by Corson to mean 'by'; and such a sense is, of course, usual and common. For all that, it may here mean 'with.' The sense seems to me to be—'For, though the influence of the planet Venus gave her great beauty, she was (also) so compounded with a share of Jupiter,' &c. It does not make much difference, and the reader can choose.

2588. Thoughte her, it seemed to her.

2589. Rede Mars, red Mars, because the planet is reddish; see note to l. 533. Cf. Kn. Ta., 1111 (A 1969). As to the bad influence of Mars, compare the following:—

'Allas! thou felle Mars!' Kn. Ta. 701 (A 1559).
'Noght was foryeten by the infortune of Marte'; id. 1163 (A 2021).
'By manasyng of Mars'; id. 1177 (A 2035).
... 'that no wykkid planete, as Saturne or Mars'
Treatise on the Astrolabe, ii. 4. 22 (p. 192, above).

2592. Venus was supposed to have much influence in repressing the evil influence of Mars, on account of their connection in mythology. See the Compleint of Mars. Moreover Mars is here said to be suppressed by 'the oppression of houses'; i.e. by the fact that he was in a 'house' or 'mansion,' which had such effect. The terms 'house' and 'mansion' are equivalent, and are names given to the signs of the zodiac. Every sign had a planet assigned to it, and was called the 'house' of that planet. When a planet was in its own house, its influence would be felt. The mansions of Mars were Aries and Scorpio. Besides this, each planet had a sign called its 'exaltation,' in which it had the greatest power of all. The 'exaltation' of Mars was Capricornus. Mars had also his positions of least influence; two of these, called his 'fall,' were the signs opposite to his mansions, viz. Libra and Taurus, and the third, called his 'depression,' was the sign opposite his exaltation, viz. Cancer. We may conclude that, at the period of taking Hypermnestra's horoscope, Mars was in Cancer, or else in Taurus or in Libra. Both Taurus and Libra were mansions of Venus; and, if Mars was in either of these, his evil influence would be kept under by her.

2594. Probably the whole of Chaucer's astrological talk was intended to shew why Hypermnestra disliked handling a knife in malice. He has made much of the weak influence of Mars, precisely because those who were born under his influence were very ready with a knife. See the note to the Kn. Ta., 1163 (A 2021), where the Compost of Ptolemeus is quoted to shew that a man born under Mars is apt to be 'a maker of swordes and knyves, and a sheder of mannes blode, ... and good to be a barboure and a blode-letter, and to draw tethe, and is peryllous of his handes.'

[ 349 ]2597. 'She had too evil aspects of Saturn, which caused her to die in prison.' All the MSS. have To (= too, excessively), except T., which has Ryght bad. Thynne has Two, but there is no authority for this, nor does it give any sense. The evil influence of Saturn is spoken of at length in the Kn. Tale, 1596-1611 (A 2454-69). Note especially l. 1599, where Saturn says:—

'Myn is the prison in the derke cote,
Myn is the strangling and hanging by the throte.'

2600. Here Egiste (see l. 2570) is turned into Egistes.

2602. 'For, at that time, no lineage was spared'; i.e. no consanguinity was considered as being a bar to marriage.

2603. Hem is in apposition with Danao and Egistes; 'it pleased these two.'

2604. Note the shifted accentuation—Ypérmistrá. Chaucer (except in l. 2660) entirely drops all mention of Hypermnestra's 49 sisters, and of Lynceus' 49 brothers. This is extremely judicious, as it concentrates the interest on the heroine.

2610. Chaucer is here thinking of Ovid, Her. xiv. 25:—

'Undique collucent praecinctae lampades auro.
Dantur in inuitos impia tura focos.
Uulgus "Hymen, Hymenaee" uocant.'

2624. 'He caused men to call his daughter'; he had his daughter called to him.

2629. 'Ever since the day when my shirt was first shaped for me.' The sense is—'ever since the day of my birth.' The shirt here refers, as Tyrwhitt remarks, to the linen in which a new-born babe is wrapped. See Kn. Ta., 708 (A 1566); and cf. Troil. iii. 733:—

'O fatal sustren, which, er any cloth
Me shapen was, my destenee me sponne.'

2630. Supply I before had. Cf. note to l. 2580.

2634. After thy wyser, according to the advice of thy superior in wisdom.' Cf. 'Thenne doth we as the wise'; O. English Miscellany, ed. Morris, p. 79, l. 228. 'And gif yow list nocht wirk eftir the wise'; G. Douglas, tr. of Vergil, Prol. to bk. vi. l. 15.

2637. Read Ne I as N'I. 'Nor would I advise thee to thy harm.'

2640. 'And, at the same time, I make protestation in this manner, viz. that, unless thou do as I shall direct thee.'

2653. 'I will not have any reservation.'

2655. Y-sene, visible; an adj., not a pp. See l. 1394; and Prol. to Cant. Tales, 592.

2660. Siker, secure. The use of the word is precisely like that in the well-known anecdote of Kirkpatrick of Closeburn. Meeting Bruce at the door of the Greyfriars' Church in Dumfries, he asked what tidings. 'Bad tidings,' answered Bruce, 'I doubt I have slain [ 350 ]Comyn.' 'Doubtest thou?' said Kirkpatrick; 'I make sicker.' With these words, he and Lindsay rushed into the church and despatched the wounded Comyn. See Note K to Scott's Lord of the Isles, c. 1. st. 27, c. 2. st. 13.

2661. Biker, quarrel, altercation; also a skirmish, encounter.

2662. 'By him that I have (already) sworn by.' See l. 2642.

2666. Costrel, a flask, a kind of bottle. 'Costred, or costrelle, grete botelle, Onopherum, aristophorum'; Prompt. Parv.; see Way's note. 'A Costrelle, oneferum, &c., vbi a flakett'; Cath. Angl. p. 77; see Herrtage's note. See costa, costarez, costarium, costrelli, in Ducange; and coste, costeret, costerel, in Godefroy. In the Craven dialect, a costril is the little wooden barrel carried by reapers.

2671. 'Lest that the time may seem long to him.' Ovid alludes to the narcotic drink; Her. xiv. 42:—'quaeque tibi dederam uina, soporis erant.' Cf. Kn. Tale, 614 (A 1472).

2676. The line is too short in most MSS. Unless sone be supplied from MS. T., we shall have to scan the line by putting This (with a strong accent) alone in the first foot. Cf. l. 2711, and slur over the o in Lino before and.

2680. Cf. Her. xiv. 44:—'Erigor, et capio tela tremente manu.'

2681. Accent Zephírus on the i. From Her. xiv. 39:—

'Utque leui Zephyro graciles uibrantur aristae,
frigida populeas ut quatit aura comas.'

2682. From Her. xiv. 34:—'Securumque quies alta per Argos erat.'

2683. 'Sanguis abit; mentemque calor corpusque reliquit'; Her. xiv. 37. And, in the next line—'frigida facta.'

2686. 'Ter male sublato decidit ense manus'; 46.

2690. From Her. xiv. 55, &c.:—

'Femina sum et uirgo, natura mitis et annis.
Non faciunt molles ad fera tela manus....
Quid mihi cum ferro? Quo bellica tela puellae?'

2696. And me beshende, and bring myself to ruin, and perish. I know of only one other example of this rare word, viz. the example given by Murray from Cursor Mundi, l. 14838, where the Trinity MS. has: 'Allas! nu has he ȝu bischent'; alas! now has he ruined you. But it is a perfectly legitimate compound from the M.E. shenden. All former editions give this line wrongly; they omit me, and read 'and be shende,' explained by 'and be destroyed.' Now, in the first place, this will not scan; and secondly, the idea of adding a final e to the pp. beshend (more correctly beshent) is a characteristic commentary on that ignorance of M.E. grammar which is only too common. Yet the final e must needs be added, for ende (in l. 2697) is essentially dissyllabic. Hence it follows, irresistibly, that shende is not a past participle; and we are driven to see that beshende is the infinitive mood of a compound verb.

[ 351 ]2697. Nedes cost, by condition of necessity, i.e. necessarily; see Kn. Ta., 619 (A 1477), and the note.

2700. Supply he before hath; cf. note to l. 2630.

2705. Goter, gutter, channel for water. This is an addition. The original merely has (ll. 77, 78):—

'Quaerenti caussam, "Dum nox sinit, effuge," dixi;
"dum nox atra sinit, tu fugis, ipsa moror."'

2708. Roggeth, shaketh. 'Roggyn, or mevyn, or scogghyn, rokkyn. Agito'; Prompt. Parv. See P. Plowman, B. xvi. 78; and ruggen in Stratmann. Cf. Icel. rugga, to rock a cradle. Prof. Napier tells me that the A.S. roccan, to rock, has been found in a gloss. Bell's edition has the singular and unauthorised reading jeggeth (sic).

2709. The rest of the story seems to be Chaucer's addition. Ovid merely has (ll. 83, 84):—

'Abstrahor a patriis pedibus; raptamque capillis
(haec meruit pietas praemia) carcer habet.'

2710. Doon him bote, given him assistance.

2715. 'Her cruel father caused her to be seized,' lit. caused (men) to seize her.

2723. 'This tale is told for the following reason.' And here the MSS. break off, in the middle of the sentence.

  1. There are such accounts; but they are probably copied from Chaucer, who seems to have invented this transformation himself. See Notes and Queries, 7 Ser. vi. 186, 309, 372.
  2. Not twentieth; for Legend IV contains two heroines.
  3. The MS. has shete, an obvious error for swete, the alliteration being on sw. But the editors print shene.
  4. Not 'formator,' as in Bell's note; a contraction for 'um' is added.