Chaucer's Works (ed. Skeat) Vol. V/Manciple



The Manciple's Prologue.

1. Wite ye, know ye. The singular is I woot, A. S. ic wāt, Mœso-Goth. ik wait; the plural is we witen or we wite, A. S. we witon, Mœso-Goth. weis witum. See l. 82, where the right form occurs. But it is certain that Chaucer also uses the construction ye woot, as in A. 829, &c.; which, strictly speaking, was ungrammatical.

2. Bob-up-and-doun. This place is here described as being 'under the Blee,' i. e. under Blean Forest. It is also between Boughton-under-Blean (see Group G, l. 556) and Canterbury. This situation suits very well with Harbledown, and it has generally been supposed that Harbledown is here intended. Harbledown is spelt Herbaldoun in the account of Queen Isabella's journey to Canterbury (see Furnivall's Temporary Preface, p. 31; p. 124, l. 18; p. 127, l. 21), and Helbadonne in the account of King John's journey (id. p. 131, l. 1). However, Mr. J. M. Cowper, in a letter to The Athenæum, Dec. 26, 1868, p. 886, says that there still exists a place called Up-and-down Field, in the parish of Thannington, which would suit the position equally well, and he believes it to be the place really meant. If so, the old road must have taken a somewhat different direction from the present one, and there are reasons for supposing that such may have been the case. This letter is reprinted in Furnivall's Temporary Preface (Ch. Soc.), p. 32.

The break here between the Canon's Yeoman's and the Manciple's Tales answers to the break between the first and second parts of Lydgate's Storie of Thebes. At the end of Part I, Lydgate mentions the descent down the hill (i. e. Boughton hill), and at the beginning of Part II, he says that the pilgrims, on their return from Canterbury, had 'passed the thorp of Boughton-on-the-blee.'

5. Dun is in the myre, a proverbial saying originally used in an old rural sport. Dun means a dun horse, or, like Bayard, a horse in general. The game is described in Brand's Popular Antiquities, 4to. ii. 289; and in Gifford's notes to Ben Jonson, vol. vii. p. 283. The latter explanation is quoted by Nares, whom see. Briefly, the game was of this kind. A large log of wood is brought into the midst of a kitchen or large room. The cry is raised that 'Dun is in the mire,' i. e. that the cart-horse is stuck in the mud. Two of the company attempt to drag it along; if they fail, another comes to help, and so on, till Dun is extricated.

There are frequent allusions to it; see Hoccleve, De Regimine Principum, p. 86; Skelton, Garland of Laurell, l. 1433; Towneley Mysteries, p. 310; Romeo and Juliet, i. 4. 41; Beaumont and Fletcher's Woman-hater, iv. 3; Hudibras, pt. iii. c. iii. l. 110.

In the present passage it means—'we are all at a standstill'; or 'let us make an effort to move on.' Mr. Hazlitt, in his Proverbial Phrases, quotes a line—'And all gooth bacward, and don is in the myr.'

12. Do him come forth, make him come forward. Cf. Group B, 1888, 1889.

14. a botel hay, a bottle of hay; similarly, we have a barel ale, Monk's Prol. B. 3083. And see l. 24 below. A bottle of hay was a small bundle of hay, less than a truss, as explained in my note to The Two Noble Kinsmen, v. 2. 45. 'Nec vendant [foenum] per botellum'; Liber Albus, p. 721.

16. by the morwe, in the morning. There is no need to explain away the phrase, or to say that it means in the afternoon, as Tyrwhitt does. The Canon's Yeoman's tale is the first told on the third day, and the Manciple's is only the second. The Cook seems to have taken too much to drink over night, and to have had something more before starting. The fresh air has kept him awake for a while at first, but he is now very drowsy indeed.

Tyrwhitt well remarks that there is no allusion here to the unfinished Cook's Tale in Group A. This seems to shew that the Manciple's Prologue was written before the Cook's Tale was begun. Note that the Cook is here excused; l. 29.

23. 'I know not why, but I would rather go to sleep than have the best gallon of wine in Cheapside.' me were lever slepe, lit. it would be dearer to me to sleep.

24. Than constitutes the first foot; beste is dissyllabic.

29. as now, for the present; a common phrase.

33. not wel disposed, indisposed in health.

42. fan, the fan or vane or board of the quintain. The quintain, as is well known, consisted of a cross-bar turning on a pivot at the top of a post. At one end of the cross-bar was the fan or board, sometimes painted to look like a shield, and at the other was a club or bag of sand. The jouster at the fan had to strike the shield, and at the same time to avoid the stroke given by the swinging bag. The Cook was hardly in a condition for this; his eye and hand were alike unsteady, and his figure did not suggest that he possessed the requisite agility. See Quintain in Nares, and Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, bk. iii. c. 1; As You Like It, i. 2. 263, on which see Mr. Wright's note (Clar. Press Series); Stow, Survey of London, ed. Thoms, pp. 36, 215.

44. wyn ape, ape-wine, or ape's wine. Tyrwhitt rightly considers this the same as the vin de singe in the Calendrier des Bergers, sign. l. ii. b., where the author speaks of the different effects produced by wine upon different men, according to their temperaments. 'The Cholerick, he says, a vin de lyon; cest a dire, quant a bien beu, veult tanser, noyser, et battre. The Sanguine a vin de singe; quant a plus beu, tant est plus joyeux. In the same manner, the Phlegmatic is said to have vin de mouton, and the Melancholick vin de porceau.'

Tyrwhitt adds—'I find the same four animals applied to illustrate the effects of wine in a little Rabbinical tradition, which I shall transcribe here from Fabricius, Cod. Pseudepig. Veteris Testamenti, vol. i. p. 275. "Vineas plantanti Noacho Satanam se junxisse memorant, qui, dum Noa vites plantaret, mactaverit apud illas ovem, leonem, simiam, et suem: Quod principio potûs vini homo sit instar ovis, vinum sumptum efficiat ex homine leonem, largius haustum mutet eum in saltantem simiam, ad ebrietatem infusum transformet illum in pollutam et prostratam suem." See also Gesta Romanorum, c. 159, where a story of the same purport is quoted from Josephus, in libro de casu rerum naturalium.' Wine of ape occurs in a detailed proverb, in Le Roux de Lincy, Prov. Franç. 1842, p. 157. The most ancient source is the Talmudical Parable, given in Rabbinische Blumenlese, Leipzig, 1844, p. 192, by Leopold Dukes (N. and Q. S. i. xii. 123).

In Bernardus de Cura Rei Familiaris, ed. Lumby, p. 13, a drunken man is thus described:—

'And qhuilis a nape, to mak mowis as a fule,
Bot as a sow, quhen he fallis in a pule.'

And Lydgate, in his Troy-book, L. 1, back, col. 2, says of one:—'And with a strawe playeth lyke an ape.'

Warton (Hist. E. P. ed. 1871, i. 283) gives a slight sketch of chapter 159 in the Gesta, referring to Tyrwhitt's note, and explaining it in the words—'when a man begins to drink, he is meek and ignorant as the lamb, then becomes bold as the lion, his courage is soon transformed into the foolishness of the ape, and at last he wallows in the mire like a sow.'

In Colyn Blowboll's Testament, l. 280 (pr. in Hazlitt's Early Pop. Poetry, i. 104-5) we find:—

'Such as wilbe drongen (sic) as an ape ...
And in such caas often tymes they be
That one may make them play with strawes thre.'

Barclay, in his Ship of Fools, ed. Jamieson, i. 96, speaking of drunken men, says—

'Some sowe-dronke, swaloyng mete without mesure.'

And again—

'Some are Ape-dronke, full of lawghter and of toyes.'

The following interesting explanation by Lacroix is much to the same effect:—

'In Germany and in France it was the custom at the public entries of kings, princes, and persons of rank, to offer them the wines made in the district, and commonly sold in the town. At Langres, for instance, these wines were put into four pewter vessels called cimaises, which are still to be seen. They were called the lion, monkey, sheep, and pig wines—symbolic names, which expressed the different degrees or phases of drunkenness which they were supposed to be capable of producing: the lion, courage; the monkey, cunning; the sheep, good temper; the pig, bestiality.'—P. Lacroix; Manners, Customs, and Dress during the Middle Ages, 1874, p. 508.

Massinger has: 'Nay, if you are lion-drunk, I will make one'; The Bondman, A. iii. sc. 3.

A note in Bell's edition quotes an illustrative passage from a song in Lyly's play of Mother Bombie, printed in the Songs from the Dramatists, ed. Bell, p. 56:—

'O the dear blood of grapes
Turns us to antic shapes,
Now to show tricks like apes,
Now lion-like to soar'; &c.

The idea here intended is precisely that expressed by Barclay. The Cook, being very dull and ill-humoured, is ironically termed ape-drunk, as if he were 'full of lawghter and of toyes,' and ready to play even with a straw. The satire was too much for the Cook, who became excited, and fell from his horse in his attempts to oppose the Manciple.

50. chiváchee, feat of horsemanship, exploit. See Prol. 85 for the serious use of the word, where in chivachye means on an (equestrian) expedition. Cf.

'Bot oute sal ride a chivauchè';
Ritson's Ancient Songs, vol. i. p. 46.

51. 'Alas! he did not stick to his ladle!' He should have been in a kitchen, basting meat, not out of doors, on the back of a horse.

57. dominacioun, dominion. See note to F. 352. Cf. 'the righteous shall have domination over them in the morning'; Ps. xlix. 14, Prayer-book Version. See Chaucer's Minor Poems, xv. 16 (vol. i. p. 394).

62. fneseth, blows, puffs; of which the reading sneseth is a poor corruption, though occurring in all the modern editions. To fnese does not mean to sneeze, but to breathe hard; though sneeze is its modern form.

I have no doubt that the word neesings in Job xli. 18, meaning not 'sneezings' but 'hard breathings,' is due to the word fnesynge, by which Wyclif translates the Latin sternutatio. In Jer. viii. 16, Wyclif represents the snorting of horses by fnesting. Cf. A. S. fnæst, a puff, blast, fnæstiað, the windpipe; fnēosung, a hard breathing. Grimm's law helps us to a further illustration; for, as the English f is a Greek p, a cognate word is at once seen in the common Greek verb πνέω, I breathe or blow. For further examples, see fnast in Stratmann.

pose, a cold in the head. Fully described in Batman upon Bartholomè, lib. vii. c. 4—'Of the Pose.' See A. 4152.

72. To reclaim a hawk is to bring it back to the hawker's hand; this was generally effected by holding out a lure, or something tempting to eat. For young hawks, the lure was an artificial bird made of feathers and leather; see note in Dyce's Skelton, ii. 147. Here the Host means that some day the Cook will hold out a bait to, or lay a snare for, the Manciple, and get him into his power; for example, he might examine the details of the Manciple's accounts with an inconvenient precision, and perhaps the amounts charged, if tested, would not appear to be strictly honest. The Manciple replies in all good humour, that such a proceeding might certainly bring him into trouble. See Prol. 570-586. Cf. Strutt, Sports, bk. i. c. 2. § 9.

76. Read mauncipl', and pronounce were a rapidly.

83. 'Yea, of an excellent vintage.'

90. pouped, blown; see Nonne Prestes Tale, 578. Here 'blown upon this horn' is a jocular phrase for 'taken a drink out of this gourd.'

The Maunciples Tale.

This story, of Eastern origin, is told in Ovid's Metamorphoses, bk. ii. ll. 534-550, whence Chaucer evidently took it. Gower, also following Ovid, gives the story very briefly; see his Conf. Amantis, ed. Pauli, i. 305. Compare the tale of the three cocks, Gesta Romanorum, cap. 68; also the Seven Sages, ed. Weber, l. 2201 (Metrical Rom. vol. iii. p. 86). Somewhat similar in idea is a tale in the Knight de la Tour, c. 16. See further in vol. iii. p. 501.

109. Phitoun, the Python, shot by Apollo; see Ovid, Met. i. 438-444; Dryden, trans. of Ovid's Met., i. 587.

116. Amphioun, Amphion; see note to E. 1716. Cf. Horace, De Arte Poetica, l. 394.


'Nam fuit haec quondam niveis argentea pennis
Ales, ut aequaret totas sine labe columbas.'
Ovid, Met. ii. 536.

Gower has:—'Wel more white than any swan.'

139. Ovid gives her name, Coronis of Larissa.

148. As indicated by a side-note in Hn., this passage is taken directly from the Liber Aureolus de Nuptiis of Theophrastus, as cited by St. Jerome near the end of the first Book of his treatise against Jovinian. Cf. note to D. 221.

The passage from Theophrastus is:—'Verum quid prodest etiam diligens custodia: cum uxor seruari impudica non possit, pudica non debeat? Infida enim custos est castitatis necessitas: et illa uere pudica dicenda est, cui licuit peccare si uoluit. Pulchra cito adamatur, foeda facile concupiscit. Difficile custoditur, quod plures amant.'—Hieron. Opus Epistolarum (Basil. 1534); ii. 51.

161. Cf. Horace, Epist. I. x. 24—'Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret,' &c. And this is the very passage which Chaucer had in view, as it is quoted and commented on in Le Roman de la Rose, 14221-8, &c. Jean de Meun adds the comment:—

'Que vaut ce? Toute créature
Vuet retorner à sa nature.
Jà nel' erra por violence
De force, ne de convenance.'

This passage in Le Roman is preceded by the illustration of the caged bird, and followed by that of the cat; see ll. 163, 175. Further, Jean de Meun took the illustration of the caged bird from Boethius; see next note.

163. From Boethius; see the note to F. 607. It reappears in Le Roman de la Rose, 14145-62; beginning—

'Li oisillons du vert boscage,
Quant il est pris et mis en cage,' &c.

Compare Sq. Ta., F. 611-617. It is interesting to see how Chaucer has repeated the passage, and yet so greatly varied the form of it. We find, however, that silk and milk rime together in both cases.

175. Not from Boethius, but from Le Roman de la Rose, 14241, &c.:—

'Qui prendroit, biau filz, ung chaton
Qui onques rate ne raton
Véu n'auroit, puis fust noris
Sans jà véoir ras ne soris,
Lonc tens par ententive cure
De délicieuse pasture,
Et puis véist soris venir,
N'est riens qui le péust tenir,
Se l'en le lessoit eschaper,
Qu'il ne l'alast tantost haper.'

183. This is taken from a different part of Le Roman altogether, and is founded on a different argument, viz. the perversity of women's choice, as noticed in ll. 198-200 below. See Le Rom. de la Rose, 7799-7804:—

'Le vaillant homme arriere boute
Et prent le pire de la route:
Là norrit ses amors, et couve
Tout autresinc cum fait la louve,
Cui sa folie tant empire,
Qu'el prent des lous tretout le pire.'

vileins kinde, nature of a villain, a villainous or base disposition. Practically, vileins has here the force of an adjective, and came to be so regarded, as shewn by the formation from it of the adv. vileinsly, which occurs in I. 154, and elsewhere. Similarly, the gen. case wonders became the adj. wonders, which was gradually turned into wondrous; see Wondrous in my Etym. Dictionary.

This adj. vileyns, with the sense of 'villainous,' is unnoticed in Halliwell and Stratmann. Yet Chaucer uses it often, as the reader may see for himself. See D. 1158, 1268, I. 556, 631, 652, 715, 802, 854, 914; and hence vileinsly, adv., I. 154, 279, Rom. Rose, 1498.

193. newefangel, eager of novelty; see note to F. 618.

195. souneth in-to, accords with; see notes to A. 307, B. 3157, C. 54, and F. 517.

204. lemman, short for leef man, lit. dear man. The context shews that it was considered a 'knavish' word at this period.

207-8. Repeated from Prol. 741-2; see note to A. 741.

215. The line, as it stands, is deficient in the first foot, and is not pleasing. Tyrwhitt reads any for a. This improves it; but I do not know where he found any. The old editions of 1550 and 1561 have a, like the MSS.

220. wenche, like lemman, was a 'knavish' word; see E. 2202.

223. titlelees, title-less, glossed in Hn. by the words sine titulo. It means 'usurping,' as applied to one who has no title or claim to a throne except force. Obviously written before 1399!

224. Here out-law-e is trisyllabic, and the final e is preserved by the caesura. But in l. 231 the accent is thrown back, and it is dissyllabic, as in modern English. Tyrwhitt puts any for a, against all authority.

227. This well-known story of Alexander occurs in the Gesta Romanorum, c. 146; and this circumstance gave it vogue. In Swan's translation, the tale begins thus:—'Augustine tells us in his book, De Civitate Dei, that Diomedes, in a piratical galley, for a long time infested the sea, plundering and sinking many ships. Being captured by command of Alexander, before whom he was brought, the king inquired how he dared to molest the seas. "How darest thou," replied he, "molest the earth? Because I am master only of a single galley, I am termed a robber; but you, who oppress the world with huge squadrons, are called a king and a conquerour."' John of Salisbury repeats the story in his Policraticus, lib. iii. c. 14. Cf. Higden, Polychron. iii. 422.

239. volage, giddy, thoughtless; cf. E. volatile. See the E. version of the Romaunt of the Rose, l. 1284 (vol. i. p. 147).

243. It was already understood that cuckoo was, as Shakespeare says, 'a word of fear'; see Love's Labour's Lost, v. 2. 920. In the Parl. of Foules, 358, we find: 'the cukkow ever unkinde'; vol. i. p. 348.

252. blered is thyn ye, thine eye is bleared or dimmed, i. e. thou art deceived or cajoled. See A. 4049.

262. wryen, to turn aside hastily; see A. 3283.

271. scorpioun, scorpion. Alluding to the notion that the scorpion, though its sting was deadly, had a flattering tongue, and could beguile. See notes to B. 404, E. 2059.

278. rakel, rash, hasty; afterwards altered to rake-hell, by a curious popular etymology; and then shortened to rake, as in the phrase 'a dissolute rake.' See rake (2) in my Etym. Dictionary. Cf. l. 283.

279. trouble, adj., troubled, clouded, obscured. Tyrwhitt explains it by 'dark, gloomy,' with reference to its occurrence in E. 465 above. And see Pers. Tale, I. 537.

Compare the Friar's sermon, on the subject of Ire, in D. 2005-2088, and the description of the same in the Pers. Tale, I. 535-561.

290. fordoon, destroyed. For and (as in E. Cm.) Hn. Cp. Pt. Ln. have or.

In place of this line, Hl. has the following extraordinary variation:—

'Fordoon, or dun hath brought hem in the myre.'

This shews that the scribe remembered the fifth line in the Manciple's Prologue, and thought fit to re-introduce it here, where it is wholly out of place. This is one of the many signs of the untrustworthiness of this grossly over-rated MS.

294. songe, didst sing; A. S. sunge.

301. See the Parl. of Foules, l. 363, and the note (vol. i. pp. 520-1).

306. slong, slung, threw violently; needlessly altered by Tyrwhitt to flong. So in the Seven Sages, ed. Weber, l. 1316:—'Amidde the pit he hit slong.' As s and f are often confused, I give some alliterative examples from the Geste Historyale of the Destruction of Troy (E. E. T. S.):—

'Sesit his sité, slong it to ground'; 4215.
'Slogh hym full sleghly, and slange hym to ground'; 13745.
'But the citie to sese, and slyng it to ground'; 8851.

307. which, to whom; i. e. 'to whom I commit him.'

314. Daun, Dan, i. e. lord, sir; see note to B. 3119.

Salomon, Solomon; the reference is to Prov. xxi. 23; cf. Ps. xxxiv. 13.

317. Sayings similar to those quoted below are common; but Dr. E. Köppel has shewn (in Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen, ed. L. Herrig, vol. lxxxvi, p. 44) that Chaucer had particularly in mind a treatise by Albertano of Brescia, entitled De arte loquendi et tacendi. He refers us to a new edition by Thor Sundby, in a work entitled Brunetto Latinos levnet og skrifter, Kopenhagen, 1869.

We may further compare a passage in Le Roman de la Rose, 7069, which professes to follow Ptolemy's Almagest. And we find similar pieces of advice in Middle English, with such titles as 'How the Good Wife taught her Daughter,' and 'How the Wise man taught his Son'; but these are probably later than the time of Chaucer.

325. The corresponding passage in Albertano's treatise is the following, p. xcviii:—'Paucos vel neminem tacendo, multos loquendo circumventos vidimus, quod pulchre voluit, qui ait: Nil tacuisse nocet, nocet esse saepe locutum.' This hexameter is quoted from Dionysius Cato, Distich. lib. i. dist. 12, slightly altered. Cato has: 'Nam nulli tacuisse nocet, nocet esse locutum.' Cf. the common proverb—'a fool's bolt is soon shot,' which appears in the Proverbs of Alfred, l. 421. As to Cato, see note to G. 688.

329. The corresponding passage in Albertano is:—'Causa igitur finalis tui dicti sit aut pro Dei servitio aut pro humano commodo, aut pro utroque'; p. cx.

332. In Albertano's treatise, p. xcvi, we find:—'Catho dixit: Virtutem primam esse puta compescere linguam.' From Dion. Cato, Distich. lib. i. dist. 3. Chaucer quotes it again in Troilus, iii. 294. Cf. Le Rom. de la Rose, 7073-4.

335. Cf. Albertano, p. cxv:—'In quantitate insuper modum requiras non multa dicendo; nam in multiloquio non deest peccatum.' This refers to Prov. x. 19:—'In multiloquio non deerit peccatum.'

340. Cf. Ps. lvii. 4:—'and their tongue a sharp sword.'

344. See Prov. vi. 17, where 'a lying tongue' is said to be one of the seven things which 'are an abomination unto' the Lord. See also Prov. x. 31, xvii. 20, xxvi. 28, &c.

345. Cf. Ps. x. 7, xii. 3, lii. 2, lxiv. 3-8, cxx. 3, &c. The reference to Seneca is, probably, to his treatise De Ira, from which two stories in the Sompnours Tale are taken; or it may be to the Sentences of Publilius Syrus, which are frequently quoted in the Tale of Melibeus under the name of 'Senek.'

350. Evidently an allusion to some Flemish proverb, equivalent to our 'least said, soonest mended,' which Hazlitt gives in the form—'Little said, soon amended.' In Bell's edition, the suggested form of the proverb is—'of little meddling comes great ease,' which comes nearer to the text. Chaucer has already given us a Flemish proverb in A. 4357.

355. 'Et semel emissum fugit irreuocabile uerbum'; Horace, Epist. I. xviii. 71. Chaucer found this line of Horace in Albertano's treatise (p. xcviii); or in Le Roman, 16746-8.

357. Cf. Albertano's treatise, p. cvi:—'Consilium vel secretum tuum absconditum quasi in carcere tuo est reclusum; revelatum vero te in carcere suo tenet ligatum.'

359. This is clearly, as Tyrwhitt suggests, from Dionysius Cato, Distich. lib. i. dist. 12:—'Rumores fuge, ne incipias novus auctor haberi.'