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


The Monk's Prologue.

3079. The tale of Melibee (as told above) is about a certain Melibeus and his wife Prudence, who had a daughter called Sophie. One day, while Melibeus is absent, three of his enemies break into his house, beat his wife, and wound his daughter. On returning, he takes counsel as to what must be done. He is for planning a method of revenge, but his wife advises him to forgive the injuries, and in the end her counsels prevail.

3082. corpus Madrian, body of Madrian: which has been interpreted in two ways. Urry guessed it to refer to St. Materne, bishop of Treves, variously commemorated on the 14th, 19th, or 25th of September, the days of his translations being July 18 and October 23. Mr. Steevens suggested, in a note printed in Tyrwhitt's Glossary, that the 'precious body' was that of St. Mathurin, priest and confessor, commemorated on Nov. 1 or Nov. 9. The latter is more likely, since in his story in the Golden Legende, edit. 1527, leaf 151 back, the expressions 'the precious body' and 'the holy body' occur, and the story explains that his body would not stay in the earth till it was carried back to France, where he had given directions that it should be buried.

3083. 'Rather than have a barrel of ale, would I that my dear good wife had heard this story.' Cf. morsel breed, B. 3624.

lief is not a proper name, as has been suggested, I believe, by some one ignorant of early English idiom. Cf. 'Dear my lord,' Jul. Caesar, ii. 1. 255; and other instances in Abbott's Shakesp. Grammar, sect. 13.

3101. 'Who is willing (or who suffers himself) to be overborne by everybody.'

3108. neighëbor, three syllables; thannè, two syllables.

3112. Observe the curious use of seith for misseith.

3114. Monk. See him described in the Prologue, A. 165.

3116. Rouchester. The MSS. have Rouchester, (Hl. Rowchestre), shewing that Lo stands alone in the first foot of the line. Tyrwhitt changed stant into stondeth, but all our seven MSS. have stant.

According to the arrangement of the tales in Tyrwhitt's edition, the pilgrims reach Rochester after coming to Sittingborne (mentioned in the Wife of Bath's Prologue), though the latter is some eleven miles nearer Canterbury. The present arrangement of the Groups remedies this. See note to B. 1165, at p. 165.

3117. Ryd forth, ride forward, draw near us.

3119. Wher, whether. dan, for Dominus, a title of respect commonly used in addressing monks. But Chaucer even uses it of Arcite, in the Knightes Tale, and of Cupid, Ho. Fame, 137.

3120. The monk's name was Piers. See B. 3982, and the note.

3124. Cf. 'He was not pale as a for-pyned goost'; Prol. A. 205. Jean de Meun says, in his Testament, l. 1073, that the friars have good pastures (il ont bonnes pastures).

3127. as to my doom, in my judgment.

3130. Scan the line—Bút a góvernoúr wylý and wýs. The Petworth MS. inserts 'boþ' before 'wyly': but this requires the very unlikely accentuation 'govérnour' and an emphasis on a. The line would scan better if we might insert art, or lyk, after But, but there is no authority for this.

3132. Read—A wél-faríng persónë, after which comes the pause, as marked in E. and Hn.

3139. The monk's semi-cope, which seems to have been an ample one, is mentioned in the Prologue, A. 262. In Jack Upland, § 4, a friar is asked what is signified by his 'wide cope.'

3142. 'Shaven very high on his crown'; alluding to the tonsure.

3144. the corn, i. e. the chief part or share.

3145. borel men, lay-men. Borel means 'rude, unlearned, ignorant,' and seems to have arisen from a peculiar use of borel or burel, sb., a coarse cloth; so that its original sense, as an adj., was 'in coarse clothing,' or 'rudely clad.' See borrel and burel in the New Eng. Dictionary.

shrimpes, diminutive or poor creatures.

3146. wrecched impes, poor grafts, weakly shoots. Cf. A. S. impian, to graft, imp, a graft; borrowed from Low Lat. impotus, a graft, from Gk. ἔμφυτος, engrafted.

3152. lussheburghes, light coins. In P. Plowman, B. xv. 342, we are told that 'in Lussheborwes is a lyther alay (bad alloy), and yet loketh he lyke a sterlynge.' They were spurious coins imported into England from Luxembourg, whence the name. See Liber Albus, ed. Riley, 1841, p. 495; and Blount's Nomolexicon. Luxembourg is called Lusscheburghe in the Allit. Morte Arthure, l. 2388. The importation of this false money was frequently forbidden, viz. in 1347, 1348, and 1351.

3157. souneth into, tends to, is consistent with; see Prol. A. 307, and Sq. Ta., F. 517. The following extracts from Palsgrave's French Dictionary are to the point. 'I sownde, I appartayne or belong, Ie tens. Thys thyng sowndeth to a good purpose, Ceste chose tent a bonne fin.' Also, 'I sownde, as a tale or a report sowndeth to ones honesty or dyshonesty, Ie redonde. I promise you that this matter sowndeth moche to your dishonoure, Ie vous promets que ceste matyere redonde fort a votre deshonneur.'

3160. Seint Edward. There are two of the name, viz. Edward, king and martyr, commemorated on March 16, 18, or 19, and the second King Edward, best known as Edward the Confessor, commemorated on Jan. 5. In Piers the Plowman, B. xv. 217, we have—

'Edmonde and Edwarde · eyther were kynges,
And seyntes ysette · tyl charite hem folwed.'

But Edward the Confessor is certainly meant; and there is a remarkable story about him that he was 'warned of hys death certain dayes before hee dyed, by a ring that was brought to him by certain pilgrims coming from Hierusalem, which ring hee hadde secretly given to a poore man that askyd hys charitie in the name of God and sainte Johan the Evangelist.' See Mr. Wright's description of Ludlow Church, where are some remains of a stained glass window representing this story, in the eastern wall of the chapel of St. John. See also Chambers, Book of Days, i. 53, 54, where we read—'The sculptures upon the frieze of the present shrine (in Westminster Abbey) represent fourteen scenes in the life of Edward the Confessor.... He was canonized by Pope Alexander about a century after his death.... He was esteemed the patron-saint of England until superseded in the thirteenth century by St. George.' These fourteen scenes are fully described in Brayley's Hist. of Westminster Abbey, in an account which is chiefly taken from a life of St. Edward written by Ailred of Rievaulx in 1163. Three 'Lives of Edward the Confessor' were edited, for the Master of the Rolls, by Mr. Luard in 1858. See Morley's Eng. Writers, 1888, ii. 375.

3162. celle, cell. The monk calls it his cell because he was 'the keper' of it; Prol. 172.

3163. Tragédie; the final ie might be slurred over before is, in which case we might read for to for to (see footnote); but it is needless. The definition of 'tragedy' here given is repeated from Chaucer's own translation of Boethius, which contains the remark—'Glose. Tragedie is to seyn, a ditee [ditty] of a prosperitee for a tyme, that endeth in wrecchednesse'; bk. ii. pr. 2. 51. This remark is Chaucer's own, as the word Glose marks his addition to, or gloss upon, his original. His remark refers to a passage in Boethius immediately preceding, viz. 'Quid tragoediarum clamor aliud deflet, nisi indiscreto ictu fortunam felicia regna uertentem?' De Consolatione Philosophiae, lib. ii. prosa 2. See also the last stanza of 'Cresus' in the Monkes Tale (vol. i. p. 268).

3169. exametron, hexameter. Chaucer is speaking of Latin, not of English verse; and refers to the common Latin hexameter used in heroic verse; he would especially be thinking of the Thebaid of Statius, the Metamorphoseon Liber of Ovid, the Aeneid of Vergil, and Lucan's Pharsalia. This we could easily have guessed, but Chaucer has himself told us what was in his thoughts. For near the conclusion of his Troilus and Criseyde, which he calls a tragedie, he says—

'And kis the steppes wheras thou seest pace
Virgile, Ovyde, Omer, Lucan, and Stace.'

Lucan is expressly cited in B. 401, 3909.

3170. In prose. For example, Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum and De Claris Mulieribus contain 'tragedies' in Latin prose. Cf. ll. 3655, 3910.

3171. in metre. For example, the tragedies of Seneca are in various metres, chiefly iambic. See also note to l. 3285.

3177. After hir ages, according to their periods; in chronological order. The probable allusion is to Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum, which begins with Adam and Nimrod, and keeps tolerably to the right order. For further remarks on this, shewing how Chaucer altered the order of these Tragedies in the course of revision, see vol. iii. p. 428.

The Monkes Tale.

For some account of this Tale, see vol. iii. p. 427.

3181. Tragédie; accented on the second syllable, and riming with remédie; cf. B. 3163. Very near the end of Troilus and Criseyde, we find Chaucer riming it with comédie. That poem he also calls a tragedie (v. 1786)—

'Go, litel book, go, litel myn tragédie,' &c.

3183. fillen, fell. nas no, for ne was no, a double negative. Cf. Ch. tr. of Boethius—'the olde age of tyme passed, and eek of present tyme now, is ful of ensaumples how that kinges ben chaunged in-to wrecchednesse out of hir welefulnesse'; bk. iii. pr. 5. 3.

3186. The Harl. MS. has—'Ther may no man the cours of hir whiel holde,' which Mr. Wright prefers. But the reading of the Six-text is well enough here; for in the preceding line Chaucer is speaking of Fortune under the image of a person fleeing away, to which he adds, that no one can stay her course. Fortune is also sometimes represented as stationary, and holding an ever-turning wheel, as in the Book of the Duchesse, 643; but that is another picture.

3188. Be war by, take warning from.


3189. Lucifer, a Latin name signifying light-bringer, and properly applied to the morning-star. In Isaiah xiv. 12 the Vulgate has—'Quomodo cecidisti de caelo, Lucifer, qui mane oriebaris? corruisti in terram, qui uulnerabas gentes?' &c. St. Jerome, Tertullian, St. Gregory, and other fathers, supposed this passage to apply to the fall of Satan. It became a favourite topic for writers both in prose and verse, and the allusions to it are innumerable. See note to Piers the Plowman, B. i. 105 (Clar. Press Series). Gower begins his eighth book of the Confessio Amantis with the examples of Lucifer and Adam.

Sandras, in his Étude sur Chaucer, p. 248, quotes some French lines from a 'Volucraire,' which closely agree with this first stanza. But it is a common theme.

3192. sinne, the sin of pride, as in all the accounts; probably from 1 Tim. iii. 6. Thus Gower, Conf. Amant. lib. i. (ed. Pauli, i. 153):—

'For Lucifer, with them that felle,
Bar pride with him into helle.
Ther was pride of to grete cost,
Whan he for pride hath heven lost.'

3195. artow, art thou. Sathanas, Satan. The Hebrew sâtân means simply an adversary, as in 1 Sam. xxix. 4; 2 Sam. xix. 22; &c. A remarkable application of it to the evil spirit is in Luke x. 18. Milton also indentifies Lucifer with Satan; Par. Lost, vii. 131; x. 425; but they are sometimes distinguished, and made the names of two different spirits. See, for example, Piers Plowman, B. xviii. 270-283.

3196. Read misérie, after which follows the metrical pause.


3197. Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium begins with a chapter 'De Adam et Eua.' It contains the passage—'Et ex agro, qui postea Damascenus,... ductus in Paradisum deliciarum.' Lydgate, in his Fall of Princes (fol. a 5), has—

'Of slyme of the erthe, in damascene the feelde,
God made theym aboue eche creature.'

The notion of the creation of Adam in a field whereupon afterwards stood Damascus, occurs in Peter Comestor's Historia Scholastica, where we find (ed. 1526, fol. vii)—'Quasi quereret aliquis, Remansit homo in loco vbi factus est, in agro scilicet damasceno? Non. Vbi ergo translatus est? In paradisum.' See also Maundeville's Travels, cap. xv; Genesis and Exodus, ed. Morris, l. 207; and note in Mätzner's Altenglische Sprachproben, ii. 185.

3199. Cf. 'Formatus est homo ... de spurcissimo spermate'; Innocent III., De Miseria Conditionis Humanae, i. 1 (Köppel).

3200. So Boccaccio—'O caeca rerum cupiditas! Hii, quibus rerum omnium, dante Deo, erat imperium,' &c. Cf. Gen. i. 29; ii. 16.


3205. The story of Sampson is also in Boccaccio, lib. i. c. 17 (not 19, as Tyrwhitt says). But Chaucer seems mostly to have followed the account in Judges, xiii-xvi. The word annunciat, referring to the announcement of Samson's birth by the angel (Judges xiii. 3), may have been suggested by Boccaccio, whose account begins—'Praenunciante per angelum Deo, ex Manue Israhelita quodam et pulcherrima eius vxore Sanson progenitus est.' thangel in l. 3206=the angel.

3207. consecrat, consecrated. A good example of the use of the ending -at; cf. situate for situated.—M. Shakespeare has consecrate; Com. of. Err. ii. 2. 134.

3208. whyl he mighte see, as long as he preserved his eyesight.

3210. To speke of strengthe, with regard to strength; to speke of is a kind of preposition.—M. Cf. Milton's Samson Agonistes, 126-150.

3211. wyves. Samson told the secret of his riddle to his wife, Judges xiv. 17; and of his strength to Delilah, id. xvi. 17.

3215. al to-rente, completely rent in twain. The prefix to- has two powers in Old English. Sometimes it is the preposition to in composition, as in towards, or M. E. to-flight (G. zuflucht), a refuge. But more commonly it is a prefix signifying in twain, spelt zer- in German, and dis- in Mœso-Gothic and Latin. Thus to-rente = rent in twain; to-brast = burst in twain, &c. The intensive adverb al, utterly, was used not merely (as is commonly supposed) before verbs beginning with to-, but in other cases also. Thus, in William of Palerne, l. 872, we find—'He was al a-wondred,' where al precedes the intensive prefix a- = A. S. of. Again, in the same poem, l. 661, we have—'al bi-weped for wo,' where al now precedes the prefix bi-. In Barbour's Bruce, ed. Skeat, x. 596, is the expression—

'For, hapnyt ony to slyde or fall,
He suld be soyne to-fruschit al.'

Where al to-fruschit means utterly broken in pieces. Perhaps the clearest example of the complete separability of al from to is seen in l. 3884 of William of Palerne;—

'Al to-tare his atir · þat he to-tere miȝt';

i. e. he entirely tore apart his attire, as much of it as he could tear apart. But at a later period of English, when the prefix to- was less understood, a new and mistaken notion arose of regarding al to as a separable prefix, with the sense of all to pieces. I have observed no instance of this use earlier than the reign of Henry VIII. Thus Surrey, Sonnet 9, has 'al-to shaken' for shaken to pieces. Latimer has—'they love and al-to love (i. e. entirely love) him'; Serm. p. 289. For other examples, see Al-to in the Bible Word-book; and my notes in Notes and Queries, 3 Ser. xii. 464, 535; also All, § C. 15, in the New E. Dict.

3220. Samson's wife was given to a friend; Judges, xiv. 20. She was afterwards burnt by her own people; Judges, xv. 6.

3224. on every tayl; one brand being fastened to the tails of two foxes; Judg. xv. 4.

3225. cornes. The Vulgate has segetes and fruges; also utneas for vynes, and oliueta for oliveres. The plural form cornes is not uncommon in Early English. Cf. 'Quen thair corns war in don,' i. e. when their harvests were gathered in; Spec. of Eng. pt. ii. ed. Morris and Skeat, p. 70, l. 39. And again, 'alle men-sleeris and brenneris of houses and cornes [misprinted corves] ben cursed opynly in parische chirches'; Wyclif's Works, ed. Arnold, iii. 329.

3234. wang-toth, molar tooth. This expression is taken from the Vulgate, which has—'Aperuit itaque Dominus molarem dentem in maxilla asini'; where the A. V. has only—'an hollow place that was in the jaw'; Judg. xv. 19.

3236. Judicum, i. e. Liber Judicum, the Book of Judges. Cf. note to B. 93, at p. 141.

3237. Gazan, a corruption of Gazam, the acc. case, in Judg. xvi. 1, Vulgate version.

3244. ne hadde been, there would not have been. Since hadde is here the subjunctive mood, it is dissyllabic. Read—worldë n' haddë.

3245. sicer, from the Lat. sicera, Greek σίκερα, strong drink, is the word which we now spell cider; see Wyclif's Works, ed. Arnold, i. 363, note. It is used here because found in the Vulgate version of Judges xiii. 7; 'caue ne uinum bibas, nec siceram.' I slightly amend the spelling of the MSS., which have ciser, siser, sythir, cyder. Wyclif has sither, cyther, sidir, sydur.

3249. twenty winter, twenty years; Judg. xvi. 31. The English used to reckon formerly by winters instead of years; as may be seen in a great many passages in the A. S. Chronicle.

3253. Dalida; from Gk. Δαλιδά, in the Septuagint. The Vulgate has Dalila; but Chaucer (or his scribes) naturally adopted a form which seemed to have a nearer resemblance to an accusative case, such being, at that time, the usual practice; cf. Briseide (from Briseida), Criseyde and Anelida. Lydgate also uses the form Dalida.

3259. in this array, in this (defenceless) condition.

3264. querne, hand-mill. The Vulgate has—'et clausum in carcere molere fecerunt'; Judg. xvi. 21. But Boccaccio says—'ad molas manuarias coegere.' The word occurs in the House of Fame, 1798; and in Wyclif's Bible, Exod. xi. 5; Mat. xxiv. 41. In the Ayenbite of Inwyt, ed. Morris, p. 181, the story of Samson is alluded to, and it is said of him that he 'uil [fell] into þe honden of his yuo [foes], þet him deden grinde ate querne ssamuolliche,' i. e. who made him grind at the mill shamefully (in a shameful manner). Lydgate copies Chaucer rather closely, in his Fall of Princes, fol. e 7:—

'And of despite, after as I fynde,
At their quernes made hym for to grinde.'

3269. Thende, the end. Caytif means (1) a captive, (2) a wretch. It is therefore used here very justly.

3274. two pilers, better than the reading the pilers of MS. E.; because two are expressly mentioned; Judg. xvi. 29.

3282. So Boccaccio—'Sic aduersa credulitas, sic amantis pietas, sic mulieris egit inclyta fides. Vt quem non poterant homines, non uincula, non ferrum uincere, a mulieribus latrunculis uinceretur.' Lydgate has the expressions—

'Beware by Sampson your counseyll well to kepe,
Though [misprinted That] Dalida compleyne, crye, and wepe';

and again:—

'Suffre no nightworm within your counseyll crepe,
Though Dalida compleyne, crye, and wepe.'


3285. There is little about Hercules in Boccaccio; but Chaucer's favourite author, Ovid, has his story in the Metamorphoses, book ix, and Heroides, epist. 9. Tyrwhitt, however, has shewn that Chaucer more immediately copies a passage in Boethius, de Cons. Phil. lib. iv. met. 7, which is as follows:—

'Herculem duri celebrant labores;
Ille Centauros domuit superbos;
Abstulit saeuo spolium leoni;
Fixit et certis uolucres sagittis;
Poma cernenti rapuit draconi,
Aureo laeuam grauior metallo;
Cerberum traxit triplici catena.
Victor immitem posuisse fertur
Pabulum saeuis dominum quadrigis.
Hydra combusto periit ueneno;
Fronte turpatus Achelous amnis
Ora demersit pudibunda ripis.
Strauit Antaeum Libycis arenis,
Cacus Euandri satiauit iras,
Quosque pressurus foret altus orbis
Setiger spumis humeros notauit.
Ultimus caelum labor irreflexo
Sustulit collo, pretiumque rursus
Ultimi caelum meruit laboris.'

But it is still more interesting to see Chaucer's own version of this passage, which is as follows (ed. Morris, p. 147; cf. vol. ii. p. 125):—

'Hercules is celebrable for his harde trauaile; he dawntede þe proude Centauris, half hors, half man; and he rafte þe despoylynge fro þe cruel lyoun; þat is to seyne, he slouȝ þe lyoun and rafte hym hys skyn. He smot þe birds þat hyȝten arpijs in þe palude of lyrne wiþ certeyne arwes. He rauyssede applis fro þe wakyng dragoun, & hys hand was þe more heuy for þe goldene metal. He drouȝ Cerberus þe hound of helle by his treble cheyne; he, ouer-comer, as it is seid, haþ put an vnmeke lorde fodre to his cruel hors; þis is to sein, þat hercules slouȝ diomedes and made his hors to etyn hym. And he, hercules, slouȝ Idra þe serpent & brende þe venym; and achelaus þe flode, defoulede in his forhede, dreinte his shamefast visage in his strondes; þis is to seyn, þat achelaus couþe transfigure hymself into dyuerse lykenesse, & as he fauȝt wiþ ercules, at þe laste he turnide hym in-to a bole [bull]; and hercules brak of oon of hys hornes, & achelaus for shame hidde hym in hys ryuer. And he, hercules, caste adoun Antheus þe geaunt in þe strondes of libye; & kacus apaisede þe wraþþes of euander; þis is to sein, þat hercules slouȝ þe monstre kacus & apaisede wiþ þat deeþ þe wraþþe of euander. And þe bristlede boor markede wiþ scomes [scums, foam] þe sholdres of hercules, þe whiche sholdres þe heye cercle of heuene sholde þreste [was to rest upon]. And þe laste of his labours was, þat he sustenede þe heuene upon his nekke unbowed; & he deseruede eftsones þe heuene, to ben þe pris of his laste trauayle.'

And in his House of Fame, book iii. (l. 1413), he mentions—

'Alexander, and Hercules,
That with a sherte his lyf lees.'

3288. Hercules' first labour was the slaying of the Nemean lion, whose skin he often afterwards wore.

3289. Centauros; this is the very form used by Boethius, else we might have expected Centaurus or Centaures. After the destruction of the Erymanthian boar, Hercules slew Pholus the centaur; and (by accident) Chiron. His slaughter of the centaur Nessus ultimately brought about his own death; cf. l. 3318.

3290. Arpies, harpies. The sixth labour was the destruction of the Stymphalian birds, who ate human flesh.

3291. The eleventh labour was the fetching of the golden apples, guarded by the dragon Ladon, from the garden of the Hesperides.

3292. The twelfth labour was the bringing of Cerberus from the lower world.

3293. Busirus. Here Chaucer has confused two stories. One is, that Busiris, a king of Egypt, used to sacrifice all foreigners who came to Egypt, till the arrival of Hercules, who slew him. The other is 'the eighth labour,' when Hercules killed Diomedes, a king in Thrace, who fed his mares with human flesh, till Hercules slew him and gave his body to be eaten by the mares, as Chaucer himself says in his translation. The confusion was easy, because the story of Busiris is mentioned elsewhere by Boethius, bk. ii. pr. 6, in a passage which Chaucer thus translates (see vol. ii. p. 43):—'I have herd told of Busirides, þat was wont to sleen his gestes [guests] þat herberweden [lodged] in his hous; and he was sleyn him-self of Ercules þat was his gest.' Lydgate tells the story of Busiris correctly.

3295. serpent, i. e. the Lernean hydra, whom Chaucer, in the passage from Boethius, calls 'Idra [or Ydra] the serpent.'

3296. Achelois, seems to be used here as a genitive form from a nominative Achelo; in his translation of Boethius we find Achelous and Achelaus. The spelling of names by old authors is often vague. The line means—he broke one of the two horns of Achelous. The river-god Achelous, in his fight with Hercules, took the form of a bull, whereupon the hero broke off one of his horns.

3297. The adventures with Cacus and Antaeus are well known.

3299. The fourth labour was the destruction of the Erymanthian boar.

3300. longe, for a long time; in the margin of MS. Camb. Univ. Lib. Dd. 4. 24, is written the gloss diu.

3307. The allusion is to the 'pillars' of Hercules. The expression 'both ends of the world' refers to the extreme points of the continents of Europe and Africa, world standing here for continent. The story is that Hercules erected two pillars, Calpe and Abyla, on the two sides of the Strait of Gibraltar. The words 'seith Trophee' seem to refer to an author named Trophaeus. In Lydgate's prologue to his Fall of Princes, st. 41, he says of Chaucer that—

'In youth he made a translacion
Of a boke whiche called is Trophe
In Lumbarde tonge, as men may rede and se;
And in our vulgar, long er that he deyde,
Gave it the name of Troylus and Creseyde.'

This seems to say that Trophe was the Italian name of a Book (or otherwise, the name of a book in Italian), whence Chaucer drew his story of Troilus. But the notion must be due to some mistake, since that work was taken from the 'Filostrato' of Boccaccio. The only trace of the name of Trophaeus as an author is in a marginal note—possibly Chaucer's own—which appears in both the Ellesmere and Hengwrt MSS., viz. 'Ille vates Chaldeorum Tropheus.' See, however, vol. ii. p. lv, where I shew that, in this passage at any rate, Trophee really refers to Guido delle Colonne, who treats of the deeds of Hercules in the first book of his Historia Troiana, and makes particular mention of the famous columns (as to which Ovid and Boethius are alike silent).

3311. thise clerkes, meaning probably Ovid and Boccaccio. See Ovid's Heroides, epist. ix., entitled Deianira Herculi, and Metamorph. lib. ix.; Boccaccio, De Casibus Virorum Illustrium, lib. i. cap. xviii., and De Mulieribus Claris, cap. xxii. See also the Trachineae of Sophocles, which Chaucer of course never read.

3315. wered, worn; so in A. 75, and B. 3320, wered is the form of the past tense. Instances of verbs with weak preterites in Chaucer, but strong ones in modern English, are rare indeed; but there are several instances of the contrary, e.g. wep, slep, wesh, wex, now wept, slept, washed, waxed. Wore is due to analogy with bore; cf. could for coud.

3317. Both Ovid and Boccaccio represent Deianira as ignorant of the fatal effects which the shirt would produce. See Ovid, Metam. ix. 133. Had Chaucer written later, he might have included Gower among the clerks, as the latter gives the story of Hercules and Deianira in his Conf. Amantis, lib. ii. (ed. Pauli, i. 236), following Ovid. Thus he says—

'With wepend eye and woful herte
She tok out thilke vnhappy sherte,
As she that wende wel to do.'

3326. For long upbraidings of Fortune, see The Boke of the Duchesse, 617; Rom. Rose, 5407; Boethius, bk. i. met. 5; &c.


3335. Nabugodonosor; generally spelt Nabuchodonosor in copies of the Vulgate, of which this other spelling is a mere variation. Gower has the same spelling as Chaucer, and relates the story near the end of book i. of the Conf. Amantis (ed. Pauli, i. 136). Both no doubt took it directly from Daniel i-iv.

3338. The vessel is here an imitation of the French idiom; F. vaisselle means the plate, as Mr. Jephson well observes. Cf. l. 3494.

3349. In the word statue the second syllable is rapidly slurred over, like that in glorie in l. 3340. See the same effect in the Kn. Tale, ll. 117, 1097 (A. 975, 1955).

3356. tweye, two; a strange error for three, whose names are familiar; viz. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.


3373. Balthasar; so spelt by Boccaccio, who relates the story very briefly, De Cas. Virorum Illust., lib. ii. cap. 19. So also, by Peter Comestor, in his Historia Scholastica; and by Gower, Conf. Amant., lib. v (ed. Pauli, ii. 365). The Vulgate generally has Baltassar; Daniel, cap. v.

3379. and ther he lay; cf. l. 3275 above.

3384. The word tho is supplied for the metre. The scribes have considered vesselles (sic) as a trisyllable; but see ll. 3391, 3416, 3418.

3388. Of, for. Cf. 'thank God of al,' i. e. for all; in Chaucer's Balade of Truth.—M. See note in vol. i. pp. 552-3.

3422. Tyrwhitt has trusteth, in the plural, but thou is used throughout. Elsewhere Chaucer also has 'on whom we truste,' Prol. A. 501; 'truste on fortune,' B. 3326; cf. 'syker on to trosten,' P. Pl. Crede, l. 350.

3427. Dárius, so accented. degree, rank, position.

3429-36. I have no doubt that this stanza was a later addition.

3436. proverbe. The allusion is, in the first place, to Boethius, de Cons. Phil., bk. iii. pr. 5—'Sed quem felicitas amicum fecit, infortunium faciet inimicum'; which Chaucer translates—'Certes, swiche folk as weleful fortune maketh freendes, contrarious fortune maketh hem enemys'; see vol. ii. p. 63. Cf. Prov. xix. 4—'Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour,' &c. So also—'If thou be brought low, he [i. e. thy friend] will be against thee, and will hide himself from thy face'; Ecclus. vi. 12. In Hazlitt's Collection of English Proverbs, p. 235, we find—

'In time of prosperity, friends will be plenty;
In time of adversity, not one among twenty.'

See also note to l. 120 above; and, not to multiply instances, note st. 19 of Goldsmith's Hermit:—

'And what is friendship but a name,
A charm that lulls to sleep;
A shade that follows wealth or fame,
And leaves the wretch to weep?'


3437. Cenobia. The story of Zenobia is told by Trebellius Pollio, who flourished under Constantine, in cap. xxix. of his work entitled Triginta Tyranni; but Chaucer no doubt followed later accounts, one of which was clearly that given by Boccaccio in his De Mulieribus Claris, cap. xcviii. Boccaccio relates her story again in his De Casibus Virorum, lib. viii. c. 6; in an edition of which, printed in 1544, I find references to the biography of Aurelian by Flavius Vopiscus, to the history of Orosius, lib. vii. cap. 23, and to Baptista Fulgosius, lib. iv. cap. 3. See, in particular, chap. xi. of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, where the story of Zenobia is given at length. Palmyra is described by Pliny, Nat. Hist. lib. v. cap. 21. Zenobia's ambition tempted her to endeavour to make herself a Queen of the East, instead of remaining merely Queen of Palmyra; but she was defeated by the Roman emperor Aurelian, A.D. 273, and carried to Rome, where she graced his triumph, A.D. 274. She survived this reverse of fortune for some years.

Palimerie. Such is the spelling in the best MSS.; but MS. Hl. reads—'of Palmire the queene.' It is remarkable that MS. Trin. Coll. Cam. R. 3. 19 has the reading—'Cenobia, of Belmary quene,' which suggests confusion with Belmarie, in the Prol. A. 57; but see the note to that line. It occupied the site of the ancient Tadmor, or 'city of palmtrees,' in an oasis of the Great Syrian desert. It has been in ruins since about A.D. 1400.

3441. In the second ne in, the e is slurred over; cf. nin, Sq. Ta., F. 35.

3442. Perse. This (like l. 3438) is Chaucer's mistake. Boccaccio says expressly that she was of the race of the Ptolemies of Egypt; but further on he remarks—'Sic cum Persis et Armenis principibus, vt illos urbanitate et facetia superaret.' This may account for the confusion.

3446. Boccaccio says (de Mul. Clar.)—'Dicunt autem hanc a pueritia sua spretis omnino muliebribus officiis, cum iam corpusculum eduxisset in robur, syluas & nemora incoluisse plurimum, & accinctam pharetra, ceruis caprisque cursu atque sagittis fuisse infestam. Inde cum in acriores deuenisset uires, ursus amplecti ausam, pardos, leonesque insequi, obuios expectare, capere & occidere, ac in praedam trahere.' This accounts for the word office, and may shew how closely Chaucer has followed his original.

3496. lafte not, forbore not; see A. 492.

3497. She was acquainted with Egyptian literature, and studied Greek under the philosopher Longinus, author of a celebrated treatise on 'The Sublime.'

3502. housbonde. Her husband was Odenathus, or Odenatus, the ruler of Palmyra, upon whom the emperor Gallienus had bestowed the title of Augustus. He was murdered by some of his relations, and some have even insinuated that Zenobia consented to the crime. Most scribes spell the name Onedake, by metathesis for Odenake (Odenate), like the spelling Adriane for Ariadne.

3507. doon hem flee, cause them (her and her husband) to flee.

3510. Sapor I. reigned over Persia A.D. 240-273. He defeated the emperor Valerian, whom he kept in captivity for the rest of his life. After conquering Syria and taking Caesarea, he was defeated by Odenatus and Zenobia, who founded a new empire at Palmyra. See Gibbon, Decline, &c., chap. x.

3511. proces, succession of events. fil, fell, befell.

3512. title, pronounced nearly as title in French, the e being elided before had.

3515. Petrark. Tyrwhitt suggests that perhaps Boccaccio's book had fallen into Chaucer's hands under the name of Petrarch. We may, however, suppose that Chaucer had read the account in a borrowed book, and did not certainly know whether Petrarch or Boccaccio was the author. Instances of similar mistakes are common enough in Early English. Modern readers are apt to forget that, in the olden times, much information had to be carried in the memory, and there was seldom much facility for verification or for a second perusal of a story.

3519. cruelly. The Harl. MS. has the poor reading trewely, miswritten for crewely.

3525. Claudius II., emperor of Rome, A.D. 268-270. He succeeded Gallienus, as Chaucer says, and was succeeded by Aurelian.

3535. Boccaccio calls them Heremianus and Timolaus, so that Hermanno (as in the MSS.) should probably be Heremanno. Professor Robertson Smith tells me that the right names are Herennianus and Timoleon. The line cannot well be scanned as it stands.

3550. char, chariot. Boccaccio describes this 'currum, quem sibi ex auro gemmisque praeciocissimum Zenobia fabricari fecerat.'

3556. charged, heavily laden. She was so laden with chains of massive gold, and covered with pearls and gems, that she could scarcely support the weight; so says Boccaccio. Gibbon says the same.

3562. vitremyte. I have no doubt this reading (as in Tyrwhitt) is correct. All the six MSS. in the Six-text agree in it. The old printed editions have were autremyte, a mere corruption of were a uĩtremyte; and the Harl. MS. has wyntermyte, which I take to be an attempt to make sense of a part of the word, just as we have turned écrevisse into cray-fish. What the word means, is another question; it is perhaps the greatest 'crux' in Chaucer. As the word occurs nowhere else, the solution I offer is a mere guess. I suppose it to be a coined word, formed on the Latin vitream mitram, expressing, literally, a glass head-dress, in complete contrast to a strong helmet. My reasons for supposing this are as follows.

(1) With regard to mitra. In Low-Latin, its commonest meaning is a woman's head-dress. But it was especially and widely used as a term of mockery, both in Latin, Italian, Spanish, and French. The mitra was the cap which criminals were made to wear as a sign of degradation; see Carpenter's Supp. to Ducange, s. v. Mitra; Vocabulario degli Accad. della Crusca, s. v. Mitera; and any large Spanish Dict. s. v. Mitra. Even Cotgrave has—'Mitré, mitred; hooded with a miter, wearing a miter; set on a pillory or scaffold, with a miter of paper on his head.' The chief difficulty in this derivation is the loss of the r, but Godefroy has a quotation (s. v. mite, 2), which would suit the sense—'mites de toile costonnees, et par dessus ung grand chappel de fer ou de cuir bouilli.'

(2) With regard to vitream. This may refer to a proverb, probably rather English than foreign, to which I have never yet seen a reference. But its existence is clear. To give a man 'a glazen hood' meant, in Old English, to mock, delude, cajole. It appears in Piers the Plowman, B. xx. 171, where a story is told of a man who, fearing to die, consulted the physicians, and gave them large sums of money, for which they gave him in return 'a glasen houve,' i. e. a hood of glass, a thing that was no defence at all. Still clearer is the allusion to the same proverb in Chaucer himself, in a passage explained by no previous editor, in Troil. and Cres. v. 469, where Fortune is said to have an intention of deluding Troilus; or, as the poet says,

'Fortune his howve entended bet to glase,'

i. e. literally, Fortune intended to glaze his hood still better for him, i. e. to make a still greater fool of him. In the Aldine edition, howue is printed howen in this passage, but howue occurs elsewhere; Tyrwhitt has hove, a common variation of howue. If this note is unsatisfactory, I may yet claim to have explained in it at least one long-standing difficulty; viz. this line in Troilus. Tyrwhitt long ago explained that, in Chaucer, the phrases to set a man's hood, and to set a man's cap, have a like meaning, viz. to delude him. Chaucer uses verre for glass in another passage of a similar character, viz. in Troil. and Cres. ii. 867, where we read—

'And forthy, who that hath an hede of verre,
Fro cast of stones war him in the werre.'

3564. a distaf. This is from Boccaccio's other account, in the De Casibus Virorum. 'Haec nuper imperatoribus admiranda, nunc uenit miseranda plebeis. Haec nunc galeata concionari militibus assueta, nunc uelata cogitur muliercularum audire fabellas. Haec nuper Orienti praesidens sceptra gestabat, nunc Romae subiacens, colum, sicut ceterae, baiulat.' Zenobia survived her disgrace for some years, living at Rome as a private person on a small estate which was granted to her, and which, says Trebellius Pollio, 'hodie Zenobia dicitur.'

Peter, King of Spain.

3565. See vol. iii. p. 429, for the order in which the parts of the Monk's Tale are arranged. I follow here the arrangement in the Harleian MS. Peter, king of Castile, born in 1334, is generally known as Pedro the Cruel. He reigned over Castile and Leon from 1350 to 1362, and his conduct was marked by numerous acts of unprincipled atrocity. After a destructive civil war, he fell into the hands of his brother, Don Enrique (Henry). A personal struggle took place between the brothers, in the course of which Enrique stabbed Pedro to the heart; March 23, 1369. See the ballad by Sir Walter Scott, entitled the Death of Don Pedro, in Lockhart's Spanish Ballads, commencing—

'Henry and Don Pedro clasping
Hold in straining arms each other;
Tugging hard and closely grasping,
Brother proves his strength with brother.'

It is remarkable that Pedro was very popular with his own party, despite his crimes, and Chaucer takes his part because our Black Prince fought on the side of Pedro against Enrique at the battle of Najera, April 3, 1367; and because John of Gaunt married Constance, daughter of Pedro, about Michaelmas, 1371.

3573. See the description of Du Gueschlin's arms as given below. The 'field' was argent, and the black eagle appears as if caught by a rod covered with birdlime, because the bend dexter across the shield seems to restrain him from flying away. The first three lines of the stanza refer to Bertrand Du Gueschlin, who 'brew,' i. e. contrived Pedro's murder, viz. by luring him to Enrique's tent. But the last three lines refer to another knight who, according to Chaucer, took a still more active part in the matter, being a worker in it. This second person was a certain Sir Oliver Mauny, whose name Chaucer conceals under the synonym of wicked nest, standing for O. Fr. mau ni, where mau is O. Fr. for mal, bad or wicked, and ni is O. Fr. for nid, Lat. nidus, a nest. Observe too, that Chaucer uses the word need, not deed. There may be an excellent reason for this; for, in the course of the struggle between the brothers, Enrique was at first thrown, 'when (says Lockhart) one of Henry's followers, seizing Don Pedro by the leg, turned him over, and his master, thus at length gaining the upper hand, instantly stabbed the king to the heart. Froissart calls this man the Vicomte de Roquebetyn, and others the Bastard of Anisse.' I have no doubt that Chaucer means to tell us that the helper in Enrique's need was no other than Mauny. He goes on to say that this Mauny was not like Charles the Great's Oliver, an honourable peer, but an Oliver of Armorica, a man like Charles's Ganelon, the well-known traitor, of whom Chaucer elsewhere says (Book of the Duchess, l. 1121)—

'Or the false Genelon,
He that purchased the treson
Of Rowland and of Olivere.'

This passage has long been a puzzle, but was first cleared up in an excellent letter by Mr. Furnivall in Notes and Queries, which I here subjoin; I may give myself the credit, however, of identifying 'wicked nest' with O. Fr. mau ni.

'The first two lines [of the stanza] describe the arms of Bertrand du Guesclin, which were, a black double-headed eagle displayed on a silver shield, with a red band across the whole, from left to right [in heraldic language, a bend dexter, gules]—"the lymrod coloured as the glede" or live coal—as may be seen in Anselme's Histoire Généalogique de France, and a MS. Généalogies de France in the British Museum. Next, if we turn to Mr. D. F. Jamison's excellent Life and Times of Bertrand du Guesclin, we not only find on its cover Bertrand's arms as above described, but also at vol. ii. pp. 92-4, an account of the plot and murder to which Chaucer alludes, and an identification of his traitorous or "Genylon" Oliver, with Sir Oliver de Mauny of Brittany (or Armorica), Bertrand's cousin [or, according to Froissart, cap. 245, his nephew].

'After the battle of Monteil, on March 14, 1369, Pedro was besieged in the castle of Monteil near the borders of La Mancha, by his brother Enrique; who was helped by Du Guesclin and many French knights. Finding escape impossible, Pedro sent Men Rodriguez secretly to Du Guesclin with an offer of many towns and 200,000 gold doubloons if he would desert Enrique and reinstate Pedro. Du Guesclin refused the offer, and "the next day related to his friends and kinsmen in the camp, and especially to his cousin, Sir Oliver de Mauny, what had taken place." He asked them if he should tell Enrique; they all said yes: so he told the king. Thereupon Enrique promised Bertrand the same reward that Pedro had offered him, but asked him also to assure Men Rodriguez of Pedro's safety if he would come to his (Du Guesclin's) lodge. Relying on Bertrand's assurance, Pedro came to him on March 23; Enrique entered the lodge directly afterwards, and after a struggle, stabbed Pedro, and seized his kingdom.

'We see then that Chaucer was justified in asserting that Du Guesclin and Sir Oliver Mauny "brew this cursednesse"; and his assertion has some historical importance; for as his patron and friend, John of Gaunt, married one of Pedro's daughters [named Constance] as his second wife [Michaelmas, 1371], Chaucer almost certainly had the account of Pedro's death from his daughter, or one of her attendants, and is thus a witness for the truth of the narrative of the Spanish chronicler Ayala, given above, against the French writers, Froissart, Cuvelier, &c., who make the Bégue de Villaines the man who inveigled Pedro. This connexion of Chaucer with John of Gaunt and his second wife must excuse the poet in our eyes for calling so bad a king as Pedro the Cruel "worthy" and "the glorie of Spayne, whom Fortune heeld so hy in magestee."

'In the Corpus MS. these knights are called in a side-note Bertheun Claykyn (which was one of the many curious ways in which Du Guesclin's name was spelt) and Olyuer Mawny; in MS. Harl. 1758 they are called Barthilmewe Claykeynne and Olyuer Mawyn; and in MS. Lansdowne 851 they are called Betelmewe Claykyn and Oliuer Mawnye. Mauni or Mauny was a well-known Armorican or Breton family. Chaucer's epithet of "Genilon" for Oliver de Mauny is specially happy, because Genelon was the Breton knight who betrayed to their death the great Roland and the flower of Charlemagne's knights to the Moors at Roncesvalles. Charles's or Charlemagne's great paladin, Oliver, is too well known to need more than a bare mention.'—F. J. Furnivall, in Notes and Queries, 4th Series, viii. 449.

Peter, King of Cyprus.

3581. In a note to Chaucer's Prologue, A. 51, Tyrwhitt says—'Alexandria in Egypt was won, and immediately afterwards abandoned, in 1365, by Pierre de Lusignan, king of Cyprus. The same Prince, soon after his accession to the throne in 1352, had taken Satalie, the antient Attalia; and in another expedition about 1367 he made himself master of the town of Layas in Armenia. Compare 11 Mémoire sur les Ouvrages de Guillaume de Machaut, Acad. des Ins. tom. xx. pp. 426, 432, 439; and Mémoire sur la Vie de Philippe de Maizières, tom. xvii. p. 493.' He was assassinated in 1369. Cf. note to A. 51.

Barnabo of Lombardy.

3589. 'Bernabo Visconti, duke of Milan, was deposed by his nephew and thrown into prison, where he died in 1385.'—Tyrwhitt. This date of Dec. 18, 1385 is that of the latest circumstance incidentally referred to in the Canterbury Tales. Chaucer had been sent to treat with Visconti in 1378, so that he knew him personally. See Froissart, bk. ii. ch. 158; Engl. Cyclopaedia, s. v. Visconti; Furnivall's Trial Forewords, p. 109. And see vol. i. p. xxxii.

Ugolino of Pisa.

3597. 'Chaucer himself has referred us to Dante for the original of this tragedy: see Inferno, canto xxxiii.'—Tyrwhitt. An account of Count Ugolino is given in a note to Cary's Dante, from Villani, lib. vii. capp. 120-127. This account is different from Dante's, and represents him as very treacherous. He made himself master of Pisa in July 1288, but in the following March was seized by the Pisans, who threw him, with his two sons, and two of his grandsons, into a prison, where they perished of hunger in a few days. Chaucer says three sons, the eldest being five years of age. Dante says four sons.

3606. Roger; i. e. the Archbishop Ruggieri degli Ubaldini, who was Ugolino's enemy.

3616. This line is imperfect at the caesura; accent but. Tyrwhitt actually turns herde into hered, to make it dissyllabic; but such an 'emendation' is not legitimate. The Harl. MS. has—'He herd it wel, but he saugh it nought'; where Mr. Jephson inserts ne before saugh without any comment. Perhaps read—he [ne] spak.

'The hour drew near
When they were wont to bring us food; the mind
Of each misgave him through his dream, and I
Heard, at its outlet underneath, lock'd up
The horrible tower: whence, uttering not a word,
I look'd upon the visage of my sons.
I wept not: so all stone I felt within.
They wept: and one, my little Anselm, cried,
"Thou lookest so! Father, what ails thee?"' &c.
Cary's Dante.

3621. Dante does not mention the ages; but he says that the son named Gaddo died on the fourth day, and the other three on the fifth and sixth days. Observe that Chaucer's tender lines, ll. 3623-8, are his own.

3624. Morsel breed, morsel of bread; cf. barel ale for barrel of ale, B. 3083.—M.

3636. 'I may lay the blame of all my woe upon thy false wheel.' Cf. B. 3860.

3640. two; there were now but two survivors, the youngest, according to Chaucer, being dead.

'They, who thought
I did it through desire of feeding, rose
O' the sudden, and cried, "Father, we should grieve
Far less, if thou wouldst eat of us: thou gavest
These weeds of miserable flesh we wear,
And do thou strip them off from us again."'
Cary's Dante.

3651. Dant; i. e. Dante Alighieri, the great poet of Italy, born in 1265, died Sept. 14, 1321. Chaucer mentions him again in his House of Fame, book i., as the author of the Inferno, in the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women, l. 360, and in the Wyf of Bathes Tale, D. 1126.


3655. Swetonius; this refers to the Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius; but it would be a mistake to suppose that Chaucer has followed his account very closely. Our poet seems to have had a habit of mentioning authorities whom he did not immediately follow, by which he seems to have meant no more than that they were good authorities upon the subject. Here, for instance, he merely means that we can find in Suetonius a good account of Nero, which will give us all minor details. But in reality he draws the story more immediately from other sources, especially from Boccaccio, De Casibus Virorum, lib. vii. cap. 4, from the Roman de la Rose, and from Boethius, de Cons. Philos. lib. ii. met. 6, and lib. iii. met. 4. The English Romaunt of the Rose does not contain the passage about Nero, but it is interesting to refer to Chaucer's translation of Boethius. Vincent of Beauvais has an account of Nero, in his Speculum Historiale, lib. ix. capp. 1-7, in which he chiefly follows Suetonius. See also Orosius, lib. vii. 7, and Eutropius, lib. vii.

3657. South; the MSS. have North, but it is fair to make the correction, as Chaucer certainly knew the sense of Septemtrioun, and the expression is merely borrowed from the Roman de la Rose, ed. Méon, l. 6271, where we read,

'Cis desloiaus, que ge ci di;
Et d'Orient et de Midi,
D'Occident, de Septentrion
Tint il la juridicion.'

And, in his Boethius, after saying that Nero ruled from East to West, he adds—'And eke þis Nero gouernede by Ceptre alle þe peoples þat ben vndir þe colde sterres þat hyȝten þe seuene triones; þis is to seyn, he gouernede alle þe poeples þat ben vndir þe parties of þe norþe. And eke Nero gouerned alle þe poeples þat þe violent wynde Nothus scorchiþ, and bakiþ þe brennynge sandes by his drie hete; þat is to seyne, alle þe poeples in þe souþe'; ed. Morris, p. 55 (cf. vol. ii. p. 45).

3663. From Suetonius; cf. Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, ii. 285.

3665. This is from Suetonius, who says—'Piscatus est rete aurato, purpura coccoque funibus nexis'; cap. xxx. So also Orosius, vii. 7; Eutropius, vii. 9.

3669. This passage follows Boethius, bk. ii. met. 6, very closely, as is evident by comparing it with Chaucer's translation (see vol. ii. p. 44). 'He leet brenne the citee of Rome, and made sleen the senatoures. And he, cruel, whylom slew his brother. And he was maked moist with the blood of his moder; that is to seyn, he leet sleen and slitten the body of his moder, to seen wher he was conceived; and he loked on every halve upon her colde dede body; ne no tere ne wette his face; but he was so hard-herted that he mighte ben domesman, or Iuge, of hir dede beautee.... Allas, it is a grevous fortune, as ofte as wikked swerd is ioigned to cruel venim; that is to seyn, venimous crueltee to lordshippe.' Thus Chaucer himself explains domesman (l. 3680) by Iuge, i. e. judge. In the same line ded-è is dissyllabic.

3685. a maister; i. e. Seneca, mentioned below by name. In the year 65, Nero, wishing to be rid of his old master, sent him an order to destroy himself. Seneca opened a vein, but the blood would not flow freely; whereupon, to expedite its flow, he entered into a warm bath, and thence was taken into a vapour stove, where he was suffocated. 'Nero constreynede Senek, his familier and his mayster, to chesen on what deeth he wolde deyen'; Chaucer's Boethius, lib. iii. pr. 5. 34 (vol. ii. 63).

3692. 'It was long before tyranny or any other vice durst attack him'; literally, 'durst let dogs loose against him.' To uncouple is to release dogs from the leash that fastened them together; see P. Pl. B. pr. 206. Compare—

'At the uncoupling of his houndes.'
Book of the Duchesse, l. 377.

'The laund on which they fought, th' appointed place
In which th' uncoupled hounds began the chace.'
Dryden; Palamon and Arcite, bk. ii. l. 845.

3720. 'Where he expected to find some who would aid him.' Suetonius says—'ipse cum paucis hospitia singulorum adiit. Verum clausis omnium foribus, respondente nullo, in cubiculum rediit,' &c.; cap. xlvii. He afterwards escaped to the villa of his freedman Phaon, four miles from Rome, where he at length gave himself a mortal wound in the extremity of his despair. Cf. Rom. de la Rose, 6459-76.

3736. girden of, to strike off; cf. 'gurdeth of gyles hed,' P. Pl. B. ii. 201. A gird is also a sharp striking taunt or quip.—M.


3746. Oloferne. The story of Holofernes is to be found in the apocryphal book of Judith.

3750. For lesinge, for fear of losing, lest men should lose.

3752. 'He had decreed to destroy all the gods of the land, that all nations should worship Nabuchodonosor only,' &c.; Judith, iii. 8.

3756. Eliachim. Tyrwhitt remarks that the name of the high priest was Joacim; Judith, iv. 6. But this is merely the form of the name in our English version. The Vulgate version has the equivalent form Eliachim; cf. 2 Chron. xxxvi. 4.

3761. upright, i. e. on his back, with his face upwards. See Knightes Tale, l. 1150 (A. 2008), and the note to A. 4194.


3765. Antiochus Epiphanes, King of Syria (B.C. 175-164). Paraphrased from 2 Maccabees, ix. 7, 28, 10, 8, 7, 3-7, 9-12, 28.


3821. There is a whole cycle of Alexander romances, in Latin, French, and English, so that his story is common enough. There is a good life of him by Plutarch, but in Chaucer's time the principal authority for an account of him was Quintus Curtius. See Ten Brink, Hist. Eng. Lit., bk. ii. sect. 8.

3826. 'They were glad to send to him (to sue) for peace.'

3843. write, should write, pt. subj.; hence the change of vowel from indic. wroot.—M. The i is short.

3845. 'So Alexander reigned twelve years, and then died'; 1 Mac. i. 7. Machabee, i. e. the first book of the Maccabees.

3850. Quintus Curtius says that Alexander was poisoned by Antipater; and this account is adopted in the romances. Cf. Barbour's Bruce, i. 533.

3851. 'Fortune hath turned thy six (the highest and most fortunate throw at dice) into an ace (the lowest).' Cf. note to B. 124.

3860. 'Which two (fortune and poison) I accuse of all this woe.'

Julius Caesar.

3862. For humble bed Tyrwhitt, Wright, and Bell print humblehede, as in some MSS. But this word is an objectionable hybrid compound, and I think it remains to be shewn that the word belongs to our language. In the Knightes Tale, Chaucer has humblesse, and in the Persones Tale, humilitee. Until better authority for humblehede can be adduced, I am content with the reading of the four best MSS., including the Harleian, which Wright silently alters.

3863. Julius. For this story Chaucer refers us below to Lucan, Suetonius, and Valerius; see note to l. 3909. There is also an interesting life of him by Plutarch. Boccaccio mentions him but incidentally.

3866. tributárie; observe the rime with aduersárie. Fortune in l. 3868 is a trisyllable; so also in l. 3876.

3870. 'Against Pompey, thy father-in-law.' Rather, 'son-in-law'; for Caesar gave Pompey his daughter Julia in marriage.

3875. puttest; to be read as putt'st; and thórient as in l. 3883.

3878. Pompeius. Boccaccio gives his life at length, as an example of misfortune; De Casibus Virorum, lib. vi. cap. 9. He was killed Sept. 29, B.C. 48, soon after the battle of Pharsalia in Thessaly (l. 3869).

3881. him, for himself; but in the next line it means 'to him.'—M.

3885. Chaucer refers to this triumph in the Man of Lawes Tale, B. 400; but see the note. Cf. Shak. Henry V, v. prol. 28.

3887. Chaucer is not alone in making Brutus and Cassius into one person; see note to l. 3892.

3891. cast, contrived, appointed; pp., after hath.

3892. boydekins, lit. bodkins, but with the signification of daggers. It is meant to translate the Lat. pugio, a poniard. In Barbour's Bruce, i. 545, Caesar is said to have been slain with a weapon which in one edition is called punsoun, in another a botkin, and in the Edinburgh MS. a pusoune, perhaps an error for punsoune, since Halliwell's Dictionary gives the form punchion. Hamlet uses bodkin for a dagger; Act iii. sc. 1. l. 76. In the margin of Stowe's Chronicle, ed. 1614, it is said that Caesar was slain with bodkins; Nares' Glossary. Nares also quotes—'The chief woorker of this murder was Brutus Cassius, with 260 of the senate, all having bodkins in their sleeves'; Serp. of Division, prefixed to Gorboduc, 1590.

3906. lay on deying, lay a-dying. In l. 3907, deed = mortally wounded.

3909. recomende, commit. He means that he commits the full telling of the story to Lucan, &c. In other words, he refers the reader to those authors. Cf. Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, ii. 254, 274.

Lucan (born A.D. 39, died A.D. 65) was the author of the Pharsalia, an incomplete poem in ten books, narrating the struggle between Pompey and Caesar. There is an English translation of it by Rowe.

Suetonius Tranquillus (born about A.D. 70) wrote several works, the principal of which is The Lives of the Twelve Caesars.

Valerius. There were two authors of this name, (1) Valerius Flaccus, author of a poem on the Argonautic expedition, and (2) Valerius Maximus, author of De Factis Dictisque Memorabilibus Libri ix. Mr. Jephson says that Valerius Flaccus is meant here, I know not why. Surely the reference is to Valerius Maximus, who at least tells some anecdotes of Caesar; lib. iv. c. 5; lib. vii. cap. 6.

3911. word and ende, beginning and end; a substitution for the older formula ord and ende. Tyrwhitt notes that the suggested emendation of ord for word was proposed by Dr. Hickes, in his Anglo-Saxon Grammar, p. 70. Hickes would make the same emendation in Troil. and Cres. v. 1669;

'And of this broche he tolde him ord and ende,'

where the editions have word. He also cites the expression ord and ende from Cædmon; see Thorpe's edition, p. 225, l. 30. We also find from orde ōð ende = from beginning to end, in the poem of Elene (Vercelli MS.), ed. Grein, l. 590. Orde and ende occurs also at a later period, in the Ormulum, l. 6775; and still later, in Floriz and Blancheflur, l. 47, ed. Lumby, in the phrase,

'Ord and ende he haþ him told
Hu blauncheflur was þarinne isold.'

Tyrwhitt argues that the true spelling of the phrase had already become corrupted in Chaucer's time, and such seems to have been the fact, as all the MSS. have word. See Zupitza's note to Guy of Warwick, l. 7927, where more examples are given; and cf. my note to Troil. ii. 1495. Ord and ende explains our modern odds and ends; see Garnett's Essays, p. 37. Moreover, it is not uncommon to find a w prefixed to a word where it is not required etymologically, especially before the vowel o. The examples wocks, oaks, won, one, wodur, other, wostus, oast-house, woth, oath, wots, oats, wolde, old, are all given in Halliwell's Prov. Dictionary.


3917. Cresus; king of Lydia, B.C. 560-546, defeated by Cyrus at Sardis. Cyrus spared his life, and Croesus actually survived his benefactor. Chaucer, however, brings him to an untimely end. The story of Croesus is in Boccaccio, De Casibus Virorum, lib. iii. cap. 20. See also Herodotus, lib. 1; Plutarch's life of Solon, &c. But Boccaccio represents Croesus as surviving his disgraces. Tyrwhitt says that the story seems to have been taken from the Roman de la Rose, ll. 6312-6571 (ed. Méon); where the English Romaunt of the Rose is defective. In Chaucer's translation of Boethius, bk. ii. pr. 2, see vol. ii. p. 28, we find this sentence: 'Wistest thou not how Cresus, the king of Lydiens, of whiche king Cyrus was ful sore agast a litel biforn, that this rewliche [pitiable] Cresus was caught of [by] Cyrus, and lad to the fyr to ben brent; but that a rayn descendede doun fro hevene, that rescowede him?' In the House of Fame, bk. i. ll. 104-6, we have an allusion to the 'avision' [vision, dream] of

'Cresus, that was king of Lyde,
That high upon a gebet dyde.'

See also Nonne Pr. Ta. l. 318 (B. 4328). The tragic version of the fate of Croesus is given by Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum Historiale, iii. 17; and I give an extract, as it seems to be the account which is followed in the Roman de la Rose. It must be premised that Vincent makes Croesus to have been taken prisoner by Cyrus three times.

'Alii historiographi narrant, quod in secunda captione, iussit eum Cyrus rogo superponi et assari, et subito tanta pluuia facta est, vt eius immensitate ignis extingueretur, vnde occasionem repperit euadendi. Cumque postea hoc sibi prospere euenisse gloriaretur, et opum copia nimium se iactaret, dictum est ei a Solone quodam sapientissimo, non debere quemquam in diuitiis et prosperitate gloriari. Eadem nocte uidit in somnis quod Jupiter eum aqua perfunderet, et sol extergeret. Quod cum filiae suae mane indicasset, illa (vt res se habebat) prudenter absoluit, dicens: quod cruci esset affigendus et aqua perfundendus et sole siccandus. Quod ita demum contigit, nam postea a Cyro crucifixus est.' Compare the few following lines from the Roman de la Rose, with ll. 3917-22, 3934-8, 3941, and l. 3948:—

'Qui refu roi de toute Lyde;
Puis li mist-l'en où col la bride,
Et fu por ardre au feu livrés,
Quant par pluie fu délivrés,
Qui le grant feu fist tout estraindre:...
Jupiter, ce dist, le lavoit,
Et Phebus la toaille avoit,
Et se penoit de l'essuier....
Bien le dist Phanie sa fille,
Qui tant estoit saige et soutille,...
L'arbre par le gibet vous glose,' &c.

3951. The passage here following is repeated from the Monkes Prologue, and copied, as has been said, from Boethius, bk. ii. pr. 2. It is to be particularly noted that the passage quoted from Boethius in the note to B. 3917 almost immediately precedes the passage quoted in the note to B. 3163.

3956. See note to B. 3972 below.