Imatges de pàgina
PDF

editions (Wente every tydyng) cannot be right on account of the scansion, I put word for the first of the three mouths. This gives the right sense, and probably Chaucer actually wrote it. 2089. Again from Ovid, Met. xii. 54, 55. A sad soth-sawe, a sober truth. 2099. With the mones, on the condition ; see Leg. of Good Women, 1540 ; and the note. So also in the Tale of Gamelyn, 206. 2101. See Kn. Tale, 273, 274 (A 1131). 2105. Beside, without ; without asking his leave. 2119. Cf. Cant. Tales, D 1695—"Twenty thousand freres on a route,’ where Tyrwhitt prints A twenty. But the MSS. (at least the seven best ones) all omit the A. Just as the present line wants its first syllable, and is to be scanned—“Twenty thousand Ín a rotite’; so the line in the Cant. Tales wants its first syllable, and is to be scanned— Twenty thousand fréres én a route. For having called attention to this fact, my name (misspelt) obtained a mention in Lowell's My Study Windows, in his (otherwise excellent) article on Chaucer. “His (Chaucer's) ear would never have tolerated the verses of nine' syllables with a strong accent on the first, attributed to him by Mr. Skeate and Mr. Morris. Such verses seem to me simply impossible in the pentameter iambic as Chaucer wrote it.' Surely this is assumption, not proof. I have only to say that the examples are rather numerous, and nine-syllable lines are not impossible to a poet with a good ear; for there are twelve consecutive lines of this character in Tennyson's Vision of Sin. It may suffice to quote one of them:—

[ocr errors]

I will merely add here, that similar lines abound in Lydgate's ‘Sege of Thebes,’ and that there are 25 clear examples of such lines in the Legend of Good Women, as I shew in my Introduction to that Poem. 2123. Cf. P. Plowman ; B. prol. 46-52. Bretful, brim-ful, occurs in P. Pl. C. i. 42 ; also in Chaucer, Prol. 687; Kn. Tale, 1306 (A 2164). 2130. Lyes; F. lies, E. lees. ‘Lie, f. the lees, dregs, grounds’; Cotgrave. 2140. Sooner or later, every sheaf in the barn has to come out to be thrashed. 2152. “And cast up their noses on high.' I adopt this reading out of deference to Dr. Koch, who insists upon its correctness. Otherwise, I should prefer the graphic reading in MS. B.- “And up the nose and yón caste. Each man is trying to peer beyond the rest. 2154. “And stamp, as a man would stamp on a live eel, to try to secure it.' Already in Plautus, Pseudolus, 2. 4. 56, we have the proverb anguilla est, elabifur, he is an eel, he slips away from you; said of a sly or slippery fellow. In the Rom. de la Rose, 9941, we are told that it is as hard to be sure of a woman's constancy as it is to hold a live eel by the tail. ‘To have an eel by the tail” was an old

* Really ten; for rout-e is dissyllabic.

English proverb; see Eel in Nares' Glossary, ed. Halliwell and Wright. 2158. The poem ends here, in the middle of a sentence. It seems as if Chaucer did not quite know how to conclude, and put off finishing the poem till that more ‘convenient season’ which never comes. Practically, nothing is lost. The copy printed by Caxton broke off still earlier, viz. at l. 2094. In order to make a sort of ending to it, Caxton added twelve lines of his own, with his name—Caxton—at the side of the first of them ; and subjoined a note in prose, as follows:– And wyth the noyse of them [t]wo I Sodeynly awoke anon tho’ And remembryd what I had seen And how hye and ferre I had been In my ghoost / and had grete wonder Of that [that | the god of thonder Had lete me knowen / and began to wryte” Lyke as ye haue herd me endyte Wherfor to studye and rede alway “ I purpose to doo day by day Thus in dremyng and in game Endeth thys lytyl book of Fame. I fynde nomore of this werke to-fore sayd. For as fer as I can vnderstonde / This noble man Gefferey Chaucer fynysshed at the sayd conclusion of the metyng of lesyng and sothsawe / where as yet they ben chekked and may nat departe/whyche werke as me semeth is craftyly made’; &c. (The rest is in praise of Chaucer). But, although Caxton's copy ended at l. 2094, lines 2095–2.158 appear in the two MSS., and are obviously genuine. Thynne also printed them, and must have found them in the MS. which he followed. After 1. 21.58, Thynne subjoins Caxton's ending, with an alteration in the first three lines, as unsuitable to follow l. 21.58. Hence Thynne prints them as follows:– And therwithal I abrayde Out of my slepe halfe a frayde Remembrisn]g wel what I had sene. We thus see that it was never pretended that the lines following 1. 2158 were Chaucer's. They are admittedly Caxton's and Thynne's. Even if we had not been told this, we could easily have detected it by the sudden inferiority in the style. Caxton's second line will not scan at all comfortably ; neither will the third, nor the fourth. (The seventh can be improved by altering began to gan). And Thynne's lines are but little better.

[ocr errors]

NOTES

TO

THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN.

NOTES TO THE PROLOGUE.

*...* 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. Mi's moon = me is moon, 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, så. ; (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 mat, 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-is, 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.’

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 (Basileae, 1677), s. v. Bernardus, where we find : ‘Nullos habuit praeceptores praeter quercus et fagos. Hinc proverb : Megue 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 1. 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;
Siles en devons mercier,
Et loer et regracier.’

26. Remembräunce ; 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 honour, renoun, &c. at one time, and honour, rendun, &c. at another. Thus in l. 27 we have honouren; and in l. 31 credence.

27. We/ oghte us, it is very necessary for us, it well behoves us. Us is here the dative case, and oghfe 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, oxe). 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. ‘Aym awe to rise,’ it behoves him to rise, Metrical Homilies, p. 77; “Vus o;e,' it behoves us, Allit. Poems, ed. Morris, i. 552; ' Him owith to mynystre,’ Reliquiae Antiquae, 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:–

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

As to the spelling of the word, it may be remarked that oghte is the more correct form, because 6 answers to A.S. à, and gh to A.S. h in the A.S. form āhfe. 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. Aor (and even for 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 Phoenix, 1.25o; 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. 2O49, 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. Io8, 176. 40. Condicioun, temperament, character, disposition. Prof. Corson here refers us to Shakespeare, Merch. Ven. i. 2. 143; Cor. v. 4. Io; Oth. iv. I. 204; Jul. Caes. ii. I. 254, &c. 41. On the scansion, see note to i. 67.

« AnteriorContinua »