Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

les grans vertus de quoi elle est confite,
et di ensi : “la heure soit benite
quant pour moi ai tele flourette eslite,
qui de bonté et de beauté est dite
la souveraine,” ' &c.

At l. 68 of the same poem, as pointed out by M. Sandras (Étude sur G. Chaucer, 1859, p. 58), and more clearly by Bech (Anglia, v. 363),) we have a story of a woman named Herés — 'une pucelle [qui] ama tant son mari '—whose tears, shed for the loss of her husband Cephëy, were turned by Jupiter into daisies as they fell upon the green turf. There they were discovered, one January, by Mercury, who formed a garland of them, which he sent by a messenger named Lirés to Serés (Ceres).

Ceres was so pleased by the gift that she caused Lirés to be beloved, which he had never been before.

This mention of Ceres doubtless suggested Chaucer's mention of Cibella (Cybele) in B. 531. In fact, Chaucer first transforms Alcestis herself into a daisy (B. 512); but afterwards tells us that Jupiter changed her into a constellation (B. 525), whilst Cybele made the daisies spring up ‘in remembrance and honour' of her. The clue seems to be in the name Cephëy, representing Cephei, gen. case of Cepheus. He was a king of Ethiopia, husband of Cassiope, father of Andromeda, and father-in-law of Perseus. They were all four 'stellified,' and four constellations bear their names even to the present day. According to the old mythology, it was not Alcestis, but Cassiope, who was said to be 'stellified'.' The whole matter is thus sufficiently illustrated.

$ 6. AGATON. This is, perhaps, the most convenient place for explaining who is meant by Agaton (B. 526). The solution of this difficult problem was first given by Cary, in his translation of Dante's Purgatorio, canto xxii. I. 106, where the original has Agatone. Cary first quotes Chaucer, and then the opinion of Tyrwhitt, that there seems to be no reference to any of the Agathoes of antiquity, and adds: 'I am inclined to believe that Chaucer must have meant Agatho, the dramatic writer, whose name, at least, appears to have been familiar in the Middle Ages ; for, besides the mention of him in the text, he is quoted by Dante in the Treatise de Monarchia, lib. iii. Deus per nuncium facere

Chaucer nearly suffered the same fate himself; see Ho. Fame, 586.

non potest, genita non esse genita, iuxta sententiam Agathonis.”' The original is to be found in Aristotle, Ethic. Nicom. lib. vi. c. 2:

Μόνου γαρ αυτού και θεός στερίσκεται

'Αγένητα ποιείν άσσαν η πεπραγμένα. Agatho is mentioned by Xenophon in his Symposium, by Plato in the Protagoras, and in the Banquet, a favourite book with our author [Dante), and by Aristotle in his Art of Poetry, where the following remarkable passage occurs concerning him, from which I will leave it to the reader to decide whether it is possible that the allusion in Chaucer might have arisen: έν ενίαις μεν έν ή δύο των γνωρίμων εστίν ονομάτων, τα δε άλλα πεποιημένα" εν ενίαις δε ουδέν οίον εν τω Αγάθωνος "Ανθει. ομοίως γάρ έν τούτω τά τε πράγματα και τα ονόματα πεποίηται, και ουδέν ήττον euspaivet. Edit. 1794, P. 33. “There are, however, some tragedies, in which one or two of the names are historical, and the rest feigned; there are even some, in which none of the names are historical ; such is Agatho's tragedy called 'The Flower'; for in that all is invention, both incidents and names; and yet it pleases.” Aristotle's Treatise on Poetry, by Thos. Twining, 8vo. edit. 1812, vol. i. p. 128.

The peculiar spelling Agaton renders it highly probable that Chaucer took the name from Dante (Purg. xxii. 106), but this does not wholly suffice'. Accordingly, Bech suggests that he may also have noticed the name in the Saturnalia of Macrobius, an author whose Somnium Scipionis Chaucer certainly consulted (Book Duch. 284; Parl. Foules, 111). In this work Macrobius mentions, incidentally, both Alcestis (lib. v. c. 19) and Agatho (lib. ii. c. 1), and Chaucer may have observed the names there, though he obtained no particular information about them. Froissart (as Bech bids us remark), in his poem on the Daisy, has the lines :

“Mercurius, ce dist li escripture,
trouva premier

la belle four que j'ainc oultre mesure,' &c. The remark-'ce dist li escripture,'' as the book says '- may

* Dr. Köppel notes that the name also occurs in Boccaccio's Amorosa Visione (V. 50) in company with that of Claudian : ‘Claudiano, Persio, ed Agatone.'- Anglia, xiv. 237.

с

well have suggested to Chaucer that he ought to give some authority for his story, and the name of Agatho (of whom he probably knew nothing more than the name) served his turn as well as another. His easy way of citing authors is probably, at times, humorously assumed ; and such may be the explanation of his famous ‘Lollius.' It is quite useless to make any further search.

I may add that this Agatho, or Agathon (Ayálwr), was an Athenian tragic poet, and a friend of Euripides and Plato. He was born about B.C. 447, and died about B.C. 400.

Lounsbury (Studies in Chaucer, ii. 402) rejects this explanation; but it not likely that we shall ever meet with a better one.

§ 7. CHIEF SOURCES OF THE LEGEND. The more obvious sources of the various tales have frequently been pointed out. Thus Prof. Morley, in his English Writers, v. 241 (1890), says that Thisbe is from Ovid's Metamorphoses, iv. 55-166; Dido, from Vergil and Ovid's Heroides, Ep. vii ; Hypsipyle and Medea from Ovid (Met. vii., Her. Ep. vi, xii); Lucretia from Ovid (Fasti, ii. 721) and Livy (Hist. i. 57); Ariadne and Philomela from Ovid (Met. viii. 152, vi. 412-676), and Phyllis and Hypermnestra also from Ovid (Her. Ep. ii. and Ep. xiv). He also notes the allusion to St. Augustine (De Civitate Dei, cap. xix.) in l. 1690, and observes that all the tales, except those of Ariadne and Phyllis , are in Boccaccio's De Claris Mulieribus. But it is possible to examine them a little more closely, and to obtain further light upon at least a few other points. It will be most convenient to take each piece in its order. For some of my information, I am indebted to the essay by Bech, above mentioned (p. xxviii).

$ 8. PROLOGUE. Original. Besides mere passing allusions, we find references to the story of Alcestis, queen of Thrace (432”, 518). As she is not mentioned in Boccaccio's book De Claris Mulieribus, and Ovid nowhere mentions her name, and only alludes in passing to the wife of Admetus’ in two passages (Ex Ponto, iii. 1. 106; Trist. v. 14. 37), it is tolerably certain that Chaucer must have read her story either in Boccaccio's book De Genealogia Deorum, lib. xiii. c. I (see p. xxix), or in the Fables of Hyginus (Fab. 51). A large number of the names

· He should also have excepted Philomela.
· These numbers refer to the lines of the B-text of the Prologue.

mentioned in the Balade (249) were suggested either by Boccaccio's De Claris Mulieribus, or by Ovid's Heroides; probably, by both of these works. We may here also note that the Fables of Hyginus very briefly give the stories of Jason and Medea (capp. 24, 25); Theseus and Ariadne (capp. 41-43); Philomela (cap. 45); Alcestis (cap. 51); Phyllis (cap. 59); Laodamia (cap. 104); Polyxena (cap. 110); Hypermnestra (cap. 168); Nisus and Scylla (cap. 198; cf. II. 1904-1920); Penelope (cap. 126) and Helena (capp. 78, 92). The probability that Chaucer consulted Machault's and Froissart's poems has already been discussed; see p. xxxi.

It is interesting to note that Chaucer had already praised many of his Good Women in previous poems. Compare such passages as the following:

•Of Medea and of Iason,
Of Paris, Eleyne, and Lavyne.'

Book of the Duch. 330.
By as good right as Medea was,
That slow her children for Iason ;
And Phyllis als for Demophon
Heng hir-self, so weylaway!
For he had broke his terme-day
To come to her. Another rage
Had Dydo, quene eek of Cartage,
That slow hir-self, for Eneas
Was fals; al whiche a fool she was!' Id. 726.

-as moche debonairtee
As ever had Hester in the bible.' Id. 986.
For love of hir, Polixena-.
She was as good, so have I reste,
As ever Penelope of Greece,
Or as the noble wyf Lucrece,
That was the beste—he telleth thus,
The Romain, Tytus Livius.' Id. 1071, 1080.
“She passed hath Penelope and Lacresse.'

Anelida ; 82.
Biblis, Dido, Tisbe and Piramus,
Tristram, Isoude, Paris, and Achilles,
Eleyne, Cleopatre, and Troilus.'

Parlement of Foules; 289.
* But al the maner how she (Dido] deyde,
And al the wordes that she seyde,
Who-so to knowe hit hath purpos,
Reed Virgile in Eneidos

[ocr errors]

Or the Epistle of Ovyde,
What that she wroot or that she dyde;
And, nere hit to long to endyte,
By god, I wolde hit here wryte.'

House of Fame; 375. The last quotation proves clearly, that Chaucer was already meditating a new version of the Legend of Dido, to be made up from the Æneid and the Heroides, whilst still engaged upon the House of Fame (which actually gives this story at considerable length, viz. in 11. 140-382); and consequently, that the Legend of Good Women succeeded the House of Fame by a very short interval. But this is not all; for only a few lines further on we find the following passage:

'Lo, Demophon, duk of Athenis,
How he forswor him ful falsly,
And trayed Phillis wikkedly,
That kinges doghter was of Trace,
And falsly gan his terme pace;
And when she wiste that he was fals,
She heng hir-self right by the hals,
For he had do hir swich antrouthe;
Lo! was not this a wo and routbe ?
Eek lo! how fals and reccheles
Was to Briseida Achilles,
And Paris to Oënone;
And Iason to Isiphile;
And eft Iason to Medea ;
And Ercules to Dyanira;
For he leste hir for löle,.
That made him cacche his deeth, parde !
How fals eek was he, Theseus;
That, as the story telleth us,
How he betrayed Adriane ;
The devel be his soules bane?!
For bad he laughed, had he loured,
He mostë have be al devoured,

If Adriane ne had y-be'!' &c. Id. 387. Here we already have an outline of the Legend of Phyllis ; a reference to Briseis ; to Jason, Hypsipyle, Medea, and to Deianira ; a sufficient sketch of the Legend of Ariadne; and another version of the Legend of Dido.

We trace a lingering influence upon Chaucer of the Roman de la Rose; see notes to 11. 125, 128, 171. Dante is both quoted

1 Cf. L. G. W. 2177, 2227.

2 Cl. I. G. W. 1952-8.

« AnteriorContinua »