The canterbury tales, p.110
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.110

           Geoffrey Chaucer

  485–7 Chaucer sees pity, like patience, as a fundamentally female quality; the phrase ‘wommanly pitee’ is frequent in his works (see Kn 3083, and cf. Mann, Feminizing Chaucer, pp. 32–4, 134–6).

  491 That is, great men can learn from the example of their inferiors. A very common medieval proverb in various languages; for its English version, see Whiting W211. The idea is that beating a puppy in front of a lion will subdue the lion, who does not realize that his own strength is great enough to resist.

  511 in grein: The term is used of colours that are fast dyed (cf. Th 727, NP 3459). There is a pun on the literal meaning of ‘colours’ and its metaphorical sense, ‘false appearances’; cf. Boece I m.5.44–5.

  537 This proverb is recorded only in Chaucer; see Whiting W259, and cf. LGW F 464–5 and Anel 105.

  543 Biblical exegesis of Job 4:11 interpreted the tiger as a type of the hypocrite (M. Storm, ELN, 14.3 (1977), 172–4).

  548 On Paris’s seduction of Helen, wife of Menelaus, see n. to ML 70. On Jason’s treachery to his lover Medea, see n. to ML 72–4.

  550–51 On Lamech and his two wives, see n. to WB 54–8.

  562–71 This picture of male ‘obeisaunce’ leading to a reciprocal female ‘obeisaunce’ and thus to a fusion of two wills into one is characteristic of Chaucer’s pictures of happiness in love; see TC III.477–83, 1690; WB 1236–56; Fkl 738–90. Cf. Mann, Feminizing Chaucer, pp. 51, 74, 84–6, 88–90.

  593 made vertu of necessitee: The phrase is proverbial, and one that was important to Chaucer; see n. to Kn 3041–2.

  602–3 The first recorded use of this proverb; see Whiting S639.

  605–6 Riverside follows Hg’s paragraph mark and makes a syntactic break at the end of line 605, but it makes little sense to take line 606 with what follows.

  607–20 The ‘text’ referred to here is Boethius’s Consolation ofPhilosophy, which describes the power of Nature through a series of examples illustrating the irrepressibility of natural instinct.

  And the janglynge brid that syngeth on the heghe braunches (that is to seyn, in the wode), and after is enclosed in a streyte cage, althoughe that the pleyinge bysynes of men yeveth [hym] honyed drynkes and large metes with swete studye, yit natheles yif thilke bryd skippynge out of hir streyte cage seith the agreables schadwes of the wodes, sche defouleth with hir feet hir metes ischad, and seketh mornynge oonly the wode, and twytereth desyrynge the wode with hir swete voys … Alle thynges seken ayen to hir propre cours, and alle thynges rejoysen hem of hir retornynge ayen to hir nature. (Boece III m.2.21–31, 39–42)

  Chaucer’s addition to this passage is to identify the nature of men as ‘newfangelnesse’, the appetite for novelty. In Boethius, the caged bird is offered as an instructive example to the human reader; in SqT, it is another bird who quotes this instructive example, and it is given human implications through the anthropomorphism with which the falcon and her mate are represented. As A. David suggests (SAC, Proceedings, 1 (1984), 105–15, at pp. 112–13), Chaucer may also have been consciously inverting Jean de Meun’s use of Boethius’s caged bird passage in the speech of the Old Woman, where it is applied to women’s ineradicable desire for sexual freedom (RR 13911–36, tr. Horgan, p. 215). Cf. Mcp 163–74 and n.

  644 Alternative spellings such as ‘velewet’ confirm that ‘veluettes’ is to be pronounced with four syllables (see MED s.v. velvet).

  645 The refrain of Chaucer’s poem ‘Against Women Unconstant’, which reproaches a mistress for her ‘newefangelnesse’, runs ‘In stede of blew, thus may ye were al grene’. Criseyde’s offer to send Troilus a blue ring in token of her fidelity likewise implies that blue symbolizes constancy (TC III.885).

  648 The ‘tidif’ (a bird whose identity is uncertain) is said to be guilty of infidelity to its mate at LGW F 154. It is not clear why tercels and owls should be considered unfaithful.

  649–50 All manuscripts have these lines in the reverse order, but this makes little sense, and Riverside is induced to omit ‘And’, and make a syntactic break at the end of line 648 to mend matters. It is simpler to assume that the lines were reversed in the archetype (as Sq 509–10 are in Hg).

  654–5 If this indication of the later development of the story had been fulfilled, SqT would have been the only instance in Chaucer’s works of betrayal healed by repentance and reconciliation. Was SqT left unfinished because this task proved too difficult?

  661–70 In the absence of any close analogue to SqT (see Headnote), it is impossible to flesh out this skeletal account of the subsequent narrative. If related at the same leisurely pace as the story so far, the narrative here outlined would have been extremely lengthy; perhaps that is another reason why Chaucer abandoned it.

  668–9 Since Cambalo is Canacee’s brother (see Sq 28–33), these lines have been taken to mean that the tale would have turned into a story of brother-sister incest, comparable to Ovid’s story of Canace and Macareus (see n. to ML 77–85). However, in the romance Cléomadè s, which provides a distant analogue to SqT, the hero defends his sister against an unwelcome marriage, and it may be that something similar is alluded to here.

  671–2 With the approach of summer, the sun (Apollo) rises higher in the sky each day; it is now rising and setting in one of the two zodiacal signs which are ‘mansions’ or ‘domiciles’ of Mercury (see n. to Sq 47–51) – probably Gemini, which the sun enters on 13 May, rather than Virgo, which it enters in August (North, Chaucer’s Universe, pp. 195, 282–3).


  673–4 The Franklin’s words imply that the Squire has finished his tale, and do not support the suggestion sometimes made that he is interrupting the young man in mid-stream.

  693 The Franklin’s concern over his son’s lack of ‘gentillesse’ has often been seen as a sign of ‘middleclass’ aspirations to the values of a higher social stratum, but it can equally (or more plausibly) be seen as the traditional lament of a member of the country gentry that the younger generation is ‘going to the dogs’. On the Franklin’s social status, see nn. to GP 331 and 360.


  Chaucer’s most probable source for the Franklin’s Tale is Boccaccio’s Filocolo (Book IV, Question 4), where a similar story is one of a number told to illustrate ‘questions of love’ (see n. to Fkl 1621–2); an almost identical version appears in the Decameron (X.5). Both versions are printed with facing English translation in SA2 I, 220–44. English translations of the Filocolo story are also included in Miller, pp. 122–35, Kolve and Olson, pp. 393–403, and (excerpts only) Havely, Chaucer’s Boccaccio, pp. 153–61. Chaucer made a number of significant changes to the narrative: he gave it a setting in Brittany and claimed it was a Breton lay (see n. to Fkl 709–15); he added a long prefatory section concerning the love between Dorigen and Arveragus and its basis in patience; he added Dorigen’s lament over the threatening black rocks, and changed the nature of the impossible task which must be performed by her would-be lover from the creation of a spring garden in winter to the removal of these rocks from the coast of Brittany; finally, he changed the nature of the magic through which this impossible task is accomplished, so that instead of a sorcerer concocting a ‘witch’s brew’ from exotic ingredients collected during an aerial ride in a chariot drawn by dragons, the magician is a clerk from the University of Orleans using astronomical tables and scientific calculations (see nn. to Fkl 1273–9, 1280–90). In Chaucer’s hands, the tale is not merely material for a playful intellectual exercise, but an exploration of patience in action, worked out in a successive chain of generous acts, which bring about a final harmony (see Mann, Feminizing Chaucer, pp. 88–95).

  709–15 No lays in the Breton language survive (if, indeed, they ever existed); the AN poet Marie de France (late 12th c.) is the first writer to speak of the form and to claim to reproduce some of its material in her verse narratives. Chaucer most probably became acquainted with the genre through the two ME romances in the Auchinleck MS which call themselves Breton lays, Lai le Frei
ne and Sir Orfeo (L. H. Loomis, SP, 38 (1941), 14–33). From the prologue to Le Freine he could have gleaned all the information about Breton lays that appears in these lines: they belong to ‘olden days’; they have a musical accompaniment; they are about ‘aventures’ (see SA2 I, 218).

  The story of the Franklin’s Tale is nowhere else presented as a Breton lay, and Chaucer seems to have taken it from Boccaccio (see Headnote). His reasons for associating it with the Breton lay may have been (first) that the development of the plot turns on ‘aventure’ (1501, 1508), and (second) that the Breton lay characteristically endorses a surrender of the self to ‘aventure’ which resembles the responses of Arveragus, Dorigen and Aurelius to the events that challenge them (see Mann, ‘Chaucerian Themes and Style in the Franklin’s Tale’, The New Pelican Guide to English Literature, ed. B. Ford, vol. I (Harmondsworth, 1982), pp. 144–51).

  716–19 The Franklin’s protestation of his lack of rhetorical skill is itself a conventional rhetorical formula, known as the ‘modestytopos’ (E. R. Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, tr. W. R. Trask (New York, 1953), pp. 83–5).

  721 mount of Parnaso: Mount Parnassus was reputed to be the home of the Muses, the goddesses of poetry and song. This line echoes the Prologue to the Satires written by the Roman poet Persius (ad 34–62), who similarly claims a lack of poetic skill: ‘I never washed my lips in the horse’s spring [Hippocrene, struck from the ground by the hoof of the winged horse Pegasus], nor did I ever dream on twin-peaked Parnassus, that I should suddenly come forth as a poet.’

  722 Scithero: The Roman writer Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BC) was the author of two rhetorical treatises which were influential in the Middle Ages (De inventione and Topica), and the putative author of the even more influential Rhetorica ad Herennium (J. J. Murphy, Rhetoric in the Middle Ages (Berkeley, CA, 1974), pp. 8–21).

  723, 726 On rhetorical ‘colours’, see n. to Cl 16–18.

  729 Armorik … Britaine: Armorica is an ancient name for Brittany or ‘Little Britain’, which was sometimes used to distinguish it from Great Britain (cf. Fkl 810, and see J. S. P. Tatlock, The Scene of the Franklin’s Tale Visited (London, 1914), pp. 17–18.

  764–6 The ultimate source of this idea is probably Ovid’s comment on the levelling effects of love on Jupiter, king of the gods, ‘Love and majesty do not go together well, nor dwell in the same place’ (Metamorphoses II.846–7), but Chaucer is closer to RR 9409–12, where Friend advises the lover that ‘love must die when lovers assume authority. Love cannot last or survive except in hearts that are free and at liberty’ (tr. Horgan, p. 144). For the surrender of ‘maistrye’ as fundamental to Chaucer’s ideas of happiness in love, see Mann, Feminizing Chaucer, ch. 3.

  773–8 ‘Patience conquers’ (‘patientia vincit’) was an extremely wellknown proverb; see Whiting P61 and Walther 16974, 20833f and 24454, and cf. Pars 661 and n., and TC IV.1584. It is an idea of central importance in Chaucer’s works (see Mann, Feminizing Chaucer, pp. 89–94, 125–8), and is exemplified in the narrative of MLT and ClT as well as FklT.

  801 Penmark*] Pedmark El Hg. J. S. P. Tatlock plausibly identified this as the Pointe de Penmarch, ‘the southern cape of the most southerly of the three parallel peninsulas in which Brittany ends to the west’ (Scene of the Franklin’s Tale, p. 2). But Tatlock’s attempt to justify the spelling ‘Pedmark’ is unconvincing; Penmark unquestionably better represents the Breton placename, and there is no reason why it should have undergone phonetic change in English. ‘Pedmark’ is probably a simple scribal error.

  808 Kairrud: This is recognizably a Breton name, meaning ‘red village’ or ‘red town’, though it is more likely to have been spelled Kaerruz (in Breton) or Carru (in French). There are some villages with this name (or similar) in modern Brittany, but none that is close enough to the sea to fit FklT (Tatlock, Scene of the Franklin’s Tale, pp. 10–16).

  Arveragus: The name seems to have been borrowed by Chaucer from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain IV.12–16 (tr. L. Thorpe (Harmondsworth, 1966), pp. 119–23), where it belongs to the younger son of Cymbeline, king of Britain. It thus fits the setting of FklT in Celtic antiquity.

  810 See n. to Fkl 729.

  815 Dorigene: For similar (though not identical) Breton names, see Tatlock, Scene of the Franklin’s Tale, pp. 37–41.

  829–31 In the tale from Filocolo which is Chaucer’s source (see Headnote), the image of dripping water wearing away a stone is applied to the possibility that the lover may, by persevering in his attentions, succeed in winning the wife’s favour (SA2 I, 220). The source of the dictum is Ovid, Ex Ponto IV.x.5; it is also proverbial (see Walther 5599a and Singer, I, 23). Chaucer gives an unusual turn to the notion by linking it to the process of engraving.

  859 The rocks off the cape of Penmarch (see n. to Fkl 801) are indeed ‘grisly’, and particularly dangerous to ships; however, the shore-line is flat, and does not correspond to the picture given here of a bank ‘an heigh’ (849) from which Dorigen looks down at them (Tatlock, Scene of the Franklin’s Tale, pp. 4–9).

  865–72 Dorigen’s questioning of God’s providence echoes Boethius’s complaints about divine justice in the Consolation of Philosophy (Boece I m.5), and is a characteristically Chaucerian addition to the tale (cf. Kn 1262–74, 1313–14, and nn., and ML 813–17 and n.).

  880 Dorigen is referring to God’s creation of man in his own image (Genesis 1:27) – anachronistically, since the story is supposed to be set in pagan antiquity.

  906–17 A beautiful spring garden is a traditional setting for courtly enjoyments and for love (cf. PF 172–210, and Mch 2028–37); the locus classicus for this tradition is the opening of the Romance of the Rose, but these lines have some echoes of Machaut’s Dit dou Vergier (Oeuvres, ed. E. Hoepffner, vol. I (Paris, 1908), lines 37–67).

  938 The name Aurelius is, like Arveragus (see n. to Fkl 808), apparently borrowed from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, where it is the name of a British king (VIII.1–14, tr. Thorpe, pp. 186–200).

  942 For the expression ‘to drink without cup’, meaning ‘to suffer intensely’, see Whiting C628.

  948 compleintes: Poetic love-laments. Chaucer’s shorter poems include several laments of this sort.

  roundels, virelayes: The rondeau and the virelai were two of the three fixed lyric forms which dominated French song and poetry in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (the other being the ballade). Their usual subject-matter was love. The most common form of the rondeau in the fourteenth century was an eight-line strophe which began and ended with a two-line refrain, and also included the first line of the refrain as the fourth line of the strophe. (Cf. n. to Kn 1529.) The virelai has a more complex form: its basic musical structure is AbbaA, where the letters indicate the musical segments and the capital indicates the repetition of refrain text (New Grove Dictionary, s.vv. Rondeau, Virelai).

  950 In Greek mythology, the Furies (Erinyes) are ‘spirits of punishment avenging without pity wrongs done to kindred and especially murder within the family’ (Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, p. 231). Dante (Inferno IX.45–51) represents them as tearing their breasts, beating themselves with their hands and wailing loudly; cf. Sq 448, Fkl 1101 and TC IV.22–4.

  951–2 Ekko … Narcisus: Juno deprived Echo of the power of independent speech, so that she could only echo the words spoken by another (cf. Cl 1189 and n.); she fell in love with Narcissus and was rejected by him, after which she wasted away from grief and was reduced to a mere voice (Ovid, Metamorphoses III.359–401).

  999–1006 In numerous manuscripts, lines 1001–6 are placed before lines 999–1000, while one manuscript omits 1001–6 altogether. Manly and Rickert (IV, 485–6) conclude from this that lines 1001–6 were inserted in the margin in a draft version of the tale, and incorporated into the text at the wrong point by early scribes. Repositioning 1001–6 would obviate the tautologous effect of 1006–7, but create a new awkwardness with line 999, which mak
es best sense as a response to the proposed removal of the rocks (lines 995–8), rather than to the blunt rejection of lines 1002–5. I have therefore thought it best to let the El/Hg order stand. It remains likely that 1001–6 were a marginal addition (to strengthen the force of Dorigen’s rejection and thus leave no doubt of her fidelity to Arveragus?).

  1017–18 B. S. Harrison (SP, 32 (1935), 55–61) points out that these lines are an example of the rhetorical figure expolitio, when ‘an assertion is made and then explained in the next line by repeating the thought in other words’ (p. 58). Cf. Geoffrey of Vinsauf, Poetria Nova 1244–51, tr. Nims, p. 61.

  1031–5 Appollo … declinacioun: The sun’s declination is its angular distance from the celestial equator (cf. n. to Mch 2222–4), which changes as it rises to the Tropic of Cancer in summer and falls to the Tropic of Capricorn in winter (cf. n. to Fkl 1246–9). This annual motion of the sun brings about the changes in the seasons and so governs the growth and decay of vegetation. The sun thus plays as important a role in medieval cosmology as in the modern heliocentric model of the universe. Cf. Bernard Silvestris, Cosmo-graphia II.5 (tr. Wetherbee, p. 102):

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