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To avoid clashing with the volumes of Chaucer extracts already published by the Clarendon Press, I have followed the advice of that old Chaucer hand, Dr. Furnivall, and made my selections mainly from the minor poems, adding, however, the greater part of the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, together with an abridgment of the Pardoner's Tale, so as to complete the view of the development of Chaucer's genius in its chief aspects.

The text of the last two pieces is based on the Ellesmere MS., which certainly comes nearer to Chaucer's own language than the Harleian, that of the others on the one-text editions of the Chaucer Society. I have made as little alteration as possible in the MSS. texts, although metrical considerations made an exact reproduction of any one MS. impossible, and I have not hesitated to remove distinctly un-Chaucerian spellings wherever they seemed likely to confuse the beginner. I have not attempted to forestall the inevitable German who, it is to be hoped, will some day give us a critical edition of Chaucer, but have contented myself with attempting to construct a readable, metrical text. Whenever I introduce a conjectural reading, which I have frequently had to do in the Minor poems, I give the MS. reading at the foot of the page. I need scarcely say I have utilised Ten Brink's critical editions of the Complaint to Pity and the Prologue.


20 Aug. 1886.



CHAUCER was a native of London, and his dialect is the East Midland of the second half of the fourteenth century, mixed, however, with some Kentish and West-Saxon elements. In its grammatical forms Chaucer's English is closely allied to that of the Ormulum. In its spelling it shows the same French influence as the Ancren Riwle, only stronger. The two main changes that took place in the language itself during the fourteenth century were (1) the further loss of grammatical forms, and (2) the wholesale introduction of French words.

SPELLING. The chief innovations in spelling that took place in the course of the fourteenth century (some of which began earlier in some parts of the country) were the following. The sound of (uu) was represented by the French ou, u keeping its older value of French u, long and short, as also that of short (u) in many cases. But as in writing u was liable to be confused with some other letters, especially n and m, the sound of (u) was, according to French usage, expressed by o in such words as sone "son,' somer, world,

curse,' &c. As i was an ambiguous letter, y~ again after French usage—was substituted for it, especially when in juxtaposition with u, n, m, as in wyues=wives, fine 'fine,' and generally at the beginning and end cf words. Initial u was often written v, as in vnder, and initial i was


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cors = curs


often written as a capital letter. The diphthongs ai, au, &c., were often written ay, aw, especially at the end of words, o before a vowel, as in say, lawe. w was also written for u in such words as narw, sorwful, on the analogy of narwe (plur.) and sorwe, where it represented the cons. w.

In the consonants j was completely, and þ and 3 almost completely disused, sch being also gradually supplanted by sh. f was no longer allowed to represent the sound of v (except in of). y'was used as a consonant instead of palatal 3.

In the spelling used in this book, which is in most cases that of the Ellesmere MS. of the Canterbury Tales, the following letters and digraphs (denoting simple sounds) occur : a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, ie, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, ph, g(u), r, s, t, th, U, V, W, X, Y, 2. In the MSS. j hardly ever occurs, being usually written i or 1, or expressed by 3, and u and v are used to express both the vowel and the consonant; in this book i and j, u and v are distinguished as in the present spelling. The long vowels are often denoted by doubling, especially in monosyllables, and when final; but i and u are never doubled, because of the confusions that would arise. In this book diacritical marks have been added to some of the letters to distinguish their sounds, giving the following additional letters : &, 5, 7, 9, ü, u, long vowels being marked (), unless already doubled in the MSS.

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The following table shows the probable pronunciation of the vowels and diphthongs :(a)

as in aha! ā (aa) nāme

aha! ai, ay (ai) day

mein G. au, aw Yau)

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haus G.


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