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646. harlot. See note on line 561. In the Sompnour's Tale we have the same word, meaning a 'strong young man.'
• A sturdy harlot went hem ay behind
That was hir hostes man, and bare a sack.' 647. felaw. See line 397. A.S. felaw, a companion. Robin Goodfellow is a pleasant jovial companion. In Pope's day, the application of fellow implied worthlessness, as in his line
‘Worth makes the man ; the want of it the fellow.' 648. awe, A.S. ege, oga, fear or dread.
650. Archedeknes. There were no archdeacons before the Council of Nice, and they had no jurisdiction over priests till the 6th century. There are sixty archdeacons in England, their duties being to make a visitation every other year, to reform abuses, and to bring the weightier matters before the bishops.
654-7. Chaucer has shewn that the Summoner's face, and his practice, belie his occupation, and in these lines he points out the lie in his teaching, and bids the guilty beware.
656. assoillyng = absolution, from Lat. absolvere, through Old Fr. absolver, absoiller, assoiler, to loose from. Cf. ' Assoileth me this question.'
657. Significavit ‘is a Writ which issues out of the Chancery, upon a certificate given by the ordinary of a man that stands obstinately excommunicate by the space of forty days, for the laying him up in prison, without Bail or main prize, until he submits himself to the authority of the church. It is so called, because significavit is an emphatic word in it.' Blo. This writ de excommunicato capiendo, usually began with the words Significavit nobis venerabilis frater.'
658. in daunger, a technical phrase in feudal times, being a translation of the Mid. Lat. term in dangerio, or of the French en son danger, and meaning within the reach or control of his office, in his jurisdiction, or liable to a penalty that he could inflict.
Cf. *Narcissus was a bachélere
-Rom. of Rose. 'In danger of the judgment,' 'in danger of the council' &c.
-Matt. v. 22. • You stand within his danger: do you
-Merchant of Venice. 659. gurles (Pl. D. gör, göre, a child), young people of either
The expression 'knave gerlys' or boy children, occurs in
the Coventry Mysteries, p. 181 ; gerlis is used in contrast with ‘olde folk’ in P. P. 12086, and in P. P. 528, gérles is used for Moab and Ammon, the sons of Lot.
diocise (Gk. dioikēsis, the management of a household, function of a steward) province or jurisdiction.
660. here aller red the adviser of all of them. Red is from the A.S. roed, advice, and in composition, an adviser.
Cf. the expression in Hamlet, 'recks not his own rede' heeds not his own advice, and the lines of Burns
• And may you better reck the rede
Than ever did the adviser.'
He kend the bauds and louns fou weel,
And spoil their sport :
Might tak him for't.' 661. garland (Old Fr. garlande, gallande, Fr. guirlande, from Ital. gala) an ornament for the head. This custom is referred to in the Knight's Tale, where Arcita is represented going to the grove.
• To make him a garland of the greves,
Were it of woodewynde or hawthorn leves.' And much later in Tennyson's May Queen
‘And I shall gather knots of flowers, and buds, and garlands gay.'
662. an ale-stake. The usual sign of a wayside inn or ale. house in Chaucer's day was, as we learn from himself and the old illuminated MSS. of the period, a broom, the branch of a tree, or a bush. To this day, these same signs indicate the houses in Italy where wine is sold. In allusion to this custom, is the old proverb, 'good wine needs no bush'; that is, the house that keeps good wine needs no signpost.
663. a bokeler of a cake. “The peasants of Rouen, on their march to Paris to join in the Revolution of 1830, in the same spirit, carried their loaves of bread stuck on their pikes.'
664. A gentil Pardoner, a seller of indulgences.
makes the Pardoner, when muddled with ale, give a still fuller account of his own doings, than that given in this description. The text, on which he invariably preached, was ‘Radix malorum est cupiditas,' and in doing so, he talked in a high sounding tone, making his words ring out like a bell, while he stretched forth his neck and becked upon the people like a dove on a barn. The aim of his discourse was not to correct sin, but to procure pence and groats, for money he must have, even from the poorest. His sermon ended, he produced his bulls from the Pope, and shewed them to all and sundry, that no man-priest or clerkmight be so bold as interrupt him. Then he brought out the rags and bones he called relics, and holding up the shoulder bone of a sheep to the gaze of the crowd, he assured them that the waters of every well in which it was washed, should straightway have the power of healing 'cow or calf, or sheep or ox.' He assured them further, that the owner of the cattle by drinking of the well before the crowing of the cock, might cause his beasts and store to multiply, and that the husband, distressed by jealousy, had only to make his porridge with its waters and he would mistrust his wife no more. He then produced a 'mitten,' and declared that the wheat and oats sown by the hand, once inserted in that glove, should multiply manifold ; and he ended by inviting all, who had committed sins too horrible to be confessed to the parish priest, to come to him and he would assoil them by the authority of his Bull. Is it to be wondered at, that Wycliffe and his followers lashed these foreign hypocrites with unmerciful severity ?
665. of Rouncival in Navarre. Some, following Tyrwhit, think that this was the name of some fraternity. comper, Lat. compar (con, par), compeer. Cf. “Let me associate with the serious night And contemplation, her sedate compeer.
-Thomson. 667. Com hider, love, to me, probably the burden or refrain of an old song
668. burdoun, Fr. bourdon, a drone of a bagpipe, and allied to Sp. bordon, the bass or fourth string in a violin, and Gael, burdan, a humming noise. In Old French, bourdon was the name for a Pilgrim's staff—a bourdon staff being, according to Hawkins, a walking staff converted into a musical instrument. In Mid. Lat. the long tubes of the organ were called burdones, possibly from
their likeness to the Pilgrim's staff. Doubt rests on this connec-
• While wolves do howl and barke
* And aye the burden o' its sang
Was “ Wae's me for Prince Chairlie.” 669. trompe, Fr. trompe, the old name for a trumpet. 671. a strike of flex = a streak of flax.
672. unces, Fr. once (Lat. uncia), (1) the twelfth part of a thing, as of a pound, a foot, &c. ; (2) a small quantity of anything, as an ounce of common sense.' Cf. 'Il n'a pas sur soi dix onces de chair.'-De Bruy.
674. culpons, (Fr. coupon, a remnant of a piece of cloth) = small parcels or remnants. 675. hood
ne wered he noon. Cf. line 195. 676. trussud (Fr. trousser, to pack up).
walet; walette, a sack or poke, the scrip in which Pilgrims carried bread and leeks.
677. the newe get, the new manner or custom. Palsgrave translates newe iette, guise nouvelle. Tyrwhit quotes 'that false get' from the Chanon's Yeman's Tale, with the meaning, that cheating contrivance, and this couplet from Occleve
• Also there is another newe gette,
Al foule waste of cloth and excessif.' The 'Spectator,' No. 277, takes note of the curtsey and recovery, the genteel trip, and the agreeable jet, as they are all now practised at the court of France,' but jet may be a different word. Get may be from gait or from geste, or it may be an application of the verb get, meaning to contrive.
678. dischevele (Fr. descheveler), with the hair out of order.
680. a vernicle, a little copy of the Veronike or handkerchief of St. Veronica to which the likeness of the face of Christ was, according to the legend, transferred. In the middle of the 14th century, it was an established custom to make pilgrimages to Rome for the express purpose of seeing the portrait impressed on this handkerchief, and Pilgrims sewed a little copy of it on their cap as a token that they had been there. It is first mentioned in the 11th century, although it was said to have been brought to Rome much earlier. Copies of it are common in the Cathedrals of Italy and Spain. Cf. the description of the Pilgrim in Piers Ploughman.
On his hat seten
Whom he sought hadde.'—3544–52.
• The scallop shell his cap did deck.' 682. bret-ful = brim-full. Ellis reads brerdful and adds this note. “The MSS. have all an unintelligible bretful, probably a corruption by the scribes of Orrmin's brerdful = brimful. Breird and brerd are found in Scotch, see Jamieson.'
But a reference to Jamieson will show that the Scotch word brat, meaning the topmost part of anything, has a far wider application than brerd, denoting as it does an apron, a pinafore, a cloak, scum, not necessarily refuse, the cream of milk, the floatings of boiled whey, &c. It evidently means top-full, skin-full, or brimfull. Besides, the Dan. for brimful is bredfuld.
Cf. “A mantelet upon his schuldre hangyng
• With a face so fat
-Creed of P. P. 440-3. 686. fro Berwyk unto Waré, possibly Wareham in the south of Dorsetshire, one of the oldest towns in England. W in Hertfordshire is also an old town, and most likely named from the weir which Alfred constructed across the Lea; but it is difficult to see why it should have been mentioned as a limit towards the south. 688. male, Fr. malle, Old Fr. male, a bag, box, or pack.
Cf. “Yis ones I was y-herberwed,
With an heep of chapmen,
And riflede hire males.'—P. P. 2937-40. pilwe-beer = pillow-case.
689. oure lady veyl, the veil of Our Lady, Notre Dame, the Virgin Mary.