Page images


And bathud every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertue engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breethe
Enspirud hath in every holte and heethe
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours i-ronne,
And smale fowles maken melodie,
That slepen al the night with open yhe,
So priketh hem nature in here corages :
Thanne longen folk to gon on pilgrimages,
And palmers for to seeken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kouthe in sondry londes ;


3. swich licour and which vertue (4). swich is A.S. swa-lik, from

the Gothic sve-leiks, so like ; and which, A.S. hwa-lik, from

the Gothic hvi-leiks, what like. 8. i-ronne, past part. run; from A.S. yrnan, arn, urnan, run,

ran, run. Note that r is a letter very liable to be

transposed. 9. smale. An inflected adj. A.S. smæl; plural, smole. maken, 3rd plu. pres. ind. The Saxon termination of the

plu. pres. ind. was ath or eth ; of the past ind., on, and of the subjunctive, on. Chaucer generally uses en, as in slepen (10), longen (12). In wende (16), the final n is

dropped. 11. hem (11, 18), A.S. him, the accusative and dative plural of

the 3rd Personal Pronoun, he, heo, hit. here, A.S. hira, the genitive plural of the same pronoun.

Why or when hem and here were changed into them and

their has not yet been found out. 12. to gon, for to seeken (13) for to seeke (17). Verbs in the

infinitive mood. All have the sign to, which was never used before verbs in the infinitive in Anglo-Saxon. When to was put before a verb, the verb was converted into a noun, and governed by the preposition in the dative. The Saxon termination for the infinitive was an. This is represented by the n in gon, and the en in seeken. In seeke the n is dropped. The for in ‘for to seeken,' and 'for to seeke,' corresponds to the French pour, and occurs very

often in Chaucer infinitives. 14. Kouthe, past part. of conne, A.S. cnawan, cneow, cnawen,

know, knew, known. Cf. Gower's line, ‘His name for


And specially, from every schires ende

Of Engelond, to Canturbury they wende,
The holy blisful martir for to seeke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

Byfel that, in that sesoun on a day,
In Southwerk at the Tabbard as I lay,

Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Canturbury with ful devout corage,
At night was come into that hostelrie
Wel nyne and twenty in a companye,
Of sondry folk, by aventure i-falle


[ocr errors]

ever shall be couth. And with this participle, contrast

the adj. uncouth, which is still retained. 16. wende. From this word we have went, the past tense of the

verb to go, the old form of which was yode gode. 18. holpen, pp. of helpan, healp, holpen. Cf. Luke i. 54.

LINES 19-29. The construction of the period (19–27) will be more evident if

the phrases and clauses are arranged as follows :On a day in that sesoun, as I lay at the Tabbard in South

werk, redy to wenden with ful devout corage on my pilgrimage to Canturbury, it byfel at night that wel nyne and twenty in a companye of sondry folk by aventure i-falle in felawschipe was come into that hostelrie; and thei were alle pilgryms that wolden ryde toward

Canturbury. 19. Byfel has for its subject the clause following it. Note that

Chaucer does not use the pronoun it before the verb, when the subject is placed after it. In this, he is followed by

Carlyle, as, Remains that we, &c. 23. was come, the passive of an intransitive verb, used for had

соте. This form is common in Shakespere : for example, in the Merchant of Venice,' we have Thou art come,

'I am to learn.' 24. Nyne and twenty was come. A verb in the singular, with

a nominative in the plural, the company being spoken of collectively. Wel nyne and twenty. Wel is an adverb modifying the adjective of number. Full is still used in the same way:

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen.' See line 530. 25. i-falle, past part. A.S. feallan, feol, ge-feallen, fall, fell,

, ,

[ocr errors]


In felawschipe, and pilgryms were thei alle,
That toward Canturbury wolden ryde.
The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
And wel we weren esud atte beste.
And schortly, whan the sonne was to reste,
So hadde I spoken with hem everychon,
That I was of here felawschipe anon,
And made forward erly for to ryse,
To take oure weye ther as I yow devyse.
But natheles, whiles I have tyme and space,
Or that I ferthere in this tale pace,



fallen. The prefix i is a corruption of the A.S.

prefix ge. 26. felaw-schipe. Schipe from the A.S. affix scipe, correspond

ing to the Latin ion, and signifying state or relation of. 27. wolden, weren (28), 3rd plu. past. 29. esud, past part. eased or accommodated. -ud is a dialectic

form of -ed. See lines 3, 6, &c. atte a contracted form of at the. The A.S. at tham, after

wards at than, was first contracted to attan or atten, and then to atta, or, as here and in other lines, atte.

LINES 30-42. 30. to reste = at rest : 31. hem = them : everych-on = every one. 32. here = their, other forms of the word are her, hire, and hir. 33. for to ryse, the reading of the six MSS. published by the

Chaucer Society. The Harleian has to aryse. 34. ther as = to that place, which. 35. na the les, A.S. na the less, not the less or nevertheless.

whiles, an adverb. A.S. hwile, while or time, as tha

while, the while, so long as. The s in whiles is a trace of inflexion, or whiles may be a contracted form of while

as or while that.

have. Note that the e is elided. 36. Or, A.S. aer, ere or before. Or e'er in the expression of

Hamlet, «Or e'er these shoes were old,' is equivalent to

ere ever. See also the phrase or ever in Psa. xc. 2. that. See note on this word in the first line. ferthere = further, the comparative of forth, sometimes

erroneously written farther, the comparative of far.


Me thinketh it acordant to resoun,
To telle


alle the condicioun
Of eche of hem, so as it semed me,
And which they weren, and of what degre;
And eek in what array that they were inne :
And at a knight than wol I first bygynne.

A KNIGHT ther was, and that a worthy man,
That from the tyme that he ferst bigan
To ryden out, he lovede chyvalrye,


37. Methinketh = it seems to me. Thinketh here is from the

A.S. thincan, to seem, and not from thencan, to think.
The A.S. me thincth, methinks, or, I think, is equivalent
to mihi videtur, it seems to me. In line 39, it semed me
is the A.S. me gethuhte, me thought, mihi visum est.
Cf. Methinketh thei ben like Jovinian.

Fat as a whale, and walken like a swan.
acordant = according, a word also used by Chaucer. In

Fabyan, the historian, we find the expression, accordant

with reason.' 38. condicioun, a word of four syllables. 40. which = what, as in many other passages, such as, 'whiche

a miracle!' 41. in

inne. The redundancy of the preposition in, is not uncommon even in more modern writers. Inne, however, is probably an adverb of place, with the meaning within. The A.S. inne or innan within, was compounded of the words in and inn, so that its use in that sense would be peculiarly applicable in this passage.

LINES 43-78. In these lines, there are ten examples of final e being elided before

h, although some of them are the e in hadde, which is also

elided. 43. and that. Read the sentence without these words, then

note their force. Cf. that in lines 44 and 68. 45. lovede has two nominatives, that and he. In modern English

the he would be omitted. That is a relative, but the personal pronoun was frequently used along with it, to distinguish case, as here, where that he is equivalent to who. 'A Knight there was who loved chivalry.' In like manner, that his = whose, and that him whom. With this


Trouthe and honour, fredom and curtesie.
Ful worthi was he in his lordes werre,
And therto hadde he riden, noman ferre,
As wel in Cristendom as hethenesse,
And evere honoured for his worthinesse.

At Alisandre he was whan it was wonne,
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bygonne
Aboven alle naciouns in Pruce.
In Lettowe, hadde reyced and in Ruce,
No cristen man so ofte of his degre.

In Gernade atte siege eek hadde he be
Of Algesir, and riden in Palmyrye.
At Lieys was he, and at Satalie,
Whan thei were wonne; and in the Greete see
At many a noble arive hadde he be.

At mortal batailles hadde he ben fiftene,
And foughten for our feith at Tramassene
antiquated idiom, compare the following expressions in
modern dialects :
A lady, which her name is Harris.'—Dickens.
In this street there lived a housemaid,
Vich her name was Elisa Davis.'
'In the street she met a party,

Vich he was a British sailor.'—Thackeray. 47. lordes, the genitive of lord. In modern English the e is

represented by an apostrophe. 48. No man ferre. Note a similar construction in line 55.

Ferre is the comparative of far, A.S. feor. In Piers
Ploughman's Creed we have ferrer. Than walkede I

ferrer,' 411. The superlative ferrest occurs in line 496. 53. naciouns, a plural formed by adding s. See also lines 26,

284, 349, &c. 56. Eek is not in the Harl. MS. 57. Palmyrye has been inserted instead of Belmarie, Aldis

Wright having shown by a collation of line 15,783 in several MSS., that Belmary was often erroneously trans

scribed for Palmerye. 60. arive. Some MSS. have armeye, others arme.

« PreviousContinue »