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STUDY OF CHAUCER
BY ALEX. MONFRIES,
OF THE DUNDEE INSTITUTION ;
This little book has been prepared as an Introduction to Chaucer and our other Early English Writers.
Some knowledge of Early English is at present acquired in most of our Higher Schools, either through Class-Books of English Literature, or by the study of the language itself.
It will generally be found that no clear notions of Early English are to be got from descriptions, and that the only way of gaining an accurate knowledge of the state of the language in its earlier stages, is by the careful study of some select piece from the best author of his period. It will be found also, that it is better to study a limited portion minutely, and master it thoroughly, than to attempt more lengthened passages and learn them indifferently. The “Prologue to the Canterbury Tales' has been selected on account of its suitable length, its literary interest, and its historical importance.
The grammatical notes, in preparing which I am largely indebted to the works of Ellis, Morris, and Abbot, are placed at the foot of the Text, and in reading the Prologue for the first time, attention may be confined to them.
In the Historical and Philological Notes at the end, I have made an honest attempt to solve every difficulty, and have collected the illustrations and parallel passages from works too numerous to be mentioned here.
It is intended that this book should be one of a graduated series of English Classics. Preliminary Chapters and an Index are in preparation.
Any suggestions, or notices of errata will be thankfully received.
DUNDEE, June 1875.
THE CANTERBURY TALES.
WHAN that Aprille with his schowres swoote
LINES 1-18. In reading these lines, note that the final e in veyne, vertue,
holte, nature, here, kouthe, and were is silent. It is so in all except here and were, because it is followed by a vowel, and it is so in them, because it is preceded by an r. In the case of here, the rule is general; in the case of were, exceptions are numerous. One occurs in line 326, where
the final e is pronounced. 1. Whan (1, 5), from the Anglo-Saxon hwænne. In modern
English, wh is pronounced as if it were still written hw. The change is a change in spelling only, and seems to have been made during the troubled period following the Conquest. It is a pity that this error has been allowed and adopted by our best writers. Whan that (1, 18). A common construction in Early English.
It occurs several times in Shakespere, as • When that your flock, assembled by the bell, encircled you.'
-2 Henry IV., Act 4, Sc. 2. • When that the poor have cried, Cæsar hath wept.'
-Julius Cæsar, Act 3, Sc. 2. The word that has the force of a demonstrative pronoun, and
stands in apposition with the clause comprehended under
See line 68, &c.