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And of the songes that the Muses songe;
hire to manace, &c. Dryden and Pope have modernised the two last-mentioned poems. Dryden the tale of the Nonnes PRIEST, and Pope that of JANUARY and May: intending perhaps to give patterns of the best of Chaucer's Tales in the comic species. But I am of opinion that the Miller's Tale has more true humour than either. Not that I mean to palliate the levity of the story, which was most probably chosen by Chaucer in compliance with the prevailing manners of an unpolished age, and agreeable to ideas of festivity not always the most delicate and refined. Chaucer abounds in liberties of this kind, and this must be his apology. So does Boccacio, and perhaps much more, but from a different cause. The licentiousness of Boccacio's tales, which he composed per cacciar le malincolia delle femine, to amuse the ladies, is to be vindicated, at least accounted for, on other principles: it was not so much the consequence of popular incivility, as it was owing to a particular event of the writer's age. Just before Boccacio wrote, the plague at Florence had totally changed the customs and manners of the people. Only a few of the women had survived this fatal malady;
A phantasy, enchantment.
b v. 1225. Urr,
who having lost their husbands, parents, or friends, gradually grew regardless of those constraints and customary formalities which before of course influenced their behaviour. For want of female attendants, they were obliged often to take men only into their service: and this circumstance greatly contributed to destroy their habits of delicacy, and gave an opening to various freedoms and indecencies unsuitable to the sex, and frequently productive of very serious consequences. As to the monasteries, it is not surprising that Boccacio should have made them the scenes of his most libertine stories. The plague had thrown open their gates. The monks and nuns wandered abroad, and partaking of the common liberties of life, and the levities of the world, forgot the rigour of their institutions, and the severity of their ecclesiastical characters. At the ceasing of the plague, when the religious were compelled to return to their cloisters, they could not forsake their attachment to these secular indulgences; they continued to practise the same free course of life, and would not submit to the disagreeable and unsocial injunctions of their respective orders. Cotemporary historians give a shocking representation of the unbounded debaucheries of the Florentines on this occasion: and ecclesiastical writers mention this period as the grand epoch of the relaxation of monastic discipline. Boccacio did not escape the censure of the Church for these compositions. His conversion was a point much laboured; and in expiation of his follies, he was almost persuaded to renounce poetry and the heathen authors, and to turn Carthusian. But, to say the truth, Boccacio's life was almost as loose as his writings; till he was in great measure reclaimed by the powerful remonstrances of his master Petrarch, who talked much more to the purpose than his confessor. This Boccacio himself acknowledges in the fifth of his eclogues, which like those of Petrarch are enigmatical and obscure, entitled PhiloSOTROPHOS.
But to return to the Miller's Tale. The character of the Clerke of Oxford, who studied astrology, a science then in high repute, but under the specious appearance of decorum, and the
mask of the serious philosopher, carried on intrigues, is painted with these lively circumstances.
This clerk was cleped hendy Nicholas,
His presse“ ycovered with a falding red: the gentle Nicholas.
secret. in vogue.
There is a statute of Henry Hospitium, one of the old hostels at the Fifth, against the transmutation of Oxford, which were very numerous be- metals, in Statut. an. 4. Hen. V. cap. fore the foundation of the colleges. This iv. viz. A. D. 1416. Chaucer, in the is one of the citizens houses : a circum- Astrolabe, refers to two famous mathestance which gave rise to the story. maticians and astronomers of his time, f sweet.
John Some, and Nicholas Lynne, both h the herb Valerian.
Carmelite friars of Oxford, and perhaps "A book of astronomy written by his friends, whom he calls “ reverent Ptolemy. It was in thirteen books. He olerkes." Astrolabe, p. 440. col. i. Urr. wrote also four books of judicial astro- They both wrote calendars, which, like logy. He was an Egyptian astrologist, Chaucer's Astrolabe, were constructed and flourished under Marcus Antoninus. for the meridian of Oxford. Chaucer He is mentioned in the Sompnour's Tale, mentions Alcabucius, an astronomer, v. 1025, and the Wife of Bath's Prologue, that is, Abdilazi Alchabitius, whose IsaV. 324.
goge in astrologiam was printed at VeKasterlabore ; an astrolabe.
nice, 1485, 4to. Ib. fol. 440. col. ii. stones for computation. Augrim is Compare Herbelot. Bibl. Oriental. Algorithm, the sum of the principal rules p. 963. b. V. KETAB. Alasthorlab. p. 141. of common arithmetic. Chaucer was a. Nicholas Lynne above mentioned is himself an adept in this sort of know- said to have made several voyages to the ledge. The learned Selden is of opinion, most northerly parts of the world, charts that his Astrolabe was compiled from the of which he presented to Edward the Arabian astronomers and mathemati. Third. Perhaps to Iceland, and the cians. See his pref. to Notes on Drayt. coasts of Norway, for astronomical obPolyolb. p. 4. where the word Dulcar- servations. These charts are lost. Haknon (Troil. Cr. iii. 933, 935.) is ex- luyt apud Anderson. Hist. Com. i. plained to be an Arabic term for a' root p. 191. sub ann. 1360. (See Hakl. in calculation. His Chanox Yeman's Voy. i. 121. seq. ed. 1598.) Tale proves his intimate acquaintance press. with the Hermetic philosophy, then much
And all above there lay a gay sautrie",
And Angelus ad Virginem he songo. In the description of the young wife of our philosopher's host, there is great elegance with a mixture of burlesque allusions. Not to mention the curiosity of a female portrait, drawn with so much exactness at such a distance of time.
Fayre was this yongè wife, and therwithal
psaltery; an instrument like a harp. apron. ° v. 91. p. 24. Urr.
plait; fold. Pweasle.
edged; adorned, ""A girdle edged with silk." But tapes; strings. we have no exact idea of what is here * head-dress.
y collar. meant by barrid. The DOCTOR OF Phi knot; top-knot. SICKE is “girt with a seint of silk with barris smale." Prol. v. 138. I once con 0" made small or narrow, by pluckjectured borded. See Hollingsh. Chron. ing. iii. 84. col. ii. 850. col. 1. &c. &c. (See they.
darched. supr. p. 213, note'. ]
a young pear-tree. Fr. Poir jeunet.
Tasseled with silk, and perlide with latound.
Hire shoon were laced on hire legges hie, &c. " Nicholas, as we may suppose, was not proof against the charms of his blooming hostess. He has frequent opportunities of conversing with her; for her husband is the carpenter of Oseney Abbey near Oxford, and often absent in the woods belonging to the monastery". His rival is Absalom, a parishclerk, the gaiest of his calling, who being amorously inclined,
o tasseled; fringed.
& shrill ; [brisk, eager. T.] I would read purfild. (I believe n bragget. A drink made of honey, ornamented with latoun in the shape spices, &c. of pearls.-T. An expression used by i “ straight as an arrow. Francis Thynne in his letter to Speght a jewel. (It seems to have signified will explain this term: Orfrayes being originally the tongue of a buckle or compounded of the French or and frays, clasp, and from thence the buckle or (or fryse English,) is that which to this clasp itself. It probably came by dedaye (being now made all of one stuffe grees to signify any kind of jewel.-T. or substance) is called frised or perled
1 buckler. cloth of gold.-Edit.]
v. 125. Urr. d laloun, or chekelaton, is cloth of
See v. 557. gold.
I trow that he bewent o " so pretty a puppet.”. (This may For timber, there our abbot hath him either be considered as a diminutive from poupée a puppet, or as a corruption of For he is wont for timber for to go, papillot, a young butterfly.-T.)
And dwellin at the grange a day or two. i a piece of money.