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More Odd Texts

Chaucers Minor Poems.




57 & 59, LUDGATE HILL.



First Series, No. LXXVII.



AFTER I finisht the Odd Texts of Chaucer's Minor Poems in 1880, I copied five more at Cheltenham in 1882 from the Phillipps MS. 9053, and Mr. George Parker sent me four from the Bodleian. I put them aside in the hope that others would turn up, and forgot all about them till Prof. Skeat sent me his excellent edition of the Minor Poems on Dec. 20, 1888. His admission of the Harleian78 copy of the continuation of the Pity as genuine, reminded me that I had another copy of it from the Phillipps MS., and this showd (as Prof. Skeat pointed out) a unique last verse. It became therefore advisable to print the laid-by copies; and here they are.

No doubt the Pity-continuation-here cald by Shirley's name for the whole poem “The Balade of Pitee'-ought to be printed as three separate poems: 1. in 7-line stanzas, 2. in terza-rima, imperfect, 3. in 10-line stanzas; but as they are all on the same subject, and the MSS. run them into one another, there is no great harm in keeping them under one head, in separate sections.

When I first printed the Harleian copy in our Odd Texts Appendix, pp. ii.-v., it seemd to fall off so towards the end that I didn't feel sure that it was Chaucer's, nor did Hy. Bradshaw. But as the two MSS. of it give it to Chaucer, and both are evidently from a Shirley copy, or transcripts of one, and its rymes keep Chaucer's laws, we may well hold this poem genuine, independent of our wish to make it so, on account of its witness to Chaucer's try at Dante's terza-rima.

The three Roundels from the last page of the Pepys MS. 2006, which our friend Prof. Skeat has kindly printed at the end of the Appendix here, I am willing to accept as Chaucer's, because of their merit and their Chaucer ring. The Newe-Fanglenesse which I printed on the fly-leaf to my Odd Texts Appendix, I still maintain is not Chaucer's. Nor can I acknowledge as genuine either of the other supposititious poems—An amorous Compleint, p. 218; Balade of Compleint, p. 222—which Prof. Skeat has admitted into his edition of Chaucer's Minor Poems.1

There is no external evidence for them; no MS. gives them to Chaucer; and the internal evidence of worth is against them, for, tho' they observe his rymes, they are neither characteristic of him nor good enough for him. We cannot admit as valid the canon that all lyric poems which do not transgress Chaucer's laws of ryme, finale, cæsura, &c., and use his phrases, are his. I hope Prof. Skeat 'll bunk these spurious things out of his second edition.

British Museum, 5 Nov., 1890.

P.S. As I forget whether I've heretofore printed the reasons which made me in 1882 give up The Mother of God as Chaucer's, and assign it to Hoccleve, I state them


The only MS. of the poem I saw myself, Arch. Seld. B 24 (Scotch), gave it to Chaucer. So did the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, MS. 18, 2, 8.3 The poem was so much better than Hoccleve's long and dreary englishing of De Regimine

1 He prints Newe-Fanglenesse by its old title in Stowe's edition, 'Against Women unconstaunt,' p. 135.

2 Parallel Texts, p. 144, col. 2.

3 Parallel Texts, p. 139, col. 3 ; p. 144, col. 3. But, as Brad. shaw always allowd, the evidence of Scotch MSS, attributions to Chaucer is not worth much. See the Hunterian Society's print of the Bannatyne MS. See also Skeat's Minor Poems, p. xliii, line 1, and p. xxxv, the lower half.

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