Page images


Upon the cop right of his nose he hade
A werte, and theron stood a tuft of heres,
Reede as the berstles of a souwes eeres.
His nose-thurles blake were and wyde.
A swerd and a bocler baar he by his side.
His mouth as wyde was as a gret forneys.
He was a jangler, and a golyardeys,
And that was most of synne and harlotries.
Wel cowde he stele corn, and tollen thries;
And yet he hadde a thombe of gold pardé.
A whight cote and blewe hood wered he.
A baggepipe cowde he blowe and sowne,
And therwithal he brought us out of towne.

A gentil MAUNCIPLE was ther of a temple,
Of which achatours mighten take exemple
For to be wys in beyyng of vitaille.
For whethur that he payde, or took by taille,
Algate he wayted so in his acate,
That he was ay biforn and in good state.

570 580

564.-stele corn. During the middle ages, millers enjoyed, above all other tradesmen, the reputation of being thieves; and their depredations were the more generally felt, as people in all classes of society carried their own corn to the mill to be ground, often in very small quantities.

565.—a thombe of goli. “If the allusion be, as is most probable, to the old proverb,—every honest miller has a thumb of gold, this passage may mean, that our miller, notwithstanding his thefts, was an honest miller,-i. e., as honest as his brethren.”—Tyrwhitt.

567.a baggepipe. The bagpipe was a very popular instrument of music in the middle ages, and figures in the illuminated manuscripts of various countries. In modern times its use has been restricted to Scot. land (probably because minstrelsy was longer preserved there) until it was looked upon as the national music.

Now is not that of God a ful fair grace,
That such a lewed mannes wit schal pace
The wisdom of an heep of lernede men ?
Of maystres hadde moo than thries ten,
That were of lawe expert and curious :
Of which ther were a doseyn in an hous,
Worthi to be stiwardes of rente and lond
Of any lord that is in Engelond,
To make him lyve by his propre good,
In honour detteles, but if he were wood,
Or lyve as scarsly as he can desire ;
And able for to helpen al a schire
In many caas that mighte falle or happe;
And yit this maunciple sette here aller cappe.

The REEVE was a sklendre colerik man,
His berd was schave as neigh as ever he can.
His heer was by his eres rounde i-schorn.
His top was dockud lyk a preest biforn.
Ful longe wern his leggus, and ful lene,
Al like a staff, ther was no calf y-sene.
Wel cowde he kepe a gerner and a bynne :
Ther was non auditour cowde on him

Wel wiste he by the drought, and by the reyn,
The yeeldyng of his seed, and of his greyn.
His lordes scheep, his meet, and his dayerie,


588.-sette here aller cappe ; i. e., outwitted them all. Conf. v. 3145.

591.- rounde. The MS. Harl. has neighe, but all the other MSS. I have consulted agree in the reading I have adopted in the text. This des cription is illustrated by the cut given on p. 13.

[merged small][ocr errors]

His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrie,
Was holly in this reeves governynge,
And by his covenaunt gaf the rekenynge,
Syn that his lord was twenti yeer of age ;
Ther couthe noman bringe him in arrerage.
Ther nas ballif, ne herde, ne other hyne,
That they ne knewe his sleight and his covyne :
They were adrad of him, as of the deth.
His wonyng was ful fair upon an heth,
With grene trees i-schadewed was his place.
He cowde bettre than his lord purchace.
Ful riche he was i-stored prively,
His lord wel couthe he plese subtilly,
To geve and lene him of his owne good,
And have a thank, a cote, and eek an hood.
In youthe he lerned hadde a good mester:
He was a wel good wright, a carpenter.
This reeve sat upon a wel good stot,
That was a pomely gray, and highte Scot.
A long surcote of pers uppon he hadde,
And by his side he bar a rusty bladde.
Of Northfolk was this reeve of which I telle,
Byside a toun men callen Baldeswelle.
Tukkud he was, as is a frere, aboute,
And ever he rood the hynderest of the route.

A SOMPNOUR was ther with us in that place,

[ocr errors]

619.-pers. The MS. Harl. alone reads blew ; perse was a colour.

622.---Baldeswelle. A parish in Eynford hundred, Norfolk.

That hadde a fyr-reed cherubyns face,
For sawceflem he was, with eyghen narwe.
As hoot he was, and leccherous, as a sparwe,
With skalled browes blak, and piled berd:
Of his visage children weren sore aferd.

Ther nas quyksilver, litarge, ne brimstone,
Boras, ceruce, ne oille of tartre noon,
Ne oynement that wolde clense and byte,
That him might helpen of his whelkes white,
Ne of the knobbes sittyng on his cheekes,
Wel loved he garleek, oynouns, and ek leekes,
And for to drinke strong wyn reed as blood.
Thanne wolde he speke, and crye as he were wood.
And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn,
Than wolde he speke no word but Latyn.
A fewe termes hadde he, tuo or thre,
That he hadde lerned out of som decree;
No wondur is, he herde it al the day,
And eek ye knowe wel, how that a jay
Can clepe Watte, as wel as can the pope.
But who so wolde in othur thing him grope,
Thanne hadde he spent al his philosophie,
Ay, Questio quid juris, wolde he crye.

640 650

626.-cherubyns face. H. Stephens, Apol. Herod., i. 30, quotes the same thought from a French epigram,

“ Nos grands docteurs du cherubin visage." 648.—Questio quid juris. “ This kind of question occurs frequently in Ralph de Hengham. After having stated a case, he adds, quid juris ? and then proceeds to give the answer to it. See Heng. Mag., c. xi. Esto autem quod reus nullo modo venerit ad hunc diem, quid juris ? &c. See also c, xü."--Tyrwhitt.

He was a gentil harlot and a kynde;
A bettre felaw schulde men nowher fynde.
He wolde suffre for a quart of wyn,
A good felawe to han his concubyn
A twelve moneth, and excuse him atte fulle.
And prively a fynch eek cowde he pulle.
And if he fond owher a good felawe,
He wolde teche him to have non awe
In such a caas of the archedeknes curs ;
But if a mannes soule were in his purs ;
For in his purs he scholde punyssched be.
“Purs is the ercedeknes helle," quod he.
But wel I woot he lyeth right in dede:
Of cursyng oweth ech gulty man to drede.
For curs wol slee right as assoillyng saveth,
And also ware him of a significavit.
In daunger he hadde at his owne assise
The yonge gurles of the diocise,
And knew here counseil, and was al here red.
A garland had he set upon his heed,
As gret as it were for an ale-stake :


649.—harlot. Chaucer gives us here an excellent picture of the class of society to which this name was applied in the middle ages. See the glossary.

664.significavit. “ The writ de excommunicato capiendo, commonly called a significavit, from the beginning of the writ, which is as follows: Rex vicecomiti L. salutem. Significavit nobis venerabilis pater H. L., episcopus, &c. Cod. Jur. Ecc., p. 1054.”Tyrwhitt.

665.-in daunger. The old meaning of the word danger was jurisdiction, or dominion whereby persons were liable to fine for certain offences to him in whose danger they were. Most of the MSS. have gise instead of assise.

« PreviousContinue »