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words with changed meanings, words still in use, but in a sense wholly different from that which they bore in Chaucer's day. Take the word sentence, for example. It now refers to the order of words grammatically connected into a proposition—in other words, to the grammatical form of a statement or assertion. But in Chaucer it refers, not to the grammatical form of expression, but to the thought or feeling expressed. The 6 sentence, the substance or meaning of a statement, is indeed expressly contrasted with the varied form of words in which it is conveyed. In the prologue to his own tale Chaucer says, speaking of the Evangelists —
*As thus ye woot that every Evangelist,
Al be there in her tellyng difference.' And in the prologue to the Testament of Love,' the attractions of a rhetorical style, the smoothness and charm of flowing periods, are condemned as likely to withdraw the mind from the sentence of the treatise or homily. These mere charms of style are said to make the reader less able to hent sentence,' that is, to seize the meaning. Almost the only trace remaining of this archaic sense of the word is in the proceedings of our courts of justice. Again, Chaucer uses the word sentiment in a signification widely different from that which it now bears. Ile employs it to express sensation, mere bodily feeling, instead of thought, affection, or mental emotion of any kind.
One of the most curious terms used by Chaucer in a sense now obsolete is the familiar word bible, which Mr. Morris, in common with most of his predecessors, has altogether overlooked. Both in the Canterbury Tales' and in the House • of Fame' the word occurs not in the sense of book at all, much less of a sacred book, but in the early and peculiar signification of a long list or scroll. In the one case for a roll of heraldic blazonry, and in the other for a detailed inventory of substances
a connected with the transmutation of metals. The Canon's yeoman, in the prologue to his · Tale of False Alchemy,' exposing the wicked craft and treachery of his master, after illustrating at considerable length the learned jargon of the pretended art, concludes as follows:
Yet forgeet I to make rehersayle
Oyles ablucioun, and metal fusible,
told y-nowe To reyse a feend, al loke he never so rowe.' Here the word bible is used for catalogue. The Canon's yenman says that if he were to give a list of all the names and virtues belonging to the art, it would exceed any known list or inventory, any detailed specification of names and powers that exists, adding that those already enumerated are enough to raise the devil.
Again, in the House of Fame' the poet sees in the entrance to the temple a crowd of heralds and pursuivants clothed in blazoned coats, who proclaim the rank, fame, and lineage of their lords :
But nought wyl I, so mote I thryve,
Syth first began the chevalrie.' Chaucer here says that, if all the arms blazoned on the coats of the different heralds were enumerated and described in order, the result will be a portentous heraldic scroll-a bible or catalogue of quarterings and devices of almost fabulous dimensions and extent. The special reference of course is to the roll of arms,' the list of nobles and their bearings which heralds were accustomed to illuminate on skins and parchments, and early specimens of which are found in the Heralds' College. The word bible is used in the same way, for a long list, scroll, or catalogue in Pier's Plowman's Visions,' and it was frequently used in a similar sense for at least two centuries later. Ūdall, for example, gives the following explanation of the Fescenine verses :— There was in Campania a toune called • Fescenium, the first inhabitauntes wherof issued from the * Atheniens (as Servius reporteth). In this toune was first
invented the joylitee of mynstrelsie and syngyng merrie * songes and rymes for makyng laughter and sport at marry
ages, even like as is nowe used to syng songes of the Frere • and the Nunne, with other sembleable merrie jests at • weddyngs and other feastyngs. In the songes or rymes, , because their original beginning issued out of Fescenium, wer called in late Fescennia Carmina. Which I dooe here • translate accordyng to our Englyshe proverb a ragman's 'rewe, or a bible. For so dooe we call a long geste that • railleth on any person by name or toucheth a bodyes honesty * somewhat near. There is a whole world of curious history contained in the phrase ragman's rewe here given as an equivalent for bible, but into this we cannot now enter. It is enough to say that ragman's rewe was used like bible, not for a book, but for a list, roll, catalogue, indictment, petition, charter- in fact for almost any professional scroll or document, especially one with seals and signatures attached. In Pier's • Plowman's Visions' the phrase is used for the Pope's Bull or privilegea parchment scroll with a number of seals--empowering an itinerant friar to sell pardons and indulgences. The word bible occurs elsewhere in Udall, and his use of it is in perfect harmony with Chaucer's, and helps to illustrate the peculiar archaic signification of the word, which appears to be unknown to our early English critics and lexicographers. The only explanation of the word attempted by editors of Chaucer is, we believe, big book of any kind,' which is not only vague, but inaccurate and misleading: The use of the word by Chaucer's contemporary, Langland, if properly considered, would have been sufficient to guard against this partial and erroneous interpretation of its meaning, and to suggest its virtual identity with “ ragman’s rewe,' which Langland uses in much the same way.
This points to an important means of interpreting Chaucer's language which has not as yet been turned to anything like adequate account. We refer to the critical examination of the writings of his contemporaries and immediate successors. The more carefully the early literature of the fourteenth century is studied, the more clearly will it appear that Chaucer's additions to the vocabulary of the language are far less numerous than is commonly supposed. He has been charged with adulterating the English speech of his time by the wholesale importation of foreign, and especially of Norman-French words. In his early translations and paraphrases from Norman-French he occasionally, it is true, transfers words mainly for the convenience of their rhymes. But with these exceptions his importations are comparatively few. His real superiority lies in the admirable taste and judgment displayed in the selection of
his vocabulary, the natural reflex of his keen and exquisite sensibility to the latent significance of language. The perfection of his art lies in his subtle insight into the deeper meaning of words, and his power of combining them in the most felicitous manner. He is not fond of verbal novelties for their own sake, and his obscurities of phrase and diction may generally therefore be explained by a reference to the literature of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The works of Gower and Lidgate, especially the latter, are of essential service in this respect. We have collected from the writings of Lidgate alone explanations of more than a dozen phrases used by Chaucer that have been regarded by the editors as obscure, and are as yet only partially elucidated. The more widely the search is extended, the more completely of course will the remaining archaisms and obscurities of Chaucer's phraseology be explained. As a single example of what may be done in this direction, we may take a word that has never yet been explained by any editor or commentator. This is the word bord, which occurs early in the prologue to the · Canterbury Tales.' In the admirable description of the Knight, Chaucer says:
" At Alisandre he was whan it was wonne,
When they were wonne.' In explanation of the second line Speight says:—* This knight, being often among the Knights of the Dutch Order, called Ordo Teutonicus, in Prussia, was, for his worthiness, • placed by them at the table before any of what nation soever.' And Tyrwhitt follows:- He had been placed at the head of the "table; the usual compliment to extraordinary merit, as the
commentators very properly explain it. When our military • men wanted employment it was usual for them to go and
serve in Pruse, or Prussia, with the Knights of the Teutonic • Order, who were in a state of constant warfare with their heathen neighbours in Lettow (Lithuania), Ruse (Russia), and elsewhere.' This table interpretation is inconsistent with the context, and, thus dragged head and shoulders into an account of the knight's military expeditions, it is surprising that it should have held its place so long. It is not, however, even yet abandoned ; Mr. Morris still repeats the old story in
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the Notes to his Clarendon Press edition of the Prologue 6 and Knight's Tale,' while the conclusion of the note, Mr. 'Marsh suggests that bord or bourd is the Low German • boort or buhurt, joust, tournament,' gives the last result of conjectural emendation on the point. Bourd is, however, a good early English word, not only for joust or tournament, but for a serious military conflict, and is used habitually in these senses in the prose romance of • Merlin,' which dates from the middle of the fifteenth century. Take the following passage for example :- Than Gawein turned hym to the
-quene and seide, “ Madame I prey that ye thinke on my • felowes that leven here with yow, for the Knyghtes of the • Rounde Table ne love not hem wele in herte. But haue to 'hem envye as ye knowe well youre self, and parauenture whan I and my brethern be gon, thei will make som bourde or som turnement a-gein hem, wherefore I praye yow as my
goode ladye that ye suffre hem to make no party. will be seen bourd is used for a conflict which, though nominally commencing in sport, was intended to be a serious one, and might end in disastrous earnest. Again, in the following passage it is used for a grand tournament or royal joust of arms :_* Than the newe knyghtes reised a quyntayne in the ' mede of noiron, and be-gonne the bourdinge grete and huge, ' and many ther were that dide right wele, but noon so wele as
dide Grisandoll, for so she lete hir be cleped; but in bapteme • her name was Anable. This bourdinge endured all day on ‘ende till euesonge that thei departed, and Grisandoll" bar a-wey the pris a-monge alle other.'
Our space is exhausted, or we should like to go over in detail some of the difficulties in Chaucer's phrases and allusions that still require to be cleared up. A single example taken from the · Legend of Good Women’ must, however, suffice. In the · Legend of Philomena,' the passage which details the silent weaving of the tragic story in the lonely castle has at least one line that has hopelessly perplexed the critics and commentators :
* This woful lady ylerned had in youthe,