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elements, and thus throws the list into complete confusion. The second enumeration of the elements is towards the end of the • Knight's Tale,' in the speech of Theseus about the divine order and providence in the creation and government of the world :
· The first movere of the Cause above,
In certayn boundes, that they may not flee.' Here starting from the highest point, the first cause, the primum mobile, the poet naturally gives the elemental spheres in the descending order, passing from the highest and most ethereal through the intermediate spheres to the lowest, the solid earth. But here, as before, the Harleian text confuses the whole arrangement by placing water next to fire, bringing in the antagonistic element in fact with the promptitude and zeal, though without the discretion, of an amateur fireman. The point, it is true, is of no very great consequence, but minutiæ of this kind serve to bring out more clearly the superior accuracy of the catholic readings, as compared with the Harleian text.
In most of the emendations already noticed, the six manuscripts agree, and their better readings are therefore supported by authority as well as by the reason of the case. But in a number of passages, some of them important, the manuscripts differ amongst themselves, and here there is of course full scope for critical examination and choice. Curiously enough, in some of the more striking instances of difference, the balance of authority is equal, or nearly so – half the manuscripts giving one reading and half another. In such a case any slight advantage in point of metre and sense would suffice to turn the scale ; and if one reading has a decided superiority over another in these respects, especially if it adds to the clearness of the picture, or to the strength and vividness of the expression, it might fairly be adopted on the authority of a couple of good manuscripts. Tyrwhitt, indeed, carries this principle so far as to adopt a reading he preferred from a single text, and that of no authority, against the reading of all the best manuscripts. Without going to this extreme, however, we think the Harleian text may be greatly improved by the various readings of some of the associated texts. In the account, for example, of the finding of the Theban princes amongst the heaps of slain
on the battle-field, an unusual word for a pile or heap occurs three times. In three of the manuscripts the word is taas, and in three others caas—the latter being also the reading of the Harleian. Here, as it seems to us, taas is decidedly the preferable reading. It was a common word for a mound,
a pile, or a heap, both in mediæval Latin and in Norman-French. Both noun and verb, moreover, were habitually employed in the same sense in Chaucer's day, and by contemporary English poets. In the metrical romance of Arthur and Merlin, for instance, it is applied in the same way to the dead on the battle-field :
* Ther lay of paiens mani tasse
Wide and side, more and lasse.' The word is used elsewhere by Chaucer himself in the same sense, and by Gower in the following passage:
"A poure man which Bardus hyght,
To selle, whom that wolde hem bye.' In the prose romance of Merlin,' again, the noun entassement occurs used in a similar connexion-to denote, that is, the heaping of men and horse together, in hurrying from the field after defeat: “Ther was grete entassement of men and of horse upon • hepes; and grete and huge was the duste that a-roos, that * troubled sore theire sightes.' The verb entasser is still in common use on the other side of the Channel in the same sense. And though in modern English we have lost the original noun, we still retain its diminutive in tassel, a small knot, bunch, or heap. On the other hand, caas, if ever used in a similar sense, is certainly of rare occurrence and less authority.
Again, in the grand description of the Temple of Mars, a line occurs which has given the editors and commentators considerable trouble. The passage in four of the manuscripts is as follows:
• There stood the tempul of Mars armypotent,
That it maad al the gates for to rese.' The difficulty lies in the rhyming words of the last two lines. But it seems to us that the reading we have given from the majority of the manuscripts is not only perfectly intelligible and correct, but peculiarly expressive. The word vese, which
has been the chief perplexity, is glossed in two of the best manuscripts by impetus, the meaning which the context requires and which the word expresses. Vese, variously spelt veze, feese, feaze, is used in the same sense as bir, bire, beer, for any sudden rush, but especially for the force of rising winds and rushing waves. It was also used proverbially, or at least in common phrase, for the impetus gained by a short run before taking a flying leap. In this sense it occurs in Holland's translation of Marcellinus :— Against which without · forth are the Symplegades, two rockes reaching up on every side into high and steepe heads, and were wont in old time to encounter and meet, yea and with a terrible noise to run and • beat one upon another with all their hugenesse, and giving
way backward, fetch their feese or beire again, and with a * fierce charge and assault to returne full butt upon the same • that they had knocked and beaten before' (cedentesque retrorsus acri adsultu ad ea reverti quæ pulsarent). None of the editors appear to have been acquainted with the word in this sense, and hence the difficulty. Dr. Morell, in noticing the reading, explains it,' veze or vise, i.e. voice or noise.' When the real meaning of the word is understood there is, however, no difficulty in the line, the reading which has the highest authority being in fact the most appropriate and descriptive. The same holds true with regard to the last word in the extract. Rese, both noun and verb, is used in the sense of excitement, commotion, or disturbance, and is applied to any quiver or shock, moral or physical. The meaning of the lines is, therefore, that the furious blast issuing from the temple shook its ponderous gates of adamant and steel. In Mr. Morris's text the passage stands as follows. We quote it in full because there are other minute variations that serve to illustrate the superiority of the associated texts :
Ther stood the tempul of Marz armypotent
That it maad al the gates for to rise.' This, the Harleian reading of the last two lines, must be either unusually corrupt or a daring example of conjectural emendation. What the substituted word prise means it would be difficult to say, as Mr. Bell, one of the editors who adopted the Harleian text, frankly confesses. He says in a note, • The meaning of the reading of the text is not obvious, and yet it appears to be the best ; prise probably significs press, crowd, • tumult.' But in the mind of the scribe who introduced it;
the word was more probably connected with the verb prise, to force up or open, and this again was in all likelihood suggested by the mistaken interpretation of rese as rise, which makes nonsense of the passage.
Again, in the animated description of the preparations for the great tournament, so like in many respects to the celebrated description in Henry V. of the preparations for the battle of Agincourt, a verb is used in the best manuscripts which the editors have found it impossible to interpret, and which the majority have accordingly rejected :
* Ther mayst thou see devysyng of herneys
So uncouth and so riche and wrought so wel
With tyle and hamer prikyng to and fro.' The perplexing word is gigging, which occurs in three of the best manuscripts, while of the seven good texts that are available for comparison, no two agree in any other reading. Tyrwhitt was so puzzled by the word, that he resorted to the desperate expedient of taking a doubtful reading from the worst manuscript he consulted, in opposition to the best texts. Dr. Morell, on the other hand, adopts gigging in deference to authority; and it is a good illustration of his fidelity to the best texts even when he did not fully understand their meaning. After Speight, he explains it as sounding, and this erroneous interpretation is expanded in Urry's Glossary as follows:- Gigging, sounding, Sp. Perhaps from the Fr. 'gique; It. giga, a sort of musical instrument.' The Harlcian text, in harmony with the tendency it occasionally displays to get over a difficulty by specious emendation, reads giriling. This though plausible is wholly inappropriate, girdle and girding being applied not to straps slung across the shoulder, but to bands fastened round the waist. The technical difference between a girdle and a belt is indeed very much that the one buckles tightly round the waist, the other slopes across the hips. The obnoxious word gigging, in which the best manuscripts agree, appears to us to be undoubtedly correct, and this on the
ground that it is precisely the most specific and appropriate term that could be used to designate the action described. The critics and commentators do not seem to have noticed that the term for the leather strap or belt by which the shield of a knight was slung across the shoulders, and in some cases round the neck and shoulders, is guige, variously spelt guiggia, giga, and gige. In describing an effigy in Gloucester Cathedral, supposed to be that of Robert Curthose, Sir S. R. Meyrick says: - The surcoat is kept close to the body just above the • hip by the sword-belt, which is fastened by a buckle in the
front over the right shoulder, and under the left arm passes • the guige or belt for the shield, which was either hung at the . back or the left hip, the latter being more particularly the • fashion in France. And in a bas-relief of St. George in Nuremberg, of which Sir S. R. Meyrick also gives an account,
the shield is suspended round the neck by a broad belt or 'guige.' The word must have been well known to Chaucer, as it occurs not unfrequently in the Norman-French romances with which be was familiar. Gigging of shields' would thus be pro
" viding them with leather straps or belts, while the latter part of the line describes the process by which the shield is fastened to the belt, laced on with thongs.* In the previous line of this description, the reading of the manuscripts which we have given is also superior to that of the Harleian— rayhyng the spears.' Nailing is a precise and appropriate term for fixing on the iron heads of the spears, while rayhyng is at least a vague, and in such a connexion a comparatively unmeaning term.
These examples point to a well-known law of poetical, and indeed of all effective description—that in describing objects and events the terms employed should be special and concrete rather than abstract and general, and this of course on the ground that such terms present distinct and vivid images, instead of vague and confused ones. On this principle a number of other readings in which the associated texts agree, are better than the Harleian. Towards the close of the • Prologue,' when the host after supper proposes his plan to the company, he grounds it on the usual practice of pilgrims to beguile the way by stories and jests. He simply proposes, as temporary manager, to reduce the customary practice to method and rule by prescribing that each pilgrim should tell a story
* We find that in the second volume of his work on · Ancient Armour,' Sir S. R. Meyrick, in noticing this passage from the Knight's Tale,' gives a brief explanation of 'gigging ' similar to that in the text. This was, however, unknown to us at the time of writing the paper, and it seems to have also escaped the observation of the editors of Chaucer,