Personal spite seems to motivate Saturn, however, and the dragon's blind rage at humanity is not quite the same thing. Saturn at a whim decides to kill one person; the dragon, in inexplicable alien fury at being intruded upon, kills as many human beings as he can, unselectively. In addition to actual physical buildings, poets may also use verbal constructions to bind and contain the violence.
Probably the very naming of structures is in itself thought to have power: In Beowulf y the most striking example of this attempt to use words as binders is the language of the treaty that brings about a truce in the conflict between Frisians and Danes in the story Heorot's scop tells of the fight at Finnsburg.
Circum- stances force the two feuding tribes to share the same hall and serve the same king, Finn of the Frisians. Since this passage seems especial- ly relevant to Chaucer's poem, I translate a few lines: Then they concluded on both sides a firm peace-agreement. Heroic Worlds 5 3 Finn bound himself with oaths to Hengest, eagerly and with- out dispute, that he would hold the wretched surviving Danes in honor, by his counsellors' judgement, so that there no man might break the pact by words or deeds, nor ever mention in spiteful malice that they were following the killer [Finn] of their own dead king [Hnsef], as necessity required them to do; if then any Frisian ever reminded them of that murderous fight with his rash speech, then it would be sword's edge that would settle the matter.
A comparable passage from the Knight's Tale, full of the same kind of tense negatives, contains Theseus's rules for the tournament the elaborate rules are again one of Chaucer's notable additions: No man therfore, up peyne of los of lyf, No maner shot, ne polax, ne short knyf Into the lystes sende or thider brynge; Ne short swerd, for to stoke with poynt bitynge, No man ne drawe, ne here it by his syde. Ne no man shal unto his felawe ryde But o cours with a sharpe ygrounde spere. Actually, Theseus's rules do hold for the duration of the tournament.
Finn's treaty holds for the stressful "slaughter-stained winter" that the two feuding parties are doomed to spend together in the same hall, but then spring brings vengeance and massacre when the pressures are released and the treaty is broken. In an analogous way, the blood-brother oath that ought to bind Palamon and Arcite together does not hold against the pressure of sexual desire. The innate ferocity that resists such civilized constraints is ex- pressed in animal images in both poems. The memorable and often discussed descriptions of the tournament's two champions, Lygurge and Emetrius, are full of such images.
Lygurge is associated with a gryphon, bulls, a bear, a raven, hunting hounds, a steer: Emetrius is a lion, carrying an eagle, with lions and leopards bounding alongside him; if less wild in appearance than Lygurge, he is equally barbaric and exotic L We have ferocity dolled up in both cases, and that is what the tournament itself is. Animals also appear in different forms in Beowulf. Beowulf's own name possibly his nickname is thought by many to mean "bear" i. Vio- lence reaches a climax at the end of the poem in the exciting account of the battle at Hrefnawudu, the ravens' wood, in which the Geatish warriors named Wulf and Eofor 'boar' have starring roles.
The Messenger ends this account with a vision of a future in which exhausted warriors wield their morning-cold spears under the eager and ironic gaze of the carrion-eating creatures, wolf, eagle, and raven b A third way to contain the violence is through converting it into relatively harmless game or play. This is of course what Theseus tries to do with his heavily rule-dominated tournament in which nobody is granted permission to die.
Theseus is reminiscent of another well-known fourteenth-century magisterludi, the Green Knight, who also provides a theater a bed in which Sir Gawain and the Lady can Heroic Worlds 5 5 play their war-game. In Beowulf, there are several similar games. Warfare itself is conventionally referred to by words like gudplega 'war play'. The verbal battle or flyting he has with Unferth over the Breca incident is a striking example of a popular early-Germanic game: Sportsmanship is a necessary feature of such games. Of course Grendel, the dragon, and the pagan gods in the Knight's Tale altogether lack this human sense of fair play.
But it is not all playing games. The harshness and brutality of the heroic world elicit strong feelings of pathos, pain and loss. In the Knight's Tale, such feelings cluster around the life and death of Arcite, are found in the speeches of the young heroes, and are memo- rably focused in the descriptions of temples, particularly the temple of Mars.
In actuality, Theseus's bold attempt to solve the problem of the lovers' rivalry through "game"— a kind of trial by combat— does not work. The ordeal or trial by battle dominates the Christian Song of Roland, but one may ask whether justice can be carried out in this way in a non-Christian universe where God does not supervise the play. In Beowulf painful and despairing feelings appear in beautiful verse in the so-called elegiac passages: Here passive suffering, which is the opposite, and the resuh, of the strenuous activity that characterizes heroic Utera- ture, is given eloquent voice, as it is in the great laments of the Trojan women at the end of the Iliad.
Some readers may feel that the laments by the various characters in the Knight's Tale contain its most moving poetry; we remember Palamon's conclusion that "wel I woot that in this world greet pyne is" I. It is often true that women are the most eloquent victims of all. In its subtle way, alliteration stresses unsynnum 'innocent', and sets the tenderness of heloren leofum 'bereft of dear [ones]' against the macho joking embedded in lindplegan 'shield-play', and chiastically balances the brutal gare wunde against the emotion of geomuru ides, the mournful lady.
Immediately after this we see another woman, Wealhtheow, Hrothgar's queen, who pleads in vain to anyone who will listen in behalf of the right of her young sons to accede to the throne we know they will never attain. They will apparently die in some future outbreak of fury only hinted at in the poem but proba- bly well known to its original audience. In the Knight's Tale, if Emelye is anything at all as a character Chaucer systematically removes every individualizing trait Boccaccio had assigned her , it is as a passive sufferer, a woman who comes to Heroic Worlds 5 7 life most vividly when she prays ardently to Diana that she might be given to neither one of her two impassioned suitors — in other words, that she might be allowed to get out of the story altogether.
Surely we in our century may see irony in Chaucer's fine juxtaposition of Prison-tower with Garden, where the prisoners Palamon and Arcite look out at Emelye "roming" and gathering flowers: She is after all not only penned up like all women but a war captive and a trophy of conquest. Emelye has really no freedom to "rome" outside her garden or outside her assigned place in the men's plot. One recalls that the lais of Marie de France have several images of women literally imprisoned by men. Women who are presented even more vividly as victims are the ladies in the beginning of the poem who petition Theseus for aid in recovering the bodies of their men.
The scene shows them pathetical- ly grasping his bridle and only slowly gaining his attention as he rides proudly back from stunning victories in love and war. He is high on his horse and high in his male pride; they lie low on the ground weeping. His descent, his condescension, his recognition of the claims of the miserable, is graphically rendered in purely physical terms: I am arguing that the parallels help us better to see a dark traditional dimension in Chaucer, but other themes and tones are of course essential to the success of his great poem.
The fresh descriptions of May mornings; the conventionally extravagant expres- sions of love; the quizzical joking of Theseus on the comic aspects of lovers; the gloriously hectic medieval bustle of squires, armorers and betting spectators on the morning of the tournament; the narrator's testy or anxious interjections; the Knight's character and the context of the Tales as a whole — there is no parallel whatever in Beowulf lo any of these. This communal voice tells us of the divinely-sanctioned heroic energy that staves off the darkness for a pathetically short while: The Knight's Tale too shows a deep awareness of heroic tragedy, but it is constantly distracting or diverting us from the glories and horrors of that heroic world.
Perhaps it declares that we are all seeking that distraction, and perhaps that is what the much-discussed ending means. The most famous of all speeches in the Knight's Tale is that of Theseus on the "Firste Moevere," a closing speech that, at least for those favoring a Boethian interpretation, makes its most important statement.
The Firste Moevere is a very Theseus-like figure himself, setting up elaborate game-rules for the eternal universe, creating the "faire cheyne of love" to bind and keep its elements not only "in certeyn boundes, that they may not flee" but within limits of time "over the whiche day they may nat pace". Yet the earthly components of this stable and rule-bound universe are not themselves eternal. Chaucer brings in some venerable medieval topoi to make the point. Like the Wanderer in the Old English poem of that name, and in the same ancient ubi sunt tradition, Theseus thinks of crumbling walls and buildings: His meditation on the various ways men die— "som in his bed, som in the depe see" I.
The word grucchen expresses the natural resentment— or, more seriously, anguish — human beings feel at their inexorable march into final defeat. Theseus uses the word three times , , ; he understands the full strength of this feeling because he shares it himself. It is against this grucchyng that he projects his appeal to all that they make the best of what is left to them.
The courageous battle for order has been fought, and we have lost it, as we always will. The marriage Heroic Worlds 5 9 of the two survivors will reward them for the values of gentilesse and wommanly pitee they have displayed. At the end of Beowulf, there is only an anonymous collective of survivors, riding around a funeral mound, survivors who simulta- neously confront their own terrifying future and honor the dead hero-king who has staved it off for so long.
But the merry wedding that Theseus and the Knight so enthusiastically support is not a sentimental ending by contrast. What the characters have they have earned, within the harsh limits of this iron world— and neither poem envisions any other. But for the most part it has been something of a poor relation in comparison with the two main critical approaches to the tale of the last forty years or so. These approaches in various ways make the tale a crucial part of the whole Canterbury performance, in which it is considered as either the ultimate thematic religious statement which informs the whole work, or as a performance which must be considered dramatically as a statement about the Parson himself.
Both of these views in various shadings have been persuasively argued, a fact that presents us with a problem that cannot easily be resolved. For they are basically irreconcilable, even though some attempts have been made to accom- modate them to one another, and at the same time each makes a claim on us that has some validity. A more recent survey is Traugott Lawler's judicious treatment of Chaucer's prose works in Middle English Prose, ed.
This dilemma is avoided by the view of various earlier critics that The Parsons Tale was a separate composition, perhaps not even by Chaucer, at least not originally part of the Canterbury Tales. It is given a typical, if somewhat uncertain, statement by Manly in The Text of the Canterbury Tales. After wavering on the subject of Chau- cer's authorship.
Manly notes the "undistinguished position" of the Canterbury Tales in the enumeration of Chaucer's works in the Retraction. They are neither first as most important nor last in a position of climax as one might expect if they indeed conclude the entire work. The problem is caused by the Retraction. In violating the dramatic integrity of the work, it has the effect of taking the tale out of the work and making it a separate entity, a feature that modern criticism has responded to in a variety of ways. A more recent extension of Owen's views suggests that the retention of TTje Parson's Tale in the Canterbury framework is the resuh of the Ellesmere editor's desire to produce a "completed" work.
Pt I," , on Longleat So in his final words the author, grave and filled with hope, imposes silence on his feat of impersonation. In this complex structure I am not persuaded that in every case it is possible to determine which of them has the last word. Of more significance, because it may help us to determine the nature of the ending of the tale when it left Chaucer's hand, is the response of the medieval editors and their scribes, who copied it. They were also faced with a problem.
This is to be seen particularly in the variety of their attempts to impose an ordinatio on the ending of the work. Most typical is the rubric immediately preceding the Retraction at line , which has found its way into all modern editions of the work — "Heere taketh the makere of this book his leve.
It occurs also in Latin. But there are other ways in which the ordinatio is handled: And there are other manuscripts in which the text simply runs on from the concluding line of the "tale" to the beginning line of the Retraction without a break. Doyle and Parkes convincingly support the same conclusion through a meticulous analysis of ordinatio in four early manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales.
They all reflect attempts to impose an organization on the unfinished work. None has special authority. However, Ellesmere, the most spectacular example of the use of ordinatio, has most influenced modern editors. The consensus is that Thynne's base text was one of the earher printed editions.
The Retraction would have been included in them with the exception of Pynson. The same would have inevitably also been true for at least some of the manuscripts which his son Francis tells us that his father either possessed or examined. For his father's acquaintance with Chaucer manuscripts, see Thynne, Animadversions, 6. But there is no evidence that it is Chaucer we are responding to, but simply the Ellesmere editor. What Chaucer gave us we do not know. The probability is that he did not give us anything. The very strong suggestion of a lack of authorial guidance lends at least some support to a view that is by no means a novelty in Chaucer criticism — that the Retraction is really the conclusion of "this lytel tretys" on penance, which we call The Parson's Tale, rather than of the Canter- bury Tales as a whole, and that, considering the violation of dramatic integrity the Retraction presents, the two together might be consid- ered as a unit separable from the Canterbury Tales.
In pursuing this view, one must of course reckon with the Par- son's prologue with its clear and compelling connections with the beginning of the tale which follows. Nor is there any question that the prologue, tale, and Retraction belong together and are representa- tive of Chaucer's intention to end the work on a moral and transcen- dent note. As Wenzel has pointed out "Every Tales Strengthe" , the emphasis in the Parson's Prologue that this is to be the last tale repeated in various ways , together with the image of "knitting up" which underlines its importance, is one such signal.
Both the astro- nomical imagery which begins the prologue and the desire of the pilgrims transmitted to the Parson through the Host "to enden in some vertuous sentence" give further rhetorical weight to the pro- logue. Most significant and in keeping with the pattern of the Divine Comedy and the Anticlaudianus, as Wenzel points out, is the change of guide preparatory to being led into higher realms.
The Host is now replaced by the Parson who will show the pilgrims the "wey in this viage. The readiest solution to the problem of the Wenzel, "Every Tales Strengthe," This separate existence is, of course, not prior to the Canterbury Tales, but extra to it, and thus created outside it. The question then is for what purpose did it exist? Who needed the penance. The work then becomes a personal utterance in response to a personal need, and the dilemma of the incompatibility is resolved.
There is good reason for looking at The Parson's Tale in this way. If indeed it was at one time separate, this fact cannot be a matter of critical indifference. Yet the tale has suffered from a lack of criticism of it in its own right. Even those who do believe that originally it was a separate composition are most concerned with how it got into the Canterbury Tales and, once there, what role it plays, rather than with the possibili- ties for explication and critical insight it presents by itself, detached from any connection with the larger work. The expanded knowledge of the sources of the tale that we have, as a result of the work of Wenzel, shows that despite its occasional ambiguities and incoherences The Par- son s Tale is a carefully meditated construction, drawing selectively on an extremely complex variety of sources together with matter that seems to be exclusively Chaucerian in origin.
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Far from being a word-for-word translation like Melibeus, it is better regarded as a work requiring a great deal of personal involvement, both intellectual and, as is clear, emotion- al. Finally, it is the nature of this involvement and the manner of its ex- pression considered in relation to the sources that are most persuasive in linking it to Chaucer himself. The striking and extensively developed prologue to the presumably early, even pre-Canterbury, Monk's Tale is another such example.
HARTUNG To be sure, critics have long considered the tale, especially under the influence of the Retraction, as Chaucer's penitential statement, but there seems to be a reluctance to go beyond the view that this penitential response is based on more than the general position that we are all sinners and all in need of penance. Perhaps a few venial sins here, a few there. But it is difficult to think of the man as a sinner of any substance.
The inten- sity of opposition at least by the older scholars to imputations of irregular behavior e. How can such a person have been really that bad? But it is possible to look at the "real" Chaucer in another way. The life records can be taken as showing that Chaucer may, from time to time, have had trouble with what are now called "interper- sonal relationships. There are other things possibly, less clear in their bearings.
Was the younger Chaucer then something of a street thug? Is it possible to consider those debts that Chaucer incurred, and did not seem to pay, somewhat less charitably than they have been considered, perhaps as indicating a dimension of character other than that of merely an innocently impecunious poet trying to cope? In addition, is it not likely that there were things that we have no hints of at all? It is really not impossible for us to feel that Chaucer may have had reason to consider himself as more than a mere pro forma sinner.
So let us go further and assume that Chaucer needed penance, not merely on general terms, but because he had a conviction of sin arising out of some specific occurrence in his life that devastated him, appalled him — not simply a customary moral nervousness, but a real and present thing that he had to come to terms with in the only way " Cf.
Sayce, "Chaucer's 'Retractions,' " who by viewing the Retraction as literary convention impUes a further detachment of penitential response from any specific personal significance. Seen in this way The Parson 5 Tale, with its strange varieties of intensity and response, and its amazingly complex web of literary and personal relationships, be- comes not so much a key to the meaning of the Canterbury Tales as it does a personal document with decided implications for Chauceri- an biography.
If this view can be considered to have some validity, it should then be possible to find in the text of the tale indications of it. There are problems here. The tale is a substantial and complex creation, consisting of a wealth of material and a variety of responses to it, so much so that it would seem to be really a matter of pick and choose to build whatever case one wanted to. But there are some guides available. There are the sources. And there is Chaucer himself. For Chaucer's use of his sources is eclectic and shifting, and even with considerable uncertainties at times may be an indication of what he has in mind.
And the manner and intensity of what we may consider his personal utterance in response to his subject are similarly wide-ranging and an indication of what particularly engages him and what does not. For example, the section on Gluttony together with its Remedy receives the briefest treatment of any of the sins.
It is closely tied to its source. Still one must feel that the treatment here, and in other sections of The Parson's Tale similar in tone, is programmatic rather than personal. They seem to stand apart. They share a special response to their sources, showing a special intention.
They share a common general area of concern. They share a common intensity of response. I feel they take us into the heart of the reason for The Parson's Tales existence.
I have selected five such passages to consider in specific detail. The first comes at the conclusion of Chaucer's treatment of the third of Pennaforte's six causes that move man to contrition. Wenzel, Riverside Chaucer, note to In his treatment of the third cause, "detestatio vilitatis. The basic image of the passage is that of sin as thralldom, variously supported by refer- ences to Peter, Seneca, Augustine also in Pennaforte , and to Ezekiel and Augustine not in Pennaforte.
But as it continues, the passage develops a different emphasis and turns to the body and the special thralldom of the body to sin: To this passage, which in Pennaforte is attributed to "Philosophus" and in Chaucer to Seneca, Chaucer adds, Ne a fouler thral may no man ne womman maken of his body than for to yeven his body to synne. Circulus aureus in naribus suis, mulier pulchra et fatua [Douay: A golden ring in a swine's snout, a woman fair and foolish]. He turns to the Primo for the application: Quamvis enim sus aureum annulum haberet in naribus, nichilominus grunnum ["groyn"] suum immergeretur turpibus.
Hoc facit mulier fatua sollicite composita. A foolish woman is like a pig which roots its long face in the mud and considers it a feast.
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For although a sow has a gold ring in her nostrils ["naribus"], nonetheless she would stick her snout ["grunnum suum"] in what is foul. Thus does a foolish woman elegantly arrayed. However, Chaucer's application of the scriptural passage, even though based on the Primo, is quite different: The earlier emphasis on the body as thrall to sin together with the adjuration to "wommen that been of so greet beautee" more emphatically establishes the target for the passage from Prov- erbs. In addition the "fair and foolish" of the scriptural passage is modified and becomes "a fair womman that is fool of hire body"— a modification, even though slight, that holds before us more emphati- cally the physical and sexual implications of what is being talked about.
The mud "luto" which the Primo pig considers a feast, becomes the excremental "ordure" reenforced by the repetition of "stynkyng ordure of synne," in which not the pig but the woman herself "roots" her beauty. As a result of Chaucer's treatment, the passage achieves an ugliness that seems to be intentional, in which beauty, body and sexuality, animality, and excrement are all brought together to evoke disgust and revulsion. This together with the suddenness and unexpectedness of its appear- ance at the end of the section on disdain of sin strongly suggest that its motivation is a personal one.
It would, of course, be inaccurate to imply that Chaucer is unique in his heightened treatment of woman as sinful sexual object. There is no dearth of pulpit comment on the vices of women, particularly the foolish woman. In this Chaucer is quite representative and in keeping with what the pulpit orators provide. But some of the most baffling characteristics of The Parson's Tale are the sudden changes and the variety that characterize its style and treatment of its subject. The problem in critical analysis that this causes is considerably lessened if one considers the work as a separate, person- al penitential statement in which Chaucer's variety of style and treatment are the result of his responding more powerfully to those parts of his subject which touch him most nearly.
On the evidence of the passage above it is his disturbed response to sexuality and woman that is most striking and of particular interest in that it occurs together with a special configuration of his use of his sourc- This disturbed response frequently occurs with another striking characteristic of Chaucer's treatment of the sexual in The Parson's '' Robert Rypon, a contemporary of Chaucer, compares a sow rolling its nostrils in the foulest dirt to foolish women rolling their beauty in the foulest dirt of lust cited in Owst, The closeness to Chaucer's diction suggests that the image may have had some currency.
For a recent, feminist exploration of the subject, see Dinshaw's comprehensive treatment. The present study, confined to The Parson 's Tale, is more limited in its scope. We find this emphasis on the excremental in the second passage to be singled out. A lengthy passage, it has often been remarked both for its style and content, for its impassioned utterance and striking images. More- over, it clearly takes its departure from standard ways of treating the subject. Women's "tails," gowns of inordinate length, are inveighed against elsewhere in the period.
He gives us gowns trailing in the dung and in the mire, and as a result of this trailing on the ground being "wasted, consumed, thredbare, and roten with donge. See Riverside Chaucer, , note to line In addition, "stinking" in the same sexual context is used more frequently in The Parson 's Tale than elsewhere in Chaucer's works. See Tatlock and Kennedy, Concordance. Owst, and , where he cites Rypon as preaching that men wear garments so short that they scarcely hide their private parts "et certe ut apparet ad ostendendum mulieribus membra sua ut sic ad luxuriam provocentur.
HARTUNG But it is in the treatment of the scantiness of clothing that one becomes aware of a special vehemence and a violence of imagery that seem to indicate a profound personal involvement. Man is the target here, specifically his sexual members and buttocks. Men arrange their hose to show "the boce of hir shap. Clad in other colors their privy members seem "corrupt" by the fire of St. Anthony, or by cancer. With pride they show the hinder part of their buttocks, horrible to see, where they purge their "stynkynge ordure. The third passage that also seems to indicate a special personal involvement is that on contraception, abortion, and infanticide in the section on homicide in Chaucer's treatment of the sin of Ire.
It is worthy of note, for in this section Chaucer makes a striking change in his employment of source, turning from his general source, ill-defined at best, in Peraldus and returning to Pennaforte— but now to Liber II, Titulus 1, De homicidio, rather than Liber III, Titulus 34, from which he draws the bulk of his Pennaforte material. In keeping with Pennaforte's De homicidio, Chaucer defines and develops the distinction between spiritual and corporeal homicide. Spiritual homicide has six types five in Pennaforte. Corporeal homicide has seven in Pennaforte, three by tongue, four in deed.
Chaucer addresses three of these latter: The fourth in Pennaforte, "voluntate," is not clearly treated by Chaucer, except perhaps by implication in what seems to be his chief concern with corporeal homicide in the passage under consideration He answers, if the fetus is formed or is moving and this occurs, it is homicide, but if it is not moving it is not homicide in terms of canon law but subject to penance.
It is notable that Chaucer does not use the intervening material or the material which follows II. Thus, "unkyndly synne, by which man or womman shedeth hire nature in manere or in place ther as a child may nat be conceived" sodomy and coitus interruptus finds no mention in Pennaforte's treatment, nor does "a man approcheth to a womman by desir of lecherie, thurgh which the child is perissed" intercourse during pregnancy.
More strikingly, Chaucer also adds to Pennaforte both by his mention of contracep- tive or abortifacient suppositories "putteth certeine material thynges in hire secree places to slee the child" , possibly original with him, and by his mention of "wommen that mordren hir children for drede of worldly shame," which is also without an equivalent in Pennaforte. Johnson was the first to note Chaucer's change of source. He, as does Petersen, uses the Verona edition of Pennaforte, which according to the modern editors at times contains extrinsic matter from elsewhere in Pennaforte.
The edition consuhed here is that of of the Universa Bibliotheca Juris, based mainly on thirteenth-century manuscripts of the first and second redactions. HARTUNG The presumption here that Chaucer is dealing with something that concerns him nearly is given added support by a fourth passage, actually no more than a brief statement, in the section on the three species of penance solemn, public, private at the beginning of the tale Indeed, there is not the slightest suggestion of it in this section of Liber III, which makes even more noticeable Chaucer's going out of his way to add it.
The whole treatment of contraception, abortion, and infanticide in Chaucer is remarkable both for its unexpected shift of source and for the manner and content of treatment which go beyond the source, as if there is a special sense of compulsion on Chaucer's part, something that he has to speak about. The final passage to be discussed must be considered as being more tentative.
It occurs in Chaucer's treatment of lechery, which has a striking, and to some exasperating, bewildering wealth of material on man and woman, and husband and wife. The passage deals with the fourth of the five fingers of the devil to catch people to lechery, kissing: Valde stultus esset qui fornaci ardenti os suum apphcaret. Beda super Parabo- las: Sic etiam illi videntes pulchram mulierem, si maculare non possunt, signa turpitudinis sue relinquunt in osculis, contactibus, et huiusmodi.
To be shunned also are the kisses of women. So also those seeing a beautiful woman, if they are not able to defile [her], leave signs of [their] dirtiness customarily in kissings, touchings, and the like. The chief difference is Chaucer's treatment of the lechers. In the source they are simply "leccatores," lechers— not specified as old or young. Their sexual insufficiency, as expressed in the dog compari- son, is not assigned a cause, although to be sure the hint is there. Chaucer takes it out of the realm of suggestion and makes the cause for their ineptitude explicit.
They are "olde dotard holours. Indeed, although "smatre" is an exact trans- lation of "maculare," it is possible to feel that Chaucer may possibly have connected it with the "scombavata" of the Ameto, both verbal- ly and conceptually. The suggestiveness of the connection, even though tentative, again hints at a special Chaucerian preoccupation. These then are the passages that seem to show a special Chauceri- an presence in The Parson's Tale. The problem they present in the present study is, of course, that of justifying their being singled out exclusively as examples for the purposes to which they are here put.
There is a wealth of material in The Parson's Tale, and these passages in terms of bulk constitute only a small part of it. Moreover, much of the rest of the material deals with the same area of response, such as, for example, the treatment of the "circumstances that agreggen muchel every synne" , which concerns itself almost exclu- sively with sexual sin. There may be other passages which should be included with them, but these are the only ones that can be identified as possessing this distinctiveness with some degree of assurance.
Nor is it unreasonable to consider them in this way. Wenzel, Riverside Chaucer, note to — the rhetorical treatment is moderate and analytical in contrast to the passages considered in this study, although even here there are differences in emphasis, and language, for example in Chaucer's treatment of Pennaforte's "Ubi," which might also well repay close analysis.
What then can be said about these passages as a group? Their common denominator suggests materials for a case study. It embraces the following: Whatever the penitential need, it was, I believe, in response to some specific occurrence that occurred at some specific time in Chaucer's life in connection with these things. These are, I think, the materials with which we can begin to untie "the knotte why that [The Parson's Tale] is toold. The Parson's Tale on the evidence of the Retraction as well as the Parson's Prologue belongs to the Canterbury period. The customary belief is that it came early in that period, because of Chaucer's mining of the tale for use in his other tales, although it has been argued that the process was the other way around.
Whichever came first, it did not, it would seem, come first by very much because both seem to be part of the same creative response to something deeply disturb- ing to Chaucer that we do not know. They share verbal echoes. Cannon's discovery of a new document in the case the Memorandum and his suggestions and their implications concerning the suppression of the word "raptus" in this later docu- ment persuade us that whatever did happen was not regarded in a casual way by those who were involved, to which one might add, perhaps least of all by Chaucer himself.
HARTUNG the lechery passage, even though it cannot be said that beyond a doubt they share a source Ameto , the assumption that they do is a persuasive one. In their imphcations of a devastating sexual experi- ence, they share a common subject and tone. Indeed, one can feel that The Merchant's Tale is the literary counterpart of the more discursive The Parson's Tale, and that it springs ultimately from the same origins. Whatever it was that was so disturbing to Chaucer, he made his peace with it, as, for example, his Envoy to Scogan shows.
This poem is generally dated because of its references to torrential rains, which are mentioned in the chronicles for that year. The theme was Monsters vs.
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