The Craft of Lovers
THE CRAFT OF LOVERS: EXPLANATORY NOTESABBREVIATIONS: see Literature of Courtly Love: Introduction.
1-4 Kooper ("Slack Water Poetry," p. 484) accurately describes these lines as "confused and confusing." "To moralise" is to interpret morally or symbolically and a "symilitude" is a reproduction or resemblance (a similarity). These lines can be roughly paraphrased as "Whoever chooses to interpret the moral or spiritual significance of this representation, these stanzas show the craft of lovers' subtle arguments, since some are false, some true, and some have double meanings." Skeat reasonably suggests that the phrase "a symilitude" was in the margin in the exemplar but was incorporated into the text by subsequent scribes (Chaucerian, p. xii). The poem offers a similitude, that is, a representation or image of the craft of love. Moore points out that Stephen Hawes uses the phrase to "moralyse the semelytude" (Pastime of Pleasure 1.808) in the sense of finding the moral or spiritual significance in a "far-fetched resemblance": "Since . . . no similitude is actually moralized, the phrase may mean only to 'explain' - in this instance, the hidden meaning of the 'curious arguments' of love" ("Some Implications," pp. 233-34).
balettes. Rhyme royal stanzas (ababbcc).
12 nat. H and T omit "not." It makes more sense to me, however, that the maker claims that he is not careless in his composition; any defects in his work can be attributed to his depressed spirits.
15 A designates the speakers as "Cupido" and "Diana," corresponding to sensuality and chastity. Kooper suggests that the A scribe has confused the dedicatee, described as "doughter of Phebus" (line 169), with Diana, the sister of Phoebus ("Slack Water Poetry," p. 489).
Moore notes that this stanza is "freighted with aureate forms" including exclamatio, pronominatio, dissolutio, repetitio and translatio ("Some Implications," p. 234). Note also the medicinal theme that runs throughout.
This stanza, and lines 43-49, 71-77, and 99-105, derived from a separate exemplar, are incorporated in Lady of Pité (IMEV 1838), which also appears in T. For texts and commentary, see Robbins, "Love Epistle," pp. 289-92; Wilson, "Five Unpublished Secular Love Poems," pp. 399-418; and Person, Cambridge Middle English Lyrics, pp. 14-16.
16 intemerate jenypere. The juniper is known for its ability to withstand fire and its berries were used for medicinal purposes; see Trevisa, On the Properties of Things, 17.84. Kooper points out that the juniper is often associated with the Virgin Mary in religious lyrics. The burning bush of the Old Testament (Exodus 3:2) was a Marian symbol anticipating the Virgin Birth. See Chaucer's Prioress' Tale: "O bussh unbrent, brennynge in Moyses sighte" (CT VII[B2]468); see also Lydgate, Life of Our Lady (lines 281-87) in John Lydgate: Poems, ed. Norton-Smith.
18 infirmynat langoures. T (sores langorous) is clearly the easier reading, reflecting this scribe's practice of sometimes emending for clarity. This word appears to be an aureate coinage, making it difficult to choose between H and A (infirmatyf). Although a show of hands is not the best guide, I have sided with H since in Lady of Pité, which incorporates this stanza, the reading is also "infyrmynat." The adjective is related to "infirm," "infirmate," that is, weakening or debilitating.
22 peynted eloquence. Skillful and/or deceptive rhetoric. Green notes that "The lady here is not ridiculing the artificiality of her lover's language in itself . . . merely seeking to discover what truth lies behind it" ("Craft of Lovers," p. 116).
24 Dame Prudence. A possible allusion to Chaucer's Tale of Melibee. Dame Prudence is known for her prolix sententiousness.
30-31 As a last resort, in order to make sense of these lines, I have transposed the first halves of the two lines. H reads, O clarified cristal of worldly portreature, / O korven figure resplendent of glorye.
clarified cristal. "Clarified" suggests both illuminating or brightening and clarifying or cleansing.
32 charbuncle. A precious stone that shines in the dark. See Trevisa, On the Properties of Things, 16.25.
53 vayne delectacioun. The context suggests that delectacioun is used here in the intellectual sense, that is, a worthless or pretentious intellectual exercise in seductive rhetoric. However, another connotation, suggesting sensual pleasure, and more specifically, the second stage of sin - the pleasure in contemplating a sin - may also be inferred. See Chaucer's Parson's Tale (CT X[I]350-56).
57 Kooper notes, "The lover claims that he is attracted by the lady's inward, or essential, beauty. Such beauty springs from virtue and spiritual uprightness, as in the case of Mary, the virgin plena gracia" ("Slack Water Poetry," p. 486).
67 O Vulcanus. Vulcan, in Roman mythology, is the god of fire and metalworking and married to Venus. Known for his lameness and as a public cuckold. Vulcan's corruption perhaps refers to Venus (amorous love) herself or to his jealousy and vindictiveness following his discovery of her affair with Mars. Note that here the lady herself indulges in a bit of rhetorical excess.
88 Desidery. Kooper suggests a neologism: "it is a good example of what a skilled rhetorician can do: by using this self-coined word he can 'hide' his intentions behind a facade of completely diaphanous material" ("Slack Water Poetry," p. 487). However, the OED cites the OF desiderie from the L desiderium, "longing" or "desire."
Triewe Love. I have added capitals here and at lines 92 and 175. Both the lover and the lady appear to refer to a personified abstraction.
89 Of mannys copulacioun the verray exemplary. The lover's frank, if not crude, avowal of his sexual intentions is somewhat surprising given his earlier circumlocutions.
This may be one of the first uses of the term copulacioun in its modern sense. Kooper notes that although according to the OED this word is not used in the sexual sense until 1483, "ever since Alanus de Insulis's De planctu Naturae grammatical terms had been known to have sexual overtones" ("Slack Water Poetry," p. 487).
99-105 The so-called catalogue of worthies is common; Green cites the allusions in this stanza as an example of the "pretentious classical and biblical name-dropping" common to the second rhetoric tradition ("Craft of Lovers," p. 107). Tullius (line 99) is the common medieval name for Marcus Tullius Cicero; the Old Testament Absalon (line 102) was a conventional example of male beauty.
103 Jobis. Job is usually invoked as an emblem of patience rather than wealth. Kooper notes that Job's riches "are emphasized especially in texts that stem from folk-tale versions of his life. . . . The confusion in HA [which reads "robis"] is more easily understood if we bear in mind that the version of Job's life best known to medieval man was the one contained in the Office for the Dead" ("Slack Water Poetry," pp. 487-88).
118 Grene flowryng age and manly countenaunce. This can be taken in two senses. On the one hand it appears to be the conventional carpe diem argument: green age - that is, pale or sickly - and the concomitant manly (not feminine) features cause women to reconsider appropriate sexual behavior. However, the line may also suggest that in the vital prime of their age, which brings a mature attitude, women more wisely weigh (i.e., favorably consider) a suitor's case. Kooper suggests a somewhat different reading: "In spite of [the warnings of] Dame Prudence, desire for worldly concupiscence [or 'their lusty age' and men's attractive appearance] will occupy ladies' thoughts" ("Slack Water Poetry," p. 488).
127-33 This stanza and lines 169-75 are incorporated into O Merciful and O Mercyable.
131 knyt the knot of excersise. Playing on the term "losed" (loosened) in line 127, the lover suggests that she end this "exercise," in the sense of either a trial or a ritual. There might well be sexual implications to the suggestion as well.
132-33 Both lok and key . . . emprinte. This image has possible sexual overtones and brings to mind the "clyket" and "wyket" of Chaucer's Merchant's Tale (CT IV[E] 2045-46).
139 Green notes that here the lady "presumably means the dangers of male bouche and the loss of her good reputation" ("Craft of Lovers," p. 120).
155 Phebus. Phoebus, or Apollo, the sun god; also, appropriately, the genius of poetry.
159 fifty and nine. The discrepancy in dates found in HA (1459) and T (1458) has not been satisfactorily explained and may simply be an early mechanical error (confusing viiii and viii), although both H and A do use the form ix. In T, Stow adds in the margin, "Chaucer died 1400" and, believing the poem to be Chaucerian, indulges in some conscious variation of his own and changes the date to 1348 in his 1561 print of the poem.
160 prepotent princess. Moore suggests that this refers to Venus. Kooper notes that the term is also applied to the Virgin Mary "and thus the poet keeps up the fiction of decency to the very end" ("Slack Water Poetry," p. 489).
162 ff. The final three stanzas do not appear in T. Since lines 169-75 also appear in O Merciful and O Mercyable, it is quite likely that the envoy is part of the original text.
169-75 Note the juridical language in this stanza. Distrayned: "To constrain or force (a person) by the seizure and detention of a chattel or thing, to perform some obligation" (OED); maynprise: A legalistic term; the action of securing the release of a prisoner by becoming surety for his appearance in court (MED).
176 Salamon. Solomon, known for his wisdom but, in the popular imagination, also for his predilection for amorous dalliance. See 3 Kings 11 where Solomon is said to have had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines.
177 sang in his trace. Trace, a series of steps in dancing; a measure; a dance (OED). The metaphor suggests active and intimate involvement in the "dance" of love; compare O Merciful and O Mercyable: "For in thys case came I never, or now, / In loves daunce so fer in the trace" (lines 43-44).
180 Quia amore langueo. "I am faint with love" (Canticle of Canticles 2:5, 5:8). This popular refrain is also found in Quia Amore Langueo (In a Valley of the Restless Mind) and In a Tabernacle of a Tower; see Fein, ed., Moral Love Songs and Laments.
181 joy ye. Kooper ("Slack Water Poetry," p. 489) suggests joy is a variant of joinen (to fasten or unite) and translates the final sentence as, "Come on, my dear spouse, join me / Unite yourself with me [and say] . . ." However, joien (to enjoy, delight, take pleasure in) is another possibility.
THE CRAFT OF LOVERS: TEXTUAL NOTES1 To moralise. T: Moralyse.
these. T: theyr.
2 argument. T: argumentes (plural also in lines 4 and 5).
3 ben. T: be foundyn.
5 These. T: Thus.
6 can. T: they can.
8 list. T: lyst unto; A: list to.
9 loves lordshippe. H: lovers lordshippe; T: loves lordshippes.
12 that the maker be nat. H: that the maker be; T: the maker that he be.
14 spirites. H: spirit.
15 in. T: your.
18 to. H: and.
myn infirmynat langoures. T: sores langorous; A: myn infirmatyf langoures.
19 amours. T: amerous.
23 eke. A omits.
26 curiously your eloquence. T: gloryously glad langage.
28 or than. T: for drede or.
29 the. H omits.
30-31 I have transposed the second half of each line in order to keep the rhyme scheme consistent.
31 of. T: with.
32 beauté. A: bounté.
or. T: O.
34 in. T: your lovely.
35 Wherfor ye do. T: Ye.
36 suche demonstracioun. T: proclamacion.
38 and. H omits.
39 cogitaciouns. T: thought.
40 distresse. T: febylnes.
42 for drede that. T: of drede or.
43 myn. H: my.
44 lady. T: my lady.
46 nat disdayne. T: dedeyne.
that. A omits.
49 your. T omits.
50 that ye. T: ye do.
51 maketh. A: maketh thus.; T: maketh hys.
glosed. T omits.
52 briefly. T omits.
53 right. T omits.
56 in lesse that. T: for drede syr or.
57 in substaunce. T: and countenaunce.
58 to enclyne. T: enclyne.
yow. A: youre.
59 wommanly. T: glorious.
60 spirit. T: spirytes.
62 suppliaunt. T: servaunt.
63 ones. T omits.
67 O Vulcanus. T: Of womens; H: Of vlcanus; A: Of.
erbe. A: anerbe
68 helth. H: help; T: Remember man what chaunge ys perylouse.
69 the virgynal. T: virgines.
70 lesse that ye. T: or thow.
72 cast in mournyng. T: castyng mornyng.
73 whiche sittith. T: Jhesu sittyng.
74 conveyeth. T, A: convert.
this lady yeng. T: my swete thyng.
76 youre. A: thy.
78 Me semes by your. T: Mesemeth by.
80 mekely. A: meke.
make. H: may.
81 craftes. T: craft.
83 please shuld. H: please; T: shuld be to.
84 T: Wherfore I wyll be ware or I be shent.
85 O. T omits.
86 most is. T: ys most.
87 yow. H, A: my.
certificacioun. H, A: trewe certificacioun.
88 Desidery. H: desiderary.
90 servaunts. H: servauaunts.
91 Wherfor I must be registred in your. T: I must be chyef callyd to.
92 yeeres grete excesse. T: of yeres gret processe.
93 hym never. T: never love.
94 be. H: by.
96 in som. T: and som men.
97 by avisement. H: bavisement; A: be avisement.
98 also. T: ever.
in lesse. T: for drede.
99 of. T omits.
101 Salamons sapience. H: Salamon his sapience; T: Salamons prudence.
103 Jobis. A, H: robis.
105 wold. T: shuld.
I. H omits.
106 it. T: yef that.
107 to. A, T: unto.
108 worldly. T omits.
110 man. H: mannes.
112 and ye shul nat. T: or drede syr ye.
114 desire. A: the desire.
119 hem. T: hit.
120 answers so benyngne. T: answere so notable.
123 wold be. T: wold fayne be.
125 virgyns. H: vyrgynite.
126 stonde in feere lesse that. T: am aferde or.
lesse. H: lasse.
127 lovers. T: love.
130 cordial. T: amyable.
133 Wherfor. T omits.
me. T: my love.
134 Of. T: O.
135 hert. T: hertes.
138 me. T omits.
139 froward. T: fraude.
140 my virgynite were. T: maydenhode shuld be.
142 stones. H: stone.
143 of comparison. A: comparisound.
144 Of al creatures. T: Above all creature.
146 resemblaunce. T: dissemblaunce.
147 fynally registre and take me in. T: graciously take me to.
148 manly. T: womanly.
152 shal. T: shall endure.
153 This confideracy. T: The federasy.
by. T: wyth.
155 first. T: fresshe
his. T omits.
157 dispute. T: profer.
158 of God. T: our lord.
159 fifty and nine. T: xl and viii.
161 of this terestry vale the. T: hem thy Region and.
162 ff. T omits.
164 loke ye. A omits.
165 thens. H: thense.
176 in loves. A: my lovers.
179 am. A: all be.
181 my. A omits.