The Boy and the Mantle
THE BOY AND THE MANTLE: FOOTNOTES
1 Lines 11–12: He would have thought it shameful not to be conversant with courtesy
THE BOY AND THE MANTLE: EXPLANATORY NOTES
Abbreviation: CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales.
1–2 In the third day of May / To Carleile did come. The third of May is a recurrent date in Chaucer’s writing: the third night of May is when Palamon breaks prison and escapes to the woods where he fights Arcite (CT I[A]1462–63), the third day of May is the day on which Chauntecleer falls to (but escapes) the fox ( CT VII[B2]3187–91), and it is the inauspicious opening day of Book 2 of Troilus and Criseyde (2.56). The Boy and the Mantle may be simply following Chaucer in making May 3 a dangerous date for the servants of Venus or may be following directly whatever tradition Chaucer himself followed (assuming that Chaucer’s use of the date was not a merely personal reference, a wedding anniversary or the like). An article by Alfred Kellogg and Robert C. Cox, “Chaucer’s May 3 and Its Contexts,” reports the various reasons that have been suggested for Chaucer’s choice of that particular date. Among the most useful of the explanations suggested is D. W. Robertson, Jr.’s, that May 3 is the date of St. Helena’s Invention of the Cross and consequent casting down of the idol of Venus (“Chaucerian Tragedy,” p. 19). May 3 was also the last day of the Roman feast of Floralia; as described in Ovid’s Fasti, Book 5, it was a sexually uninhibited public celebration of fertility, exactly what we would expect the prudish boy with the mantle to disapprove of.
Carlisle is a setting for Arthur’s court in some medieval works: The Awntyrs off Arthure at the Terne Wathelyne, for example, or a couple of occasions in Malory’s Morte Darthur, of most relevance here the catastrophic open accusation of Lancelot’s adultery with Guenever and his entrapment in her chamber. The opening lines are thus an economical evocation of prior English literary history.
In the analogues in which a time is specified it is Pentecost (Le Lai du cor , Le Livre de Carados, Le Mantel mautaillié, and Ulrich von Zatzikhoven’s Lanzelet). That feast day, above all others, was one on which Arthur conventionally would not eat until some great adventure had befallen.
24 Betweene two nutshells. In the analogues, the mantle usually emerges from a magically small container.
44 Ill itt did her beseeme. Blue was the color of truth, chastity, and loyalty, and was commonly associated with the Virgin Mary (see Ferguson, Signs and Symbols, p. 272).
53 walker. The walker or fuller compressed cloth (sometimes by trampling) and cleaned it after it was woven.
57–60 Guenever is expressing a deliberately shocking preference: to live in the uncivilized forest without any comforts, luxuries, or honors rather than to stay in Arthur’s court and be humiliated as she has been.
82 Pattering ore a creede. The knight is reciting a formula of Christian beliefs, probably the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed, both of which were learned by laypeople in England in the Middle Ages.
100 And bade her come in. As in some of the analogues (Le Mantel mautaillié and Ulrich von Zatzikhoven’s Lanzelet), the successful lady is not present while the others are trying the mantle.
152 Looking over a dore. The door is evidently a half door.
THE BOY AND THE MANTLE: TEXTUAL NOTES
title The MS reads: Boy and Mantle. The title and the initial “In” (which appears in the margin) were both added after the MS was bound, since they leave a mirror image trace on the opposite leaf.
7 MS reads: With brauches and ringes.
18 MS reads: I hett you all heate. Emendation for rhyme and sense.
21 MS reads: He plucked out of his potewer.
24 MS reads: Betweene 2 nutshells.
28 MS reads: Shapen as itt is alreadye. The MS line fits the stanza form badly and makes little sense: the mantle changes its shape to fit its wearer, hence the appropriateness of the subjunctive be.
32 MS reads: Began to care for his wiffe. Emendation for rhyme.
34 MS reads: To the mantle shee her biled. Emendation for sense and rhyme.
41 MS reads: One while was itt gaule. Emendation for sense and rhyme.
43 MS reads: Another while was itt wadded. Emendation for sense (other terms in the stanza are color terms).
72 MS reads: All aboue the buttockes. Emendation for rhyme. Toute was a fourteenth- and fifteenth-century word for the rump.
84 MS reads: 20 marks to his meede.
86 MS reads: willignglye.
136 MS reads: That maketh herselfe soe cleare. Emendation for rhyme.
151 MS reads: A litle boy stoode. Emended for sense.
151–58 The lines are evidently corrupted. Percy adds lines after 152 (both in the MS’s margin and in his edition), to complement lines 150–51 and make a stanza with them:
And there as he was looking156 MS reads: Fast thither that he ran. Emendation for sense.
He was ware of a wyld bore.
163 MS reads: Some rubbed their knies. Emendation for sense.
169 MS reads: All their knies edges. Emendation for sense.
170 MS reads: Turned backe againe. Emendation for rhyme.
Go To Kings and Commoners: Introduction