10. Diogenes


2-3 dispreised, denounced.

3 tunne, basin/barrel.

4 bothum, bottom; whanne him luste, when it pleased him.

5 heete, heat; sonne, sun.

7 eete, ate.

8 othir, or.

10 levyd, lived; wollen, woolen.

13 abbayed, turned from.

17 done, do.

19 covetise, covetousness.

22 wole, will.

26 ho, who.

27 quod, said; saver, savor; careyn, carrion.

32 meete, food.

38 enemyté, enmity.

41 leve, live.

42 deliverd of, rescued from.

43 empeireth, is impaired.

45 wroth, wrathful.

46 merveil, marvel; pryvé, privy (secret).

47 bye, buy.

49 thenke, think.

53 maistir, master; sewe, follow; stonys, stones.

58 in lasse, unless.

59 longeth, is fitting.

60 of, for; dede, did.

61 peyntour, painter.

62 phesician, physician.

63 yghe, eye.

66 herborowed, harbored.

72 seeknesse, sickness.

73 sonde of, sending of.

75 heeris, hairs.

76 maiste, may.

77 ware, wore.

79 and, if; leeche, physician.

90 gestour, jester.

92 here1, their; here2, hear; geest, jest.

96 lesingis, lies.

100 peas, peace.

101 amyably, amicably.

102 here, their.

106 leve aftir, live according to.

109 beeten, beaten.

111 teche, teach.

114 thresoure, treasure.

116 creaunce, belief.

118 lynage, lineage.

120 begonne, begun.

123 eerys, ears.

124 slee, slay.

129 wrath, enrage.

131 wilte, want.

140 outher, either.

141 ellis, else; lesynges, lies.

143 wote, know.

144 pes, peace.

145 eres, ears.

147 geete, get.


ABBREVIATIONS: B = Dicts and Sayings of the Philosophers, ed. Bühler (1941); CA = Gower's Confessio Amantis; CT = Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; G = Pierpont Morgan Library MS G.66; MED = Middle English Dictionary; OED = Oxford English Dictionary; S = Scrope, Dicts and Sayings of the Philosophers, ed. Schofield (1936).

These explanatory notes cannot hope to provide a complete accounting for the source of every proverbial statement in Dicts and Sayings. That task would be a separate book in its own right. Instead, I have attempted to contextualize this rather heterogeneous body of lore by identifying the people and places named in the text, as well as noting points that may be of interest to students and general readers. Those interested in tracing the source of particular quotations should begin by consulting Whiting's Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases From English Writings Mainly Before 1500. Readers are also invited to consult the thorough notes to Knust's Bocados de Oro, the Spanish translation of the original Arabic ancestor of Dicts and Sayings.

1 Dyogenes. The Athenian philosopher Diogenes (c. 412-c. 323 BC), who lived as a beggar, is today the best-known proponent of the Cynic school, which stressed the importance of rejecting desires for physical pleasure, material goods, etc., and living a life of virtue (their conception of the supreme good) and self-control. The Cynics proved to be the major influence upon the important later Stoic movement. For another medieval account of Diogenes' life and teachings, see Higden's version (ed. Lumby, vol. 3, pp. 306-20).

Chyennyne. The word "Cynic" is derived from the Greek kunikos, or 'doglike' (compare Latin caninus, 'of a dog; canine'), an epithet Diogenes and his fellows earned for their aggressive moralizing and their crude lifestyle. For a study of how the Cynic movement was viewed in postclassical Europe, see Matton, "Cynicism and Christianity," and Kinney, "Heirs of the Dog."

3 ff. laye alwaies in a tunne. Florence Kossoff notes that medieval and renaissance art and literature depict Diogenes as living in a barrel, but sources from the classical period show him living in a huge clay receptacle for wine (Greek pithos, Latin dolium). By the Middle Ages, though, wine was being stored in wooden barrels, so the image was transformed as the classical sources were translated into vernaculars. See Kossoff, "Parmigianino and Diogenes." Note also that Gower uses the very same word, "toune," in his version of this story (CA 3.1210).

13-14 Alisaundir. There is a long medieval tradition involving the repartee between Alexander, the great conqueror, and Diogenes, the impertinent man living in a barrel. See especially Gower's amusing narrative of this story in the Confessio Amantis (3.1201-1313). See Cary, Medieval Alexander, pp. 275-76, for a chart detailing the many manifestations of this episode in medieval European writings. There are two distinct versions of the story. In the one found in Dicts and Sayings and the tradition based upon the Speculum Historiale of Vincent of Beauvais (e.g., Higden's Polychronicon), there are only two speakers, Alexander and Diogenes; in Gower's version, which is perhaps drawn from the Latin Gesta Romanorum, Alexander first sends an anonymous knight to parley with the philosopher. See Itô, "Gower's 'Diogenes and Alexander.'"

17 What have I to done with my servauntis servaunte? In this version of the famous motif of "the servant of my servant," the vice that Diogenes exposes is covetousness, one that is often linked to the literary Alexander. Gower, however, uses this motif to illustrate another of Alexander's traditional faults: his dangerous willfulness. Gower places this exchange in Book 3 of the Confessio, which deals with the sin of wrath, and is intended to teach the lover to restrain his unruly will. His Diogenes states the "servant of my servant" anecdote as follows:
Will is my man and my servant,
And evere hath ben and evere schal.
And thi will is thi principal,
And hath the lordschipe of thi witt (3.1280-83).
With will as his master, Alexander has become corrupted by his pursuit of ephemeral worldly glories, a criticism that, to me, evokes the Alliterative Morte Arthure and that work's condemnation of King Arthur's excessive willfulness in his attempt to conquer all of Europe. For a study of the problem of Arthur's will, see Peck, "Willfulness and Wonders."

23-25 In Dicts and Sayings, this response replaces the customary reply, in which Diogenes tells Alexander to get out of his sunlight. For instance, the anonymous fifteenth-century translator of Higden's Polychronicon has Diogenes remark: "Y desire that þou wolde stonde owte of the sonne, and lette hyt not to schyne in to myne howse" (ed. Lumby, vol. 3, p. 309). In the Confessio, Gower puts it this way:
Thanne hove out of mi sonne,
And let it schyne into mi tonne;
For thou benymst me thilke gifte,
Which lith noght in thi miht to schifte.
Non other good of thee me nedeth (3.1307-11).
Diogenes has proven himself to be mightier than Alexander because there was nothing the king could give the philosopher and nothing he could take away from him. As Peck notes: "The king compulsively wages wars under the illusion of power in hope of conquering faraway lands; Diogenes enjoys the sun at home in his tub, a sun far beyond the emperor's grasp. The tale makes it clear that Diogenes, not Alexander, is the true king" (Kingship and Common Profit in Gower's Confessio Amantis, p. 87). This well-known anecdote can be traced back to the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca. See Cary, Medieval Alexander, pp. 275-76, for a chart listing other medieval versions of this exchange.

132-34 These lines contain a good example of the misogyny typical of medieval wisdom literature.

134 womman is an harme that maye nat be eschewed. For other manifestations of this maxim, see Whiting W527.

146-47 Alexander's portrayal in the Diogenes section is indicative of his characterization throughout Dicts and Sayings. In my lecture entitled "One of These Things Is Not like the Others," I argued that the king's many appearances in this work combine to show him evolving from an arrogant tyrant into a submissive pupil, an arrangement meant to promote one of the author's central objectives for Dicts and Sayings, the encouragement of obedience to intellectual authority. The first few anecdotes involving Alexander and Diogenes, including those about the servant and the gift, showed a vain and imprudent Alexander humbled by wisdom. Their next few exchanges (e.g., lines 49-55, 90-96) centered on the philosopher's teachings, in which the king himself was given no opportunity to respond, but simply received the wisdom of Diogenes. This final anecdote about obtaining the grace of God demonstrates that Alexander has learned from the philosopher. Diogenes needs no parable, lecture, or witty maxim, for the king is now fully receptive to his teachings. When we meet him again in Aristotle, however, we witness him having to acquire that wisdom all over again. The reason is that the text presents three separate Alexander narratives, all telling very different stories, but all with one idea in common - their depiction of Alexander as a character who is constantly evolving. Through his discussions with wise men or his observations and experiences in the world, Alexander evolves from a vain tyrant into a wise king, and a better man. Reminiscent of Jeffrey Jerome Cohen's famous assertion that gender is never a static identity but rather a process of "becoming," the author of Dicts and Sayings has depicted a kind of perpetual "Alexander-in-progress." This portrait of Alexander is meant to serve as an example for the audience. We too are encouraged to undergo this process of submissively receiving the author's wisdom, learning from it, and applying it to our conduct. This is part of the main purpose of Dicts and Sayings, and, indeed, is one of the few strong threads that bind together this otherwise heterogeneous text. Dutiful and docile, Alexander does what the author wants us all to do: accept and internalize the teachings that he has ascribed to Diogenes and the other wise speakers. Cameron Louis argues that in this type of literature, the characterizations of "submissive learner" and "wise speaker" function as "a rhetorical device to validate the truth of the words recorded" ("Authority," p. 117). For the author of Dicts and Sayings there was no better way to demonstrate the supremacy of intellectual authority than to invoke a world-conqueror, only to have him be conquered, repeatedly, by a power far greater than his own.


73 not. I follow B in adding.

94 nat. G: word added above the line.

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10. Diogenes










Dyogenes was called of somme folke Chyennyne, that is to seye "he havynge a
condicioun of an hownde," and was the wisest man that was in his tyme, and dis-
preised gretly the worlde, and laye alwaies in a tunne whiche had nat but oon
bothum, the whiche he wolde alwey turne aboute whanne him luste to save him
from the grete heete of the sonne, and fro the wynde. And he wolde have none
othir hous, and wherever that he wente, he hadde this tunne with him and alwey
where that the nyght felle upon him, there wolde he reste in his tunne. And eete
and dranke at alle tymes whanne he hadde any hunger, were it nyght othir daye,
were it in the streete or in any othir place, withoute havynge any shame. And so he
levyd and he helde him wel content with two gownes of wollen cloth, and in suche
wise was he governed unto the tyme that he decessed. And somme asked him a
questioun - whi his surname was called Chyennyne. And he aunsuerd and seide:
for he abbayed to fooles and worshipped and pleased wismen. And the grete Ali-
saundir came to this Diogenes uppon a tyme for to [fol. 15v] speke with him, and Diogenes
sette but litil by him. And so Kinge Alisaundir asked him whi he sette so litil by
him, seenge that he was a mighty kinge and nothinge withstode him. To whome
he aunsuered and seide: "What have I to done with my servauntis servaunte?"
Thanne seide Alisaundre: "How maye I be servaunt to thi servaunte?" Diogenes
seide: "Yes, for I am lorde above all covetise and holde him undir my feete as my
servaunt, but covetise is thi maister and thu arte his servaunte, wherfore thu servest
him that is my servaunt." Thanne seide Alisaundir: "Yf there be anythinge that thu
wilt aske me that maye helpe thee in this worlde, I wole geve it thee." Diogenes
aunsuerd: "It were no reasoun that I shulde aske thee anything where that I am
riccher thanne thu arte, for that good that I have sufficeth bettir unto me thanne
alle the grete quantité of ricchesse that thu haste." Thanne Alisaundir asked him
a questyoun - ho shulde putte him into the erth whanne he was deed? "Forsothe,"
quod he, "he that wolde nat saver the stynke of my careyn." And thanne seide Dio-
genes: "He is nat good that kepith himself fro evell dedis, but he is good that doth
goode dedis." He sawe a yonge man that was of right goode maners, to whome he
seide: "The grete goodnesse that is in thee hath made right faire thi visage." And
somme asked him whanne it was tyme to eete and he aunsuerd: "What tyme that
a man hath his appetite and hath meete, and also he that hath nat wherof, whanne-
soever he maye have it." Thanne it was asked him what maner of men shulde be
called frendis. He aunsuerd and seide: "Thei that have but oon soulle in divers
bodies." And thanne he sawe a yonge man whiche shulde be maried, to whome he
seide that a litil reste engendred grete labour. And it was asked him a questioun
- from what maner thinge a man shulde kepe him fro. And he aunsuerd and
seide that a man shulde kepe him fro the enemyté of his frende and fro the be-
gilinge of his enemye. And men asked him whi that he dispreised so the people,
and he aunsuered: "I dispreise the evell peple for their evel levynge, and the good
people for thei leve amonge the evel people." And he sawe a childe whiche was
ledde to be buryed, to whome he seide: "Thu arte deliverd of grete peyne." Ande
seith: "In lyke wise as the body empeireth in the colde wynter whanne it is froste
and snowe, in lyke wise the errour apperith in a man whanne he is angry and
wroth." And as he stoode, he sawe a man that pursewed a theef for to have taken
him, to the which he seid: [fol. 16r] "I have grete merveil how the pryvé theef purseweth the
open theef." And thanne it was asked him whi he wolde nat bye him an hous for to
reste him inne, and he aunsuerd agen and seide: "I reste me for that that I have
none hous." And seide to Alisaundir: "Loke thu thenke nat thiself the bettir for thi
grete beauté, for thi fair clothingis, nor for thi faire ridinge, but oonly for thi
goodnesse and thi fredome. And whanne that thu takest for evel that that thu seest
in othir men, loke thu bewar that thu have nat that same evel in thee. And whanne
thu seest an hounde that hath forsake his maistir for to sewe thee, caste stonys at
him and chaase him awey, for in lyke wise he wole forsake thee for to go with a-
nothir." And it was asked him whi he eete so in the streete, and he aunsuerd and
seide: for he was hungry in the streete. And he sawe a man whiche preyed God for
to sende him wisedame, to whom he aunsuerd and seide: "His preyers sufficed nat
in lasse thanne he wolde labour himself for to lerne firste." And seith: "The moste
profitable thinge that longeth unto man is for to speeke but litil." And seith: "It is
dishonesté and lewdnesse to geve laude to a man of a thinge that he never dede."
And in the tyme of Diogenes, ther was a peyntour whiche had lefte his crafte, and
was becomen a phesician, to whome he seide: "Thu knoweste wele that a man
might see at his yghe cleerly thi fautes whanne thu were a peyntour, but now thei
maye nat be knowen, for thei bene hidde undir erthe." And he sawe a faire man
whiche was a foole, of whome he seide: "See ye there a faire hous wherinne is
herborowed an evel hooste." Anothir tyme he sawe a fool sittinge upon a wyndowe
of stone, of whome he seid: "There sittes oon stone upon anothir." And it was
asked him what maner thinge was love, and he aunsuerd and seide: "It was a mal-
adie that came to the people by to grete ydelnesse, and for to be excercised in othir
thingis." And it was asked him what maner thinge was ricches, and he aunsuerd:
"A man to absteyne himself from covetise." And it fortuned that Diogenes was
taken with seeknesse, and his frendis came to him and vesited him, and bade him
not to be douteful, and that it come to him by the sonde of God. And he aunsuerd
hem and seide that it was to him the gretter feere and doute. Upon a tyme he sawe
an olde man that dyed his heeris of his hed, whiche were white, and made hem
black, to whome he seide: "Thu maiste wel hide thi white heeris, but thu maiste nat
hide thyne age." Also, he sawe a foole that ware a rynge of golde, to whome he [fol. 16v]
seide: "It makith thee more fool thanne it makith thee fair." And seith: "It is bettir
and thu be diseased that thu go to the leeche thanne to abide til the leeche come
to thee; and in like wise, I seye of the leeche of the soulle." And seith: "Whanne thu
wilte correcte any man, shewe nat that thu doest it by vengeaunce, but do lyke as
the leeche dothe to the seek man, that is to seye: softely and easily. But whanne thu
wilt correcte thiself, dispose thiself as the seek man dothe to the leeche." And it was
asked him a question - how a man myght do for to kepe himself from anger. And
he aunsuerd and seide that a man shulde have alwey in his remembraunce that he
shal nat be served himself at alle tymes, but that he muste nedis serve othir men
somtymes; and that at alle tymes men wil nat obbeye him, but it is convenyente to
him for to obbeye otherwhiles; and as othir maye nat allwaies endure with him, but
he must suffir and endure of othir; and so remembre himself and it shal appese his
ire. Upon a tyme he sawe a gestour before Kinge Alisaundir as he was at his meete,
and this gestoure in his seyenge gave outeragious grete laude unto Kinge Ali-
saundre. And whereas the people gave gretly here entente for to here his geest,
this Diogenes began for to eete faster thanne he dede before. And thanne men
asked him whi he herkened nat that songe and those fair wordis. Diogenes aun
suered and seide: "Forsothe," quod he, "I do more profitable thinge thanne for to
here lesingis." And seide: "What is worthe to thee alle thi thankingis, for thu shalt
never be the bettir for hem." And seith: "Speke nat before a straungier unto the
tyme that thu haste herde him speke firste, that thu maiste undirstande whedir his
lernynge be bettir thanne thyne. And yf thu see that he speke bettir and wiselier
thanne thiself, holde thi peas, lerne of him. And yf it be nat so, thu maiste speeke
the more surely." And seith to his dissiples: "Loke ye obbeye you amyably to hem
that wille with good will geve you here counsell." And somme asked him what was
beste thinge for his soulle, and he aunsuerd and seide: "That thinge that maye nat
be overcomen with covetyse." Ther were somme delicious men that blamed him
for his levynge, to whome he aunsuerd and seide: "It is wele in my power for to lefe
aftir your lyffe yf it pleased me, and it is nat in youre power to leve aftir my lev-
ynge." And somme seide unto him that thei herde diverse persones speke right
ungoodely wordis in his absence, to whom he aunsuerd and seide: "Though othir
men hadde beeten hem that seyden so oute of my presence, it shal be nothinge to
me." And he sawe cer [fol. 17r] teigne folkis which soughte the love of wommen by geftis,
by gownes, by silver, and by jewellis, to whome he seide: "Ye teche the wommen for
to love ricchesse and thei be nat worthy thereto." And seithe: "He is a churle that
aunsuereth dishonestly to him that speketh lewedly to him, and he is a noble man
that aunsuerith him paciently." And seith: "Ther is no bettir thresoure thanne
wisdame and discrecion, nor gretter poverté thanne ignoraunce, ne bettir frendis
thanne goode maners, nor bettir governaunce thanne fortune, nor bettir creaunce
thanne good techinge." And seith that seeknesse is the pryson of the body, and
hevynesse is the pryson of the soule. And a man that was of grete lynage dispreised
him upon a tyme, to whome he aunsuerd and seide: "The gretenesse and the high-
nesse of my lynage is begonne at me, and that of thyne is comen oute of thee." And
the seide Diogenes was a man of litil language, wherefore somme men asked him
whi he spake no more thanne he dede. He aunsuerd and seide that the vertue of
a good man was in his eerys. And somme seide unto him that there was oon that
wolde slee him, and he aunsuerd and seide that "the man shulde do more harme
to himself thanne to me." There was a man that spake villeynously to him, to the
which he wolde geve none aunsuer; thanne it was asked him whi he wolde nat aun-
suer, and he seide: "I can no mor dishonoure him thanne he hath dishonoured
himself, for he hath contryved blame and seide villany to him that never dede him
trespas." And there was a man that asked him counsell, how he myghte wrath his
enemye. He aunsuerd him and seide: "Loke thu be right good." And seide: "Yf thu
wilte that thi goodnesse be gretely shewed to estraungiers, take hem for litil or
nought to thiself." And seith: "Yf thu geve power to thi wyfe to sette oonly here
feete upon thyne, on the nexste daye she wole sette him upon thyne hed." And
seith that womman is an harme that maye nat be eschewed. And seith: "Hosomever
he be that doth good for the goodnesse of the good oonly, he shulde do it before
every man withoute thanke or blame." And men asked him whanne a man myghte
knowe his frende, and he aunsuered agen: "In his necessites, for in prosperité
every man is a frende." And men seide to him grete velanye, natwithstandinge he
was nat wroth; thanne it was asked him whi he was so paciente. He aunsuered and
seide that "these men that have spoken this to me, outher thei have seide truly of
me, or ellis thei have made lesynges. And yf thei have seide truly upon me, I ought
nat to be wrothe with hem [fol. 17v] for seyenge of trouthe. And yf thei have seide untruly
by me, I ought to be lasse wrothe, for thei wote nat what thei seye." And he sawe
a man that hadde so moche language that no man myght make him holde his pes,
to whome he seide: "Frende, thu haste two eres and but oon mouth, by the whiche
thu shuldeste double as meche here as speeke." And Alisaundir asked him how he
myght geete the grace of God, and he aunsuered: "In doyng goode dedis." Dio-
genes sawe a faire yonge man that dede grete peyne for to lerne, to whome he
seide: "My sone, thu doste right wele, for it is thi wille for to assemble goodnesse
with thi beauté."

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