5. Homer

5. HOMER: FOOTNOTES

1 vercifiour, poet.

4 bonde man, slave.

6 efte, again.

7 bye, buy.

8 doste, do.

10 deliverd, released.

14 leve, live.

15 baret, conflict.

16 her, their.

18 doth, does; or, ere (before); lette, hindered.

19 hool, whole; connynge, knowing; shyneth, shines.

20 to, too.

22 semblaunt, appearance.

23 merveile, marvel.

28 see, sea.

30 ylonde, island; drough, drew.

35 navire, navy.

37 berith, bears.

40 and2, if.

42 dispreysed, denounced.

45 knowelech, knowledge.

48 marchaundyse, commerce.

51 noyaunce, annoyance.

5. HOMER: EXPLANATORY NOTES

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 Omer. His true identity has been lost to history, but tradition indicates that he was the blind poet who composed the Iliad and the Odyssey in the eighth or ninth century BC. He did not, however, "write" these poems in the conventional sense; the Homeric epics are the products of oral formulaic composition and were passed down orally for many years before they assumed their current written form. For the pioneering work on oral formulaic poetry, see Lord, Singer of Tales. In the Middle Ages, however, Homer's tales were known mainly through Latin paraphrases and retellings. The most common were the alleged eyewitness accounts of Dares Phrygius and Dictys Cretensis, whose (probably fictitious) testimony exists in Latin prose narratives dating to the fourth or fifth century AD. These texts provided the ultimate source material for virtually all medieval accounts of the Trojan War. See Frazer, Trojan War. Another important source for Homeric material in the Middle Ages was the Achilleid, an unfinished epic poem of Publius Papinius Statius (c. AD 45-96).

vercifiour. This sounds like more of a renaissance word than a medieval one, but an early form of "versifier" was in use in England as early as 1340 (OED).

2 and was aftir Moyses five hundred and thre skore yer. In encyclopedic works like Dicts and Sayings, an event or a person's life is often dated in relation to major biblical episodes. This practice is pervasive in the historical narrative of Higden's Polychronicon, for instance, but perhaps the most famous medieval example is Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, which contextualizes the deeds of Brutus and the other legendary kings by explaining to the reader what else was going on in the world at that time. The following passage from Geoffrey illustrates this tradition well, and also happens to include a reference to Homer himself:
Gwendolen reigned for fifteen years after the death of Locrinus, who had himself reigned ten years. As soon as she realized that her son Maddan had grown to man's estate, she passed the sceptre of the realm to him, being content herself with the province of Cornwall for the remainder of her life.
   At that time the prophet Samuel was reigning in Judea, Aeneas Silvius was still alive and Homer was considered to be a famous rhetorician and poet. (Trans. Thorpe, p. 78)
Higden (through his anonymous English translator) notes that there is confusion about when Homer lived: "somme men say that he was in the c. yere, other in the cxlti yere, and mony men in the clxxx., after the takenge of Troye. And mony men suppose that Omerus was a fore the takenge of Troye" (Polychronicon, ed. Lumby, vol. 2, p. 441).

4 The whiche Omer was taken and solde lyke a bonde man. I have been unable to track down the origins of the tradition of Homer as a slave.

39-40 Kepe thee from vices and covetyses, for and thu be covetous, thu shalt be poure. For other manifestations of this maxim, see Whiting C494.

5. HOMER: TEXTUAL NOTES

8 To what entente. G: To inserted above what by main scribe.

31 of geometry. G: written in the lower right margin.

36-37 And seith that man berith upon himself two byrdons. A word is canceled out between man and berith.

 
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