9. Pythagoras

9. PYTHAGORAS: FOOTNOTES

1 passinge, surpassingly

3 synne, sin

5 teche, teach

6 congruly, correctly

7 covenable, appropriate

13 wretyn, written

15 to moch, too much

17 Ho, Who

19 nygh, near

23 doste, do

24 amys, amiss

25 merveylle, marvel

32 herest, hear

33 lesingis, lies

35 etynge, eating

37 to2, too.

38 attemperaunce, moderation

42 jangeller, jester

45 as leef, as soon

46 germeynes, kinsmen

47 rightwosly, righteously

48 here, hear

49 Stablisshe, Establish

53 proufyte, profit

55 marchaundises, merchandise

58 And, If; renne, run

66 beseche, beseech

67–68 and this wise doynge, in this way of doing

72 Preve, Prove; her, their

75 to moche, too much

84 seche, beseech

86 peas, peace

88 pitte, pit

88–89 coveytise, covetousness

89 devoir, duty

96 odir, others

100 doome beestis, dumb beasts

103–04 parreynge, bickering

105 ryally, royally

106 Outher, Either

107 Cecile, Sicily

110 leeche, physician; wexeth, waxes (becomes)

113 soone, son; secheste, seek

116 thenkith, thinks

118 or, ere; werche, work.

122 lithe parfite, lies perfect

124 paas, pace; gothe, go; Attempre, Temper

125 to, too.

128 caytifenesse, churlishness

131 dispreyse, dispraise/denounce

136 privé, privy

138 derke, dark

139 salewinge, saluting

142 to lewde, too ignorant; maugracious, ugly

144 and1, if

147 arne, are; her, their

149 deed, dead

157 messis, masses.

9. PYTHAGORAS: 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 Pyctagoras. Pythagoras (c. 580–c. 507 BC), the Greek mathematician. His work with mathematics led him to create a complete philosophical and religious system rooted in numbers. His followers maintained a secret society and obeyed the ascetic lifestyle and rigid moral code that their founder set forth. The Pythagoreans made a lasting impact on Greek thought, in that most subsequent philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, were heavily influenced by this tradition. The impact of the Pythagoreans can be seen, for instance, in the geometric theories of Euclid (fl. 300 BC) and his disciples, and in the study of musical harmony - medieval tradition held that Pythagoras discovered the mathematical ratios behind harmonic intervals when he heard the sound of differently weighted hammers falling simultaneously upon a blacksmith's anvil. For another medieval account of Pythagoras' life and teachings, see Higden's version (Polychronicon, ed. Lumby, vol. 3, pp. 188–212).

10–11 the goodnesse of a frende shulde be knowen. For other manifestations of this maxim, see Whiting G337.

11 two hundred eighty volumes of bookis. Today nothing is known of Pythagoras' actual writings. The Latin Liber Philosophorum Moralium Antiquorum has the same number ("CCLXXX libros" [ed. Francheschini, p. 428]), while the earlier Spanish Bocados de Oro (with some variation among manuscripts) puts the number at 180: "ciento e ochenta libros" (ed. Knust, p. 133).

12 Fanus. Samos, the birthplace of Pythagoras.

13–15 And seide also that oure creacion cometh of God; also, it is convenyente that oure soulles retorne to Him. Pythagoras sounds like a proto–Christian here. In reality, the philosopher and his followers believed in the transmigration of souls, the notion that souls reincarnate into different - and not necessarily human - bodies. Higden (through his anonymous English translator) puts it this way: "Pictagoras putte sawles after this dethe corporealle to goe from body to body" (Polychronicon, ed. Lumby, vol. 3, p. 197).

72–73 Preve men by her werkis, and nat by her seyengis, for thu shalt fynde many that wole do evel and speke faire wordis. See also Zedechye, lines 80–82; Loginon, lines 104–05; and The Last Philosophers, lines 304–05. For other manifestations of this maxim, see Whiting W642.

86–87 the tyme for to holde his peas and the tyme for to speke. Pythagoras appears to have read Ecclesiastes 3:7. See Whiting T315 for numerous literary appearances of the maxim.

9. PYTHAGORAS: TEXTUAL NOTES

14 retorne. G: r is added above the line.

18 he. G: word added above the line.

53 And. G: nd preceded by a blank space for a capital A.

 
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[fol. 12v] Pyctagoras seide that it was a passinge good thinge for to serve God and to
make holy alle his humanytees; to preyse the worlde and use justice and other
goode dedis; to absteyne himself fro synne. And also he seith: "It is good for to
have cunnynge, for to knowe the trouthe of thingis; and every man for to love
othir; and also to use fastingis; and men shulde studye for to lerne and to teche the
men and the wymmen." And also he ordeigned for to speke congruly, and seide
that the soulle is everlastynge, and covenable for to resceive meritis and peynes.
And he was so attempre in his diete that he was never gretter, ne smaller, ne more
leene, oon tyme thanne anothir. And he was right subtile and loved bettir to do
wele to his frendis thanne to himself, seyenge that the goodnesse of a frende
shulde be knowen. And compiled two hundred eighty volumes of bookis, and was
borne in Fanus. And seide that the evel nat durable is bettir thanne the good nat
durable, and that was wretyn in his signet and on his girdel. And seide also that
oure creacion cometh of God; also, it is convenyente that oure soulles retorne to
Him. And seith: "Yf thu wilt knowe God, enforce thee nat to moch for to knowe
men." And seith that the wiseman takith none heede to serve God with wordis
oonly, but with dedis. And seith that it is wisedame for to love God. And seith: "Ho
that loveth God wole do the dedis that God loveth; and he that loveth to do the
werkis that God loveth, he is of God; and he that is of God is nygh his neyghbour."
And seith: "God is nat worshipped by sacrefices and othir thingis as bene offred
unto him, but oonly by acceptable wille." And seith: "Ho that spekith moche, it is
a token that he hath but litil knowelech." And seith: "Loke thu have alweye remem-
braunce, in everything [fol. 13r] that thu doste or makeste, that God is by thee and seeth
what thu dost; and by that thu shalt be shamefaste for to do amys. And God allone
knoweth man that is wise and dredith Him, and therfore merveylle thee nat
though men knowe nat thee." And seith that God hath no more covenable thinge
upon the erth thanne the soulle that is pure and clene. And seith that a man shulde
speke of noble and goode thingis; and yf it be not his ease for to speke, at the leest
lete him heere hem that speken of goode thingis. And seith: "Loke thu eschewe
alle fylthes as wel of thiself as of othir persones, and specially of thyn owen self."
And seith: "Looke thu gete thi goodis of this worlde truly and in worshipfull man-
er, and loke thu dispende hem in lyke wise." Ande seith: "Whanne thu herest any
lesingis, loke thu be paciente in the heryng of hem; and do suche deedis that the
people aught nat to seye evell." And seith: "Attende to the helth of thi body and
loke thu tempre thiself in etynge and drynkynge, of lyenge with wommen, and in
alle othir labours; and do so with thi power that othir folkis shulde have no cause
to envye thee." And seith: "Be nat to outeragious a spender, and be nat suche a
negarde that thu shalt be servaunt to thi goodis, but loke thu have attemperaunce
and mesure, whiche that bene profitable to alle thingis." And seith: "Loke thu be
wakinge in thi counceil, for thi slepinge shal make thee partener with the deth."
And seith: "Medle nat with that thinge that thu haste nat adoo of." And seithe that
the talis of a jangeller, his preyers and his sacrefices, bene displeasaunte and con-
trarie unto God. And seith: "It is bettir a man to blame himself thanne to blame his
frendis." And seith: "He that holdeth himself nat contente maye nat abide trouth."
And seith: "He that hath no cunnynge, he hadde as leef be blamed as preised."
And seith: "Take hem for thi germeynes that helpen thee to lernynge." And seith:
"The juge that dothe nat his jugementis rightwosly deserveth to have all evell."
And seith: "Kepe thi tunge and speke no vileynous thingis, nor also that thu here
hem not." And seith: "Stablisshe thiself that thu maiste governe thi lyffe by wyse-
dom." And seith: "A man shulde nat enforce himself in this worlde to make grete
bildingis, ne that he shulde leeve grete goodis behynde him, aftir his deth, to the
servyce of othir folke, but he shulde enforce himself to gete and gadre suche
thingis as maye proufyte him aftir his deth." And seith: "It is bettir for a man to lye
in a woode and to beleeve stedfastly on God thanne for to lye in a bedde of cloth
of golde and [fol. 13v] make any doutes of God." And seith: "Make thi marchaundises that
thei maye be spirituall and nat corporall, and undir that fourme thi wynnynge shal
be good." And seith that pitee is the fundacion of the feere and drede of God. And
seith: "And thu woldeste renne in any thought that cometh upon thee, thu muste
defende thee." And seith: "Make redy thi soulle to resceive thingis whiche that
bene covenable and longynge to thee, be it good or evel." And seith: "Put oute fro
thee the vanytees of this worlde, for thei hurte the reasoun." And seith: "Thu
shuldeste nat sleepe in the nyght unto the tyme that thu haste remembred thee of
alle the dedis that thu haste done in the daye: yf thu have erred and wherinne, and
yf thu have done anythinge that thu oughtest nat for to have done, or ellis that thu
haste nat done thingis that thu shuldest have done. And yf thu fynde that thu haste
done any evel thinge, repente thee and beseche God of mercy. And yf thu have
done any good thinge, loke thu be glad and thanke God hertily. And this wise
doynge, thu maiste come to His grace." And seith: "Whanne thu wilt begynne to
do anythinge, firste beseche God that He wole helpe thee to perfourme it." And
seith: "Yf thu have be in fellaship with any man whiche was nat covenable to be thi
felawe and true frende, yet kepe alwaies that he be nat thyne enemy." And seith:
"Preve men by her werkis, and nat by her seyengis, for thu shalt fynde many that
wole do evel and speke faire wordis." And seith: "A man shulde nat erre, and yf he
erred, he shulde knowe his erroure and kepe himself from dronkennesse." And
seith that wyne is enemye to the soulle, for yf he take to moche, it shal corupt his
dedis in suche wise as a man shulde joyne fyre and fyre togedre. And seith: "A man
shulde be obeisaunt to his lord and nat oonly so moche that his liberté shulde be
uttirly empeched." And seith that it is more covenable thinge for a man to dye
thanne for to put his soulle in everlastinge derknesse. And seith: "Lette nat for to
do goode dedis though so be that thei be nat pleasinge to the worlde." And seith:
"Loke thu do thi power that thu maiste alwaye kepe thi soulle in good estate, how-
soever it falle of thi body." And seith that the pure and clene soulle hath no delite
in erthely thingis. And seithe: "Go nat the weyes where soulles growen." And seith:
"It behoveth thee to seche for thiself and nat for thi good." And seith that it is nat
convenyente for to do all that a man coveiteth, but do that that longeth unto him.
And a man shulde knowe the tyme for to holde [fol. 14r] his peas and the tyme for to speke.
And seith: "Ho that restreyneth not and kepith nat his soulle withinne his body,
that place shal be as a pitte." And seith: "He is free that lettith for no maner of cov-
eytise to do his devoir to the savynge of his soulle." And seith: "Put oute of thi will
alle coveityses, and thanne trouthe shal be shewed unto thee." And seith: "A man
maye nat knowe so wel as for to enquere." And somme asked him ho him seemed
that was free. He aunsuerd and seide: "He that was boonde to honestee." And
seith: "He is nat verry pacient that endureth as meche as he maye, but he is pacient
that substeyneth and endureth over possibilité." And seith: "In like wise as a leech
is nat holden for good where that othir men healyn, and can nat heale himself, in
like wise he maye be called no good governour that commaundeth odir for to es-
chewe vices and can nat kepe himself therefro." And seith: "The worlde varieth
oon tyme with thee, anothir tyme fro thee; thanne, yf thu maye rule it, thenke that
thu wilt reule it wele; and yf it reule thee, thu muste meeke thiself." And seith:
"Moch evel cometh to doome beestis, for thei speke not and to men for thei have
to moche language." And seith: "With grete peyne maye he be greved that maye
withstande himself from foure thingis. That is for to seye: from to grete hastynesse,
and he repente himself; from pride, for it shal cause him to have hate; from par-
reynge with his bettir, for he shal be depressed; from pertinence, perdicion." And
sawe a man spekinge lewedly, and wele and ryally arraied, to whome he seide:
"Outher speke aftir thyne arraye or ellis clothe thee aftir thi language." And the
king of Cecile preied him that he wolde dwelle with him, to whome he aunsuerd
and seide: "Thi dedis bene contrarye to proufite, and thyne office distroieth the
foundement of the feithe, and for that cause I wole nat dwelle with thee, for that
leeche is nat seure that amonge his seeke men wexeth seek himself." And seide to
his dissiples: "Coveite no maner of thingis that oon hath for ther qualité or for ther
knowelech, but gete hem that bene loved of hemself." And seith: "Yf thu wilt that
thi soone or thi servaunt make no maner faulte, thu secheste that thinge that is
oute of nature." And seith: "The soulle is in dilectacioun and joie amonge the
goode men, and in sorowe and hevynesse among the badde men." And seith: "The
wiseman thenkith upon his soulle as diligently as doth anothir upon his body." And
seith: "Take suche to thi frendis as that thu seest followe trouthe." And seith:
"Thenke before or thu werche." And seith: "In lyke wise as the leeche maye nat [fol. 14v]
goodely heele the seek man withoute that he telle him the trouthe of his seeknesse,
in lyke wise a man maye nat be wel counseilled of his frend, but yf he telle him the
trouthe of his matier, nor he shal nat longe have his love." And seith: "In many
enemyes lithe parfite truste, for oon takith heed to the tother." And whanne Pic-
tagoras sate in his chayer, he spake of suche chastisingis and seide: "Dresse youre
feete and also youre paas and gothe wisely. Attempre youre coveityses and youre
helth shal dure. Use justice and ye shal have love, and geve nat to grete dilecta-
ciouns to youre body, for ye shal nat suffre aftir the advercites whanne thei come."
And seith: "I allowe nat the ricchesses that bene lightly and freely loste, nor thes
richesses that bene goten and holden by fals coveityse and by caytifenesse." And
he sawe an olde man that was ashamed for to lerne, to whome he seide: "Whi hast
thu shame for to lerne? Cunnynge is more worth to thee in the ende of thi dayes
thanne it was in the begynnynge." And seith: "Yf thu wilt dispreyse thyne enemye,
loke it appere nat by thi countenaunce that he is thyne enemye." And seith: "A
kinge ought to thenk diligently upon the estate of his realme and to visite it as ofte
as the good gardener dothe his gardeyne." And seith: "The kinge shulde be the
firste man that shulde kepe the lawes, and aftir him thei that bene moste nexste
him and moste privé frendis." And seith: "It belongith nat to a kinge for to be
proude, nor use nat oonly his owen counsell, nor to put himself in no place but he
knowe it wele, nor to ryde in derke nyghtis; but he shulde be gladde of visage, in
loking and salewinge goodely the people, and be conversaunte goodely among
hem but nat to famylier, for the people can considre right wel suche thingis. And
the wommen that shulde serve the quene shulde be of fifty yeris or above, and his
men and servauntis shulde nat be to olde, to lewde, ne maugracious. And whanne
the kinge wol sleepe, leete him have alweies somme of his men aboute him for to
kepe him, whiche he shulde punysshe and thei made faute of their attendance; and
that he bewar that he eete nat of the meete that a jellous womman geveth him, ne
of no suspecte persone." And seith: "Thei that desiren the coveityse of their bodies,
thei arne boonde to her witte, and thei that desiren spirituell thingis bene boonde
to resoun." And seith: "A good man thenketh ofte upon his synnes, and an evel
man thenkith moche upon his vertues." And for his wyfe was deed in a straunge
cuntré, somme came to him and asked him whedir [fol. 15r] there were any difference for
to deye in a mannes owen cuntree or in another cuntrey. He aunsuerd and seide:
"Where that ever a man dwell, alle is oon weye into anothir werlde." And thei
asked him what was the moste delectable thinge to man, and he aunsuerd: "That
thinge that man desireth." And seide to a yonge man that wolde nat lerne: "Childe,
yf thu wilt nat lerne, thu shalt have the peyne of no cunnyng." And seith: "God
loveth him that wol nat obbeye to his evell thoughtis." And seith that goode wordis
bene the beste messis that God maye be presented with. And seith: "Loke before
or thu desire anythinge of God that thu do suche dedis as God maye be pleased
with."


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