The Canterbury Tales
Notes to the Sompnour's Tale
NOTES TO THE PROLOGUE
1. Carrack: A great ship of burden used by the Portuguese; the name is from the Italian,
"cargare," to load
2. In less than half a furlong way of space: immediately; literally, in less time than it takes to
walk half a furlong (110 yards).
NOTES TO THE TALE
1. Trentals: The money given to the priests for performing thirty masses for the dead, either in
succession or on the anniversaries of their death; also the masses themselves, which were very
profitable to the clergy.
2. Possessioners: The regular religious orders, who had lands and fixed revenues; while the
friars, by their vows, had to depend on voluntary contributions, though their need suggested
many modes of evading the prescription.
3. In Chaucer's day the most material notions about the tortures of hell prevailed, and were
made the most of by the clergy, who preyed on the affection and fear of the survivors, through
the ingenious doctrine of purgatory. Old paintings and illuminations represent the dead as torn
by hooks, roasted in fires, boiled in pots, and subjected to many other physical torments.
4. Qui cum patre: "Who with the father"; the closing words of the final benediction pronounced at
5. Askaunce: The word now means sideways or asquint; here it means "as if;" and its force is
probably to suggest that the second friar, with an ostentatious stealthiness, noted down the
names of the liberal, to make them believe that they would be remembered in the holy beggars'
6. A Godde's kichel/halfpenny: a little cake/halfpenny, given for God's sake.
7. Harlot: hired servant; from Anglo-Saxon, "hyran," to hire; the word was commonly applied to
8. Potent: staff; French, "potence," crutch, gibbet.
9. Je vous dis sans doute: French; "I tell you without doubt."
10. Dortour: dormitory; French, "dortoir."
12. The Rules of St Benedict granted peculiar honours and immunities to monks who had lived
fifty years -- the jubilee period -- in the order. The usual reading of the words ending the two
lines is "loan" or "lone," and "alone;" but to walk alone does not seem to have been any peculiar