The Canterbury Tales
Notes to the Prologue
1. Tyrwhitt points out that "the Bull" should be read here, not "the Ram," which would place the
time of the pilgrimage in the end of March; whereas, in the Prologue to the Man of Law's Tale,
the date is given as the "eight and twenty day of April, that is messenger to May."
2. Dante, in the "Vita Nuova," distinguishes three classes of pilgrims: palmieri - palmers who go
beyond sea to the East, and often bring back staves of palm-wood; peregrini, who go the shrine
of St Jago in Galicia; Romei, who go to Rome. Sir Walter Scott, however, says that palmers
were in the habit of passing from shrine to shrine, living on charity -- pilgrims on the other hand,
made the journey to any shrine only once, immediately returning to their ordinary avocations.
Chaucer uses "palmer" of all pilgrims.
3. "Hallows" survives, in the meaning here given, in All Hallows -- All-Saints -- day. "Couth,"
past participle of "conne" to know, exists in "uncouth."
4. The Tabard -- the sign of the inn -- was a sleeveless coat, worn by heralds. The name of the
inn was, some three centuries after Chaucer, changed to the Talbot.
5. In y-fall," "y" is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon "ge" prefixed to participles of verbs. It is used
by Chaucer merely to help the metre In German, "y-fall," or y-falle," would be "gefallen", "y-
run," or "y-ronne", would be "geronnen."
6. Alisandre: Alexandria, in Egypt, captured by Pierre de Lusignan, king of Cyprus, in 1365 but
abandoned immediately afterwards. Thirteen years before, the same Prince had taken Satalie,
the ancient Attalia, in Anatolia, and in 1367 he won Layas, in Armenia, both places named just
7. The knight had been placed at the head of the table, above knights of all nations, in Prussia,
whither warriors from all countries were wont to repair, to aid the Teutonic Order in their
continual conflicts with their heathen neighbours in "Lettowe" or Lithuania (German.
"Litthauen"), Russia, &c.
8. Algesiras was taken from the Moorish king of Grenada, in 1344: the Earls of Derby and
Salisbury took part in the siege. Belmarie is supposed to have been a Moorish state in Africa;
but "Palmyrie" has been suggested as the correct reading. The Great Sea, or the Greek sea, is
the Eastern Mediterranean. Tramissene, or Tremessen, is enumerated by Froissart among the
Moorish kingdoms in Africa. Palatie, or Palathia, in Anatolia, was a fief held by the Christian
knights after the Turkish conquests -- the holders paying tribute to the infidel. Our knight had
fought with one of those lords against a heathen neighbour.
9. Ilke: same; compare the Scottish phrase "of that ilk," -- that is, of the estate which bears the
same name as its owner's title.
10. It was the custom for squires of the highest degree to carve at their fathers' tables.