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Middle English animal fable : a study in genre Silkens, Rose-Marie 1974

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(J MIDDLE ENGLISH ANIMAL FABLE - A STUDY IN GENRE  ROSE-MARIE SILKENS B. A., University of Victoria, 19&9 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in the Department of English  We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard  The University of British Columbia May, 197^  In presenting  this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for  an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may by his representatives.  be granted by the Head of my Department or  It is understood that copying or publication  of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission.  Department of  English  The University of British Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada  [> te a  10 May 197k  ABSTRACT This study examines animal fables written in Middle English.  While  the purposes and methods of these narratives differ widely, an examination of them bears out the thesis that the characterization peculiar to animal fable is the basis of the fulfillment of these several purposes. Middle English animal fables extant range i n type from brief Aesopic prose narratives in homilies and treatises to sophisticated narrative poems, and i n time from the thirteenth century to the late fifteenth century, although some exempla in homilies are believed to have earlier origins. Many of the brief exempla fables are the work of anonymous compilers, while the poets Chaucer, Langland, Lydgate and Henryson also used the genre, the two latter having written collections. The Middle English animal fables are not exclusively didactic.  Indeed,  Chaucer's Nun's Priest's Tale and the thirteenth-century The Vox and the Wolf are predominantly comic in tone, as are Lydgate's "The Churl and the Bird" and many of Henryson's Morail F a b i l l i s .  Satire also plays an impor-  tant part in a definition of the nature of fable, and the use of animal characters for the purposes of p o l i t i c a l and social criticism is common to medieval manifestations of the genre. The depiction of animal characters combining traits both bestial and human is the basic characteristic of the fables.  In the simple exempla or  in heavily didactic or satirical narratives, the characterization is not developed beyond what is necessary to clarify the implications for the human world.  The best fables, however, develop the ironies of fable characteriza-  tion, usually i n a comic way, into lively and entertaining animal tales that reflect in various ways upon the human beings who serve as models for the  ii  characters. Although the Middle English animal fable includes brief narratives in the style of the Aesopic apologue as well as lengthier poems similar to the continental beast epic cycles, the common manner of portraying animals and developing the portrayals is to be found i n a l l .  The fables  of Lydgate, Henryson and Chaucer combine basic Aesopic plots with beast epic characteristics. The animal fable in the hands of Middle English writers, while i n i t i a l l y an imitative genre relying upon reworkings of Classical models, becomes a well-developed and highly entertaining form of narrative poetry.  M. A. Manzalaoui, Supervisor  iii  CONTENTS 1  Introduction:  A Brief History of Medieval Fable Tradition  Chapter One:  The Fable as Exemplum  10  Chapter Two:  The Fables of John Lydgate  38  Chapter Three:  Robert Henryson's Transformation of the Moral Fable  54  The Beast Epics and Middle English Animal Fable  88  The Apogee of the Beast Fable: Chaucer's Nun's Priest's Tale  111  Chapter Four: Chapter Five: Chapter Six:-'  Satire and Social Criticism i n the Animal Fable  lh9  Conclusions  171-  Bibliography  177  1  INTRODUCTION A BRIEF HISTORY OF MEDIEVAL FABLE TRADITION The fable is not a genre one associates particularly with the Middle Ages, and yet i t was during the Middle Ages that the fable rose to i t s peak of popularity in Western Europe.  Part of i t s popularity no doubt stemmed  from its usefulness as a vehicle for moral instruction, and alongside the popular collections we find compilations made for the use of clerics. Although usually characterized as a "low" genre, the fable was also taken up by literary men and developed into some of the most vigorous verse that remains to us from the medieval period.  This ubiquitous genre, although  never given the literary esteem of other medieval genres, nevertheless boasts several prestigious exponents.  The achievements of Chaucer and  Henryson alone necessitate that we regard the medieval fable seriously, and attempt to ascertain why such immense diversities of style and achievement can exist within a single genre classification. The fable became known to medieval writers through two main collections. One, the fourth century Latin prose Romulus, claimed to be a direct translation from the Greek of Aesop, and this claim no doubt influenced its subsequent popularity, but the collection was actually a reworking of the Latin verse fables of Phaedrus, composed in the f i r s t century A. D.,^  and  of the other chief source drawn upon by medieval fabulists, the collection of Avianus,  2  dating from the third or fourth century.  were selected and translated from the Greek of Babrius, of the f i r s t century A. D. accepted as Aesop'e  r  These verse fables 3 a Hellenized Roman  The fables of Avianus, just as the Romulus, were  and were freely translated, rewritten, and selected for  other collections throughout the Middle Ages.  2  Generally speaking, the Romulus and the collection of Avianus contain l i t t l e literary excellence.  They are simple reworkings of the older Aesopic  fables, and inherit the characteristic sparseness and brevity of the Greek tradition from them.  Babrius and Phaedrus were the only Roman poets, so  far as is known, who attempted to treat the fable as a separate genre.  It  is commonly f e l t that Babrius' fables aspire to some literary excellence in purity of versification and precision of style. is quite different.  Phaedrus' style, however,  Rather than drawing generally applicable morals from  his narratives, he gives them specific political significances, and uses them as vehicles of protest.  However, in spite of their s a t i r i c a l tendency,  Phaedrus' fables are short and curt--"maigre et miserable," as one c r i t i c has k described the collection.  One other instance of a Latin fable deserves  mention, even though i t was not known in the Middle Ages, and that is the apologue of the city and country rats in a satire by Horace.  Phaedrus was  not the only Roman to discover the suitability of the fable as satire. The Greek fable tradition from which Phaedrus and Babrius drew their material was that of the Aesopic fable as we think of i t - - a brief narrative which includes only what points directly to the conclusion, which is a piece of good counsel or a precept of conduct.  The Greeks did make extensive use  of the fable, although scholars disagree as to whether or not they thought of i t as a distinct genre.  Aesop, i f he did exist, did not record the prose  stories he told, and he was not the f i r s t Greek to use the form. Works and Days there is a brief fable--"The Hawk and the  In Hesiod's  Nightingale"—which  shows a l l the traits of the "Aesopic" fable two centuries before Aesop, who through the testimony of Herodotus can be dated in the sixth century B. C. But regardless of their origin, the Greek fables a l l have the same characteristic brevity, a complete lack of embellishment, a narrative that includes  3  only what is necessary to convey and point to the "moral," and an instruct5 lve  purpose. This, then, was the Classical fable tradition as i t was passed on to  the Middle Ages through Avianus and the Romulus. The Greeks and Romans, however, were not the only fabulists.  It has been conjectured that the  Greek fable has oriental sources--Babrius states that the Greeks got the fable from the Syrians—and i t is known that Eastern apologues were spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages by the Arabs, by the Jews in Spain, and by returning Crusaders.  The Indian Pantcha-Tantra^ dates from about  the third century before Christ.  It was reworked, with additions, and  translated into Old Persian and Arabic before eventually appearing in Europe to enjoy a great vogue.  These fables have an instructive purpose,  but have a harsher tone than the Classical fables.  Many are concerned with  illustrating the harshness of l i f e with l i t t l e other alternative than resignation. ^ By the tenth century, the popularity of the Romulus and Avianus collections was established. The imitations, reworkings and compilations of fables were extensive.  Churchmen on the Continent and in England reworked  them for the use of schoolboys.  They employed them in their treatises and  compiled them for the use of other clerics, along with other didactic i l l u s trative tales.  The fables, s t i l l Aesopic in character, came to be used as  sermon exempla as well, and thus the need for collections increased. However, fables were not limited to u t i l i t a r i a n purposes.  The animal tales also  became popular for themselves, independent of the exemplum usage. Several French versions of Aesopic fables appeared as court poetry. Q At about the end of the twelfth century, Marie de France wrote her Fables, consisting of 103 vernacular poems in octosyllabic verse, dedicated to a  certain "cunte Williame." About a century and a half later, two collections of Ysopets enjoyed great popularity.  The Ysopets I, or Ysopet-  Avionnet, were composed in octosyllabic verse for Jeanne de Bourgogne. They include sixty-four fables from Romulus and eighteen from Avianus. Ysopets II consists of verse fables loosely translated from the late twelfthcentury Latin verse Novus Aesopus and Novus Avianus of Alexander of Neckam.9 Although these essentially Aesopic fables were intended for a lay audience, unlike most of the Latin fables they drew their material from, they are s t i l l heavily moral.  Even the fables of Marie de France reflect a greater  interest in the moral to be drawn from them than in the narrative i t s e l f , which is as terse and brief as the Classical Aesopic fables. Marie is original in one regard.  However,  In the morals appended to each fable,  she often stresses the injustices of the world that the fables reflect-the suppression of the weak by the strong.  As Phaedrus, Marie uses the  fable as a form of protest, but rather than turning them into p o l i t i c a l or other satire, she uses the "morals" to express sympathy for the unfortunate victim and to protest injustice i n a general humanitarian way. The animal narratives in Middle English are of many different types, even though the i n i t i a l sources for a l l are the basic Aesopic fables discussed above.  The characteristics of these fables, however, are not en-  tirely consistent, and some definition of "fable" ought to be attempted to ascertain the characteristics of the genre as i t was represented, by the thirteenth century, in works known to English fabulists. Tradition has established that the fable is a brief narrative with animals as characters, in prose or verse. Human characters may be included, but never exclusively.  This basic criterion is straightforward enough.  The animals' activities illustrate a truth about mankind that the author  5  wishes to communicate.  The animals thus have an illustrative, but not  necessarily an allegorical function.  The fable does present a moral or  a thesis in the form of narrative, as does an allegory, but the fable does not imply that the animals represent abstractions.  We must rule out  allegory as part of a definition, then, while admitting that the representative nature of the fable characters has the potential--often realized in the imitative medieval Aesopic fables--of robbing them of a good deal of vitality.  Also, we must turn to the kind of truth the author wishes to  communicate, and the way in which he does this, i . e. in a straightforward moral drawn directly from the narrative, or through the narrative i t s e l f , or in both ways.  Here we must turn to individual works.  In the fables of  Babrius and Avianus and in the Romulus collections we have brief animal narratives which illustrate a generally applicable thesis that is appended to the narrative proper. a general way.  The purpose is ostensibly moral, but the mcrral is cloaked in  an amusing story. tion.  The animals are representative of human beings in  However, not a l l Classical fables conform to this descrip-  Horace's one fable is satirical rather than forthrightly moral, and  its purpose is thus to point out a human weakness without supplying a moral set up as a general remedy.  Phaedrus fables serve a political purpose1  social and political particulars are applied, rather than the weaknesses of human beings in general.  These works were not known in the Middle Ages,  and yet similar satirical tendencies occur in many medieval fables. Whereas we can safely say that the fable is a prose or verse narrative in which animals are characters whose behaviour is meant to be representative of human beings, i t becomes more d i f f i c u l t to determine whether the nature of the fable is entirely didactic or satirical. I purpose to show in this study that in the Middle Ages there were  6  written a vast range of animal stories a l l practicably classifiable as fables.  Within the genre exist many different sorts of animal narratives,  but these have enough i n common to warrant a single classification.  Fables  range from the brief exempla used i n sermons and treatises, through the moralizing exercises of Lydgate and the fourteenth-century fable satires, to poems as accomplished as Chaucer's and Henryson's fables.  While the  simple Aesopic animal apologue appears throughout medieval literature, the Middle Ages also contributed a unique development of the genre, the delightfully anthropomorphized animals who in France and on the continent are immortalized in the Roman de Renart and i t s analogues, and are the characters of one of the finest poems in English literature.  The fable i s  indeed a genre admitting considerable diversity. The range of purpose in the fables we w i l l examine encompasses the purely didactic and the purely entertaining.  Within this range are fables  that combine entertainment and a "moral" to varying extents. The i n i t i a l raison d"e^re of medieval fable can be found in the literary theory that seeks to justify imaginative literature by i t s underlying ability to instruct as well as entertain.  This dual purpose, to teach and delight together, is  often cited by fabulists.  It is explained by Boccaccio as the value of  fiction. Such then is the power of fiction that i t pleases the unlearned by i t s external appearance, and exercises the minds of the learned with i t s hidden truth; and thus both are edified and delighted with one and the same perusal.^ This kind of reasoning provides the basis for the use of fables—and other fictional t a l e s — i n sermons and treatises.  Henryson and Lydgate cite this  purpose in the Prologues to their fables, and the Nun's Priest concludes his fable with the reminder that those who think his tale a f o l l y should find  7  the "fruyt" i n i t .  Caxton ends his translation of a Dutch version of the  Reynard epic with a moral justification as well: But for an example to the people that they may thereby the better use and follow virtue and to eschew sin and vices, in like wise may i t be by this book that who that w i l l read this matter, though i t be of japes and bourds, yet he may find therein many a good wisdom and learnings, by which he may come to virtue and worship. The writer of "A song on the Times" sees his fable as an exemplum—a vorbisen --that illustrates his complaint.  The fable provides the possibility for  a unique combination of entertainment and instruction, for while the sight of animals acting as human beings can be very amusing, the comic irony of that situation suggests things about human beings as well. The fable is not an animal story in the modern sense of the term. It is a tale that portrays animal characters who combine human and animal characteristics.  The combination is fraught with ironic possibilities.  The fable's interest is not in animals per se, but i n animal characters whose behaviour is modelled upon and i n turn reflects upon human behaviour. The purpose of the fabulist determines how and to what extent the reflection upon human beings is made, as well as the tone in which i t is made. Rather than dealing with the English fables in chronological order, I w i l l discuss them in the order suggested by the purposes they f u l f i l l and the way the characters are developed to f u l f i l l those purposes.  I hope to  show that, alongside the simple Aesopic, or moral, fable i s a literary fable, an example of high art, which does not confine the genre to any single purpose.  What warrants the single classification, however, is not only the  fact that animals are the characters, but that they are developed in a peculiar way. The characters of the briefest Aesopic fable are representations of truths about the human world, and when these characters are developed to  8  speak, think, and act in more detail than is allowed in a brief narrative, they can become independent characters who ironically figure the human beings upon whose behaviour they are modelled.  Set apart by the unreal  fable world, these characters can present a vivid picture of the human world.  Because of the nature of the fable's characterization, i t i s a  genre that lends i t s e l f particularly well to the depiction of human f r a i l t y and folly, and can do so satirically, didactically, or simply comically. From the simplest fox and wolf exemplum to the highly complex and b r i l l i a n t Nun's Priest's Tale, the range of the Middle English fable illustrates a common concern: the pointing out of human weakness i n a l l or any of i t s forms.  9 FOOTNOTES Leon Herrmann, ed. and trans., Phe'dre et ses fables (Leiden: B r i l l , 1950), Latin text and French translation. ^ Leon Herrmann, ed. and trans., Avianus. Oeuvres, Collection Latomus XCVL (Brussels: Latomus Revue d'^tudes Latines, 1968), Latin text and French translation. 3 Denisoh B. Hull, trans., Aesop's Fables told by Valerius Babrius (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, i 9 6 0 ) . ^ L€on Levrault, La Fable (Evolution du Genre) (Paris: Librairie Classique Delaplane, n. dTJl p. 26. 5 See fiiiile Chambry, ed., Esope Fables, 2nd ed. (Paris: Societe d'Edition "Les Belles Lettres", i 9 6 0 ) . Chambry edits and translated fables from Greek manuscripts, and provides a comprehensive discussion of the Greek tradition in his introduction, pp. i x - l i v . 6" The origins of the Sanskrit Pantcha-Tantra (or Hitopadesa) are obscure, but as a collection of - stories i t was translated into many oriental languages. In Arabic i t was entitled "Kalilah and Dimnah," after two jackals who were the central characters, or the "Fables of Pilpay," or "Bidpai," the name that was, among others, transmitted to Europe. See Hitopadesa, trans. Charles Wilkins (1886; rpt. Gainesville, Florida: Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1968), both Wilkins' Preface and the new Introduction by W. B. Stein; see also Charles R. Lanman, "Pilpay," vol. 20 of Library of the World's Best Literature, ed. C. D. Warner (New York: Peale and H i l l , IB9777 pp. 11437-11486, and Joseph Jacobs, ed., Barlaam and Josaphat (London: Nutt, 1896), pp. x l i - x l i i i . 7 Levrault, pp. 10-11.  Q Karl Warnke, ed., Die Fabeln der Marie de France, Bibliotheca Normannica 6 (Halle: Niemeyer, 1898); A. Ewert and R. C. Johnston, eds., Marie de France Fables (Oxford: Blackwell, 1942). 9 Bastin, Julia, ed., Recueil General des Isopets, 2 vols. (Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honore Champion, 1929) collects a l l the Ysopets.  io  CHAPTER ONE THE FABLE AS EXEMPLUM  The exemplum is that ubiquitous form of narrative literature so peculiar to the Middle Ages. Material from almost a l l available sources was taken by the church and transformed into brief narratives that could illustrate some moral or theological precept in an interesting and more memorable way than could be accomplished by merely repeating the precept. Through the wide use of exempla, audiences became familiar, albeit in a humble way, with a vast range of literary and scientific subject matter. Material for exempla was drawn from history, hagiography, narrative fiction, legend, and pseudo-scientific literature such as bestiaries and lapidaries. Subject matter was thus both sacred and profane.  1  Throughout the Middle  Ages, the clerics of the Catholic church produced countless exempla, both within the bodies of their writings and as separate compilations of stories for the use of other clerics. Gregory the Great established the precedent for the use of exempla p both by using them himself and by recommending their use.  The technique  of using an illustrative narrative goes back to Classical rhetoric; Aristotle had recommended the using of fables as exempla to aspiring orators.^  In later medieval rhetorical theory, the exemplum is recommended  both as a means of beginning and as a device for ornamenting style. But for churchmen the greatest recommendation was probably the use of parables by Christ as a teaching device: the record of Holy Scripture is to be considered as parent authority for moralization in the shape of anecdotes, whether historical or f i c t i t i o u s : this, too, as set forth more particularly in the method of teaching adopted by Christ Himself. >  11  Fables probably won acceptance through their use as teaching devices in oriental works and because of the didactic nature of the Aesopic fables familiar,to the Middle Ages. that fables could teach.  u  Early and influential church writers admitted  The vogue of the fable as exemplum was such that  of the narratives employed as exempla and appearing in example books, fables ranked third in popularity, outnumbered only by stories about clerics and excerpts from saints' lives.^  The fables were drawn from the Aesopic  collections known, the Romulus and the fables of Avianus,' and from the animal apologues that appeared in popular oriental collections. Exempla began to appear frequently in the twelfth century. Churchmen collected narratives and similes from many sources and circulated them amongst themselves for use in treatises, in teaching fellow clerics, and  Q later, in sermons.  One of the f i r s t compilations, which included versions  of the Fables of Bidpai, was the Disciplina Clericalis of Petrus Alphonsus, which dates from the beginning of the twelfth century.  Esopus, a Latin  verse collection based chiefly on the Romulus, by Walter of England, believed to have .been the chaplain of Henry II, became popular in the middle of the twelfth century.9  The exempla found their way to the pulpit and by the  thirteenth century the popularity of exempla for use i n sermons was established and gradually increased by preachers and especially by the mendicant friars. ^ 1  Writers such as Jacques de Vitry and Caesar of Heisterbach  incorporated exempla into their written sermons, and further compilations of stories were thus made from the sermons and treatises that employed them. The use of animal fables as exempla had more justification to medieval writers than the sweeping justification of exempla i n general. Animal stories, after a l l , are not "truth", and therefore there must be a good reason for employing animal characters who behave as human beings.  The  12  immense popularity of the Aesopic fable in the Middle Ages, too, suggests that medieval thinkers, and particularly the clerics who chose animal characters for their exempla, had more reason to regard fables seriously than the simple element of their charm. The medieval church regarded a l l knowledge in terms of i t s relation to Christian doctrine.  The natural world was considered to contain manifesta-  tions of religious truth and clues to an understanding of Christian theology.  The appearance of animals in Scripture led to the belief that a  scientific knowledge of the nature of these animals was necessary for an understanding of their figurative significance in Scripture. Just as a knowledge of the nature of serpents illuminates the many similitudes which Scripture frequently makes with that animal, an ignorance of many other animals which are also used for comparisons is a great impediment to understanding. Wot only a knowledge of animals but of stones, plants, numbers and music was considered necessary for the comprehension of both the revealed truth of Scripture and the figurative truth that may be discovered in Nature. To the end of providing this information, medieval scholars created compendious "scientific" volumes,.-.containing knowledge about the natural world in encyclopaedic fashion. Isidore of SevilleMs Etymologies is an example of a general work including this kind of information, but there are more specialized works as well.  The medieval bestiaries were among  the most popular of the works dealing with natural history.  These are  encyclopaedias containing descriptions of animals both real and imaginary, plus scientific and legendary information about them, usually followed by a figurative interpretation relating the information to Christian doctrine. A Middle English translation of a popular bestiary, the Latin Physiologus of Theobaldus, provides a typical passage.!2  13  Natura wulpis. A wilde der i s 8at i s f u l of f e l e wiles, fox i s h i r e to name, f o r h i r e que*5sipe; husebondes hire haten, f o r hire harm dedes: 5e coc and te capun ge feccheS ofte i n 4e tun, and te gandre and te gos, b i $e necke and b i %e nos, hale5 i s to h i r e hole; f o r - S i man h i r e hatiefi, hatien and hulen bolSe men and f u l e s . ListneS nu a wunder, ftat t i s der doS f o r hunger: golS o felde to a furg, and f a i l e d 5ar-inne, In eried lond er i n erS chine. f o r t o b i l i r t e n fugeles; Ne stereS ge nogt of ie stede a god stund deies, oc dareX so ge ded were, Ne drageS ge non onde: Be rauen i s switje r e d i , weneS Sat ge r o t i e , and o$re fules h i r e f a l l e n b i For to winnen fode, d e r f l i k e wjAuten dred; he wenen J a t ge ded be5, he wullen on feis foxes f e l ; and ge i t wel felefc, l i g t l i k e ge lepeS up and lettefc hem sone, gelt hem here b i l l i n g re&e wi$ i l l i n g , tetogge£ and t e t i r e j hem mid hire tefc sarpe, Fret h i r e f i l l e , and goS $an Ser ge w i l l e . Significacio. Twifold forbisne i n S i s der to frame we mugen finden her, warsipe and wisedom w i j deuel and wifc i u e l man; Se deuel dereO dernelike, he l a t he ne wile us nogt biswike, he l a t he ne wile us don non loS, and bringefc us i n a sinne and t e r he us slod, he b i t us done ure bukes w i l l e , v  14  eten and drinken wiX u n s k i l , and i n ure skemting he do& raje a foxing, he b i l l e d one Se foxes f e l wo so t e l l e S i d e l spel, and he tirefc on his ket wo so him wi$ sinne f e t , and deuel geld swilk b i l l i n g wiS same and wiX sending, and f o r h i s s i n f u l e werk ledeS man to h e l l e merk. Significacio. ^ e deuel i s tus $e fox i l i k mi& iuele breides and wi$ swik; and man a l so 5e foxes name a m wurji to hauen same; f o r wo so seieS oXer god, and SenkeX i u e l on his mod, fox he i s and fend iwis, $e boc ne lege^S nogt of £is; So was herodes fox and f l e r d , So c r i s t kam in-to Vi.s middel-erd, he seide he wulde him leuen on, and $ogte he wulde him fordon. 13 The  attributes of the natural animal—the f i r s t was  probably f a m i l i a r to  contemporary audiences—are explained i n terms of C h r i s t a i n The  doctrine.  fox thus becomes a figure of the d e v i l i n the natural world, a significance  which i s equally applicable The  to i t s appearance i n the  Bible.^  ascribing of character t r a i t s to animals begins with A r i s t o t l e ' s  treatises.  A r i s t o t l e describes the t r a i t s of c e r t a i n animals i n r e l a t i o n  to t h e i r physical c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s f o r the purpose of making s i m i l a r conclusions about human b e i n g s . ^  His characterizations  are quite s i m i l a r to t y p i c a l  medieval ones: the l i o n i s brave and upright, as he usually i s i n medieval iconography; the ass i s cowardly and ape  stupid, as he i s i n the fables;  the  i s v i l l a i n o u s ; the cock i s l a s c i v i o u s , l i k e Chaucer's Chauntecleer.  However, the parts of A r i s t o t l e ' s t r e a t i s e comparing physical q u a l i t i e s with s i m i l a r physical q u a l i t i e s i n animals does not appear to have been known i n the Middle Ages.  A r i s t o t l e i s c i t e d by the writers  and users of  15 the bestiaries as an authority, for his Historia Animalium appears to have been known. This work, however, concerns i t s e l f but l i t t l e with the psychological nature of species of animals.1^  From the natural history  that was available to them, medieval writers developed their own animal symbolism to standardize Scriptural and, later, literary exegesis, and to teach the precepts of the Christian religion through figures observable in the created world.1? The bestiaries were particularly popular for use as exempla.  Homilists  frequently employed bestiary material as similes or figures meant to elucidate moral or religious precepts. Thus the simile of the ape and her two babies in the Alphabet of Tales can illustrate a human f a i l i n g - -  i no moralitas is attached—while the simile i t s e l f reads like the f i r s t part of a bestiary entry. Simia. Simie peccator assimilatur. We rede in 'Libro de Dono Timoris,' how be propurtie of pe ape is to hafe i j whelpis; & when pe hunter commys & pursewis hur, sho takis pat at sho l u f f i s bettur in hur armys, & pe toder lepis vp on hur bakk. And when pe hunter sewis hur sore, sho levis pat as is in hur armys & l a t t i s i t f a l l , & pe toder clevis s t i l l by hur. In the Gesta Romanorum is a similar exemplum describing the ape's characteristic method of dining on nuts; this is related to the familiar nut and kernel figure."^ The standard figural interpretations of the properties of animals that resulted from the wealth of literature dealing with such interpretations is reflected in the relatively consistent significances of animals i n homiletic literature.  The sermon passage in which the fable of the crabs,  discussed below, appears is similar to the passage describing the demons on in Hell in Richard Rolle's Pricke of Conscience.  In the f i r s t , they are  adders, toads, frogs and crabs; in the second, wolves, lions, bears,  10 dragons, adders, and "othir vermyn."  In various sermons in Ross's edition  of late fourteenth and early fifteenth century sermon texts,^1 an adder (or serpent) is identified with the devil and likened to covetous men. An exemplum for Sermon Twenty-seven of John Mirk's Festial  22  includes a  giant adder who, in the interpretation, represents the devil.  The fox  is considered a representative of covetousness in The Ancrene Riwle^3 pk  a n (  Jacob's Well.  j  In The Ancrene Riwle, the reasons for the equation are  made clear in much the same way as they are in the bestiaries. 1^sos unpeawes beo5 to uoxe uor monie reisuns i efnede. two ich chulle siggen. rauche gile is i€e uoxe. & so is ine ^iscunge of worldliche bijeate. and on o$er reisun is. pe uox awuried a l enne floe, pauh he ne muwe bute one urechli-che uorswoluwen.^5 The wolf also has an unhappy association.  In Jacob s Well the wrathful 1  man is compared with him,^^ and in Sermon Thirty-four of Ross's edition of Middle English sermons^ he i s equated with the devil.  The popular  attitude to the natural wolf partially explains this, but once again precedence is found in the Bible: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matt. 8:15). Other than the fox and the wolf, most animals are usually given a positive as well as a negative association: they were considered to be manifested both in bono and in malo. The serpent is the obvious example, as i t has both good and bad associations in Scripture.  The lion is  usually identified with Christ and with good Christians, but sometimes 28 represents pride, as in the l i s t of sins in The Ancrene Riwle.  In one  instance—a fable exemplum—even the "false fox" serves an intentionally good function, albeit through his craft.^9  17  The tradition of ascribing figurative significances to animals to clarify religious doctrine adds another dimension to the significance of the fable exempla.  These significances are seen operating in the  "morals" appended to the exempla i n the sermon literature.  This tradition,  combined with the didactic nature of the traditional Aesopic fable, makes i t very understandable that the genre should have been so popular among medieval clerics. Before leaving this discussion of the bestiaries, we should notice that their extensive use in English homiletic literature must have had considerable influence on the education and awareness of a broad audience, both lay and clerical, during the Middle Ages.  The natural and figural  descriptions of animals repeated from the pulpit must have made the bestiary material familiar to a great number of people.  As Owst comments,  . . . there was no great gulf fixed in medieval times between the artistic symbolism of sculptor and woodcarver, the zoological literature of the "learned" and at least some popular understanding of the same.-^ Indeed, the "popular understanding" of animals is reflected in the bestiary literature as well, as we saw in the description of the raiding fox in the Middle English version of Physiologus.  A consideration of a medieval genre  that contains animal characters--and most often the animals most frequently described i n homiletic literature—must include the realization that the wide influence of bestiary lore must have i n s t i l l e d some preconceptions into the minds of the readers of the genre. The popularity of exempla among continental churchmen spreak to England, quite naturally, where the strength of the tradition was established by the thirteenth century.  The thirteenth-century Gemma Ecclesiastica of  Giraldus Cambrensis "makes so copious a use of monkish tales that the work is really an example-book."31  But the fable as exemplum came into i t s own in  18  England with the Latin sermons of Odo of Cheriton.  Written early in the  thirteenth century, Odo's sermons and collection of exempla contain more fables than any other kind of illustrative tale.  Odo probably found the  sources for his fables during study on the continent, but his success in retelling them gave them a great deal of popularity. Many of these fables, simple enough in their construction, present us with the natural humour and vivid imagination of those who watch the animal and insect world with the eyes of lively, mischievous children. 32 Their popularity is reflected in the large number of collections drawn from them, and in the impetus Odo's appended moralizations gave to collections which included moralizations after each tale.33 One of these collections is the Latin Gesta Romanorum, a late thirteenthcentury work which contains several fables.  The Gesta is believed to have  originated in England,3^ and Middle English versions contain additional fables also borrowed from Odo.  *The number of longer secular tales in the  Gesta Romanorum points forward to the secular works of poets such as Gower and Chaucer for, although the moralizations remain, the interest in the 35 narrative is sometimes greater than i t was in earlier example literature. The fourteenth-century  Latin example literature testifies to the increased  sophistication pervading the old concept of simple exempla.  The Liber de  Moralizationibus and Liber Sapientiae of John Holkot contain mostly secular tales, and many fables, accompanied by more sophisticated moralizations. Bromyard's Summa Praedicantium makes more frequent use of Aesopic fable material. The English fables used as exempla embody one major aspect of the medieval fable.  The purpose of an exemplum is to illustrate a moral or  theological point, and this is exactly what a fable exemplum is equipped  19 to do. The illustration of a moral precept is inherent i n the nature of the Aesopic fable: i t i s i t s raison d'etre. The Aesopic fable of Classical times, as i t was passed on to the Middle Ages, and interpreted by writers like Alexander Neckam and Marie de France, was ostensibly nothing more than a vehicle for the communication of a moral truth. was adapted.  To this end i t s style  The Classical fables, however, and to some extent the imitative  Isopets, reflect a concern for achieving excellence of style within the limits of the genre.  In the English fables used as exempla, there i s no  purpose other than that of moral illustration, for this i s as inherent i n the concept of the exemplum as i t i s in that of the Aesopic fable. But in the exempla, we do not find the concern with style that we find in their secular sources. To the Greek and Roman fabulists, brevity, and a conciseness allowing no more than i s necessary to illustrate the moral—which does not then need to be stated separately--was the chief s t y l i s t i c demand. No small degree of poetic achievement was attained within these limits.  The English exempla  are brief, but without the virtues of conciseness, sharpness of narrative details^found i n their ultimate sources.  Their morals are not as inevitable:  not everything superfluous to the moral i s l e f t out.  Indeed, sometimes  one i s l e f t wondering what the moral point of the fable is, although perhaps this is intentional, to allow the preacher making use of the tale to adapt i t to the moral he wishes to illustrate.  The exempla fables cannot be  considered as literary manifestations of the genre, but nonetheless they are a peculiarly medieval manifestation, and their nature i s such that they are of particular interest in a characterization of medieval fable. They embody the major purpose of Aesopic fables, albeit without providing much i n the way of added attractions, and their use and popularity as exempla  20 reflects why medieval people would be attracted to the genre in i t s Aesopic form.  If i t is true that "the medieval storyteller has generally  a moral purpose,"36 then the nature of Aesopic fable answers this purpose well.  Unfortunately, as i n the exempla, i t often answers no other. Before proceeding with an examination of the English fable exempla,  we should note that Mosher, in his study of the exemplum i n England, does 37 not feel comfortable in calling the fables used in sermons exempla. His researches indicate that a prerequisite for classification as an exemplum is the presence of human characters only, even though fables "were frequently considered as exempla by medieval collectors and preachers." To apply the stipulation of human characters to a genre so amorphous as the medieval exemplum does not seem to be particularly helpful.  The example-books abound  with brief satires including both animal and human characters, many of which are not fables.  Animals play important roles, but they are not given the  properties of human beings as they are in fables proper. not real characters, but simply agents of external forces.  And often they are Fables often  have human characters, but the animal and human characters must interact as i f there were no significant difference between the civilized human world and the animal world.  Although the fable encompasses a separate genre, i t lends  i t s e l f so well for use as an exemplum, and was used as such so frequently and effectively, that i t i s needless to separate the fable from the broad classification exempla which, though considered a genre in i t s e l f , includes others as well. The earliest instance we have of the fable used as an exemplum i n English is the fable of the crab and i t s mother, contained in an early 38 homily.  The homily is one of a collection which appears in Richard  Morris' edition of twelfth and thirteenth century homilies, but the editor concludes from textual evidence that the group of homilies in which the fable  21 appears is actually a compilation made from eleventh-century documents.^9 The fable occurs in Homily Five of the edition, entitled "Of the Prophet Jeremiah."  It i s recounted i n the middle of a passage which draws on  bestiary material to describe symbolically the inhabitants of the p i t : spotted adders, black toads, yellow frogs, and crabs. The fable i t s e l f appears after the preliminary l i s t , when the author apparently feels compelled to explain what crabs are. He begins with an explanation that reads like a bestiary passage, and then shifts into the fable: Crabbe is an manere of fissce in pere sea. pis f i s is ofiwulc cunde. pet. euer se he mare streng5deJ5 him to swimrainde mid be watere. se he mare swimmefc abac, and pe aide crabbe seide to pe^junge. hwi ne swimmest pu forSwar^* in pere sea alse c&er fisses do&. and heo seide. Leofe moder swim pu foren me and tech me hu ic seal swimmen for ward and heo bi-gon to swimmen forward mid be streme and swam hire per ajen. Immediately following the fable, a l l the animals but the crabs are given their symbolic meanings i n terms of the contents of the homily.  Why and  how this fable describes the sinners in the pit i s never made clear. The fable does not clearly point to any moral the homilist seems to have in mind. Yet this is an Aesopic fable.  It appears i n the collection of  Avianus, and in that of Avianus' source Babrius.^ The narrative is brief, and the animal characters are endowed with human qualities.  The story as i t  stands is clever enough, and the moral i t points to is clear enough: one should not reproach another for not doing what one cannot do oneself. But in the context of the homily, that does not seem to be the moral point of the fable at a l l .  Indeed, the author seems to misunderstand the idea of  using an exemplum, for here he is only explaining to his audience what a crab is, and follows his explanation with a story that does not illustrate why the crab must represent the evil inhabitants of Hell.  Perhaps he f e l t that  22  a fish who would swim backwards by nature must necessarily embody a sinful character, but this does not seem likely, for he carefully explains the significance of adders, black toads, and yellow frogs, leaving the crabs out of the discussion entirely.  Rather, one receives the impression that  he is simply us'ing his fable to vary the tone of the homily, rather than as a real exemplum.  His desire to do so indicates perhaps a familiarity  with the concept of exempla, but a lack of understanding as to how to use them to prove a point.  Indeed, his imperfect understanding is further  evident in his describing a crab as a fish who swims backwards.^  In this  f i r s t example of a Middle English fable used ostensibly as an exemplum, the dual nature of the fable is already apparent.  One feels there is a  didactic purpose: there must be one, considering the context in which the fable appears, and the author is evidently trying to explain something to his audience, however imperfectly he succeeds. of exemplum and fable also evinces i t s e l f .  But the less sobre aspect  The rather haphazard way in  which the fable is tossed in suggests an attempt to use the short narrative as entertainment, as a relief from the didactic tone of the homily.  The  product is atypical, for the entertainment is not the vehicle of the lesson. The other Middle English fable exempla we have are more typical.  Their  illustrative function is clear and straightforward, the narratives pointing to a moral either stated explicitly or undeniable implicitly.  The later  dates of a l l these exempla warrant asserting that the authors would have been thoroughly familiar with the techniques and subjects of exemplary l i t e r a ture, and the didactic nature of the fables is more than apparent. One fable is employed as a true exemplum in the devotional manual Ayenbite of Inwyt, ^ compiled by Dan Michel in the Kentish dialect in 1340.  This is largely a translation of the thirteenth-century French  23  treatise, Le Somme des Vices et de Vertues. -> While discussing "be uerpe stape of Ri3tuolnesse," the author points out that those who try./to emulate the virtues of others without discretion are not successful, for people do not have the same virtues.  To illustrate his point, he relates the fable of  the "Little Hound and the Ass." "ffereof zet Ysopes be fable of be l i t t l e hounde and ofbe asse. be hond at eche time pet he yhyerb pet his lhord comep hom. he yerp to yens him and lhap aboute his quere. and be lhord him makeb uayr chiere and him froteb and makeb him greate feste. "Ifle asse him bebou3te bous ssolde ich do and zuo wolde mi lhord me louie. Betere he ssolde me maki ioye pt ich serui;-.eche day banne bise hounde bet him seruebt of na3t? h i t nes na3t longe efterward pet pet be asse ne yze3 his lhord come hom: he beginb to lheape and yernp to-yens him and him praup pe uet aboute his zuere and beginbe zinge grat-liche. ^e sergons bet hit y-ze3e nome steues and byete bane asse r i 3 t to be nolle. And perof pet he wende habbe worbssipe and guaod: he hadde ssame and harm. The fable is followed by a statement of i t s moral and a justification of the use of fables in teaching men wisdom. This fable also dates from Classical times.  It is found in the collections  kk of Babrius and. Ph'aedrus,  and became popular in the Middle Ages with the  writers both of Isopets—notably Marie de France^—and of the exempla— notably Odo of Cheriton.^ The writer is obviously familiar with fables i n the exempla tradition, and uses this one as such.  The narrative is brief  and to the point, and not without some of the detail that raises i t s quality. The ass's state of mind is described f u l l y enough to show how he comes to act in the way he does, and thus to characterize his foolishness and make the moral of the fable stand out more clearly.  The ass's ludicrous behaviour  is described well with an obvious taste for the humour of the situation. Again, this humour reinforces the Moral.  Michel cannot be given a l l the credit  2k  for the success of this exemplum, he can be given the credit for communicating, i n English, the technique of a successful Aesopic fable. The English versions of the Gesta Romanorum contain many Aesopic fables. The Latin Gesta, "a work of exemplar literature in many ways unparalleled," contains fables of both Classical and oriental origins. The English translations we have were made in the f i r s t half of the fifteenth century, at least a century after i t is supposed the original Latin version was compiled. None of the fables in the English versions are found i n the manuscripts of the Anglo-Latin Gesta which served as the original for the English translations, but, with other kinds of narratives, have been added to the "class of Gesta proper  that made up the earliest versions.  7  The stories contained in the English collections are accompanied, not by moralizations, but by an exegesis of their details i n theological and moral terms.  The "morals" of the fables, while perhaps implicitly clear i n  the narratives themselves, are. not really drawn upon in the apposite "declaraciones"or  "moralitees."  Part of this is explainable by the nature  of the collection. The Gesta is a compilation of stories for the use of preachers, and thus the "moral" would have to be chosen and adjusted to suit the particular discourse in which the preacher wished to employ i t .  The  exegetical explanation, however, would aid him in applying the text to his subject.  It also ensures that the narrative w i l l be seen in the proper light.  These applications are quite unlike the "morals" that appear after other forms of the Aesopic fable we have examined.  The appended explanation  is not suggested by a l i t e r a l reading of the story, as i t is in the fable of "The L i t t l e Hound and the Ass."  For example, the Gesta fable of "The Cat and  the Fox"'' has a superimposed moral rather distant from the narrative i t s e l f . 0  It describes the cat and the fox conferring on how to escape from the hounds.  25  The fox is confident because he has many tricks, and the cat frightened because she knows only one.  When the hounds come, the cat needs only one  trick to save herself, while the fox is overcome.  The moral of the tale in  Aesopic terms i s simple enough: one form of self-help w i l l suffice. It is more or less stated by the cat at the end of the fable, when she cries to the fox: "foxe." opyn t h i bagge of wiles, & helpe thy selfe, for thou haddiste neuer more nede; for a l l t h i wiles helpeth the not.'" The declaracio transforms this moral into theological terms: the cat represents holy men who need only one means—faith—of saving themselves; the fox, reminiscent of his bestiary appearances, evil men who think they have enough tricks and wiles to be secure, but who are eventually caught by the hounds of Hell.  Thus the "moral" of Aesopic fable--the simple statement,  illustrated by the animals behaviour and character, that applies to the 1  world of men—is altered to conform to the purposes of the cleric.  The moral  becomes a theological lesson which, although in harmony with the implicit moral, i s not a part of the narrative itself, and is not necessary to an understanding of the fable's elementary lesson. The separate nature of the moral appended to the fable was not a new aspect of the genre contributed by the exempla writers.  Marie de France used  the moral to voice her opinions on subjects brought to mind by the f a b l e — contemporary evils suggested by the illustration of the human condition i n the tale.  Classical Aesopic fable did not have an appended "Moralitas", but the  genre lends i t s e l f to this kind of addition i n i t s medieval manifestations. Thus the fable i t s e l f , the narrative, remains true to i t s Aesopic background, and expresses an aspect of human nature or society or experience implicitly, while the writer of the fable-can , -employ this narrative to elaborate on the  26'' simple moral and suit his own purposes. Unfortunately, while the fable does gain credit for adaptability and universality, i t does not always gain from a literary point of view. The fable of "The L i t t l e Hound and the Ass" in the Ayenbite of Inwyt has more literary success because i t remains purely an exemplum—its implicit moral is taken at face value and incorporated into a broader discourse, and the narrative therefore is not clouded and restricted.  It remains indepen-  dent and clear, and has an unsophisticated but charming humour a l l its own. It does not, however, indicate much in the way of originality or real literary excellence; i t is simply a successful translation of a fable that i s purely imitative of Classical Aesopic fable. not entirely so--is new to the Middle Ages.  Only i t s use—and even that The fables of the Gesta  Romanorum, while being adapted and used in a way that is a purely medieval innovation--and important for that fact--do not brighten the status of their narratives at a l l .  The narratives are imitations and rough translations,  but they do not retain the sharp characterizations and brisk narratives of their Aesopic models.  The narratives are provided, i t appears, only for  the sake of the declaracio.  L i t t l e enjoyment of the story is evinced on the  part of the writer, and l i t t l e is provided for the audience. A criterion we have set for and examined in the narrative structure of the Aesopic fable is that only those events essential to the communication of the moral be included.  This criterion is met quite well by the fables of  the Gesta, partly of course because the writer would have found this characteristic in his sources.  The way in which these narratives are combined,  however, is unfortunate.  There is no attempt at brisk and efficient com-  pression; the few events are simply strung together by connectives and the odd indication of passing time.  In the fable of "The Cat and the Mouse,"  27 the entire narrative is recounted by simple subject-verb sentences, with the order of the parts of speech identical throughout.  Each sentence begins  with "the cat" or "the mouse", occasionally preceded by an adverb.  There  is l i t t l e realistic narrative detail, only straightforward recounting of events.  The cat and mouse are endowed with the human characteristics of  speech and reason, but no attempt is made to give them the human characterization of, for example, the ass in Dan Michel's fable.  Their words are quoted  and their actions are described, a l l very loosely, and with no real feeling for the story. The same criticism applies to the fable of the "Eagle and the Crow. The animals mechanically recite their speeches and go through the necessary motions.  There is no attempt to communicate the sorrow or pain of the eagle,  or the wicked satisfaction of the crow.  Events and dialogue are strung  together loosely with connectives, and there is l i t t l e sense of movement or of l i f e .  This fable is brief enough to warrant quoting in f u l l to illustrate  the general qualities of the Gesta Romanorum fables. In a tyme the Egle had sore Eyen; and he cownseyled with the Crowe, and asked, what he myght do agayne the disese. The Crow seide, "I shall bryng the an herbe, i f thou wilte gife me good hire for my laboure." The Egle seide, " i f thou make myn Eyen hole, thou shalte haue wele for thy trauayle." Then the Crow toke Onyonus and Spourge, and made perof a playster, and leyde i t on the Egles Eyen; and in shorte tyme he was blynde. Then the crowe toke the bryddys of the Egle, and deuovred hem; and disesed the Egle with many betyngs. the Egle than saide to the crowe, "acursyd be thou and thy medisyne also; for pou haste made me blynde, and deuouryd My bryddys, and sesist not to bete me." The crow seide, "also longe as thou myght se, I myght not come by thy briddes, that I gretly desyred, but now pat I desyred i s f u l f i l l e d . " A l l of the fables in the Gesta collection have these faults.  The narratives  52 and the animal characters never really come alive.  However, we must  remember that these tales, like many other exempla, may often be no more  28 than plot outlines for the individual preacher to expand at w i l l .  Depending  on his talent and inclination, the fable heard from the pulpit might have been a much better tale than the brief narrative that is recorded. Yet fables of this type s t i l l contribute to our understanding of the fable as a genre in the Middle Ages.  The date of these particular  fables is late—the English translations of the Gesta were made early in the fifteenth century—but the prevalence of this use of the fable from the twelfth century onwards, and the repetition of the same fables from the twelfth century onwards, justifies to some extent considering these fables as representative, particularly when we remember the popularity of the numberous versions of the Gesta Romanorum throughout the Middle Ages.  As  exempla, these fables illustrate the didactic attitude of the Middle Ages to the fable, an attitude inseparable from the conception of the genre. They represent one of the two kinds of fables that transmitted the genre to the English poets, both kinds being chiefly or entirely moral or didactic in character.  The exempla fables of the clerics, more than  the Isopets,  were readily available to a large and varied audience, but the Gesta Romanorum especially is recognized as containing or recording the source material for much medieval literature. There are sixteen animal narratives in the Gesta, but only eight warrant classification as fables.  Those discussed above, plus the six others listed  in note 52, are obviously fables according to our criteria: they are brief narratives with animals endowed with human qualities as characters, and the events portrayed point to a realization about the nature of mankind—a "moral" or b i t of wisdom.  "The Eagle and the Crow," "The Wolf and Swine," "The Ass and  the Swine," and "The Hen and her Chicks" are considered to be most likely derived from the fables of Odo of Cheriton.53 The f i r s t also appears i n the JLnglo-Latin Gesta and is quoted by later Latin exempla writers, notably  2§  Bromyard.  The other fables are considered to be definitely based on Odo's 5I4.  versions.  "The Burial of the Wolf" describes the court of the lion i n a  way that suggests Odo may have taken the incident from one of the branches of the Roman de Renart.-^  Another exemplum, "The Ape and the N u t s , a l s o  based on one in Odo's collection, is not a fable.  It describes the ape's  habit of eating, and draws a moral application to men from it--the familiar kernel and chaff analogy. no real narrative.  The ape is not a character at a l l and there is  Rather, this is an exemplum simile, drawn probably from  bestiary material; i t describes the habits of an animal in an apparently scientific manner and draws an appropriate theological lesson from the description.  "How a Serpent Punished the Ingratitude of a K n i g h t i s  derived from a Latin "Aesop," and also appears in the fables of Marie de I-Q  France.  However, neither is this a true animal fable.  The serpent speaks,  but i t s qualities are supernatural rather than human; i t has the power to reward or to punish, according to the actions of the knight of the story. The tale teaches a moral, but not so much by way of illustrating human characteristics as by illustrating the ways of providence with mankind.  This  story is like several other animal stories in the Gesta, of a type popular in the exempla collections.  These deal with a good or a wicked f i g u r e — i n  the Gesta Romanorum, i t is one who lived during the reign of a particular Roman Emperor--who encounters an animal with supernatural qualities who acts as an instrument of divine justice.  These stories are interesting to our  study in their choice of animal characters, for these often embody the stan59 dard characteristics applied to animal figures in medieval exegesis, they cannot be classified as animal fables. There is one other English collection of exemplar literature that  but  30' contains several fables.  This is the fifteenth-century English translation  of the early fourteenth-century Latin Alphabetum Narrationum, "a work held „6o in the highest esteem by our English preachers. of Tales contains five fables.  The English Alphabet  There are no accompanying "moralitees",  and thus we cannot examine the technique of adding these explanations to the fables in this collection. However, i t is certain that the fables were meant for use as exempla, either with or without the type of exegetical accompaniment found in the Gesta Romanorum. A l l the stories of the Alphabet are classified according to the sort of subject matter for which they can serve as exempla.  The classification is followed by a brief statement of  the moral or truth they illustrate, a l l of this preceding the narrative. One of the fables^ describes two travellers, one an honest man and the 1  other a flatterer, questioned by a patriarchal ape.  The flatterer is rewarded  for his lies and the honest man punished for telling the ape he i s not an emperor.  The narrative is followed by a statement regarding the way i t can  be used: This tale is gude to t e l l agayn flaterers, & agayns paim pat wull here no thyng bod at is to per plesur.°2 Perhaps this remark is appended because the "moral" of the fable is a cynical rather than a moral observation on human nature. Generally speaking, the narrative faults of the Romanorum apply to the Alphabet of Tales as well.  fables of the Gesta  The fables in the latter  tend to be longer and somewhat more drawn out, without the benefit of i n creased effectiveness of characterization or narrative. detail is added.  No real descriptive  In the fable mentioned above, the narrative is stretched out  over more sentences than is necessary to describe the events i t does. There are two partial exceptions.  In Tale 706,^3 "The Man,  the Serpent  and the Fox," the narrative, while containing a plot more complex than usual,  31  is quite concise, "but recounted with l i t t l e s k i l l .  Again, each incident  is added to the preceding one with a single connective, and almost every sentence has the same simple structure.  The basic plot of the fable is a  good o n e — i t is from the Disciplina Clericalis--and a more vivid characterization of the serpent and the fox is possible, but the possibilities are only hinted at i n the f l a t dialogue. Tale 6^1,^ "The Lamb and the Wolf," i s , i n spite of i t s monotonous sentence structure, a rather good example of the effectiveness of concise narration in an Aesopic fable, certainly when i t i s compared with the other fable exempla.  Unfortunately, the author spoils  the effect equally concisely. Potencia.  Potentes frequenter querunt occasiones contra pauperes.  Esopus t e l l i s i n his fables how be lambe & be wulfe war bothe thrustie, and bai come bothe vnto pe watir to drynk; & pe wulfe dranke abown, & be lambe benethe. Than be wulfe sayd vnto pe lambe; "whi haste bou troubled pe watyr vnto me?" And be lambe ansswerd hym agayn & sayd; "How sulde I make be watir drovy when i t t come from the vnto me?" And pan pe wulfe said; "Whi bannys bou me?" And be lambe sayd; "Kay, I ban be nott." And ban be wulfe said; "Thi fadur did vnto me mekull i l l , and now I s a i l venge me of the." And with bat he ran on be selie lambe and worod i t t . And pis had be lambe bat did no tryspas. The last sentence is not only unnecessary, but i t spoils what has gone before.  The injustice the writer decries is far more effectively condemned  by the bluntness of the wolf's remarks and f i n a l act, unmitigated by the pathetic note at the end.  The flavour of Aesopic fable is captured, and  then lost again with the f i n a l line. The classifications of the Aesopic fables i n the Alphabet of Tales i s more in accord with the intrinsic moral statement of the fables than are the exegetical "morals" of the Gesta Romanorum fables.  The narratives are ex-  panded no further than necessary to point to the moral cited at the beginning  32  of each fable, and the animals have enough human characterization to echo the tone of the Classical Aesopic fable.  The fact that the truths they  illustrate are realistic impressions of human nature and society reinforces this tone.  This tone plus the absence of theological interpretation leaves  an/ impression more secular than that left by the fables of the Gesta Romanorum. That both groups of fables exist solely for their didactic function of illustrating a precept is undeniable. however, for the interest in both is not in the narrative but in i t s lesson. We ought to notice that of the five Aesopic fables, three begin with the remark "Esopus t e l l i s i n his fables" or something similar.  One refers  to a well-known source of fable exempla, Petrus Alphonsus, and Tale 191? the same as that told in Lydgate's The Churl and the Bird, has no acknowledged source, although i t too appears in the Disciplina Clericalis.  There is also  a bestiary-derived exemplum in the Alphabet, meant for use as an illustrative simile.  Once again, i t is concerned with the f o l l y of the ape.  The Middle English fables as exempla do not illustrate any literarydevelopment of the genre.  Instead, they remain within the limits of the  Aesopic fable without developing any of the characteristics of that type of fable beyond mediocrity. literary one.  This is understandable, for their purpose is not a  They do illustrate, however, a medieval attitude to narrative  literature, and particularly to the fable, and thus reveal one important aspect of the medieval fable as a genre. to illustrate major moral truths.  Inherent in its form is the ability  It is not simply a literary exercise that  centres around the choosing of a minimum of words and incidents to illustrate a truism, which then may--as in the Isopets—or may not—as in the earlier Classical fables—be explained i n an appended "moral".  The writers of the  Isopets found this "moral" more interesting, for i t allowed more scope for  individual elaboration.  In the exempla the moralitas of the exemplum in  its context outside the narrative usurps the interest of the narrative to both writer and audience, for the narrative exists only to produce this effect. The exempla include the earliest known attempts at animal fable in Middle English.-^ Created to teach a lesson by means of entertainment, they are nonetheless primarily moral, although of course the inclination of individual preachers may often have transformed the brief examples that are recorded into very amusing and memorable tales.  But the narratives as we  know them are used to illustrate a moral or theological thesis, and have no independent status.  The authors are not interested in the narrative or in  the characters beyond the general moral of each tale, even though an occasional circumstance produces a narrative or an animal character described r e a l i s t i cally and unpredictably.  In brief, the authors of these works are not really  interested in the fable as a genre.  This is self-evident from the nature of  sermon exempla, which are nonetheless of interest to our study not only because they are among the f i r s t Middle English fables, but precisely because they illustrate the moral and didactic tendency of the fable, particularly in the Middle Ages.  3k FOOTNOTES 1 For discussions of the nature and content of the medieval exempla, see G. R. Owst, Preaching in Medieval England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1926) and Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England (1933; *"P"t. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1966); J. A. Mosher, The Exemplum in the Ear]y Religious and Didactic Literature of England (New York: Columbia University Press, 1911)7 His Dialogues collects many exempla (Patrologia Cursus Completus, Series Latina, ed. J.-P. Migne \Paris, 1853], vol. 148). 2  3 S i r Brooke Boothby, Fables and Satires, with a Preface on the Esopean Fable (Edinburgh: h.p., 1809), p. xxxi. h See for example Geoffrey of Vinsauf, Poetria Nova, trans. Margaret F. Nims (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1967), pp. 2223, 65. 5 Owst, Pulpit, p. 152. ^ Macrobius, Somnium Scipionis, I, 2; Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, I, 4 l . 7 Mosher, p. J. 8 Ibid., p. 12. Exempla apparently were not used commonly in sermons until the time of the preaching friars (the twelfth century). 9 See Gaston Paris, La Litterature Franchise au Moyen A*ge, 4th ed. (Paris: Librairie Hachette, 1909), p. 127. 10 Bernhard ten Brink, History of English Literature, trans. Horace M. Kennedy (London: Bell, 1914), I, 264T Mosher, p. 13. For a discussion of the use of exempla by the preaching friars, see Owst, Preaching, pp. 6O-67 and pp. 80-B^n ^ St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, trans. D. W. Robertson, Jr. (Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs Merrill, 1958), p. 5112 Richard Morris, ed., An Old English Miscellany, EETS OS 49 (London: Trubner, 1872), pp. 1-25; also in Albert S. Cook, A Literary Middle English Reader (Boston: Ginn, 1915), pp. 188-198; Bruce Dickins and R. M. Wilson, eds. Early Middle English Texts (Cambridge; Bowes and Bowes, 1951), pp. 58-59. 13 Morris' edition, lines 384-454. Song of Solomon, 3:15«  Cf. chapter five, note 37 below.  Aristotle, Physiognomica, ed. and trans. T. Loveday and E. S. Foster, Vol. VI of The Works of Aristotle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913). l ^ Aristotle, Historia Animalium, ed. and trans. D'arcy Wentworth  35 Thompson, Vol. IV of The Works of Aristotle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910). In Book X, 1, Aristotle says that longer-lived animals are more capable of developing "passions", but he does not actually associate animals with particular psychological attributes, except for the sheep. In Book IX, 3> the sheep is called "naturally dull and stupid." Further discussion of psychological qualities is limited to the differences between the sexes. In this work Aristotle does state that the qualities of men and animals are often alike (VIII, l ) . 17 Heraldry incorporated animal symbolism that was not inconsistent with the kind of explanations given in the bestiaries but intended positive rather than negative aspects for the animals. See H. Allcock, Heraldic I Design (New York: Tudor, 1962); J. Thorold, The Wreath of Heraldry (Bath: n. p., 1830); and W. C. Wade, The Symbolisms of Heraldry (London: Redway, I898).  Mary MacLeod Banks, ed., An Alphabet of Tales, EETS OS 126 and 127 (London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Trubner, 1904 and 1905), p. 478. 1  19 Sidney J. H. Herrtage,. ed. The Early English Versions of the Gesta Romanorum, EETS ES 33 (London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Trubner, 1B79J7 p. 373. 20 Richard Rolle, The Pricke of Conscience, ed. Richard Morris, in The Philological Society's Early English Volume, l"8~62-l864 (Berlin: Asher, l86~3), lines 6916-17 and lines 9447-4"9"7 Woodburn 0. Ross, ed., Middle English Sermons, EETS OS 209 (London: Oxford University Press, 1940). 2 1  22 Theodor Erbe, ed., Mirk's Festial: A Collection of Homilies by Johannes Mirkus, EETS ES 96 (London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Trubner, 1905), P. 119. 3 Mabel Day, ed., The English Text of the Ancrene Riwle, EETS OS 225 (London: Oxford University Press, 1952), p. 90. A l i s t of the seven deadly sins (pp. 87 f f . ) describes each as an animal with a bestiary-type explanation similar to that offered for the fox. The animals, besides the fox, are the lion of pride, the serpent of envy, the unicorn of wrath, the bear of sloth, the swine of gluttony and the scorpion of lechery. 2  P4  Arthur Brandeis, ed., Jacob's Well. An English Treatise on the Cleansing of Man's Conscience. EETS OS 115 (London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Trubner, 1900), p. 118. c  2 5  2  Day, p. 90.  6 Brandeis, p. 90.  27 Ross, p. l 8 l . 28 See note 23 above. 2  9 See p. 31 below.  36 Owst, Pulpit, p. 206.  3 0  3  1  3 2  Mosher, p. 54. Owst, Pulpit, p. 205.  33 Mosher, pp. 66-67. 34 Herrtage, pp. xv f f . ; Mosher, p. 79; Owst, Preaching, p. 300. 35 Mosher, pp. 80-82. J  36 Frederick Hipper and Marbury Ogle, eds. and trans., Master Walter Map's Book De Nugis Curialium (Mew.York: Macmillan, 1924), p. x v i i . 37 See pp. 3-6. In his Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England, Owst suggests that attempting to define the "terms of formal moralization" is ineffective, as "no such restriction of usage seems to have existed, even among the latest medieval homilists." He then suggests that we treat the terms loosely, and establishes the following sensible divisions. "The best use of these terms that can be devised in the circumstances, therefore, is to treat the word "Example' as the general all-inclusive term for any kind of homiletic simile or illustration, while reserving the 'Narration' for stories of men and women, the 'Fable' for animal tales, and the 'Figure' for similitudes from natural objects'.' (p. 152). 38 Richard Morris, ed., Old English Homilies and Homiletic Treatises of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, EETS OS 29~TLondon: Trubner, 1868), PP. 51-5339 i b i d . , p. x i .  ^° Leon Herrmann, Avianus, pp. 30-31; Hull, p. 109. The fable also appears in the Isopet de Chartres and in the Avionnet. See Bastin, I, 134 and II, 352-53. 4l This description is peculiar to the Middle English version. kP  ^ Richard Morris, ed., Dan Michel's Ayenbite of Inwyt or Remorse of Conscience, EETS OS 23 (London: Trubner, 1866), p. 155^"3 Ibid., unpaginated Preface. 44 Hull, p. 129;  Herrmann, PhSdre, pp. 239-40.  45 Warnke, pp. 53-56. ^ Max Plessow, Geschichte der Fabeldichtung in England bis zu John Gay, Palaestra LII (1906; rpt. New York: Johnson, 1967), p. xxxvl. 47 Mosher, p. 79-  37 48 „  .  Herrtage, p. xix. ^9 Ibid., pp. xvii-xx. 5 0  Ibid., pp. 371-72.  Ibid., pp. 367-68. 5 Besides "The Cat. and the Fox" and "The Eagle and the Crow," the English Gesta includes the following fables: "The Cat and the Mouse" (pp. 364-65), "The Wolf and the Swine" (pp. 368-69), "The Ass and the Swine" (pp. 369-70), "The Hen and her Chickens" (pp. 370-71), "The Wolf and the Hare" (pp. 373-74), and "The Burial of the Wolf" (pp. 372-73). The page numbers refer to Herrtage's edition. 5 1  2  53 Herrtage, p. 501. 54 ibid., p. 502. 55 See chapter four below. 56 Herrtage, p. 37357 ibid., pp. 242-45. 58 ibid., p. 487; Warnke, pp. 236-43. 59 See especially the interpretations in the Gesta of these stories: "The Three Cocks" (pp. 98-IOI), "The Lion who punishes a false wife" (pp. 245-49), and "Androcles and the Lion" (pp. 327-31). The page numbers refer to Herrtage's edition. 60 owst, Pulpit, p. 92. 6 1  Banks, pp. 24-25.  6 2  Ibid., p. 25.  6 3  Ibid., pp. 473-74.  ^  Ibid., p. 421.  ^5 The testimony of Marie de France is accepted by most scholars: . . ."there is no reason to doubt the word of Marie de France who . . . t e l l s us that she . . . translated her Fables from English into French." ( j . A. W. Bennett and G. V. Smithers, eds., Early Middle English Verse and Prose (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), p. xiv.  38 CHAPTER TWO THE FABLES OF JOHN LYDGATE Early in the fifteenth century John Lydgate wrote a collection of Aesopic fables, Isopes Fabules, and a longer fable borrowed from a French version of the Disciplina Clericalis, "The Churl and the B i r d . U n f o r tunately, Lydgate's poems do not advance the narrative status of the fable much beyond what i t achieved in the u t i l i t a r i a n exempla, even though his writing poems rather than examples in homilies suggests an interest in poetic achievement.  The Isopes Fabules contain l i t t l e real narrative, and  consist almost entirely of moralization.  "The Churl and the Bird" i s a  happier result of Lydgate's interest in the animal fable, however, and when he allows himself to indulge in narration after a dull prologue, he offers a good tale. The Isopes Fabules were not written for practical use as exempla, but nonetheless they do not carry the genre beyond the bounds i t has in the collections intended for the use of churchmen.  Lydgate's fables are in  verse, in the Chaucerian stanza, suggesting that they are meant to be taken seriously as the work of a literary man.  They are much longer than any of  the medieval fables we have considered, including Latin and French as well as Middle English versions.  In form they resemble the Isopets: they are in verse,  the collection is preceded by a prologue, and each f&ble has i t s own moralitas. But a closer examination w i l l reveal that the presentation of Lydgate's Fabules relates them more closely to the exemplum tradition than to the Classical form or the medieval imitations of the Aesopic fable. Lydgate apparently wrote his fables as a kind of academic exercise.  2  It has been believed that they were written while he was studying at Oxford at the beginning of the fifteenth century, although Derek Pearsall^ suggests  39 that at least the last three fables, which are much slighter than the f i r s t four, were written later, perhaps as an exercise to be returned to.  Lydgate's  interest in writing fables can be understood in terms of the history of medieval fable literature as we have examined i t to this point.  The use of  fables as Latin grammatical exercises as well as i n homiletics would interest Lydgate as student and as clergyman.  His source i s a Latin Romulus, probably k  one which was based on the fables of Marie de France or at least like them, so he would have been exposed to the Isopets' treatment of Aesopic fable in this way at least.  It is quite likely, though, that he would have been familiar  with the popular continental verse fables, certainly with the two collections of Alexander Neckam. Lydgate's moralizing impulse suggests that neither exemplum fables nor the moral Isopets would have disagreed with his inclinations.  But whatever his i n i t i a l motivation, Lydgate's purpose in the Isopes  Fabules is clear enough.  In this f i r s t English collection of fables, the  narrative style of the Aesopic fable almost disappears, for i t is completely overshadowed by the didactic purpose. The Prologue to the Fabules makes i t clear that the poet's intent i s didactic.  His preoccupation is apparent in the opening stanza: Wisdom ys more in prise, pen gold i n cofers, To hem. bat haue sauour i n lettrure. Olde examples of prudent philosophers Moche auaylyd to folke pat dyd her cure To serche out lykenes in nature, In whyche men myght conceue & clerely see Notable sentence of gret moralyte. (lines 1-7)  Here we have the rationale for the interest in animals and natural history that produced the bestiaries. animals.  Lydgate uses i t to justify his writing about  The next three stanzas describe the wisdom that i s to be found in  "fables rude",  as precious stones are found under "blak erpe."  These  ko  statements are conventional medieval justifications for writing anything fictitious--Henryson's Prologue to his fable collection expresses similar sentiments—but Lydgate's interest in the "wisdom" of the fables and his feelings about the inferiority of narrative i t s e l f , as expressed in these stanzas, are borne out in the fables themselves. Lydgate's f i r s t fable is that of the "Cock and the Jewel".  Before  the narrative even begins, Lydgate goes on at length—six stanzas and four l i n e s — t o describe the qualities of a cock, borrowing bestiary material and standard exegesis to explain the virtues of this noble fowl.  The quality  he stresses is the chief one ascribed to the cock in medieval exegesis, that of wakefulness.  The cock represents the virtuous creature who puts aside  the sin of sloth and a l l i t s attendant evils.  He guards against the devil,  singing away the blackness of night and heralding the morning. Thys foule ys waker ayen be vyce of sloube, In vertu strong & hardy as a lyon, Stable as a geaunt, opon a grounde of troupe, Ayene a l l vyces be morall champion, And with pe entewnes of hys melodious soun He yeuep ensample, as he hys voyce dop reyse, Howe day & night we the lord shall preyse.  (lines 92-98) Having established the virtues of his hero—and thus stressed the importance of those virtues—Lydgate begins his fable.  This reminds one of the exemplum  technique: the poet has uttered a lengthy discourse on the qualities of a particular beast, and now sets about to illustrate these virtues in a narrative describing the beast in action.  A l l the while, however, we can  scarcely forget that the poet is discussing a virtue embodied in the animal kingdom for the edification of human beings. Ten lines are now devoted to narrative. for breakfast.  The cock is up early looking  He finds a jewel while he is looking for food.  The fact that  hi he finds this jewel in a dunghill is mentioned by Lydgate, but the possibil i t i e s for moralizing on this narrative detail do not occur to him.  Instead,  he digresses into four stanzas of moralizing on the cock's "dylygent trauayle" and the dreadful fate of those men who are slothful and ignore the cock's good example.  Another stanza is thus necessary to remind us of the narrative—  i t repeats what was told before. stone.  Next follows the speech of the cock to the  Here Lydgate inserts lapidary material to stress the virtues and  beauties of the stone: the well-read cock recognizes the peculiar worth of this one. However, he decides that i t is of no use to him: Yet for a l l by vertuous excellence Twene pe & me ys no conuenience. (lines l 6 0 - 6 l ) Then—for six stanzas—the  cock moralizes on why this i s so.  Each must remain  where i t belongs, he says, and a l l must make decisions according to their own state. Precious stonys nopyng appertayne To gese nor fovlys, at pasture on pe grene. (lines 195-96) The cock thus states the moral at the conclusion of the action, as the animals in Aesopic fable often do.  Lydgate, in the tradition of the Isopets  and the exempla, appends a "Lenuoy" in which he states the moral.  This i s  a repetition of his own remarks interspersed between the few lines of narrative and the discourse of the cock.  Diligence—the putting aside of sloth—leads  men on to right decisions, which always means the acceptance of one's estate, of one's position in the ordered universe. Before going on to the other fables i n Lydgate's collection, let us pause briefly to examine this one in terms of the criteria for Aesopic fables. Certainly, we have here a brief narrative—only sixteen lines, excluding the  k2  cock's speech, are devoted to narration of events, and three of these are repetitive. and reasons.  The cock is endowed with human qualities in that he speaks But neither of these characteristics apply in the same way  as they did in the imitations of Aesopic fables we have  examined to this  point.  Lydgate's cock is not a representation of a certain kind of human  being.  He embodies a human virtue, a theological virtue, and is so weighted  with exegetical associations that he cannot function as an independent character.  Whereas Aesopic beasts represent or illustrate human characteristics  or actions, this cock is a static embodiment of a preconceived pattern of virtues he has been created to illustrate.  And we are not at a l l conscious  of the narrative, of the description'of his particular activities, pointing to the moral, for the moral is stated and restated before, during, and after the narrative so often that the narrative becomes entirely secondary.  It i s  simply a minor illustration of a point the poet is making: " the cock represents a l l these virtues; for example, look at his reaction to this situation. Now let his virtues be a lesson to you."  The narrative is an exemplum of  sorts, but i t s Aesopic elements are clouded beyond recognition.  Lydgate  has created his own kind of fable from the medieval fable traditions he knew. But let us examine the other Isopes Fabules before we attempt to define Lydgate's handling of the genre. Lydgate's second fable is the familiar story of "The Wolf and the Lamb." The poet begins with moralizations: there is no compromise between right and wrong, and of necessity the weak have no power against the strong.  This time  however he restricts his prefatory remarks to three stanzas, and then sets the stage for his drama between strength and weakness. Unfortunately, the few prefatory remarks have already removed the vigour of characterization possible in this story, for the lamb and wolf, long before they appear, are reduced  k  3  to symbols of right and wrong, weakness and strength, by the opening moralizations and profusion of examples: Atwene rancour & humble pacience Ther ys in nature a gret diuision: A sely shepe make may no resistence Ageyn pe power of a strong lyon: Who hape most myght, pe febler gladly sewes: The pore habe few hys party to socour. The rauenous wolf opon be lambe dope lour;  ....  (lines 232-35, 2kl-k3) The narrative i s interrupted after the stage is set with a moralization on what is to come: the strong can afford to attack the weak without j u s t i f i cation.  The wolf makes his accusation and the lamb answers.  There i s only  one speech by each party. Rather than illustrating the wolf's unreasonableness by letting him trump up one feeble excuse after another, as he does in the Alphabet, Lydgate combines a l l of the wolf's accusations into one.  The  three accusations i n the traditional tale illustrate the wolf's wicked nature much more directly than a l l Lydgate's pejorative adjectives can. lamb's response is rather f a t a l i s t i c .  The  He retires from the water immediately,  after only the comment that the wolf is unjust. I may not chese: be choyse to yow ys f a l l . Hyt were but foly for me with yow to stryue. Ye shall for me haue your desyres a l l : Of your ryght I wyll nat yow depryue." (lines 281-84) His behaviour is in keeping with the moral Lydgate draws from this fable: the law may not help the poor and weak, but they go to heaven, and thus their meekness is rewarded.  This rather despicably complacent platitude Lydgate  seems determined to accept.  It is like his favourite moral: we must a l l  accept our station in l i f e and be content with i t .  He does, however, seem  to realize that his moral in "The Wolf and the Lamb" is not very satisfactory,  and to make i t more acceptable commends the usefulness of the lamb—even a dead lamb—and stresses the wickedness and uselessness of the wolf.  His  fable, he says in conclusion, has pointed out the great d i v e r s i t i e s — injustices, but he does not use the word--that exist in nature and society, and has praised one and condemned the other. however, are very calm.  His praise and condemnation,  His moral is that these things exist, but they w i l l  be rewarded by Heaven or Hell, and therefore we must accept them now, as nature teaches us through cases like that described in the fable.  Like the  analogous Aesopic fable, this illustrates a truth about the nature of human l i f e , but rather than illustrating i t to impart wisdom and awareness of the evils of the world, and to register protest against them, Lydgate's moral tries to reconcile them, and diminishes the tale's unpleasant reality. "The  Frog and the Mouse" opens also with four stanzas of moralizing  against deception, attached of course to Lydgate's doctrine that deceit or truthfulness are characteristics of certain types of creatures who represent similar natures in human beings.  Once again then the possibility for indivi-  duality in the animal characters about to appear i s removed; they are to be types drawn upon by the poet to illustrate his thesis. Aftyr peyr naturall disposicions In man & beste ys shewyd experience: Som haue to vertew peyr inclinacions, Oone to profyte, anoper to do offence; Som man pesyble, som man dob violence; Som man delytep in troupe in hys entent, Anoper reioysep to be fraudulent.  (lines 372-378) He then endeavors to present a sympathetic portrait of his mouse, part of whose characterization seems to be suggested by the country mouse i n the well-known fable of the two mice.  She is content with her lot i n l i f e and  expresses this sentiment i n eight stanzas: this is a great virtue, according  45  to Lydgate, and he relishes i n i t s expression.  The mouse's pompous  speech makes her quite ridiculous, though not intentionally; she i s like the cock in the f i r s t f a b l e — a vehicle for moralization rather than a character.  The mouse is kind to her guest the frog, who offers to show her his 5  home but actually means to drown her en route.  In the original fable the  mouse only wishes to cross the river for food; the device of the two animals visiting each other is Lydgate's own, and one is inclined to believe he employed i t in order to include the lengthy discourse on the happiness of being content with what one has.  It is not necessary to the story, for the  frog's behaviour would not be any less vicious i f he had not f i r s t been the mouse's guest.  That fact, however, gives Lydgate opportunity to moralize  on "pe vyce of ingratitude" as well as on the vice and the due reward of deceit, the moral which the fable is meant to illustrate: For whyche Isopus in hys fynall entent Thys fable wrote f u l l sobly in hys wyt: Who useb fraude, with freude shalbe quyt. (lines 523-25) The most satisfying fable in Lydgate's collection is "The Hownde and the Shepe." The opening moralization is restricted to two stanzas which describe the e v i l nature and appearance of false witnesses.  The narrative follows, but  i t is introduced by a remark characterizing i t s function: Whyche byng  the evil of bearing false witness to preue by exsamples f u l l notable Of olde Isopus whylorn wrote pys fable. (lines 538-39)  The fable i s identified as a purely exemplary narrative before i t starts, but the narrative i t s e l f manages to break free from the restrictions placed around i t .  It is lengthy without being loose or wordy; the added details  a l l contribute to the effectiveness of the narrative as an illustration, noT just of a moral, but of an actual human situation. There i s a certain  46  sense of realism in the characterizations of the animals and the descriptions of their court.  For example, witness Lydgate's description of the  sheep's amazement at being accused: The sely sheepe, astonyed on his sight, Stoode abasshed f u l like an innocence; To helpe hymself cowde fynde no diffence. (lines 565-67) Lydgate even attempts irony, with some success, i n this fable.  The hound  describes his two witnesses thus: "To offende trewth the wolf doth gretly drede, He is so stidefast and triew of his nature, The gentil kyte hath refused a l falshede, He had lever grete hunger to endure, Lovyng no raueyn vnto his pasture, Thanne take a chykken, by record of writyng, To his repast, or any goselyng." (lines 596-602) The consistent portrayals of both these creatures in the fables, in bestiary literature, and i n the beast epics makes the hound's oath even more insincere than i f one were familiar only with the natural animals.  And i n the two  fables preceding this one, Lydgate has portrayed the wolf and the kite as anything but true and gentle.  The fate of the sheep even prompts our moraliz-  ing poet to a l i t t l e scholarly wit: The ram of Colchos bare a flees of gold, Whiche was conquered manly by Iason; But this sheepe, when he his flees hath sold, With cold constrayned, wynter cam vpon, Deyd at myschief, . . . . (lines 624-28) A l l i n a l l , the narrative provides a scene much more lively and realistic than those i n the other fables of the Isopes Fabules.  The sheep is not prone  to uttering long-winded moral discourses, and a l l the animals behave in a manner that gives the fable a quality not unlike the humour and realism of similar scenes in Henryson's fables and the beast epics.  The evil of  hi bearing false witness and the shame of hypocrisy are communicated well, in an entertaining fashion and with a touch much lighter than usual by the end of the narrative. Unfortunately, the effect is lost.  His sheep dead, Lydgate launches  into a lengthy and truly heavy-handed discourse that destroys the realism achieved in the narrative and reduces the remarkably independent fable to another example i n a series of moral illustrations.  There are three stanzas  devoted to "examples" of the evils that begin with false witness.  This is  followed by a diatribe in which the Bible and Robert Holkot, and f i n a l l y Aesop, are cited.  The length and scope of this sermon against false witnesses  effectively reduces the fable to the status of a simple exemplum whose only importance to the author is derived from the work in which i t is included. The remaining three stories in the Isopes Fabules are shorter and slighter than the f i r s t four fables.  The fable of "The Wolf and the Crane"  is brief but effective as an illustration of the ingratitude of the wicked and powerful, in the style of the Aesopic fable.  Once again, however, Lydgate  insists on adding a lengthy moral that cites similar instances of tyranny and urges men to avoid tyrants.  The moral is simply a needless addition of  six stanzas that repeats what the fable has expressed but thus denies the fable the independence i t deserves. but not an animal fable.  "The Sun's Marriage" is another exemplum,  The f i n a l fable, "The Hound and the Cheese," is  brief and imitative enough to be truly Aesopic but the hound is not endowed with any human qualities.  And once more Lydgate presses his moral upon us in  two subsequent stanzas, urging us to be content with our lot in l i f e . In the parts of his Isopes Fabules, excepting "The Hownde and the Shepe," that are narrative, Lydgate's fable style is Aesopic.  When he t e l l s his story  he does more or less imitate the manner of the Isopets, the Classical fables,  48  and the exempla.  But Lydgate does so much more than merely t e l l a story  in his fables that one cannot feel justified in calling them Aesopic. The narrative is suspended in a welter of moralizations and exemplary similes.  The appended "morals" are not explanations of the narratives,  but elaborations of the moralizing that appears before and during the narrative.  The narrative i t s e l f thus becomes a mere illustration of Lydgate's  moral sermon; basically i t is simply an exemplum.  Neither does the length  of the moralizations Lydgate adds provide any saving grace; they are heavy and monotonous, for they are entirely repetitive, and bring no fresh approach to the narrative.  The basic moral of the fable i s repeated in a number of  ways, is illustrated with additional brief examples, and is related to the chief moral sentiment that unites the collection, that of the necessity and virtue of accepting one's station. not in scope.  Lydgate expands the genre in length, but  His amplified fables do not really go beyond the simple  exempla, and are in fact less successful because they pretend to more. The length of Lydgate's fables would lead one to suspect that his animal characters would be more f u l l y developed.  Lydgate was certainly  familiar with some of the effects of the beast epics on the portrayal of animals, i f only through the Nun's Priest's Tale, but in a l l the fables except "The Hownde and the Shepe" he does not appear at a l l influenced by this novel and v i t a l form of animal characterization, unless we consider his naming the cock in the f i r s t fable an influence.  Again excepting the characters in  "The Hownde and the Shepe," Lydgate's animals scarcely have the realistic characterization of the animals in the better exempla—the ass in the Ayenbyt of Inwyt, for example.  The cock and the mouse are simply mouthpieces, the  wolf a stock type, the lamb a rather unbelievable embodiment of the meekness the poet recommends.  Bestiary and traditional exegetical associations so  k  crowd the cock that he cannot emerge from his figurative function.  9  Lydgate  can perhaps be given credit for combining bestiary and fable material, but his narratives gain nothing by the combination. A l l the material he adds--bestiary, lapidary, didactic, theological—tends to be either repetitive or superfluous, reducing his fables to nothing more than exempla within an entirely didactic framework. "The Churl and the Bird" is a much more successful fable.  Written  not much later than the Isopes Fabules, i t owes much of i t s success to a strong Chaucerian influence on its language.^  It also owes much to the  quality of the story itself, a popular tale from the Disciplina Clericalis involving a clever bird and a foolish man.  The bird i s f u l l y characterized,  and her wit, wisdom, and enjoyment of teaching her captor a lesson are communicated through her extensive dialogues with him.  Lydgate's bird, in  spite of her lengthy moralizing speeches, i s not simply a vehicle for a moral but is indeed an independent character. The narrative begins with a description of a pleasant setting, the garden carefully built by the churl, into which the bird is introduced naturally. Mid the gardeyn stood a fressh laurer, Theron a brid syngyng, bothe day & nyht, With sonnyssh fetheris brihter than gold wer, Which with h i r song makith heuy hertis l i h t , That to bihold i t was an heuenly siht How toward evyn & in the dawenyng, She did h i r peyn most amorously to syng. (lines 57-63) The churl captures the bird and places her in a cage, Lydgate managing to narrate this event with effective brevity (lines 76-77).  The bird's  cleverness, however, is the strongest quality of the narrative.  She refuses  to sing in captivity, and when the churl suggests making a, aeal of her instead  50 she offers him "thre greet wisdames" (line 159) in exchange for her freedom. She does hold true to her promise, but, happy to be free again, cannot resist teasing her foolish captor: "Thou were," quod she, "a verry natural foole, To sofre me departe of thi lewdnesse, Ther is a ston which c a l l i d is iagounce, Off old engendrid withynne my entrayle, " . . . (lines 225-26, 232-33) The churl is appropriately regretful, and by his lament proves that the bird's low opinion of him is just.  She then explains how the wisdom she  has given him was as wasted on him as a precious stone would have been, and relishes in explaining how he has already forgotten each of the three lessons.  The portrait of a small bird reproving a man for stupidity is truly  delightful, for, ironically, here the human being is churlish—bestially stupid--and the animal enlightened: "It were but foly with the for to carpe, Or to preche of wisdamys more or lasse, I hold hym mad that bryngith foorth an harpe, Ther-on to teche a rude, for-dullid asse; And mad is he that syngith a fool a masse; And he most mad that dooth his besynesse To teche a cherl termys of gentilnesse." (lines 337-4-3) That such words are spoken by a bird indicates that Lydgate does here recognize the possibilities of developing animal characters as commentators upon human beings. Lydgate's narrative in this fable is sometimes marred by his usual 7 moralizing bent.  "He extracts every ounce of morality":  the bird elabor-  ates the three lessons when the churl has disregarded them, she utters a long discourse on the value of freedom and the dangers of captivity, and even offers further illustrations of Lydgate's favourite moral.  51 "Thus euery thyng, as clerkes s p e c i f i e , Frute on trees, & f o l k of euery age, Fro whens thei cam, t h e i r taken a tarage." (lines 3 8-50) k  The Prologue, "the language of which i s very t u r g i d , " ^ provides the t y p i c a l j u s t i f i c a t i o n of writing fables.  Scripture uses the same means to teach  lessons, and thus poets have used parables also; natural objects, a f t e r a l l , are useful f o r i l l u s t r a t i n g Lydgate's t y p i c a l theme: Thus of a l thyng ther been dyuersites, Some of estat, & som of lowe degrees. (lines 27-28) But i n a l l fairness to Lydgate we must notice that neither i n Prologue nor the concluding stanzas does he repeat the lessons of h i s narrative i n more than a few b r i e f summarizing remarks. own,  The fable i s l e f t to stand on i t s  and the dominant impression l e f t i n the minds of the audience i s the  bird's delight i n her freedom and i n her own wit.  Even her remarks about  " l i k e to l i k e " take the form of very a t t r a c t i v e description of the natural scene: "And semblably i n A p r i l l and i n May, Whan g e n t i l briddis make most melodie, The cobkkow syngen can but o lay, In o t h i r tymes she hath no fantasye; . . . ." (lines  3kh-k7)  "The vynteneer t r e t i t h of h i s holsom wynes, Off g e n t i l frute bostith the gardeneer, The f f i s s h e r cast his hookis & his lynes, To catche f f i s s h i n euery fresh ryveer, .' . . ." (lines 351-5 ) k  "The Churl and the B i r d , " then, i l l u s t r a t e s that the fable, even i n the hands of an u n l i k e l y f a b u l i s t , can be expanded into a genuinely successful narrative, combining l i t e r a r y quality with a comment upon human beings as well.  For a l l Lydgate's seriousness, the comment i n "The Churl and the B i r d "  52 an amused one.  As i n "The Hownde and the Shepe," Lydgate develops his  animal character and enjoys i t s animal nature, balancing that with the human role i t is given. Lydgate's collection of fables as a whole, however, does not evince any interest in the fable as narrative poetry.  In the Isopes Fabules,  the fable is to Lydgate a moral vehicle, and the narrative does not interest him any more--indeed, sometimes i t interests him much less—than i t did the preachers.  Lydgate's two felicitous encounters with his chosen genre  in "The Churl and the Bird" and "The Hownde and the Shepe," however that fable may be smothered by the moralizations that are welded to i t , give solitary suggestions that the genre can yield more literary f r u i t than i t s exponent seems aware of in his other fables.  53 FOOTNOTES The edition cited throughout is that of Henry Noble MacCracken, The Minor Poems of John Lydgate, EETS OS 192 (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 193M, II, 566-99 (isopes Fabules) and 468-85 ("The Churl and the Bird"). Derek Pearsall, John Lydgate (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1970), p. 192; Walter F. Schirmer, John Lydgate, trans. Ann E. Keep (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1 9 6 l ) , pp. 22-23. 3  p. 192.  h Plessow, pp. x l i i - i i i ; Schirmer, p. 235 It is found in the Novus Aesopus, the Isopet de Paris, the Isopet de Chartres, the Isopet I, the Isopet de Lyon and the various Romulus collections (see Bastin, I, l ) , as well as in the fables of Phaedrus. Henryson retains the original plot. ^ Alan Renoir, The Poetry of John Lydgate (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967), pTT^. 7 Pearsall, p. 198. Ibid., p. 199.  5  k  CHAPTER THREE ROBERT HENRYSON'S TRANSFORMATION OF THE MORAL FABLE  There are only two known collections of animal fables from the medieval period of English literature, and each represents a different extreme of literary worth.  Were the collection of Lydgate unique, there  would be l i t t l e justification for examining traditional Aesopic development in Middle English.  But in the late fifteenth century the Scottish poet 1  Robert Henryson wrote a collection of fables, largely based upon the traditional and long popular Aesopic versions, but treated with such originality and real literary ability that the humble fable as we have examined i t so far can scarcely be recognized. In at least seven of the Morail Fabillis of Esope the Phrygian, Henryson reworks traditional Aesopic fables, and in a l l we can see his awareness of the role of the beast fable as exemplum, not  least through his appreciation of i t s didactic purpose.  But unlike the  exempla and Lydgate's fables, Henryson's collection does not find i t s sole raison d'etre i n this didactic purpose.  Henryson teaches and delights: the  Morall Fabillis are moral, but they are also excellent fables, excellent narrative poems, and there can be no doubt that Henryson intended them to be such. Like Lydgate, Henryson groups his fables into one collection introduced by a prologue. Also like Lydgate, he uses his Prologue as an apology- for the genre and for his own poor s k i l l . the  The argument is a Smiliar one, and employs  conventional metaphors of nutshell and kernel, s o i l and f r u i t .  However,  in the Prologues of the two poets, one can already detect the great differencein their attitudes to the fable, the difference that is so marked when the two collections are each seen whole.  Lydgate begins, not with the pleasures  55  of poetry, the chaff through which the f r u i t i s produced, hut with the pleasures of wisdom, the f r u i t i t s e l f .  Henryson begins with the praise of  poetry's beauty that i s i n i t s e l f at least p a r t i a l apology f o r i t s f i c t i o n : Thocht f e i n y e i t f a b i l s of a i d poetre Be not a l grunded upon truth, y i t than Thair p o l i t e termes of sweit rhetore Richt plesand ar unto the e i r of man; . . . . (lines 1-k) The remainder of Lydgate's apology indeed makes very l i t t l e reference to this pleasant chaff; i t i s the "moralytees f u l l notable of sentence" of Aesop that are so pleasant. at  One wonders why Lydgate bothers with the fable  a l l when he i s so convinced that the lesson alone i s quite pleasant  enough.  Lydgate uses four stanzas to praise these pleasures; Henryson also  uses four stanzas to j u s t i f y h i s choice of genre, but he puts them to much betjter use. Henryson praises poetry at the opening of his Prologue not only f o r i t s pleasures but f o r i t s value as a corrector of mankind's weaknesses through metaphor, thus establishing himself, l i k e other medieval f a b u l i s t s , as a moralist. art.  However, h i s seriousness does not injure h i s judgment of  Poetry has nonetheless "sweit rhetore" and " s u b t e l l dyte;" he never  gives poetry, other than his own, any of the sententious attributes does--"fables rude," or a comparison with "blak erbe."  Lydgate  Clearly, Henryson  loves and respects good poetry, and means to give i t further c r e d i t by writing good poetry himself.  But h i s interest i s not only s t y l e .  matter, too, need not be e n t i r e l y moral to be valuable.  Subject  The t h i r d and fourth  stanzas of the Prologue already suggest the realism and humanitarianism with which the Morall F a b i l l i s have always been credited.3  Henryson i s quite  aware that the sobre mien i s not always the way to successful instruction. The argument of the exponents of pulpit exempla i s brought forth, but here  56  i t has a genuine humanity: And clerkis sayis i t is richt p r o f i t a b i l l Amangis ernist to ming ane merie sport, To light the spreit and gar the tyme be schort. (lines 19-21) Henryson sums the matter up with an expression that illustrates the timelessness of a work often considered a document of fifteenth-century Scottish  4 views and circumstances: Forthermair, ane bow that is ay bent Worthis unsmart and dullis on the string: Sa dois the mynd that is ay diligent In ernistfull thochtis and in studying: With sad materis sum merines to ming Accordis weill: . . . . (lines 22-27) The Prologue, then, shows Henryson to be genuinely concerned to delight as well as teach.  In stanza two he has stated that i t i s up to  the readers of his stories to find the "morall sweit sentence" in the "subtell dyte of poetry:" "To gude purpois quha culd i t weill apply. Following the expression of the need to entertain and the conventional medieval topos of apologising for his lack of s k i l l , ^ Henryson gives what seems at f i r s t a conventional explanation of writing animal fables, their ability to show How mony men in operatioun Ar like to beistis in conditioun.  (lines 48-49) By having the Prologue culminate in the two stanzas that draw the parallel between man and beast, he makes i t clear that whatever he says about animals in the fables to follow, he intends to be applicable to men as well.  The  i n i t i a l explanation of the purpose of the fable given in the f i r s t stanza-"to repreif the h a i l l misleving/ Off man be figure of ane uther thing,"-is elaborated by the f r u i t and chaff image, and stressed through the repetition  57  of "figure" i n the last stanza.  "Esope . . ./Be figure wrait his huke"  clearly indicates that the animals we are to meet in the fables are really figures of humanity.  But Henryson's arranging his Prologue the way he does,  letting i t build up to the consciousness of bestiality in human beings, though followed by a reminder that the fable uses animals figurally, stresses his awareness of a consequent interchange and multiplication of meaning: his animals figure human qualities or human beings, but human beings also, through their behaviour, "in brutal beistis are transformate." Thus the correspondence is more complex than a simply figural one.  Indeed, i t is a  whole series of two-way correspondences between fable characters and human beings, from the basic fact of animals speaking and thinking in the narratives to the application of figure, and from human beings—through their behaviour—providing models for the portrayal of the animals to varying extents, to their actually being like these animals in a l i t e r a l sense. Henryson is using conventional ideas about the fable, but his consciousness of their implications for animal narratives gives us a broader perspective on the tales that are to follow.  Not only i n the morals we are to extract,  but in our l i t e r a l reading of the narratives themselves, we are to be aware of a constant co-existence, of multiple human-animal correspondences.  One of  Henryson's great strengths is that this awareness works as effectively upon the solaas of his fables as upon the sentence.  Given Henryson's obvious concern that the fable delight as well as teach, an examination of the ability of the Morall Fabillis to "light the spreit" seems justified before going on to consider them from a more complete generic point of view.  As the sources of the Fabillis include both traditional 7  Aesopic fables and stories drawn from the cyclical beast epics, emphasizing  the latter  the entertainment function of narrative much more than the  58  former, we ought to examine fables based upon both.  "The T a i l l of the Wolf  Q and the Wedder  and "The T a i l l of the Uplondis Mous and the Burges Mous"  belong to the former category, while "The T a i l l of the Wolf that gat the Nek-hering throw the wrinkis of the Foxe that begylit the Cadgear" i s based upon stories from the Reynard epics.  Henryson's consistent handling  of both kins of material suggests that these two forms of animal narrative are  not so separate as i s sometimes thought; both types, at least, t e s t i f y  '  to equal concern on the poet's part f o r writing good poetry, and t e l l i n g a good story. "The T a i l l of the Wolf and the Wedder" i s a good s t a r t i n g point f o r an examination of Henryson's narrative style as i t i s shaped to f u l f i l l his  expressed wish i n the Prologue: i t i s f i l l e d with unreserved comedy,  "> even burlesque, that i s obviously enjoyed f o r i t s own sake.  I t also i l l u s -  trates Henryson's reworking of source material f o r the improvement of the n a r r a t i v e — u n l i k e what i s often the case with medieval Aesopic fables, the motives of the characters and the circumstances of the narrative are rationalized.  The humour of "The Wolf and the Wether" i s inherent i n the  basic plot as Henryson found i t i n the corpus of Aesopic fable:9 a wether i s dressed i n the skin of a f i e r c e dog i n order to protect the f l o c k of the shepherd when the dog who has been the scourge of the neighbouring predators dies.  He i s , of course, ultimately revealed and destroyed.  Henryson e l a -  borates this basic s i t u a t i o n and f u l l y exploits i t s comic potential. his  In  poem, the wether deceives himself as his belligerence becomes more and  more successful, and climbs to the heights of f o l l y by pursuing a wolf long a f t e r i t i s necessary f o r him to do so; i t i s t h i s "ludicrous belligerence that i s the essence of the comedy. " ^ The comic tone of the tale i s set shortly after the opening lines have established the s i t u a t i o n : the shepherd, upon the loss of h i s dog, bursts  59 into a iamentatio elevating the dog (who i s shortly afterwards to be unceremoniously skinned) to the rank of hero: "Now is my darling deid, allace.'" quod he; "For now to beg my breid I may be boun, With pyikstaff and with scrip to f a i r off toun; For a l l the beistis befoir bandonit bene Will schute upon my beistis with ire and tene.' " (lines 2471-75) One must acknowledge the suspicion that the shepherd is somewhat inadequate, and the suspicion is confirmed when he replies to the wether's suggestion, "This come of ane gude wit; Thy counsall is baith sicker, l e i l l and trew; Quha sayis ane scheip is daft, thay l i e i t of i t . " (lines 2490-92) Four stanzas of the narrative are taken up with the wether's furious-and completely pointless—pursuit of the wolf.  The irony of the situation  is repeatedly brought forward, so that the fury of the chase is undercut and thus transformed to the ridiculous.  The beginning of the wether's  pursuit is compared with the behaviour of a dog, reminding the reader that the wether is a wether clothed in a dog's skin: Went never hound mair haistelie fra the hand Quhen he wes rynnand maist raklie at the ra . . . . (lines 2518-19) This i s not a hound chasing a roe, but a wether chasing a wolf, a ludicrous situation made even more so by the wether's vow "to God that he suld have him" (line 2524).  The behaviour of the wolf in the course of the chase is  developed with an obvious enjoyment of the ridiculous.  His fear causes him  to defecate repeatedly, and in complete despair he casts away the lamb he has stolen.  The tale reaches the heights of the ridiculous--and indeed in  so doing precludes the need for a pointed moral--when the wether, victorious in his aim until now, shows his "gude wit" by calling out  6o  "in faith, we part not swa: It is not the lamb bot the that I desyre; I s a i l cum neir, for now I se the tyre." (lines 253 -36) k  Another eight lines of chase seem to confirm the wether's supremacy and the defeat of the wolf, but in one line that is a masterstroke of ironic undercutting,  the entire foolish situation is returned to the reality  beneath the wether's feint: The wedder followit him baith out and in, Quhill that ane breir-busk raif rudelie off the skyn. (lines 2 5 - 5 ) k k  k  After the rough and tumble pursuit through bush and briar, the narrative jolts to a halt, and the wolf blinks his eyes as reality confronts him.  His bad temper is understandable, and the potential for humour is  not l e f t unfulfilled.  The wether's feeble and most wether-like reply to  the wolf's angry questions is another example of a single line conveying a good part of the comic impact, and, like the vivid pursuit and brief unmasking, can be readily visualized: "'Maister,' quod he, to have playit with yow'"  (line 2558).  I meant  'bot  The wether as hero is rapidly reduced  to his true stature. The fable does not end, however, until Henryson has delivered a few more strokes to underline the ironies of the appearance-reality that is the basis of the comedy.  dichotomy  In reply to the wolf's angry description  of the pains he has suffered, the wether subserviently replies, "'My mynd wes never to do your persoun i l l ' " (line 2575)> i t is by now painfully obvious that he is completely incapable of such action.  His fierce pursuit  of the wolf and his pride end in these remarks, once again rendered obviously meaningless by the realities of the situation:  61  "And I s a i l gar my freindis blis your banis: Ane f u l l gude servand w i l l crab his maister anis." (lines 2579-&0) In a last ironic touch, Henryson shows the one way in which the wether can be useful to the wolf, and at the same time provides the obvious conclusion to his folly; he is dispatched in a brief two lines. While the events of this fable—the death of the dog, the wether's plan, the pursuit of the wolf, and the f i n a l confrontation—are described with comic relish and considerable detail, the turning points of the plot are given i n brief one or two-line accounts.  The strength of the humour lies  in the ironies resulting from the posturing of the wether as something he is not--the ludicrous disparity between appearance and reality—and Henryson accentuates them through punctuating his narrative with these brief but complete depictions and suggestions of the reality beneath the appearance. Thus the intervening narrative too is seen in ironic terms. Henryson*s s k i l l in dealing with fable material can be further i l l u s trated in this poem by a brief examination of his adaptation of source material.  We have already noticed the emphasis on the self-deception and  belligerence of the wether, and the great effectiveness this has one the [ comedy.  In the Aesopic version,^ the wether is very passive, and there is  1 J no mention of the wolf dropping the lamb and the wether persisting in the  1 J chase.  Also, the dog's sudden death makes more sense than the old age that  -<(  \ carries him off in Caxton's Aesopic version: one would wonder how he had been  l : so fierce i f so old, and why the shepherd was so unprepared.  Finally, in  Henryson there is no" mention of the wolf eating the wether; he k i l l s him \ to vent his anger, not to satisfy his hunger. This detail makes the wether's 12 protestations of playing games and doing service a l l the more ridiculous. "The T a i l l of the Wolf that gat the Nek-hering throw the wrinkis of the  ^  62  Foxe that b e g y l i t the Cadgear" r e l i e s on irony f o r i t s humour as well, but both irony and humour are of a subtler kind.  Henryson i s here dealing  not with the subject-matter of Aesopic fable, but with yet another episode i n the dispute between the f u l l y developed characters of the beast epics, 13 the fox and the wolf.  Several of Henryson's fables are about these  famous figures, and we w i l l examine them i n other contexts, but one w i l l serve as a good i l l u s t r a t i o n of h i s narrative treatment of this type of fable subject matter.  The wolf, i n the fourth fable c a l l e d "Waitskaith",  Ik i s here unnamed, but the fox i s Lowrence, as i n fables three, four and ten. The plot i s true to beast epic: the fox, as usual, t r i c k s the wolf, who i s f o o l i s h enough to believe him, so that the wolf suffers and the fox reaps several advantages.  With h i s usual capacity f o r i r o n i c understatement and  i m p l i c i t double meaning, Henryson develops the humour inherent i n the s i t u a t i o n through characterization.  While this i s also true of "The Wolf and the Wether," -  t h i s fox and wolf fable i s subtler, f o r i t involves the playing o f f of one meaning against another within the dialogue, rather than simply i l l u s t r a t i n g a d i s p a r i t y between appearance and r e a l i t y through action. The fable opens with a debate between the wolf and Lowrence.  The wolf  i s attempting to secure regular meals by f o r c i n g the fox to be h i s servant: he knows the fox to be wily enough to be c e r t a i n of success.  The fox w i l l  not comply, making various excuses about h i s f a i l u r e s , which he sums up by saying, . . ."that beist ye micht c a l l b l i n d That micht not eschaip than f r a me an myle: How micht I ane o f f tharae that wyis begyle? My t i p p i t twa .; ' e i r i s and my twa gray <ene. .;: Garris me be kend quhair I wes never sene. " (lines 1988-92)  63  In other words, he can fool no creature for they a l l know him to be untrustworthy and dangerous.  The wolf refuses to believe him, and ironically  his incredulity is justified for he is in the process of illustrating that there is one creature at least who is foolish enough to trust the fox. "'It i s ane auld dog, doutles, that thow begylis'" (line 2009), he says when the fox holds out against service, and prides himself when Lowrence seems to respond to this by a quick show of fealty; but his words prove ironically true.  The stupidity of the wolf is apparent enough here, and  the ironic humour rests largely on that character's conception of himself as clever.  But i t i s the fox's character which is the most finely drawn  in this passage.  The fox sees the wolf f i r s t when they meet, and immediately  feigns obeisance.  He manages to sound innocent and righteous—for example,  he says he would not creep up upon sleeping creatures.  But when the wolf  becomes angry, Lowrence is quick to dissemble subservience, and do as he is bid.  His response is replete with double meaning.  When the wolf demands  an oath of loyalty, he replies "'that ane word makes me wraith'" (line 2023) --ostensibly because the wolf doesn't trust him, but no doubt actually because loyalty is entirely foreign to his nature. The following episodes--the two appearances of the cadger and the conference of the fox and wolf between them—contain characterizations of the wolf and the cadger as greedy, and stupid i n their greed, that stand in marked contrast to the characterization of the fox.  In their greed, both  these characters believe i n Lowrence's ruse; they are blinded not by the fox, but by their own shortcomings. The portrayal of the cadger is cleverly executed i n comic irony. Greedy and foolish, he gloats over the "dead" fox as i f the fur were already warm mittens, and dances a l i t t l e j i g in the roadway to celebrate his good  6k His behaviour, and his "'ye ar deir welcum'" (line 2067) to  fortune.  the fox, are of course ironic, for we know that he w i l l soon feel quite differently.  The poet takes no small delight in the situation, for he  presents a vivid picture of the scene in the roadway: the fox busily  throws  herring out behind, the wolf gathers them up, and the cadger, oblivious, marches on ahead singing happily. Syne.be the heid the hors in hy hes hint; The fraudfull foxe thairto gude tent hes tane, And with his teith the stoppell, or he stint, Pullit out, and syne the hering ane and ane Cut off the c r e i l l i s he swakkit doun gude wane: The wolff wes war, and gadderit spedilie; The cadgear sang "Huntis up, up.'" upon hie. (lines 2077-83) The wolf, however, i s not content with what he has, for he has heard the cadger offer the fox a "nek-hering," and i s too stupid, and greedy, to realize what the cadger meant.  ^  The fox instantly sees the opportunity  both to beguile the wolf and to keep a l l the fish for himself. He immediately begins to play upon the wolf's greed by describing a fabulous "nekhering," "'callour, pypand lyke ane pertrik ee'" (line 2127).  He then  proceeds to teach the wolf the trick he has just played; the wolf is not wise enough to realize the same trick can scarcely work twice, or to question 1/ the stipulations the fox gives him.  These stipulations are doubly ironic in  that both fox and audience know the cadger i s angry and now carrying a staff. The last ironic touch is his warrant that "'ye s a i l de na suddand deith this day. " (line 2157) 1  adjective.  1  But the wolf does not even question the qualifying  It is at this point that the opening passage of the fable adds  yet another degree of ironic humour to the wolf's behaviour. makes certain that we do not miss remembering the debate: Als s t y l l he Lthe wolfj lay as he wer verray deid, Rakkand nathing off the carlis favour nor feid;  Henryson  ^  65  Bot ever upon the nek-tiering he t h i n k i s , And quyte f o r g e t t i s the foxe and a l l h i s wrinkis.  (lines 2164-67) When the cadger has clubbed him and he staggers away, the narrator says, "He mycht not se--he wes sa verray b l i n d " ( l i n e 2 l 8 4 ) , a f i n a l irony at the expense of the wolf who i s b l i n d l i t e r a l l y , f o r the blood i n h i s eyes, and f i g u r a t i v e l y , f o r he has been b l i n d to the t r i c k s of the fox, i n spite of his protestations at the beginning of the t a l e .  Although the fox plays  the role of deceiver--and i s condemned f o r i t i n the m o r a l i t a s — t h e fable i s as much a t a l e of self-deception as i s that of the f o o l i s h wether.  The  f i n a l word of the moralitas too i s that i t i s greed which makes men b l i n d , and makes i t possible f o r them to be deceived. We have thus f a r examined Henryson's i r o n i c handling of two very d i f f e r ent kinds of beast fable material.  In "The Wolf and the Wether," the narra-  t i v e dwells upon a combination of burlesque humour with an acute sense of the ridiculous r e s u l t i n g from a dichotomy between appearance and r e a l i t y . This same dichotomy prevails i n a fox and wolf t a l e , but i s based upon caref u l l y drawn characterization, a l b e i t by t h i s time of standard characters: the ambivalence i n the notoriously two-faced fox, and the blindness of the wolf.  In each case, an animal character impels the s i t u a t i o n through seeming  or through thinking he i s , what he i s not.  But beneath the l e v e l of meaning  created by these i r o n i c d i s p a r i t i e s i s yet another such l e v e l which i s at the basis of the animal fable as a genre: the animals are behaving as human beings.  Other f a b u l i s t s apologize f o r i t as f i c t i t i o u s , and then seem no  longer conscious of i t .  Henryson, however, i s supremely aware of t h i s  paradox at the root of his genre; interested as we have seen him to be i n the above fables with the i r o n i c consequences  of the difference between  appearance and r e a l i t y , he plays upon the paradox as an additional means of  66 making his fables memorable.  Let us f i r s t examine his method of using  this paradox on the narrative level before going on to consider the implications in terms of the complete fables, narratives plus moralities. Henryson's spirited re-telling of the age-old tale of the town mouse and the country mouse offers ample opportunity to witness his awareness of the paradox inherent in his chosen genre, while also being another excellent illustration of his comic ability.  The fable is handled with a very light  ^ touch, a l l the more admirable for the plot being such a familiar one. j  Any  ^ moralizing--with one exception—that occurs in the narrative is spoken by the country mouse, but even this does not weigh heavily on the tale because of the comic, though sympathetic, portrayal of her.  The gentle humour has  a dual origin: the v i s i t of an unsophisticated country relative to the seemingly comfortable home of the worldly-wise mouse is a situation with familiar comic potential, and the portrayal of mice as human beings is comical in i t s e l f .  The two situations are cleverly related to each other;  the country mouse's country l i f e resembles the l i f e of a natural mouse, and thus makes us aware, in the context of the tale, of the paradox of the fable fiction. The mice are much more recognizably mouse-like before they reach the city than afterwards.  Their food i s what one would expect a natural mouse  to eat, and their journey to the city is a stealthy one, "In stubbill array throw gers and come,/ And under buskis" (lines 253-5 )k  But when evi-  dences of mouse-ness appear simultaneously with human behaviour, the mice successfully embody the sense of incongruity of the behaviour of animals in fables that is usually latent i n other examples of the genre.  The menu  in the town mouse's home i s one which would belong to human beings—mutton and beef, and the dainties of "lordis fair"--but . . . —thay drank the watter c l e i r  ^  67 Insteid off wyne: bot y i t thay maid gude cheir. (lines 272-73) Their meal is enhanced somewhat unusually as well: And ane quhyte candill owt off ane coffer s t a l l , Insteid off spyce to gust thair mouth withall. (lines 286-87) The spirits and the subsequent plight of the mice are treated with great comic relish.  The mirth of the two mice is captured and portrayed  with a sympathetic good humour in such lines as these: This maid thay merie quhill thay micht na mair, And "Haill, Yule.' Haill.'" cryit upon hie. (lines 288-89) Here the narrator interposes two lines one might c a l l moralization: Yit efter joy oftymes cummis cair, And troubill efter grit prosperitie:  ....  (lines 291-92) But the speedy resumption of the narrative that hurries the reader past these lines, and the exuberant comedy found in the succeeding ones, suggest that the poet is providing transition from the colourful but static dinner scene to the ensuing scramble of the mice to avoid capture; the lines reinforce the moral, but they do so without being obtrusive.  The  interest at this point is in the story, and the narrator obviously enjoys, with a good-humoured detachment, the sudden change in the scene, one which again restores the mice to animals: The spenser come with keyis in his hand, Opinnit the dure, and thame at denner fand. Thay taryit not to wesche, as I suppose,  ....  (lines 293-95) The anguish of the country mouse, who has never had to cope with such a situation, is described with similar detachment.  When the steward has  68  departed, the mice return to t h e i r feast only to be menaced more seriously i n a scene that once again reminds us that they are mice; indeed, the threat being a cat makes the awareness of "mouseness" unavoidable.  new  When,  a f t e r a breathless struggle that has been described as "a d e l i g h t f u l l y used parody of the wheel of Fortune t o p o s , a t  l a s t the country mouse  escapes, her r e l i e f i s described with a matter of f a c t " h i r cheir wes a l l the b e t t e r " ( l i n e 3^0).  The fable now concludes quickly.  The end of the  t a l e , with i t s obvious moral i m p l i c i t i n the decision of the country mouse, i s given through that character's words and through the b r i e f concluding remarks of the narrator.  The country mouse rather breathlessly declaims  the dangers of her s i s t e r ' s good l i f e , and resolves t o have no part of them. Her words, taken out of context, r i n g l i k e a vehement sermon against worldliness: "Thy mangerie i s mingit a l l with c a i r - Thy guse i s gude, thy gansell sour as g a l l ; The subcharge o f f thy service i s bot s a i r — Sa s a i l thow f i n d h e i r efterwart na f a l l . " (lines  3kh-k7)  But the l i n e s as they are set i n the fable do not carry t h i s impression. The words are spoken by a very upset and dishevelled mouse, whose plight has been described comically and i n a rather detached way.  Overt moraliza-  t i o n i s withheld f o r the moralitas. The moralitas repeats the lesson the mouse utters and i l l u s t r a t e s i n the narrative, suggesting at the same time a f i g u r a l reading of the t a l e . But within the t a l e too the reminders of the mice's being animals, not have done more than simply increase the comedy.  men,  The country mouse i s  constantly shuttled between r u r a l n a i v e t e — a s when she cannot escape the cat--and sophisticated pleasures, but also between "mouse-ness" and "humanness".  When things seem to go well f o r her, something occurs to remind  69 her of her true nature.  The disparity of her role in the narrative  seems to be inspired, and made ironic, by the nature of animal f a b l e that a mouse should be portrayed as behaving as a human being at a l l . On the l i t e r a l level, the disparity heightens the comedy; on the moral level i t teaches mouse and audience the obvious lesson, but with the subtle addition that the reality beneath appearance w i l l inevitably reassert i t s e l f , that the only way to end her insecurity is to return to the country—or,  to mouseness. When the moralitas adds the figural level,  with the resulting ironies stemming from the double meanings that have already informed the narrative, the implications for human beings are more clear.  But by referring the lesson to the narrative i t s e l f , Henryson  saves his tale from a rigid single-minded interpretation, for the referral is a reminder of the sympathy he has for the country mouse, of the comedy, and of the irony of her situation: 0 wantoun man, that usis for to feid Thy wambe, and makis i t a god to be, TLukeJ to thy self. I warne the weill; but dreid The cat cummis, and to the mous hes ee. 1  (lines 38I-8U) The moralitas on i t s own suggests a harsh morality, but the moralitas in conjunction with the fable reminds us only that as funny as the behaviour of the country mouse may be, i t i s , on the human level, not at a l l funny, just as on the animal level, for the country mouse herself, i t is most serious.  We are not to recoil against laughing at the absurdities and  ironies we see, but we are to realize that humour is not enough, that the world is serious."^ Perhaps the most serious fable in Henryson's collection is fable eight, "The Preiching of the Swallow."  In form i t is unlike the others, for the  narrator experiences the fable almost as a dream vision. The "narrative"  70  begins with a long passage discussing the ways of God.  The ideas ex-  pressed are most conventional: man is not capable of understanding the ways of God and should not try to do so, for his understanding is imperfect. But nature, the book of God's works, was created for his education,  and  he may learn useful lessons by natural observation—chiefly, that God is "gude, fair, wyis and bening" (line 1652).  There follow several stanzas  expressing the wonders of the created world which testify to the goodness of God, and a passage on the diversities of the seasons, which shows the narrator's obvious delight in their beauty and variety.  The narrator ends  his description of the seasonal cycle with Spring, "and i t is into the description that  he  walks to experience the action:  That samin seasoun, into ane soft morning, Rycht blyth that bitter blastis wer ago, Unto the wod, to see the flouris spring And heir the mavis sing and birdis mo, I passit furth, . . . . (lines 1713-17) The action of the narrative occurs around him: the swallow preaches to the flock of birds in the very place where he is sitting. but returns to find the birds again.  He goes away dazed,  This is not dream vision, for the  narrator does not sleep, and the vision is prolonged through the seasons, but there is enough of the dream vision figure in the narrator to imply that  i ft an explicit allegory is to follow. The narrative includes a great deal of moralizing.  The swallow f i r s t  preaches to the birds of the wisdom of preparing ahead of time to prevent possible danger.  He speaks as a learned ecclesiastic, quoting Latin pro-  verbs and referring to the sayings of "clerks". "For clerkis sayis i t is nocht sufficient To considder that is befoir thyne ee," .... (lines 1755-56)  71 Although the "clerk" who describes the cycles of the seasons earlier in the poem does not say this, we are reminded of the passage on the hardships of winter following the joy and bounty of summer. This consciousness of change is reinforced by a stanza describing the natural cycle of spring changing into summer. The birds' answers to the swallow are expressive of the blindness of mortals Henryson has alluded to in other fables and in the third stanza of this one.  They pay no heed while  they are able to enjoy themselves, and their spokesman, the lark, flings proverbs he misapplies and misunderstands back at the swallow, thus compounding the evidence of his blindness.^9 The outcome of i t a l l seems i n -  l evitable, and i s sadly moralized upon by the swallow:  20  "Lo," quod scho, "thus i t happinnis mony syis On thame that w i l l not tak counsall nor reid Off prudent men or clerkis that ar wyis;" . . . .  (lines 1882-84) ;  The suggestion is also that those who are not clever enough to learn  ! prudence from observing the ways of the world around them should take , counsel from those who are. Yet for a l l i t s morality, this fable is not a dull series of maxims held together by a thin thread of narrative that has been inserted as in a discourse. The opening passage is i t s e l f f i l l e d with successful description and an obvious enjoyment of what i s being described, even though much  21 of i t may be somewhat conventional.  Similar passages in the narrative  are as effective as the earlier descriptions of the seasons, as i s the stanza on the plight of the foolish birds in winter: The wynter come, the wickit wind can blaw; The woddis grene were wallowit with the weit; Baith f i r t h and f e l l with froistys wer maid faw, Slonkis and slaik maid slidderie with the s l e i t : The foulis f a i r for f a i t thay f e l l off f e i t ;  72  On bewis bair i t wes na bute to byde, Bot hyit unto housis thame to hyde. (lines 1832-38) The plight of the captured birds is described equally vividly. Poetic echoes in the narrative are not the only links i t has with the opening passage of the poem. The seasons described i n i t i a l l y are the setting for the narrative, which can even be seen as "merely a dramatic expansion of this passage."  22  Thematically, the two are held together,  not by the moral the swallow concludes with nor even by the subject of the verse treatise.  Rather, i t is the theme that in the fallen world there  is s t i l l much beauty for man to enjoy—as the narrator does in the narrative, and as the birds do while summer lasts--but that this natural order includes not only lessons about the beauty of God's creation, but also lessons fallen man must learn to preserve his l i f e , meaning of course his  eternal l i f e .  God made  The difference off tyme and i l k seasoun Concorddand t i l l our opurtunitie, As daylie by experience we may se. (lines 1675-77) The narrator sees, by experience, that the cycle of the seasons shows him that a l l things change, and that he must be prepared for that change. The narrative in one sense becomes an exemplum for the treatise opening the poem, but not in the simple way of sermon exempla.  Instead, the  narrative extends the meaning of the narrator's words, so that rather than being a straightforward illustration of the maxim that a l l things are made for man's benefit, i t expands upon the meaning of that maxim to include not only the temporal benefits of recognition of beauty but those of recognition of man's situation as well.  73  The moralitas develops this theme yet one step further.  The birds,  of course, are said to figure fallen man made blind by desire of things temporal.  The fowler is the devil, and the swallow, obviously, the  preacher who, through awareness of the wisdom given in the opening passage, that knowledge comes through observation of nature, is sensible of man's situation. The shortsightedness of the birds' actions thus becomes the shortsightedness  of man's behaviour in a world where he is con-  stantly threatened with eternal death.  As the cycles of seasons described  in both the verse treatise and the narrative have shown, "in this world thair is na thing lestand" (line 19 0). k  Man may see this for himself on  the l i t e r a l level, as the narrator did i n i t i a l l y ; but the remainder of the fable elaborates this idea, in the narrative on the moral level and in the moralitas on the allegorical level.  The elaboration on the opening passage  is made by the wise clerk, the preacher, and the speaker of the moralitas ends the fable with a line identifying himself with the protective preacher figure, playing on the double meaning made possible by his allegory: And thus endis the preiching of the swallow, (line 1950) The possibilities for fable as exemplum have been expanded from the conception of a tale as a static illustration of an idea to a narrative as a story called to mind by an idea, elaborating upon that idea, and in turn calling forth further elaborations on other levels of meaning. This fable is much more serious than Henryson's other fables that we have examined. There is neither burlesque as in "The Wolf and the Wether" nor the lighthearted humour of "The Two Mice." much more serious.  The verse form too i s  Whereas the fables are generally considered to be  intentionally "low style", in "The Preiching of the Swallow" Henryson  23  uses techniques of "high style"  --dream vision stance, fine descriptive  passages of nature, Classical allusions, alliterative verse. swallow speaks with a genuinely educated voice.  The  As a result, this is  one fable in which we do not perceive the underlying ironies usual in the other fables; the allegory is too dominant, and  the sense of fore-  boding that pervades the narrative precludes the possibility of any comic irony.. But this is not to deny that here too Henryson consciously exploits the ironies of the genre.  It is an irony resulting from the consciousness  that people behave as blindly as these birds do; the consciousness is established by the presence of the opening passage, and its organic link with the narrative, and is reinforced by the clearly allegorical intention. The disparity between "The Preiching of the Swallow" and the other Morall Fabillis could lead one to puzzle over its inclusion in the collection, but i f we extend i t s theme in literary terms, we can surely see in i t the ultimate justification of writing fables at a l l .  Remembering the knowl-  edge that is gained within the context of the single poem, we can apply i t to bur reading of the other Morall F a b i l l i s : A l l creature He maid for the behufe Off man and to his supportatioun Into this eirth, baith under and abufe,  ....  (lines 1671-73) But we must examine Henryson's more typical fables, in which the narrative and moralitas are not so clearly integrated, to come to a f u l l e r understanding of his attitude to the function of the moralitas.  The f i r s t  fable, "The Cock and the Jasp," is interesting from this point of view because the moralitas reverses the moral assigned by Lydgate, and some comparison with that fabulist w i l l shed further light on Henryson's handling of fable moralities.  75  The fable is a brief one but in i t we can observe some of the characteristics of Henryson's art that we have noticed in other fables. For one thing, the circumstances of the narrative are rationalized. Lydgate's cock simply finds the jewel; Henryson explains that i t was probably swept out of a house by careless serving girls.  This serves not  only to rationalize the story, but "by explaining and domesticating the pitjasp" Henryson keeps the narrative on the level of "barnyard realism. Most of the rest of the tale is taken up with the cock's soliloquy to the jewel.  Henryson gives two stanzas—first and l a s t — t o narrative, the second  to the rationalization, and the intermediate five to this soliloquy, a more concise version of a brief tale than Lydgate presents.  Henryson's cock is  as given to moralizing as Lydgate's; his tone, however, is altogether different.  The cock begins by seeming wise--he utters the wisdom Lydgate re-  peats throughout the same fable, and in a l l his others, that each should live according to his nature.  But what immediately follows suggests that  this cock's nature is indeed bestial, and perhaps by his own choosing, for he is rather obsessed with food.  He attempts to support his preference for  seeking food with an old wive's proverb, but falsely applies i t to what he has said: "Thy cullour dois bot confort to the sicht, And that i s not aneuch my wame to feid; And wyfis sayis lukand werkis ar l i c h t . " (lines 100-102) This alone makes us suspicious of his seeming wisdom. He then, ironically, after showing his base instincts by dwelling on his hunger, utters a pompous rhetorical rejection of the jewel that with Lydgate would pass for wisdom: "Quhar suld thow mak thy habitatioun? Quhar suld thow dwell bot i n ane royall tour? Quhar suld thow s i t bot on ane kingis croun,  76  Exaltit in worschip and in grit honour? Rise gentill jasp, of a l l stanis the flour, Out of this midding, and pas quhar thow suld he; . . . ." (lines 106-111) Henryson s acute sense of irony is once again confirmed: in the next two 1  lines the cock leaves the jewel "law upon the ground" and continues his 25 search for dinner. The moralitas to this fable, although at f i r s t perhaps surprising i f we approach i t after reading Lydgate, moves smoothly from the narrative. The foolishness of the cock's behaviour is borne out by Henryson's equating the stone with prudence and knowledge. Biblical authority is called upon to give weight to the argument: the cock is like . . . ane sow, to quhome men for the nanis In h i r draf-troich wald saw precious stanis. (lines 146-4-7) The cock's greed for food makes him blind, and his confidence in his wisdom is thus made a l l the more ridiculous for the truth that he misses.  The cock  rhetorical questions are mocked by the rhetorical questions of the moralitas And the cock's leaving the stone for more suitable finders is recalled by a f i n a l irony at more than the cock's expense: Of this mater to speik i t wer bot wind; Thairfore I ceis and w i l l na forther say: Ga seik the jasp quha w i l l , for thair i t lay. (lines 159-61) When we remember where the jewel lay in the narrative, we must also remember that human beings, on the l i t e r a l level, are also responsible for i t s lying there.  The moralitas and the narrative derive mutual benefit from each  other through this irony.  The cock's foolishness is entertaining, and is  made more so when that foolishness is further elucidated by the moralitas. The "lesson" of the moralitas is double-edged in that Henryson implies that  77  the  cock we have been laughing at, and the kind of man he figures, is not  the  only creature whose selfishness keeps him ignorant. Indeed, in the harmony of narrative and moral one can see the difference  between Henryson's conception of the fable and Lydgate's. For Lydgate's moral to be valid, his cock must be an ensample of a creature living according to his nature; in other words he must remain a l i t e r a l cock.^6 Byhaving i t so, Lydgate freezes his character and his narrative, k i l l i n g whatever possibilities of irony and suggested meanings might exist within the cock's behaviour as an educated man, and thus actually destroying the reason for writing an animal fable at a l l . well.  A human character would have done as  In Henryson's fable, however, the cock functions as a figure of a man 27  in a bestial state. ' He i s thus able to function l i t e r a l l y as a cock, and the fact that he speaks, especially rhetorically, at the same time is part of the essence of the humour.  His character is developed to show his  l i t e r a l bestiality beneath his fine feathers, and i t is thus possible for him to be a figure of bestiality as well.  The ironies in the double recog-  nition of animal-behaving-as-man/ man-behaving-as-animal both their humorous and moral effects.  can function towards  By freeing the cock from the role  Lydgate gives him, Henryson frees him as a character, so that he can function plausibly on the l i t e r a l level as well as the figural. "The T a i l l of the Foxe that begylit the Wolf i n the Schadow of the Mone" is another fable drawn from beast epic material.  Its ironic humour i s based  upon the same kind of appearance-reality dichotomy as dominates "The Fox, the Wolf and the Cadger," for the rivalry between Lowrence and the wolf forms the  substance of i t s plot.  Much the same can be said of this poem as of the  other; i t is very entertaining and f i l l e d with subtle mockery of stupidity and greed, and derives no small amount of comedy from the famous mistake of  78 the volf's seeing the moon's reflection in the well as a cheese.  As a  recent Henryson scholar says, " i t is characteristic of Henryson's generally sardonic outlook that the wolf abandons the oxen . . . for an illusory cheese.  A comic stupidity almost always forms part of his concept of the  evil man.  ?8  But i t w i l l now be more useful to our study to determine how  Henryson applies the moralitas to this kind of fable. In both "The Fox, the Wolf and the Cadger" and "The Fox and the Wolf," the moralitas consists of a brief allegorical interpretation of the animals, in each case consisting of four stanzas. sinful man;  To summarize briefly, the wolf is  the fox is a deceiver, either as the devil or the world; the  cadger is death, the herring and cheese are covetousness, and the husbandman is the good Christian. The allegory is predictable, indeed, typical for the fox and the wolf.  One is tempted to believe that Henryson's allegory in the  moralitas is a dutiful addition that he feels he must impose to be consistent with his practice and purpose in the rest of the collection, and that there might on occasion be truth in this not uncommon remark on Henryson's fables: "the moralities are the poorest parts of the fables, because they alone are PQ  unnecessary.  But i f Henryson's dual purpose in writing the Morail Fabillis  is to be answered, w i l l not the ironic humour of these tales, and the unmitigated success of the fox, so obviously enjoyed in the narratives, overshadow the moral?  It is clear enough that the wolf would not be subject to the  fox's wiles i f he were less greedy.  But the relish one cannot help but feel  for the fox's success on the animal level w i l l not be so answerable to the moral level as the comedy one enjoys while watching the wolf.  The moralitas,  then, must put a human perspective on the attraction we feel for the fox. This perspective does not interfere with our enjoyment of his antics as a fox, however, for the fable and moralitas are more closely integrated than is  79  f i r s t apparent.  In "The Fox, the Wolf and the Cadger" we saw enough of  the comic portrayal of the greed of the wolf to understand that the allegory finds enough expression in the fable to preclude being considered merely a superimposition.  The animals on the l i t e r a l level are imbued with the  qualities of what they figure on the allegorical level.  Thus the wolf's  foolishness i n jumping into the well bucket in "The Fox and the Wolf," while being consistent with his realistic portrayal in the narrative, is also consistent with the vision that sees him as a sinful man blinded by his own greed.  The allegory imposed by the moralitas does not hinder the  functioning of the animals i n the narratives as the highly developed fox and wolf characters they are, for the genre implies that the characteristics so amusing in the wolf, for example, are modelled upon human characteristics; thus when the moralitas demands that we see the wolf as a figure of an evil man, the connection does not hinder enjoyment of the wolf's behaviour, as that behaviour is inspired by man's bestiality, in this case, stupidity and greed.  The connections between wolf and man are implied without the allegory,  but the allegory reinforces the implications.  The narrative of "The Fox, the  Wolf and the Cadger" goes yet further in i t s implication by showing, on the l i t e r a l level, the kind of natural man figured by the wolf i n the person of the cadger.  The comic situations, then, such as the wolf leaping into the  well-bucket f u l l y expecting to find a cheese, or the cadger happily thinking about mittens while a very live fox steals his fish, are emphasized, rather than subdued, by the. seriousness of the purpose behind them. seriousness of purpose that causes  Henryson  "It is this  to draw out the ironic reversals  in the original narrative with s t i l l greater c l a r i t y , n o t only to allow application of allegory to the tale, or to stress justification of rewards for behaviour on moral grounds, but to f u l f i l l the potential of his develop-  8o  ment of the genre, which is based on .'intrinsic recognition of humananimal correspondences i n fictions which begin by giving animals the powers of speech and reason.  Thus the fable can "light the spreit," for  its characters are alive and real within the fiction, and can carry i t s moral theme as well.  Indeed, the two functions complement each other in  </  terms of the poem as well as in terms of the audience. The last of the Morall F a b i l l i s , "The T a i l l of the Paddok and the Mous," deals, like "The Wolf and the Wether," with the theme of a blatant disparity between appearance and reality, but in the case of this fable there is l i t t l e humour involved.  Its mood is a dark one, and the moralitas  continues the mood with a sermon on false appearances—the theme of the moral level of the fable--and a brief allegorical interpretation. On the surface i t seems that in this fable Henryson comes as close as he does anywhere to a simple exemplum, for the narrative seems only to express the moral that f a i r words hide false intent.  A closer examination, however, reveals some  amazing subtleties in this f i n a l tale. The mouse does seem sensible of the moral lessons given in the f i r s t part of the moralitas.  She knows better than to believe she is wise to trust  the frog, for she recognizes his ugliness--and can quote some physiological scholarship; she doesn't trust his f a i r words— "Let be thy preiching.'" quod the hungrie mous. (line  2851)  She is not at a l l comfortable about swimming, does not wish to t i e herself up, and makes the frog swear an oath before she finally goes with him. Indeed, the mouse is portrayed as a piteous l i t t l e creature, and her death is a purely haphazard circumstance.  The irony here is the bitter one that  the weak have very l i t t l e opportunity to avoid disaster, in spite of a l l  >7  81 the lessons they may have learned.  It is made complete by death coming  through the kite, who is completely uninvolved in the moral issue between mouse and frog. The sermon about credulity in the moralitas is i n a sense rather / unnecessary, for i t l i t t l e avails the mouse to have this kind of wisdom. It is only i n the allegory following the sermon that we begin to make \ sense of the narrative: man must endure the evils of l i f e in the fallen j world, avoid them as best he can, and be prepared to have his t r i a l s end  I ! at any moment; faith is his only hope of salvation.  Here, as i n "The  Preiching of the Swallow," the paradox of animals behaving as human beings is overshadowed by a consciousness of the unhapply plight of human beings as creatures, like animals, of a mortal world.  The consciousness is not  fully realized until we reach the allegorical explication in the moralitas, ^after the narrative has led us to pity the plight of the helpless and condemn the evils of the wicked, an i n i t i a l reaction corroborated by the narrator who begins the moralitas with a fervent condemnation of wickedness deceiving innocence.  But while our and the narrator's reactions rise to  "categorical descriptions of Everyman," 3-*- the narrative i t s e l f , like the other fable narratives, i s realistic enough to avoid being confined by the allegory.  "The effect of mixing personified abstraction with such precise  particulars is not only to drive home the moral point but also to present a vivid memento mori which has a broader application."-^ The broader application is not so much to "everyman" in the general sense as "everyman" in the particular sense.  The concluding theme of mortality  / is impressed upon the consciousness of the audience by the vividness of the narrative, with i t s dramatic climax.  The mouse has been portrayed as  essentially human, but with enough "mouseliness" in the portrayal to suggest  82  the piteous q u a l i t i e s of her animal nature i n the "lowly, troubled person"33 she represents—witness the "exquisite play on the human-animal s i t u a t i o n that opens the poem: Upon ane tyme, as Esope culd report, Ane l y t i l l mous come t i l l ane rever-syde; Scho micht not w a i d — h i r schankis were sa schort; Scho culd not swym; scho had no hors to ryde: . . . . (lines 2777-80) The paradox of the fable s i t u a t i o n , as i n "The Preiching of the Swallow," i s played upon f o r just enough subtle irony to heighten the impact of the narrative that i n turn gives the moralitas  i t s directness and v a l i d i t y .  Henryson s fables go further i n f u l f i l l i n g the "teach and delight" object1  ive claimed by writers of animal fables than any of the examples of the genre we have examined so f a r .  Certainly, he places more emphasis on entertainment  than the writers of exempla, and most c e r t a i n l y , than Lydgate.  But the functions  of entertainment and i n s t r u c t i o n are not separated i n the Morall F a b i l l i s . They are not comic tales with a sobre moral d u t i f u l l y appended.  Both the  effectiveness of the moral and the success of the narrative are achieved through the c r i t e r i a of the fable as a genre i n medieval terms.  Henryson i s aware of  the paradox latent i n the portrayal of animals with human c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s , and he uses that paradox, intertwining i t with a l l the subsequent ironies of correspondences between men and animals on the moral and f i g u r a l l e v e l s . The comedy of the narratives i s based l a r g e l y upon the ironies of self-deception,  ^  of the d i s p a r i t i e s between appearance and r e a l i t y , and t h e i r consequences. The moralities are also based upon man's deception of himself i n his f a i l u r e to see his natural c o n d i t i o n — i n short, man's blindness.  The narratives con-  f i r m the moral themes, but the two together are replete with the ironies one sees when facing the natural world, or man's natural condition, and Henryson makes i t possible f o r us to see just that by showing us animals behaving as men.  83  And "beneath i t a l l , he never lets us forget, on l i t e r a l , moral, or allegorical levels, the ultimate irony that men do behave as these animals do, and that they are therefore subject to the same consequences, whether those be looking as foolish as the wether bereft of his sham skin, being as flustered as the country mouse away from her natural habitat, being injured and laughed at together as the wolf who never learns to mistrust the fox, or unprepared as the mouse facing death while tied to her enemy. The correspondences between animals and man drawn out as they are make i t possible for narrative and moralitas to co-exist, without tension or disparity, i n one fable.  The Morall  Fabillis consist of, and are developed through, multiple levels of irony based on these correspondences, and these levels take the fable as a genre out of the realms of simple comic tale and u t i l i t a r i a n apologue into the realm of poetry.  84  FOOTNOTES John MacQueen, Robert Henryson, A Study of the Major Narrative Poems (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), Appendix I, p. 189, gives 14751490 as the most l i k e l y date of composition. David K. Crowne ("A Date f o r the Composition of Henryson's Fables," JEGP, 6 £.962]; 583-90) suggests dates l a t e r than l 4 8 l on the basis that Henryson used Caxton's printed text of Aesop ( l 4 8 l ) and the Reynard (i486) as sources. Denton Fox ("Henryson and Caxton," JEGP, 67 [j-9683; 586-93) summarizes scholarship that dates Henryson's fables and shows that as Caxton cannot safely be assumed to be Henryson's source the dates of his texts should not be used ! as means of dating the Morall F a b i l l i s . The question becomes p a r t i c u l a r l y important to those scholars interested i n h i s t o r i c a l interpretations of the fables; see chapter f i v e and Marshall W. Stearns, Robert Henryson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1949).  p The e d i t i o n c i t e d throughout i s that of Charles E l l i o t t , Robert Henryson Poems (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), pp. I-89. The e a r l i e s t e d i t i o n i s that of David Laing, The Poems and Fables of Robert Henryson (Edinburgh: Paterson, 1865). Other editions are those of H. Harvey Wood (The Poems and Fables of Robert Henryson ^London and Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 19 3 3^) - Gregory Smith (The Poems of Robert Henryson, The Scottish Text Society, 55 ("Edinburgh and London: Blackwood, 1906J), Vol. I I . a  n  A  G  3 See p a r t i c u l a r l y Stearns, passim. ^ Some examples and variations of t h i s c r i t i c a l ( g t t i t u d e may be seen i n George Eyre-Todd, ed., Mediaeval Scottish Poetry, Abbotsford Series of the Scottish Poets, 2 (Glasgow: William Hodge, 1892), p. 88; A. M. Kinghorn, The Middle Scots Poets (London: Edward Arnold, 1970), pp. 25 f f . ; John Speirs, The Scots Literary Tradition, 2nd ed. (London: Faber and Faber, 1962), pp. ^ti-hk; Kurt Wittig, The Scottish T r a d i t i o n i n Literature (Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd, 1958), p. 41; Mary Rowlands, "The Fables of Robert Henryson," DaLhousie Review, 39 (1959-60), 491-502; and T. F. Henderson, Scottish Vernacular Literature, 3 3- ed. (Edinburgh: Grant, 1910), pp. 125-31- See p a r t i c u l a r l y Stearns, who interprets Henryson's poems almost e n t i r e l y from this point of view. r<  5 MacQueen (pp. 95-98) discusses the influence of Boccaccio's De Genealogia Deorum on Henryson's narrative technique. ^ A. W. Jenkins, "The Mind and A r t of Robert Henryson," Diss. University of C a l i f o r n i a , Berkeley, 1967, P- 5, - MacQueen, p. 98. a n d  7  I t would not be p r a c t i c a l to enter into a discussion of sources i n <, t h i s study, f o r there i s by no means agreement among scholars as to what <, sources Henryson used. Suffice i t to say that of the fables rooted i n Aesopic t r a d i t i o n , other than "The T a i l l of Schir Chantecleir and the Foxe," Henryson's expansions and reworkings are unique, and to l i s t the most usually suggested sources: the Anonymous Neveleti of Gualterus Anglicus, an imitation of Phaed-rus; Caxton's Aesop (and Reynard, with branches of the Roman de 1  8  5  Renart, f o r the fables developing Reynardian material); the D i s c i p l i n a C l e r i c a l i s ; the Ysopets; the Fabulae of Odo of Cheriton; fables current through t h e i r use i n sermons, and thus based upon the exempla c o l l e c t i o n s discussed i n chapter one; Chaucer's Nun's Priest's Tale. Editions of these works, and scholars' considerations of Henryson's sources, are l i s t e d i n the Bibliography. Denton Fox, i n "Henryson and Caxton," makes the following sensible suggestion, worth quoting i n f u l l : "While Henryson was a learned poet, and at times c l e a r l y followed written sources, i t would be a mistake to v i s u a l i z e him as a modern scholar, working i n the midst of a l i t t e r of variant versions of a fable, and selecting here and there appropriate det a i l s . A more appropriate, i f more vulgar, analogy might be a modern parent who, i n t e l l i n g a f a m i l i a r story, such as 'Red Riding-hood,' to a c h i l d , draws p a r t l y on his memory of versions that he has l i s t e n e d to and read, and p a r t l y on his imagination. Like such a parent, Henryson himself might not always be able to point to his precise source" (pp. 592-93). See also Donald MacDonald, "Narrative Art i n Henryson's Fables," Studies i n Scottish Literature, 3 (1965)-, 101-113.  Q In the interest of economy, I w i l l shorten the t i t l e s of the Morall F a b i l l i s i n the text as follows: "The T a i l l of the Wolf that gat the Nek-hering throw the wrinkis of the Foxe that b e g y l i t the Cadgear" "The Fox, the Wolf and the Cadger;" "The T a i l l of the Wolf and the Wedder" "The Wolf and the Wether;" "The T a i l l of the Uponlandis Mous and the Burgis Mous" - "The Two Mice;" "The T a i l l of the Foxe that b e g y l i t the Wolf i n the schadow of the Mone" - "The Fox and the Wolf". The remainder of Henryson's fables w i l l be dealt with i n the following chapters,.where t h e i r subject matter relates to that of other Middle English fables. Whereas the observations made i n t h i s chapter apply to most of the c o l l e c t i o n , three of the fables (discussed i n chapter s i x ) are set apart by t h e i r s p e c i f i c s a t i r i c purpose. 9 The version printed by Caxton appears i n R. T. Lenaghan, ed., Caxton's Aesop (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967), pp. l60oTI Caxton translated a French t r a n s l a t i o n of Steinhowel's Aesop, a fifteenth-century c o l l e c t i o n of Romulus t a l e s , Gualterus Anglicus' verse rendering of the Romulus, and other fables of the Aesopic type l a b e l l e d under the c a t c h - a l l t i t l e , Extravagantes. 1 0  ^ 1 2  MacDonald, "Narrative A r t , " p. 105See note 9 above. MacDonald, "Narrative A r t , " p. 106.  ^3 The beast epics--the term applied to the c o l l e c t i o n s of episodic tales of Reynard the Fox popular throughout Europe i n the Middle Ages—are b r i e f l y considered i n chapters four and f i v e . They do revolve e s s e n t i a l l y around the enmity of the fox and wolf, caused by felonies each has committed against the other, though many other stories involving other animals go f a r beyond t h i s central impetus. See the comprehensive study by John F l i n n , Le Roman de Renart dans l a l i t t e r a t u r e frangaise et dans les l i t e r a t u r e s Strange*res au Moye,n J?ge (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963).  86  The fox i s also c a l l e d "Russell" i n t h i s fable the name more or less generically i n l i n e 1962), as he Both "Lowrence" and "Russell" are common names f o r the beast l i t e r a t u r e (see p. 134, note to l i n e 429, and p. 1962 i n E l l i o t t ' s edition; p. 229 and p. 245, notes to Wood's e d i t i o n ) .  (the wolf using i s i n Chaucer. fox i n medieval l42, note to l i n e the same l i n e s , i n  15 1. w. A. Jamieson, "A Further Source f o r Henryson's Notes and Queries, 212, N. S. l 4 (1967);. 4o4.  'Fabillis',"  1^ Harold E. Toliver, "Robert Henryson: From Moralitas to Irony," English Studies 46 (1965):, 304. 17 MacQueen, p. l 6 l . !® Denton Fox, "Henryson's Fables,"  (1962); 351.  English L i t e r a r y History, 29  19 Numerous characters i n Henryson's fables misuse proverbs and sententiae, both comically and as an i l l u s t r a t i o n of t h e i r lack of wisdom, f o r example, the cock i n "The T a i l l of the Cok and the Jasp," l i n e 102, the wolf i n "The Fox's Confession," and the wolf i n "The T r i a l of the Fox." In an equally serious fable, "The T a i l l of the Paddok and the Mous," the frog, repeatedly, and consciously, misuses proverbial wisdom. On the use of proverbs and sententiae, i n these ways and others, to a i d characterization, see Donald MacDonald, "Chaucer's Influence on Henryson's Fables: The Use of Proverbs and Sententiae," Medium Aevum, 39 (1970); 21-27.  20 "The poem produces a strong f e e l i n g of approaching danger and of a blindness that no warning can pierce.' I t i s f i l l e d with p i t y and a sort of second-sight which makes one think of Cassandra . . . ." (Edwin Muir, "Robert Henryson," Essays bn?.Literature and Society, enlarged and rev. ed. (London: Hogarth Press, I96T), pp. 15-16. 21 There i s some d i s p a r i t y i n c r i t i c a l opinion as to how conventional t h i s passage i s , and i n what ways. Wittig (p. 37) f e e l s that summer and autumn are conventional portrayals but not winter. G. G. Smith (Scottish Literature, Character and Influence London: Macmillan, 1919 , p. 66) says that i n the description of winter Henryson i s using the " a r t i f i c i a l and 'ennamelit' " style t y p i c a l of the Scottish Chaucerians. MacQueen (p. 162) f e e l s that the passage on the seasons i s conventional but more i n the sens of Renaissance style than medieval, and compares i t with Spenser's poetry. Henryson's natural description i n general usually has been f e l t to be highly o r i g i n a l . See Henderson, pp. 125-31; Henry S. Canby, The Short Story i n English (New York: Holt, 1909), pp. 89-93; Wittig, pp. 37, 42-43; H. Harvey Wood, "Robert Henryson," Edinburgh Essays on Scots Literature (University of Edinburgh, 1933; rpt. Freeport, New York: Books f o r L i b r a i r ies Press, 1968), pp. 9-10; Wood's edition of Henryson's poems, pp. xvx v i i , etc. My f e e l i n g i s that Henryson i s using conventional descriptive techniques i n "The Preiching of the Swallow" to elevate his s t y l e , that i t may be more i n l i n e with the serious tone of the fable. A f u l l discussion of the conventions of descriptions of the seasons may be found i n Rosamond  87  Tuve, Seasons and Months, Studies i n a T r a d i t i o n of Middle English Poetry (Paris: L i b r a i r i e U n i v e r s i t a i r e , 19337* Compare also Gavin Doublas' description of winter i n the Prologue to Book VII of The Bukes of Eneados. 2  Fox, "Fables," p. 352.  2  23 I am using the terms employed by MacQueen i n h i s study of Henryson, pp. 9k, 182, and 185-86. 2  Fox, "Fables," p. 3 2.  h  k  5 Several Henryson scholars see a d i s p a r i t y between narrative and moralitas i n t h i s fable, and f e e l either that the audience i s meant to .agree with the cock (MacQueen, p. 107), or that Henryson "has allowed his own c o l o u r f u l fable to run away with him, and i s now returning to his duty" (Wittig, p. ko). Apart from the cock's b e s t i a l concerns and his pride i n considering himself learned, h i s s t u p i d i t y within the narrat i v e i s confirmed by this l i n e . I t i s unfortunate that so many readers have missed the d e l i g h t f u l irony of the cock's grave summons to the jewel to " r i s e up," followed by his wandering o f f , i n most r o o s t e r - l i k e fashion, to search f o r something edible. 2  2  ^ Jenkins, "Henryson," pp. 16-19.  2  ?  Ibid.  28 MacQueen, p. Yjk. 2  9 Canby, p. 32.  3° Jenkins, "Henryson," p. kO. 31 T o l i v e r , p. 30k. 32 i b i d . 33 Jenkins, "Henryson," p. 25. 3  k  Pearsall, p. 197-  35 See the discussion of Lydgate's "The Frog and the Mouse," pp. kk5 above. Limitations on space prevent comparison between the two f a b u l i s t s -but see Derek Pearsall's excellent and witty comparisons of the two f a b u l i s t s ' versions of t h i s fable, pp. 19 -97 of John Lydgate. k  k  88  CHAPTER FOUR THE BEAST EPICS AND MIDDLE ENGLISH ANIMAL FABLE In the last chapter we noted that Henryson drew on the beast epic  1 tradition for the plots and characters of some of his Morall F a b i l l i s . The beast epics are not sufficiently represented in medieval English l i t e r a ture to warrant a close examination of them here, but their undeniable influence on writers from the exempla compilers, such as Odo of Cheriton, to Henryson and Chaucer does necessitate a brief look at the continental tradition.  The one English example of this kind of animal tale, the anonymous  late thirteenth-century The Vox and the Wolf, must also be seen against the background of the cycles i t is drawn from.  The interest in pure entertain-  ment that dominates the best of the beast epics has no small responsibility for the quality of the narratives of such tales as Lydgate's "The Hownde and the Shepe," the best in his collection, of Henryson's fox and wolf fables, and of the Middle English animal tales we are yet to examine. While we can scarcely undertake in this study an examination of the literary characteristics of the entire beast epic tradition, a brief summary of scholars' conclusions w i l l be useful, particularly as beast epic and beast fable are often said to be at completely opposite generic poles.  The chief  distinguishing factor between the two is that of intent: the fable has a moral purpose, while the beast epic exists only to entertain.  The animal  characters of beast epic are f u l l y developed, neither types nor vague figures speaking words predetermined by the moral they are to illustrate.  The beast  epics are longer and contain many episodes involving the central characters. They are comic, usually s a t i r i c a l but in a good-natured way, —the extent of losing their lightheadedness,  and never to  at least before they degenerate  89 into allegorical commentary on contemporary conditions.  And a point not  to be overlooked is that the vernacular beast epics, unlike earlier Latin tales having the wolf as a central character, took the fox—more correctly, Reynard the fox—as their hero.  His success is delighted in, and neither  morality nor allegory is imposed to condemn him. The origin and rise of beast epics in Europe have been discussed extensively by many scholars.  Varying attitudes to the origins include two  polarized viewpoints: that the cycles developed out of a popular tradition p of beast sagas or beast tales, and that they were the work of monastic •3  poets.-  1  Exponents of the latter viewpoint feel that popular animal tale  tradition is a result of the currency of beast epics in the Middle Ages, but many scholars concede that i t is reasonable to assume a certain amount of folk interest as a stimulus.*  1  The evidence brought to light by scholar-  ship shows however that the beast epics are largely traceable to clerical interest in the fable, followed by more extended animal stories.^  It is  generally conceded that monastic poets or trouveres educated in the clerical schools developed these stories into episodic cycles. The earliest extant extended narrative with animal characters is a Latin poem dating from the middle of the tenth century, Ecbasis cuiusdum captivi per tropologiam.^  It employs the interpretations given various  animals—notably the w o l f — i n medieval exegesis to describe allegorically the plight of the writer.  The narrative consists of two fables, an outer fable  which develops the parable of the lamb caught by the wolf and returned, and an inner fable which the wolf must t e l l to explain his fear of the fox.  The  latter is the traditional Aesopic tale of the t r i a l of the fox at the court 7 of the sick l i o n .  1  Ecbasis is clearly in the tradition of clerical use of  animal stories.  A moral—the necessity of renouncing the world—is added to  90  the  end of the t a l e , and "the incidents smack of Aesopic d i d a c t i c i s m . "  0  But i t goes further than Aesopic fable i n that i t combines episodes and i n so doing communicates a sense of the existence of these animals as characters outside the narrative. The next example i s a Latin poem, Ysengrimus,^ dating from the middle of the twelfth century.  I t i s the f i r s t European work to make use of  proper names f o r animal characters, but this statement holds true only i f i t precedes the f i r s t branch of the Roman de Renart, a question s t i l l open to speculation.-'-  0  Didactic i n tone,"'""'" i t relates twelve adventures of the  wolf, Ysengrimus, and the fox, Reinardus, a l l but one of which appear i n the  12 Roman de Renart also.  Among these are the t a l e of the sick l i o n ' s court,  and a version of the cock and fox fable found i n Chaucer's Hun's P r i e s t ' s Tale. 13 The French beast epic, le_ Roman de Renart, spread of beast tales throughout Western Europe. ted  i s the basis f o r the Parts of i t were t r a n s l a -  and reworked into several other languages, and many of the episodes i t  relates are considered to be the sources, however i n d i r e c t l y , of s i m i l a r stories i n Middle English l i t e r a t u r e .  The terms roman and "beast epic" are  misleading, f o r the various branches of the Roman de Renart were not written by one person at one time.  Rather, they are episodic tales written by many  d i f f e r e n t poets from the middle of the twelfth to the middle of the thirteenth centuries, and were copied together because of the s i m i l a r i t y of t h e i r subject matter. Concus et rediges s'eparement, l e s contes de Renard, ou "branches," comme l e s designaient leurs auters eux-memes, ont €te bient6t reunis, parce q u ' i l semblait logique de copier a l a suite, dans un me*me manuscrit, des r e c i t s dont l e s protagonistes, Renard l e goupil et Isengrin l e loup, animaient d'innombrables episodes ou se donnaient l i b r e cours l a malice effrontee de l'un et l a stupidite* hargneuse de 1'autre.1^  91 Each branch may contain from one to several stories, and not a l l are about the fox.  The sequence of the branches is different in the various manu-  scripts, and many stories may appear in several versions."'"'' The earliest extant branch, sometimes numbered two and sometimes sixteen, is unusual in not being anonymous--its author is identified as Pierre de St. Cloud--and important for the instant popularity i t received, as is evident in the continuations and imitations that subsequently produced the Roman. It is also the branch containing a version of the story told by Chaucer, that of Pinte, Chantecler, and Renart.^  Yet more popular than Pierre de  St. Cloud's branch is the later poem, nonethless consistently numbered branch 17 one,  that purports to explain the reason for the war between Renart and  Isengrin which Pierre de St. Cloud undertook to describe.  The reason is  what occurs at the t r i a l of the fox after his accusation by Isengrin and Chantecler.  Isengrin's accusation involves Renart's violation of the wolf's  wife, and the conclusion of the t r i a l episode is an interesting variation on the plot of the sick lion fable that is elaborated in the Ecbasis and the Ysengrimus, though the latter includes this variation also: the wolf and his wife must give Renart their "shoes" to enable him to go on pilgrimage to repent of his misdeeds.  The episode is an illustration of the increased  human characterization of the animals developing upon the plot of an Aesopic narrative. Reynard stories continued to be written in French after 1250, but they became repetitious and lost their original vigour.  Excessive didacticism  and bitter satire replaced the comic mocking tone of the Roman. The fox  i ft became "the type of successful hypocrisy and wickedness,"  and he and the  other animal characters were enveloped in allegory prompted by p o l i t i c a l and religious  controversy.^  92  The Roman de Renart inspired many other animal tales of i t s type. The earliest of these is the Middle High German poem Reinhart Fuchs, 20 written towards the end of the twelfth century by Heinrich de Glichezare. It contains an encounter between the cock and fox similar to that found in 21 branch two and i n Chaucer.  The most successful reworking of the episodes  of the Roman is a Middle Dutch v e r s i o n  22  based i n part upon branch one.  23  Van den Vos Reinaerde, written in the third quarter of the thirteen century, is customarily considered to be "the beast epic in i t s most a r t i s t i c a l l y mature form." ^ 2  Not only was i t translated into Latin--the Reinardus Vulpes  of Baldwin the Young—but, through i t s expansion and continuation i n another Middle Dutch verse epic, the fourteenth-century Reinaerts Historie, reached England through the printing press of William Caxton in l 4 8 l and eventually was the source for Goethe's Reineke Fuchs.  Caxton's The History of Reynard  the Fox ^ is his translation from the Dutch, probably the prose redaction 26 2  of Reinaerts Historie printed by Leeu at Gouda in l T9« k  Caxton's transla-  tion is believed by many scholars to be Henryson's chief source for his 27 Reynardian fables. This brings us to the question of whether or not, or to what extent, the beast epics were known in England before ikQl.  A l l arguments must re-  main inconclusive because of the scarcity of evidence, but several scholars have pointed out that there are some indications that the English were acquainted with Reynard the fox.  Besides The Vox and the Wolf, which in a l l respects  \ is like an episode from a continental beast epic, there is a library catalogue of Dover Priory, drawn up in 1389* which l i s t s a manuscript of a Reynard 28 1 tale since lost. Reynard's name appears four times in S i r Gawain and the 2Q 30 Green Knight and once i n Chaucer's Legend of Good Women. Odo of Cheriton has a fable entitled De Ysingrymo, in which the wolf wishes to become a monk, 7  93  as he often does i n the beast epics, as well as many fox fables recounting event popularized i n the Roman and including the animals' names. of these fables Odo introduces English.  In several  Nicole de Bozon also uses the  familiar animal names in his fables, and i n one fable quotes i n English. The use of English in both suggests an English source, i f only an oral one."*" 3  Kenneth Varty's extensive study shows that the beast epic characters must have been familiar in medieval England to some extent, for not only do the animals appear i n religious art, but often they clearly illustrate episodes from the beast e p i c s .  32  However, i n spite of these suggestions that tales of the beast epic type were known i n England, there is only one example before Chaucer for our examination, the late thirteenth-century The Vox and the Wolf. times called a beast fabliau,33 ^  0  It i s some-  differentiate i t from the moral fable,  and perhaps because, containing only two episodes, i t can scarcely be called a beast epic.  The Vox and the Wolf contains the story of a fox duping a wolf  into a well that appears in related versions as a moral fable in the Disciplina Clericalis and i n Odo's and Nicole de Bozon's fables. ^ The 3  fable i s believed to be of Hebrew origin, and to have become current i n Europe through Petrus Alphonsus' knowledge of a tale told by Rabbi Raschi 35 in the eleventh century,  although i t has also been related to the ancient  Indian fable of "The Fox and the Goat. "36"  The Roman de Renart includes the  tale, but substitutes for the illusory moon reflection in the well a more complex explanation of the wolf's thinking his own reflection that of his wife.  The Middle English poem is f e l t to be based upon branch four of the 37  Roman or a similar poem.  It shows considerable ingenuity i n reworking i t s  original, ® however, and is "no unworthy representative"39 3  beast epic tradition.  0  f the continental  9k  The Vox and the Wolf ' exemplifies the essence of i t s continental H  counterparts.  u  While relating only two episodes, i t nonetheless places  them in the context of the extensive adventures of i t s hero, Reneward. The cock, Chauntecleer, w i l l not be persuaded to trust the fox because he recalls the many woes the fox has caused his flock before.  When the fox  and wolf converse before the wolf enters the well, their recollections of past events are reminiscent of other adventures in the Reynard cycle. The wolf remembers the fox and his family dining with him several days before, and he "confesses" the suspicions he had of the fox's adultery with his wife.  And, of course, the fox and wolf immediately recognize each  other and converse as the intimate acquaintances they are in the beast epics. Reneward and Sigrim, then, are clearly characters, not simply a fox and a wolf.  As in the beast epics, the episodes are narrated with considerable  detail, and the tale certainly i s developed with entertainment as i t s object: i t is highly comic and includes no moralization on i t s theme. The comedy is achieved chiefly through the "excellent characterization,"^ handled parti1  cularly through dialogue and the development of the plot i t s e l f which, as in the beast epics, involves the cleverness of the fox in action. Reneward does indeed live up to his reputation in the poem, and i t is his amazing ingenuity that produces so much of the humour. The humour is chiefly ironic, involving the fox's outwitting his gullible opponent and the audience's knowledge that he is clearly outwitting him while he is not able to see through the fox's words.  In this sense, the f i r s t episode rein-  forces the ironic humour of the second, for Chauntecler does recognize the fox's malintent—if only because of past experience—in spite of his feigned good w i l l , while Sigrim is too foolish to doubt an even less likely story. The poem opens with a hungry Reneward visiting the hen-house.  He tries  95  to persuade Chauntecler that his coming is always for their good: I have letten pine hennen blod. Hy weren sike ounder be ribe, 1*at hy ne mi3tte non lengour libe Bote here heddre were itake. 1?at I do for almes sake— . . . . (lines 40-44) These lines ring ironically indeed, particularly after the description of his hunger and search for food.  After the conversation between Chauntecler  and Reneward, the poem seems to have cut out a detail, for i t appears from subsequent remarks (lines 68 and 98) that the fox has helped himself to the 42  hens.  Overtaken by thirst, he finds the well and unwittingly traps himself.  The author's capacity for ironic understatement  is now exercised at the ex-  pense of the fox, whose thirst has got the better of him: Al bus he com to be grounde, And water inou ber he founde. 1*o he fond water, 3erne he dronk (Him boute bat water bere stonk . . . i ) (lines 91-94) Upon the arrival of the wolf, i t is immediately clear that the fox has a plan for escape: ^e vox hine ikneu wel for his kun, And bo eroust kom wiit to him; For he boute, mid sommne ginne, Himself houpbringe, bene wolf berinne. (lines 123-26) His good humour returns, and we are conscious of a preconceived notion of Sigrim's stupidity and g u l l i b i l i t y that promises a comic situation. Throughout, Sigrim ignores common sense and allows himself to believe the fox, i n i t i a l l y from stupid curiosity, and then because his hunger overrules what common sense he has.  To begin with, Reneward identifies himself  as "bi frend" (line 133) and says i f he had known he was in the neighbourhood  96  he would have prayed that the wolf join him.  This remark should make  Sigrim suspicious, particularly in the context of their traditional rivalry, hut he is only surprised: "Mid pe?" quod pe wolf, "warto? Wat shulde Ich ine pe putte do?" (lines 137-78) This is the last trace of common sense on Sigrim s part, for Reneward now 1  begins his psychological persuasion of the wolf he knows so well.  He  happily describes the paradise he has in the well, carefully intertwining descriptions of general bliss with suggestions of food.  It does not yet  occur to the wolf to join the fox, but although he laughs and recalls how recently they dined together, he seems to believe the fox i s dead. Reneward quickly responds that he is indeed dead and happy to be so.  His previous  description, the location of Paradise i n the bottom of the well, and the audience's knowledge of the truth of the matter and of the fox lend conslder"able irony to his exclamation "Gode ponke, nou h i t is bus f a t Ihc am to Criste vendJ" (lines 158-59) He describes the woes of the world, contrasts them to the "ioies fele cunne" (line 166) of Paradise in most pious fashion, and ends his speech with "Her beb bobe shep and get." (line I67) The irony of this line i s comical enough after the pious description of Paradise; i t is reinforced by our knowledge of the fox's consciously choosing his words to fool the wolf.  As characterization, i t is excellent, for i t  illustrates the cleverness of Reneward in appealing to the wolf's weakest point—and in the last sentence of his description—without pressing the point and arousing Sigrim's suspicions.  97  Clearly enough, i t is this last remark of Reneward to which Sigrim responds.  He begs to be allowed to join the fox, but even though his  ruse is successful, Reneward is not content simply to escape.  As R. M.  Wilson points out, he is here the same well-developed character he is in the beast epics.  "Eagerly hoping to persuade Sigrim to get into the bucket  he cannot, even at the risk of arousing his suspicions, lose the chance of humiliating his old enemy."^3 Rather, he insists that the wolf f i r s t confess his sins and be shriven. The wolf begs the fox to be his priest, pleading hunger as the reason for speed.  Reneward can afford even to hesi-  4 tate before agreeing, and to encourage the wolf to add to his f i r s t confession.  The episode reaches i t s high point when the wolf "confesses" his  suspicions of the fox, repents believing his own eyes  when he found Reneward  in bed with his wife, and begs the fox to forgive him. The conclusion of the poem is replete with the comic irony of the wolf's situation.  J  The fox's parting taunts play upon his role of confessor, and  i n so doing add insult to the wolf's injury" "f*i bi3ete worp wel smal.' Ac Ich am perof glad and blibe ^at bou art nomen i n clene liue. f i soule-cnul Ich wile do ringe, And masse for bine soule singe.'" (lines 248-52) The narrator adds a few remarks of his own to reinforce the comic irony: ^e wrecche binepe noping ne vind Bote cold water and hounger him bind. To colde gistninge he wes ibede— Wroggen hauep his dou iknede! (lines 253-56) The ultimate irony is brought out in the fate of the "shriven" wolf who thought to go to Paradise.  The monks who find him in the well cry "' e  deuel is in pe putte.''" (line 282), and the poem concludes with the narrator's  98 i r o n i c comment on the wolf: For he ne fond nones kunnes b l i s s e Ne hof dintes for3eueness. (lines 294-95) It has been pointed out that the moralizing of the fox upon his f o o l ishness i n entering the well (lines 96 f f . ) hearkens back to the morality of beast f a b l e . ^ R. M. Wilson notes that " i t was part of the game that the beast tale should be outwardly as moral as the most pious l i t e r a t u r e . This suggestion ter  i s valuable i n that i t c l a r i f i e s the non-didactic  of the poem.  charac-  Although the fox's predicament and the wolf's behaviour  i l l u s t r a t e the truth of Reneward's sententia, the fox's lament i s r e a l l y a mock moral.  .Reneward's consciousness of the reason f o r his s t u p i d i t y - - " l u s t '  --gives him the idea of t r i c k i n g the wolf.  Sigrim's  " l u s t " f o r sheep and.  goats blinds him to the common sense of his i n i t i a l reaction, "Wat shuld Ich i n be putte do?" The moralizing of the fox, then, i s harmonized into the narrative, and indeed reinforces the irony i n that,.rather than reforming  Reneward, i t contains the worldly wisdom that enables him to carry on  his  career.  The poem retains the f a m i l i a r c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of part of the  animal tale t r a d i t i o n , but reworks i t on the terms of the animal characters and the humorous i r o n i c tone. It i s evident that the characters of The Vox and the Wolf are developed with many human c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s .  Reneward's sententious moralizing, h i s  knowledge of medicine, h i s professions of charity, h i s c l e r i c a l role, a l l reinforce his p o r t r a i t as a highly sophisticated character. ship between Sigrim and Reneward--their dining together, a d u l t e r y — i s obviously inspired by human c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s .  The r e l a t i o n -  the suspicions of These are the  c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s that McKnight l i s t s as d i f f e r e n t i a t i n g The Vox and the Wolf  99  from "pure fable. " ,,4  D  While he no doubt means the typical brief Aesopic  fable, we must realize that the fable too portrays animals as human beings. Even the simplest Middle English exemplum involves animals speaking and thinking.  And we have seen already in Henryson's Morall Fabillis that their  success is due to his ability to develop the ironies of a comination of human and animal characteristics. The author of The Vox and the Wolf, too, i s f u l l y conscious of these ironies.  When the fox is introduced, we are reminded of his "fox-ness"  through this contrast with a human being: Him were leuere meten one hen H^en half an oundred wimmen. 1  (lines 7-8) And again, the anthropomorphism of Reneward is ironically played upon when he laughs after leaping over the wall surrounding the hen-house: (For he com i n wipouten leue Bopen of haiward and of reue. ) f  (lines 25-26) His being a fox makes this fact self-evident, but i t s being stated reminds us that we are looking at an animal functioning on both human and animal terms.  The confession scene, too, illustrates the development of the ironies  latent i n such a portrayal.  The wolf's concept of Paradise i s a wolfish one—  i t has sheep and goats--and his plea to the fox to be his confessor is the urgency of hunger.  This i n i t s e l f is ironic in i t s comic perversion of r e l i -  gious ideals and sacramental and ecclesiastical regularity, but the irony i s underlined and extended through the reminder the wolf's hopes give that he is a ravening wolf absurdly capable of considering the human hope of Paradise. In the behaviour of Reneward and Sigrim, the irony is extended from the comic episodes of the narrative to encompass the nature of animal narrative i t s e l f .  100  Reneward's o f f e r to bleed the hens i s i r o n i c not only because he i s Reneward masquerading to s a t i s f y h i s hunger, but because he i s portrayed as a fox capable of the learning of a doctor who yet behaves as a fox; the confession episode, not only because Reneward i s duping Sigrim but because he i s portrayed as a fox with the knowledge of the p r i e s t l y function who yet behaves as a c r a f t y fox.  The characters i n The Vox and the Wolf are not more  human at the expense of t h e i r animal natures; rather, t h e i r considerable J human q u a l i t i e s are integrated with t h e i r animal natures, incongruous as that integration c l e a r l y i s . The incongruity of the integration produces so much of the comedy of the t a l e .  On the simplest l e v e l , the humour i s the r e s u l t of the interplay  of the cleverness of the fox and the s t u p i d i t y of the wolf.  But these charac-  t e r i s t i c s are manifested i n human terms constantly referred back to animal terms, so that the humour i s also produced by the interplay of the animal and the human i n each character.  The l a s t lines of the poem capsulize the  i r o n i c humour of the plot and of the characterization.  The fox has duped  the wolf into a s i t u a t i o n the opposite of what he expected. i s h hopes are thwarted, and h i s  The wolf's f o o l -  fate i s described i n terms of the human hopes  he had, which r e c a l l h i s wolfish perversion of them: *f*e wox bicharde him, mid iwisse, For he ne fond nones kunnes b l i s s e Ne hof dintes for^eueness. The wolf's s t u p i d i t y determines h i s fate, but the expression of his s t u p i d i t y — h i s characterization as a wolf with human attributes—produces the additional irony of h i s fate.  The characterization of Reneward and Sigrim, so basic to  the poem, develops the paradox indigenous to animal fable, that of animals behaving as human beings, and t h i s development f u l f i l l s the potential f o r comic irony inherent i n that paradox to no small extent.  101  But this too is the accomplishment of Henryson's comic narratives. The characters he found in Aesopic tradition—such as the foolish wether and the country mouse—are f u l l y developed and effectively communicate the ironies of beast fable portrayals.  In his fox and wolf fables, Henryson  47 retains the f u l l character development of his sources. ' He alters aspects  48  of the tales to shape the comedy to moral ends,  that the moral interpreta-  tion may be more evident through suggestions in the narrative, but the narratives entertain in the same way The Vox and the Wolf does. In "The Fox, the Wolf and the Cadger" we noticed the same use of irony as i s developed i n The Vox and the Wolf.  The animals are imbued with human  characteristics which are constantly juxtaposed with their animal natures. Lowrence, the fox, has the same reputation as the beast epic fox.  "The  T a i l l of the Foxe that begylit the Wolf i n the schadow of the Mone," which like The Vox and the Wolf involves the trapping of the wolf i n the two-bucket well, reflects similar consciousness of the play upon the combination of the animal and the human in the characters. In Henryson's version, the fox does not f i r s t trap himself; he simply uses the wolf's stupidity and the plight of the husbandman to gain a few chickens and have a laugh at the wolf's expense.  Lowrence and the wolf are particularly anthropomorphic: they con-  verse with the husbandman on matters of justice in legal language.^9  The  wolf is his characteristic stupid self but tries to be clever with misapplied proverbs about loyalty—the question is not one of loyalty—and the legality of oaths.  Lowrence is in true form, feigning a nice sense of justice and  himself laughing at the irony of his posturing. In short, the scene presents, besides the irony of the fox and wolf using judicial sentiments for selfish motives, the basic irony of a man conversing on justice with a fox and wolf by nature interested only in his oxen and chickens.  Besides successfully  102 entertaining, Henryson's presentation of these ironies makes his audience conscious of the implications of human-animal correspondences.  Lowrence's  words to the husbandman suggesting he be bribed with hens is comic, because he i s so much the fox even in his anthropomorphic  role as judge, but also  imply something unsavoury about human judges through the very fact of Lowrence's being assigned this role.  Henryson makes the implication explicit  in the moralitas, but i t is hard to miss on the narrative level: "I am ane juge" quod Lowrence than and leuch: "Thair is na buddis suld beir me by the rycht; I may tak hennis and caponis weill aneuch, For God i s gane to sleip;" . . . .  (lines 2329-32) \ In the narrative, as in the beast epics, Lowrence is allowed to get away I with i t , for his craftiness is the germ of the entertainment, but Henryson's j purpose necessitates that the implied human perspective be clarified i n the ( moralitas. Henryson does not always allow his Reynard the success of the beast epic fox.  In two fables, "The T a i l l how this foirsaid Tod maid his Confessioun  to Freir Wolf Waitskaith" and "The T a i l l of the Sone & Air of the foirsaid Foxe, c a l l i t Father wer: Alswa the Parliament of fourfuttit Beistis, haldin be the Lyoun,"5® the fox meets his end as punishment for his misdeeds.  In  "The Fox's Confession," Lowrence i s shot by the keeper of the flock he has robbed.  "The Trial of the Fox" is a continuation of "The Fox's Confession,"  and includes the Parliament familiar from beast epic, as well as another fox and wolf tale and the t r i a l i t s e l f .  The fox is found guilty and hanged.  These two fables are more serious than "The Fox and the Wolf" and "The Fox, the Wolf and the Cadger," and clearly Henryson's moral purpose is responsible \J for the alterations.  But both tales s t i l l reflect the comic spirit of beast  epic, and although irony supports the morals, i t is equally responsible for  103  the humour.  A b r i e f examination of one of them w i l l confirm these state-  ments. "The Fox's Confession" presents the f a m i l i a r picture of one of the two beast epic protagonists appearing as a c l e r i c . 5 1  During the confession of  Lowrence, both confessor and penitent abuse the sacrament shamelessly, as we might expect.52  The elaborate confession scene, preceded by Lowrence's  a s t r o l o g i c a l ponderings, i l l u s t r a t e the degree to which Henryson's animals are developed on human terms, but these c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s coexist with t h e i r animal natures, both producing i r o n i c humour and suggesting the two-way correspondence between human and animal nature.  The confession's i r o n i c  comedy i s the r e s u l t of the fox arid the wolf's treatment of the  sacrament;  again, the implication that the human attributes of the animals can include t h e i r irreverence, though not brought out i n the moralitas, cannot be overlooked when a wolf i s presented as a f r i a r .  But the comedy i n the incon-  gruity of the presentation i s nonetheless enjoyed: So saw he ^Lowrence"] cummand ane l y t t i l l than frome hence Ane worthie Doctour i n D i v i n i t e ; F r e i r Wolff Waitskaith, i n science wonder s l e , To preich and pray wes new cummit f r a the c l o s t e r With beidis i n hand, sayand his Pater Woster. (lines  666-69)  Likewise, Lowrence's travesty of the Eucharist must be culpable on moral ( i . e. human) terms, hence h i s subsequent death and the moralitas' warning against such behaviour i n human beings, but on the narrative l e v e l i t i s s t i l l a b r i l l i a n t comic depiction of Reynardian roguery, obviously enjoyed f o r i t s own sake.  Catching no  f i s h a f t e r h i s promise to f a s t , Lowrence  steals a k i d , rushes with i t to the sea, and exclaims "Ga doun Schir Kid, cum up Schir Salmond againi" Q u h i l l he wes deid; syne to the land him drewch, And o f f that new-maid salmond e i t anewch. (lines 751-53)  10U  Even when pierced by an arrow, Lowrence remains the Reynardian hero— more so, perhaps, than the moralizing fox i n The Vox and the Wolf—and complains that there is so l i t t l e humour l e f t in the world: "Now," quod the Foxe, "allace and wellawayi Gorrit I am and may na forther gang; Me think na man may speik ane word in play, Bot nowondayis i n ernist i t is tane." (lines 768-71) It seems indicative of Henryson's enjoyment of Lowrence that the moralitas dwells more on cautioning the audience against being unprepared for death than on the fox's wickedness.  Like Reneward, Lowrence's character i s  developed through a comic integration of human and animal characteristics, and is individual enough to exist beyond a rigid moral or allegorical interpretation.  Henryson draws out the inevitable implications for human beings  that the moral purpose of his fables might be f u l f i l l e d , but he leaves Lowrenee/Reynard as the character he is that his entertainment purpose might not be jeopardized. Henryson, then, uses episodes and characterization similar to those i n the beast epics.  We have seen repeatedly how his consciousness of the  paradox of portraying animals with human attributes and the consequent ironies of such a portrayal contribute to the humour and inform the morals of his fables.  In the Reynardian fables, the paradox is developed chiefly in the  characters of Lowrence and the wolf, but Henryson's other animals, while perhaps not as entertaining as the crafty fox, are well developed characters also.  The two mice, the learned swallow, and the well-read mouse of the f i n a l  fable are a l l like Lowrence in that they are an integration of human and characteristics. •":  • Characterization is the basis of the similarity between Hefiryson's  </  105 F a b i l l i s and The Vox and the Wolf.  The humour of animal tales such as  these i s l a r g e l y i r o n i c , involving the d i s p a r i t y between what i s clear to the audience and often one of the characters and what i s clear to the character who i s the butt of the joke.  The irony i s frequently underlined  by the narrator's detached understatement.  But t h i s comic irony of s i t u a t i o n  i s the development of the characterization. weaknesses produce the t a l e .  The animals  1  strengths and  The animals, however, are not simply animals  but characters with both human and animal c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s combined.  The  combination i s a paradoxical one, whether i t involves an elaborately anthropomorphic Reynard or simply a fox who speaks.  The extent t o which the para-  doxical characterization i s developed, however, c l e a r l y influences i t s comic p o s s i b i l i t i e s .  The f u l l development of Reneward and Lowrence i s res-  ponsible f o r the comedy of the episodes we have examined. Henryson, however, also develops h i s fable characters i n t h i s way to underline the human-animal correspondences  that support his moral.  The Vox  and the Wolf does not moralize upon i t s events or i t s characters, and while we may smile to see so much of mankind i n Reneward and Sigrim, we are l e f t with them as characters to be enjoyed on the terms of the narrative.  I t does  not attempt t o achieve the sophisticated intertwining of "teach and delight" attained by Henryson.  But to avoid c a l l i n g The Vox and the Wolf a beast  fable simply on the grounds of i t s not having a deliberate moral denies i t s share i n , and i t s contribution to, the essence of beast fable, the paradox of animals behaving to some extent as human beings.  Even i n the simple  Aesopic fables, as the exempla we have examined i n chapter one, where the animals serve only as examples of human conduct, t h e i r being animals makes the human behaviour—and be limited.  the lesson—memorable, though t a l e and lesson may  Whether there i s a moral purpose involved or not, the success  io6  with which this paradoxical characterization is realized and developed measures the success of the Middle English beast fables we have examined.  107 FOOTNOTES  For studies of the beast epic, see the works c i t e d i n t h i s chapter, and p a r t i c u l a r l y John F l i n n , c i t e d i n chapter three, note 13 above. x  p This idea was f i r s t expressed by Grimm and developed by L. Sudre i n Les Sources du Roman de Renart (Paris: Bouillon, 1893). See also Richard Bauman, ^The Folktale and Oral T r a d i t i o n i n the Fables of Robert Henryson," Fabula, 6. Band (Berlin, 1964), 108-24, and Donald B. Sands, ed., The History of Reynard the Fox Translated and Printed by William Caxton i n 1481 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960J7 P« 29. -  3 L. Foulet, Le Roman de Renart (Paris: Champion, 19l4), e s p e c i a l l y chapter one and the conclusions. ^ D. C. Tinbergen, ed., Van Den Vos Reinaerde, 19th ed. revised by L. M. Van Dis (Groningen: Wolters-Noordhoftf, 1969), pp. 10-12; William Rose, ed., The Epic of the Beast (London: Routledge, 1924), pp. x x v i - x x v i i . 5 R. Bossuat, Le Roman de Renard (Paris: Hatier, 1967), pp. 66-67, 84; F l i n n , pp. 31-33; Foulet, pp. 18, 566-67. ^ Ecbasis cuiusdum c a p t i v i per tropologiam Escape of a Certain Captive Told i n a Figurative Manner, trans, and ed. E. H. Zeydel, University of North Carolina Studies i n the Germanic Languages and Literatures, 46 (Chapel H i l l : University of North Carolina Press, 1964). 7 An Aesopic version also appears i n Caxton's c o l l e c t i o n ; see R. T. Lenaghan, ed., Caxton's Aesop (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967), PP- l46-4~9~!! Zeydel prints and translates an eighth-century L a t i n version of the fable, pp. 97-101.  Q Sands, p. 30. 9 See Rose, pp. x v i - x x i i i . 1  0  Sands, p. 29-  1  1  Ibid. Rose, p. x x v i i .  x  13 Two standard editions of the Roman are Le Roman de Renart, ed. D.-M. Meon, 4 vols. (Paris: T r e u t t e l and Wurtz, 1826"] and Le Roman de Renart,ed. Mario Roques, Classiques Francaises du Moyen Age, 78, 79, 81,"85, 5 vols. (Paris: Champion, 1948-58). Bossuat summarizes the texts of each branch and includes c r i t i c a l commentary. -  1^ Bossuat, p. 6. 1 5  F l i n n , p. 30.  108  It i s printed by James R. Hulbert i n "The Nun's Priest's Tale," Sources and Analogues of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, ed. W. F. Bryan and Germaine Dempster (New York: Humanities Press, 1941), pp. 646-58. IT Bossuat, p. 32. !® Kenneth Sisam, ed., The Nun's Priest's Tale (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927), P- x x i i . !9 See Bossuat, pp. 145-51? and F l i n n , pp. 3-9 and the chapters dealing with French reworkings of the epic, chapters four to eight. 20 G. Baesecke, ed., Heinrichs des Glichezares Reinhart Fuchs (Halle: Niemeyer, 1925). 2  1  The episode from Reinhart Fuchs i s printed i n Hulbert, pp. 658-62.  22 Tinbergen and Van Dis, as c i t e d above, note 4. 2  3 Ibid., pp. 16-17, and Sands, pp. 20-24.  2^- Sands, p. 28. 2  5 Edited by Donald B. Sands, as c i t e d above, note two.  26 Ibid., pp. 3-5. 27 See chapter three, note 7> and note 47 below. R. M. Wilson, Early Middle English Literature, 3rd ed. (London: Methuen, 1968), pp. 243-44. 9 S i r Gawain and the Green Knight, ed. J . R. R. Tolkien and E. V. Gordon, 2nd ed. revised by Norman Davis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), Renaude, 11. 1898 and 19l6, Reniarde, 1. 1728, and Reynarde, 1. 1920. 2  3° The_ Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. F. N. Robinson, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton M i f f l i n , 1957), p. 5l6, 1. 2448. 3 See F l i n n , p. 672; Owst, Pulpit, pp. 204-205; Rose, p. xxxvi; Wilson, pp. 244-45. However, Sands ( i n h i s introduction to his e d i t i o n of Caxton's Reynard) does not f e e l that the English were f a m i l i a r with beast epic type l i t e r a t u r e before Caxton printed Reynard. 1  32 Reynard the Fox, A Study of the Fox i n Medieval English Art (Leicester University Press,'1967JT See also h i s a r t i c l e ^ "The Pursuit of Reynard i n Medieval English Art and L i t e r a t u r e , " Nottingham M e d i e v a l — ~ ^ Studies, 5 (1961), 62-8l, and F l i n n , pp. 678-79. 33 Sands, p. 35; G. H. McKnight, "The Middle English Vox and Wolf," PMLA, 23 (1908), 499-500. J . M. Smith (The French Background of Middle Scots Literature ^Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd, 1934J7 P> 78,  109 suggests that fables are a type of f a b l i a u , i n that both are short s t o r i e s i n verse and "the counterpart of the romantic idealism of the l i t e r a t u r e of courtly love." 34 Wilson, p. 247. 35 McKnight, pp. 500-504. 36 Ten Brink, p. 257. 37 F l i n n , p. 676, discusses the relationship between The Vox and the Wolf and branch four of the Roman. See also Bennett and Smithers, p. 66, and Wilson, p. 247. 38 Several scholars have pointed out the p l a u s i b i l i t y of the Middle English narrative i n r e l a t i o n to the account i n the Roman, where the wolf i s lured into the w e l l by thinking the fox i s there with h i s wife (Bennett and Smithers, p. 66, ten Brink, p. 257)' Wilson (p. 248) offers the opposite viewpoint. He also points out (pp. 247-48) one noteworthy lapse i n the Middle English poem, and that i s the thoughtlessness of the fox i n jumping into the bucket i n the f i r s t place. In the French branch he sees his r e f l e c t i o n , thinks h i s wife i s i n the well, and descends to see what i s wrong. But perhaps the English poet f e l t that t h i s was not suitable behaviour f o r Reynard e i t h e r - - a f t e r a l l , i t i s l i k e the mistake of the stupid wolf. He says only that the fox . . . ne hounderstod nout of pe ginne: He nom pat boket and l p perinne, For he hopede inou to drinke. (lines 77-79) 39 Wilson, p. 249^ The e d i t i o n used throughout i s that i n Bennett and Smithers, pp. 65-76. Other editions may be found i n A. S. Cook, pp. 188-198, and Dickins and Wilson, pp. 62-70. ^  Dickins and Wilson, p. 62.  ^ Wilson suggests that t h i s i s a deliberate cutting; ten Brink (p. 258) assumes a gap i n the text. ^3 Wilson, pp. 248-49. ^  Bennett and Smithers, p. 67.  ^  Wilson, p. 249-  ^  McKnight, p. 499-  47 Henryson's c o l l e c t i o n includes f i v e Reynardian fables, the four mentioned here and "The T a i l l of Schir Chanteclei'r and the Foxe," which ? w i l l be examined i n the next chapter. On the sources of these fables, see ) note 7, chapter three and e s p e c i a l l y MacQueen, Appendix I I I , pp. 208-21.  110 See also J. M Smith, pp. "J9-81, who concludes Henryson must have been f a m i l i a r with French narratives; Bauman (pp. 112-14) suggests that those aspects of Henryson's narratives not found i n either Caxton or the Roman must have come from f o l k t a l e sources. On "The Fox, the Wolf and the Cadger," see Gavin Bone, "The Sources of Henryson's 'Fox, Wolf, and Cadger,'" The Review of English Studies, 10 (1934); 319-20, and A. W. Jenkins, "Henryson's The Fox, the Wolf, and the Cadger again," Studies i n Scottish Literature, 4~Tl96o77 107-112. On Odo of Cheriton as a source f o r "The T r i a l of the Fox," see Jamieson, pp. 403-405« k 8  k  Jenkins, "Henryson," p. 40.  9 Stearns, pp. 119-20.  50 Hereafter referred to as "The T r i a l of the Fox" and "The Fox's Confession" 51 Many episodes of the Roman de Renart and beast tales based upon i t involve the wolf or the fox f u l f i l l i n g some e c c l e s i a s t i c a l function. Cf. The Vox and the Wolf. In l a t e r derivations of the beast epics, such portrayals are primarily heavily s a t i r i c a l ; see chapter s i x . 52 John B. Friedman, "Henryson, the F r i a r s , and the Confessio Reynardi, JEGP, 66 (1967),' 550-61, c l e a r l y outlines t h i s abuse. Friedman sees the fable as an anti-mendicant argument. While i t i s not possible to ignore the s a t i r e inherent i n the portrayal of the wolf as a f r i a r and i n the abuse of the sacrament, Friedman's reading underrates the comic r e l i s h with which the animals are described and Lowrence's duping the wolf into doing as he wishes. Stearns (pp. 114-17) sees Lowrence as a sympathetically portrayed figure of the poor man^isled by a bad p r i e s t , c i t i n g Lowrence's "complete, immediate f a i t h i n the wolf" i n l i n e s 671-78 as "almost touching" (p. 114). I suspect that he has been fooled by the clever fox, f o r Lowrence obeisance to the wolf i s simply another Reynardian t r i c k : anything but penit e n t — i n d e e d , he fears only f o r his s k i n — h e wishes to f o o l the wolf into absolving him. His show of penitence succeeds i n f o o l i n g the wolf, and h i s arguments about h i s need complete the ruse. Obviously, the wolf's concept i o n of his function i s anything but i d e a l , but much of h i s behaviour i s explicable by his s t u p i d i t y — i r o n i c a l l y , a f t e r his introduction i n l i n e s 666-69—and g u l l i b i l i t y .  Ill  CHAPTER FIVE THE APOGEE OF THE BEAST FABLE: CHAUCER'S NUN'S PRIEST'S TALE  The Nun's Priest's Tale i s considered by most Chaucer scholars to be one of the best of the Canterbury Tales, high praise indeed f o r a poem belonging to a genre usually associated with the didacticism of would-be Aesops.  A supremely comic t a l e , i t nonetheless includes a great many of  the serious themes that Chaucer focuses upon i n h i s other poetry.  The t a l e  of a cock and hen contains consideration of dream psychology and physiology, marriage, the question of free w i l l , as w e l l as a series of suggestions about the human f a i l i n g s evoked by the portrayal of the animals.  The seriousness  of these themes, and the f a c t of the portrayal of the animals as sophisticated characters, has l e d some scholars to read the t a l e as a serious allegory. Any one-sided a l l e g o r i c a l reading, however, tends to obscure the poem's immense range of subject matter and u n f a i l i n g comic tone.  The comedy ranges  from the narrator's joke i n portraying a cock and hen as he does, through mock-heroic  tone, s a t i r e of romance and rhetoric, the'burlesque of the climac-  t i c chase of the fox, to a humorous perspective on the moralitas i t s e l f . Indeed, i t i s the comedy of the Nun's Priest's Tale that i s most consistently recognized and admired by Chaucer's readers.  And i t i s through an examination  of the comedy that one can understand how i n Chaucer's hands the animal fable 1 achieves i t s f i n e s t expression i n medieval l i t e r a t u r e . To recognize the o r i g i n a l i t y of the Nun's Priest's Tale we must see i t i n r e l a t i o n to s i m i l a r animal fables.  Chaucer incorporates both the t r a d i -  t i o n a l homiletic sphere of fable exempla and the comic anthropomorphic a c t e r i z a t i o n of beast epics.  char-  The basic plot of the cock and fox story comes  from Aesopic fable, although i n the extant Aesopic fables that antedate  112  the twelfth century the "bird i n question i s usually a crow.  These fables  contain elements of either of the two t r i c k s i n the Nun's Priest's Tale and the analogous t a l e i n the Roman de Renart."^  Marie de France includes  2 the cock and fox fable i n her c o l l e c t i o n ,  but i t i s l i k e l y that her trans-  forming the b i r d to a cock i s indebted to the development given the o l d fables i n the Renart tales.3  Her fable i s Aesopic, however, as i s that transit.  lated and printed by Caxton from a continental c o l l e c t i o n .  Clearly, the  same story serves both the didactic purpose of the Aesopic fable and the entertainment purpose of the Roman.  Chaucer's source i s most obviously the  Roman t r a d i t i o n : h i s narrative i n c l u d e s — i n d e e d emphasizes—events before the entry of the fox, and h i s animals are highly developed characters. Branch two of the Roman de Renart^ contains a story of the cock, hen and fox much l i k e Chaucer's.  Scholars have suggested that the existence  of another French version would account f o r some of Chaucer's departures from the Roman, p a r t i c u l a r l y the names of Renart and Pinte becoming Russell and Pertelote.^  However, seeking to explain a l l of Chaucer's deviations  from the Roman, or Reinhart Fuchs, which i s also s i m i l a r , i n terms of addi7  t i o n a l sources neglects the obvious o r i g i n a l i t y of Chaucer's fable.  What i s  more important i s to examine the changes Chaucer does make and t h e i r e f f e c t on the tale as a whole.  Besides the addition of the discussions of dreams,  y marriage, Fortune and free w i l l , of which only the f i r s t i s suggested i n the Roman, several aspects of the characterization are altered as w e l l . Chauntecleer i s transformed from the " g u l l i b l e f o o l into a sympathetic charQ  acter."  In the Roman, Pinte advises Chantecler to heed the warning h i s  / dream has given him.  The role of the fox i s diminished i n Chaucer and the  emphasis i s on the cock and hen.  The wealthy farmer, Constans de Noes, who  / o v n s the hen-yard becomes an anonymous, poor and humble widow. We w i l l  113  examine each of these alterations i n terms of the t a l e presently.  On the  whole, however, the plot of the Nun's Priest's Tale and the extent to which the  animals are developed as characters with human attributes are inspired  by the beast epic treatment- of Aesopic material.9 But the Nun's Priest's Tale does make use of the t r a d i t i o n of the didact i c fable i n other ways.  We have witnessed the popularity of fables as  exempla, p a r t i c u l a r l y i n homiletics, f o r t h e i r a b i l i t y to teach and delight together. the  In the Prologue to the Nun's Priest's Tale, the Host has asked  p r i e s t to t e l l "swich thyng as may oure hertes glade" ( l i n e 28ll);"*"  a f t e r the Monk's tragedies the company wants a merry t a l e .  0  The p r i e s t i s  happy to oblige, and does t e l l a merry t a l e , but one which i s i n keeping with his c l e r i c a l position. W&'fr^f  Accordingly, the cock and fox each state the  moral of t h e i r respective f a i l i n g s ( l i n e s 3^31-32, 3434-35), and the narrator summarizes both morals: Lo, swich i t i s f o r to be recchelees And necligent, and truste on f l a t e r y e . ( l i n e s 3^36-37) The p r i e s t concludes h i s fable with a standard v i n d i c a t i o n of the use of fiction: But ye that holden this tale a folye, As of a fox, or of a cok and hen, Taketh the moralite, goode men. For seint Paul s e i t h that a l that writen i s , To oure doctrine i t i s ywrite, ywis; Taketh the f r u y t , and l a t the chaf be s t i l l e . (lines 3438-43) The narrative, too, i s interspersed with "morals" interpolated by the narrator.  Before the fox appears, Chauntecleer i s depicted i n a l l his happy  glory; the narrator ominously remarks  114  For evere the l a t t e r ende of joye i s wo. God woot that worldly joye i s soone ago;  ....  (lines 3205-6) Later, he digresses on the e v i l s of women's counsel.  And when the fox  has begun to persuade Chauntecleer, the narrator interrupts to warn against f l a t t e r y and suggest his audience protect themselves against i t by reading Ecclesiastes ( l i n e s 3325-30). When he has brought up the subject of free w i l l , the Nun's P r i e s t cannot r e s i s t making several remarks on the subject, even while protesting I wol nat han to do of swich mateere; My tale i s of a cok, as ye may heere,  ....  (lines 3251-52) In t e l l i n g his merry t a l e , then, the Nun's Priest i s s t i l l conscious of his c l e r i c a l role and habits, and does not l e t h i s audience miss any of 12 the morals his t a l e can o f f e r . Although the Nun's P r i e s t so frequently offers these moralizations, the characters of the tale are by nojmeans^sj.mple__jrehicles f o r h i s statements.  Chauntecleer and Pertelote are highly developed characters whose  behaviour i s the essence of the tale's comedy.  One of the most noticeable  comic aspects of t h e i r portrayal i s Chaucer's technique of constantly reminding the audience that these sophisticated lovers are, a f t e r a l l , a cock and a hen. J  " I t i s a comic device inherent i n the beast-fable to make a  b i r d t a l k l i k e a learned man and then show i t going o f f to have a dustbath, but i t has never been done better than h e r e . "  13  We have observed such d e l i b -  erate juxtaposition i n other fables, but Chaucer's s k i l l i n drawing out the comic ironies of his characters' dual natures cannot e a s i l y be r i v a l l e d . "Faire damoysele Pertelote" i s introduced as the heroine of a romance, but her graces are twice mockingly q u a l i f i e d , by the reminder that she i s a hen.  115  She i s the f a i r e s t of a l l Chauntecleer's paramours, f o r she i s "the f a i r es te hewed on h i r throte" ( l i n e 2869).  Her conduct has been a standard of  courtesy "syn . . . she was seven nyght oold" ( l i n e 2873): "the description of a courtly lady becomes ensnared i n the l i f e - c y c l e of a h e n . W h e n Chauntecleer praises his love, he does so i n the language of the courtly lover, but rather than praising her red cheeks or l i p s , he suddenly reminds us of the  unprepossessing stare of a chicken: Madame Pertelote, so have I b l i s , Of o thyng God hath sent me large grace; For whan I se the beautee of your face, Ye been so s c a r l e t reed aboute youre yen, It maketh a l my drede f o r to dyen; . . . . (lines 3158-62)  Some of his praises of Pertelote acquire comic overtones i n t h e i r being applicable to both a woman and a hen, but i n d i f f e r e n t ways, such as Chauntecleer's affectionate "whan I feele a-nyght your softe syde" ( l i n e 3167).  Pertelote's reprimand to Chauntecleer f o r his cowardice also contains  a play upon the cock portrayed as a man: Have ye no mannes herte, and han a berd? ( l i n e 2920) The irony i s doubled by the nature of the question, f o r obviously Chauntecleer does not have a beard.  Pertelote's vehement appeal to the romance standards  of heroism becomes empty rhetoric when t h i s l i n e restores the perspective on speaker and hero.  S i m i l a r l y , Chauntecleer's vow l a t e r i n the poem i s  i r o n i c when i t i s remembered that he i s a rooster, but also i n that the vow can only be meaningless, and that he r e a l l y does not wish Pertelote to be as learned as he i s : By God.' I hadde levere than my sherte That ye hadde rad his legende, as have I. (lines 3120-21)  116  The l a s t two examples suggest that Chauntecleer and Pertelote sometimes become carried away with t h e i r human natures.  X  They regard each other  f i n human terms, as i s expected i n a fable, but occasionally expand these terms beyond what can coexist with t h e i r animal natures.  A further  illus-  t r a t i o n i s provided by Pertelote, when she advises Chauntecleer on h i s dream: Though i n t h i s toun i s noon apothecarie, I shal myself to herbes techen yow . . . . ( l i n e s 29 8-49) k  Chaucer has made a point of describing the l i m i t s of Chauntecleer's and Pertelote's world; the idea of f i n d i n g an apothecary i n a "toun""'"'' that cons i s t s of one rooster and seven hens i n a yard enclosed by a s t i c k fence and a ditch indicates the extent to which Pertelote has developed her imagination. It i s not only through the characters that the Nun's Priest's Tale brings out the comic ironies of beast fable portrayal.  The t a l e opens with  the introduction of the widow and her two daughters, but the f i r s t creature to be d i g n i f i e d with a name i s the "sheep that highte Malle" ( l i n e 2831). The tone f o r the fantasy i s set, f o r now we expect a beast fable i n which, i r o n i c a l l y , animals are more i n t e r e s t i n g characters than human beings.  The  1/ contrast of the f i r s t description of Chauntecleer to that of the widow underl i n e s the irony.  The widow's f r u g a l , simple l i f e includes her small hen-yard,  but i n that hen-yard appears the splendid figure of Chauntecleer, dazzling i n his  "mock-heroic  brilliance.""^  Her rooster and h i s hens lead a l i f e of  courtly customs and erudition, but Chauntecleer, " r o i a l , as a prince i s i n his  h a l l e " ( l i n e 3184), i s a f t e r a l l only the possession of a poor and humble  widow. However, once the widow has been introduced, Chauntecleer and Pertelote •take over the narrative and, f o r the moment, focus our attention on the world  117  •within the fence and ditch, t h e i r -world. the accomplishments  In that world they are seen with  and a b i l i t i e s of highly sophisticated human beings.  They are courtly lovers, endorsing the i d e a l of the romance t r a d i t i o n — a n d , because they are hen and rooster, are a parody of that t r a d i t i o n . have read widely and can debate with scholarly enthusiasm. time, they are l i k e a human husband and wife.  They  At the same  In t h e i r t o t a l behaviour  t h e i r highly individual characters emerge as those of human beings, but always through the touchstone of our consciousness, prodded by the narrator, that they are cock and hen. Chauntecleer i s f i r s t presented as the hero.  His reputation i s based  on his a b i l i t y to crow at the right time, and t h i s a b i l i t y i s described as would be a c h i v a l r i c hero's prowess i n arms: In a l the land, of crowyng nas his peer. ( l i n e 2850) Of course, his physical beauty and the adoration of his court add to h i s status.  He i s a " g e n t i l cok," and h i s heart belongs "trewely" to Pertelote.  That he has s i x other hens as "paramours" i s p a r t l y the irony of beast fable portrayal, f o r no  farmer would keep only one hen and one rooster,  but the v a l i d i t y of Chauntecleer's "true love" i n the courtly t r a d i t i o n i s thus undercut.  Pertelote, behaving as a courtly lady, reprimands Chauntecleer  f o r cowardice and refuses her love to none but a fearless hero.  Again the  r e a l i t i e s of t h e i r animal existence mock the courtly sentiment: what rooster i n h i s right mind would not fear a fox?  Chauntecleer, a f t e r demonstrating  his superior i n t e l l i g e n c e and learning i n the debate on dreams, becomes 17 again the p o l i t e courtly lover and extols Pertelote's beauty.  His joy  i n her love elevates him to the rank of prince, and an heroic simile that l8 would describe someone l i k e Palamon i n a serious t a l e  i s applied to the  118  cock: He looketh as i t were a grym leoun, And on h i s toos he roraeth up and doun; . . . . (lines 3179-80) Once again, the disproportion between Chauntecleer's human sentiments and h i s rooster's physiognomy undercuts h i s heroic status.  The f i n a l  episode of the fable sees Chauntecleer's wives moaning f o r him as i f he were an epic hero: Certes, swich cry ne lamentacion, Was nevere of ladyes maad whan Y l i o n Was wonne, and Pirrus with h i s s t r e i t e swerd, Whan he hadde hent kyng Priam by the berd, And slayn hym, as s e i t h us Eneydos, As maden a l l e the hennes i n the clos, Whan they had seyn of Chauntecleer the sighte. (lines 3355-61) The human world intervenes i n the f r a n t i c chase that follows, and restores the perspective on Chauntecleer with r e a l i s t i c description of farmyard con19 fusion.  In human terms Chauntecleer's heroics are laughable; the comedy  r e l i e s on the disproportion between Chauntecleer's conception of h i m s e l f — and the hens' conception of him--and the f a c t that he i s only a cock. But i t i s not only the grander human aspirations that elaborate the characters of Chauntecleer and Pertelote. and hen are l i k e a human husband and wife.  In the debate on dreams, cock  Pertelote i s the p r a c t i c a l wife  and Chauntecleer the husband too proud to accept h i s wife's somewhat motherly advice.  She pooh-poohs Chauntecleer's f e a r that his dream might be a fore-  warning, and diagnoses i t with the e f f i c i e n c y of a b r i s k nurse, recommending a suitable diet to f o r e s t a l l "fevere terciane" or "an agu" (lines 2959-60). 20 W. C. Curry  has pointed out that i n terms of medieval science Pertelote's  diagnosis and prescriptions are correct and reveal considerable knowledge of physicians' l o r e .  Indeed, her earnestness throughout the course of her  119  lengthy examination reveals genuine concern f o r her husband. Chauntecleer, however, r e p l i e s with the wounded dignity of the hero who has just been rebuked f o r cowardice and has had to l i s t e n to an argument that reduces his avisioun to a simple i n d i s p o s i t i o n : "Madame," quod he, "graunt mercy of youre loore, But nathelees, as touchyng daun Catoun, . . . men may i n olde bookes rede Of many a man moore of auctorite Than evere Caton was, so moot I thee,  . . . .  (lines 2971-72, 2974-76) His pride r u f f l e d , he reminds Pertelote of his superior understanding and learning, and silences her with a lengthy defence of heeding dreams. Chauntecleer's role i n the debate shows that he i s no simple rooster, and PI  that he i s quite capable of interpreting h i s own dream c o r r e c t l y .  He  ends his argument, however, with a suggestion that he has a less d i g n i f i e d reason to refuse Pertelote's advice as w e l l : . . . and I seye forthermoor, That I ne t e l l of laxatyves no stoor, For they been venymous, I woot i t weel; I hem d i f f y e , I love hem never a deeli (lines 3153-56) One suspects that Pertelote has imposed her medications on Chauntecleer before. Chauntecleer and Pertelote emerge from t h e i r d i s t i n c t and complete characters.  various human role as  Their incongruous combination of human  and animal t r a i t s i s comic, and t h e i r simply human t r a i t s are comic as well, but the portrayal i s nonetheless sympathetic.  Part of our sympathy f o r  them stems no doubt from t h e i r being so very human, but t h e i r weaknesses are not seen with a stern eye.  Pertelote i s a genuinely affectionate wife,  somewhat ludicrous i n her officiousness, but likeable f o r her s i n c e r i t y .  120  Chauntecleer i s proud, but t h i s aspect of his portrayal i s tempered by h i s a f f e c t i o n f o r Pertelote, his sense of duty, his wisdom, and, not l e a s t , his v u l n e r a b i l i t y . The l a t t e r i s gently suggested i n h i s r u f f l e d reaction to Pertelote's s o l i c i t u d e , h i s expressed distaste f o r laxatives, h i s u n w i l l ingness to offend Pertelote or have a quarrel, and the joy he expresses when t h e i r debate i s ended. rooster.  And Chauntecleer i s , a f t e r a l l , a very splendid  The courtly and the heroic pretensions  of Pertelote and Chauntecleer  may be laughable, but the very f a c t that we can laugh at them with so much pleasure ensures that we w i l l f e e l a sympathetic i n t e r e s t i n the cock and hen. Chauntecleer and Pertelote are indeed so human i n so many ways that when we laugh at them we are laughing at human beings also.  As i n many of  Henryson's fables and i n The Vox and the Wolf, the incongruities of animals behaving as human beings produce comedy, laughter at both the animal characters and at human behaviour.  P a r t i c u l a r human t r a i t s , such as pride or  foolishness, are put into perspective i n the animal characters, p a r t i c u l a r l y when these are comic, because we can regard them from a distance, but t h i s perspective s h i f t s constantly as the distance between fable character and human being i s altered.  Thus while we are able t o see how pretentiously  Chauntecleer behaves while we are watching a rooster, we suddenly see that man and rooster have more i n common than the power of speech, and f i n d ourselves laughing at a human f o i b l e .  In the Vox and the Wolf, the human view  remains i m p l i c i t i n the i r o n i c humour that pervades the t a l e ; i n Henryson, i t asserts i t s e l f i n the moralitas.  Chaucer, however, builds a human distance  into the narrative structure of his f a b l e ; l i k e our varying viewpoints of Chauntecleer, i t s h i f t s , but more dramatically. 22 Unlike other fables that include human characters,  the Nun's Priest's  121  Tale separates the worlds of the widow and the hen-yard. It i s out of the good widow's spare and sober way of l i f e that a l l the exuberance and a l l the delusions of the world of Chauntecleer and Pertelote grow, u n t i l at l a s t the human world erupts into the animal one, i n an energetic and breathless attempt to rescue a valuable piece of property. This treatment of the human and animal on two d i f f e r e n t l e v e l s , each b l i s s f u l l y unaware of the other's mode of experiencing l i f e and each pursuing i t s ends with equal vigour and determination, i s responsible f o r much of the comic e f f e c t of the t a l e . 3 2  We have noted before how  the contrast between the widow and  points out the irony of the rooster's splendour and how fox deflates Chauntecleer's a comic perspective.  heroic stature.  Chauntecleer  the pursuit of the  The comedy produced i s that of  The framework provided by the i n i t i a l and  descriptions of the widow's small farm, of which Chauntecleer  concluding  i s only a  small part, gives the audience the perspective on the rooster that makes his  pride the more ludicrous.  Chauntecleer  to Pertelote and his other wives, he may  i s no bigger than his kingdom:  be a prince, but outside the s t i c k  fence and ditch he i s another animal, l i k e Malle the sheep and Colle the dog.  In h i s pride he forgets that l i k e the rest of the world he i s mortal,  fallible. "I am so f u l of joye and of solas, That I d i f f y e bothe sweven and dreem." (lines 3170-71) He looketh as i t were a grym leoun, And on h i s toos he rometh up and doun; Hym deigned nat to sette h i s foot to grounde. ( l i n e s 3179-81) For the audience i t i s a short step backwards to see that  Chauntecleer's  comic pretensions i n the world of the fable are l i k e mankind's comic pretensions i n the world as a whole.  122  But the audience's perspective i s not l e f t as a distant one.  While  the widow i s i n i t i a l l y a model of temperance and good judgment, her second appearance i s as the leader of a chaotic chase that does not speak f o r moderation.  She does not swoon as a t r a g i c heroine, hut her behaviour i s ok  no less h y s t e r i c a l than Pertelote's.  Together with ducks, bees, dogs,  and other human beings, the widow bursts into Chauntecleer's world: she deflates i t , but she also becomes part of i t .  In the pandemonium of the  chase, we are given an overwhelming view of shared preoccupation i n which the boundaries between human and animal world are broken e n t i r e l y . The role of the description of the widow's f r u g a l l i f e returns us to the question of Chaucer's motives i n changing aspects of the version bel i e v e d to be h i s source, branch two of the Roman de Renart.  The wealthy  farmer to whose farm Chantecler belongs i n the Roman would not be as e f f e c t i v e a figure i n Chaucer's tale as i s the poor widow.  Her simple  l i f e contrasts sharply with Chauntecleer's splendour, underlining the ironies of the portrayal of the animals.  Chauntecleer's and Pertelote's  pretentious human behaviour i s made the more ridiculous by the widow's lack of pretentiousness, both because they are only chickens i n her humble establishment and because her human behaviour i s more commendable than the human c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of Chauntecleer and P e r t e l o t e . ^ 2  Besides lending  perspective to the comic portrayal of the cock and hen, the widow also provides a moral perspective on the f o l l i e s of pride and pretension. The change i n the roles of Chauntecleer and Pertelote regarding the interpretation of Chauntecleer's dream i s basic to the development of Chaucer's t a l e . on dreams.  To begin with, i t provides the basis f o r the long debate  Chauntecleer i s not a f o o l , as h i s escape from the fox t e s t i f i e s ;  his wisdom and h i s correct interpretation of his dream result i n the  123 rationale f o r his f a l l being focused on his pride and consequent s u s c e p t i b i l i t y to f l a t t e r y .  Chauntecleer s more sympathetic portrayal 1  increases the comic e f f e c t of the t a l e and makes him a more e f f e c t i v e representative of human behaviour than a simply f o o l i s h cock.  Pertelote*s  reaction t o the dream suggests a light-hearted realism at work i n the anthropomorphic development  of the animals.  Pinte i n the Roman interprets  her husband's dream prophetically, seeing him i n the terms Chauntecleer i n the Nun's Priest's Tale wishes to be seen i n . Chaucer knew more of matrimony than that. I t i s the husband that would have high pretensions about the significance of h i s dreams, the wife who would throw the cold water of common sense upon them.^T Pertelote's rather ordinary housewifeish nature reveals i t s e l f and points out the shallowness of her courtly pretensions, heightening the comedy of the mock-heroic portrayal arid of the r e f l e c t i o n on human behaviour she suggests.  Chauntecleer and Pertelote are developed more r e a l i s t i c a l l y  as human beings with a combination of strengths and weaknesses that speak of mankind as a whole. The fox's role i n Chaucer's fable i s not a c e n t r a l one; unlike Renart i n the Roman, Russell i s not the hero, or mock-hero, but the v i l l a i n .  There  has been a great deal of speculation about why Chaucer changed the fox's  28 name, e s p e c i a l l y when he was f a m i l i a r with i t .  Russell, too, i s the  name f o r a son of Renart i n Renart l e Nouvel and the Dutch Reinaert de 29 Vos.  I f the adventures of Reynard were well-known to Chaucer's audience,  changing the name would be i n keeping with Chaucer's making the cock, rather than the fox, h i s hero.  Chaucer's fable i s a microcosmic portrayal of the  human world, but a comic one; Chauntecleer as hero, and as man, i s more suitable than Reynard, whose rogueries, while c e r t a i n l y comic, cannot be seen with such an indulgent eye. The fox as man would suggest a harshness  12k  that i s out of keeping with Chaucer's humane v i s i o n .  There are " f a l s  f l a t o u r s , " c e r t a i n l y , hut the poet's concern i s with the hulk of humanity, and f o r this reason, I suspect, he i s more interested i n characterizing Chauntecleer and Pertelote than the s l y col-fox. Russell, however, s t i l l i s portrayed with l i v e l y interest.  He pro-  vides an opportunity f o r the narrator to parody c e r t a i n r h e t o r i c a l practices.  The moralist's voice introduces him a a "homycide": 0 f a l s e mordrour, lurkynge i n thy deni 0 newe Scariot, newe Genylon, False dissymulour, o Greek Synon, That broghtest Troye a l outrely to sorwei (lines 3226-29)  The mock-heroic voice elevates the fox, crouching i n a "bed of wortes," to the ranks of history's famous t r a i t o r s . behaving according to h i s nature.  But the fox, a f t e r a l l , i s only  The solemn voice of the rhetorician  mocks i t s e l f when our v i s i o n returns to the hen-yard and the animal world. As R. T. Lenaghan  30  points out, the narrator i s enjoying a joke at the  expense of the rethor who  i n f l a t e s h i s subject-matter beyond common sense.  The fox, then, provides a means of s a t i r i z i n g yet another human f o l l y . Apart from the i n f l a t e d condemnations that r e a l l y have very l i t t l e to do with R u s s e l l himself, the fox i s portrayed humorously and somewhat i n d u l gently.  His cleverness i n duping Chauntecleer shows that Chaucer i s quite  as capable of developing upon the wiles of Reynard as the trouve*res. speaks to the cock as one learned man  He  to another: the i n t r i c a c i e s of music  are of interest to him-. . . ye han i n musyk moore feelyinge Than hadde Boece . . . 31 ( l i n e s 3293-9 ) k  --and has read of the wisdom of Chauntecleer's kind i n "Daun Burnel the Ass  125  He thus c l e v e r l y combines f l a t t e r y with an appeal to Chauntecleer's pretensions to learning.  The fox's f a i r words too have i r o n i c double  meanings which Chauntecleer does not see through: My l o r d your fader—God his soule blesse.'-And eke youre mooder, of hire g e n t i l l e s s e , Han i n myn hous ybeen to my greet ese; .... (lines 3295-97) By the end of the t a l e , Chauntecleer and Russell, each both v i c t i m and v i c t o r i n terms of cleverness, exchange moralities i n a matter-of-fact way, who  both the wiser f o r t h e i r experience.  The fox i s the mock v i l l a i n  i l l u s t r a t e s Chauntecleer's foolishness and blindness, but he too  learns to "observe a law of governance" and "recognize the advantages of self-control."32 Chauntecleer*s capture by the fox through his s u s c e p t i b i l i t y to f l a t t e r y and the f a c t that Pertelote misinterprets the dream and d i s tracts him on the f a t e f u l morning have l e d many readers to f e e l there i s a consistent a l l e g o r i c a l purpose i n the poem.  Chauntecleer's weaknesses  are h i s pride and recklessness, both related to his joy i n Pertelote. The analogies to the F a l l are thus inevitably suggested, but an attempt to sustain an a l l e g o r i c a l reading i s thwarted by d e t a i l s of p l o t and chara c t e r i z a t i o n , and not least by the comic tone.  To see the hen-yard bor-  dered by a s t i c k fence and ditch as an earthly paradise33 i s to miss the ironies of Chauntecleer, the wise and splendid hero and lover, being i n r e a l i t y a rooster whose earthly paradise i s a simple hen-yard.  It is  Chauntecleer, not Pertelote, who f a l l s through personal v a n i t y , 3 and k  although the Nun's P r i e s t , i n making the comparison between Eve and Pertelote while decrying "wommanes c o n s e i l , " may be making h i s audience aware of the correspondences, the t a l e as a whole does not suggest that  126  Pertelote's counsel i s responsible f o r Chauntecleer's error. does not take her advice and does not give i t any c r e d i t . ignores h i s dream because he i s happy.  Chauntecleer  He simply  Granted, h i s "joye and solas" i n  Pertelote i s l a r g e l y responsible f o r his recklessness, but Pertelote cannot be blamed f o r making Chauntecleer happy.  Chauntecleer's f o l l y i s  too comic, both i n i t s portrayal and i n the f a c t that he corrects i t and saves himself, f o r the reminders of the F a l l to dominate the t a l e .  The  d e l i g h t f u l humour of the pursuit scene, too, i s surely beyond being seen as a conception of "moral disorder" r e s u l t i n g from the F a l l . ^ of f o l l y and conceit . . .  "The comedy  i s enhanced by the oblique comparison with the  Fall,"36 and l i k e so many other suggestions i n the poem, this relates the world of the fable to the human world.  comparison  I t i s yet another  examplev of the comic anthropomorphism of Chaucer's fable characters. Several readers of the Nun's Priest's Tale have seen i t as an a l l e g o r i c a l warning to the clergy or the C h r i s t i a n man to beware of heretics. These interpretations are based p a r t i a l l y on t y p i c a l symbolic meanings given the animals i n medieval exegesis, the fox as heretic or f a l s e c l e r i c , 3 7 and the cock as a p r i e s t or C h r i s t i a n . ^ 3  Charles Dahlberg39 sees Russell  as a symbol of a Franciscan f r i a r , and Chauntecleer as a member of the secular clergy; he reads the t a l e as an anti-mendicant allegory exhorting kn parish p r i e s t s to be a l e r t to t h e i r duties.  Part of h i s argument i s based  on the sloth of the secular clergy, which drove members of t h e i r flocks to the mendicants. his  Chauntecleer, however, i s not s l o t h f u l .  His attention t o  duty i s stressed—indeed, he ends the debate on dreams because day has  come: But t h i l k e tale i s a l to longe to t e l l e , And eke i t i s ny day, I may nat dwelle. (31 9-50) k  127  And on the morning of the day on which Chauntecleer meets the fox, he i s doing his duty, which, as he i s a rooster, includes being attentive to Pertelote and helping his f l o c k f i n d food.  Dahlberg's reading does not  elucidate much more of the fable than the episode between the cock and the fox,  which i s only a small part of the t a l e as a whole.  M. J . Donovan con-  In structs aVLmilar but more general reading.  It should be noted that  neither of these readings takes Pertelote into account, other than seeing her as a general representation of woman who  leads man astray and an i n d i -  cation of Chauntecleer's tenuous s p i r i t u a l state. Indeed, of a l l the subjects the poem treats, none i s s u f f i c i e n t l y consistently presented to warrant considering i t a u n i f y i n g theme, f o r a l l are eventually mocked by the fable portrayal.  The very f a c t that a  rather ludicrous rooster can consider such serious matters as he does makes us laugh at the serious matters as w e l l .  This i s not to say that the  serious matters, or even the comic f a l l of Chauntecleer, are e n t i r e l y funny.  Rather, the perspective that the comedy of beast fable portrayal  provides makes i t possible f o r us to laugh at serious matters and i n laughing see them i n r e l a t i o n to the world as a whole. To begin with, the Nun's Priest's Tale i s a f t e r a l l another t a l e of a character at the top of the Wheel of Fortune who Fortune's i n s t a b i l i t y .  i s threatened by  The Monk's Tale has been a series of tragic  tumblings  from the Wheel, and the Nun's Priest t e l l s a t a l e that w i l l please a company wanting a change; as the knight says, a happy tale of man's fortunes ...  i s gladsom, as i t thynketh  me,  And of swich thyng were goodly f o r to t e l l e . (Prolqgue , l i n e s 2778-79) The priest's tale puts the monk's t r a g i c v i s i o n into perspective: Chauntecleer's f a l l , or n e a r - f a l l , has a r e a s o n — h i s pride--of which we  128  are  so aware because we have been laughing"at i t merrily f o r some time.  But also, the q u a l i t i e s that elevated Chauntecleer i n the f i r s t place, his wakefulness and ready voice, recur i n time to save him.  Thus the  unhappy aspect of l i f e i s counterbalanced by the comedy of a happy resolution.  The monk's concept of tragedy goes no further than this statement: For  evere the l a t t e r ende of joye i s wo. ( l i n e 3205)  The p r i e s t mimics i t , and then proceeds to show that the matter i s not so simple.  The Wheel of Fortune i s unstable, but man  i s not completely help-  43 less.  He does, a f t e r a l l , have free w i l l . The underlying b e l i e f i n free w i l l , one of many serious themes incor-  porated into t h i s comic t a l e , comments on the incompleteness of the monk's point of view i n the previous t a l e , and i s used f o r comic e f f e c t i n t h i s one.  Chauntecleer avoids tragedy by exercising h i s wits; he thus denies  the "necessitee" implied by h i s "avisioun" through retaining his free w i l l . The p r i e s t has brought up the matter, interrupting h i s narrative with his interest i n the question of predestination, but proceeds to show, i n the remainder of his t a l e , that when man retains his free w i l l , necessity i s conditional.  However, while this theme i s c e r t a i n l y part of the t a l e , we  must be careful not to lose the perspective the comic portrayal gives us. The p r i e s t ends h i s discussion of "necessitee'' with a reminder of his fable, though not with a return to the narrative: I wol nat han to do of swich mateere; My t a l e i s of a cok, as ye may heere,  ....  (lines 3251-52) The question i s a very serious one indeed, but when i t i s applied to the doings of a rooster, i t cannot be regarded too seriously.  In terms of  Chauntecleer's portrayal, of the comic tone and of the happy ending, the  129  inflated, d i c t i o n of the narrator's lament f o r Chauntecleer's f a i l i n g to heed his dream i s a comic mockery of seriousness: 0 Chauntecleer, acursed be that morwe That thou into the yerd flaugh f r o the hemes.' Thou were f u l wel ywarned by thy dremes That t h i l k e day was perilous to thee; But what that God forwoot moot nedes bee. (lines 3230-34) The solemn discussion of free w i l l and necessity indeed adds to the comic incongruities of the poem: a serious subject adorns a f r i v o l o u s one. are shown the Wheel of Fortune as straddled by a rooster.  We  On one l e v e l ,  the themes of free w i l l and of Fortune are put into perspective by the p r i e s t , but t h i s lesson f o r mankind cannot become solemn unless we lose our perspective on the hero, Chauntecleer, and Chaucer does not l e t us lose that perspective. Pertelote's role and the Nun's Priest's remarks on woman's counsel have been seen as evidence of the Nun's Priest's Tale's belonging to the ranks of medieval anti-feminist l i t e r a t u r e . ^  Pertelote's counsel i s  c e r t a i n l y short-sighted, but the c r i t i c i s m s she meets with are not severe; again, the comic tone of the poem prevents our taking the anti-feminist theme too seriously.  Chauntecleer and Pertelote are sympathetically por-  trayed, even i n t h e i r weaknesses, and there i s a genuine delight communicated to the reader when Chauntecleer describes h i s happiness: "Madame Pertelote, my worldes b l i s , Herkneth thise b l i s f u l briddes how they synge, And se the fresshe floures how they sprynge; F u l i s myn herte of revel and solas!" (lines 3200-3) Chauntecleer's Mulier est hominis confusio i s borne out by the fable, but not by Pertelote's behaviour so much as by his own weakness.  But even t h i s  130 weakness i s understandable and j u s t i f i a b l e .  "Chaucer's humane and comic  realism forbids the dour antifeminist implications and provides a counterpoise i n that other truth, that other affirmation, Amor v i n c i t omnia." 5 k  Pertelote's genuine a f f e c t i o n , and Chauntecleer's genuine joy, balance the view of woman and marriage, as does Chauntecleer's soothing Pertelote with "the most f e l i c i t o u s mistranslation of a l l time," 6 k  "Womman i s mannes joye and a l his b l i s . " (line  3166)  And of course, the seriousness of any thematic implication i s moderated by the comedy of the fable portrayal: these serious r e f l e c t i o n s on the joys and dangers of human l i f e are presented through the tale "of a cok and  hen." Several of these serious themes are also undercut by a deliberate con-  fusion of the causal relationships i n the t a l e .  I t i s not c l e a r when  Chauntecleer f i r s t sees the fox a f t e r his dream and his reckless f l i g h t from the beams.  Neither dream nor the reckless pride apparently  j o y f u l contemplation of Pertelote leads to instantaneous woe.  caused by  The b l u r r i n g  of r e s p o n s i b i l i t y caused by presenting a prophetic dream, a wife who poor counsel, and a hero who  gives  knows better than to behave as he does, i s  reinforced by the obscured chronology.' '''' 4  Several other p o t e n t i a l l y serious subjects are treated lightheartedly i n the Nun's Priest's Tale.  The debate on dreams includes a great deal of  information on the subject of sleep^visions and t h e i r importance, but i t i s nonetheless e s s e n t i a l l y comic that Chauntecleer, a rooster, should possessed of this knowledge.  be  While Chauntecleer characterizes himself  by  thinking his dream an "avisioun," he i s nonetheless correct, so that the comedy s h i f t s to encompass the very incongruity of allowing a rooster such  131  a dignified role.  Indeed, the dream i t s e l f mocks a human "avisioun" by i t s  p a r t i c u l a r s u i t a b i l i t y to a rooster: Chauntecleer dreams of being forced to wear a f u r coat with a t i g h t bone c o l l a r , an obvious metaphor f o r being  48 swallowed by a fox. Numerous scholars have pointed out the significance of the date of Chauntecleer's fall--May 3rd—and  related t h i s date and other a s t r o l o g i c a l  phenomena i n the poem to i t s serious themes.^9  Chauntecleer i s under the  influence of Venus, and susceptible to a f a l l , but also, because of the r e b i r t h of the New Adam, has the potential f o r r e b i r t h .  Certainly, Chaucer  would not have taken the trouble to c l a r i f y the date of Chauntecleer's mishap i f he had not meant to suggest something of these associations.  Chauntecleer  is the servant of Venus, and h i s error i s implied when the Nun's P r i e s t i r o n i c a l l y appeals to Venus: 0 Venus, that art goddesse of plesaunce, Syn that thy servant was this Chauntecleer, And i n thy servyce dide a l h i s poweer, Moore f o r d e l i t than world to multiplye, Why woldestow suffre hym on thy day to dye? (lines 3342-46) Mention of Friday brings to mind another example of the f a l l of princes, and the Nun's P r i e s t elevates Chauntecleer to the company of King Richard^I, also s l a i n on a Friday.  Such stress on Friday, p a r t i c u l a r l y by a p r i e s t ,  suggests the theological significance of that day as well, but the poem does not develop the suggestion.  The significance given to Friday i n the  poem indeed functions to underline the comic incongruities of Chauntecleer's mock-heroic  portrayal: a rooster i s the f a i t h f u l servant of Venus and the  companion i n tragedy of King Richard.  This very portrayal prevents our  taking the morality i m p l i c i t i n the priest's appeal to Venus too seriously. One suspects that the p r i e s t wishes us to r e a l i z e how suitable i t i s that  132  Chauntecleer should f a l l on Venus' day, but he does not dwell on moral weakness.  He s h i f t s to a r h e t o r i c a l interest i n another apostrophe,  time to a rhetorician.  this  In this passage, we are returned to the mock-heroic  conception of Chauntecleer; the moral significance of Friday as Venus * day i s a passing a l l u s i o n , a deepening of the consciousness of the p o s s i b i l i t i e s of extracting a significance f o r human conduct, but i t i s not solemnized.  The s a t i r i c a l r e f l e c t i o n on the poetry of Geoffrey of Vinsauf  i r o n i c a l l y undercuts the relevance of dwelling on the day of the week at all: 0 Gaufred, deere maister soverayn, That whan thy worthy kyng Richard was slayn With shot, compleynedest h i s deeth so soore, Why ne hadde I now thy sentence and thy loore, The Friday f o r to chide, as diden ye? For on a Friday, soothly, slayn was he. (lines 33 7-52) u  In a sense, them, Chaucer snatches back the " f r u i t " he has offered by r e l a t i n g Chauntecleer's f a l l to the associations of Friday. Chaucer's comic approach to rhetoric and romance i n the Nun's Priest's Tale includes, i r o n i c a l l y , a comic approach to beast fable i t s e l f .  To  begin with, the didactic moralizing of exempla i s s a t i r i z e d at several points.  Chauntecleer, i n his grand attempt to convince Pertelote of the  truth of dreams, "uses the exemplum technique.  During the lengthy tale of  the two t r a v e l l e r s (lines 2985 f f . ) he becomes so carried away with h i s t a l e that he forgets the lesson he meant to i l l u s t r a t e : 5 0 "Mordre wol out, that se we day by day. Mordre i s wlatsom and abhomynable To God, that i s so just and resonable, That he ne wol nat suffre i t heled be, Though i t abyde a yeer, or two, or thre, Mordre wol out, this my conclusioun." (lines 3052-57)  133  He carries on h i s narrative to prove t h i s point, and then r e c a l l s the moral he began to i l l u s t r a t e , adding i t somevhat a n t i c l i m a c t i c a l l y : "Heere may men seen that dremes been to drede." ( l i n e 3063) The m u l t i p l i c a t i o n of "morals" at the end of the fable suggests, too, a comic glance at the simple-mindedness of an Aesopic fable.  When the Nun's  P r i e s t says "Taketh the Moralite," we can only ask with bewilderment, "Which one?"51 The earnestness of the narrator i n drawing out the morality of h i s t a l e sometimes comes under comic scrutiny. the  The p r i e s t digresses to stress  e v i l of woman's counsel: Wommennes conseils been f u l ofte colde; Wommanes conseil broghte us f i r s t to wo, And made Adam from Paradys to do, . . . . (lines 3256-57)  Chauntecleer, however, i s not following Pertelote's counsel; he i s neglecting his  dream because of h i s amorous interest and h i s pride and happy confidence  i n general.  I t i s noteworthy that these l i n e s follow the digression on  free w i l l , which implies that i t i s i n Chauntecleer's power to a l t e r the fate predicted i n h i s dream. seriousness. the  The priest's p a r t i a l i t y undercuts t h e i r  He backs away from them rather quickly too, i n keeping with  comic tone of h i s t a l e . The Nun's P r i e s t pauses on numerous occasions i n the narrative to  point a moral.  In each ease the moral i s corroborated by the narrative t o  some extent, but i s tempered by the comedy of the portrayal of Chauntecleer and Pertelote, by the p o s s i b i l i t y of another moral application, or by the s a t i r e on pompous r h e t o r i c a l moralizing. the  tale functions as an exemplum.  There i s not one moral f o r which  The Nun's Priest has f i l l e d h i s tale  with moralities, but he i s caught up i n t h e i r m u l t i p l i c i t y — e v e n t o the  I3  k  extent of adding another possible cause f o r misfortune—when Chauntecleer's fate i s at l a s t confronted: 0 destinee, that mayst nat been eschewed! A l i a s , that Chauntecleer f l e i g h f r o the hemes! A l i a s , h i s wyf ne roghte nat of dremes! And on a Friday f i l a l t h i s meschaunce. ( l i n e s 3338-41) And i r o n i c a l l y , once again, not one of these "causes" i s the most obvious cause of Chauntecleer's p l i g h t : This Chauntecleer h i s wynges gan to bete, As man that koude his traysoun nat espie, So was he ravysshed with h i s f l a t e r i e . ( l i n e s 3322-24) The fable explodes i n a welter of morals and of moral associations.  In  one sense, we can f e e l that the Nun's P r i e s t himself i s being s a t i r i z e d when he t e l l s us to take the morality, f o r his t a l e i s beyond t h i s simple exhortation.  But the r h e t o r i c a l stance of the l i n e s such as those quoted  above suggests that the narrator too i s poking fun at those who  see at  t a l e only i n terms of an obvious "moral" and neglect to recognize the 52 d i v e r s i t i e s of human experience.  The simple-minded  moralizing mocks  the Aesopic fable as a didactic t o o l , and the t a l e as a whole mocks by sheer contrast the i l l u s t r a t i v e fable that represents only one view of human behaviour. Just as there i s not f i n a l moral statement i n the Nun's Priest's Tale, there can be no f i n a l statement to capsulize the technique of the portrayal of Chauntecleer and Pertelote.  They are c e r t a i n l y as anthro-  pomorphic as any of the characters i n the f u l l y developed beast epics. were i t not f o r Chaucer's frequent reminders of t h e i r animal  But  appearances,  we would sometimes forget they are chickens, as i n the long debate on dreams f o r example.  Indeed, as we noted above, the animals themselves sometimes  135  seem to forget; and they never speak of themselves but as human beings. The p r i e s t often reminds himself and his audience that his t a l e i s "of a eok,"  f o r he comments upon his characters i n human terms also.  then, even mocks i t s own form of character portrayal.  The  tale,  Certainly, the Nun's  Priest's intention i s that we see the human i n the animal, but the comic tone of the t a l e as a whole, and the suggestions that beast fable characters developed to t h i s extent can overstep the bounds of t h e i r portrayal, imply that the poet i s as amused with his genre as he i s with the didactic uses to which i t has been put. But the comic tone of the Nun's P r i e s t ' s Tale does not deny any of the values offered i n the poem; i t simply shows that a l l these values  are  relative. The c r i t i c a l temper of the poem . . . produces no negative e f f e c t , but a continuously humane suggestion of the r e l a t i v i t y of things. The s h i f t i n g s t y l e and the succession of topics never rest long enough to serve a single view or a single doctrine or an unalterable judgment.53 Chauntecleer's pretensions  are mocked by the f a c t that he i s a rooster,  the p r i e s t ' s moral or learned digressions are .mocked by being applied to a cock; the rhetorician's terminology i s mocked by his subject matter. Yet, Chauntecleer i s a splendid rooster, the p r i e s t ' s remarks on free w i l l have a great deal of v a l i d i t y , and the rhetorician's voice utters truths of i t s own. human world.  The comic contradictions of the fable are also those of the Man's complacent answers to h i s problems, l i k e his  pretensions  to heroism or learning, are put into perspective by a portrayal of the comic i n s t a b i l i t y of a l l sublunary v a l u e s ,  a n  d  indeed of sublunary l i f e .  The  tale's comedy often includes parody and enjoyment of the paradoxes of mankind's reactions to his mortal condition, but i t s basis i s the  underlying  136  tone of sympathetic enjoyment of humanity, the essence of which i s tolerance.  Chauntecleer and Pertelote amuse us with t h e i r  pretensions,  hut they also engage our sympathy, f o r t h e i r foolishness i s of a universal kind.  The narrator ends h i s tale on a note of true comedy and humanity.  Chauntecleer saves himself and learns h i s lesson, the fable world i s l e f t behind, and with i t the d i s p a r i t i e s of the mortal world: Now, goode God, i f that i t be thy w i l l e , As s e i t h my l o r d , so make us a l l e goode men, And brynge us to h i s heighe blisse.' Amen. (lines  3kkh-k6)  Before concluding our discussion of Chaucer's handling of beast fable, i t w i l l be worthwhile to compare the Nun's P r i e s t ' s Tale with Robert Henryson's treatment of the same basic t a l e , "The T a i l l of Schir Chantecleir and the Foxe."^  Henryson's f a b l e , unlike Chaucer's, concentrates  capture of the cock by the fox.  upon the  While he c l e a r l y borrow aspects of  Chaucer's characterizations and mock epic tone, the Scottish poet has a more c l e a r l y defined moral p u r p o s e . C h a n t e c l e i r ' s  character i s developed  to i l l u s t r a t e the f o l l i e s of vainglory, and Lowrence i s a more clever f l a t t e r e r than Russell.  The action of Henryson's fable i s l i m i t e d to the  capture, pursuit, and escape of Chantecleir.  While the narrative i l l u s -  trates the comic e f f i c a c y of fable portrayal, i t s p a r t i c u l a r moral purpose requires that that portrayal be executed along l i n e s very d i f f e r e n t from The Nun's Priest's Tale. To begin with, Chantecleir i s not so well-developed nor so sympathetic a character as i s Chauntecleer.  Most of h i s characterization i s accomplished  through the dialogue of the three hens. fable i s a rather f o o l i s h f i g u r e .  Chantecleir as he appears i n the  He has only one l i n e before h i s capture  137  by the fox, and that does not speak well f o r h i s i n t e l l i g e n c e ; he r e p l i e s to the fox's r e c o l l e c t i o n s of the amity between Chantecleir's family and himself, "Knew ye my father?" quod the cok, and (line  leuch.  446)  He i s duped by the fox into l i s t e n i n g ; "leuch" does not seem to indicate i n c r e d u l i t y , f o r i f i t did surely the cock would f l e e .  I t has been pointed  out that "leuch" i n Henryson often means " g i g g l e d , a n d such a reading i s i n keeping with Chantecleir's f o o l i s h pride, f o r here he i s f l a t t e r e d by the fox's words and behaviour.  His foolishness i s f u r t h e r i l l u s t r a t e d  by Henryson's o r i g i n a l development of the fox's request that Chantecleir sing with his eyes closed.  Lowrence, a f t e r hearing Chantecleir sing, i n -  s i s t s that the cock's father could do better: "For," quod the tod, "he wald—and h a i f na d o u t — Baith wink and craw and turne him t h r y i s about." (lines "'472-73) Henryson makes i t c l e a r why  Chantecleir behaves so f o o l i s h l y : he i s "infect  with wind and f a l s vanegloir" ( l i n e 474).  But his i n t e l l i g e n c e i s not of  a high order either, f o r c r a f t y as the fox may Chantecleir.  be, he i s no stranger to  He has disturbed the hen-yard before,  In pyking o f f p u l t r i e baith day and nicht; (line  ....  423)  As i s often the case i n Henryson's F a b i l l i s , pride and comic s t u p i d i t y go hand i n hand.  The cock's escape from the fox seems to owe  intervention than to his own wit. ( l i n e 558))  more to divine  He i s "with sura gude s p i r i t i n s p y r i t "  and the narrator l a t e r adds another s i m i l a r suggestion:  138  This tod, thocht he wes f a l s and f r i v o l u s , Desavit wes he menis r i c h t mervelous; ( l i n e s 565,  . . . .  567)  The cock does not succumb to a second attempt by Lowrence to beguile him, however.  Donald MacDonald points out that Henryson borrows an element  from Chaucer's t a l e , the fox's second attempt to capture Chantecleir, even though the narrative l o g i c of Henryson's poem would seem to demand "that the cock revert to h i s o r i g i n a l role of a vain and g u l l i b l e f o o l . " - ^ In the Nun's Priest's T l e the incident i s added to show that Chauntecleer a  has learned h i s lesson, f o r he i s a regenerate figure.  Chantecleir as an  embodiment of f o o l i s h vainglory i s spared because Henryson i s t e l l i n g a comic t a l e and because he follows the t r a d i t i o n a l story. The fox i n Henryson's fable i s a major character.  His cunning and  deceit are s k i l f u l l y brought out by the poet's "remarkable a b i l i t y to reveal character through dialogue."59  The ironies of Lowrence's words  are t y p i c a l of Henryson's portrayal of the c r a f t y fox i n other F a b i l l i s : Your father f u l l o f t f i l l i t hes my wame, And send me meit f r a midding to the muris:  . . . .  (lines kkl-2) Lowrence*s caution i n winning Chantecleir's confidence speaks f o r a greater degree of r a t i o n a l i z a t i o n on Henryson's part than on Chaucer's, and of characterization of the fox as well.  The characterization i s f u l f i l l e d ,  again, through an increased anthropomorphism i n the fox.  Lowrence does not  wait f o r the cock to see him and be s t a r t l e d , but approaches him on h i s knees, speaking p o l i t e l y and going through the motions of wishing to pay service to h i s "maister". He does not ask Chantecleir to sing u n t i l he has given the h i s t o r y of h i s acquaintance with the elder rooster, and does not ask Chantecleir to close h i s eyes u n t i l the f i r s t challenge to sing as  139 w e l l as his father has been f u l f i l l e d .  Lawrence i s only fooled by  Chantecleir because he i s weary and weak with hunger, and a f r a i d of the pack of hounds close on his heels.  Lowrence's comic guile focuses  our  attention on the success of clever f l a t t e r y . The digression that introduces Henryson's contributions to the cock  60 and fox fable, Pertok, Sprutok, and Toppok,  includes mock heroics  and  a s a t i r i c a l glance at marriage no doubt inspired by the Nun's Priest's Tale. Henryson's depiction of the hens i s considerably d i f f e r e n t from Chaucer's portrayal of Pertelote, however.  While his wives' censures point to  Chantecleir's moral weaknesses, t h e i r behaviour i s i n e f f e c t s e l f - c r i t i c a l , and the selfishness t h e i r words reveal i s a f a r less gentle comment on women.  Each hen expresses a human attitude to Chantecleir, and the s e l f -  i s h n e s s — o r b e s t i a l i t y — o f each attitude i s reinforced by the f a c t that these are hens.  Pertok expresses a courtly point of view i n her mock-  heroic lament, but her sorrow i s rapidly shown to by " f e i n y e i t " , so that she i s not unlike the fox whose f a i r words mask s e l f i s h motives. states that Chantecleir's love was  She  r e a l l y only "lust but l u f e , " a c r i t i c i s m  i n keeping with her courtly sentiments, but i n the following l i n e s she shows that her i n t e r e s t too i s only that of l u s t : " S i s t e r , ye wait, o f f s i c as him ane s c o i r Wald not s u f f i c e to s l a i k our appetye." ( l i n e s 525-26) This comic reversal reveals her true nature.  Sprutok, whose words e f f e c t  Pertok's rapid change of tone, i s a cheerful r e a l i s t with, views "the Wife 6l of Bath would have understood and r e l i s h e d . " jealousy and overbearing amorous enough.  She resents the cock's  nature, but her major c r i t i c i s m i s that he i s not  The comic portrayal of Sprutok the hen as a merry widow i s  another example of Henryson's playing upon fable portrayal t o suggest human-animal correspondences: "The proverb sayis, 'Als gude l u f e cummis as gais.' I w i l l put on my halydayis c l a i s And mak me fresch agane t h i s j o l i e May. Syne chant t h i s song, 'Wes never wedow sa gay.'"' F i n a l l y , Toppok delivers her speech "lyke ane Curate", s e l f - r i g h t e o u s l y presenting a r i g i d moral viewpoint.  She comments on Chantecleir's pride  and c r i t i c i z e s his adultery, the l a t t e r being quite r i d i c u l o u s i n terms of the animal nature of the hero assigned by the widow t o keep "ane l y t t i l l flok."  Her f i n d i n g Chantecleir "lous" and "lecherous" r e f l e c t s unfavourably  on both the other two hens and on h e r s e l f .  But her severely judgmental  position i s mocked i n the t a l e , not only by the pomposity of her words i n contrast to the narrative but by her assuming to determine God's attitude to Chantecleir.  Not long a f t e r she declares Chantecleir f a l l s by "the  hand o f f God" ( l i n e 5 2), k  spirit inspyrit."  verray  Chantecleir saves himself when he i s "with sum gude  The suggestion  v i c t i o n i s c l e a r l y shortsighted.  i s comically ambiguous, but Toppok's conAltogether, the juxtaposition of the  varying rhetorics of the hens-makes each r i d i c u l o u s by contrast. The foolishness of Chantecleir's pride i s i r o n i c a l l y elaborated as well, f o r while he i s yet a l i v e his wives, over whom he no doubt reigned proudly,  are enjoying the prospect  very  of a new love and condemning him outright.  The satire of the views expressed by Pertok, Sprutok and Toppok i n t h i s comic digression i s more pointed than the Nun's P r i e s t ' s Tale's s a t i r i c glances at women and marriage.  The hens are amusing, but they are not por-  trayed very sympathetically—indeed, to return to them.  one rather p i t i e s Chantecleir f o r having  Pertok's i n s i n c e r i t y , Sprutok's selfishness and Toppok's  self-righteousness betray more antifeminist tendencies on the part of the narrator than-does the Nun's Priest's portrayal of the misled but well-meaning  ikl  Pertelote.  I t i s only the comic irony of fable portrayal--the congruities  and incongruities between the hens' animal natures and t h e i r human r o l e s - that prevents the s a t i r e from becoming b i t t e r .  Pertok, Sprutok and Toppok  express a comic combination of human and animal c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s , but t h e i r self-centeredness and hypocrisy cannot be indulged i n s t r i c t l y human terms. In the world of the fable, Chantecleir finds a saving grace and Lowrence i s an amusing f o r , but when vainglory and f l a t t e r y are examined i n the human world, they must be condemned. Forthy as now s c h o r t l i e to conclude, Thir twa sinnis, f l a t t e r i e and vaneglore, Ar vennomous; gude,folk, f i e thame thairfoir.  1  ( l i n e s 610-12) Henryson's s p e c i f i c moral purpose, then, controls the development of his animal characters. They are anthropomorphic  and comic, but the  irony that reveals t h e i r character reveals a s p e c i f i c human weakness the narrator wishes to single out.  The fable i s a e t i o l o g i c a l , and i n t h i s sense  Henryson i s closer to the exemplum t r a d i t i o n ; he portrays his characters that they may i l l u s t r a t e a moral point, but the means by which the i l l u s t r a t i o n is executed i s comic and a r t f u l as well, involving f u l l character development.  Chaucer develops his characters i n the t r a d i t i o n of comic animal fable,  endowing them with a complex range of human q u a l i t i e s , but a l t e r s the exemplary aspect of the fable.  The "moralitee" i s so elusive because there i s  no single moral to which the narrative has been shaped.  Rather, i t presents  diverse attitudes to l i f e and tests them against each other. The Canterbury Tales do provide an i l l u s t r a t i o n of an animal t a l e i n the exemplum t r a d i t i o n .  The Manciple's T a l e ^  3  describes the fate of a crow con-  demned by Apollo f o r t e l l i n g an unhappy truth.  I t i s not r e a l l y a fable;  while the crow speaks, he does so only because Apollo has taught him to do  lh-2  so.  He does not function i n human terms, other than speaking, and the  t a l e insofar as i t concerns him i s related to myths that explain the appearances  of animals, rather than to fable.  Manciple as a straightforward exemplum.  The t a l e i s t o l d by the  He emphasizes the role of the  crow i n his commentary, whereas i t i s the conduct of the human characters that ought to come under scrutiny; the moral he extracts i s s u p e r f i c i a l and misses the more valuable " f r u i t " that l i e s i n the narrative.  Like the  Nun's Priest's Tale, the Manciple's Tale parodies single-minded reading and limited v i s i o n , but i t i s p a r t i c u l a r rather than universal i n scope. The Nun's Priest's Tale i s Chaucer's one undertaking i n the beast fable genre.  I t draws upon both the t r a d i t i o n of the exempla and Aesopic  fables and that of the comic beast epics, and synthesizes the two i n a poem that combines comedy with i n s t r u c t i o n and makes each inextricable from the other.  The lesson i s that of experience: the world and man's means of coping  with i t are diverse, often amusing, and one can learn from observation and from experience i t s e l f . Chaucer's  Laughter i s both cause and e f f e c t of the lesson of  "tale of a cok."  In Chauntecleer and his fellow fable characters,  the essence of beast fable portrayal i s r e a l i z e d and i t s paradox transcended: Chauntecleer and Pertelote comically suggest human beings and t h e i r vanities and spur considerable laughter at the f o l l i e s of our world as w e l l as t h e i r own.  But as amusing as they are i n the roles the fable gives them, the end  of the tale admits a kinship beyond paradox.  The correspondences between  human and animal are too many to allow us to hold the world of the fable apart or withdraw or append a single "moralitee".  Comic and cosmic, the Nun's  Priest''s Tale gives us Chauntecleer, a paradoxically human rooster, and leaves us with a view, human and humane, of the mortal world.  Chaucer  l 3 k  contributes to the beast fable the ultimate irony that his "tale of a fox, or of a cok and hen"  i s also a tale of man  and woman i n miniature.  144 FOOTNOTES  x  Sisam, pp. v i i , v i i i - x i i i , prints texts of these fables.  Marie de France, Fables, ed. A. Ewert and R. C. Johnston Blackwell, 1942), pp. kO^a. 2  (Oxford:  3 Ibid., p. x i . k  Lenaghan, pp. 138-39-  5 The text i s printed i n Hulbert, pp. 646-58. ^ Hulbert (p. 645) summarizes scholarship on the sources of the Nun's Priest's Tale, as does Robinson i n his notes to the t a l e (p. 751)• fit i s generally f e l t that Chaucer's tale descends from the Roman, e i t h e r V i n d i r e c t l y (Sisam, pp. xxiv f f . ) or, as more recent scholars f e e l , d i r e c t l y . See note 7 below. N e v i l l C o g h i l l (The Poet Chaucer (London: Oxford University Press, 1949i rpt. I96OJ, p. 156) observes: "I have counted over four-andtwenty learned a l l u s i o n s to d i f f e r e n t authors i n t h i s story, and one might almost say that Chaucer's source f o r i t was not the Roman de Renard so much as a l i f e - t i m e of delighted reading and natural observation." 7 See F l i n n , pp. 679-85, and I. C. Lecompte, "Chaucer's Nonne Prestes Tale and the Roman de Renard, " Modem Philology, 14 (1917), 739* 8 MacDonald, "Narrative Art," p.  107.  9 F l i n n , 686-87. 10 A l l references to the text of the Nun's Priest's Tale are from the edition of F. N. Robinson, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton M i f f l i n , 1957), PP- 199-205. 11 John M. Steadman ("Flattery and the Moralitas of the Nonne Preestes Tale," Medium Aevum, 28 p-9593, 177) suggests that the brevity of the "moralitee" indicates "an indebtedness to the t r a d i t i o n of the beast-fable." The morals spoken by the cock and the fox, however, also appear i n branch two of the Roman i n a form almost i d e n t i c a l to that i n Chaucer, which indicates that the Roman i s thus indebted. 12 The s u i t a b i l i t y of t h i s t a l e f o r the Nun's P r i e s t has been remarked upon by many recent scholars. There has also been a considerable amount of interesting analysis of the p r i e s t ' s character and r e l a t i o n to the other p i l grims, as w e l l as the r e l a t i o n of his t a l e to other t a l e s , such as the Monk's Tale and the Tale of Melibee. As i n t e r e s t i n g as these considerations are, the l i m i t s of t h i s study prevent t h e i r examination beyond what l i g h t they may throw on the t a l e as a development of beast fable. See p a r t i c u l a r l y Arthur T. Broes, "Chaucer's Disgruntled C l e r i c : The Nun's Priest's Tale," PMLA, 78 (1963), 156-62), on the p r i e s t ; Samuel B. Hemingway, "Chaucer's Monk and Nun's P r i e s t , " Modern Language Notes, 31 (1916), 47983, and Charles S. Watson, "The Relationship of "The Monk's Tale' and 'The Nun's Priest's Tale,'" Studies i n Short F i c t i o n , 1 (1963-64), 277-88, on  145 the Nun's Priest's Tale and the Monk's Tale; W. W. Lawrence, Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales (New York and London;- Columbia University Press, 1950), pp. 13 -3o on the Nun's Priest's Tale as part of the marriage group and a reaction against the Host, the Prioress and the Tale of Melibee; R. M. Lumiansky, Of Sondry Folk, The Dramatic P r i n c i p l e i n the Canterbury Tales (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1955), pp. 105-17? on the character of the p r i e s t and the r e l a t i o n of h i s t a l e to the Host's remarks, Melibee, the Monk's Tale, and the Prioress. k  13 D. S. Brewer, Chaucer (London, New York and Toronto: Longmans, Green, 1953), p. 156. l  Bernard F. Hupp£, A Reading of the Canterbury Tales (Albany, New York: State University of New York, 196577 P- 175k  15 Although "toun" can be read as "farm", the l i n e does indicate that Pertelote sees her surroundings i n terms of an establishment that could have such manifestations of human c i v i l i z a t i o n as an apothecary. John Speirs, Chaucer the Maker (London: Faber and Faber, 1951); p. l86. See George Clark, "Chauntecleer and Deduit," English Language Notes, 2 (1964-65), 168-71, who shows that Chaucer alludes to the idealized lovers Mirth and Gladness i n the Roman de l a Rose when he portrays Chauntecleer and Pertelote, and thus heightens the mock-heroic comedy of his t a l e . !® T. W. Craik, The Comic Tales of Chaucer (London: Methuen, 1964), p. 72. j . Kieran Kealy, "Satire i n The Nun's Priest's Tale," unpublished typescript, pp. 15-16; he shows also that t h i s r e a l i s t i c description reinforces the s a t i r e of a r t i f i c i a l rhetoric and i l l u s t r a t e s the necessity of seeing the world as i t i s . 20 Chaucer and the Mediaeval Sciences, 2nd ed. (London: A l l e n and Unwin, I960), pp. 221-267" Curry (pp. 229-30) points out that i t i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of Chauntecleer's proud nature f o r him to see h i s dream as an "avisioun", the sort of dream that only comes to great men. 2  1  22 E. g., Henryson's the "Fox and the Wolf," i n which the husbandman goes through l e g a l proceedings with the two animals, the "The Wolf and the Wether," i n which the shepherd shares the wether's scheme. p. M. Kean, The Art of Narrative, Vol. I I of Chaucer and the Making of English Poetry (London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972), pp. 138-39. 2  3  oh  In Henryson's version of the fable, the widow also swoons i n mockheroic fashion. Henryson links the animal and human worlds through p a r a l l e l  146  behaviour, but he seems to have caught Chaucer's amused attitude to the widow as well. 25 i t has been pointed out that the widow also serves as a means for the p r i e s t to chastize some of the other pilgrims, such as the Monk, the Prioress, and the Pardoner. Her l i f e i s the healthy l i f e of moderation, unlike that of the priest's fellow c l e r i c s . See Broes, p. 160. ^ Trevor Whittock, A Reading of the Canterbury Tales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 196b), p. 230. 2  27 C o g h i l l , p. 155. 2  8  2  9  See p. 92 above. F l i n n , p.  684.  3° "The Nun's Priest's Fable," PMLA, 78 (1963), P«  305-  3 Emma M. Dieckmann, i n " . . .'Moore feelynge than had Boece, . . Modern Language Notes, 53 (1938), 177-80, points out that t h i s statement too i s i r o n i c f o r Boethius s t r i c t mathematical treatment of music had been questioned since the eleventh century. Chauntecleer*s having'more " f e e l i n g " than Boethius i s thus no great compliment. Both Chauntecleer's pretentiousness regarding his wisdom and his f o l l y i n general thus are given another comic blow. 1  1  32 Paul G. Ruggiers, The Art of the Canterbury Tales (Madison, Milwaukee, and London: University of Wisconsin Press, 1965), pp. 194-95« 33 Speirs, Chaucer, p. 188. Speirs reads the poem "as a tragi-comic allegory of the F a l l " (p. 189), as does Huppe (pp. 174-84). For a general c r i t i c i s m of this kind of interpretation, see E. T. Donaldson, " P a t r i s t i c Exegesis and the C r i t i c i s m of Medieval Literature: The Opposit i o n , " i n C r i t i c a l Approaches to Medieval Literature, ed. D. Bethurum (New York: Columbia University Press, i960), pp. 1-26. 3^ Speirs (Chaucer, p. 190) notes t h i s as w e l l . 35 i b i d . , p. 192. .36 Kean, p. 137. 37 Song of Solomon, 2: 15, "Take us the foxes,the l i t t l e foxes, that s p o i l the vines," was interpreted by Gregory as a warning against hypoc r i s y (Friedman, p. 501). A l l e g o r i c a l interpretations of the fox i n the Middle Ages are summarized by M. S. Donovan, "The Moralite of the Nun's Priest's Sermon," Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 52 (1953), 498-501. 38 Broes sees the cock as a representative of the p r i e s t himself, who i s suffering the e v i l s of woman's counsel through being i n the service of the Prioress. He f e e l s that Chauntecleer i s p o s i t i v e l y portrayed and  that h i s f a i l i n g s can he blamed on Pertelote. Chauntecleer, seem untenable.  Broes' views, whitewashing  39 Charles Dahlberg, "Chaucer's Cock and Fox," Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 53 (1954), 277-90. ^ Cf. J . B. Friedman's i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of Henryson's Confession" as anti-mendicant s a t i r e . k  l  "The Fox's  Donovan, as c i t e d above, note 37«  k  2 Brewer, Chaucer, pp. 156-57'  k  3 Watson, pp. 281-83.  See f o r example Carleton Brown, "Mulier est Hominis Confusio," Modern Language Notes, 35 (1920), 479-82, Broes, and J . Burke Severs, "Chaucer's O r i g i n a l i t y i n the 'Nun's Priest's Tale,'" Studies i n Philology, 43 (1946), 22-41. k k  45 Ruggiers, p. 190. 6 Stanley E. F i s h , "The Nun's Priest's Tale and i t s Analogues," College Language Association Journal, 5 (1962), 227k  k  7 Kealy, pp. 9-11. See also F i s h , pp. 225-27-  k  ® The Roman also describes the dream this  way.  9 John P. McCall, "Chaucer's May 3?" Modern Language Notes, 76 (1961), 203-205; J . D. North, "'Kalenderes Enlumyned ben they' Some Astronomical Themes i n Chaucer," The Review of English Studies, 20 (1969), 4l8-44; George R. Adams and Bernard S. Levy] "Good and Bad Fridays and May 3 i n Chaucer," English Language Notes, 3 (1965-66), 243-48; and Standish Henning, "Chauntecleer and Taurus," English Language Notes, 3 (19&5-66), 1-4. k  50 This exemplum also mimics the Prioress' Tale.  See note 12 above.  51 Pearsall, pp. 151-52. 52 Stephen Manning, "The Nun's Priest's Morality and the Medieval Attitude Toward Fables," Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 59 (i960), 403-l6. Manning makes i t clear that the priest's admonition to take the morality mocks the attitude that i n s i s t s a fable be j u s t i f i e d by i t s moral lesson. "Chaucer's poking fun at t h i s attitude i n the f i n a l section of h i s poem i s one more example of what he i s doing i n the t a l e as a whole: r i d i culing the r h e t o r i c a l and poetic practice of h i s day" (p. 4 l 6 ) . ^3 Charles Muscatine, Chaucer and the French T r a d i t i o n (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of C a l i f o r n i a Press, 1969), p. 242.  148  5  k  i b i d . , p. 242.  55 Quotations from Henryson's fable are from E l l i o t t ' s edition, pp. 13-195^ MacDonald, "Narrative A r t , " pp. 107-113? discusses Chaucer's and Henryson's versions of the fables, also d i f f e r e n t i a t i n g Henryson's by i t s more serious moral purpose. ed.  57 Denton Fox, "The Scottish Chaucerians," i n Chaucer and Chaucerians, D. S. Brewer (London and Edinburgh: Nelson, 1966), p. 173«  58 Donald MacDonald, "Henryson and Chaucer: Cock and Fox," Texas Studies i n Literature and Language, 8 (1966-67), 458. 59 Fox, "Chaucerians," p. 174. ^0 On the names f o r the hens, see Wood's e d i t i o n of Henryson, p. 230. ^1 Stearns, p. 66. 62 Fox, "Chaucerians," p. 175. 63 Robinson, pp. 225-27-  149  CHAPTER SIX SATIRE AND SOCIAL CRITICISM IN THE ANIMAL FABLE  When animals are portrayed with human c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s ,  i t i s a natural  consequence that there w i l l be a certain s a t i r i c r e f l e c t i o n on human beings. Even animals who merely speak and b r i e f l y reason are no longer animals, but characters modelled to some extent on man.  Latent i n the conception of fable  characters i s the u n f l a t t e r i n g notion that human actions can be those of animals.  Thus a fox or an ass speaking in:,an Aesopic fable mocks human be-  haviour, i f only to the e f f e c t of i l l u s t r a t i n g a vice or a weakness.  How-  ever, a fox whose human a b i l i t y extends beyond the utterance of a few l i n e s of f l a t t e r y w i l l inevitably serve to mock whatever human t r a i t s he possesses. The  f a b u l i s t s who develop the anthropomorphic portrayal  also r e a l i z e the s a t i r i c a l propensities of t h e i r genre.  of t h e i r characters An animal, particu-  l a r l y one who t r a d i t i o n a l l y embodies a vice or f o l l y , or i s portrayed as possessing one, points a s a t i r i c a l finger at the human equivalent of the role i n which he i s cast.  Well-developed animal fables  include some degree  of s a t i r e , often enough as part of a moral purpose i n the broadest sense. The  Nun's Priest's Tale, which f u l f i l l s i n so many ways the p o t e n t i a l i -  t i e s of the animal fable, employs comic s a t i r e to point out human f o i b l e s . Its s a t i r i c tone can best be described as Horatian, f o r human weakness i s seen with amusement rather than indignation."*"  Indeed, one of the most  d e l i g h t f u l i l l u s t r a t i o n s of Horace's satire i s an early example of a sophisti2 cated fable, his Mus Urbanus et Mus Rusticus, of human wishes. The  which gently mocks the vanity  The s a t i r e of Chaucer's t a l e i s both general and s p e c i f i c .  Nun's P r i e s t mocks the t r a g i c v i s i o n of the Monk and the f o i b l e s of the  150  other pilgrims goodnaturedly, f o r the unreal world he describes  provides  a distance that prevents any comment from becoming an expression of a personal i n c l i n a t i o n .  3  Courtly conventions come under humorous scrutiny  when Chauntecleer and Pertelote take over the t a l e .  The r h e t o r i c a l prac-  t i c e s mocked by the repeated assumptions of the rethor's  voice s a t i r i z e  the weaknesses of yet another form of human endeavor, and the s i m p l i s t i c moralizing of animal fable i t s e l f i s comically s a t i r i z e d when the narrator mimics a capsulized moral appendage.  The comic portrayal of the fable char-  acters reveals human weaknesses and f o l l i e s that relate to s p e c i f i c people and practices as well as to mankind as a whole.  But c r i t i c i s m i s tempered  by the humane perspective that values a l l the joys and lessons of experience. The superbly comic portrayal of Chauntecleer and Pertelote i s so d e l i g h t f u l because i t i s also sympathetic.  I t i s t h i s sypathetic view that i s responsible A  f o r the narrator's distance from his subjects.  He appreciates the d i v e r s i -  t i e s of the human world and, aware of the kinship between human and fable worlds, he allows the characters freedom of action without imposing his own v i e w p o i n t — o r any single viewpoint—on t h e i r behaviour.  The s a t i r e of the  Nun's Priest's Tale i s directed at many forms of human weakness, but i t communicates the assurance that man i s regenerate, and laughter  regenerative.  Henryson also uses s a t i r e to f u l f i l l the twofold purpose of h i s Morall F a b i l l i s , although the tone and extent of his satire varies.  One cannot  formulate any r i g i d c l a s s i f i c a t i o n of the Morall F a b i l l i s according to the kind of s a t i r e or moral c r i t i c i s m that Henryson e f f e c t s .  Even "The Two  Mice," a superb comic portrayal of human f o l l y and v u l n e r a b i l i t y that i s beyond r e s t r i c t i o n to p a r t i c u l a r s of time and place, contains s a t i r i c r e f l e c -  k t i o n on the new burgher classes of fifteenth-century Scotland.  All  Henryson's fables operate on multiple l e v e l s of i r o n i c correspondences  151  between the animal and the human, so that a general human weakness, a s p e c i f i c s o c i a l vice, and a type of human being susceptible to a p a r t i c u l a r b e s t i a l t r a i t a l l may be suggested within a few stanzas of one fable. However, i n the F a b i l l i s we can witness the several sorts of s a t i r i c ref l e c t i o n on the human world that are to be found i n medieval animal t a l e s . While the mockery of human behaviour i n "The Two Mice" i s considerably subdued by the sympathetic portrayal of an appreciably human figure, Henryson has less patience with the f a i l i n g s of some of his other comic characters, notably Pertok and her s i s t e r s and the cock of "The Cock and the Jasp." Their weaknesses are completely laughable, but they are also human weaknesses that are no longer quite so amusing when the fable world i s l e f t behind. The Reynardian fables i n Henryson's c o l l e c t i o n contain more s p e c i f i c satire as the anthropomorphic assuming s p e c i f i c human roles. tempered by comedy also.  development of the animals includes t h e i r In these fables, however, the s a t i r e i s  One of the fables we have examined already, "The  Fox, the Wolf and the Cadger," can be seen as a s a t i r i c a l comment on the merchant class, as represented by the cadger.^  The cadger i s the butt of  the fox's clever t r i c k , and h i s s t u p i d i t y and greed are p a r a l l e l e d i n the wolf.  I t i s s t u p i d i t y and greed that are s a t i r i z e d i n the main, and the  application to the merchant class i s simply a passing blow struck i n the course of a great deal of comedy.  "The Fox and the Wolf" s a t i r i z e s misuse  of the law while developing the craftiness of the fox and greed of the wolf anthropomorphically.  The s a t i r e i n t h i s fable i s oblique, f o r the portrayals  within the world of the fable remain comic; i t i s the human beings l i k e these beasts " i n conditioun" who are the targets.  Even F r e i r Wolf Waitskaith i n  "The Fox's Confession" i s d e l i g h t f u l l y comic i n his complete ineptitude f o r  152  his o f f i c e .  But the enormous gulf between the wolf's character and what  we would expect to be the character of a f r i a r i s narrowed when the wolf sustains his mock-holy role throughout the t a l e .  In "The T r i a l of the Fox"  there i s a s i m i l a r p o r t r a i t of the wolf as a learned "Doctour o f f D i v i n i t i e " and a sort of chancellor to the king.  The episode i s yet another example  of Lowrence's clever outwitting of the wolf, who i n spite of his learning i s too f o o l i s h to see even a simple ruse.  The comedy plays upon the d i f f e r -  ence between the learned appearance and protestations of the wolf and h i s s t u p i d i t y : when he has been kicked i n the head, he i s mocked by the fox as the "Doctour o f f D i v i n i t i e , / With his r e i d cap" (lines 1052-53).  The human  c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s thus reinforce the comic ironies that i l l u s t r a t e the animals  1  characters, upon which rest both entertainment and moralitas, but as i n the other fox and wolf fables there i s a s a t i r i c a l r e f l e c t i o n involved as well. The portrayal of a wolf as a c l e r i c or an o f f i c i a l of the state naturally suggests that these have something i n common.  When the wolf i s further  characterized as being extremely f o o l i s h , the s a t i r i c a l r e f l e c t i o n on the human role sharpens.  These fables a l l parody human roles by assigning to  them the animal characters which i n i d e a l terms would seem least suitable.  J  The characters are developed as individuals, both through t h e i r basic animal natures and t h e i r human t r a i t s , but these two ostensibly opposite natures mingle, so that one cannot distinguish between them.  The learned Waitskaith,  newly come from the c l o i s t e r , might be h y p o c r i t i c a l and stupid because he i s a wolf, but on the other hand, he i s also a f r i a r . The anthropomorphic  portrayal i n highly-developed fables such as  Henryson's and Chaucer's i s of course responsible f o r the extent of s a t i r i c r e f l e c t i o n on the manners and ideas of the times, as w e l l as on universal human behaviour.  When animals are to be portrayed as functioning i n human  terms and with a society of t h e i r own, the contemporary  scene w i l l naturally  153  serve as a model.  w  The Roman de Renart and i t s early analogues also contain  considerable comic s a t i r e at the expense of a l l the human models i t employs. Courtly conventions, the l e g a l system, and c l e r i c a l f a u l t s are a l i k e r i d i / v  7 culed when taken over by Reynard and h i s companions.'  Writing of branch  one, Robert Bossuat remarks that Assurement, l'auteur . . . connait l e s defauts du systeme politique et de 1'organisation s o c i a l e . I I les denonce par l a voix du goupil, mais sans violence, et pour* amuser un public ou tous l e s milieux sont meles. C l e r i c a l weaknesses, however, do meet stronger c r i t i c i s m i n the Roman, 9 though the portrayals of fox and wolf as c l e r i c s are e s p e c i a l l y comic. John F l i n n , i n h i s recent comprehensive study of the Roman de Renart and i t s analogues, summarizes the s a t i r i c a l s p i r i t of the French beast epics. Je suis convaincu qu c'est . . . bien consciemment que l e s trouveres francais ont s a t i r i s e , en l a travestissant, l a societe francaise du Xlleme et du Xllleme s i e c l e , et q u ' i l s se sont souvent contentes de f a i r e r i r e leurs contemporains sans leur f a i r e de l a morale.10 The Middle English The Vox and the Wolf retains the potential for. s a t i r e alongside a comedy that reveals the influence of the beast epics, but i t is-not developed to s a t i r i z e p a r t i c u l a r human roles.  Rather, i t  r e f l e c t s s a t i r i c a l l y on human nature and behaviour i n general.  The l u d i -  crous attitude of Sigrim to Paradise i s surely a jest at the expense of human hypocrisy, and Reneward's mock-solemn posing as confessor and parish priest suggests the ease with which a serious o f f i c e may be abused, and i t s abuse accepted.  But Reneward and Sigrim are i n d i v i d u a l characters, not rep-  resentatives of the clergy or t h e i r f l o c k j t h e i r abuse of r e l i g i o n i s an \/ i n d i v i d u a l one, and i s not held up as being i n any way exemplary. In a l l of the fables which develop the anthropomorphic c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of animal characters into conceptions as i n d i v i d u a l as Reneward, or  154  Chauntecleer, or Lowrence, s a t i r e often joins comedy as a r e s u l t of the expansion of human-animal correspondences.  The s a t i r e i s tempered hy  comedy, however, so that while i t r i d i c u l e s human weaknesses or suggests the abuse of a human role, i t i s part of a number of effects of the fable portrayal.  It may j o i n comedy and irony to underline a moral application,  or to entertain, or both.  This l i g h t s a t i r e , however, i s developed through  i n d i v i d u a l characters and comments on human vanity and weakness that the i n d i v i d u a l can apply to himself.  While the weaknesses may be expressed by  a convention, as are i n s i n c e r i t y and pretension through protestations of courtly sentiments, they are nonetheless the shortcomings of individuals. However, the fable has also been the vehicle of a d i f f e r e n t kind of criticism.  Animal society modelled on human society can be held up as a  representative comment on the shortcomings of the human world as a whole. Phaedrus adapted the fable to the purposes of sharp p o l i t i c a l s a t i r e , which, although sometimes a personal reaction to individuals, often involves making his characters represent classes or g r o u p s .  x±  The oppression of the weak by  the strong i s obviously often seen i n the animal world, and as a r e s u l t the "morals" of Aesopic fables can be more worldly than otherwise.  Marie de  France often appends moralities to c r i t i c i z e s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l i n j u s t i c e s , brought to mind by the unfortunate victims of the fables.  "Marie f u t bien  1? l e f a b u l i s t e du regime feodal au X H I e s i e c l e . "  The c l e r i c s who  used  •exempla sometimes introduced themes of s o c i a l c r i t i c i s m i n the fables i n the same way as Marie de France.  The fable of the wolf and the lamb i n the Gesta  Romanorum 3 i s recommended as an exemplum against oppression of the poor. x  L a t i n fables by English c l e r i c s also contain s o c i a l s a t i r e , as w e l l as s a t i r e on other c l e r i c s .  Nicole de Bozon and John Bromyard p a r t i c u l a r l y  s a t i r i z e the s o c i a l vices of t h e i r times, the fox often being used to s i g n i f y  155  bad prelates.  Bromyard describes a wolf who k i l l s more than he needs  to maintain servants, an expensive lady, the promotions of his sons and 15 the  dowries of his daughters.  The s a t i r e i s made e x p l i c i t by the  addition of anthropomorphic c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s to the animal portrayed i n the fable. When the anthropomorphic portrayal of animals involves t h e i r f u l f i l l i n g p a r t i c u l a r human roles, s a t i r e of those roles can be expected.  However,  i n some animal fables, s o c i a l or p o l i t i c a l c r i t i c i s m and s a t i r e f o r a didactic purpose i s the only basis f o r the anthropomorphic  portrayal.  While the simple Aesopic fable can i l l u s t r a t e a moral that reinforces a s o c i a l c r i t i c i s m , the anthropomorphically developed animal fable heightens the  i l l u s t r a t i v e p o t e n t i a l through more s p e c i f i c s i m i l a r i t i e s between  human and animal worlds.  However, s a t i r e without comedy and didacticism  without interest i n the entertainment function of the narrative r e s t r i c t the  fable once again.  Its narrative style may be e f f e c t i v e and i t s purpose  w e l l - f u l f i l l e d , but the characters are reduced to examples that have no r e a l world of t h e i r  own.  Three of Henryson's fables are c l e a r l y s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l a l l e g o r i e s . The moralitas to each relates the narrative to contemporary events.  The  ironies of the characters' behaviour are brought out i n these fables, but the  tone i s serious and the s a t i r e more so.  The voice of the narrator i s  no longer detached, but reveals a strong commitment to exposing the e v i l s he decries. "The T a i l l of the Scheip and the D o i g " ^ i s a straightforward s a t i r e 1  on the f a i l i n g s of the l e g a l system i n fifteenth-century Scotland, transformed by the moralitas into a l l e g o r i c a l terms.  The f a m i l i a r " t r i a l "  scene of beast epics i s here a serious portrayal of a fraudulent court.  \  156 The animals take on the human roles of a court proceeding, and the ironies of t h e i r doing so are not those of comic incongruity, but of a b i t t e r r e a l i t y within the incongruity.  The d e t a i l s and i n t r i c a c i e s  17 of l e g a l proceedings are elaborated,  1  with a host of animals f u l f i l l i n g  various functions: the wolf i s judge, the fox, clerk and notary, and so on.  The sheep pleads his case i n l e g a l language, and the members of the  court speak i n the same way.  The anthropomorphic  characterization i s  developed to the extent of the dog's having purchased f o r "fyve s c h i l l i n g or mair" ( l i n e U 8 3 ) the bread he alleges the sheep has stolen from him; the sheep personally s e l l s his fleece to a merchant and then buys bread again; the various members of the court read and discuss "Of c i v i l e law volumis f u l l mony" ( l i n e 1216).  The contrast between the behaviour and  the animal natures of the characters, however, i s not comic. Rather, the incongruity of the animals' portrayal informs the seriousness of the fable's c r i t i c i s m s .  The members of the court seem to  f u l f i l l t h e i r duties i n t h e i r serious use of l e g a l procedure, but t h e i r bias of course perverts j u s t i c e .  own  The moralitas states that men such as  these " s e t t i s a l t h a i r cure/ Be f a l s meinis to mak ane wrang conquest" (lines 1260-6l); Henryson figures such men i n the kind of animals one expects s i m i l a r behaviour from, the beasts of prey.  And he makes i t p e r f e c t l y  clear throughout the narrative that these beasts d e l i b e r a t e l y pervert justice f o r t h e i r own ends: Ane f r a u d f u l l wolff was juge that tyme, and bure Authoritie and j u r i s d i c t i o u n , .... (lines 1150-51) The bias of the o f f i c e r s of the court i s indicated: Schir Corbie Ravin wes maid apparitour Quha pykit had f u l l mony scheipis ee, . . . . (lines  II6O-61)  157  The animals are i n league to ensure the protection of t h e i r kind and t h e i r method of l i v i n g ; the kite and vulture The doggis pley togidder tuke on hand, Quhilk wer confidderit s t r a i t l i e i n ane hand Aganis the scheip to procure the sentence; Thocht i t wes f a l s thay had na conscience. (lines 1177-80) There i s an occasional avowal of honesty, i r o n i c a l l y placed a f t e r the narrator has confirmed the reverse.  The repeated reminders of fraud,  lack of conscience, and conspiracy are too serious f o r comic enjoyment of \f the fable scene: This c u r s i t court, corruptit a l l f o r meid, Aganis gude f a i t h , law and e i k conscience, For t h i s f a l s doig pronuncit the sentence. (lines 1241-43) The characters are f u l l y developed as v i l l a i n s .  Their v i l l a i n y i s express-  ive of t h e i r animal natures—they are a l l beasts of prey—and development i s of a piece with those natures.  i t s human  The narrator i s not the  distant onlooker he i s i n many of the F a b i l l i s , and the moralitas simply extends what he has presented very c l e a r l y i n the narrative. i s continued into the moralitas as well.  The narrative  The narrator describes encountering  the sheep a f t e r the t r i a l , and devotes two stanzas to the sheep's lament: Bot of t h i s scheip and of his c a i r f u l l cry I s a i l reheirs; f o r as I passit by Quhair that he l a y , on cais I l u k i t doun, And hard him mak s a i r lamentatioun. (lines 1282-85) The sheep i s a helpless, pathetic f i g u r e ; the narrator's strong commitment informs the portrayal of court and victim, and guarantees an a f f e c t i v e response. "The T a i l l of the Wolf and the Lamb"-1  s i m i l a r l y exemplifies the  158  b e s t i a l i t y of human behaviour that i s responsible f o r the s o c i a l i l l s Henryson condemns.  Again, the s a t i r e i s too serious f o r laughter.  wolf i s " c r u e l l , " " r i c h t ravenous and f e l l " ( l i n e 26lk),  The  ^  with none of  the comic s t u p i d i t y of Waitskaith or the "wolf that gat the nek-hering." His dispute with the lamb consists of h i s perverting justice to s u i t himself. The lamb's replies are sensible and sound, and thwart the wolf on a l l counts. The animals are developed to s u i t the fable's purpose, rather than to function as credible characters. That a young lamb should make such formal x speeches, each expressing a knowledge of e i t h e r natural philosophy, theology,  •  19  ; or law, i s hard to believe. '  Yet, the way he i s presented brings out the  depths of the wolf's d e p r a v i t y — t h e wolf i s "reduced . . . j acknowledged monster."  20  to a s e l f -  The moralitas draws out the s i m i l a r i t y between  animals and men and c r i t i c i z e s d i r e c t l y what the narrative has exposed s a t i r i c a l l y : powerful creatures, including " f a l s perverteris of the Lawis" and "Lordis that hes land be Goddis lane" ( l i n e s 2715 and 27 3), who k  the poor and i n so doing place t h e i r souls i n mortal danger.  oppress  Satirized i n  the narrative through the character of the ravening wolf, such men are c r i t i c i z e d yet further i n the moralitas, f o r a natural wolf knows no better than to behave as he does: 0 man, but mercie quhat i s i n thy thocht? War than ane wolf and thow culd understand.' (lines 2735-36) "The T a i l l of the Lyoun and the Mous"  2±  i s a p o l i t i c a l commentary.  </  In structure i t i s a dream v i s i o n ; the narrator i s walking i n the country on a June day, sleeps, and dreams of Aesop, who t e l l s him the fable and 22 provides the application.  The conversation between the dreamer and Aesop  includes a remark about the times as w e l l ; Aesop says of t e l l i n g fables,  159  "For quhat i s i t worth to t e l l ane fenyeit t a i l l , Quhen haly preiching may na thing a v a i l l ? " (lines 1389-90) The fable of the l i o n who known.  spares a mouse and i s l a t e r saved by him i s w e l l -  Henryson alters the basic universal moral, however, to p o l i t i c a l  allegory.  The l i o n i s the king lax i n h i s duty whose people are becoming  unruly but who  are nonetheless  l o y a l to him and save him from his treacher-  23 ous barons.  The intention i s made e x p l i c i t i n the moralitas, though  Henryson i s cautious about drawing too many direct p a r a l l e l s : Thir r u r a l l men  that s t e n t i t hes the net  Mair t i l l expound as now I l e t t a l l a n e - Bot king and l o r d may w e i l l wit quhat I mene: Figure heirof oftymis has bene sene. (lines 1609,  l6l2-l4)  In spite of t h e i r a l l e g o r i c a l intent, however, the animal characters are quite well-developed,  and indeed t h e i r characters speak f o r Henryson's  attitude to t h e i r human equivalents.  The l i o n as the noble monarch of  the forest i s s u f f i c i e n t l y d i g n i f i e d , but also b a s i c a l l y wise and merciful. He recognizes that there i s no excuse f o r the mice's disrespect f o r h i s " N o b i l l persoun," but he thinks "according to ressoun" shows them mercy. ter.  ( l i n e 150k)  and  The leader of the mice i s a clever and likeable charac-  His long speech to the l i o n i s reasonable  and just; he can use  language to e f f e c t , and he can show due respect to the monarch.  The  legal lion  has threatened to hang him, but the mouse's speech plays upon the animalhuman i n the characters and remarks that a l i o n w i l l have l i t t l e i n eating a mouse.  Indeed, though the mice represent  . . . bot the commountie, Wantoun, unwyse, without correctioun (lines 1587-88)  satisfaction  l6o  the wisdom of t h i s mouse and the s o l i d a r i t y of the mice as a group speak favourably both f o r characters and f o r f i g u r a l representation. The l i o n ' s s o l i t a r y p l i g h t i s a sharp contrast to the leadership of the mouse when he c a l l s on h i s fellows f o r help: "Cum help to quyte ane gude turne f o r ane-uther; Go, lous him sonei" And thay said: "Ye, gude brotherJ" (lines 1557-58) In these three fables, then, Henryson uses the genre as a vehicle f o r p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l commentary.  He i s pointing not at human weakness  as manifested i n individuals but at the e f f e c t s of human weakness on society. "The Lion and the Mouse" has a happy ending, but i t i s not a comic fable. What we are not so aware of i s the incongruity between the animals and the human roles they f i l l .  This i s p a r t l y because Henryson has chosen animals  that t r a d i t i o n a l l y conform to the behaviour he wishes to i l l u s t r a t e : mice as common men, l i o n as monarch, lamb as innocent man, wolf as v i l l a i n .  In  "The Wolf and the Lamb" and "The Sheep and the Dog" fables this choice i s i t s e l f i r o n i c , f o r one r e a l i z e s that the wicked animals s u i t t h e i r human roles because human beings have perverted those r o l e s .  But t h i s i s also  true of the sympathetic characters. The common people are l i k e helpless sheep or lambs because of the i n j u s t i c e s of society, and l i k e "wantoun" mice because t h e i r r u l e r has been sleeping rather than r u l i n g .  Man's  behaviour, then, makes i t possible f o r him to be figured by beasts.  In  these fables, however, the seriousness of the purpose dominates, the narrat i v e , and while the characters are memorable i n t h e i r own way, they are not as i n d i v i d u a l as those of the other F a b i l l i s .  The narrator's express purpose  makes i t necessary that h i s p a r t i a l i t y characterize them throughout each fable. The fable as a vehicle f o r s o c i a l commentary and s a t i r e manifests i t s e l f  161 elsewhere i n Middle English l i t e r a t u r e .  Langland's Piers Plowman contains  a fable that comments on the contemporary  relationship between the common  people and the state by portraying the commons as rats and mice f e a r f u l of a cat that dominates them r u t h l e s s l y .  The common people and the court  both are s a t i r i z e d through the likeness: the rats are a ragged mob and the 25 cat k i l l s indiscriminately and f o r pleasure.  The fable narrative  involves  a description of a council held by the rats and mice to determine what they might do to prevent the havoc the cat wreaks i n t h e i r l i v e s . ?6 suggests they b e l l the cat, one dares apply i t . killing,  One rat  and a b e l l i s accordingly bought, though no  A wise mouse r i s e s and speaks against b e l l i n g , or  the cat, and the fable ends with the narrator leaving the interpreta-  t i o n to the audience. The moralitas, however, has been uttered by the wise mouse, and the truth of what he says i s borne out by the description of the rats and mice. Clearly, the rats have reason t o fear a cat who k i l l s wantonly, but the mouse points out that they too are wanton.  The picture of the mass of  common people l i v i n g as they wish i s dramatically,  and  paradoxically,  r e a l i z e d through the fable's suggestion of a horde of rats and mice gone out of control: For better i s a l i t e l losse pan a longe sorwe— ^ e mase amonge vs a l l e pou^i we mysse a schrewe. For many mannus malt we mys wolde destruye, And also 3e route of ratones rende mennes clothes,  ....  (Prologue, l i n e s 195-98) By portraying these creatures  as a s o c i a l group the fable i l l u s t r a t e s very  successfully the nature of this group.  The need f o r rule i s understood  through the chaotic picture of rats and mice with no cat to control them. A few remarks about the cat indicate that he too i s at f a u l t , but again the mouse makes i t c l e a r that were t h i s tyrannous cat disposed of, the mob  162  of rats could not be successfully controlled by a " k i t t e n " , or child-king:  'twere be catte i s a kitoun be courte i s f u l elyng. For may  no renke here rest haue f o r ratones h i ny3te. (Prologue,  l i n e s 190,  192)  The fable supports the p r i n c i p l e of rule and order while at the same time s a t i r i z i n g the weaknesses of various levels of society and of i n d i v i d u a l figures i n p a r t i c u l a r . It i s i n t e r e s t i n g that the spokesman f o r the r a t i o n a l point of view should be a wise mouse, whose knowledge of the necessity of leadership i s not unlike that of the mouse i n Henryson's "The Lion and the Mouse."  He  is able to see the weaknesses of his own kind, and to see the necessity of ordering them--to see his own  p o s i t i o n i n r e l a t i v e terms.  The moral i s  made the more e f f e c t i v e i n coming from the ranks of the commons themselves; the mouse, l i k e Langland, c l e a r l y f e e l s unconfortable fellows being i e f t to t h e i r own  at the thought of his  devices.  Langland's fable i s developed i n a f a i r l y sophisticated manner.  The  characters are portrayed anthropomorphically: they hold a council and quote L a t i n proverbs; some can read Holy Writ, and they purchase a b e l l with "catel".  The aspects of t h e i r animal natures that are stressed are those  which are most powerful i n terms of the tale's purpose.  The rats are i n a,:,  large group; they are destructive and noisy; the mice are destructive as well, and, of course, they fear a cat. s u i t a b i l i t y as an i l l u s t r a t i o n .  The fable's effectiveness l i e s i n i t s Langland uses the animal natures of his  characters to make his point about human society.  The rats and mice are  purely representative, and while i t i s paradoxical to present human beings i n t h i s way, conveys.  the paradox i s the germ of the s a t i r e and the moralitas i t  163  The portraying of animals i n human roles to f u l f i l l an express  and  ) exclusively s a t i r i c a l purpose becomes a marked c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of the l a t e r \ development of the beast epics on the c o n t i n e n t . ^ thirteenth century i n France Reynard was  By the end of the  the means of expressing p a r t i c u l a r oft  s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l enmities.  Renart l e Bestourne  and Le Couronnement  de Renart ^ are late thirteenth-century manifestations of strong a n t i 2  ? mendicant s a t i r e , i n both of which Reynard becomes a f r i a r but his t y p i c a l a c t i v i t i e s .  continues  In the l a t t e r he i s eventually crowned king.  30 Renart l e Nouvel,  written by Gielee i n 1288,  portrays the fox and h i s  sons as f r i a r s who united a l l disagreeing orders under t h e i r d i r e c t i o n . A l l these poems are b a s i c a l l y a l l e g o r i c a l , representing Reynard, and with him f r i a r s , Pope, and princes, as vice and the l i o n , Noble, as virtue.31 The early fourteenth-century Renart l e C o n t r e f a i t 3  2  ±  s  a  the entire Reynard cycle by an anonymous clerk at Troyes.  reworking  of  The interests  and morality of a r i s i n g middle-class are r e f l e c t e d , not least i n a hatred of the n o b i l i t y ,  J  and i n the conclusion of t h i s vast compilation.  Reynard  i n the end repents of his sins and condemns the sins of his time. There i s one example of a s i m i l a r development i n Middle English. An e a r l y fourteenth-century "Song on the Times"3 contains a fable of a k  fox, a wolf and an ass t r i e d at the l i o n ' s court.  The poem opens with a  lament on the sorry state of l i f e i n this world, and then proceeds to describe how  " f a l s and l i t h e r i s this lond" ( l i n e 9).  Covetousness, pride  and contention are the great sins that result i n oppression of the lawful man.  The corruption of the king's ministers, who  are subject to bribery,  results i n the oppression of the just and the triumph of the wicked. Of thos a vorbisen i c herd t e l l e ( l i n e 45)  164  continues the narrator, and then t e l l s a fable meant to i l l u s t r a t e the state of the land.  The l i o n , however, i s as culpable as the vaguely-  suggested ministers--"men"—who accuse the ass, and the fable  satirizes  the court and the law most of a l l . The wolf, fox and ass are c a l l e d to court because they have been accused of wickedness, though i t i s immediately made c l e a r that the ass i s innocent.  Wolf and fox bribe the c o u r t — a p p a r e n t l y the l i o n himself--  by sending, respectively, and t y p i c a l l y , geese and hens, goats and mutton. The ass knows himself innocent and fears no harm.  Appearing before the  l i o n , the fox j u s t i f i e s himself by saying that he bought a l l his geese and hens dearly, "And here ham up myn owen rigge." (line He i s immediately forgiven.  84)  The wolf's defence i s more sharply s a t i r i c a l .  He begins by i d e n t i f y i n g himself as a noble, and the l i o n ' s manner immediately follows s u i t : "What hast i-do, b e l amy, That thou me so oxist pes?" (lines 93-94) The wolf confesses to having s l a i n a sheep and "fewe gete"; he then adds that he "ne 3af ham dint no p i l t " ( l i n e 104), and i s immediately forgiven, on the grounds that he behaved according to h i s nature.  The ass, however,  i s t r i e d simply f o r eating grass; the l i o n i r o n i c a l l y addresses him as "bel ami" also, a f t e r already having indicated h i s prejudice: Me thenchith thou cannist no gode. Whi nadistou, as other mo? Thou come of l i t h e r stode. (lines 110-112) This remark precedes the ass's defence.  The ass i s punished because the  165  ^ f l ^ W  l i o n judges that That was a3e t h i kund, For to ete such gras s o : — . . . (lines 119-20)  and the fable concludes with the death of the ass and the f i n a l remark of the l i o n that t h i s i s " a l f o r lawe" ( l i n e 123). the narrator's complaint  of the times.  The poem continues  with  The fable i s i n a sense an exemplum,  f o r i t i s i l l u s t r a t i n g the theme of the poem which encloses i t .  Like  Henryson's fables of s o c i a l commentary, i t describes a s o c i a l weakness which is c l a r i f i e d and commented upon outside the narrative. While the remainder of the poem i s straightforward c r i t i c i s m , the fable i t s e l f incorporates a b i t t e r s a t i r e that i l l u s t r a t e s the theme of the poem and goes yet f u r t h e r i n i t s suggestions.  The animals' society  mirrors human s o c i e t y — a king, court, laws—and the animals commit human offences such as bribery.  They are cast as representatives of human v i c e s , ,  the wolf and fox representing the corrupt and wealthy who oppress the ordinary man, represented by the ass.  The l i o n too embodies power corrupted  by covetousness, but as a representative of an ultimate authority he i s the vehicle f o r the most serious s a t i r i c a l r e f l e c t i o n .  The animals' characters  V are not developed beyond these representations; t h e i r animal natureS5are simply used to support the representation and heighten the s a t i r i c a l e f f e c t . The forgiveness of a ravening wolf and the condemnation of a helpless ass underline the l i o n ' s perversion of j u s t i c e revealed i n the grounds f o r h i s judgments.  The portrayal of these animals i n human roles e f f e c t i v e l y  serves  the purpose of the s a t i r i s t , but that purpose allows only a single humananimal correspondence.  The i r o n i e s of fable portrayal are not developed;  the characters remain s t a t i c embodiments of human v i c e s , and the seriousness of the moral condemnation that i s the rationale f o r the choice of  166  animal characters precludes comedy. These fables of s o c i a l s a t i r e , l i k e the other fables which mock i n d i v i d u a l human f a i l i n g s , are able to do so because of the perspective which the genre provides.  The f a b l e , i n that i t i s an animal f i c t i o n , i s  a world of i t s own that can be regarded by the audience from a separate vantage point.  Langland's rats present a sharp picture of the confusion  of a disordered mob, and "The Song on the Times" capsulizes the essence of l e g a l corruption i n i l l u s t r a t i n g the blindness of covetousness that w i l l not distinguish a wolf from an ass.  But i n the s a t i r e s , the perspective  does not a l t e r to provide new insights as the correspondences s h i f t and vary; i t remains the s t a t i c perspective imposed by the narrator.  The a n i -  mals cannot be developed as i n d i v i d u a l characters because they must represent types of human society the narrator wishes us t o observe.  We are  j not engaged by the fable world, but regard i t from a distance as an e x p l i c i t i ! lesson about our own. The s a t i r i c a l propensity of the animal fable i s witnessed i n the varying s a t i r i c a l uses of the genre. of the fable continued La F o n t a i n e . ^  A f t e r the Middle Ages, this  aspect  to f i n d expression, most notably i n the fables of  In English, Spenser's Mother Hubberd's Tale_ ^ i s a s a t i r e 3  of p o l i t i c a l corruption inspired by and based at l e a s t to some extent on the Roman de Renart.  In Spenser's and La Fontaine's fables, the function  of the s a t i r i s t , too, i s that of the moralist.  Their fables expose and  decry human vices and weaknesses, although i n Spenser's t a l e the s a t i r e i s more s p e c i f i c , and dominates the t a l e . In the Middle English fable s a t i r e s , the animals are representative of a p a r t i c u l a r s o c i a l s i t u a t i o n , and thus a single human-animal correspondence i s emphasized.  Characterization and i t s r e s u l t i n g ironies receive  167 l i t t l e attention.  When the paradox of portraying animals as human i s  accepted i n the poems as an accurate representation of human r e a l i t y , that paradox i s transformed to straightforward a l l e g o r i c a l s a t i r e on various human i n s t i t u t i o n s .  The highly developed animal characters of  other medieval fables are akin to these beasts i n t h e i r human behaviour, but the fable satires are interested i n the animals a l l e g o r i c a l l y only. Like the fable exempla, these satires can f u l f i l l t h e i r single purpose w e l l enough.  But i n both, one misses the a r t that makes a fox a Reynard.  168 FOOTNOTES Smith Palmer Bovie, trans., The Satires and Epistles of Horace (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959), pp. 138-43. See" also h i s commentary, pp. 92-93o  J. K. Kealy discusses the priest's f u l f i l l m e n t of the demand that he "both teach and delight i n terms of Horatian s a t i r e , "a form of s a t i r e which gently laughs at the f o l l i e s of man rather than raging at h i s vices" (p. 2). 3 He lapses once, i n h i s denunciation of "wommanes counsel," but h a s t i l y corrects himself and "reestablishes h i s s a t i r i c distance" (Kealy, p. 11). k  MacQueen, pp. 121-24.  5 Stearns, pp. 111-14. ~\  6 see William W. Lawrence, Medieval Story and the Beginnings of the S o c i a l Ideals of English-speaking People, The Hewitt Lectures, 2nd~ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1926), pp. 146-55. 7 The good-natured s a t i r e most readers f i n d i n the Roman de Renart i s denied by A. Jeanroy i n Le Roman de Renard, Principaux Episodes (Paris: E. de Boccard, 1926JT but compare Levrault, who takes the extreme opposite view: "Au fond, ce q u ' i l s [les trouveres^J ecrivent pour les clercs mecontents ou les plebeiens goguenards, c'est le parodie am§re de 1'epopSe et l a s a t i r e cruelle du moyen lage" (p. 43). 8 Bossuat, p. 112.  9 See Bossuat, p. 112, and F l i n n , pp. 36-69. F l i n n suggests (pp. 67<^ 68) that the s a t i r e of parish priests may have been prompted by class "| differences--the trouveres were better educated than the simple country * priests. 1 0  F l i n n , p. 36.  -11 See Herrmann's commentaries, Phedre, pp. 148, ' ^12  243.  Levrault, p. 37-  ^3 See p. 31 above. Cf. the portrayal of the fox i n various c l e r i c a l roles i n medieval English art, Varty, Reynard, passim. l k  . Owst, Pulpit, pp.- 321, and 240, 253, 323, 353* See also Margaret Schlauch, English Medieval Literature and i t s S o c i a l Foundations (Warsaw: Panstwowe Wydawnicto Naukowe, 1956), p. 163. 1 5  16 Quotations from t h i s fable are from E l l i o t t ' s edition, pp. 35-40.  169 17 MacQueen, pp. 127-29, shows that the l e g a l procedure i s that of fifteenth-century Scottish courts. 1  E l l i o t t , pp. 78-83.  8  19 MacQueen, pp. 131-32. 20 Stearns, p. 122. 2  E l l i o t t , pp.  1  kO-k-9.  22 MacQueen, pp. 68-70, explains the prologue to t h i s fable by suggesting that the fable was published separately. Stearns, pp. 15, l 8 , f e e l s that Henryson wished to protect himself by a t t r i b u t i n g the p o l i t i c a l s a t i r e and the remarks of the moralitas to Aesop. - Stearns, pp. 15-18, provides the background f o r the s a t i r e , contemporary events i n Scotland and the reign of James I I I . 3  2 The e d i t i o n used i s that of J. A. W. Bennett, Piers Plowman (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972). See also W. W. Skeat's e d i t i o n , The V i s i o n of William Concerning Piers the Plowman, 10th ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, I923; rpt. 1948). Both edit the Prologue and seven Passus of the B-Text. The fable appears i n the Prologue i n the B-Text, l i n e s 214 f f . It i s omitted i n the A-Text, but i n the C-Text i t appears i n Passus 1, l i n e s 163 f f . Skeat notes (p. x) that i t i s related to events of 1377, when the commons were d i s s a t i s f i e d . The cat represents Kind Edward I I I and the k i t t e n Richard, l a t e r Richard I I , who on the death of the Black Prince had become h e i r apparent (p. 102). In h i s extensive notes to a l a t e r e d i t i o n (Oxford University Press, 1886, II, 17) Skeat notes that the rats "are the burgesses and more i n f l u e n t i a l men among the commons; the mice those of less importance." Bennett sees the rats as the lords or the knights of the shire and the mice as the r i s i n g middle classes. He suggests that the cat may be John of Gaunt rather than Edward I I I , and points out the h i s t o r i c a l facts that support his reading (Notes, pp. 100-101). k  ^ As Stearns notes, Henryson's fable portrayals of the peasantry are ^-more sympathetic than Langland s. In Langland's fable, however, i t i s the rats who are l e a s t sympathetically portrayed; they also i n i t i a t e the scheme to b e l l the cat. 1  26 , Skeat (p. 101) notes that a Latin metrical version of the same \ fable exists i n a fourteenth-century manuscript, and that i t also appears / i n a fourteenth-century Ysopet. See Bastin, I, 10. A s i m i l a r fable appears i n Avianus: a peasant puts a b e l l on a f i e r c e dog, who thinks he has been honoured (Herrmann, Avianus, p. 27). 2  7 See p. 91 above.  28  See Bossuat, pp. 145-46; F l i n n , pp. 174-201. I t i s edited by J u l i a See Bossuat, pp. Bastin and E. F a r a l , Onze Poemes de Rutebeuf (Paris: Geuthner, 1946)  170  ""~-^29 Edited i n volume four of Meon's e d i t i o n of the Roman, pp. 1-123, c i t e d i n note 13, chapter four above. See F l i n n , pp. 202 f f . 3° Edited by Henri Roussel, Renart l e Nouvel (Paris: n. p., 196l). 31 Bossuat, p. 150. 32 Edited by Gaston Raynaud and Henri Lemaitre, Le Roman de Renart l e Contrefait, 2 vols. (Paris: L i b r a i r i e Ancienne Honore* Champion, 1914). See F l i n n , pp. 365 f f . 33 Paris, p. 132. 3 The e d i t i o n cited throughout i s that of Thomas Wright, The P o l i t i c a l Songs of England from the Reign of John to Edward I I (London: Camden Society, IB39), pp. 195-205. The poem also appears in~T. Wright and J. 0. H a l l i w e l l , eds., Reliquae Antiquae (London, l 8 4 l ; r p t . New York: AMS Press, 1966), I, k  35 La Fontaine, Fables, ed. E. Brin (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1958). 36 Spenser,"Mother Hubberd's Tale," i n The ed. E. Greenlaw, C. G. Osgood, F. M. Padelford, John Hopkins Press, 19 7), IX, 101-40. See pp. scholarship on s a t i r e and contemporary a l l u s i o n k  Works of Edmund Spenser, R. Heffner (Baltimore: 568-80 f o r a summary of i n the poem.  37 Spenser's editors summarize considerations of the sources of "Mother Hubberd's Tale," IX, 585-93-  171  CONCLUSIONS  A wide range or purpose and accomplishment English animal fable.  characterizes the Middle  But whether meant to be didactic or entertaining or  both, the fables, by the nature of t h e i r characterization, combine narrat i v e f i c t i o n with a r e f l e c t i o n on the human world.  The dual purpose—to  teach and delight t o g e t h e r — o f the best Middle English animal fables r e l i e s on the s h i f t i n g perspective provided by multiple correspondences between animal characters and human beings.  The anthropomorphic  development of  the animals multiplies the correspondences between human and animal, so that entertainment as w e l l as enlightenment i s heightened, and the possib i l i t i e s f o r s a t i r i c a l r e f l e c t i o n on the f o l l i e s of mankind increase. Human behaviour, however, i s constantly played against animal nature i n the more, successful fables, so that i t i s not anthropomorphic ment alone that i s responsible f o r t h e i r success.  develop-  Rather, an increased  humanity i n a cock or a fox i s i r o n i c a l l y juxtaposed with reminders of the f a c t that we are watching a cock and a fox, not men.  Tales l i k e The Vox  and the Wolf and Henryson's and Chaucer's fables constantly r e f e r us back to animal q u a l i t i e s , whether i n physical appearance or i n simple b e s t i a l i t y of one kind or another.  The f a b u l i s t produces a delight i n the ironies of  his fantasy, and often reinforces his moral " f r u i t " by those very i r o n i e s . Henryson's express purpose i s t o show "How mony men i n operatioun/ Ar l i k e to b e i s t i s i n conditioun" (Prologue, l i n e s  48-49). When an animal character  has enacted a human r o l e , and then does something one would expect only an animal to do, there i s an obvious suggestion that our expectations are too optimistic; i f the animal characters are l i k e men i n some ways, i t follows that the simile can extend to more aspects of t h e i r behaviour.  While the  ironies of the portrayal i t s e l f can be purely comic, such as Chauntecleer's  172  praising Pertelote's red-lined eyes, s i m i l a r juxtapositions of the human and animal often imply another correspondence.  Thus when Chauntecleer i s  portrayed as having s i x wives besides his "true love," the animal r e a l i t y deflates the fable's heroic portrayal of Chauntecleer, but at the same time the human context into which Chauntecleer has placed himself suffers a def l a t i o n a l s o — a t l e a s t u n t i l we remember that Chauntecleer i s a useful beast i n a poor widow's farmyard. While the most successful character portrayals r e l y on the i r o n i c a l l y ambiguous question, which, now, i s s t r i c t l y human and which animal, the fables which serve a single purpose also provide a single answer.  The didactic  exempla and the straightforward satires also r e l y on the conscious juxtaposition of the human and the animal, but without allowing a lapse i n the single perspective that focuses the audience's v i s i o n on the exemplary character  of the animals.  In the b r i e f Aesopic fable exempla or i n Lydgate's  Fabules, there i s l i t t l e human development of the characters. They have the g i f t s of speech and reason, which apply t h e i r animal behaviour to the human sphere.  Thus Lydgate's cock does not f o o l i s h l y ignore a stone of wisdom;  he ignores something he cannot eat, and as he i s a cock, not a man, i t i s h i s business to eat.  The event i s meant to figure a man wisely r e j e c t i n g what i s  beyond or outside his station i n l i f e , whereas Henryson's cock i n the same s i t u a t i o n , l i k e a man, rejects what he cannot be bothered with and j u s t i f i e s himself with a too-easily accepted platitude.  Lydgate's animals are pure  i l l u s t r a t i o n s of Lydgate's moral lessons to mankind, and yet, as i n this case, t h e i r animal natures are the j u s t i f i c a t i o n f o r t h e i r behaviour, so that the characters do not r e a l l y figure human beings as independent characters, but serve as i l l u s t r a t i o n s of Lydgate's u n f a i l i n g l y applicable moral, each to his  own nature.  Such fable animals, f o r a l l t h e i r speech, remain animals  173  i n an i l l u s t r a t i v e lesson, and the p o t e n t i a l ironies of more human chara c t e r i z a t i o n remain dormant. While Lydgate and the sermon exempla do not develop the human aspects of the animal characters, the s a t i r i c a l fable i n "A Song on the Times" and Henryson's three fables of s o c i a l c r i t i c i s m are less concerned -with the animal aspects of the characters.  In these fables the f a c t of the charac-  t e r s ' animal i d e n t i t i e s i s used only to s a t i r i z e , c r i t i c i z e and i l l u s t r a t e human roles.  The irony of fable portrayal i s here the single irony of viewing  human s o c i a l actions as those of wicked beasts and helpless victims.  It is  a b i t t e r irony and supports the sharp c r i t i c i s m of the f a i l i n g s of human society.  The paradox of presenting a beast as a man i s accepted by the fabu-  l i s t f o r his s a t i r i c a l purpose, and subsumed i n the animals' a l l e g o r i c a l function.  The fable i n Piers Plowman i s s i m i l a r , but Langland plays upon  the animal portrayal more than do the other s a t i r i s t s .  His purpose i s i l l u s -  t r a t i o n also, but he uses the animal nature of h i s rats and mice to heighten the effectiveness of h i s i l l u s t r a t i o n .  The human behaviour of the animals  i n the other fables corresponds to t h e i r animal natures—and human nature as w e l l — b u t the natural animal t r a i t s are not developed beyond, f o r example, the depiction of the wolf as ravenous and lambs and sheep as helpless. Human portrayal i s the interest, and the animals are the vehicles f o r emphas i z i n g the author's views.  The juxtaposition of human and animal t r a i t s  reinforces the c r i t i c a l e f f e c t of these fables, but the point i s made with greater effectiveness when the animal t r a i t s are not secondary. In the Aesopic exempla and the s a t i r e s , the fable i s r e s t r i c t e d by the intention to i l l u s t r a t e a single moral or a p a r t i c u l a r s o c i a l weakness.  The  characters are, respectively, purely exemplary or a l l e g o r i c a l equivalents of human roles.  The allegory i s sometimes imaginatively r e a l i z e d , but the char-  acters have no l i f e beyond i t .  17  k  In the fables which set about t r u l y to teach and delight, the correspondences between human and animal produce d e l i g h t f u l characterization and multiple r e f l e c t i o n s on human conduct as well.  Increased anthropomor-  phism combines with a constant awareness of the characters' animal natures to create characters  i n the f u l l sense of the word.  Chauntecleer or  Lowrence or Sigrim are the products of imaginative minds developing the simply t a l k i n g animals of Aesopic fable into f u l l y r e a l i z e d i n d i v i d u a l s . These fables are not always comic;"The Preiching of the Swallow" and "The Paddock and the Mouse," through excellent characterization and,  especially  i n the former, s k i l f u l narrative structure, communicate the wisdom of enlightened observation  of the mortal world.  The delight of these fables i s  that of characterization and, e s p e c i a l l y i n "The Preiching of the Swallow, superb poetry.  Comedy, however, i s the hallmark of most of the Middle English  fables that l i v e up to the p o s s i b i l i t i e s of the genre.  Eight of Henryson's  F a b i l l i s , the Hun's Priest's Tale, The Vox and the Wolf, and Lydgate's "The  Churl and the B i r d " and "The Hownde and the Shepe," as w e l l as the better  sermon exempla, are comic.  As we have seen, the comedy i s l a r g e l y that of  comic irony developed from characterization.  The fable characters, a  d e l i g h t f u l combination of human and animal t r a i t s , give us many memorable t a l e s , but they also r e f l e c t on human behaviour, i f sometimes only i n a comic way. What sets the fable apart from other short f i c t i o n i s not simply the f a c t that i t has animal characters  or that i t i s d i d a c t i c .  The Middle English  fables we have examined are not r e a l l y animal s t o r i e s , and neither do they a l l have a d i d a c t i c purpose or an appended moral. by t h e i r peculiar characterization. human a t t r i b u t e s .  Rather, they are marked  Fable characters  to some extent have  They function i n many ways as human beings, have human  175  s k i l l s , and often are part of a complete society.  Indeed, human characters  appear i n the fables as v e i l and form part of the animals' society, often to the extent of speaking and dealing with them as i f there were nothing unusual i n discussing l e g a l niceties with a fox and wolf.  Human beings i n  a general and sometimes a s p e c i f i c way are the models f o r the f a b l e s ' characterization.  Inevitably, the characters w i l l r e f l e c t back upon t h e i r models,  e s p e c i a l l y as, being animals, t h e i r human q u a l i t i e s w i l l stand out sharply. The s k i l l of the f a b u l i s t i n playing upon the i r o n i c double nature of h i s characters often produces more suggestions about his human models than a simply human character might manage, and herein l i e s the success of many fables both as entertainment and as a comment on humanity, though the two purposes are not always distinguishable.  Because of the nature of fable  animals, the fable can serve as the vehicle f o r a moral statement.  I t also  contains the germ of s a t i r e i n the very paradox of i t s characterization, and s a t i r e to varying degrees i s found i n many of the Middle English fables, often l i n k i n g lesson and laughter. Beginning with the premise that natural creatures were to be observed f o r man's e d i f i c a t i o n , the Middle Ages took up the fable, and spread i t through schoolrooms  as a vehicle f o r moral i n s t r u c t i o n and a means of teach-  ing the s k i l l s of writing. tures.  Fable animals did not long remain natural crea-  Quickly developing t h e i r powers of speech and reason, they became  f u l l y - f l e d g e d characters, not animal and not human, but with so much of both natures that the two are inseparable. From the schoolroom and the p u l p i t the fable moved into the hands of those who saw i n i t more than a didactic or r h e t o r i c a l t o o l , and transformed the plots of simple apologues into memorable narrative poetry about paradoxically human animals.  Chaucer had many  176  reasons f o r i n s i s t i n g "my t a l e i s of a cok," but an audience who has been watching Chauntecleer knows better than to take him too l i t e r a l l y .  177  SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY TEXTS Entries are arranged by authors' names. In the case of anonymous works or c o l l e c t i o n s , they are arranged by editors/ names. Aesop. Esope Fables. Ed. and trans. Emile Chambry. Societe' d ^ d i t i o n "Les Belles Lettres," i960.  2nd ed.  Paris:  A r i s t o t l e . H i s t o r i a Animalium. Ed. and trans. D'arcy Wentworth Thompson. Vol. IV of The Works of A r i s t o t l e . Ed. W. D. Ross. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910. Physiognomonica. Ed. and trans. T. Loveday and E. E. Forster. Vol. VI of The Works of A r i s t o t l e . Ed. W. D. Ross. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913Avianus. Oeuvres. Ed. and trans. Le*on Herrmann. C o l l e c t i o n Latomus XCVT. Brussels: Latomus Revue d'Etudes Latines, 1968. Babrius. Aesop's Fables Told by Valerius Babrius. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, i960. Banks, Mary MacLeod, ed. An Alphabet of Tales. Kegan Paul, Trench and Trubner, 1904-1905.  Trans. Denison B. H u l l .  EETS OS 126, 127.  Bastin, J u l i a , ed. Recueil General des Isopets. Ancienne Honore Champion, 1929«  2 vols.  London:  Paris: L i b r a i r i e  Bennett, J . A. W., and G. V. Smithers, eds.. Early Middle English Verse and Pro_se_. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 19667 Brandeis, Arthur, ed. Jacob's Well, an Englisht Treatise on the Cleansing of Man's Conscience. EETS OS 115London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Trubner, 1900. Caxton, William. Caxton's Aesop. Ed. R. T. Lenaghan. Harvard University Press, 1967«  Cambridge, Mass.:  The History of Reynard the Fox Translated and Printed by William Caxton i n 1451. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, I960T Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton M i f f l i n , 1957-  Ed. F. N. Robinson.  Day, Mabel, ed. The English Text of the Ancrene Riwle. London: Oxford University Press, 1952. Dickins, Bruce, and R. M. Wilson, eds. Cambridge: Bowes and Bowes, 1951.  EETS OS 225-  Early Middle English Texts.  178  Henryson, Robert.  The Poems and Fables of Robert Henryson.  Ed. G.  Gregory Smith. The Scottish Text Society, 55. Blackwood, 1906. Vol. I I .  Edinburgh and London:  The Poems and Fables of Robert Henryson. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1933'  Ed. H. Harvey Wood.  Poems.  Ed. Charles E l l i o t t .  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963.  Herrtage, Sidney J . H., ed. The Early English Versions of the Gesta Romanorum. EETS ES 33. London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Trubner, 1879; rpt. 1098. Horace. The Satires and E p i s t l e s of Horace. Trans. Smith Palmer Bovie. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959Langland, William. The V i s i o n of William Concerning Piers the Plowman. Ed. W. W. Skeat. 10th ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923. Piers Plowman.  Ed. J . A. W. Bennett.  Oxford: Clarendon Press,  1972. Lydgate, John. The Minor Poems of John Lydgate. Ed. Henry Noble MacCracken. EETS OS 192. London: Oxford University Press, 1934. Marie de France. Die Fabeln der Marie de France. Normannica, 6. Halle: Niemeyer, 1898. Fables.  Ed. K a r l Warnke.  Ed. A. Ewert and R. C. Johnston.  Bibliotheca  Oxford: Blackwell,  1942. Michel, Dan. Morris.  Ayenbite of Inwyt or Remorse of Conscience. EETS OS 23. London: Trubner, 186157  Ed. Richard  Mirk, John. Mirk's F e s t i a l : A C o l l e c t i o n of Homilies. Ed. Theodor Erbe. EETS ES 9~F. London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Trubner, 1905. Morris, Richard, ed. Old English Homilies and Homiletic Treatises of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. EETS OS 29. London: Trubner, 1868. }  e  d.  An Old English Miscellany.  Phaedrus. Phedre et ses Fables. B r i l l , 1950.  EETS OS 49.  London: Trubner,  Ed. and trans. Leon Herrmann.  Leiden:  Rolle, Richard. The Pricke of Conscience. Ed. Richard Morris. The P h i l o l o g i c a l Society's Early English Volume, 1862-64. B e r l i n : Asher, 1863. Ross, Woodburn 0., ed. Middle English Sermons. Oxford University Press, 1940.  EETS OS 209.  London:  1872.  179 Spenser, Edmund. "Mother Huhherd's Tale." The Works of Edmund Spenser. Ed. E. Greenlaw, C. G. Osgood. F. M. Padelford, R. Heffner. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 19 7, IX, 101-140. k  Wilkins, Charles, ed. and trans. Hitopadesa. 1886; rpt. G a i n e s v i l l e , F l o r i d a : Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1968. Wright, Thomas, ed. Society, 1839.  The P o l i t i c a l Songs of England.  London: Camden  Zeydel, Edwin H., ed. and trans. Ecbasis Cuiusdum Captivi per Tropologiam Escape of a Certain Captive Told i n a Figurative Manner. University of North Carolina Studies i n the Germanic Languages and Literatures, 46. Chapel H i l l : University of North Carolina Press, 1964.  SCHOLARSHIP Bauman, Richard. "The F o l k t a l e and Oral T r a d i t i o n i n the Fables of Robert Henryson." Fabula, 6. Band (1964), 108-24. Boothby, Brooke, S i r . Fables and Satires, with a Preface on the Esopean Fable. Edinburgh: Constable, 1809. Bossuat, Robert. Brewer, D. S.  Lj2_ Roman de Renard.  Chaucer.  London, New  Paris: Hatier,  1957-  York, Toronto: Longmans, Green, 1953«  Brink, Bernhard ten. History of English Literature. Kennedy. London: B e l l , 19T4. I.  Trans. Horace M.  Broes, Arthur T. "Chaucer's Disgruntled C l e r i c : The Nun's Priest's Tale." PMLA, 78 (1963), 156-62. Canby, Henry Seidel. Coghill, Nevill. rpt. i960. Craik, T. W.  The_ Short Story i n English.  The Poet Chaucer.  New  York: Holt,  1909.  London: Oxford University Press,  The Comic Tales of Chaucer.  London: Methuen,  Curry, Walter Clyde. Chaucer and the Mediaeval Sciences. A l l e n and Unwin, 1960. Dahlberg, Charles. "Chaucer's Cock and Fox." Germanic Philology, 53 (1954), 277-90.  1949;  1964. 2nd ed.  London:  Journal of English and  Donovan, Mortimer J . "The Morallte of the Nun's Priest's Sermon." Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 52 (1953), 498-508. Fish, Stanley E. "The Nun's Priest's Tale and i t s Analogues." Language Association Journal, 5 (1962), 223-28.  College  180  F l i n n , John. Le_ Roman de Renart dans l a L i t e r a t u r e Franchise et dans les Littgratures ^tranggres au Moyen~^e7 Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963. Fox, Denton. 337-56.  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