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(11)-Melodie, yhe. By the theory stated (p. 86) the e is absorbed in the long accented i of ie. The first word
then would be (mel·edii) or (melodii) and the second, (ignoring the h)
(12)-Here. This word is by general consent a monosyllable in Chaucer.
(13)-Thanne. By theory (p. 90) this word = than = (dhan.) (14)-Straunge. This word seems to be exceptional and to be read (straaendzh'e). The Lansdowne MS. has straungere with the final e silent.
(15)-Ferne. An exceptional instance. Norman usage would, however, allow of its being read with the e elided before h, but Dr. Morris's conjecture that ferne = ferrene (cf. "of ferrene londe," Lay. 5328), enables us to read the line thus :—
(Te fer en or fern Haluu'es kuuth in sun'dri lond-es).
(16)-Ende, wende. See p. 92, for the reason why ende, wende, (end, wend).
(17)—Seeke, seeke. Neither word is entitled to exceptional treatment. Each may therefore be = (seek). (18)-Were. This word, like here (No. 12), is scarcely ever a dissyllable in Chaucer.
We have here in all 26 instances, excluding those in brackets, of final e, of which six are silent by elision before a vowel, or hath; and of the remaining 20 all except swete, zonge, smale, straunge, and perhaps ferne, are accounted for, more or less satisfactorily, by applying the tests adopted. It would hence appear that, taking these 18 lines as a sample of the whole of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a large majority of the final e's were not necessarily sounded by the readers of the Harleian MS. 7334. This conclusion, founded on external arguments, might, however, be modified when tested further by Chaucer's own practice, should we ever be able to distinguish it from that of the various Chaucerian scribes.
There seems then some reason to believe that the utterance of final e was in Chaucer's verse the exception, its silence
the rule, and that orthoepical superseded, when thought necessary or advisable, even grammatical considerations.
On the whole, then, it appears that, unless when required by the exigencies of the composition—and then exceptional usage was freely allowed-the evidence before us fails to show that the final e was ordinarily pronounced in English verse of the 14th century, while on the other hand there is a strong presumption that in the majority of instances it may have been silent.
Finally, it may be observed, that the uniformity of Norman pronunciation all over England in the 14th century, as attested by Trevisa,1 and the growing tendency at that time among Anglo-Norman writers to treat their final e as phonetically insignificant, may have had a considerable influence (as Mr. Skeat has suggested) in reducing the English final e to silence.
The principle which it was intended to maintain throughout this paper, namely, that the Norman and English pronunciation of the 13th and 14th centuries was substantially the same, and that they illustrate each other, has now, it is submitted, been in a general way made good.
The apologies which I owe my fellow members for the numerous errors which I am afraid may be found in the details of this long dissertation, I beg, in conclusion, to present in the words of an old Anglo-Norman poet :
Ore pri chescun qui lit e ot
Kar nest hom ki ne sumoile.
1 "Hyt semep a gret wondur hou; Englysch þat ys be burb-tonge of Englyschemen, and here oune longage and tonge ys so dyvers of soon (sound) in pis ylond, and be longage of Normandy ys comlying (a stranger) of ano per lond and hap on manere soon among all men pat spekep hyt aryzt in Engelond." Trevisa. (Morris's "Specimens, p. 339).
2 See his interesting Essay on Chaucer's versification (prefixed to the Aldine edition of Chaucer, Vol. I.), in which he confirms Price's theory respecting the "orthoepic" character of the final e in such words as bore, bone, fyre, etc., and also contends for the quiescence of the final e in a majority of the words derived from the Norman.
SPECIMENS OF CONJECTURED PRONUNCIATION OF NORMAN AND ENGLISH IN THE 13TH AND 14TH CENTURIES.
I. NORMAN-FRENCH OF THE 13TH CENTURY.
From "Specimens of Lyric Poetry," collated with Harleian MS. 2253.
Amour de femme moun cuer entame,
de fere un poy enveysure,
Pur sauver femme de tote blame, chescun devereit mettre cure;
Pur lamour de une dame,
que tot le mound en terre honure, Que femme esclaundre e met en fame ne vint unqe de bone nature; a veyr dyre,
Qui de femme dit vileynie, certes sa bouche empyre.
Beaute de femme passe rose,
qi le vodera bien iuger
En mounde n'i a si douce chose,
Qy femme dampne par tresoun
amuur de feem muun kuur entaam⚫
de feer uun puu en vesuur
ke tuut le muund en teer onuur*
ki de feem diit vilenii
betee de feeme pas e ros
ki le vudra ben dzhedzheer. en muund ni a si duus e tshos en letee puur ben ameer mees dzhe seertes ben diir'e los e si mesteer seet proveer
ke mavestee keen faus repos
feet sevent feem dees uuls lermeer. a tort
ki feem'e daam ne par tresuun
sertes sa nǝrtur dǝrt.
II. NORMAN-FRENCH OF THE 14TH CENTURY.
(The beginning of Pierre de Langtoft's Chronicle, from Cottonian MS.,
Deus le tot pussaunt,
ke ceel e terre crea,
Adam nostre pere
Ke homme de terre venuz
en terre revertira, Cil Deu ly beneye ke ben escotera
E pur quai primes
Bretaygne homme lapela.
Julius A. v.)
duus le tuut pesaaent
ke ben esku tera⚫
1 The original text is in long lines of eleven or twelve syllables. It is here
divided at the pause for convenience of printing.
III. ENGLISH OF THE 13TH CENTURY. SOUTHERN DIALECT.
(The beginning of the "Owl and the Nightingale," from Cottonian MS.
(The beginning of the Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, from
Whan that Aprille with his schowres
whan dhat apriil | with -is shuur es swoot
dhe druut of martsh | Hath pers'ed te dhe root
and baadh ed ev'ri veen | in switsh likuur.
of whitsh vertuu | endzhen dred is dhe fluur.
whan Zefiruus | eek with -is sweet'e breeth
enspiired Hath | in evri Holt and Heeth
dhe ten der kropes | and dhe Juqe sun
Hath in dhe Ram | -is Half kuurs ¿run
and smaale fuul es | maak en melodii dhat sleep en al dhe niit | with oop en ii soo prik eth -em nætuurin hər keraadzh'es
dhan loquen folk | te goon on pilgri maadzh.es.
and palmers for te seek en straaendzh'e strond'es
to fern Haluues | kuuth in sun dri lond⚫es
and spesialii | from ev'ri shiires end of Engelond to Kanterberi | dhee wend
dhu Hoo'li blis ful marter | for te seek dhat Hem Hath Holpen | whan dhat dhee wer seek.