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In 1891 Koeppel suggested, on the basis of Chaucer's use of the 
phrase "old richesse," both in the Wife of Bath's Tale and in the 
balade on Gentilesse, that the Convivio had a place in Chaucer's 
library. But he adduced no further evidence than the striking 
correspondence, in passages having a common theme, of "old richesse" 
and antica ricchezza. 1 Eighteen years later Paget Toynbee, in his 
Dante in English Literature, quoted the passage on "gentillesse" from 
the Wife of Bath's Tale, and appended the following note: 

This discussion as to the true nature of nobility, though partly based on 
a passage in the De consolatione philosophiae (iii, pr. 6, met. 6) of Boethius, 
.... almost undoubtedly owes much to Dante's canzone on the subject 
prefixed to the fourth book of the Convivio; as does also the Balade of Gen- 
tillesse There is evidence to show that this canzone of Dante was 

the subject of discussion, in respect of his opinions as to what constitutes 
nobility, at a very early date. See for instance the account given by Lapo 
da Castiglionchio (ca. 1310-81) in the second part of the letter to his son 
Bernardo (ed. Mehus, Bologna, 1753, pp. 11 ff.) of the examination of Dante's 
arguments by the famous jurist, Bartolo da Sassoferrato (ca. 13 13-56) . 2 

Inasmuch as Koeppel bases his conclusion on a single phrase, 
and since the plan of Toynbee's work precluded the detailed state- 
ment of his evidence, there seems still to be a place for a fuller 
presentation than has hitherto been made of the grounds for believ- 
ing that Chaucer knew and used the Convivio. 

The canzone prefixed to the fourth Tractate of the Convivio deals 
with the nature of Gentilezza. Excluding the Preface and the tornata, 
it falls into two parts. The first is negative, and is devoted to the 
refutation of the view that Gentilezza depends on ancestral riches or 
on descent. The second is positive, and traces Gentilezza (or Nobil- 
tate) to its ultimate and only source in God. The Tractate that 
follows is a detailed commentary on the canzone, and poem and 

' See Anglia, XIII, 184-85. 

J Dante in English Literature, I, 14, n. 1. Koeppel's suggestion had long been 
known to me; Toynbee's note I read only after the present study was practically com- 

19] 19 [Modekn Philology, May, 1915 

20 John Livingston Lowes 

comment alike are suffused with Dante's singular nobility and lofti- 
ness of thought. And the twofold emphasis of the canzone is main- 
tained throughout the commentary; "gentillesse" does not derive 
from ancestral riches or ancestral stock; it does derive from God. 

Jean de Meun had also discussed gentillece at great length. 1 Like 
Dante he recognized that true nobility does not depend on birth. 
But his treatment of its relation to wealth is incidental, 2 and its 
source in God is not within his ken. That Chaucer drew on Jean 
de Meun's treatment, there can be no doubt. 3 But no one can read 
the two passages, I think, without feeling that in this case Jean de 
Meun's oat has been taken up into a strain of higher mood. The 
lines which Chaucer quotes from the Purgatorio give a clue to the 
heightening, but not the full solution. It is the spirit of the Convivio 
with which the whole treatment is pervaded. In other words, 
Chaucer seems to have done in this passage what in his maturer 
performance he does repeatedly. He has drawn upon all the sources 
of his inspiration, and has fused them — not dovetailed them, as in 
his earlier work — into a product that bears his own peculiar stamp. 
And in the present instance the fine democracy of Jean de Meun's 
conception of true nobility has been merged with Dante's loftier 
idealism, and both have been tempered by Chaucer's own broad 
humanity. That this is true, it is the task of this brief article to 

The key to Dante's negative treatment of the subject lies in the 
phrase of the emperor Frederick of Suabia, antica ricchezza. The 
phrase itself does not appear in the canzone, but it occurs six times in 
the body of the Tractate. It is used, as is well known, three times 
by Chaucer — twice in the Wife of Bath's Tale, once in the balade. 
But that is not all. Dante makes much of the implications of 
antica, in a characteristic discussion of time (in its relation to descent) 
as a supposed cause of nobility. His argument on this point reap- 
pears in Chaucer. His positive doctrine that God is the sole source 
of Gentikzza is fundamental and explicit in Chaucer's treatment too. 
And finally there are verbal parallels as well. I shall take up these 
points seriatim. 

i Roman de la Rose, 11. 19540-828 (ed. Michel). » See 11. 19760 ft. 

•Of., for example, D 1121-23 and RR, 19561-63; D 1150-51 and RR, 19818-21; 
etc. See further Fansler, Chaucer and the Roman de la Rose (1914), p. 221. 


Chaucer and Dante's "Convivio" 21 

The first division of the canzone opens with the following lines: 

Tale imperd che Gentilezza volse, 

Secondo '1 suo parere, 

Che fosse antica possession d'avere, 1 

Con reggimenti belli. 

Ed altri fu di piu lieve sapere, 

Che tal detto ri volse, 

E l'ultima particola ne tolse, 

Che non l'avea fors' elli. 

Di dietro da costui van tutti quelli 

Che fan gentile per ischiatta altrui, 

Che lungamente in gran ricchezza e stata: 2 

Ed 6 tanto durata 

La cosi falsa opinion tra nui, 

Che l'uom chiama colui 

Uomo gentil, che pud dicere: I' fui 

Nepote o figlio di cotal valente, 

Benche sia da niente. 3 

With this may at once be compared the opening of Chaucer's 


But for ye speken of swich gentillesse 
As is descended out of old richesse, 
That therefore sholden ye be gentil men, 
Swich arrogance is nat worth an hen. 4 

The general parallel is obvious enough, and the similarity of 
expression is scarcely less striking, even apart from the "old richesse," 
which is wanting in the canzone. 5 Of this phrase Chaucer's repeti- 
tions are as follows: 

Crist wol, we clayme of him our gentillesse, 
Nat of our eldres for hir old richesse.* 

Vyce may wel be heir to old richesse. 7 

1 Cf. : Heer may ye see wel, how that genterye 

Is nat annexed to possessioun [D 1146^17]. 

2 CI. D 1109-11, below. 

3 II Convivio, Trattato Quarto, Canzone Terza, vss. 21-37. I use throughout 
Moore's text (Tutte le Opere di Dante Alighieri, Oxford, 1904). With the last lines quoted 
above cf. D 1152-55: 

And he that wol han prys of his gentrye 
For he was boren of a gentil hous. 
And hadde hise eldres noble and vertuous, 
And nil hlm-selven do no gentil dedis, etc. 
See also below, p. 26. 

« D 1109-12. 

6 Except as it appears in "antica possession" and "gran ricchezza." 

' D 1117-18. i Genlilesse, 1. 15. 


22 John Livingston Lowes 

Its salient position in the Tractate may easily be made clear. 
Dante's exposition of the first words quoted from the canzone {Tale 
imperd) is as follows. When Frederick of Suabia was asked "che 
fosse Gentilezza," he replied: 

. . . . ch' era, "antica ricchezza," e be' costumi. E dico che "altri fu 
di piu lieve sapere," che, pensando e rivolgendo questa definizione in ogni 
parte, levd via l'ultima particola, cioe i "belli costumi," e tennesi alia prima, 
cio& all' "antica ricchezza"; e secondochfe '1 testo par dubitare, "forse per 
non avere i belli costumi," non volendo perdere il nome di Gentilezza, difinlo 
quella secondoche per lui facea, cioe "possessione d'antica ricchezza." 1 

The next six chapters of the Convivio constitute a digression upon 
the imperial authority; in chap, x Dante returns to his main theme. 
The Emperor's opinion regarding belli costumi he does not deem 
worthy of refutation. 2 It is Frederick's first phrase on which, 
throughout his whole negative argument, 3 he dwells. He begins with 
a statement to which we shall have to return : 4 

L'altra particola, che da natura di Nobilta k del tutto diversa, s'intende 
riprovare; la quale due cose par dire, quando dice antica ricchezza, cio6 
tempo e divizie, Ie quali da Nobilta sono del tutto diverse, com' h detto, e 
come di sotto si mostrera. 5 

A few lines farther on he reverts to the phrase: 

Poi dico "similemente lui errare," che pose della Nobilta falso suggetto, 
cioe antica ricchezza? 

And finally, in the fourteenth chapter, he treats it under the aspect 
already foreshadowed in the tenth : 

Riprovato l'altrui errore, quanto h in quella parte che alle ricchezze 
s'appoggiava, .... in quella parte che tempo diceva essere cagione di 
Nobilita, dicendo antica ricchezza; e questa riprovazione si fa in questa parte 
che comincia: "Ne voglion che vil uom gentil divegna." 7 

i IV, iii, 44-55. * Chaps, x-xv. « IV, x, 12-18. 

' See IV, x, 1-12. « See below, p. 23. « IV, x, 48-50. 

7 IV, xiv, 1-8. It is interesting to observe that Dante also uses the same phrase in 
his De monarchia: "Sed constat quod merito virtutis nobilitantur homines: virtutis 
videlicet propriae vel maiorum. Est enim nobilitas virtus et divitiae antiquae, juxta 
Philosophum in Politicis, et juxta Juvenalem: 

'Nobilitas animi sola est atque unica virtus.' 
Quae duae sententiae ad duas nobilitates dantur: proprium scilicet, et maiorum" (II, 
iii, 12-20). 

It is true (though it does not seem to have been noticed) that the words also occur in 
Jean de Meun: 


Chaucer and Dante's "Convivio" 23 

The emphatic recurrence in both writers of a striking phrase in a 
context of identical import has, as Koeppel felt, considerable weight. 
And I have already shown that the connection is much closer than 
Koeppel pointed out. It is, however, even more organic than has 
thus far been indicated. 

Besides the fallacy involved in ricchezza (namely the assumption 
of divizie as the source of Gentilezza) stands in Dante's argument the 
fallacy inherent in antica — the error, that is, of assuming that time 
(tempo), or the continuance of a single condition (questo processo 
d'una condizione), is the cause of nobility. 1 And upon this idea, 
which does not appear at all in Jean de Meun, Dante lays, in his 
fourteenth and fifteenth chapters, unusual stress. 

Se Nobilta non si genera di nuovo, siccome piii volte e detto che la loro 
opinione vuole, non generandola di vile uomo in lui medesimo, ne di vile 
padre in figlio, sempre e l'uomo tale quale nasce; e tale nasce quale il padre: 
e cosi questo processo d'una condizione e venuto infino dal primo parente; 
perche tale quale fu il primo generante, cioe Adamo, conviene essere tutta 
la umana generazione, che da lui alii moderni non si pud trovare per quella 
ragione alcuna trasmutanza. Dunque, se esso Adamo fu nobile, tutti siamo 
nobili; e se esso fu vile, tutti siamo vili; che non 6 altro. che torre via la 
distinzione di queste condizioni, e cosl 6 torre via quelle. E questo dice che 
di quello ch'6 messo dinanzi seguita, "che siam tutti gentili ower villani." 2 

SI troveroit toute la terre 

O ses richeces ancienes 

Et toutes choses terrienes; 

Et verroit proprement la mer, 

Et tous poissons qui ont amer, 

Et tres toutes choses marines, 

Iaues douces, troubles et fines, 

Et les choses grans et menues, 

En iaues douces contenues; 

Et l'air et tous les oisillons — 
and so on through all the elements (11. 21244 ft.). But the context is totally different — 
the account, namely, of what one sees in the Garden of Mirth — and the passage can 
scarcely have any bearing on the present case. 

1 See IV, x, 12-18 (quoted above, p. 22) , and add the immediately succeeding lines : 
"E pero riprovando si fanno due parti; prima si riprovano le divizie, poi si riprova il 
tempo essere cagione di Nobilta. La seconda parte comincia: 'N6 voglion che vil uom 
gentil divegna'" (IV, x, 18-23). 

! IV, xv, 19-38. Cf. the following, from the preceding chapter: "Dico adunque: 
' Ng voglion che vil uom gentil divegna.' Dov' S da sapere che opinione di questi erranti 
8, che uomo prima villano, mai gentile uomo dicer non si possa; e uomo che figlio sia di 
villano, similmente mai dicer non si possa gentile. E ci6 rompe la loro sentenza medesima 
quando dicono che tempo si richiede a Nobilta, ponendo questo vocabolo antico; perocch' 
6 impossibile per processo di tempo venire alia generazione di Nobilta per questa loro 
ragione che detta 6, la qual toglie via che villano uomo mai possa essere gentile per opera 
che faccia, o per alcuno accidente; e toglie via la mutazione di villan padre in gentil 
figlio; che, se '1 figlio del villano S pur villano, e '1 flglio suo fla pur figlio di villano, e cosl 
fla anche villano il suo flglio; e cosi sempre mai non sara a trovare la dove Nobilta per 
processo di tempo si cominci" (IV, xiv, 18-39). 


24 John Livingston Lowes 

We have already seen that Chaucer follows Dante in his emphasis 
on the error regarding "old richesse." He follows him no less closely 
in this peculiarly characteristic treatment of the processo d'una con-' 
dizione, implicit in antica. For in a striking paragraph he too declares 
that if "gentillesse" were a matter of direct descent, a stock once 
gentle could never cease to be what it first was. 

Eek every wight wot this as wel as I, 
If gentillesse were -planted naturelly 1 
Un-to a certeyn linage, doun the lyne, 
Privee ne apert, than wolde they never fyne 
To doon of gentillesse the faire offyce; 
They mighte do no vileinye or vyce? 

Chaucer has, to be sure, reversed the emphasis of Dante's exposition 
from "once base, always base" to "once gentle, always gentle" — 
a change which grows out of the requirements of his Tale. 3 But, the 
argument is Dante's argument. 4 

In a word, Dante's negative treatment of the source of Gentilezza 
involves the implications not only of ricchezza, but also of antica. 
The bearing of the first is fairly obvious; that of the second is char- 
acterized by Dante's own intellectual subtlety. And both reappear 
in Chaucer* — the first with the repetition of Dante's very phrase; the 
second, with a masterly compression of the essence of two long chap- 
ters into a passage of six lines. 5 

1 Cf. IV, i, 47-49: "Questo 8 l'errore dell' umana bonta, in quanto In nol 8 daUa 
natura seminata, e che Nobiltade chiamar si dee." 

2 D 1133-38. 

• It is perhaps due in part, as well, to the fact that the apt figure from Boethius' 
discussion of dignitees, of which he makes such consummately effective (and organic) 
use, suggested itself to him at just this point. 

4 The reference to Adam and Eve in a discussion of "gentillesse" is of course a 
commonplace. See the Parson's Tale, I, 460; Confessio Amantis, IV, 2222 ff. ; Wyclif 
(ed. Arnold), III, 125; etc. But the turn which Dante (and after him Chaucer) gives to 
the familiar argument is Dante's own. 

6 Fansler calls attention {Chaucer and the Roman de la Rose, p. 105) to Koeppel's 
derivation of Chaucer's use of "nacioun" (D 1068) from Jean de Meun's "Par noblece 
de nacion" (RR, 19545), and, with his usual admirable caution, expresses doubt of any 
necessary connection. It is at least worth noting that nazion, in precisely Chaucer's 
sense, occurs in 1. 63 of the canzone: "N8 di vil padre scenda Nazion, che per gentil 
giammai s'intenda." But as in the case of Jean de Meun, so here the parallel is without 
real significance. Nassion occurs in Baudouin de Cond6's Li Contes de Gentilleche (a 
poem which I am strongly inclined to think Chaucer knew), 1. 11: "Qui gentius est de 
nassion." See also Jean de Condfi's Li Dis de Gentillesse, 1. 148: " Erent gentil de nacion." 
My only reason for referring to the word here is to point out that its use by Jean de Meun 
has no bearing on the case. 


Chaucer and Dante's "Convivio" 25 

The correspondence in the positive phase of the discussion is no 
less striking. The conclusion of the canzone is explicit: 

Perd nessun si vanti 

Dicendo: Per ischiatta io son con lei; 

Ch'elli son quasi Dei 

Que' c' han tal gratia fuor di tutti rei: 

Che solo Iddio all' anima la dona, 

Che vede in sua persona 

Perfettamente star; sicche ad alquanti 

Lo seme di felicita s'accosta, 

Messo da Dio nelT anima ben posta. 1 

And the comment merely elaborates what the canzone states: 

Poi quando dice: "Che solo Iddio all' anima la dona"; ragione e del 
suscettivo, cioe del suggetto, dove questo divino dono discende, ch' e bene 
divino dono, secondo la parola dell' Apostolo: "Ogni ottimo dato e ogni 
dono perfetto di suso viene, discendendo dal Padre de' lumi." Dice adunque 
che Iddio solo porge questa grazia all' anima di quello, cui vede stare per- 
fettamente nella sua persona acconcio e disposto a questo divino atto 
ricevere. 2 

Precisely so in Chaucer: 

Thy gentillesse cometh fro god allone; 
Than comth our verray 3 gentillesse of grace.* 

Dante's entire argument, accordingly, both negative and positive, 
is resumed in Chaucer's lines — not formally, but with a complete 
assimilation of its content and with an untrammeled adaptation of 
it to the more flexible structural outlines of the Tale. 6 

<■ Ll. 112-19. 

« IV, xx, 47-57. Cf. IV, xx, 24-28: "E rende incontanente ragione, dicendo, che 
quelli che hanno questa grazia, cioS questa divina cosa, sono quasi come Dei, senza 
macola di vizio. E cid dare non pu6, se non Iddio solo." The whole of the nineteenth 
and twentieth chapters should be read. 

• The last words of the preceding chapter (which sum up its theme) are: "ch* 6 
allora frutto di vera nobilta" (IV, xix, 97-98). 

* D 1162-63. Cf. 1. 1117, and the balade, 11. 19-20. 

5 The context in the Purgatorio of the lines which Chaucer quotes ( D 1125-30) 
embodies once more the doctrine of the Convivio as regards descent, and that it should 
have suggested itself to Chaucer is far more natural than the three lines indicate, when 
taken by themselves. Dante, at the close of the seventh canto of the Purgatorio, is 
speaking of Peter of Aragon and of his son Alphonso, as contrasted with his other two 
sons, James and Frederick. Peter, he says, 

D'ogni valor portd cinta la corda; 
E se re dopo luf fosse rimaso 

Lo giovinetto che retro a iui siede. 

Bene andava il valor di vaso in vaso; 


26 John Livingston Lowes 

To the verbal parallels already indicated above may be added 
at least one more. Lines 1152-58 in Chaucer are as follows: 

And he that wol han prys of his gentrye 
For he was boren of a gentil hous, 
And hadde hise eldres noble and vertuous, 
And nil him-selven do no gentil dedis, 
Ne folwe his gentil auncestre that deed is, 
He nis nat gentil, be he duk or erl; 
For vileyns sinful dedes make a cherl. 

The general correspondence of these lines with 11. 34-37 of the 
canzone has been already pointed out. The parallel with the phras- 
ing of the commentary is closer still : 

E cosl quelli che dal padre o da alcuno suo maggiore di schiatta e nobili- 
tato, e non persevera in quella, non solamente e vile, ma vilissimo, e degno 
d'ogni dispetto e vituperio pin che altro villano. 1 

And finally, it is worth noting that the Loathly Lady's discussion of 
•poverty stands in close relation to Dante's exposition of riches as 
cagione di male. For Dante too quotes Juvenal's lines, and in an 
almost identical context: 

Verray povert, it singeth proprely; 
Juvenal seith of povert merily: 
" The povre man, whan he goth by the weye, 
Bifore the theves he may singe and pleye." 1 

Ben lo sanno li miseri mercatanti che per lo mondo vanno, che le foglie, 
che '1 vento fa dimenare, li fan tremare, quando seco ricchezze portano; 
e quando senza esse sono, pieni di sicurta cantando e ragionando fanno lor 
cammino piu brieve. E perb dice il Savio: "se vdto camminatore entrasse 
net cammino, dinanzi a' ladroni canterebbe." 3 

Che non si puote dir dell' altre rede; 
Jacomo e Federico hanno i reami; 
Del retaggio miglior nessun possiede. 

Then come the lines which Chaucer quotes: 

Rade volte risurge per li rami 
L'umana probitate: e questo vuole 
Quei che la da, perche da lui si chiami [Purg., VII, 114-23]. 

The relation to the theme of the Convivio is obvious, and the turn which Chaucer 
gives the passage from valor and probitate to gentilezza makes it clear that the association 
was in his mind. 

' IV, vii, 87-92. The same general idea appears in Jean de Meun, 11. 19788-801. 
But a comparison will leave little question of Chaucer's immediate source. 

2D 1191-94. 

•IV, xiii, 101-10. Poverty also appears in the conventional discussions of "gentil- 
lesse." See, for example, the passage in Gower referred to above (p. 24, a. 4). But 
once more Chaucer and Dante elaborate the convention in the same way. 


Chaucer and Dante's "Convivio" 27 

That the balade on Gentilesse is Chaucer's elaboration of Dante's 
positive argument in the canzone, under the ever-present influence 
of Jean de Meun as well, it is now not difficult to see. The negative 
element appears, of course, in the "old richesse" of line 15. But 
that the canzone was very definitely in Chaucer's mind appears 
unmistakably from the fifth and sixth lines: 

For unto vertu longetk dignitee, 

And noght the revers, saufly dar I deme. 

E Gentilezza dovunque e virtute, 
Ma non virtute ov' ella; 
Siccome e '1 cielo dovunque e la Stella, 
Ma cid non e converso. 1 

In Chaucer's treatment of "gentilesse," then, there is a charac- 
teristic mingling of all the springs of his inspiration. As in the 
Fortune balade, Jean de Meun, Boethius, and Dante 2 are all present — 
the heart of their teaching grasped and assimilated in Chaucer's own 
thought, and fused in a new and individual expression by his ripened 
art. There is here no question of originality. Few passages in 
Chaucer — unless it be the Fortune balade itself — show with greater 
clearness his consummate gift of gathering together and embodying 
in a new unity the disjecta membra of the dominant beliefs and 
opinions of his day. To overlook that in any study of external 
influences on Chaucer is to take the chaff and leave the corn. 3 

If the Convivio was known to Chaucer, the question at once arises: 
Was his use of it confined to the great exposition of Gentilezza f I 
think it was not. I shall make no attempt to adduce all the possible 
parallels. Two passages in the House of Fame, however, seem to be 
reasonably clear. 

The lines that introduce the eagle's demonstration of the way in 
which all sounds at last arrive inevitably at the House of Fame 4 have 

i Ll. 101-4. 

2 In that case Deschamps too! In a volume on the French Influences on Chaucer, 
now in preparation, I shall have occasion to deal more fully with the merging, especially 
In Chaucer's later borrowings, of many sources. The instance under discussion is 
absolutely typical. 

' I have discussed certain other matters connected with the Wife of Bath's discourse 
on "gentillesse" in an examination of Professor Tupper's doctrine regarding Chaucer and 
the Seven Deadly Sins, which will shortly appear in the Publications of the Modern 
Language Association of America. 

« HF , 11. 729-45. 


28 John Livingston Lowes 

been variously fathered. Rambeau's ascription of them to the 
influence of Paradiso, I, 109-17, 1 can scarcely be accepted. That 
Boethius and perhaps Jean de Meun are again involved is pretty 
clear. 2 But there are indications also of Chaucer's reading of the 
Convivio. The eagle's exposition begins thus: 

Geffrey, thou wost right wel this, 
That every kindly thing that is, 
Hath a kindly stede ther he 
May best in hit conserved be; 
Unto which place every thing, 
Through his kindly enclyning, 
Moveth for to come to, 
When that hit is awey therfro; 
As thus; etc. 3 

Fansler observes regarding these lines: "In the Convito, Treatise 
III, chap. 3, we find this same idea expressed by Dante, who was 
doubtless following Boethius, as was Chaucer." 4 Of that there can 
be no question. But was Chaucer not following Dante too ? One 
striking detail in the eagle's elucidation is the constant repetition of 
"kindly stede" or its equivalent: 

Thus every thing, by this resoun, 
Hath his propre mansioun.* 

And that the mansioun, y-wis, 

That every thing enclyned to is, 

Hath his kindeliche stede: 

Than sheweth hit, withouten drede, 

That kindely the mansioun 

Of every speche, of every soun .... 

Hath his kinde place in air. 6 

Hit seweth, every soun, pardee, 

Moveth kindely to pace 

Al up into his kindely place.'' 

1 Englische Studien, III, 247—48. See Sypherd, Studies in Chaucer's Hous of Fame, 
pp. 61, 95-97. 

*With Chaucer's "Light thing up, and dounward charge" (1. 746) cf. Boethius: 
"sursum levltas .... deorsum pondus" (Lib. Ill, Prosa 11), which appears In Jean 
de Meun (11. 17700-701) as "Les legiSres en haut volSrent, Les pesans ou centre ava- 
lerent" (see Koeppel, Anglia, XIV, 246). 

• HF, 11. 729-37. * Chaucer and the Roman de la Rose, p. 216. 

» LI. 753-54. » LI. 827-34. 7 LI. 840-42. 


Chaucer and Dante's "Convivio" 29 

In Boethius this appears merely as loca (without repetition) in 
the phrase: "nisi quod haec singulis loca motionesque conveniunt"; 
in Jean de Meun (again without repetition), as "leus convenables." 
I shall quote a few sentences from the beginning of the third chapter 
of the third Tractate of the Convivio: 

Onde e da sapere che ciascuna cosa, siccome e detto di sopra, per la 
ragione di sopra mostrata, ha '1 suo speziale amore, come le corpora semplici 
hanno amore naturato in se al loro loco propria, e perd la terra sempre di- 
scende al centro, il fuoco alia circonferenza di sopra lungo '1 cielo della luna, 
e perd sempre sale a quello. Le corpora composte prima, siccome sono le 

miniere, hanno amore al loco, dove la loro generazione e ordinata Le 

piante, che sono prima animate, hanno amore a certo loco piil manifestamente 
. . . . le quali, se si trasmutano, o muoiono del tutto o vivono quasi triste, 
siccome cose disgiunte dal loco amico. Gli animali bruti hanno piil manifesto 
amore non solamente al loco, ma 1'uno l'altro vedemo amare. 1 

Chaucer's striking emphasis, which is also Dante's, is found in 
neither of his other sources, and it seems reasonable to suppose, in 
the light of independent evidence of his knowledge of the Convivio, 
that its influence is present here. The discussion in the Convivio 
starts from precisely the passage in Boethius from which Chaucer 
took his cue. 2 It passes beyond it into subtleties with which Chaucer 
for the moment was not concerned. But its insistent phraseology 
seems to have stuck in his mind*. 

There is still another passage in the House of Fame which seems 
to betray the same source. 

"Now," quod he tho, "cast up thyn ye; 
See yonder, lo, the Galaxye, 
Which men clepeth the Milky Wey, 
For hit is whyt: and somme, parfey, 
Callen hit Watlinge Strete: 
That ones was y-brent with hete, 
Whan the sonnes sone, the rede, 
That highte Pheton, wolde lede 
Algate his fader cart, and gye." 3 

• III. Hi. 5-33. 

* Cf. with the close of the first sentence quoted above Irom the ConvMo the citations 
on p. 28, n. 2. 

» H F, 11. 935-43. 


30 John Livingston Lowes 

Rambeau referred this passage to the Inferno, 1 where the connec- 
tion between the galaxy and Phaeton's journey is implied. But the 
galaxy is not specifically named and the allusion (though undoubted) 
is by no means obvious. In the fifteenth chapter of the second 
Tractate of the Convivio, however, Dante is dealing with the galaxy 
explicitly. I shall quote two passages from the beginning of the 

. . . . e siccome la Galassia, cioe quello bianco cerchio, che il vulgo 
chiama la Via di santo Jacopo.* .... Perche e da sapere che di quella 
Galassia li filosofi hanno avuto diverse opinioni. Che li Pittagorici dissero 
che '1 sole alcuna fiata 3 errd nella sua via, e, passando per altre parti non 
convenienti al suo fervore, arse il luogo, per lo quale passd; e rimasevi quell' 
apparenza dell' arsura. E credo che si mossero dalla favola di Fetonte, la 
quale narra Ovidio nel principio del secondo di Metamorfoseos* 

The substitution of the English "Watling Street" for Dante's 
"Via di santo Jacopo" (cf. "somme .... callen hit" with "il 
vulgo chiama") is the obvious thing. And the explicit connec- 
tion in both (even to verbal agreement) of the origin of the galaxy 
with the story of Phaeton — which Chaucer characteristically proceeds 
to summarize — is too striking to need comment. It is of course 
possible that Chaucer may have known the connection from some 
other source. No other, so far as I know, has been pointed out, and 
in view once more of independent evidence of his acquaintance with 
the Convivio, it seems highly probable that he recalled it here. 

There is another passage — this time in an unexpected and even 
incongruous setting — which contains an unmistakable reminiscence 
of the Convivio. Two lines in the Compleynt of Mars I have long 
suspected, from their tone and phraseology, to be a borrowing from 
Dante, but no definite suggestion for them appears in the Divine 
Comedy. In point of fact, Chaucer is recalling the doctrine of the 
most intricate and baffling section of the Convivio, in which Dante 
explains and interprets the conflict between his two loves. The 
second Tractate opens with the canzone beginning: "Voi che 
intendendo il terzo ciel movete," addressed to the Intelligences who 
move the third heaven. The passage in Chaucer, unequivocal 

i Inf. XVII, 106-8 (cf. Purg., IV, 71-72). See Englische Studien. Ill, 245-46. 
2 II, xv, 8-10. • Cf. Chaucer's "ones." « II, xv, 45-5S. 


Chaucer and Dante's "Convivio" 31 

as the reminiscence is, does not involve the more complex subtleties 
of Dante's argument, and for our purpose these may happily be 
disregarded. The lines, in their context, are these: 

The firste tyrne, alas! that I was wroght, 
And for certeyn effectes hider broght 

By him that lordeth ech intelligence, 
I yaf my trewe servise and my thoght, 
For evermore — how dere I have hit boght! — 

To hir, that is of so gret excellence, etc. 1 

In the fifth chapter of the second Tractate Dante discusses the 
Intelligenze at length, and a few lines may be quoted: 

Poich' e mostrato nel precedente capitolo quale e questo terzo cielo e 
come in se medesimo e disposto, resta a dimostrare chi sono questi che '1 
muovono. E adunque da sapere primamente, che li movitori di quello sono 
Sustanze separate da materia, cioe Intelligenze, le quali la volgare gente chia- 

ma Angeli Altri furono, siccome Plato, uomo eccellentissimo, che 

puosono non solamente tante Intelligenze, quanti sono li movimenti del cielo, 
ma eziandio quante sono le spezie delle cose . . . . e vollero, che siccome le 
Intelligenze de' cieli sono generatrici di quelli, ciascuna del suo, cosl queste 
fossero generatrici dell' altre cose, ed esempli ciascuna della sua spezie; e 
chiamale Plato Idee, che tanto e a dire, quanto forme e nature universali. 
Li Gentili le chiamavano Dei e Dee, etc. 2 

In this same chapter the effects (effetti) of the Intelligences are 
referred to, but it is in the ninth chapter that this phase of the 
subject is explicitly treated: 

Potrebbe dire alcuno: conciossiacosachS amore sia effetto di queste Intel- 
ligenze (a cui io parlo), e quello di prima fosse amore cosi come questo di poi, 
perche la loro virtu corrompe l'uno, e l'altro genera ? .... A questa qui- 
stione si pud leggiermente rispondere, che lo effetto di costoro e amore, come 
e detto 3 

The emphasis on "effect" is Dante's own: "Dico effetto, in quanto," 
etc. 4 

In Chaucer's lines, now, it must be remembered that it is Mars — 
that is, one of the Intelligences themselves 6 — who is speaking, and 

i Ll. 164-69. 

' II, v. 1-8, 20-25, 28-35. Juno, Vulcan, Minerva, and Ceres are then mentioned. 
' II. ix, 22-27, 31-33. CI. also II, vi, 109-19. « II, ix, 43-44. 

6 Cf. II, vi, 105 ft. Into Chaucer's variation from Dante in his use of "the third 
heaven" (1. 29) it is not here necessary to go. Mars is not, strictly speaking, one of the 


32 John Livingston Lowes 

as such he declares that he has been brought hither for "certeyn [i.e., 
fixed, determined] effectes." In other words, he was brought and 
set in his place for the effetti that belong to the Intelligences — " [e] lo 
effetto di costoro e amore." 1 And the reference to "him that lordeth 
ech intelligence" is no less clear. The canzone is directly addressed, 
as we have seen, to the Intelligences, and in the address Dante names 
his "soave pensier," that went often "a' pie del vostro Sire." 2 In 
the comment this line receives its explanation: ". . . . questo pen- 
siero che se ne gia spesse volte a' pie del Sire di costoro a cui io parlo, 
ch' e Iddio." 3 

Chaucer's lines, accordingly, in the light of their source, are clear. 
Mars complains that as one of the Intelligences he was created by 
his lord — "the god that sit so hye" (1. 218) — to fulfil the very end 
of his existence, which end was love. He has loved — has given to 
his lady his true service and his thought, and his love has ended in 
"misaventure." The cause of his complaint, on which he lays such 
stress, 4 lies therefore deep enough. The fact that Dante's whole 
doctrine of the Intelligences is implicit in two lines is evidence again 
of Chaucer's power of assimilation. And his ability to "reject what 
cannot clear him" 6 is no less striking. For what he takes from the 
Convivio (as well as how he takes it) and what he leaves are equally 

There are other passages that Chaucer may have drawn from the 
Convivio, but there are equally possible sources elsewhere. The lines 
invoking the "firste moeving cruel firmament" in the Man of Law's 
Tale* are in striking accord, in their phraseology, with certain state- 
ments of the Convivio. 7 But in this case Chaucer and Dante may be, 

Intelligences of the third heaven. But Chaucer's whole conception in the poem is as far 
removed from that of Dante's canzone as the conception of the House of Fame is remote 
from that of the Divine Comedy, and his recollection of certain phrases must be treated, 
in the one case as in the other, independently of any idea that he is following in Dante's 
footsteps in his plan. It is only a single idea and its phraseology that is involved. 

1 For the indubitable astrological significance of the next stanza, which describes the 
lady, see Manly, Harvard Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature, V, 125-26. 

» Canzone, 11. 14-16. ! II, viii, 38^10. 

* See the preceding stanza throughout. 

8 The whole passage in Arnold (The Second Best, 11. 13-19) is rather curiously applic- 
able to Chaucer. 

• B 295-98. 

» See II, vi, 145-151; II, iii, 39-45; II, iv, 19-27. 


Chaucer and Dante's "Convivio" 33 

and probably are, drawing on a common source. 1 The "Etik" pas- 
sage in the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women finds an interesting 
parallel in the canzone upon which Chaucer drew for his account of 

.... for "vertu is the mene," 

As Etik saith. 2 

Virtute intendo, che fa Puom felice 

In sua operazione. 

Quest' e (secondocM V Etica dice) 

Un abito eligente, 

ho qual dimora in mezzo solamente. 3 

But, as I have pointed out elsewhere, 4 there is a similar passage 
in John of Salisbury, and as between the two, honors seem easy. 6 
Such parallels as the two just cited, accordingly, are inconclusive, 
even though the list might easily be lengthened. 

The correspondences, however, in the cases of the Wife of Bath's 
Tale, the Gentilesse balade, the House of Fame, and the Compleynt of 
Mars, are of a different character, and they seem to establish beyond 
doubt the conclusion tentatively suggested by Koeppel and Paget 
Toynbee. And the addition of the Convivio to Chaucer's library is 
an important one. 

John Livingston Lowes 
Washington University 

i See Skeat's note on I. 295 (Oxford Chaucer, V, 148-49). 
* Prologue, B-version, 11. 165-66. 

'IV, canzone, 11. 83-87. Cf. IV, xx, 8-10: "dunque ognl Virtute .... cioi 
Vabito elettivo consistente net mezzo." 

' Modern Language Notes, XXV (March, 1910), 87-89. 

» The context in the Convivio, however, is closer than in the Polycraticus to the context 

in the Legend.