It's a lovely annotation. Chaucer's rich old man January determines to marry, but won't take any older woman.
I wol no womman thritty yeer of age;
It is but bene-straw and greet forage.
And eek thise olde wydwes, God it woot,
They konne so muchel craft on Wades boot,
So muchel broken harm, whan that hem leste,
That with hem sholde I never lyve in reste.
Speght comments: “Concerning Wade and his bote called Guingelot, as also his strange exploits in the same, because the matter is long and fabulous, I passe it over.”
In the paper I gave at the London Chaucer conference last year, and again in my response to Carolyn Dinshaw in Hobart in December, I looked at the responses to this annotation, particularly the vexation of commentators who cannot help reveal their frustration at Speght, so much closer to Chaucer than we are, but unwilling — or unable — to fill in this unknown gap. Robinson said, "it has often been called the most exasperating note ever written on Chaucer”. Various scholars have explored traces of the story of Wade, but the Merchant's meaning here remains relatively obscure. I myself think that's part of the point: I read the Merchant as alluding to women's knowledge, lost beyond all traces of official (written, scholarly) culture.
I am writing up this part of the two papers, which are both really more about multiple temporalities and the relations between medieval studies and medievalism, for the La Trobe Journal of the Library, so I am really focussing on Speght's edition and the kinds of knowledge it presents about Chaucer.
How lovely that these books are only a bike ride away (well, they would be if I could get around to fixing my puncture).
I got home early afternoon, to find Joel still in his pyjamas, playing his gameboy with Holst's Planets Suite roaring away at top volume.
Paul came home soon after, regaling us with the Kafka-esque tale of the day he had spent at the Customs Office, the Quarantine Office, and the Ports office, filling out a thousand forms, and commissioning an agent in Queensland to fax the forms back and forth, to take delivery of the large egg-shell laquer panels he had bought in Vietnam. Here's a glimpse of a lotus flower:
The sun is still really hot, as I'm writing at 6.30; and it's still about 34 degrees outside. I took these photos just a half an hour ago: here's a pile of white table linen, bleached and soaked and sun-brightened after the Christmas and New Year festivities, awaiting the iron.
These range from the long rayon cloth that I think was part of my mother's trousseau; the length of damask she bought at the Victoria market and hemmed up for me; and the round cloth she embroidered with white flowers for my 21st birthday. This photo was taken inside, but you can get a glimpse of the bright sun in that line of light along the floor.
Outside the garden is struggling, and I'm amazed to see the gardenias are still able to put forth their flowers. They last about a day each, flaring up in the intense heat and light of the day, and softening into a heady perfume at night:
And finally, the crowning glory (etymological joke): the stephanotis plant we put in last year has just started flowering.
Again, you can see how harsh the sun is, but these flowers have been out for several days now. Their fragrance is more delicate than the gardenias, but I have always wanted to grow these, ever since my father told me I was named after the Greek ho stephanos, "crown, garland". And there's the link to Pavlov's Cat: Y is it so? Naming Australia's women, 1950-1955. Yeah, she says I'm out of her chronological range, but I still want to play.