The Sources of Chaucer's Summoner's 'Garleek, Onyons, and eek Lekes'. Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • The spicy diet preferred by Chaucer's Summoner has been variously interpreted as an irritant or cause of his leprosy or syphilis, a cause of his sexual desire, or a reference to Numbers 11:5, in which the backsliding Hebrew emigrants fondly remember these Egyptian foods. This latter contention, adduced by Professor R. E. Kaske, is supported by a passage in Book III of John Gower's Vox clamantis (c. 1382), in which worldly prelates are said to prefer onions and leeks to manna. The same idea appears in Peter Riga's Aurora (c. 1200), which Chaucer also knew. Perhaps he drew on both passages. In any case, Chaucer is more transparent than either Gower or Riga, and by omitting any reference to manna he makes the Biblical allusion more verisimilar. Moreover, Chaucer changes the subject of the details from a priest to a Summoner, possibly because he wished to present the portrait of a good priest along with a good knight and a worthy plowman in order to find some saving grace in each of the three estates denigrated by Gower in the major sections of Vox clamantis.

publication date

  • 1971