mathematician and a man
of a thoughtful habit, the Host made fun of him, he tells us,
"Thou lookest as thou wouldst find a hare, For ever on the ground I see
The poet replied to the request for a tale by launching
a long-spun-out and ridiculous poem, intended to ridicule the popular
romances of the day, after twenty-two stanzas of which the company
refused to hear any more, and induced him to start another tale in
It is an interesting fact that in the "Parson's Prologue" Chaucer
little astronomical problem. In modern English
this reads somewhat as follows:—
sun from the south line
was descended so low
that it was
not to my
sight more than twenty-nine degrees.
I calculate that it was four
o'clock, for, assuming my height to be six feet, my shadow was eleven
feet, a little more or less.
At the same moment the moon's altitude
being in mid-Libra) was steadily increasing as we entered at the west
of the village."
A correspondent has taken the trouble to work this
and finds that the local time was 3.58 p.m., correct to a minute, and
that the day of the year was the 22nd or 23rd of April, modern
This speaks well for Chaucer's accuracy, for the first line of the
tells us that the pilgrimage was in April—they are supposed
to have set
out on 17th April 1387, as stated in No. 23.
Chaucer made this
little puzzle and
recorded it for the
of his readers, he did not venture to propound it to his
The puzzle that he gave them was of a simpler kind altogether: it may
called a geographical one.
"When, in the year 1372, I did go into Italy
as the envoy of our sovereign lord King Edward the Third, and while
did visit Francesco Petrarch, that learned poet did take me to the top
a certain mountain in his country.
Of a truth, as he did show me, a mug
will hold less liquor at the top of this mountain than in the valley
Prythee tell me what mountain this may be that has so strange
A very elementary knowledge of geography will suffice
for arriving at the correct answer.