And knew hir conseil, and was al hir reed.
A gerland hadde he set upon his heed,
Upon first reading this couplet the reader immediately gets the sense that they’re running out of breath. Chaucer uses repeated alliteration of the “h” sound to convey this idea. The definitions of some of the words illuminates the meaning of these lines. “Conseil” means secrets and “reed” is advice. The first line says that he even knew the secrets of children and had power over them to get them to do what he wanted. He is going to set a “gerland” “upon his heed”. While a “gerland” according to the OED is just a crown of flowers, it has religious connotations as well. Chaucer is alluding to Christ here, suggesting that the summoner is going to put a crown of thorns upon his head. Through the alliterative use of “h”, Chaucer helps to inspire fear and a Christ-like absolute power about the Summoner to the reader.
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