By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose
Author: Various
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)

[Transcriber's Note: This text has words or letters enclosed in caret
brackets < > that were added by the author to complete the manuscript;
corrupt readings retained in the text are indicated in the original by
daggers ††. #Bold# text has been marked by #; _underscores_ have
been used to indicate _italic_ fonts; an emphasis by font change of
single letters within an _it~a~lic_ context has been indicated by ~. For
transcription of unusual letters and errata see the Transcriber's Note
at the end. Original spelling variants and punctuation have not been
standardized. The companion volume, _A Middle English Vocabulary,
designed for use with SISAM's Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose_, by
J. R. R. Tolkien is available at PG #43737.]

Fourteenth Century


edited by





      Oxford University Press
      _London   Edinburgh   Glasgow   Copenhagen
      New York   Toronto   Melbourne   Cape Town
      Bombay   Calcutta   Madras   Shanghai_
      Humphrey Milford
      Publisher to the UNIVERSITY




      MAP                                                       viii
      INTRODUCTION                                                ix

        The Dancers of Colbek                                      4
      II. SIR ORFEO                                               13
        How Mercy increases Temporal Goods                        33
      IV. RICHARD ROLLE OF HAMPOLE                                36
        A. Love is Life                                           37
        B. The Nature of the Bee                                  41
        C. The Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost                      42
      V. SIR GAWAYNE AND THE GRENE KNIGHT                         44
        The Testing of Sir Gawayne                                46
      VI. THE PEARL, ll. 361-612                                  57
        Prologue                                                  69
        The XXXI Book: Of the Passage of the Grekys fro Troy      72
      VIII. PIERS PLOWMAN                                         76
        A. From the B-Text, Passus VI                             78
        B. From the C-Text, Passus VI                             89
      IX. MANDEVILLE'S TRAVELS                                    94
        Ethiopia.—Of Diamonds                                     96
        Beyond Cathay                                            100
        Epilogue                                                 104
      X. JOHN BARBOUR'S BRUCE                                    107
        An Assault on Berwick (1319)                             108
      XI. JOHN WICLIF                                            115
        A. The Translation of the Bible                          117
        B. Of Feigned Contemplative Life                         119
      XII. JOHN GOWER                                            129
        A. Ceix and Alceone                                      131
        B. Adrian and Bardus                                     137
          POLYCHRONICON                                          145
        A. The Marvels of Britain                                146
        B. The Languages of Britain                              148
      XIV. POLITICAL PIECES                                      151
        A. On the Scots, by Minot                                152
        B. The Taking of Calais, by Minot                        153
        C. On the Death of Edward III                            157
        D. John Ball's Letter to the Peasants of Essex           160
        E. On the Year 1390-1                                    161
      XV. MISCELLANEOUS PIECES IN VERSE                          162
        A. Now Springs the Spray                                 163
        B. Spring                                                164
        C. Alysoun                                               165
        D. The Irish Dancer                                      166
        E. The Maid of the Moor                                  167
        F. The Virgin's Song                                     167
        G. Judas                                                 168
        H. The Blacksmiths                                       169
        I. Rats Away                                             170
      XVI. THE YORK PLAY 'HARROWING OF HELL'                     171
      XVII. THE TOWNELEY PLAY OF NOAH                            185

      NOTES                                                      204

[Illustration: Names of Middle English texts placed on a map of England
and Wales.]



Two periods of our early history promise most for the future of English
literature—the end of the seventh with the eighth century; the end of
the twelfth century with the thirteenth.

In the first a flourishing vernacular poetry is secondary in importance
to the intellectual accomplishment of men like Bede and Alcuin (to name
only the greatest and the last of a line of scholars and teachers) who,
drawing their inspiration from Ireland and still more from Italy direct,
made all the knowledge of the time their own, and learned to move easily
in the disciplined forms of Latin prose.

During the second the impulse again came from without. In
twelfth-century France the creative imagination was set free. In
England, which from the beginning of the tenth century had depended more
and more on France for guidance, the nobles, clergy, and entertainers,
in whose hands lay the fortunes of literature, had a community of
interest with their French compeers that has never since been
approached. So England shared early in the break with tradition; and
during the thirteenth century the native stock is almost hidden by the
brilliant growth of a new graft.

Every activity of the mind was quickened. A luxuriant invention of forms
distinguished the Gothic style in architecture. All the decorative arts
showed a parallel enrichment. Oxford (at least to insular eyes) was
beginning to rival Paris in learning, and to contribute to the
over-production of clerks which at first extended the province of the
Church, and finally, by breaking the bounds set between ecclesiastics
and laymen, played an important part in the secularization of letters.
The friars, whose foundation was the last great reform of the mediaeval
Church, were at the height of their good fame; and one of them, the
Franciscan Roger Bacon, by his work in philosophy, criticism, and
physical science, raised the name of English thinkers to an eminence
unattained since Bede. If among the older monastic orders feverish and
sometimes extravagant reforms are symptoms of decline, the richness of
Latin chronicles like those of Matthew Paris of St. Albans is evidence
that in some of the great abbeys the monks were still learned and
eloquent. Nor was Latin the only medium in which educated Englishmen
were at home. They wrote French familiarly, and to some extent repaid
their debt to France by transcribing and preserving Continental
compositions that would else have perished.

Apart from all these activities, the manifestations of a new spirit in
English vernacular works are so important, and the break with the past
is so sharp, that the late twelfth century and the thirteenth would be
chosen with more justice than Chaucer's time as the starting-point for a
study of modern literature.

Then romance was established in English, whether we use the word to mean
the imaginative searching of dark places, or in the more general sense
of story-telling unhampered by a too strict regard for facts. Nothing is
more remarkable in pre-Conquest works than the Anglo-Saxon's dislike of
exaggeration and his devotion to plain matter of fact. Here is the
account of the whales in the far North that King Alfred received from
Ohthere (a Norseman, of course, but it is indifferent):—'they are eight
and forty ells long, and the biggest fifty ells long'. Compare with this
parsimony the full-blooded description of the griffins in
_Mandeville_:—'But o griffoun hath the body more gret, and is more
strong, þanne eight lyouns, of suche lyouns as ben o this half; and more
gret and strongere þan an hundred egles suche as we han amonges vs,
&c.', and you have a rough measure of the progress of fiction.

To take pleasure in stories is not a privilege reserved for favoured
generations: but special conditions had transformed this pleasure into a
passion. When Edward I became King in 1272, Western Europe had enjoyed a
long period of internal peace, during which national hatreds burnt low.
The breaking down of barriers between Bretons and French, Welsh and
English, brought into the main stream of European literature the Celtic
vein of idealism and delicate fancy. At the universities, in the
Crusades, in the pilgrimages to Rome or Compostella, the nations
mingled, each bringing from home some contribution to the common stock
of stories; each gaining new experiences of the outside world, fusing
them, and repeating them with embellishments. To those who stayed at
home came the minstrels in the heyday of their craft—they were freemen
of every Christian land who reported whatever was marvellous or
amusing—and at second hand the colours of the rediscovered world seemed
no less brave. It was an age greedy for entertainment that fed a rich
sense of comedy on the jostling life around it; and to serve its ideals
called up the great men of the past—Orpheus opening the way to
fairyland, the heroes of the Trojan war, Alexander; Arthur and the
Knights of the Round Table and Merlin the enchanter; Charlemagne with
his peers—or won back from the shadows not Eurydice alone, but Helen
and Criseyde, Guinevere and Ysolde, Rymenhild and Blauncheflour.

While she still claimed to direct public taste, the Church could not be
indifferent to the spread of romance. A policy of uniform repression was
no longer possible. Her real power to suppress books was ineffective to
bind busy tongues and minds; popular movements were assured of a measure
of practical tolerance when order competed with order and church with
church for the goodwill of the people; and even if the problem had been
well defined, a disciplined attitude unvarying throughout all the
divisions of the Church was not to be expected when her mantle covered
clerks ranging in character from the strictest ascetic to that older
Falstaff who passed under the name of Golias and found his own Muse in
the tavern,—

      _Tales versus facio quale vinum bibo;
      Nihil possum scribere nisi sumpto cibo;
      Nihil valet penitus quod ieiunus scribo,—
      Nasonem post calices carmine praeibo!_

So it came about that while some of the clergy denounced all minstrels
as 'ministers of Satan', others made a truce with the more honest among
them, and helped them to add to their repertories the lives of saints.
Officially 'trifles and trotevales' were still censured: but it seemed
good to mould the _chansons de geste_ to pious uses,[1] and to purify
the court of King Arthur, which popularity had led into dissolute ways,
by introducing the quest of the Graal. And if Rolle preached sound
doctrine when he ranked among the Sins of the Mouth 'to syng seculere
sanges and lufe þam', their style and music were not despised as baits
to catch the ears of the frivolous: when a singer began

      Ase y me rod þis ender dai
      By grene wode to seche play,
      Mid herte y þohte al on a may,
      Suetest of alle þinge,—

the lover of secular songs would be tempted to listen; but he would stay
to hear a song of the Joys of the Virgin, to whose cult the period owes
its best devotional poetry.

[Foot-note 1: For illustrations from Old French, see _Les Légendes
Épiques_ by Professor Joseph Bédier, 4 vols., Paris 1907-, a book that
maintains the easy pre-eminence of the French school in the appreciation
of mediaeval literature.]

The power of the Church to mould the early growth of vernacular
literature is so often manifested that there is a risk of
underestimating the compromises and surrenders which are the signs of
its wane. The figures of romance invaded the churches themselves,
creeping into the carvings of the portals, along the choir-stalls, and
into the historiated margins of the service books. Ecclesiastics
collected and multiplied stories to adorn their sermons or illustrate
their manuals of vices and virtues. In the lives of saints marvels
accumulated until the word 'legend' became a synonym for an untrue tale.
Though there are moments in the fourteenth century when the
preponderance of the clerical over the secular element in literature
seems as great as ever, by the end of the Middle Ages the trend of the
conflict is plain. It is the Church that draws back to attend to her own
defences, which the domestic growth of pious fictions has made
everywhere vulnerable. But imaginative literature, growing always
stronger and more confident, wins full secular liberty.

Emancipation from the bondage of fact, and to some extent from
ecclesiastical censorship, coincided with the acquisition of a new
freedom in the form of English poetry. Old English had a single
metre—the long alliterative line without rime. It was best suited to
narrative; it was unmusical in the sense that it could not be sung; it
had marked proclivities towards rant and noise; and like blank verse it
degenerated easily into mongrel prose.

Degeneration was far advanced in the eleventh century; and about the end
of the twelfth some large-scale experiments show that writers were no
longer content with the old medium. In _Layamon_, the last great poem in
this metre before the fourteenth century, internal rime and assonance
are common. Orm adopted the unrimed _septenarius_ from Latin, but
counted his syllables so faithfully as to produce an intolerable
monotony. Then French influence turned the scale swiftly and decisively
in favour of rime, so that in the extant poetry of the thirteenth
century alliteration is a secondary principle or a casual ornament, but
never takes the place of rime.

The sudden and complete eclipse of a measure so firmly rooted in
tradition is surprising enough; but the wealth and elaborateness of the
new forms that replaced it are still more matter for wonder. It is
natural to think of the poets before Chaucer as children learning their
art slowly and painfully, and often stumbling on the way. Yet in this
one point of metrical technique they seem to reach mastery at a bound.

That the development of verse forms took place outside of English is
part of the explanation. Rimed verse had its origin in Church Latin. In
the monastic schools the theory of classical and post-classical metres
was a principal study; and the practical art of chant was indispensable
for the proper conduct of the services. Under these favourable
conditions technical development was rapid, so that in such an early
example of the rimed stanza as the following, taken from a poem that
Godescalc wrote in exile about the year 845,—

      _Magis mihi, miserule,
      Flere libet, puerule,
      Plus plorare quam cantare
      Carmen tale iubes quale,
        Amor care.
      O, cur iubes canere?[2]—_

the arrangement of longer and shorter lines, the management of rime or
assonance, and the studied grouping of consonant sounds, give rather the
impression of too much than too little artifice.

[Foot-note 2: _Poetae Latini Aevi Carolini_, vol. iii (ed. L. Traube), p.

From Church Latin rime passed into French, and with the twelfth century
entered on a new course of development at the hands of the _trouvères_
and the minstrels. The _trouvères_, or 'makers', studied versification
and music as a profession, and competed in the weaving of ingenious
patterns. Since their living depended on pleasing their audience, those
minstrels who were not themselves composers spared no pains to sing or
recite well the compositions of others; and good execution encouraged
poets to try more difficult forms.

The varied results obtained in two such excellent schools of experience
were offered to the English poets of the thirteenth century in exchange
for the monotony of the long line; and their choice was unhesitating. In
an age of lyrical poetry they learned to sing where before they could
only declaim: and because the great age of craftsmanship had begun, the
most intricate patterns pleased them best. Chaucer was perhaps not yet
born when the over-elaboration of riming metres in English drew a
protest from Robert Mannyng:[3] and when, after a period of hesitancy,
rimed verse regained its prestige in Chaucer's prime, nameless writers
again chose or invented complex stanza forms and sustained them
throughout long poems. If _The Pearl_ stood alone it might be accounted
a literary _tour de force_: the York and Towneley plays compel the
conclusion that a high standard of metrical workmanship was appreciated
by the common people.

[Foot-note 3:

      If it were made in _ryme couwee_,
      Or in strangere, or _enterlacé_,
      Þat rede Inglis it ere inowe
      Þat couthe not haf coppled a kowe,
      Þat outhere in _couwee_ or in _baston_
      Som suld haf ben fordon.

      (_Chronicle_, Prologue, ll. 85 ff.)]

Thus far, by way of generalization and without the _caveats_ proper to a
literary history, I have indicated some aspects of the preceding period
that are important for an understanding of the fourteenth century. But
it would be misleading to pass on without a word of reservation. There
is reason to suppose that the extant texts from the thirteenth century
give a truer reflection of the tastes of the upper classes, who were in
closest contact with the French, than of the tastes of the people. But
however this may be, they do not authorize us to speak for every part of
the country. All the significant texts come from the East or the
South—especially the western districts of the South, where an
exceptional activity is perhaps to be connected with the old preference
of the court for Winchester. In the North and the North-West a silence
of five centuries is hardly broken.


Judged by what survives, the literary output of the first half of the
fourteenth century was small in quantity; though it must be remembered
that, unlike the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries which made a fresh
start and depended almost entirely on their own production, the
fourteenth inherited and enjoyed a good stock of verse, to which the new
compositions are a supplement.

Our first impression of this new material is negative and disappointing.
The production of rimed romances falls off: their plots become
increasingly absurd and mechanical; the action, so swift in the early
forms, moves sluggishly through a maze of decorative descriptions; and
their style at its best has the pretty inanity of _Sir Thopas_. The
succession of merry tales—such as _Dame Siriz_, or _The Fox and the
Wolf_[4] where Reynard, Isengrim, and Chauntecleer make their first bow
in English—is broken until the appearance of the _Canterbury Tales_
themselves. To find secular lyrics we must turn to the very beginning
or the very end of the century, and Chaucer himself does not recover the
fresh gaiety of the earlier time.

[Foot-note 4: Both are in Bodleian MS. Digby 86 (about 1280), and are
accessible in G. H. McKnight's _Middle English Humorous Tales_, Boston

The decline of these characteristic thirteenth-century types becomes
less surprising when we notice that literature has changed camps. The
South, more especially the South-West, is now almost silent: the North
and the North-West reach their literary period. Minot and Rolle are
Northerners, Wiclif is a Yorkshireman by birth, the York and Towneley
Miracle cycles are both from the North, and with Barbour the literature
of the Scots dialect begins; Robert Mannyng belongs to the North-East
Midlands; while _Sir Gawayne_, _The Pearl_, and _The Destruction of
Troy_ represent the North-West. This predominance in the present volume
rests on no mere chance of selection, since the Northern (Egerton)
version of _Mandeville_ might have been preferred to the Cotton; and if
the number of extracts were to be increased, the texts that first come
to mind—_Cursor Mundi_ (about 1300),[5] _Prick of Conscience_ (about
1340), _Morte Arthure_ (about 1360), the Chester Plays—are Northern and

[Foot-note 5: Early English Text Society, ed. R. Morris. Unless other
editions are mentioned, the longer works which are not represented by
specimens may be read among the Early English Texts.]

It is impossible to give more than a partial explanation of the change
in the area of production. But as the kinds of poetry that declined
early in the fourteenth century are those that owed most to French
influence, it is reasonable to assume that in the South the impulse that
produced them had spent its force. The same pause is observable at the
same time in France, where it coincides with the transition from oral
poetry to more reflective compositions written for the eye of a reader.
It is the pause between the passing of the minstrels and the coming of
men of letters.

Such changes were felt first in the centres of government, learning, and
commerce, whence ideas and fashions spread very slowly to the country
districts. At this time the North, and above all the North-West, was the
backward quarter of England, thinly populated and in great part
uncultivated. An industrial age had not yet dotted it with inland
cities; and while America was still unknown the western havens were
neglected.[6] In these old-fashioned parts the age of minstrel poetry
was prolonged, and the wave of inspiration from France, though it came
late, stirred the North and North-West after the South had relapsed into
mediocrity or silence.

[Foot-note 6: See p. 150.]

So, about the middle of the century, imaginative poetry found a new home
in the West-Midlands. As before, poets turned to French for their
subjects, and often contented themselves with free adaptation of French
romances. They accepted such literary conventions as the Vision, which
was borrowed from the _Roman de la Rose_ to be the frame of _Wynnere and
Wastoure_ (1352)[7] and _The Parlement of the Thre Ages_,[8] before it
was used in _Piers Plowman_ and _The Pearl_ and by Chaucer. But time and
distance had weakened the French influence, and the new school of poets
did not catch, as the Southern poets did, the form and spirit of their

[Foot-note 7: Ed. Sir Israel Gollancz, Oxford 1920.]

[Foot-note 8: Ed. Gollancz, Oxford 1915.]

They preferred the unrimed alliterative verse, which from pre-Conquest
days must have lived on in the remote Western counties without a written
record; and for a generation rime is overshadowed. The suddenness and
importance of this revival in a time otherwise barren of poetry will
appear from a list of the principal alliterative poems that are commonly
assigned to the third quarter of the century:—_Wynnere and Wastoure_,
_The Parlement of the Thre Ages_, _Joseph of Arimathie_ (the first
English Graal romance), _William of Palerne_, _Piers Plowman_ (A-text),
_Patience_, _Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight_, _The Destruction of
Troy_, _Morte Arthure_.

At the time alliterative verse was fitted to become the medium of
popular literature. Prose would not serve, because its literary life
depends on books and readers. Up to the end of the century (if we
exclude sermons and religious or technical treatises, where practical
considerations reinforced a Latin tradition) the function of prose in
English literature is to translate Latin or French prose;[9] and even
this narrow province is sometimes invaded by verse. Yet it was not easy
to write verse that depended on number of syllables, quantity, or rime.
The fall of inflexions brought confusion on syllabic metres; there were
great changes in the quantity and quality of vowels; and these
disturbances affected the dialects unevenly.[10] It must have been hard
enough for a poet to make rules for himself: but popularity involved the
recital of his work by all kinds of men in all kinds of English, when
the rimes would be broken and the rhythm lost. It is perhaps unfair to
call Michael of Northgate's doggerel (p. 33) to witness the misfortunes
of rimed metres. But the text of _Sir Orfeo_ from the Auchinleck
manuscript shows how often Englishmen who were nearly contemporary with
the composer had lost the tune of his verses. The more fortunate makers
of alliterative poems, whose work depended on the stable yet elastic
frame of stress and initial consonants, possessed a master-key to the

[Foot-note 9: Chaucer's prose rendering of the _Metra_ of Boethius is an
apparent exception, but Jean de Meung's French prose version lay before

[Foot-note 10: See the Appendix.]

Adaptability made easier the diffusion of alliterative verse: but its
revival was not due to a deliberate choice on practical grounds. It was
a phase of a larger movement, which may be described as a weakening of
foreign and learned influences, and a recovery of the native stock. And
the metrical form is only the most obvious of the old-fashioned elements
that reappeared. In spirit, too, the authors of the alliterative school
have many points of kinship with the Old English poets. They are more
moderate than enthusiastic. Left to themselves, their imaginations move
most easily among sombre shapes and in sombre tones. They have not the
intellectual brilliance and the wit of the French poets; and when they
laugh—which is not often—the lightness of the thirteenth century is
rarer than the rough note of the comic scenes in the Towneley plays. It
is hard to say how much the associations and aptitudes of the verse
react on its content: but _Sumer is icumen in_, which is the essence of
thirteenth-century poetry, is barely conceivable in Old English, where
even the cuckoo's note sounded melancholy; and it would come oddly from
the poets of the middle fourteenth century, who have learned from the
French _trouvères_ the convention of spring, with sunshine, flowers, and
singing birds, but seem unable to put away completely the memory of
winter and rough weather.

In the last quarter of the century the tide of foreign influence runs
strong again; and the work of Gower and Chaucer discloses radical
changes in the conditions of literature which are the more important
because they are permanent. The literary centre swings back to the
capital—London now instead of Winchester—which henceforth provides the
models for authors of any pretensions throughout England and across the
Scottish border. In Chaucer we have for the first time a layman, writing
in English for secular purposes, who from the range and quality of his
work may fairly claim to be ranked among men of letters. The strictly
clerical writers had been content to follow the Scriptures, the Fathers
and commentators, the service books and legendaries; and Chaucer does
not neglect their tradition.[11] The minstrels had exploited a popular
taste for merry tales 'that sownen into synne'; and he borrowed so
gladly from them that many have doubted his repentance.[12] But his
models are men of letters:—the Latin poets headed by Ovid, who was
Gower's favourite too; French writers, from the satirical Jean de Meung
to makers of studied 'balades, roundels, virelayes' like Machaut and
Deschamps; and the greater Italian group—Boccaccio, Petrarch, and
Dante. Keeping such company, he was bound to reject the rusticity of the
alliterative school, and the middle way followed by those who added a
tag of rime at the end of a rimeless series (as in _Sir Gawayne_), or
invented stanzas in which alliteration remains, but is subservient to
rime (as in _The Pearl_ and the York plays). After his day, even for
Northerners who wish to write well, there will be no more '_rum-ram-ruf_
by lettre'.[13]

[Foot-note 11:

      And for to speke of other holynesse,
      He hath in prose translated Boece,
      And of the Wrechede Engendrynge of Mankynde
      As man may in pope Innocent ifynde,
      And made the Lyfe also of Seynt Cecile;
      He made also, gon ys a grete while,
      Origenes upon the Maudeleyne.

      (_Legend of Good Women_, Prologue A, ll. 424 ff.)]

[Foot-note 12: _Parson's Tale_, at the end.]

[Foot-note 13: _Prologue to Parson's Tale_, l. 43.]


In outlining the main movements of the century, I have mentioned
incidentally the fortunes of certain kinds of composition,—the
restriction of the lyrical form to devotional uses; the long dearth in
the records of humorous tales; the decadence of romances in rime, and
the flourishing of alliterative romances. The popular taste for stories
was still unsatisfied, and guided authors, from Robert Mannyng to
Chaucer, in their choice of subjects or method of treatment.
Translators were busier than ever in making Latin and French works
available to a growing public who understood no language but English;
and of necessity the greater number of our specimens are translations,
ranging from the crude literalness of Michael of Northgate to the
artistic adaptation seen in Gower's tales. But the chief new
contribution of the century is the vernacular Miracle Play, with which
the history of the English drama begins.

Miracle plays grew out of the services for the church festivals of
Easter and Christmas. Towards the end of the tenth century a
representation of the Three Maries at the Sepulchre is provided for in
the English Easter service. Later, the Shepherds seeking the Manger and
the Adoration of the Magi are represented in the services for the
Christmas season. In their early form these dramatic ceremonies consist
of a few sentences of Latin which were sung by the clergy with a minimum
of dignified action.

From the eleventh to the thirteenth century the primitive form underwent
a parallel development in all parts of Europe. Records of Miracles in
England are at this time scanty and casual:—Matthew Paris notes one at
Dunstable because precious copes were borrowed for it from St. Albans,
and were accidentally burnt; another, given in the churchyard at
Beverley, is mentioned because a boy who had climbed to a post of
vantage in the church, and thence higher to escape the sextons, fell and
yet took no harm. But the scantiness of references before 1200 is in
itself evidence of growth without active enemies, and the few
indications agree with the general trend observable on the Continent.
The range of subjects was extended to include the acts of saints, and
the principal scenes of sacred history from the Fall of Lucifer to the
Last Judgement. Single scenes were elaborated to something like the
scale familiar in Middle English. By the end of the twelfth century
French begins to appear beside or in place of Latin; the French verses
were spoken, not sung; the plays were often acted outside the church;
and it may be assumed that laymen were admitted as performers alongside
the minor clergy, who seem to have been the staunchest supporters of the

The Miracle had become popular, and there is soon evidence of its
perversion by the grotesque imaginings of the people. In 1207 masking
and buffoonery in the churches at Christmas came under the ban of Pope
Innocent III, and his prohibition was made permanent in the Decretals.
Henceforth we must look for new developments to the Miracles played
outside the church. To these freedom from the restraints of the sacred
building did not bring a better reputation. Before 1250 the most
influential churchman of the time, Bishop Grosseteste of Lincoln, who
was far from being a kill-joy, urged his clergy to stamp out Miracles;
and later William of Wadington, and Robert Mannyng his translator, while
allowing plays on the Resurrection and the Nativity if decently
presented in the church, condemn the Miracles played in open places, and
blame those of the clergy who encouraged them by lending vestments to
the performers.[14]

[Foot-note 14: _Handlyng Synne_, ll. 4640 ff.]

From the first three-quarters of the fourteenth century, which
include the critical period for the English Miracles, hardly a
record survives. The memoranda on which the history of the English
plays is based begin toward the end of the century, and the texts
are drawn from fifteenth- and sixteenth-century manuscripts. Hence
it will be simplest to set out the changes that were complete by
1400 without attempting to establish their true sequence; and to
disregard the existence, side by side with the fully developed
types, of all the gradations between them and the primitive form
that might result from stunted growth or degeneration.

The early references point to the representation of single plays or
small groups of connected scenes; and such isolated pieces survive as
long as there are Miracles: Hull, for instance, specialized on a play of
Noah's Ship. But now we have to record the appearance of series or
cycles of plays, covering in chronological order the whole span of
sacred history. Complete cycles were framed on the Continent as early as
the end of the thirteenth century. In England they are represented by
the York, Towneley (Wakefield), and Chester plays, and the so-called
_Ludus Coventriae_.[15] There are also records or fragments of cycles
from Beverley, Coventry, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and Norwich. The
presentation of the cycle sometimes occupied a day (York), sometimes two
or three successive days (Chester), and sometimes a part was carried
over to the next year's festival (_Ludus Coventriae_).

[Foot-note 15: These are not the Coventry plays, of which only two
survive, but a cycle of plays torn from their local connexions (ed. J.
O. Halliwell, Shakespeare Society, 1841). The title is due to a
seventeenth-century librarian, who possibly had heard of no Miracle
cycle but the famous one at Coventry.]

The production of a long series of scenes in the open requires fine
weather, and once the close connexion with the church services had been
broken, there was a tendency to throw forward the presentation into May
or June. The Chester plays were given in Whitsun-week—at least in later
times. But normally the day chosen in fourteenth-century England was the
Feast of Corpus Christi (the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday), which
was made universal throughout the Church in 1311. So the Miracles get
the generic name of 'Corpus Christi Plays'.

The feature of the Corpus Christi festival was its procession. As a
result either of inclusion in this procession or of imitation, the
cycles came to be played processionally: each play had its stage on
wheels which halted at fixed stations in the streets, and at each
station the play was reenacted. This was the usage at York, Wakefield,
Chester, Coventry, and Beverley. The older practice of presentation on
fixed stages was followed in the _Ludus Coventriae_.

Our last records from the end of the thirteenth century indicated that
the open-air Miracle had been disowned by the Church from which it
sprang. Yet a century later processional performances appear on a scale
that postulates strong and competent management. In the interim the
control of the great cycles had passed from the clergy to the
municipalities, who laid upon each guild of craftsmen within their
jurisdiction the duty of presenting a play. Ecclesiastics still wrote
Miracles, and occasionally performed them; but when Canterbury, London,
Salisbury, Winchester, Oxford, which have no extant texts and few
records of popular performances, are named against York, Wakefield,
Chester, Coventry, Beverley, it is obvious that official Church
influences were no longer the chief factor in the development of
Miracles. For their growth and survival in England the cycles depended
on the interest of powerful corporations, willing to undertake the
financial responsibility of their production, and able to maintain them
against the attacks of the Lollards, or change of policy in the orthodox
Church, or the fickleness of fashion in entertainment.

The steps by which the English guilds assumed the guardianship of the
plays cannot now be retraced. We must be content to note that the
undertaking called for just that combination of religious duty, civic
patriotism, and pride of craft that inspired the work of the guilds in
their best days. And the clergy had every reason to welcome the
disciplining by secular authority of a wayward offspring that had grown
beyond their own control. The York texts, which bring us nearest to the
time when the corporations and guilds first took charge of the Miracles,
are very creditable to the taste of the city, and must represent a
reform on the irresponsible productions that scandalized the thirteenth
century. The vein of coarseness in some of the comic scenes of the
Towneley group seems to be due to a later recrudescence of incongruous

The last great change to be noted was inevitable when the plays became
popular: they were spoken in English and in rimed verse, with only an
occasional tag or stage direction or hymn in Latin to show their origin.
The variety of the texts, and of the modes and purposes of their
representation, make it impossible to assign a date to the transition
that would be generally applicable; and its course was not always the
same. There is an example of direct translation from Latin in the
Shrewsbury fragments,[16] which contain one actor's cues and parts in
three plays: first the Latin foundation is given in verse or prose, and
then its expansion in English alternate rime. That translations were
sometimes made from the French is proved by the oldest known manuscript
of a Miracle in English—an early fourteenth-century fragment of a
Nativity play, consisting of a speech in French followed by its
rendering in the same stanza form.[17] But there is no reason to doubt
that as English gained ground and secularization became more complete,
original composition appeared side by side with translation.[18]

[Foot-note 16: Shrewsbury School MS. Mus. iii. 42 (early fifteenth
century), ed. Skeat, _Academy_, January 4 and January 11, 1890. The
fragments are (i) the part of the Third Shepherd in a Nativity play;
(ii) the part of the third Mary in a Resurrection play; (iii) the part
of Cleophas in _Pilgrims to Emmaus_. Manly, who reprints the fragments
in _Specimens of the Pre-Shaksperean Drama_, vol. i (1900), pp. xxvi
ff., notes that these plays seem to have been church productions rather
than secular.]

[Foot-note 17: See _The Times Literary Supplement_ of May 26 and June 2,
1921. The fragment comes from Bury St. Edmunds. The dialect is E.

[Foot-note 18: On the production of Miracle plays see L. Toulmin Smith,
Introduction to _York Plays_, Oxford 1885; and A. F. Leach in _An
English Miscellany presented to Dr. Furnivall_, pp. 205 ff.]

For one other kind of writing the fourteenth century is notable—its
longer commentaries on contemporary life and the art of living. In the
twelfth century England had an important group of satirical poets who
wrote in Latin; and in the thirteenth there are many French and a few
English satires. Their usual topic was the corruption of the religious
orders, varied by an occasional attack on some detail of private folly,
such as extravagance in dress or the pride of serving-men. These pieces
are mostly in the early French manner, where so much wit tempers the
indignation that one doubts whether the satirist would be really happy
if he succeeded in destroying the butts of his ridicule.

This is not the spirit of the fourteenth century, when a darker side of
life is turned up and reported by men whose eyes are not quick to catch
brightness. The number of short occasional satires in English increases,
but they are seldom gay. The greater writers—Rolle, Wiclif, Langland,
Gower—were obsessed by the troubles of their time, and are less
satirists than moralists. Certainly the events of the century gave
little cause for optimism. The wane of enthusiasm throughout Europe and
the revival of national jealousies are evident very early in the failure
of all attempts to organize an effective Crusade after 1291, when the
Turks conquered the last Christian outposts in Palestine. There was no
peace, for the harassing wars with Scotland were followed by the long
series of campaigns against France that sapped the strength of both
countries for generations. The social and economic organization was
shaken by the severest famines (1315-21) and the greatest pestilence
(1349) in English history, and both famine and plague came back more
than once before the century was done. The conflict of popes and
anti-popes divided the Western Church, while England faced the domestic
problem of Lollardry. There was civil revolt in 1381; and the century
closed with the deposition of Richard II. A modern historian balances
the account with the growth of parliamentary institutions, the improving
status of the labouring classes, and the progress of trade: but in so
far as these developments were observable at all by contemporary
writers, they were probably interpreted as signs of general decay.

In such an atmosphere the serene temper with which Robert Mannyng
handles the sins and follies of his generation did not last long. Rolle
tried to associate with men in order to improve their way of life: but
his intensely personal attitude towards every problem, and the low value
he set on the quality of reasonableness, made success impossible; and
after a few querulous outbursts against his surroundings, he found his
genius by withdrawing into pure idealism.

Wiclif was the one writer who was also a practical reformer. Having made
up his mind that social evils could be remedied only through the Church,
and that the first step was a thorough reform of the government,
doctrine, and ministers of the Church, he acted with characteristic
logic. The vices and follies of the people he regarded as secondary, and
refused to dissipate his controversial energies upon them. His strength
was reserved for a grim, ordered battle against ecclesiastical abuses;
and while he pulled down, he did not neglect to lay foundations that
outlasted his own defeat.

_Piers Plowman_ gives a full picture of the times and their bewildering
effect on the mind of a sincere and moderate man. Its author belonged to
the loosely organized secular clergy who, by reason of their middle
position, served as a kind of cement in a ramshackle society. He has no
new system and no practical schemes of reform to expound—only
perplexing dreams of a simple Christian who, with Conscience and Reason
as his guides, faces in turn the changing shapes of evil. He attacks
them bravely enough, and still they seem to evade him; because he
shrinks from destroying their roots when he finds them too closely
entwined with things to which his habits or affections cling. In the end
he cannot find a sure temporal foothold: yet he has no vision of a
Utopia to come in which society will be reorganized by men's efforts.
That idea brought no comfort to his generation who, standing on the
threshold of a new order, looked longingly backward.

Passing over Gower, whose direct studies of contemporary conditions were
written in Latin and French, we come round again to Chaucer. He has not
Rolle's idealism, or Wiclif's fighting spirit, or Langland's
earnestness—in fact, he has no great share of moral enthusiasm. A man
of the world with keen eyes and the breadth of outlook and sympathy that
Gower lacked, he is at home in a topsy-turvy medley of things half-dead
with things half-grown, and the thousand disguises of convention and
propriety through which the new life peeped to mock at its puzzled and
despairing repressors were to him a never-ending entertainment. _Ubique
iam abundat turpitudo terrena_, says Rolle in an alliterative flight,
_vilissima voluptas in viris vacillat;... bellant ut bestiae; breviantur
beati; nullus est nimirum qui nemini non nocet_. That was one side, but
it was not the side that interested Chaucer. He had the spirit of the
thirteenth-century poets grown up, with more experience, more
reflection, and a mellower humour, but not less good temper and capacity
for enjoyment. He no longer laughs on the slightest occasion for sheer
joy of living: but he would look elvishly at Richard Rolle—a hermit who
made it a personal grievance that people left him solitary, a fugitive
from his fellows who unconsciously satisfied a very human and pleasing
love for companionship and admiration by becoming the centre of a
coterie of women recluses. A world that afforded such infinite amusement
to a quiet observer was after all not a bad place to live in.


Chaucer, who suffers when read in extracts, is not represented in this
book, although without him fourteenth-century literature is a body
without a head. But in the choice of literary forms and subjects, I have
aimed at illustrating the variety of interest that is to be found in the
writings of lesser men.

It may be asked whether the choice of specimens gives a true idea of the
taste and accomplishment of the age. This issue is raised by Professor
Carleton Brown's Afterword in the second volume of his _Register of
Middle English Religious and Didactic Verse_, a book that will be to
generations of investigators a model of unselfish research. There he
emphasizes the popularity of long poems, and especially of long didactic
poems, as evidenced by the relatively great number of manuscript copies
that survive. _The Prick of Conscience_ leads with ninety-nine
manuscripts, against sixty-nine of _The Canterbury Tales_, and
forty-seven of _Piers Plowman_. What is to be said of a book that,
impoverished by the exclusion of Chaucer, passes by also the most
popular poem of his century?

I would rest an apology on the conditions under which manuscript copies
came into being and survived; and begin with Michael of Northgate as he
brings his _Ayenbyte_ to an end in the October of 1340, before the short
days and the numbing cold should come to make writing a pain. The book
has no elegance that would commend it to special care, for Dan Michael
is a dry practical man, as indifferent to the graces of style as to the
luxury of silky vellum and miniatures stiff with gold and colour. But
from his cell it goes into the library of his monastery—a library well
ordered and well catalogued, and (as if to guarantee security) boasting
the continuous possession of books that Gregory the Great gave to the
first missionaries. We know its place exactly—the fourth shelf of
press XVI. And there it remained safe until the days of intelligent
private collectors, passing finally with the Arundel library to the
British Museum. The course was not often so smooth, for of two dozen
manuscripts left by Michael to St. Augustine's, Dr. James, in the year
1903, could identify only four survivors in as many different libraries.
But the example is enough to illustrate a proposition that will not
easily be refuted:—the chances of an English mediaeval manuscript
surviving greatly depend on its eligibility for a place in the library
of a religious house, since these are the chief sources of the
manuscripts that have come down to us.

The attitude of the Church towards the vernacular literature of the
later Middle Ages did not differ materially from her attitude towards
the classics in earlier times, though the classics had always the
greater dignity. Literary composition as a pure art was not encouraged.
Entertainment for its own sake was discountenanced. The religious houses
were to be centres of piety and learning; and if English were admitted
at all in the strongholds of Latin and French, a work of unadorned
edification like _The Prick of Conscience_ would make very suitable
reading for those who craved relaxation from severer studies. There
were, of course, individuals among the professed religious who indulged
a taste for more worldly literature; but the surviving catalogues of
libraries that were formed under the eye of authority show a marked
discrimination in favour of didactic works.

In England the private libraries of fourteenth-century laymen were
relatively insignificant. But Guy, Earl of Warwick, in 1315 left an
exceptionally rich collection to the Abbey of Bordesley, which failed to
conserve the legacy. The list was first printed in Todd's _Illustrations
of Gower and Chaucer_ (1810),[19] and (among devotional works and lives
of saints that merge into religious romances like _Joseph of Arimathea
and the Graal_, _Titus and Vespasian_, and _Constantine_) it includes
most of the famous names of popular history:—Lancelot, Arthur and
Modred; Charlemagne, Doon of Mayence, Aimery of Narbonne, Girard de
Vienne, William of Orange, Thibaut of Arraby, Doon of Nanteuil, Guy of
Nanteuil, William Longespée, Fierebras; with two Alexander romances, a
_Troy Book_, a _Brut_; the love story of _Amadas e Idoine_; the romance
_de Guy e de la Reygne 'tut enterement'_; a book of physic and surgery;
and a miscellany—_un petit rouge livere en lequel sount contenuz mous
diverses choses_. Yet even a patron so well disposed to secular poems
did little to perpetuate the manuscripts of English verse. His education
enabled him to draw from the fountain head, and most of his books were

[Foot-note 19: p. 161.]

Neither in the libraries of the monasteries, nor in the libraries of the
great nobles, should we expect to find a true mirror of popular taste.
The majority of the people knew no language but English; and the
relative scarcity of books of every kind, which even among the educated
classes made the hearers far outnumber the readers, was at once a cause
and a symptom of illiteracy: the majority of the people could not read.
This leads to a generalization that is cardinal for every branch of
criticism:—up to Chaucer's day, the greater the popularity of an
English poem, the less important becomes the manuscript as a means of
early transmission. The text, which would have been comparatively safe
in the keeping of scribe, book, and reader, passes to the uncertain
guardianship of memorizer, reciter, and listener; so that sometimes it
is wholly lost, and sometimes it suffers as much change in a generation
as would a classical text in a thousand years. Already Robert Mannyng
laments the mutilation of _Sir Tristrem_ by the 'sayers' (who could
hardly be expected to avoid faults of improvisation and omission in the
recitation of so long a poem from memory);[20] and his regret would
have been keener if he could have looked ahead another hundred years to
see how the texts of the verse romances paid the price of popularity by
the loss of crisp phrases and fresh images, and the intrusion of every
mode of triteness.

[Foot-note 20:

      I see in song, in sedgeyng tale
      Of Erceldoun and of Kendale,
      Non þam says as þai þam wroght,
      And in þer sayng it semes noght.
      Þat may þou here in _Sir Tristrem_—
      Ouer gestes it has þe steem,
      Ouer alle þat is or was,
      If men it sayd as made Thomas:
      But I here it no man so say,
      Þat of som copple som is away.

      (_Chronicle_, Prologue, ll. 93 ff.)

Robert blames the vanity of the reciters more than their memories, on
the excellence of which Petrarch remarks in his account of the
minstrels: _Sunt homines non magni ingenii, magnae vero memoriae,
magnaeque diligentiae_ (to Boccaccio, _Rerum Senilium_, Bk. v, ep. ii).]

Of course manuscripts of the longer secular poems were made and
used,—mean, stunted copies from which the travelling entertainer could
refresh his memory or add to his stock of tales; fair closet copies that
would enable well-to-do admirers to renew their pleasure when no skilled
minstrel was by; and, occasionally, compact libraries of romance, like
the Auchinleck manuscript, which must have been the treasure of some
great household that enjoyed 'romanz-reding _on þe bok_'—the pastime
that encouraged the rise of prose romances in the late Middle Ages. But
as a means of circulation for popular verse, as distinct from learned
verse and from prose, the book was of secondary importance in its own
time, and was always subject to exceptional risks. The fates of three
stories in different kinds, all demonstrably favourites in the
fourteenth century, will be sufficient illustration: of _Floris and
Blauncheflour_, one of the best of the early romances in the courtly
style, several manuscripts survive, but when all are assembled the
beginning of the story is still wanting; of _Havelok_, typical of the
homely style, one imperfect copy and a few charred fragments of another
are extant; of the _Tale of Wade_, that was dear to 'olde wydwes',[21]
and yet considered worthy to entertain the noble Criseyde,[22] no text
has come down. Evidently, to determine the relative popularity of the
longer tales in verse we need not so much a catalogue of extant
manuscripts, as a census, that cannot now be taken, of the repertories
of the entertainers.

[Foot-note 21: Chaucer, _Merchant's Tale_, ll. 211 ff.]

[Foot-note 22: Chaucer, _Troilus and Criseyde_, Bk. iii, l. 614.]

If the manuscript life of the longer secular poems was precarious, the
chances of the short pieces—songs, ballads, jests, comic dialogues,
lampoons—were still worse. Since they were composed for the day without
thought of the future, and were no great charge on the ordinary memory,
the chief motives for writing them down were absent; and no doubt the
professional minstrel found that to secure his proprietary rights
against competitors, he must be chary of giving copies of his best
things. Many would never be put into writing; some were jotted down
on perishable wax; but parchment, always too expensive for ephemeral
verse, was reserved for special occasions. In France, in the thirteenth
century, Henri d'Andeli adds a touch of dignity to his poem celebrating
the memory of a distinguished patron by inscribing it on parchment
instead of the wax tablets he used for lighter verses.[23] In England
in 1305, a West-Country swashbuckler, whom fear of the statute against
_Trailebastouns_ kept in the greenwood, relieves his offended dignity
by composing a poem half apologetic, half minatory, and chooses as the
safest way of publication to write it on parchment and throw it in the
high road:—

      _Cest rym fust fet al bois desouz vn lorer,
      La chaunte merle, russinole, e crye l'esperuer.
      Escrit estoit en parchemyn pur mout remenbrer,
      Et gitté en haut chemyn, qe vm le dust trouer.[24]_

These loose sheets or tiny rolls[25] rarely survive, and the
preservation of their contents, as of pieces launched still more
carelessly on the world, depends on the happy chance of inclusion in a
miscellany; quotation in a larger work; or entry on a fly-leaf, margin,
or similar space left blank in a book already written.

[Foot-note 23:

      _Et icil clers qui ce trova ...
      Por ce qu'il est de verité,
      Ne l'apele mie flablel,
      Ne l'a pas escrit en tablel,
      Ainz l'a escrit en parchamin:
      Par bois, per plains et par chamins,
      Par bors, par chateals, par citez
      Vorra qu'il soit bien recitez._

      (_OEuvres_, ed. A. Héron, Paris 1881, p. 40.)]

[Foot-note 24: 'This rime was made in the wood beneath a bay-tree, where
blackbird and nightingale sing and the sparrow-hawk cries. It was
written on parchment for a record, and flung in the high road so that
folk should find it.' _The Political Songs of England_, ed. T. Wright
(London 1839), p. 236.]

[Foot-note 25: A rare example of a roll made small for convenience of
carrying is the British Museum Additional MS. 23986. It is about three
inches wide and, in its imperfect state, twenty-two inches long, so that
when rolled up it is not much bigger than one's finger. On the inside it
contains a thirteenth-century _Song of the Barons_ in French (T. Wright,
_Political Songs_, 1839, pp. 59 ff.); on the outside, two scenes from a
Middle English farce called _Interludium de Clerico et Puella_
(Chambers, _Mediaeval Stage_, vol. ii, pp. 324 ff.) which, like so many
happy experiments of the earlier time, appears to have no successor in
the fourteenth century.]

Most productive, though not very common in the fourteenth century, are
the miscellanies of short pieces—volumes like Earl Guy's 'little red
book containing many divers things'—in which early collectors noted
down the scraps that interested them. A codex of West-Country origin,
MS. Harley 2253 in the British Museum, preserves among French poems such
as the complaint of the _Trailebastoun_, a group of English songs that
includes _Lenten is Come_ and _Alysoun_. Most of its numbers are unique,
and the loss of this one volume would have swept away the best part of
our knowledge of the early Middle English secular lyrics.

Of survival by quotation there is an example in the history of the
Letter of Theodric, which lies behind Mannyng's tale of the Dancers of
Colbek; and the circumstances are worth lingering over both for the
number of by-paths they open to speculation, and for the glimpse they
give of Wilton in a century from which there are few records of the
nunnery outside the grim, tax-gatherer's entries of Domesday.

In the year before the Conquest, Theodric the foreigner, still racked by
the curse that was laid on Bovo's company, made his way from the court
of Edward the Confessor to the shrine of St. Edith. As he walked through
the quiet valley to Wilton in the spring of the year, we may be sure the
thought came to him that here at last was the spot where a man wearied
with wandering from land to land, from shrine to shrine, might hope to
be cured and to set up his rest. From the moment he reaches the abbey it
is impossible not to admire his feeling for dramatic effect. By a
paroxysm of quaking he terrifies the peasants; but to the weeping nuns
he tells his story discreetly; and, lest a doubt should remain, produces
from his scrip a letter in which St. Bruno, the great Pope Leo IX,
vouches for all. It is notable that at this stage the convent appear to
have taken no steps to record a story so marvellous and so well
authenticated; and had Theodric continued his restless wandering we
should know of him as little as is known of three others from the band
of carollers, who had preceded him at Wilton with a similar story. But
when he obtains leave to sleep beside the shrine of St. Edith, and in
the morning of the great feast of Lady Day wakes up healed, exalting the
fame of their patron saint who had lifted the curse where all the saints
of Europe had failed, then, and then only, the convent order that an
official record should be made, and the letter copied: _Hec in presencia
Brichtive ipsius loci abbatisse declarata et patriis litteris[26] sunt
mandata_. Henceforth it exists only as a chapter in the Acts of St.
Edith, and as such it lay before Robert of Brunne. Of the other
communities or private persons visited by Theodric (who, whether saint
or _faitour_, certainly did not produce his letter for the first and
last time at Wilton) none have preserved his memory. It would be hard to
find a better example of the power of the clergy in early times to
control the keys to posterity, or of the practical considerations which,
quite apart from merit or curiosity, governed the preservation of

[Foot-note 26: _Patriis litteris_ according to Schröder and Gaston Paris
means 'English language', but if it is not a mere flourish, it means
rather the 'English script' in which the Latin letter was copied, as
distinct from the foreign hand of Theodric's original letter. What
'English script' meant at Wilton in 1065 is a question of some delicacy.
The spelling _Folcpoldus_ for _Folcwoldus_ in some later copies of the
Wilton text must be due to confusion of _p_ and Anglo-Saxon ƿ = _w_.
This would be decisive for 'Anglo-Saxon script' if it occurred
anywhere but in a proper name.]

But it is the verses casually jotted down in unrelated books that bring
home most vividly the slenderness of the thread of transmission. A
student has committed _Now Springs the Spray_ to solitary imprisonment
between the joyless leaves of an old law book. The song of the Irish
Dancer and _The Maid of the Moor_ were scribbled, with some others from
a minstrel's stock, on the fly-leaf of a manuscript now in the Bodleian.
On a blank page of another a prudent man (who used vile ink, long since
faded) has written the verses that banish rats, much as a modern
householder might treasure up some annihilating prescription. To these
waifs the chance of survival did not come twice, and to a number
incalculable it never came.

It has been the purpose of this digression to bring the extant
literature into perspective: not to raise useless regrets for what is
lost, since we can learn only from what remains; nor to contest the
value of statistics of surviving copies as a proof of circulation,
provided the works compared are similar in length and kind, and are
represented in enough manuscripts to make figures significant; nor yet
to deny that didactic verse bulks large in the output of the fourteenth
century: it could not be otherwise in an anxious age, when the scarcity
of remains gives everything written in English a place in literary
history, and when for almost everything verse was preferred to prose. It
seemed better to redress the balance of chance by stealing from the end
of the thirteenth century a few fragments that following generations
would not forget, than to lend colour to the suggestion that ninety-nine
of the men of Chaucer's century enjoyed _The Prick of Conscience_ for
every one that caught up the refrain of _Now Springs the Spray_, or
danced through _The Maid of the Moor_, or sang the praises of Alison.


However much a maker of excerpts may stretch his commission to give
variety, it is in vain if the reader will not do his part; for it lies
with him to find interest. Really no effective attack can be made on a
crust of such diversified hardness until the reader looks at his text as
a means of winning back something of the life of the past, and feels a
pleasure in the battle against vagueness.

The first step is to find out the verbal meaning. Strange words, that
force themselves on the attention and are easily found in dictionaries
and glossaries, try a careful reader less than groups of common
words—such lines as

      _Þe fairest leuedi, for þe nones,
      Þat miȝt gon on bodi and bones_      II 53-4

which, if literally transposed into modern English, are nonsense. Those
who think it is beneath the dignity of an intelligent reader to weigh
such gossamer should turn to Zupitza's commentary on the Fifteenth
Century Version of _Guy of Warwick_,[27] and see how a master among
editors of Middle English relishes every phrase, missing nothing, and
yet avoiding the opposite fault of pressing anything too hard. For these
tags, more or less emptied of meaning through common use, and ridiculous
by modern standards, have their importance in the economy of spoken
verse, where a good voice carried them off. They helped out the composer
in need of a rime; the reciter on his feet, compelled to improvise; and
the audience who, lacking the reader's privilege to linger over
close-packed lines, welcomed familiar turns that by diluting the sense
made it easier to receive.

[Foot-note 27: Early English Text Society, extra series, 1875-6.]

Repeated reading will bring out clearly the formal elements of
style—the management of rime and alliteration in verse, the grouping
and linking of clauses in prose, the cadences in both verse and prose:
and before the value of a word or phrase can be settled it is often
necessary to inquire how far its use was dictated by technical
conditions, compliance with which is sometimes ingenuous to the point of
crudity. Where a prose writer would be content with _Mathew sayth_, an
alliterative poet elaborates (VIII _a_ 234) into:

      _Mathew with mannes face mouthed þise wordis_

and in such a context _mouthed_ cannot be pressed. The frequent oaths in
the speeches in _Piers Plowman_ are no more than counters in the
alliteration: being meaningless they are selected to prop up the verse,
just as the barrenest phrases in the poem _On the Death of Edward III_
owe their inclusion to the requirements of rime. Again, it will be
easier to acquiesce in a forced sense of _bende_ in

      _On bent much baret bende_        V 47

when it is observed that rime and alliteration so limit the poet's
choice that no apter word could be used. Conversely, in the absence of
disturbing technical conditions, a reader who finds nonsense should
suspect his understanding of the text, or the soundness of the text,
before blaming the author.

When the sense expressed and the methods of expression have been
studied, it remains to examine the implications of the words—an endless
task and perhaps the most entertaining of all. Take as a routine example
the place where the Green Knight, preparing a third time to deliver his
blow, says to Gawayne—

      _Halde þe now þe hyȝe hode þat Arþur þe raȝt,
      And kepe þy kanel at þis kest, ȝif hit keuer may_      V 229 f.

A recent translator renders very freely:

                              'but yet thy hood up-pick,
      Haply 'twill cover thy neck when I the buffet strike'—

though the etiquette of decapitation, and the delicacy of the stroke
that the Green Knight has in mind, require just the opposite
interpretation:—Gawayne's hood has become disarranged since he bared
his neck (V 188), and the Green Knight wants a clear view to make sure
of his aim. An observation of Gaston Paris on the Latin story of the
Dancers of Colbek will show how much an alert mind enriches the reading
of a text with precise detail. From the incident of Ave's arm he
concludes that the dancers did not form a closed ring, but a line with
Bovo leading (I 55) and Ave, as the last comer (I 43-54), at its end, so
that she had one arm free which her brother seized in his attempt to
drag her away (I 111 ff.).

Intensive reading should be combined with discursive. Intensive reading
cultivates the habit of noticing detail; and it is a sound rule of
textual criticism to interpret a composition first in the light of the
evidence contained within itself. For instance, the slight flicker in
the verse

      _Sche most wiþ him no lenger abide_      II 330

should recall as surely as a cross-reference the earlier line

         _No durst wiþ hir no leng abide_      II 84

and raise the question whether in both places in the original work the
comparative had not the older form _leng_. Discursive reading is a
safeguard against the dangers of a narrow experience, and especially
against the assumption that details of phrase, style, or thought are
peculiar to an author or composition, when in fact they are common to a
period or a kind. A course of both will enable the reader to cope with a
school of critics who rely on superficial resemblances to strip the mask
from anonymous authors and attach their works to some favoured name.
Whether _Sir Gawayne_ and _The Destruction of Troy_ are from the same
hand is still seriously debated. Both are alliterative poems; but it is
impossible to read ten lines from each aloud without realizing the wide
gap that divides their rhythms. The differences of spirit are more
radical still. The facility of the author of _The Destruction_ is
attained at the cost of surrender to the metre. Given pens, ink, vellum,
and a good original, he could go on turning out respectable verses while
human strength endured. And because his meaning is all on the surface,
the work does not improve on better acquaintance. The author of _Sir
Gawayne_ is an artist who never ceases to struggle with a harsh medium.
He has the rare gift of visualizing every scene in his story: image
succeeds image, each so sharply drawn as to suggest that he had his
training in one of the schools of miniature-painting for which early
England was famous. It is this gift of the painter that, more than
likeness of dialect or juxtaposition in the manuscript, links _Sir
Gawayne_ with _The Pearl_.

It cannot be too strongly urged that the purpose of a worker in Middle
English should be nothing less than to read sensitively, with the
fullest possible understanding. Of such a purpose many _curricula_ give
no hint. Nor could it be deduced readily from the latest activities of
research, where the tendency is more and more to leave the main road
(which should be crowded if the study is to thrive) for side-tracks and
by-paths of side-tracks in which the sense of direction and proportion
is easily lost.

That much may be accomplished by specialists following a single line of
approach has been demonstrated by the philologists, who have burrowed
tirelessly to present new materials to a world which seldom rewards
their happiest elucidations with so much as a 'Well said, old mole!' The
student of literature (in the narrower modern sense of the word) brings
a new range of interests. He will be disappointed if he expects to find
a finished art, poised and sustained, in an age singularly afflicted
with growing pains; but there are compensations for any one who is
content to catch glimpses of promise, and—looking back and forward, and
aside to France—to take pleasure in tracing the rise and development of
literary forms and subjects. It is still not enough. The specialist in
language as a science, or in literature as an art, may find the Sixth
Passus of _Piers Plowman_ (VIII _a_) or the Wiclifite sermon (XI _b_) of
secondary interest. Yet both are primary documents, the one for the
history of society, the other for the history of religion.

There is no escape from a counsel of perfection:—whoever enters on a
course of mediaeval studies must reckon as a defect his lack of interest
in any side of the life of the Middle Ages; and must be deaf to those
who, like the fox in Aesop that had lost its tail, proclaim the benefits
of truncation. The range of knowledge and experience was then more than
in later times within the compass of a single mind and life. And so much
that is necessary to a full understanding has been lost that no possible
source of information should be shut out willingly. It is an exercise in
humility to call up in all its details some scene of early English life
(better a domestic scene than one of pageantry) and note how much is

Every blur is a challenge. There are few familiar subjects in which a
beginner can sooner reach the limits of recorded knowledge. The great
scholars have found time to chart only a fraction of their discoveries;
and the greatest could not hope or wish for a day when the number of
quests worth the making would be appreciably less.

       *       *       *       *       *

This book had its origin in a very different project. Professor Napier
had asked me to join him in producing for the use of language students a
volume of specimens from the Middle English dialects, with an apparatus
strictly linguistic. The work had not advanced beyond the choice of
texts when his death and my transfer to duties in which learning had no
part brought it to an end. When later the call came for a book that
would introduce newcomers to the fourteenth century, I was able to bring
into the changed plan his favourite passage from _Sir Gawayne_, and to
draw upon the notes of his lectures for its interpretation. It is a
small part of my debt to the generous and modest scholar whose mastery
of exact methods was an inspiration to his pupils.

       *       *       *       *       *

I am obliged to the Early English Text Society and to the Clarendon
Press for permission to use extracts from certain of their publications;
to the librarians who have made their manuscripts available, or have
helped me to obtain facsimiles; to Mr. J. R. R. Tolkien who has
undertaken the preparation of the Glossary, the most exacting part of
the apparatus; and to Mr. Nichol Smith who has watched over the book
from its beginnings.


A single manuscript is chosen as the basis of each text, and
neither its readings nor its spellings are altered if they can
reasonably be defended. Where correction involves substitution,
the substituted letters are printed in italics, and the actual
reading of the manuscript will be found in the Foot-notes (or
occasionally in the Notes). Words or letters added to complete the
manuscript are enclosed in caret brackets < >. Corrupt readings
retained in the text are indicated by daggers ††.
Paragraphing, punctuation, capitals, and the details of word
division are modern, and contractions are expanded without notice,
so that the reader shall not be distracted by difficulties that
are purely palaeographical. A final _e_ derived from OFr. _é(e)_
or _ie_, OE. _-ig_, is printed _é_, to distinguish it from
unaccented final _e_ which is regularly lost in Modern English.

The extracts have been collated with the manuscripts, or with complete
photographs, except Nos. IV (Thornton MS.), VII, VIII _b_, XI _a_, XVII,
the manuscripts of which I have not been able to consult. The foot-notes
as a rule take no account of conjectural emendations, variants from
other manuscripts, or minutiae like erasures and corrections
contemporary with the copy.


[Foot-note 28: Books primarily of reference are distinguished by an
asterisk. Details relating to texts, manuscript sources, editions,
monographs, and articles that have appeared in periodicals, will be
found in the bibliographical manuals cited.]


  *_A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles_, ed. Sir J.
  A. H. Murray, H. Bradley, W. A. Craigie, C. T. Onions, Oxford
  1888—[quoted as _N.E.D._].

  *Stratmann, F. A. _A Middle English Dictionary_, new edn. by H.
  Bradley, Oxford 1891.


  *Brown, Carleton. _A Register of Middle English Religious and
  Didactic Verse_ (Part I, List of MSS.; Part II, Indices), Oxford
  1916-20 (Bibliographical Society).

  *Hammond, Miss E. P. _Chaucer: A Bibliographical Manual_, New York

  *Wells, J. E. _A Manual of the Writings in Middle English,
  1050-1500_, New Haven, &c., 1916; Supplement, 1919.


  Chambers, E. K. _The Mediaeval Stage_, 2 vols., Oxford 1903.

  Clark, J. W. _The Care of Books_, Cambridge (new edn.) 1909.

  Ker, W. P. _English Literature, Mediaeval_, London 1912. [A good
  brief orientation.]

  Legouis, E. _Chaucer_ (transl. L. Lailavoix), London 1913.

  Rashdall, H. _The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages_, 2
  vols., Oxford 1895.


  Capes, W. W. _The English Church in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth
  Centuries_, London 1909.

  *Dugdale, Sir William. _Monasticon Anglicanum_, new edn. by Caley,
  Ellis and Bandinel, 6 vols., London 1846. [Gives detailed
  histories of the English religious houses.]

  Gasquet, Cardinal F. A. _English Monastic Life_, London, 4th edn.


  Ashley, W. J. _An Introduction to English Economic History and
  Theory_, 2 vols., London 1888-93.

  Bateson, Mary. _Mediaeval England (1066-1350)_, London 1903. [A
  brief and exact social history.]

  Cutts, E. L. _Scenes and Characters of the Middle Ages_, London
  1872; 3rd edn. 1911. [Useful for its illustrations from MSS.]

  Gasquet, Cardinal F. A. _The Black Death of 1348 and 1349_,
  London, 2nd edn. 1908.

  Jessopp, A. _The Coming of the Friars and other Historical
  Essays_, London, 4th edn. 1890.

  Jusserand, J. J. _English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages_
  (transl. L. Toulmin Smith), London 1889, &c.; revised 1921.

  Lechler, G. V. _John Wiclif and his English Precursors_ (transl.
  P. Lorimer), 2 vols., London 1878.

  Oman, Sir Charles Wm. C. _The Great Revolt of 1381_, Oxford 1906.

  Reville, A., et Petit-Dutaillis, Ch. _Le Soulèvement des
  Travailleurs d'Angleterre en 1381_, Paris 1898.

  Riley, H. T. _Memorials of London and London Life (1270-1419)_,
  London 1868.

  *Rogers, J. E. T. _A History of Agriculture and Prices in England
  (1259-1793)_. 7 vols., Oxford 1866-1902. [Rich in facts.]

  Smith, S. Armitage. _John of Gaunt_, London 1904.

  *Stubbs, Wm. _The Constitutional History of England_, 3 vols.,
  Oxford (1st edn. 1874-78), 1903-6.

  Tout, T. F. _The History of England from the Accession of Henry
  III to the Death of Edward III (1216-1377)_, London 1905; new edn.

  Trevelyan, G. M. _England in the Age of Wycliffe_, London 1899;
  new edn., 1909. [A brilliant study.]


  Enlart, C. _Le Costume_ (vol. iii of his _Manuel d'Archéologie
  Française_), Paris 1916.

  Faral, E. _Les Jongleurs en France au Moyen Âge_, Paris 1910.

  Paris, G. _La Littérature Française au Moyen Âge_, Paris, 5th edn.
  1909. [A model handbook.]



A.D. 1303

What is known of Robert Mannyng of Brunne is derived from his own works.
In the Prologue to _Handlyng Synne_ he writes:

      To alle Crystyn men vndir sunne,
      And to gode men of Brunne,
      And speciali, alle be name,
      Þe felaushepe of Symprynghame,
      Roberd of Brunne greteþ ȝow
      In al godenesse þat may to prow;
      Of Brunne wake yn Kesteuene,
      Syxe myle besyde Sympryngham euene,
      Y dwelled yn þe pryorye
      Fyftene ȝere yn cumpanye....

And in the Introduction to his _Chronicle_:

        Of Brunne I am; if any me blame,
      Robert Mannyng is my name;
      Blissed be he of God of heuene
      Þat me Robert with gude wille neuene!
      In þe third Edwardes tyme was I,
      When I wrote alle þis story,
      In þe hous of Sixille I was a throwe;
      Danȝ Robert of Malton, þat ȝe know,
      Did it wryte for felawes sake
      When þai wild solace make.

From these passages it appears that he was born in Brunne, the modern
Bourn, in Lincolnshire; and that he belonged to the Gilbertine Order.
Sempringham was the head-quarters of the Order, and the dependent priory
of Sixhill was near by. It has been suggested, without much evidence,
that he was a lay brother, and not a full canon.

His _Chronicle of England_ was completed in 1338. It falls into two
parts, distinguished by a change of metre and source. The first, edited
by Furnivall in the Rolls Series (2 vols. 1887), extends from the Flood
to A.D. 689, and is based on Wace's _Brut_, the French source of
Layamon's _Brut_. The second part, edited by Hearne, 2 vols., Oxford
1725, extends from A.D. 689 to the death of Edward I, and is based on
the French _Chronicle_ of a contemporary, who is sometimes called Pierre
de Langtoft, sometimes Piers of Bridlington, because he was a native of
Langtoft in Yorkshire, and a canon of the Austin priory at Bridlington
in the same county. Mannyng's _Chronicle_ has no great historical value,
and its chief literary interest lies in the references to current
traditions and popular stories.

_Handlyng Synne_ is a much more valuable work. It was begun in 1303:

      Dane Felyp was mayster þat tyme
      Þat y began þys Englyssh ryme;
      Þe ȝeres of grace fyl þan to be
      A þousynd and þre hundred and þre.
      In þat tyme turnede y þys
      On Englyssh tunge out of Frankys
      Of a boke as y fonde ynne,
      Men clepyn þe boke 'Handlyng Synne'.

The source was again a French work written by a contemporary
Northerner—William of Wadington's _Manuel de Pechiez_. The popularity
of such treatises on the Sins may be judged from the number of works
modelled upon them: e.g. the _Ayenbyte of Inwyt_, Gower's _Confessio
Amantis_, and Chaucer's _Parson's Tale_. Their purpose was, as Robert
explains, to enable a reader to examine his conscience systematically
and constantly, and so to guard himself against vice.

Two complete MSS. of _Handlyng Synne_ are known: British Museum MS.
Harley 1701 (about 1350-75), and MS. Bodley 415, of a slightly later
date. An important fragment is in the library of Dulwich College. The
whole text, with the French source, has been edited by Furnivall for the
Roxburghe Club, and later for the Early English Text Society. It treats,
with the usual wealth of classification, of the Commandments, the Sins,
the Sacraments, the Requisites and Graces of Shrift. But such a bald
summary gives no idea of the richness and variety of its content. For
Mannyng, anticipating Gower, saw the opportunities that the illustrative
stories offered to his special gifts, and spared no pains in their
telling. A few examples are added from his own knowledge. More often he
expands Wadington's outlines, as in the tale of the Dancers of Colbek.
Here the French source is brief and colourless. But the English
translator had found a fuller Latin version—clearly the same as that
printed from Bodleian MS. Rawlinson C 938 in the preface to Furnivall's
Roxburghe Club edition—and from it he produced the well-rounded and
lively rendering given below.

Robert knew that a work designed to turn 'lewde men' from the ale-house
to the contemplation of their sins must grip their attention; and in the
art of linking good teaching with entertainment he is a master. He has
the gift of conveying to his audience his own enjoyment of a good story.
His loose-knit conversational style would stand the test of reading
aloud to simple folk, and he allows no literary affectations, no forced
metres or verbiage, to darken his meaning:

      Haf I alle in myn Inglis layd
      In symple speche as I couthe,
      Þat is lightest in mannes mouthe.
      I mad noght for no disours,
      Ne for no seggers, no harpours,
      But for þe luf of symple men
      Þat strange Inglis can not ken;
      For many it ere þat strange Inglis
      In ryme wate neuer what it is,
      And bot þai wist what it mente,
      Ellis me thoght it were alle schente.

      (_Chronicle_, ll. 72 ff.)

The simple form reflects the writer's frankness and directness. He
points a moral fearlessly, but without harshness or self-righteousness.
And the range of his sympathies and interests makes _Handlyng Synne_ the
best picture of English life before Langland and Chaucer.


MS. Harley 1701 (about A.D. 1375); ed. Furnivall, ll. 8987 ff.

        Karolles, wrastlynges, or somour games,            1
      Whoso euer haunteþ any swyche shames
      Yn cherche, oþer yn chercheȝerd,
      Of sacrylage he may be aferd;
      Or entyrludes, or syngynge,                          5
      Or tabure bete, or oþer pypynge—
      Alle swyche þyng forbodyn es
      Whyle þe prest stondeþ at messe.
      Alle swyche to euery gode preste ys lothe,
      And sunner wyl he make hym wroth                    10
      Þan he wyl, þat haþ no wyt,
      Ne vndyrstondeþ nat Holy Wryt.
      And specyaly at hygh tymes
      Karolles to synge and rede rymys
      Noght yn none holy stedes,                          15
      Þat myȝt dysturble þe prestes bedes,
      Or ȝyf he were yn orysun
      Or any ouþer deuocyun:
      Sacrylage ys alle hyt tolde,
      Þys and many oþer folde.                            20
        But for to leue yn cherche for to daunce,
      Y shal ȝow telle a ful grete chaunce,
      And y trow þe most þat fel
      Ys soþe as y ȝow telle;
      And fyl þys chaunce yn þys londe,                   25
      Yn Ingland, as y vndyrstonde,
      Yn a kynges tyme þat hyght Edward
      Fyl þys chauce þat was so hard.
        Hyt was vppon a Crystemesse nyȝt
      Þat twelue folys a karolle dyȝt,                    30
      Yn wodehed, as hyt were yn cuntek,
      Þey come to a tounne men calle Colbek.
      Þe cherche of þe tounne þat þey to come
      Ys of Seynt Magne, þat suffred martyrdome;
      Of Seynt Bukcestre hyt ys also,                     35
      Seynt Magnes suster, þat þey come to.
      Here names of alle þus fonde y wryte,
      And as y wote now shul ȝe wyte:
      Here lodesman, þat made hem glew,
      Þus ys wryte, he hyȝte Gerlew.                      40
      Twey maydens were yn here coueyne,
      Mayden Merswynde and Wybessyne.
      Alle þese come þedyr for þat enchesone
      Of þe prestes doghtyr of þe tounne.
        Þe prest hyȝt Robert, as y kan ame;               45
      Aȝone hyght hys sone by name;
      Hys doghter, þat þese men wulde haue,
      Þus ys wryte, þat she hyȝt Aue.
      Echoune consented to o wyl
      Who shuld go Aue oute to tyl,                       50
      Þey graunted echone out to sende
      Boþe Wybessyne and Merswynde.
        Þese wommen ȝede and tolled here oute
      Wyþ hem to karolle þe cherche aboute.
      Beune ordeyned here karollyng;                   55
      Gerlew endyted what þey shuld syng.
      Þys ys þe karolle þat þey sunge,
      As telleþ þe Latyn tunge:
        '_Equitabat Beuo per siluam frondosam,
      Ducebat secum Merswyndam formosam.                  60
      Quid stamus? cur non imus?_'
        'By þe leued wode rode Beuolyne,
      Wyþ hym he ledde feyre Merswyne.
      Why stonde we? why go we noght?'
      Þys ys þe karolle þat Grysly wroght;                65
      Þys songe sunge þey yn þe chercheȝerd—
      Of foly were þey no þyng aferd—
      Vnto þe matynes were alle done,
      And þe messe shuld bygynne sone.
        Þe preste hym reuest to begynne messe,            70
      And þey ne left þerfore neuer þe lesse,
      But daunsed furþe as þey bygan,
      For alle þe messe þey ne blan.
        Þe preste, þat stode at þe autere,
      And herd here noyse and here bere,                  75
      Fro þe auter down he nam,
      And to þe cherche porche he cam,
      And seyd 'On Goddes behalue, y ȝow forbede
      Þat ȝe no lenger do swych dede,
      But comeþ yn on feyre manere                        80
      Goddes seruyse for to here,
      And doþ at Crystyn mennys lawe;
      Karolleþ no more, for Crystys awe!
      Wurschyppeþ Hym with alle ȝoure myȝt
      Þat of þe Vyrgyne was bore þys nyȝt.'               85
        For alle hys byddyng lefte þey noȝt,
      But daunsed furþ, as þey þoȝt.
      Þe preste þarefor was sore agreued;
      He preyd God þat he on beleuyd,
      And for Seynt Magne, þat he wulde so werche—        90
      Yn whos wurschyp sette was þe cherche—
      Þat swych a veniaunce were on hem sent,
      Are þey oute of þat stede were went,
      Þat <þey> myȝt euer ryȝt so wende
      Vnto þat tyme tweluemonth ende;                     95
      (Yn þe Latyne þat y fonde þore
      He seyþ nat 'tweluemonth' but 'euermore';)
      He cursed hem þere alsaume
      As þey karoled on here gaume.
        As sone as þe preste hadde so spoke              100
      Euery hand yn ouþer so fast was loke
      Þat no man myȝt with no wundyr
      Þat tweluemoþe parte hem asundyr.
        Þe preste ȝede yn, whan þys was done,
      And commaunded hys sone Aȝone                      105
      Þat  shulde go swyþe aftyr Aue,
      Oute of þat karolle algate to haue.
      But al to late þat wurde was seyd,
      For on hem alle was þe veniaunce leyd.
        Aȝone wende weyl for to spede;                   110
      Vnto þe karolle as swyþe he ȝede,
      Hys systyr by þe arme he hente,
      And þe arme fro þe body wente.
      Men wundred alle þat þere wore,
      And merueyle mowe ȝe here more,                    115
      For, seþen he had þe arme yn hand,
      Þe body ȝede furþ karoland,
      And noþer <þe> body ne þe arme
      Bledde neuer blode, colde ne warme,
      But was as drye, with al þe haunche,               120
      As of a stok were ryue a braunche.
        Aȝone to hys fadyr went,
      And broght hym a sory present:
      'Loke, fadyr,' he seyd, 'and haue hyt here,
      Þe arme of þy doghtyr dere,                        125
      Þat was myn owne syster Aue,
      Þat y wende y myȝt a saue.
      Þy cursyng now sene hyt ys
      Wyth veniaunce on þy owne flessh.
      Fellyche þou cursedest, and ouer sone;             130
      Þou askedest veniaunce,—þou hast þy bone.'
        Ȝow þar nat aske ȝyf þere was wo
      Wyth þe preste, and wyth many mo.
      Þe prest, þat cursed for þat daunce,
      On some of hys fyl harde chaunce.                  135
      He toke hys doghtyr arme forlorn
      And byryed hyt on þe morn;
      Þe nexte day þe arme of Aue
      He fonde hyt lyggyng aboue þe graue.
      He byryed  on anouþer day,                    140
      And eft aboue þe graue hyt lay.
      Þe þrydde tyme he byryed hyt,
      And eft was hyt kast oute of þe pyt.
      Þe prest wulde byrye hyt no more,
      He dredde þe veniaunce ferly sore;                 145
      Ynto þe cherche he bare þe arme,
      For drede and doute of more harme,
      He ordeyned hyt for to be
      Þat euery man myȝt wyth ye hyt se.
        Þese men þat ȝede so karolland,                  150
      Alle þat ȝere, hand yn hand,
      Þey neuer oute of þat stede ȝede,
      Ne none myȝt hem þenne lede.
      Þere þe cursyng fyrst bygan,
      Yn þat place aboute þey ran,                       155
      Þat neuer ne felte þey no werynes
      As many †bodyes for goyng dos†,
      Ne mete ete, ne drank drynke,
      Ne slepte onely alepy wynke.
      Nyȝt ne day þey wyst of none,                      160
      Whan hyt was come, whan hyt was gone;
      Frost ne snogh, hayle ne reyne,
      Of colde ne hete, felte þey no peyne;
      Heere ne nayles neuer grewe,
      Ne solowed cloþes, ne turned hewe;                 165
      Þundyr ne lyȝtnyng dyd hem no dere,
      Goddys mercy ded hyt fro hem were;—
      But sungge þat songge þat þe wo wroȝt:
      'Why stonde we? why go we noȝt?'
        What man shuld þyr be yn þys lyue                170
      Þat ne wulde hyt see and þedyr dryue?
      Þe Emperoure Henry come fro Rome
      For to see þys hard dome.
      Whan he hem say, he wepte sore
      For þe myschefe þat he sagh þore.                  175
      He ded come wryȝtes for to make
      Coueryng ouer hem, for tempest sake.
      But þat þey wroght hyt was yn veyn,
      For hyt come to no certeyn,
      For þat þey sette on oo day                        180
      On þe touþer downe hyt lay.
      Ones, twyys, þryys, þus þey wroȝt,
      And alle here makyng was for noȝt.
      Myght no coueryng hyle hem fro colde
      Tyl tyme of mercy þat Cryst hyt wolde.             185
        Tyme of grace fyl þurgh Hys myȝt
      At þe tweluemonth ende, on þe ȝole nyȝt.
      Þe same oure þat þe prest hem banned,
      Þe same oure atwynne þey †woned†;
      Þat houre þat he cursed hem ynne,                  190
      Þe same oure þey ȝede atwynne,
      And as yn twynkelyng of an ye
      Ynto þe cherche gun þey flye,
      And on þe pauement þey fyl alle downe
      As þey had be dede, or fal yn a swone.             195
        Þre days styl þey lay echone,
      Þat none steryd oþer flesshe or bone,
      And at þe þre days ende
      To lyfe God graunted hem to wende.
      Þey sette hem vpp and spak apert                   200
      To þe parysshe prest, syre Robert:
      'Þou art ensample and enchesun
      Of oure long confusyun;
      Þou maker art of oure trauayle,
      Þat ys to many grete meruayle,                     205
      And þy traueyle shalt þou sone ende,
      For to þy long home sone shalt þou wende.'
        Alle þey ryse þat yche tyde
      But Aue,—she lay dede besyde.
      Grete sorowe had here fadyr, here broþer;          210
      Merueyle and drede had alle ouþer;
      Y trow no drede of soule dede,
      But with pyne was broght þe body dede.
      Þe fyrst man was þe fadyr, þe prest,
      Þat deyd aftyr þe doȝtyr nest.                     215
      Þys yche arme þat was of Aue,
      Þat none myȝt leye yn graue,
      Þe Emperoure dyd a vessel werche
      To do hyt yn, and hange yn þe cherche,
      Þat alle men myȝt se hyt and knawe,                220
      And þenk on þe chaunce when men hyt sawe.
        Þese men þat hadde go þus karolland
      Alle þe ȝere, fast hand yn hand,
      Þogh þat þey were þan asunder
      Ȝyt alle þe worlde spake of hem wunder.            225
      Þat same hoppyng þat þey fyrst ȝede,
      Þat daunce ȝede þey þurgh land and lede,
      And, as þey ne myȝt fyrst be vnbounde,
      So efte togedyr myȝt þey neuer be founde,
      Ne myȝt þey neuer come aȝeyn                       230
      Togedyr to oo stede certeyn.
        Foure ȝede to þe courte of Rome,
      And euer hoppyng aboute þey nome,
      †Wyth sundyr lepys† come þey þedyr,
      But þey come neuer efte togedyr.                   235
      Here cloþes ne roted, ne nayles grewe,
      Ne heere ne wax, ne solowed hewe,
      Ne neuer hadde þey amendement,
      Þat we herde, at any corseynt,
      But at þe vyrgyne Seynt Edyght,                    240
      Þere was he botened, Seynt Teodryght,
      On oure Lady day, yn lenten tyde,
      As he slepte here toumbe besyde.
      Þere he had hys medycyne
      At Seynt Edyght, þe holy vyrgyne.                  245
        Brunyng þe bysshope of seynt Tolous
      Wrote þys tale so merueylous;
      Seþþe was hys name of more renoun,
      Men called hym þe pope Leoun.
      Þys at þe court of Rome þey wyte,                  250
      And yn þe kronykeles hyt ys wryte
      Yn many stedys beȝounde þe see,
      More þan ys yn þys cuntré.
      Þarfor men seye, an weyl ys trowed,
      'Þe nere þe cherche, þe fyrþer fro God'.           255
        So fare men here by þys tale,
      Some holde hyt but a troteuale,
      Yn oþer stedys hyt ys ful dere
      And for grete merueyle þey wyl hyt here.
      A tale hyt ys of feyre shewyng,                    260
      Ensample and drede aȝens cursyng.
      Þys tale y tolde ȝow to  ȝow aferde
      Yn cherche to karolle, or yn chercheȝerde,
      Namely aȝens þe prestys wylle:
      Leueþ whan he byddeþ ȝow be stylle.                265

[Foot-note: 21 for (2nd) _om. MS. Bodley 415_.]

[Foot-note: 24 Ys as soþ as þe gospel _MS. Bodley_.]

[Foot-note: 78 behalue] halfe _MS. Bodley_.]

[Foot-note: 94 þey] _so MS. Bodley: om. MS. Harley_.]

[Foot-note: 106 he] _so MS. Bodley_.]

[Foot-note: 118 þe] _so MS. Bodley_.]

[Foot-note: 136-7 forlorn̄... morn̄ _MS._]

[Foot-note: 140 hyt] _so MS. Bodley_: _om. MS. Harley._]

[Foot-note: 171 Þat] Þat hyt _MS. Harley_.]

[Foot-note: 221 men] þey _MS. Bodley_.]

[Foot-note: 227 ȝede] wente _MS. Bodley._]

[Foot-note: 229 togedyr... neuer] myȝt þey neuer togedyr _MS.

[Foot-note: 241 Seynt _om. MS. Bodley._]



_Sir Orfeo_ is found in three MSS.: (1) the Auchinleck MS. (1325-1350),
a famous Middle English miscellany now in the Advocates' Library,
Edinburgh; (2) British Museum MS. Harley 3810 (fifteenth century); (3)
Bodleian MS. Ashmole 61 (fifteenth century). Our text follows the
Auchinleck MS., with ll. 1-24 and ll. 33-46 supplied from the Harleian
MS. The critical text of O. Zielke, Breslau 1880, reproduces the MSS.

The story appears to have been translated from a French source into
South-Western English at the beginning of the fourteenth century. It
belongs to a group of 'lays' which claim to derive from Brittany, e.g.
_Lai le Freine_, which has the same opening lines (1-22); _Emaré_; and
Chaucer's _Franklin's Tale_.

The story of Orpheus and Eurydice was known to the Middle Ages chiefly
from Ovid (_Metamorphoses_ x) and from Virgil (_Georgics_ iv). King
Alfred's rendering of it in his _Boethius_ is one of his best prose
passages, despite the crude moralizing which makes Orpheus's backward
glance at Eurydice before she is safe from Hades a symbol of the
backslider's longing for his old sins. The Middle English poet has a
lighter and daintier touch. The Greek myth is almost lost in a tale of
fairyland, the earliest English romance of the kind; and to provide the
appropriate happy ending, Sir Orfeo is made successful in his attempt to
rescue Heurodis. The adaptation of the classical subject to a mediaeval
setting is thorough. An amusing instance is the attempt in the
Auchinleck MS. to give the poem an English interest by the unconvincing
assurance that _Traciens_ (which from 'Thracian' had come to mean
'Thrace') was the old name of Winchester (ll. 49-50).

        Orfeo was a king,                                 25
      In Inglond an heiȝe lording,
      A stalworþ man and hardi bo,
      Large and curteys he was also.
      His fader was comen of King Pluto,
      And his moder of King Iuno,                         30
      Þat sum time were as godes yhold,
      For auentours þat þai dede and told.
        Þis king soiournd in Traciens,
      Þat was a cité of noble defens;
      For Winchester was cleped þo
      Traciens wiþouten no.                               50
      Þe king hadde a quen of priis,
      Þat was ycleped Dame Herodis,
      Þe fairest leuedi, for þe nones,
      Þat miȝt gon on bodi and bones,
      Ful of loue and of godenisse;                       55
      Ac no man may telle hir fairnise.
        Bifel so in þe comessing of May,
      When miri and hot is þe day,
      And oway beþ winter-schours,
      And eueri feld is ful of flours,                    60
      And blosme breme on eueri bouȝ
      Oueral wexeþ miri anouȝ,
      Þis ich quen, Dame Heurodis,
      Tok to maidens of priis,
      And went in an vndrentide                           65
      To play bi an orchard side,
      To se þe floures sprede and spring,
      And to here þe foules sing.
        Þai sett hem doun al þre
      Vnder a fair ympe-tre,                              70
      And wel sone þis fair quene
      Fel on slepe opon þe grene.
      Þe maidens durst hir nouȝt awake,
      Bot lete hir ligge and rest take.
      So sche slepe til afternone,                        75
      Þat vndertide was al ydone.
      Ac as sone as sche gan awake,
      Sche crid and loþli bere gan make,
      Sche froted hir honden and hir fet,
      And crached hir visage, it bled wete;               80
      Hir riche robe hye al torett,
      And was reueyd out of hir witt.
      Þe tvo maidens hir biside
      No durst wiþ hir no leng abide,
      Bot ourn to þe palays ful riȝt,                     85
      And told boþe squier and kniȝt
      Þat her quen awede wold,
      And bad hem go and hir athold.
      Kniȝtes vrn, and leuedis also,
      Damisels sexti and mo,                              90
      In þe orchard to þe quen hye come,
      And her vp in her armes nome,
      And brouȝt hir to bed atte last,
      And held hir þere fine fast;
      Ac euer sche held in o cri,                         95
      And wold vp and owy.
        When Orfeo herd þat tiding,
      Neuer him nas wers for no þing.
      He come wiþ kniȝtes tene
      To chaumber riȝt bifor þe quene,                   100
      And biheld, and seyd wiþ grete pité:
      'O lef liif, what is te,
      Þat euer ȝete hast ben so stille,
      And now gredest wonder schille?
      Þi bodi, þat was so white ycore,                   105
      Wiþ þine nailes is al totore.
      Allas! þi rode, þat was so red,
      Is al wan as þou were ded;
      And also þine fingres smale
      Beþ al blodi and al pale.                          110
      Allas! þi louesom eyȝen to
      Lokeþ so man doþ on his fo.
      A! dame, ich biseche merci.
      Lete ben al þis reweful cri,
      And tel me what þe is, and hou,                    115
      And what þing may þe help now.'
        Þo lay sche stille atte last,
      And gan to wepe swiþe fast,
      And seyd þus þe king to:
      'Allas! mi lord, Sir Orfeo,                        120
      Seþþen we first togider were,
      Ones wroþ neuer we nere,
      Bot euer ich haue yloued þe
      As mi liif, and so þou me.
      Ac now we mot delen ato;                           125
      Do þi best, for y mot go.'
        'Allas!' quaþ he, 'forlorn icham.
      Whider wiltow go, and to wham?
      Whider þou gost, ichil wiþ þe,
      And whider y go, þou schalt wiþ me.'               130
      'Nay, nay, sir, þat nouȝt nis;
      Ichil þe telle al hou it is:
      As ich lay þis vndertide,
      And slepe vnder our orchard-side,
      Þer come to me to fair kniȝtes                     135
      Wele y-armed al to riȝtes,
      And bad me comen an heiȝing,
      And speke wiþ her lord þe king.
      And ich answerd at wordes bold,
      Y durst nouȝt, no y nold.                          140
      Þai priked oȝain as þai miȝt driue;
      Þo com her king also bliue,
      Wiþ an hundred kniȝtes and mo,
      And damisels an hundred also,
      Al on snowe-white stedes;                          145
      As white as milke were her wedes:
      Y no seiȝe neuer ȝete bifore
      So fair creatours ycore.
      Þe king hadde a croun on hed,
      It nas of siluer, no of gold red,                  150
      Ac it was of a precious ston,
      As briȝt as þe sonne it schon.
      And as son as he to me cam,
      Wold ich, nold ich, he me nam,
      And made me wiþ him ride                           155
      Opon a palfray, bi his side,
      And brouȝt me to his palays,
      Wele atird in ich ways,
      And schewed me castels and tours,
      Riuers, forestes, friþ wiþ flours,                 160
      And his riche stedes ichon;
      And seþþen me brouȝt oȝain hom
      Into our owhen orchard,
      And said to me þus afterward:
      "Loke, dame, to-morwe þatow be                     165
      Riȝt here vnder þis ympe-tre,
      And þan þou schalt wiþ ous go,
      And liue wiþ ous euermo;
      And ȝif þou makest ous ylet,
      Whar þou be, þou worst yfet,                       170
      And totore þine limes al,
      Þat noþing help þe no schal;
      And þei þou best so totorn,
      Ȝete þou worst wiþ ous yborn."'
        When King Orfeo herd þis cas,                    175
      'O we!' quaþ he, 'allas, allas!
      Leuer me were to lete mi liif,
      Þan þus to lese þe quen mi wiif!'
      He asked conseyl at ich man,
      Ac no man him help no can.                         180
        Amorwe þe vndertide is come,
      And Orfeo haþ his armes ynome,
      And wele ten hundred kniȝtes wiþ him
      Ich y-armed stout and grim;
      And wiþ þe quen wenten he                          185
      Riȝt vnto þat ympe-tre.
      Þai made scheltrom in ich a side,
      And sayd þai wold þere abide,
      And dye þer euerichon,
      Er þe quen schuld fram hem gon.                    190
      Ac ȝete amiddes hem ful riȝt
      Þe quen was oway ytuiȝt,
      Wiþ fairi forþ ynome;
      Men wist neuer wher sche was bicome.
        Þo was þer criing, wepe and wo.                  195
      Þe king into his chaumber is go,
      And oft swoned opon þe ston,
      And made swiche diol and swiche mon
      Þat neiȝe his liif was yspent:
      Þer was non amendement.                            200
        He cleped togider his barouns,
      Erls, lordes of renouns;
      And when þai al ycomen were,
      'Lordinges,' he said, 'bifor ȝou here
      Ich ordainy min heiȝe steward                      205
      To wite mi kingdom afterward;
      In mi stede ben he schal,
      To kepe mi londes ouer al.
      For, now ichaue mi quen ylore,
      Þe fairest leuedi þat euer was bore,               210
      Neuer eft y nil no woman se.
      Into wildernes ichil te,
      And liue þer euermore
      Wiþ wilde bestes in holtes hore.
      And when ȝe vnderstond þat y be spent,             215
      Make ȝou þan a parlement,
      And chese ȝou a newe king.
      Now doþ ȝour best wiþ al mi þing.'
        Þo was þer wepeing in þe halle,
      And grete cri among hem alle;                      220
      Vnneþe miȝt old or ȝong
      For wepeing speke a word wiþ tong.
      Þai kneled adoun al yfere,
      And praid him, ȝif his wille were,
      Þat he no schuld nouȝt fram hem go.                225
      'Do way!' quaþ he, 'it schal be so.'
        Al his kingdom he forsoke;
      Bot a sclauin on him he toke;
      He no hadde kirtel no hode,
      Schert,  no noþer gode.                        230
      Bot his harp he tok algate,
      And dede him barfot out atte ȝate;
      No man most wiþ him go.
        O way! what þer was wepe and wo,
      When he, þat hadde ben king wiþ croun,             235
      Went so pouerlich out of toun!
      Þurch wode and ouer heþ
      Into þe wildernes he geþ.
      Noþing he fint þat him is ays,
      Bot euer he liueþ in gret malais.                  240
      He þat hadde ywerd þe fowe and griis,
      And on bed þe purper biis,
      Now on hard heþe he liþ,
      Wiþ leues and gresse he him wriþ.
      He þat hadde had castels and tours,                245
      Riuer, forest, friþ wiþ flours,
      Now, þei it comenci to snewe and frese,
      Þis king mot make his bed in mese.
      He þat had yhad kniȝtes of priis
      Bifor him kneland, and leuedis,                    250
      Now seþ he noþing þat him likeþ,
      Bot wilde wormes bi him strikeþ.
      He þat had yhad plenté
      Of mete and drink, of ich deynté,
      Now may he al day digge and wrote                  255
      Er he finde his fille of rote.
      In somer he liueþ bi wild frut
      And berien bot gode lite;
      In winter may he noþing finde
      Bot rote, grases, and þe rinde.                    260
      Al his bodi was oway duine
      For missays, and al tochine.
      Lord! who may telle þe sore
      Þis king sufferd ten ȝere and more?
      His here of his berd, blac and rowe,               265
      To his girdelstede was growe.
      His harp, whereon was al his gle,
      He hidde in an holwe tre;
      And, when þe weder was clere and briȝt,
      He toke his harp to him wel riȝt,                  270
      And harped at his owhen wille.
      Into alle þe wode þe soun gan schille,
      Þat alle þe wilde bestes þat þer beþ
      For ioie abouten him þai teþ;
      And alle þe foules þat þer were                    275
      Come and sete on ich a brere,
      To here his harping afine,
      So miche melody was þerin;
      And when he his harping lete wold,
      No best bi him abide nold.                         280
        He miȝt se him bisides
      Oft in hot vndertides
      Þe king o fairy wiþ his rout
      Com to hunt him al about,
      Wiþ dim cri and bloweing;                          285
      And houndes also wiþ him berking;
      Ac no best þai no nome,
      No neuer he nist whider þai bicome.
      And oþer while he miȝt him se
      As a gret ost bi him te                            290
      Wele atourned ten hundred kniȝtes,
      Ich y-armed to his riȝtes,
      Of cuntenaunce stout and fers,
      Wiþ mani desplaid baners,
      And ich his swerd ydrawe hold,                     295
      Ac neuer he nist whider þai wold.
      And oþer while he seiȝe oþer þing:
      Kniȝtes and leuedis com daunceing
      In queynt atire, gisely,
      Queynt pas and softly;                             300
      Tabours and trunpes ȝede hem bi,
      And al maner menstraci.
        And on a day he seiȝe him biside
      Sexti leuedis on hors ride,
      Gentil and iolif as brid on ris,—                  305
      Nouȝt o man amonges hem þer nis.
      And ich a faucoun on hond bere,
      And riden on haukin bi o riuere.
      Of game þai founde wel gode haunt,
      Maulardes, hayroun, and cormeraunt;                310
      Þe foules of þe water ariseþ,
      Þe faucouns hem wele deuiseþ;
      Ich faucoun his pray slouȝ.
      Þat seiȝe Orfeo, and louȝ:
      'Parfay!' quaþ he, 'þer is fair game,              315
      Þider ichil, bi Godes name!
      Ich was ywon swiche werk to se.'
      He aros, and þider gan te.
      To a leuedi he was ycome,
      Biheld, and haþ wele vndernome,                    320
      And seþ bi al þing þat it is
      His owhen quen, Dam Heurodis.
      Ȝern he biheld hir, and sche him eke,
      Ac noiþer to oþer a word no speke.
      For messais þat sche on him seiȝe,                 325
      Þat had ben so riche and so heiȝe,
      Þe teres fel out of her eiȝe.
      Þe oþer leuedis þis yseiȝe,
      And maked hir oway to ride,
      Sche most wiþ him no lenger abide.                 330
        'Allas!' quaþ he, 'now me is wo.
      Whi nil deþ now me slo?
      Allas! wr_e_che, þat y no miȝt
      Dye now after þis siȝt!
      Allas! to long last mi liif,                       335
      When y no dar nouȝt wiþ mi wiif,
      No hye to me, o word speke.
      Allas! whi nil min hert breke?
      Parfay!' quaþ he, 'tide wat bitide,
      Whider so þis leuedis ride,                        340
      Þe selue way ichil streche;
      Of liif no deþ me no reche.'
        His sclauain he dede on also spac,
      And henge his harp opon his bac,
      And had wel gode wil to gon,—                      345
      He no spard noiþer stub no ston.
      In at a roche þe leuedis rideþ,
      And he after, and nouȝt abideþ.
        When he was in þe roche ygo
      Wele þre mile oþer mo,                             350
      He com into a fair cuntray,
      As briȝt so sonne on somers day,
      Smoþe and plain and al grene,
      Hille no dale nas þer non ysene.
      Amidde þe lond a castel he siȝe,                   355
      Riche and real, and wonder heiȝe.
      Al þe vtmast wal
      Was clere and schine as cristal;
      An hundred tours þer were about,
      Degiselich, and bataild stout;                     360
      Þe butras com out of þe diche,
      Of rede gold y-arched riche;
      Þe vousour was anowed al
      Of ich maner diuers animal.
      Wiþin þer wer wide wones                           365
      Al of precious stones.
      Þe werst piler on to biholde
      Was al of burnist gold.
      Al þat lond was euer liȝt,
      For when it schuld be þerk and niȝt,               370
      Þe riche stones liȝt gonne,
      As briȝt as doþ at none þe sonne.
      No man may telle, no þenche in þouȝt,
      Þe riche werk þat þer was wrouȝt;
      Bi al þing him þink þat it is                      375
      Þe proude court of Paradis.
        In þis castel þe leuedis aliȝt;
      He wold in after, ȝif he miȝt.
      Orfeo knokkeþ atte gate,
      Þe porter was redi þerate,                         380
      And asked what he wold haue ydo.
      'Parfay!' quaþ he, 'icham a minstrel, lo!
      To solas þi lord wiþ mi gle,
      Ȝif his swete wille be.'
      Þe porter vndede þe ȝate anon,                     385
      And lete him into þe castel gon.
        Þan he gan bihold about al,
      And seiȝe †ful† liggeand wiþin þe wal
      Of folk þat were þider ybrouȝt,
      And þouȝt dede, and nare nouȝt.                    390
      Sum stode wiþouten hade,
      And sum non armes nade,
      And sum þurch þe bodi hadde wounde,
      And sum lay wode, ybounde,
      And sum armed on hors sete,                        395
      And sum astrangled as þai ete,
      And sum were in water adreynt,
      And sum wiþ fire al forschreynt
      Wiues þer lay on childbedde,
      Sum ded, and sum awedde;                           400
      And wonder fele þer lay bisides,
      Riȝt as þai slepe her vndertides.
      Eche was þus in þis warld ynome,
      Wiþ fairi þider ycome.
      Þer he seiȝe his owhen wiif,                       405
      Dame Heurodis, his l_e_f liif,
      Slepe vnder an ympe-tre:
      Bi her cloþes he knewe þat it was he.
        And when he hadde bihold þis meruails alle,
      He went into þe kinges halle.                      410
      Þan seiȝe he þer a semly siȝt,
      A tabernacle blisseful and briȝt,
      Þerin her maister king sete,
      And her quen fair and swete.
      Her crounes, her cloþes, schine so briȝt,          415
      Þat vnneþe bihold he hem miȝt.
        When he hadde biholden al þat þing,
      He kneled adoun bifor þe king.
      'O lord,' he seyd, 'ȝif it þi wille were,
      Mi menstraci þou schust yhere.'                    420
      Þe king answerd: 'What man artow,
      Þat art hider ycomen now?
      Ich, no non þat is wiþ me,
      No sent neuer after þe;
      Seþþen þat ich here regni gan,                     425
      Y no fond neuer so folehardi man
      Þat hider to ous durst wende,
      Bot þat ichim wald ofsende.'
      'Lord,' quaþ he, 'trowe ful wel,
      Y nam bot a pouer menstrel;                        430
      And, sir, it is þe maner of ous
      To seche mani a lordes hous;
      Þei we nouȝt welcom no be,
      Ȝete we mot proferi forþ our gle.'
        Bifor þe king he sat adoun,                      435
      And tok his harp so miri of soun,
      And tempreþ his harp, as he wele can,
      And blisseful notes he þer gan,
      Þat al þat in þe palays were
      Com to him for to here,                            440
      And liggeþ adoun to his fete,
      Hem þenkeþ his melody so swete.
      Þe king herkneþ and sitt ful stille,
      To here his gle he haþ gode wille;
      Gode bourde he hadde of his gle,                   445
      Þe riche quen also hadde he.
        When he hadde stint his harping,
      Þan seyd to him þe king:
      'Menstrel, me likeþ wele þi gle.
      Now aske of me what it be,                         450
      Largelich ichil þe pay.
      Now speke, and tow miȝt asay.'
      'Sir,' he seyd, 'ich biseche þe
      Þatow woldest ȝiue me
      Þat ich leuedi, briȝt on ble,                      455
      Þat slepeþ vnder þe ympe-tre.'
      'Nay,' quaþ þe king, 'þat nouȝt nere!
      A sori couple of ȝou it were,
      For þou art lene, rowe, and blac,
      And sche is louesum, wiþouten lac;                 460
      A loþlich þing it were forþi
      To sen hir in þi compayni.'
        'O sir,' he seyd, 'gentil king,
      Ȝete were it a wele fouler þing
      To here a lesing of þi mouþe,                      465
      So, sir, as ȝe seyd nouþe,
      What ich wold aski, haue y schold,
      And nedes þou most þi word hold.'
      Þe king seyd: 'Seþþen it is so,
      Take hir bi þe hond, and go;                       470
      Of hir ichil þatow be bliþe.'
        He kneled adoun, and þonked him swiþe;
      His wiif he tok bi þe hond,
      And dede him swiþe out of þat lond,
      And went him out of þat þede,—                     475
      Riȝt as he come þe way he ȝede.
        So long he haþ þe way ynome,
      To Winchester he is ycome,
      Þat was his owhen cité;
      Ac no man knewe þat it was he.                     480
      No forþer þan þe tounes ende
      For knoweleche  no durst wende,
      Bot wiþ a begger y bilt ful narwe,
      Þer he tok his herbarwe,
      To him and to his owhen wiif,                      485
      As a minstrel of pouer liif,
      And asked tidinges of þat lond,
      And who þe kingdom held in hond.
      Þe pouer begger in his cote
      Told him euerich a grot:                           490
      Hou her quen was stole owy
      Ten ȝer gon wiþ fairy;
      And hou her king en exile ȝede,
      Bot no man nist in wiche þede;
      And hou þe steward þe lond gan hold;               495
      And oþer mani þinges him told.
        Amorwe, oȝain nonetide,
      He maked his wiif þer abide;
      Þe beggers cloþes he borwed anon,
      And heng his harp his rigge opon,                  500
      And went him into þat cité,
      Þat men miȝt him bihold and se.
      Erls and barouns bold,
      Buriays and leuedis him gun bihold.
      'Lo,' þai seyd, 'swiche a man!                     505
      Hou long þe here hongeþ him opan!
      Lo, hou his berd hongeþ to his kne!
      He is yclongen also a tre!'
        And as he ȝede in þe strete,
      Wiþ his steward he gan mete,                       510
      And loude he sett on him a crie:
      'Sir steward,' he seyd, 'merci!
      Icham an harpour of heþenisse;
      Help me now in þis destresse!'
      Þe steward seyd: 'Com wiþ me, come;                515
      Of þat ichaue þou schalt haue some.
      Euerich gode harpour is welcom me to,
      For mi lordes loue Sir Orfeo.'
        In þe castel þe steward sat atte mete,
      And mani lording was bi him sete.                  520
      Þer were trompour and tabourers,
      Harpours fele, and crouders.
      Miche melody þai maked alle,
      And Orfeo sat stille in þe halle,
      And herkneþ. When þai ben al stille,               525
      He toke his harp and tempred schille,
      Þe blifulest notes he harped þere
      Þat euer ani man yherd wiþ ere;
      Ich man liked wele his gle.
        Þe steward biheld and gan yse,                   530
      And knewe þe harp als bliue.
      'Menstrel,' he seyd, 'so mot þou þriue,
      Where hadestow þis harp, and hou?
      Y pray þat þou me telle now.'
      'Lord,' quaþ he, 'in vncouþe þede,                 535
      Þurch a wildernes as y ȝede,
      Þer y founde in a dale
      Wiþ lyouns a man totorn smale,
      And wolues him frete wiþ teþ so scharp.
      Bi him y fond þis ich harp;                        540
      Wele ten ȝere it is ygo.'
      'O,' quaþ þe steward, 'now me is wo!
      Þat was mi lord Sir Orfeo.
      Allas! wreche, what schal y do,
      Þat haue swiche a lord ylore?                      545
      A way! þat ich was ybore!
      Þat him was so hard grace yȝarked,
      And so vile deþ ymarked!'
      Adoun he fel aswon to grounde.
      His barouns him tok vp in þat stounde,             550
      And telleþ him hou it geþ—
      It nis no bot of manes deþ.
        King Orfeo knewe wele bi þan
      His steward was a trewe man
      And loued him as he auȝt to do,                    555
      And stont vp and seyt þus: 'Lo,
      Steward, herkne now þis þing:
      Ȝif ich were Orfeo þe king,
      And hadde ysuffred ful ȝore
      In wildernisse miche sore,                         560
      And hadde ywon mi quen owy
      Out of þe lond of fairy,
      And hadde ybrouȝt þe leuedi hende
      Riȝt here to þe tounes ende,
      And wiþ a begger her in ynome,                     565
      And were miself hider ycome
      Pouerlich to þe, þus stille,
      For to asay þi gode wille,
      And ich founde þe þus trewe,
      Þou no schust it neuer rewe:                       570
      Sikerlich, for loue or ay,
      Þou schust be king after mi day.
      And ȝif þou of mi deþ hadest ben bliþe,
      Þou schust haue voided also swiþe.'
        Þo al þo þat þerin sete                          575
      Þat it was King Orfeo vnderȝete,
      And þe steward him wele knewe;
      Ouer and ouer þe bord he þrewe,
      And fel adoun to his fet;
      So dede euerich lord þat þer sete,                 580
      And al þai seyd at o criing:
      'Ȝe beþ our lord, sir, and our king!'
      Glad þai were of his liue.
      To chaumber þai ladde him als biliue,
      And baþed him, and schaued his berd,               585
      And tired him as a king apert.
      And seþþen wiþ gret processioun
      Þai brouȝt þe quen into þe toun,
      Wiþ al maner menstraci.
      Lord! þer was grete melody!                        590
      For ioie þai wepe wiþ her eiȝe
      Þat hem so sounde ycomen seiȝe.
        Now King Orfeo newe coround is,
      And his quen Dame Heurodis,
      And liued long afterward;                          595
      And seþþen was king þe steward.
        Harpours in Bretaine after þan
      Herd hou þis meruaile bigan,
      And made herof a lay of gode likeing,
      And nempned it after þe king;                      600
      Þat lay 'Orfeo' is yhote,
      Gode is þe lay, swete is þe note.
        Þus com Sir Orfeo out of his care.
      God graunt ous alle wele to fare.

[Foot-note: ll. 1-24 _from Harl. 3810: om. MS._]

[Foot-note: ll. 7-8 _follow_ ll. 9-10 _in Harl._]

[Foot-note: 12 o loue] to lowe _Harl._]

[Foot-note: 26 In Inglond] And in his tyme _Harl._]

[Foot-note: 33-46 _from Harl. 3810: om. MS._]

[Foot-note: 49-50 _om. Harl., Ashm._]

[Foot-note: 51 Þe king] He _Harl._: And _Ashm._]

[Foot-note: 82 reueysed] rauysed _Ashm._: reueyd _MS._: wode out _Harl._]

[Foot-note: 230 no] ne _Ashm.: om. MS._]

[Foot-note: 333 wreche] wroche _MS._]

[Foot-note: 406 lef] liif _MS._]

[Foot-note: 478 Winchester] Traciens _Ashm._: Crassens _Harl._]



A.D. 1340.

Michael of Northgate was a monk of St. Augustine's, Canterbury. From a
library catalogue of the monastery it appears that he was a lover of
books, for he is named as the donor of twenty-five MSS., a considerable
collection for those days. Their titles show a taste not merely for
religious works, but for science—mathematics, chemistry, medicine, as
they were known at the time. Four of these MSS. have been traced, and
one of them, British Museum MS. Arundel 57, is Michael's autograph copy
of the _Ayenbyte_. On folio 2 of the MS. are the words: _Þis boc is Dan
Michelis of Northgate, ywrite an Englis of his oȝene hand, þet hatte
'Ayenbyte of Inwyt'; and is of the boc-house of Saynt Austines of
Canterberi, mid þe lettres. CC._ 'CC.' is the press-mark given in the
catalogue. A note at the end of the text shows that it was finished on
October 27, 1340:

_Ymende þet þis boc is uolueld ine þe eue of þe holy apostles Symon an
Iudas_ [i.e. Oct. 27] _of ane broþer of the cloystre of Sauynt Austin of
Canterberi, in the yeare of oure Lhordes beringe 1340._

The _Ayenbyte_ has been edited for the Early English Text Society by R.
Morris. The title means literally 'Remorse of Conscience', but from the
contents of the work it would appear that the writer meant rather
'Stimulus to the Conscience', or 'Prick of Conscience'. It is in fact a
translation from the French _Somme des Vices et des Vertues_, compiled
by Friar Lorens in 1279 for King Philip le Hardi, and long held to be
the main source of Chaucer's _Parson's Tale_. Caxton rendered the
_Somme_ into English prose as _The Royal Book_. It treats of the
Commandments, the Creed, the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Petitions of
the Paternoster, and the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Dan Michael's purpose is stated in some doggerel lines at the end:

      Nou ich wille þet ye ywyte
      Hou hit is ywent
      Þet þis boc is ywrite
      Mid Engliss of Kent.
      Þis boc is ymad uor lewede men,
      Vor uader, and uor moder, and uor oþer ken,
      Ham uor to berȝe uram alle manyere zen,
      Þet ine hare inwytte ne bleue no uoul wen.

His translation is inaccurate, and sometimes unintelligible, and
the treatment is so barren of interest that the work seems to have
fallen flat even in its own day, when the popular appetite for
edification was keen and unspoiled. But if its literary merit is
slight, linguistically it is one of the most important works in
Middle English. It provides a long prose text, exactly dated and
exactly localized; we have the author's autograph copy to work
from; and the dialect is well distinguished. These circumstances,
unique in Middle English, make it possible to study the Kentish
dialect of the mid-fourteenth century under ideal conditions.


Hou Merci multiplieþ þe timliche guodes, hyerof we habbeþ uele uayre
uorbisnen, huerof ich wille hier zome telle. Me ret of Saint Germain of
Aucer_r_e þet, þo he com uram Rome, ate outguoinge of Melane, he acsede
at onen of his diaknen yef he hedde eny zeluer, and he ansuerede þet
{5} he ne hedde bote þri pans, uor Sayt Germayn hit hedde al yeue to
pouren. Þanne he him het þet he his ssolde yeue to þe poure, uor God
hedde ynoȝ of guode, huerof he hise uedde uor þane day. Þe dyacne
mid greate pine and mid greate grochinge yeaf þe tuaye pans, and ofhild
þane þridde. Þe {10} sergont of ane riche kniȝte him broȝte ane
his lhordes haf tuo hondred pans. Þo clepede he his dyacne, and him zede
þet he hedde benome þe poure ane peny, and yef he hedde yeue þane þridde
peny to þe poure, þe kniȝt him hedde yzent þri hondred pans. {15}

Efterward me ret ine þe lyue of Ion þe Amoner, þet wes zuo ycleped uor
þe greate elmesses þet he dede: A riche ientilman wes yrobbed of þieues,
zuo þet him naȝt ne blefte. He him com to playni to þe uorzede manne,
and he him zede his cas. He hedde greate reuþe þerof, and het his {20}
desspendoure þet he him yeaue uyftene pond of gold. Þe spendere, be his
couaytise, ne yeaf bote vyf. An haste a gentil wymman wodewe zente to
þe uore-yzede Ion uif hondred pond of gold. Þo he clepede his spendere,
and him acsede hou moche he hedde yyeue to þe kniȝte. He ansuerede
{25} 'vyftene pond.' Þe holy man ansuerede þet 'nay, he ne hedde bote
vyf'; and huanne he hit wiste þe ilke zelue þet his hedde onderuonge,
zuo zayde to his spendere þet yef he hedde yyeue þe viftene pond þet
he hedde yhote, oure Lhord him hede yzent be þe guode wyfman a þouzond
and vyf {30} hondred pond. And huanne he acsede ate guode wyfman, þo
he hedde hise ycleped, hou moche hi hedde him ylete, hi andzuerede þet
uerst hi hedde ywrite ine hare testament þet hi him let a þousend and
vyf hondred pond. Ac hi lokede efterward ine hare testament, and hi
yzeȝ þe þousend pond {35} defaced of hire write, and zuo ylefde þe
guode wyfman þet God wolde þet hi ne zente bote vif hondred.

Efterward Saint Gregori telþ þet Saint Boniface uram þet he wes child he
wes zuo piteuous þet he yaf ofte his kertel and his sserte to þe poure
uor God, þaȝ his moder him byete {40} ofte þeruore. Þanne bevil þet
þet child yzeȝ manie poure þet hedden mezeyse. He aspide þet his
moder nes naȝt þer. An haste he yarn to þe gerniere, and al þet his
moder hedde ygadered uor to pasi þet yer he hit yaf þe poure. And þo his
moder com, and wyste þe ilke dede, hy wes al out of hare {45} wytte. Þet
child bed oure Lhorde, and þet gernier wes an haste al uol.

Efterward þer wes a poure man, ase me zayþ, þet hedde ane cou; and
yhyerde zigge of his preste ine his prechinge þet God zede ine his
spelle þet God wolde yelde an hondreduald {50} al þet me yeaue uor him.
Þe guode man, mid þe rede of his wyue, yeaf his cou to his preste, þet
wes riche. Þe prest his nom bleþeliche, and hise zente to þe oþren þet
he hedde. Þo hit com to euen, þe guode mannes cou com hom to his house
ase hi wes ywoned, and ledde mid hare alle þe {55} prestes ken, al to
an hondred. Þo þe guode man yzeȝ þet, he þoȝte þet þet wes þet word of
þe Godspelle þet he hedde yyolde; and him hi weren yloked beuore his
bissoppe aye þane prest. Þise uorbisne sseweþ wel þet merci is guod
chapuare, uor hi deþ wexe þe timliche guodes. {60}



D. 1349.

Richard Rolle was born at Thornton-le-Dale, near Pickering, in
Yorkshire. He was sent to Oxford, already a formidable rival to the
University of Paris; but the severer studies were evidently uncongenial
to his impulsive temperament. He returned home without taking orders,
improvised for himself a hermit's dress, and fled into solitude. His
piety attracted the favour of Sir John and Lady Dalton, who gave him a
cell on their estate. Here, in meditation, he developed his mystical
religion. He did not immure himself, or cut himself off from human
companionship. For a time he lived near Anderby, where was the cell of
the recluse Margaret Kirkby, to whom he addressed his _Form of Perfect
Living_. Another important work, _Ego Dormio et Cor Meum Vigilat_, was
written for a nun of Yedingham (Yorks.). Towards the end of his life he
lived in close friendship with the nuns of Hampole, and for one of them
he wrote his _Commandment of Love to God_. At Hampole he died in 1349,
the year of the Black Death. By the devout he was regarded as a saint,
and had his commemoration day, his office, and his miracles; but he was
never canonized.

He wrote both in Latin and in English, and it is not always easy to
distinguish his work from that of his many followers and imitators. The
writings attributed to him are edited by C. Horstmann, _Yorkshire
Writers_, 2 vols., London 1895-6. Besides the prose works noted above,
he wrote, at the request of Margaret Kirkby, a _Commentary on the
Psalms_ (ed. Bramley, Oxford 1884), based on the Latin of Peter Lombard.
A long didactic poem in Northern English, the _Prick of Conscience_, has
been attributed to him from Lydgate's time onwards; but his authorship
has recently been questioned, chiefly on the ground that the poem is
without a spark of inspiration. It is not certain that he wrote _Love is
Life_, which is included here because it expresses in characteristic
language his central belief in the personal bond, the burning love,
between God and man. The first prose selection shows that he did not
disdain the examples from natural history that were so popular in the
sermons of the time. The second is chapter xi of the _Form of Perfect
Living_, which is found as a separate extract from an early date.

With Rolle began a movement of devotional piety, which, as might be
expected from its strong appeal to the emotions, was taken up first
among religious women; and signs of a striving for effect in his style
suggest that the hermit was not indifferent to the admiration of his
followers. He brings to his teaching more heart than mind. He escapes
the problems of the world, which seemed so insistent to his
contemporaries, by denying the world's claims. His ideas and temperament
are diametrically opposed to those of the other great figure in the
religious life of fourteenth-century England—Wiclif, the schoolman,
politician, reformer, controversialist. Yet they have in common a
sincerity and directness of belief that brushes aside conventions, and
an enthusiasm that made them leaders in an age when the Church as a
whole suffered from apathy.


Cambridge University Library MS. DD. 5. 64, III (about 1400) f. 38 a.

      uf es lyf þat lastes ay, þar it in Criste es feste,
      For wele ne wa it chaunge may, als wryten has men wyseste.
      Þe nyght it tournes intil þe day, þi trauel intyll reste;
      If þou wil luf þus as I say, þou may be wyth þe beste.

      Lufe es thoght wyth grete desyre of a fayre louyng;              5
      Lufe I lyken til a fyre þat sloken may na thyng;
      Lufe vs clenses of oure syn; luf vs bote sall bryng;
      Lufe þe Keynges hert may wyn; lufe of ioy may syng.

      Þe settel of lufe es lyft hee, for intil heuen it ranne;
      Me thynk in erth it es sle, þat makes men pale and wanne;       10
      Þe bede of blysse it gase ful nee, I tel þe as I kanne:
      Þof vs thynk þe way be dregh, luf copuls God and manne.

      Lufe es hatter þen þe cole; lufe may nane beswyke.
      Þe flawme of lufe wha myght it thole, if it war ay ilyke?
      Luf vs comfortes, and mase in qwart, and lyftes tyl heuenryke;  15
      Luf rauysches Cryste intyl owr hert; I wate na lust it lyke.

      Lere to luf, if þou wyl lyfe when þou sall hethen fare;
      All þi thoght til Hym þou gyf þat may þe kepe fra kare:
      Loke þi hert fra Hym noght twyn, if þou in wandreth ware;
      Sa þou may Hym welde and wyn, and luf Hym euermare.             20

      Iesu, þat me lyfe hase lent, intil Þi lufe me bryng!
      Take til Þe al myne entent, þat Þow be my ȝhernyng.
      Wa fra me away war went, and comne war my couaytyng,
      If þat my sawle had herd and hent þe sang of Þi louyng.

      Þi lufe es ay lastand, fra þat we may it fele;                  25
      Þarein make me byrnand, þat na thyng gar it kele.
      My thoght take into Þi hand, and stabyl it ylk a dele,
      Þat I be noght heldand to luf þis worldes wele.

      If I lufe any erthly thyng þat payes to my wyll,
      And settes my ioy and my lykyng when it may comm me tyll,       30
      I mai drede of partyng, þat wyll be hate and yll:
      For al my welth es bot wepyng when pyne mi saule sal spyll.

      Þe ioy þat men hase sene es lyckend tyl þe haye,
      Þat now es fayre and grene, and now wytes awaye.
      Swylk es þis worlde, I wene, and bees till Domesdaye,           35
      All in trauel and tene, fle þat na man it maye.

      If þou luf in all þi thoght, and hate þe fylth of syn,
      And gyf Hym þi sawle þat it boght, þat He þe dwell within,
      Als Crist þi sawle hase soght, and þerof walde noght blyn,
      Sa þou sal to blys be broght, and heuen won within.             40

      Þe kynd of luf es þis, þar it es trayst and trew,
      To stand styll in stabylnes, and chaunge it for na new.
      Þe lyfe þat lufe myght fynd, or euer in hert it knew,
      Fra kare it tornes þat kyend, and lendes in myrth and glew.

      For now, lufe þow, I rede, Cryste, as I þe tell,                45
      And with aungels take þi stede: þat ioy loke þou noght sell!
      In erth þow hate, I rede, all þat þi lufe may fell,
      For luf es stalworth as þe dede, luf es hard as hell.

      Luf es a lyght byrthen; lufe gladdes ȝong and alde;
      Lufe es withowten pyne, as lofers hase me talde;                50
      Lufe es a gastly wyne, þat makes men bygge and balde;
      Of lufe sal he na thyng tyne þat hit in hert will halde.

      Lufe es þe swettest thyng þat man in erth hase tane;
      Lufe es Goddes derlyng; lufe byndes blode and bane.
      In lufe be owre lykyng, I ne wate na better wane,               55
      For me and my lufyng lufe makes bath be ane.

      Bot fleschly lufe sal fare as dose þe flowre in May,
      And lastand be na mare þan ane houre of a day,
      And sythen syghe ful sare þar lust, þar pryde, þar play,
      When þai er casten in kare til pyne þat lastes ay.              60

      When þair bodys lyse in syn, þair sawls mai qwake and drede,
      For vp sal ryse al men, and answer for þair dede.
      If þai be fonden in syn, als now þair lyfe þai lede,
      Þai sal sytt hel within, and myrknes hafe to mede.

      Riche men þair hend sal wryng, and wicked werkes sal by         65
      In flawme of fyre, bath knyght and keyng, with sorow schamfully.
      If þou wil lufe, þan may þou syng til Cryst in melody;
      Þe lufe of Hym ouercoms al thyng, þarto þou traiste trewly.

       sygh and sob, bath day and nyght, for ane sa fayre of hew!
      Þar es na thyng my hert mai light, bot lufe þat es ay new.      70
      Wha sa had Hym in his syght, or in his hert Hym knew,
      His mournyng turned til ioy ful bryght, his sang intil glew.

      In myrth he lyfes, nyght and day, þat lufes þat swete chylde;
      It es Iesu, forsoth I say, of al mekest and mylde.
      Wreth fra hym walde al away, þof he wer neuer sa wylde,         75
      He þat in hert lufed Hym þat day, fra euel He wil hym schylde.

      Of Iesu mast lyst me speke, þat al my bale may bete;
      Me thynk my hert may al tobreke when I thynk on þat swete;
      In lufe lacyd He hase my thoght, þat I sal neuer forgete.
      Ful dere me thynk He hase me boght with blodi hende and fete.   80

      For luf my hert es bowne to brest, when I þat faire behalde;
      Lufe es fair þare it es fest, þat neuer will be calde;
      Lufe vs reues þe nyght-rest, in grace it makes vs balde;
      Of al warkes luf es þe best, als haly men me talde.

      Na wonder gyf I syghand be, and sithen in sorow be sette:       85
      Iesu was nayled apon þe tre, and al blody forbette.
      To thynk on Hym es grete pyté—how tenderly He grette—
      Þis hase He sufferde, man, for þe, if þat þou syn wyll lette.

      Þare es na tonge in erth may tell of lufe þe swetnesse.
      Þat stedfastly in lufe kan dwell, his ioy es endlesse.          90
      God schylde þat he sulde til hell, þat lufes and langand es,
      Or euer his enmys sulde hym qwell, or make his luf be lesse.

      Iesu es lufe þat lastes ay, til Hym es owre langyng;
      Iesu þe nyght turnes to þe day, þe dawyng intil spryng.
      Iesu, thynk on vs now and ay, for Þe we halde oure keyng;       95
      Iesu, gyf vs grace, as Þou wel may, to luf Þe withowten endyng.

[Foot-note: 45 For now] Forþi _MS. Lambeth 583_.]

[Foot-note: 51 wyne] = wynne _MS._]

[Foot-note: 65 hend] handes _MS., apparently altered from_ hend.]

[Foot-note: 69 I] _so MS. Lambeth 583_.]


(The Thornton MS. (before 1450); ed. Horstmann, vol. i, p. 193.)

_Moralia Ricardi Heremite de Natura Apis._

The bee has thre kyndis. Ane es þat scho es neuer ydill, and scho es
noghte with thaym þat will noghte wyrke, bot castys thaym owte, and
puttes thaym awaye. Anothire es þat when scho flyes scho takes erthe in
hyr fette, þat scho be noghte lyghtly ouerheghede in the ayere of wynde.
The {5} thyrde es þat scho kepes clene and bryghte hire wyngeȝ.

Thus ryghtwyse men þat lufes God are neuer in ydyllnes. For owthyre
þay ere in trauayle, prayand, or thynkande, or redande, or othere gude
doande; or withtakand ydill mene, and schewand thaym worthy to be put
fra þe ryste of heuene, {10} for þay will noghte trauayle here.

Þay take erthe, þat es, þay halde þamselfe vile and erthely, that thay
be noghte blawene with þe wynde of vanyté and of pryde. Thay kepe thaire
wynges clene, that es, þe twa commandementes of charyté þay fulfill
in gud concyens, and {15} thay hafe othyre vertus, vnblendyde with þe
fylthe of syne and vnclene luste.

Arestotill sais þat þe bees are feghtande agaynes hym þat will drawe
þaire hony fra thayme. Swa sulde we do agayne deuells, þat afforces
thame to reue fra vs þe hony of poure {20} lyfe and of grace. For many
are, þat neuer kane halde þe ordyre of lufe yne_n_ce þaire frendys,
sybbe or fremmede. Bot outhire þay lufe þaym ouer mekill, settand thaire
thoghte vnryghtwysely on thaym, or þay luf thayme ouer lyttill, yf þay
doo noghte all as þey wolde till þame. Swylke kane {25} noghte fyghte
for thaire hony, forthy þe deuelle turnes it to wormes, and makes þeire
saules oftesythes full bitter in angwys, and tene, and besynes of vayne
thoghtes, and oþer wrechidnes. For thay are so heuy in erthely frenchype
þat þay may noghte flee intill þe lufe of Iesu Criste, in þe wylke {30}
þay moghte wele forgaa þe lufe of all creaturs lyfande in erthe.

Wharefore, accordandly, Arystotill sais þat some fowheles are of gude
flyghyng, þat passes fra a lande to anothire. Some are of ill flyghynge,
for heuynes of body, and for<þi> {35} þaire neste es noghte ferre fra
þe erthe. Thus es it of thayme þat turnes þame to Godes seruys. Some
are of gude flyeghynge, for thay flye fra erthe to heuene, and rystes
thayme thare in thoghte, and are fedde in delite of Goddes lufe, and has
thoghte of na lufe of þe worlde. Some are þat {40} kan noghte flyghe fra
þis lande, bot in þe waye late theyre herte ryste, and delyttes þaym in
sere lufes of mene and womene, als þay come and gaa, nowe ane and nowe
anothire. And in Iesu Criste þay kan fynde na swettnes; or if þay any
tyme fele oghte, it es swa lyttill and swa schorte, for othire thoghtes
{45} þat are in thayme, þat it brynges thaym till na stabylnes.

or þay are lyke till a fowle þat es callede strucyo or storke, þat
has wenges, and it may noghte flye for charge of body. Swa þay hafe
vndirstandynge, and fastes, and wakes, and semes haly to mens syghte;
bot thay may noghte flye to lufe {50} and contemplacyone of God, þay
are so chargede wyth othyre affeccyons and othire vanytés.

[Foot-note: 22 ynence] ynesche _MS._]

[Foot-note: 23 mekill] _MS. follows with_: or thay
lufe þame ouer lyttill, _caught up from below_.]


(Chap. xi of _The Form of Perfect Living_; ed. Horstmann, vol. i,
p. 196.)

Þe seuene gyftes of þe Haly Gaste, þat ere gyfene to men and wymmene þat
er ordaynede to þe ioye of heuene, and ledys theire lyfe in this worlde
reghtwysely. Thire are thay:—Wysdome, {55} Undyrstandynge, Counsayle,
Strenghe, Connynge, Peté, the Drede of God. Begynne we at Consaile, for
þareof es myster at the begynnynge of oure werkes, þat vs myslyke noghte
aftyrwarde. With thire seuene gyftes þe Haly Gaste teches sere mene
serely. {60}

Consaile es doynge awaye of worldes reches, and of all delytes of
all thyngeȝ þat mane may be tagyld with, in thoghte or dede, and
þa_r_with drawynge intill contemplacyone of Gode.

Undyrstandynge es to knawe whate es to doo, and whate {65} es to lefe,
and þat that sall be gyffene, to gyffe it to thaym þat has nede, noghte
till oþer þat has na myster.

Wysedome es forgetynge of erthely thynges and thynkynge of heuen, with
discrecyone of all men_s_ dedys. In þis gyfte schynes contemplacyone,
þat es, Saynt Austyne says, a gastely {70} dede of fleschely
affeccyones, thurghe þe ioye of a raysede thoghte.

Strenghe es lastynge to fullfill gude purpose, þat it be noghte lefte,
for wele ne for waa.

Peté es þat a man be mylde, and gaynesay noghte Haly {75} Writte whene
it smyttes his synnys, whethire he vndyrstand it or noghte; bot in all
his myghte purge he þe vilté of syne in hyme and oþer.

Connynge es þat makes a man of gude , noghte ruysand hyme of
his reghtewysnes, bot sorowand of his {80} synnys, and þat man gedyrs
erthely gude anely to the honour of God, and prow to oþer mene þane

The Drede of God es þat we turne noghte agayne till oure syne thurghe
any ill eggyng. And þa_n_ es drede perfite in vs and gastely, when we
drede to wrethe God in þe leste syne {85} þat we kane knawe, and flese
it als venyme.

[Foot-note: 60 teches] towches _Cambridge MS. DD. 5. 64_.]

[Foot-note: 63 þar] þat _MS. Thornton_.]

[Foot-note: 69 mens] _so Cambridge MS. DD. 5. 64_ = mene _MS. Thornton_.]

[Foot-note: 79 hope] _from Cambridge MS. DD. 5. 64: om. MS. Thornton_.]

[Foot-note: 84 þan] _Cambridge MS. DD. 5. 64_: þen _MS. Arundel 507_: þat
_MS. Thornton_.]



ABOUT 1350-75.

_Sir Gawayne_ has been admirably edited by Sir F. Madden for the
Bannatyne Club, 1839, and later by R. Morris for the Early English Text
Society. It is found in British Museum MS. Nero A X, together with three
other alliterative poems, named from their first words _Pearl_,
_Patience_, and _Cleanness_. _Pearl_ supplies the next specimen;
_Patience_ exemplifies the virtue by the trials of Jonah; _Cleanness_
teaches purity of life from Scriptural stories. All these poems are in
the same handwriting; all are in a West-Midland dialect; all appear to
be of the same age; and none is without literary merit. For these
reasons, which are good but not conclusive, they are assumed to be by
the same author. Attempts to identify this author have been

The story runs as follows:

King Arthur is making his Christmas feast with his court at Camelot. On
New Year's Day he declares that he will not eat until he has seen or
heard some marvel. The first course of the feast is barely served when a
tall knight, clad all in green, with green hair, and a green horse to
match, rides into the hall. He carries a holly bough and a huge axe, and
tauntingly invites any knight to strike him a blow with the axe, on
condition that he will stand a return blow on the same day a year hence.
Gawayne accepts the challenge and strikes off the Green Knight's head.
The Green Knight gathers up his head, gives Gawayne an appointment for
next New Year's Day at the Green Chapel, and rides off.

The year passes, and Gawayne, despite the fears of the court, sets out
in quest of the Green Chapel. On Christmas Eve he arrives at a splendid
castle, and finding that the Green Chapel is close at hand, accepts an
invitation to stay and rest until New Year's Day. On each of three days
the knight of the castle goes hunting, and persuades Gawayne to rest at
home. They make an agreement that each shall give the other whatever he
gets. The lady of the castle makes love to Gawayne, and kisses him once
on the first day, twice on the second day, thrice on the third day; and
on the third day she gives him her girdle, which he accepts because it
has the magic power of preserving the wearer from wounds. Each evening
he duly gives the kisses to the knight, and receives in return the
spoils of the hunting of deer and boar and fox. But he conceals the

The extract begins with Gawayne preparing on New Year's morning to stand
the return blow at the Green Chapel.

The poem ends by the Green Knight revealing that he is himself the lord
of the castle; that he went to Arthur's court at the suggestion of
Morgan la Fay; that he had urged his wife to make love to Gawayne and
try his virtue; and that he would not have harmed him at all, if he had
not committed the slight fault of concealing the girdle. Gawayne returns
to the court, bearing the girdle as a sign of his shame, and tells his
story. The knights of the court agree in future to wear a bright green
belt for Gawayne's sake.

_Sir Gawayne_ is admittedly the best of the alliterative romances. It
must have come down to us practically as it was written by the poet, for
it is free from the flatness and conventional phrasing which is
characteristic of romances that have passed through many popular
recensions. The descriptions of nature, of armour and dresses, the
hunting scenes, and the love making, are all excellently done; and the
poet shows the same richness of imagination and skill in producing
pictorial effects that are so noticeable in _Pearl_. He has too a quiet
humour that recalls Chaucer in some of his moods.


British Museum MS. Nero A X (about 1400); ed. R. Morris, ll. 2069 ff.

      The brygge watȝ brayde doun, and þe brode ȝateȝ
      Vnbarred and born open vpon boþe halue.
      Þe burne blessed hym bilyue, and þe bredeȝ passed;
      Prayses þe porter bifore þe prynce kneled,
      Gef hym God and goud day, þat Gawayn He saue,                    5
      And went on his way with his wyȝe one,
      Þat schulde teche hym to tourne to þat tene place
      Þer þe ruful race he schulde resayue.
      Þay boȝen bi bonkkeȝ þer boȝeȝ ar bare;
      Þay clomben bi clyffeȝ þer clengeȝ þe colde.                    10
      Þe heuen watȝ vp halt, bot vgly þer vnder,—
      Mist muged on þe mor, malt on þe mounteȝ,
      Vch hille hade a hatte, a myst-hakel huge.
      Brokeȝ byled and breke bi bonkkeȝ aboute,
      Schyre schaterande on schoreȝ, þer þay doun schowued.           15
      Wela wylle watȝ þe way þer þay bi wod schulden,
      Til hit watȝ sone sesoun þat þe sunne ryses
              þat tyde.
          Þay were on a hille ful hyȝe,
          Þe quyte snaw lay bisyde;                                   20
          Þe burne þat rod hym by
          Bede his mayster abide.
      'For I haf wonnen yow hider, wyȝe, at þis tyme,
      And now nar ȝe not fer fro þat note place
      Þat ȝe han spied and spuryed so specially after.                25
      Bot I schal say yow for soþe, syþen I yow knowe,
      And ȝe ar a lede vpon lyue þat I wel louy,
      Wolde ȝe worch bi my wytte, ȝe worþed þe better.
      Þe place þat ȝe prece to ful perelous is halden.
      Þer woneȝ a wyȝe in þat waste, þe worst vpon erþe,              30
      For he is stiffe and sturne, and to strike louies,
      And more he is þen any mon vpon myddelerde,
      And his body bigger þen þe best fowre
      Þat ar in Arþureȝ hous, He_c_tor, oþer oþer.
      He cheueȝ þat chaunce at þe chapel grene,                       35
      Þer passes non bi þat place so proude in his armes
      Þat he ne dyn_g_eȝ hym to deþe with dynt of his honde;
      For he is a mon methles, and mercy non vses,
      For be hit chorle oþer chaplayn þat bi þe chapel rydes,
      Monk oþer masse-prest, oþer any mon elles,                      40
      Hym þynk as queme hym to quelle as quyk go hymseluen.
      Forþy I say þe, as soþe as ȝe in sadel sitte,
      Com ȝe þere, ȝe be kylled, may þe, knyȝt, rede—
      Trawe ȝe me þat trwely—þaȝ ȝe had twenty lyues
              to spende.                                              45
          He hatȝ wonyd here ful ȝore,
          On bent much baret bende,
          Aȝayn his dynteȝ sore
          Ȝe may not yow defende.
      'Forþy, goude Sir Gawayn, let þe gome one,                      50
      And gotȝ away sum oþer gate, vpon Goddeȝ halue!
      Cayreȝ bi sum oþer kyth, þer Kryst mot yow spede,
      And I schal hyȝ me hom aȝayn, and hete yow fyrre
      Þat I schal swere bi God and alle His gode halȝeȝ,
      As help me God and þe halydam, and oþeȝ innoghe,                55
      Þat I schal lelly yow layne, and lance neuer tale
      Þat euer ȝe fondet to fle for freke þat I wyst.'
      'Grant merci,' quod Gawayn, and gruchyng he sayde:
      'Wel worth þe, wyȝe, þat woldeȝ my gode,
      And þat lelly me layne I leue wel þou woldeȝ.                   60
      Bot helde þou hit neuer so holde, and I here passed,
      Founded for ferde for to fle, in fourme þat þou telleȝ,
      I were a knyȝt kowarde, I myȝt _n_ot be excused.
      Bot I wyl to þe chapel, for chaunce þat may falle,
      And talk wyth þat ilk tulk þe tale þat me lyste,                65
      Worþe hit wele oþer wo, as þe wyrde lykeȝ
              hit hafe.
          Þaȝe he be a sturn knape
          To stiȝtel, and stad with staue,
          Ful wel con Dryȝtyn schape                                  70
          His seruaunteȝ for to saue.'
      'Mary!' quod þat oþer mon, 'now þou so much spelleȝ
      Þat þou wylt þyn awen nye nyme to þyseluen,
      And þe lyst lese þy lyf, þe lette I ne kepe.
      Haf here þi helme on þy hede, þi spere in þi honde,             75
      And ryde me doun þis ilk rake bi ȝon rokke syde
      Til þou be broȝt to þe boþem of þe brem valay.
      Þenne loke a littel on þe launde, on þi lyfte honde,
      And þou schal se in þat slade þe self chapel,
      And þe borelych burne on bent þat hit kepeȝ.                    80
      Now fareȝ wel, on Godeȝ half! Gawayn þe noble;
      For alle þe golde vpon grounde I nolde go wyth þe,
      Ne bere þe felaȝschip þurȝ þis fryth on fote fyrre.'
      Bi þat þe wyȝe in þe wod wendeȝ his brydel,
      Hit þe hors with þe heleȝ as harde as he myȝt,                  85
      Lepeȝ hym ouer þe launde, and leueȝ þe knyȝt þere
              al one.
          'Bi Goddeȝ self!' quod Gawayn,
          'I wyl nauþer grete ne grone;
          To Goddeȝ wylle I am ful bayn,                              90
          And to Hym I haf me tone.'
      Thenne gyrdeȝ he to Gryngolet, and gedereȝ þe rake,
      Schowueȝ in bi a schore at a schaȝe syde,
      Rideȝ þurȝ þe roȝe bonk ryȝt to þe dale;
      And þenne he wayted hym aboute, and wylde hit hym þoȝt,         95
      And seȝe no syngne of resette bisydeȝ nowhere,
      Bot hyȝe bonkkeȝ and brent vpon boþe halue,
      And ruȝe knokled knarreȝ with knorned stoneȝ;
      Þe skweȝ of þe scowtes skayned hym þoȝt.
      Þenne he houed, and wythhylde his hors at þat tyde,            100
      And ofte chaunged his cher þe chapel to seche:
      He seȝ non suche in no syde, and selly hym þoȝt
      Sone, a lyttel on a launde, a lawe as hit we,
      A balȝ berȝ bi a bonke, þe brymme bysyde,
      Bi a forȝ of a flode þat ferked þare;                          105
      Þe borne blubred þerinne as hit boyled hade.
      Þe knyȝt kacheȝ his caple, and com to þe lawe,
      Liȝteȝ doun luflyly, and at a lynde tacheȝ
      Þe rayne and his riche with a roȝe braunche.
      Þenne he boȝeȝ to þe berȝe, aboute hit he walkeȝ,              110
      Debatande with hymself quat hit be myȝt.
      Hit hade a hole on þe ende and on ayþer syde,
      And ouergrowen with gresse in glodes aywhere,
      And al watȝ holȝ inwith, nobot an olde caue,
      Or a creuisse of an olde cragge, he couþe hit noȝt deme        115
              with spelle.
          'We! Lorde,' quod þe gentyle knyȝt,
          'Wheþer þis be þe grene chapelle?
          He myȝt aboute mydnyȝt
          Þe dele his matynnes telle!                                120
      'Now iwysse,' quod Wowayn, 'wysty is here;
      Þis oritore is vgly, with erbeȝ ouergrowen;
      Wel bisemeȝ þe wyȝe wruxled in grene
      Dele here his deuocioun on þe deueleȝ wyse.
      Now I fele hit is þe fende, in my fyue wytteȝ,                 125
      Þat hatȝ stoken me þis steuen to strye me here.
      Þis is a chapel of meschaunce, þat chekke hit bytyde!
      Hit is þe corsedest kyrk þat euer I com inne!'
      With heȝe helme on his hede, his launce in his honde,
      He romeȝ vp to þe rokke of þo roȝ woneȝ.                       130
      Þene herde he, of þat hyȝe hil, in a harde roche,
      Biȝonde þe broke, in a bonk, a wonder breme noyse.
      Quat! hit clatered in þe clyff, as hit cleue schulde,
      As one vpon a gryndelston hade grounden a syþe;
      What! hit wharred and whette, as water at a mulne;             135
      What! hit rusched and ronge, rawþe to here.
      Þenne 'Bi Godde!' quod Gawayn, 'þat gere a_s_ I trowe
      Is ryched at þe reuerence me, renk, to mete
              bi rote.
          Let God worche, we loo!                                    140
          Hit helppeȝ me not a mote.
          My lif þaȝ I forgoo,
          Drede dotȝ me no lote.'
      Thenne þe knyȝt con calle ful hyȝe:
      'Who stiȝtleȝ in þis sted, me steuen to holde?                 145
      For now is gode Gawayn goande ryȝt here.
      If any wyȝe oȝt wyl, wynne hider fast,
      Oþer now oþer neuer, his nedeȝ to spede.'
      'Abyde,' quod on on þe bonke abouen ouer his hede,
      'And þou schal haf al in hast þat I þe hyȝt ones.'             150
      Ȝet he rusched on þat rurde rapely a þrowe,
      And wyth quettyng awharf, er he wolde lyȝt;
      And syþen he keuereȝ bi a cragge, and comeȝ of a hole,
      Whyrlande out of a wro wyth a felle weppen,
      A Deneȝ ax nwe dyȝt, þe dynt with o ȝelde,                  155
      With a borelych bytte bende by þe halme,
      Fyled in a fylor, fowre fote large,—
      Hit watȝ no lasse bi þat lace þat lemed ful bryȝt,—
      And þe gome in þe grene gered as fyrst,
      Boþe þe lyre and þe leggeȝ, lokkeȝ and berde,                  160
      Saue þat fayre on his fote he foundeȝ on þe erþe,
      Sette þe stele to þe stone, and stalked bysyde.
      Whan he wan to þe watter, þer he wade nolde,
      He hypped ouer on hys ax, and orpedly strydeȝ,
      Bremly broþe on a bent þat brode watȝ aboute,                  165
              on snawe.
          Sir Gawayn þe knyȝt con mete,
          He ne lutte hym no þyng lowe;
          Þat oþer sayde 'Now, sir swete,
          Of steuen mon may þe trowe.                                170
      'Gawayn,' quod þat grene gome, 'God þe mot loke!
      Iwysse þou art welco_m_, wyȝe, to my place,
      And þou hatȝ tymed þi trauayl as truee mon schulde,
      And þou knoweȝ þe couenaunteȝ kest vus bytwene:
      At þis tyme twelmonyth þou toke þat þe falled,                 175
      And I schulde at þis nwe ȝere ȝeply þe quyte.
      And we ar in þis valay verayly oure one;
      Here ar no renkes vs to rydde, rele as vus likeȝ.
      Haf þy helme of þy hede, and haf here þy pay.
      Busk no more debate þen I þe bede þenne                        180
      When þou wypped of my hede at a wap one.'
      'Nay, bi God' quod Gawayn, 'þat me gost lante!
      I schal gruch þe no grwe for grem þat falleȝ.
      Bot styȝtel þe vpon on strok, and I schal stonde stylle
      And warp þe no wernyng to worch as þe lykeȝ,                   185
          He lened with þe nek, and lutte,
          And schewed þat schyre al bare,
          And lette as he noȝt dutte;
          For drede he wolde not dare.                               190
      Then þe gome in þe grene grayþed hym swyþe,
      Gedereȝ vp hys grymme tole Gawayn to smyte;
      With alle þe bur in his body he ber hit on lofte,
      Munt as maȝtyly as marre hym he wolde:
      Hade hit dryuen adoun as dreȝ as he atled,                     195
      Þer hade ben ded of his dynt þat doȝty watȝ euer.
      Bot Gawayn on þat giserne glyfte hym bysyde,
      As hit com glydande adoun on glode hym to schende,
      And schranke a lytel with þe schulderes for þe scharp yrne.
      Þat oþer schalk wyth a schunt þe schene wythhaldeȝ,            200
      And þenne repreued he þe prynce with mony prowde wordeȝ:
      'Þou art not Gawayn,' quod þe gome, 'þat is so goud halden,
      Þat neuer arȝed for no here, by hylle ne be vale,
      And now þou fles for ferde er þou fele harmeȝ!
      Such cowardise of þat knyȝt cowþe I neuer here.                205
      Nawþer fyked I ne flaȝe, freke, quen þou myntest,
      Ne kest no kauelacion, in kyngeȝ hous Arthor.
      My hede flaȝ to my fote, and ȝet flaȝ I neuer;
      And þou, er any harme hent, arȝeȝ in hert;
      Wherfore þe better burne me burde be called                    210
          Quod Gawayn 'I schunt oneȝ,
          And so wyl I no more;
          Bot þaȝ my hede falle on þe stoneȝ,
          I con not hit restore.                                     215
      Bot busk, burne, bi þi fayth! and bryng me to þe poynt.
      Dele to me my destiné, and do hit out of honde,
      For I schal stonde þe a strok, and start no more
      Til þyn ax haue me hitte: haf here my trawþe.'
      'Haf at þe þenne!' quod þat oþer, and heueȝ hit alofte,        220
      And wayteȝ as wroþely as he wode were.
      He mynteȝ at hym maȝtyly, bot not þe mon ryueȝ,
      Withhelde heterly hs honde, er hit hurt myȝt.
      Gawayn grayþely hit bydeȝ, and glent with no membre,
      Bot stode stylle as þe ston, oþer a stubbe auþer               225
      Þat raþeled is in roché grounde with roteȝ a hundreth.
      Þen muryly efte con he mele, þe mon in þe grene:
      'So now þou hatȝ þi hert holle, hitte me bihous.
      Halde þe now þe hyȝe hode þat Arþur þe raȝt,
      And kepe þy kanel at þis kest, ȝif hit keuer may.'             230
      Gawayn ful gryndelly with greme þenne sayde:
      'Wy! þresch on, þou þro mon, þou þreteȝ to longe.
      I hope þat þi hert arȝe wyth þyn awen seluen.'
      'For soþe,' quod þat oþer freke, 'so felly þou spekeȝ,
      I wyl no lenger on lyte lette þin ernde                        235
              riȝt nowe.'
          Þenne tas he hym stryþe to stryke,
          And frounses boþe lyppe and browe.
          No meruayle þaȝ hym myslyke
          Þat hoped of no rescowe.                                   240
      He lyftes lyȝtly his lome, and let hit doun fayre,
      With þe barbe of þe bitte bi þe bare nek,
      Þaȝ he homered heterly, hurt hym no more,
      Bot snyrt hym on þat on syde, þat seuered þe hyde;
      Þe scharp schrank to þe flesche þurȝ þe schyre grece           245
      Þat þe schene blod ouer his schulderes schot to þe erþe;
      And quen þe burne seȝ þe blode blenk on þe snawe,
      He sprit forth spenne fote more þen a spere lenþe,
      Hent heterly his helme, and on his hed cast,
      Schot with his schuldereȝ, his fayre schelde vnder,            250
      Braydeȝ out a bryȝt sworde, and bremely he spekeȝ;—
      Neuer syn þat he watȝ burne borne of his moder
      Watȝ he neuer in þis worlde wyȝe half so blyþe—
      'Blynne, burne, of þy bur, bede me no mo!
      I haf a stroke in þis stede withoute stryf hent,               255
      And if þow recheȝ me any mo, I redyly schal quyte,
      And ȝelde ȝederly aȝayn—and þer to ȝe tryst—
              and foo.
          Bot on stroke here me falleȝ—
          Þe couenaunt schop ryȝt so                                 260
           in Arþureȝ halleȝ—
          And þerfore, hende, now hoo!'
      The haþel heldet hym fro, and on his ax rested,
      Sette þe schaft vpon schore, and to þe scharp lened,
      And loked to þe leude þat on þe launde ȝede,                   265
      How þat doȝty, dredles, deruely þer stondeȝ
      Armed, ful aȝleȝ: in hert hit hym lykeȝ.
      Þenn he meleȝ muryly wyth a much steuen,
      And wyth a rykande rurde he to þe renk sayde:
      'Bolde burne, on þis bent be not so gryndel.                   270
      No mon here vnmanerly þe mysboden habbe<ȝ>
      Ne kyd, bot as couenaunde at kyngeȝ kort schaped.
      I hyȝt þe a strok and þou hit hatȝ; halde þe wel payed.
      I relece þe of þe remnaunt of ryȝtes alle oþer.
      Iif I deliuer had bene, a boffet paraunter                     275
      I couþe wroþeloker haf waret,—to þe haf wroȝt anger.
      Fyrst I mansed þe muryly with a mynt one,
      And roue þe wyth no rof sore, with ryȝt I þe profered
      For þe forwarde þat we fest in þe fyrst nyȝt,
      And þou trystyly þe trawþe and trwly me haldeȝ,                280
      Al þe gayne þow me gef, as god mon schulde.
      Þat oþer munt for þe morne, mon, I þe profered,
      Þou kyssedes my clere wyf, þe cosseȝ me raȝteȝ.
      For boþe two here I þe bede bot two bare myntes
              boute scaþe.                                           285
          Trwe mon trwe restore,
          Þenne þar mon drede no waþe.
          At þe þrid þou fayled þore,
          And þerfor þat tappe ta þe.
      For hit is my wede þat þou wereȝ, þat ilke wouen girdel,       290
      Myn owen wyf hit þe weued, I wot wel forsoþe.
      Now know I wel þy cosses, and þy costes als,
      And þe wowyng of my wyf: I wroȝt hit myseluen.
      I sende hir to asay þe, and sothly me þynkkeȝ
      On þe fautlest freke þat euer on fote ȝede.                    295
      As perle bi þe quite pese is of prys more,
      So is Gawayn, in god fayth, bi oþer gay knyȝteȝ.
      Bot here yow lakked a lyttel, sir, and lewté yow wonted;
      Bot þat watȝ for no wylyde werke, ne wowyng nauþer,
      Bot for ȝe lufed your lyf; þe lasse I yow blame.'              300
      Þat oþer stif mon in study stod a gret whyle,
      So agreued for greme he gryed withinne;
      Alle þe blode of his brest blende in his face,
      Þat al he schrank for schome þat þe schalk talked.
      Þe forme worde vpon folde þat þe freke meled:                  305
      'Corsed worth cowarddyse and couetyse boþe!
      In yow is vylany and vyse þat vertue disstryeȝ.'
      Þenne he kaȝt to þe knot, and þe kest lawseȝ,
      Brayde broþely þe belt to þe burne seluen:
      'Lo! þer þe falssyng! foule mot hit falle!                     310
      For care of þy knokke cowardyse me taȝt
      To acorde me with couetyse, my kynde to forsake,
      Þat is larges and lewté þat longeȝ to knyȝteȝ.
      Now am I fawty and falce, and ferde haf ben euer
      Of trecherye and vntrawþe: boþe bityde sorȝe                   315
              and care!
          I biknowe yow, knyȝt, here stylle,
          Al fawty is my fare;
          Leteȝ me ouertake your wylle
          And efte I schal be ware.'                                 320
      Thenn loȝe þat oþer leude, and luflyly sayde:
      'I halde hit hardily hole, þe harme þat I hade.
      Þou art confessed so clene, beknowen of þy mysses,
      And hatȝ þe penaunce apert of þe poynt of myn egge,
      I halde þe polysed of þat plyȝt, and pured as clene            325
      As þou hadeȝ neuer forfeted syþen þou watȝ fyrst borne;
      And I gif þe, sir, þe gurdel þat is golde-hemmed,
      For hit is grene as my goune. Sir Gawayne, ȝe maye
      Þenk vpon þis ilke þrepe, þer þou forth þryngeȝ
      Among prynces of prys; and þis a pure token                    330
      Of þe chaunce _at_ þe grene chapel _of_ cheualrous knyȝteȝ.
      And ȝe schal in þis nwe ȝer aȝayn to my woneȝ,
      And we schyn reuel þe remnaunt of þis ryche fest
              ful bene.'
          Þer laþed hym fast þe lord,                                335
          And sayde 'With my wyf, I wene,
          We schal yow wel acorde,
          Þat watȝ your enmy kene.'
      'Nay, for soþe,' quod þe segge, and sesed hys helme,
      And hatȝ hit of hendely, and þe haþel þonkkeȝ,                 340
      'I haf soiorned sadly; sele yow bytyde!
      And He ȝelde hit yow ȝare þat ȝarkkeȝ al menskes!
      And comaundeȝ me to þat cortays, your comlych fere,
      Boþe þat on and þat oþer myn honoured ladyeȝ,
      Þat þus hor knyȝt wyth hor kest han koyntly bigyled.           345
      Bot hit is no ferly þaȝ a fole madde,
      And þurȝ wyles of wymmen be wonen to sorȝe,
      For so watȝ Adam in erde with one bygyled,
      And Salamon with fele sere, and Samson eftsoneȝ
      Dalyda dalt hym hys wyrde, and Dauyth þerafter                 350
      Watȝ blended with Barsabe, þat much bale þoled.
      Now þese were wrathed wyth her wyles, hit were a wynne huge
      To luf hom wel, and leue hem not, a leude þat couþe.
      For þes wer forne þe freest, þat folȝed alle þe sele
      Exellently of alle þyse oþer vnder heuenryche                  355
              þat mused;
          And alle þay were biwyled
          With wymmen þat þay vsed.
          Þaȝ I be now bigyled,
          Me þink me burde be excused.'                              360

[Foot-note: 34 Hector] Hestor _MS._]

[Foot-note: 37 dyngeȝ] dynneȝ _MS._]

[Foot-note: 63 not] mot _MS._]

[Foot-note: 69 and] & & _MS._]

[Foot-note: 137 as] at _MS._]

[Foot-note: 172 welcom] welcon _MS._]

[Foot-note: 179 þy (1st)] þy þy _MS._]

[Foot-note: 237 he] he he _MS._]

[Foot-note: 322 hardily] hardilyly _MS._]

[Foot-note: 331 _at... of_ (2nd)] _transposed in MS._]

[Foot-note: 358 With] With wyth _MS._]



ABOUT 1375.

The facts leading to the presumption that _Pearl_ and _Sir Gawayne_ are
by the same author have been mentioned in the prefatory note to _Sir
Gawayne_. But the poems are markedly different in subject and tone.
_Pearl_, like Chaucer's _Death of Blanche the Duchess_, is an elegy cast
in the vision form made popular by the _Roman de la Rose_. The subject
is a little girl, who died before she was two years old, and the
treatment is deeply religious. Her death is symbolized as the loss of a
pearl without spot, that slipped from its owner's hand through the grass
into the earth.

On a festival day in August, the poet, while mourning his loss, falls
asleep on his child's grave. His spirit passes to a land of flowers and
rich fruits, where birds of flaming hues sing incomparably, where the
cliffs are of crystal and beryl, and a river runs in a bed of gleaming
jewels. On the other side of the river, which is lovelier still, sits a
maiden dressed all in white, with coronet and ornaments of pearl. The
poet recognizes his lost child, but cannot call to her for wonder and
dread, until she rises and salutes him. He complains that since her loss
he has been a joyless jeweller. She rebukes him gently; she is not lost,
but made safe and beautiful for ever. Overjoyed, he says he will cross
the river and live with her in this paradise; but she warns him against
such presumption, for since Adam's fall the river may be crossed only by
the way of death. He is in despair to think that now that his Pearl is
found, he must still live joyless, apart from her; but he is bidden to
resign himself to God's will and mercy, because rebellion will avail him

At this point begins the argument on salvation by grace or salvation by
works which is here reprinted.

The maiden then continues the discussion, explaining that 'the innocent
are ay safe by right', and that only those who come as little children
can win the bliss sought by the man who sold his all for a matchless

Next the poet asks whence her beauty comes, and what her office is. She
replies that she is one of the brides of Christ, whom St. John in the
Apocalypse saw arrayed for the bridal in the New Jerusalem. He asks to
see their mansions, and by special grace is allowed to view the holy
city from without. He sees it as St. John saw it, gleaming with gold,
with its pillars of precious stone, its gates of pearl; its streets
lighted by a divine radiance, so that there is no need of moon or sun.
There is no church or chapel or temple there: God himself is the
minister, and Christ is the sacrifice. Mortal eye could not bear the
splendour, and he stood 'as stylle as dased quayle'. At evening came the
procession of the virgin brides of Christ, each bearing on her breast
the pearl of perfect happiness. The Lamb leads them, in pearl-white
robes, his side bleeding, his face rapt; while elders make obeisance,
and angels sing songs of joy as He nears the throne of God.

Suddenly the poet sees his Pearl among her companions. Overcome with
longing and delight, he tries to cross the river, only to wake in the
garden where he fell asleep. Henceforth he is resigned to the pleasure
of the Prince of Heaven.

The reader will be able to judge the author's poetical gift from the
selection, which has been chosen as one of the less ornate passages.
Even here the form distracts attention from the matter by its
elaborateness. A difficult rime scheme is superimposed on the
alliterative line; stanza is interlinked with stanza; each group of five
stanzas is distinguished by a similar refrain, and bound to the
preceding and following groups by repetition in the first and last
lines. So too the close of the poem echoes the beginning. With such
intricacy of plan, it is not surprising that the rime is sometimes
forced, and the sense strained or obscure. It is rather a matter for
wonder that, in so long a work, the author was able to maintain his
marvellous technique without completely sacrificing poetry to metrical

The highly wrought, almost overwrought, effect is heightened when the
poem is read as a whole. If _Piers Plowman_ gives a realistic picture of
the drabness of mediaeval life, _Pearl_, more especially in the early
stanzas, shows a richness of imagery and a luxuriance in light and
colour that seem scarcely English. Yet they have their parallels in the
decorative art of the time—the elaborate carving in wood and stone; the
rich colouring of tapestries, of illuminated books and painted glass;
the designs of the jewellers, goldsmiths, and silversmiths, which even
the notaries who made the old inventories cannot pass without a word of
admiration. The _Pearl_ reminds us of the tribute due to the artists and
craftsmen of the fourteenth century.

The edition by C. G. Osgood, Boston 1906, is the handiest.

THE PEARL, ll. 361-612.

(MS. Cotton Nero A X (about 1400).)

      Thenne demed I to þat damyselle:
        'Ne worþe no wrathþe vnto my Lorde,
      If rapely  raue, spornande in spelle;
      My herte watȝ al wyth mysse remorde,
      As wallande water gotȝ out of welle.                  5
      I do me ay in Hys myserecorde;
      Rebuke me neuer wyth wordeȝ felle,
      Þaȝ I forloyne, my dere endorde,
      Bot _k_yþeȝ me kyndely your coumforde,
      Pytosly þenkande vpon þysse:                         10
      Of care and me ȝe made acorde,
      Þat er watȝ grounde of alle my blysse.

        'My blysse, my bale, ȝe han ben boþe,
      Bot much þe bygger ȝet watȝ my mon;
      Fro þou watȝ wroken fro vch a woþe,                  15
      I wyste neuer quere my perle watȝ gon.
      Now I hit se, now leþeȝ my loþe;
      And, quen we departed, we wern at on;
      God forbede we be now wroþe,
      We meten so selden by stok oþer ston.                20
      Þaȝ cortaysly ȝe carp con,
      I am bot mol and ma_n_ereȝ mysse;
      Bot Crystes mersy, and Mary, and Ion,
      Þise arn þe grounde of alle my blysse.

        'In blysse I se þe blyþely blent,                  25
      And I a man al mornyf mate;
      Ȝe take þeron ful lyttel tente,
      Þaȝ I hente ofte harmeȝ hate.
      Bot now I am here in your presente,
      I wolde bysech, wythouten debate,                    30
      Ȝe wolde me say in sobre asente
      What lyf ȝe lede erly and late.
      For I am ful fayn þat your astate
      Is worþen to worschyp and wele, iwysse;
      Of alle my ioy þe hyȝe gate                          35
      Hit is, _and_ grounde of alle my blysse.'

        'Now blysse, burne, mot þe bytyde,'
      Þen sayde þat lufsoum of lyth and lere,
      'And welcum here to walk and byde,
      For now þy speche is to me dere.                     40
      Maysterful mod and hyȝe pryde,
      I hete þe, arn heterly hated here.
      My Lorde ne loueȝ not for to chyde,
      For meke arn alle þat woneȝ Hym nere;
      And when in Hys place þou schal apere,               45
      Be dep deuote in hol mekenesse;
      My Lorde þe Lamb loueȝ ay such chere,
      Þat is þe grounde of alle my blysse.

        'A blysful lyf þou says I lede;
      Þou woldeȝ knaw þerof þe stage.                      50
      Þow wost wel when þy perle con schede
      I watȝ ful ȝong and tender of age;
      Bot my Lorde þe Lombe, þurȝ Hys Godhede,
      He toke myself to Hys maryage,
      Corounde me quene in blysse to brede                 55
      In lenghe of dayeȝ þat euer schal wage;
      And sesed in alle Hys herytage
      Hys lef is, I am holy Hysse;
      Hys prese, Hys prys, and Hys parage
      Is rote and grounde of alle my blysse.'              60

        'Blysful,' quod I, 'may þys be trwe?—
      Dyspleseȝ not if I speke errour—
      Art þou þe quene of heueneȝ blwe,
      Þat al þys worlde schal do honour?
      We leuen on Marye þat grace of grewe,                65
      Þat ber a barne of vyrgynflour;
      Þe croune fro hyr quo moȝt remwe
      Bot ho hir passed in sum fauour?
      Now, for synglerty o hyr dousour,
      We calle hyr Fenyx of Arraby,                        70
      Þat freles fleȝe of hyr fasor,
      Lyk to þe quen of cortaysye.'

        'Cortayse Quen,' þenne syde þat gaye,
      Knelande to grounde, folde vp hyr face,
      'Makeleȝ Moder and myryest May,                      75
      Blessed Bygynner of vch a grace!'
      Þenne ros ho vp and con restay,
      And speke me towarde in þat space:
      'Sir, fele here porchaseȝ and fongeȝ pray,
      Bot supplantoreȝ none wythinne þys place.            80
      Þat emperise al heueneȝ hatȝ,
      And vrþe and helle in her bayly;
      Of erytage ȝet non wyl ho chace,
      For ho is quen of cortaysye.

        'The court of þe kyndom of God alyue               85
      Hatȝ a property in hytself beyng:
      Alle þat may þerinne aryue
      Of alle þe reme is quen oþer kyng,
      And neuer oþer ȝet schal depryue,
      Bot vchon fayn of oþereȝ hafyng,                     90
      And wolde her corouneȝ wern worþe þo fyue,
      If possyble were her mendyng.
      Bot my Lady, of quom Iesu con spryng,
      Ho haldeȝ þe empyre ouer vus ful hyȝe;
      And þat dyspleseȝ non of oure gyng,                  95
      For ho is quene of cortaysye.

        'Of courtaysye, as saytȝ Saynt Poule,
      Al arn we membreȝ of Iesu Kryst;
      As heued and arme and legg and naule
      Temen to hys body ful trwe and tyste,            100
      Ryȝt so is vch a Krysten sawle
      A longande lym to þe Mayster of myste.
      Þenne loke what hate oþer any gawle
      Is tached oþer tyȝed þy lymmeȝ bytwyste:
      Þy heued hatȝ nauþer greme ne gryste                105
      On arme oþer fynger þaȝ þou ber byȝe:
      So fare we alle wyth luf and lyste
      To kyng and quene by cortaysye.'

        'Cortaysé,' quod I, 'I leue,
      And charyté grete, be yow among,                    110
      Bot my speche þat yow ne greue,

             *       *       *       *       *

      Þyself in heuen ouer hyȝ þou heue,
      To make þe quen þat watȝ so ȝonge.
      What more honour moȝte he acheue                    115
      Þat hade endured in worlde stronge,
      And lyued in penaunce hys lyueȝ longe,
      Wyth bodyly bale hym blysse to byye?
      What more worschyp moȝt h_e_ fonge,
      Þen corounde be kyng by cortaysé?                   120

        'That cortaysé is to fre of dede,
      Ȝyf hyt be soth þat þou coneȝ saye;
      Þou lyfed not two ȝer in oure þede;
      Þou cowþeȝ neuer God nauþer plese ne pray,
      Ne neuer nawþer Pater ne Crede;                     125
      And quen mad on þe fyrst day!
      I may not traw, so God me spede,
      Þat God wolde wryþe so wrange away;
      Of countes, damysel, par ma fay!
      Wer fayr in heuen to halde asstate,                 130
      Aþer elleȝ a lady of lasse aray;
      Bot a quene!—hit is to dere a date.'

        'Þer is no date of Hys godnesse,'
      Þen sayde to me þat worþy wyȝte,
      'For al is trawþe þat He con dresse,                135
      And He may do no þynk bot ryȝt,
      As Mathew meleȝ in your messe,
      In sothful Gospel of God Almyȝt,
      In sample he can ful grayþely gesse,
      And lykneȝ hit to heuen lyȝte:                      140
        "My regne," He saytȝ, "is lyk on hyȝt
      To a lorde þat hade a uyne, I wate.
      Of tyme of ȝere þe terme watȝ tyȝt,
      To labor vyne watȝ dere þe date.

        '"Þat date of ȝere wel knawe þys hyne.            145
      Þe lorde ful erly vp he ros,
      To hyre werkmen to hys vyne,
      And fyndeȝ þer summe to hys porpos.
      Into acorde þay con declyne
      For a pené on a day, and forth þay gotȝ,            150
      Wryþen and worchen and don gret pyne,
      Keruen and caggen and man hit clos.
      Aboute vnder, þe lorde to marked totȝ,
      And ydel men stande he fyndeȝ þerate.
      'Why stande ȝe ydel?' he sayde to þos;              155
      'Ne knawe ȝe of þis day no date?'

        '"'Er date of daye hider arn we wonne;'
      So watȝ al samen her answar soȝt;
      'We haf standen her syn ros þe sunne,
      And no mon byddeȝ vus do ryȝt noȝt.'                160
      'Gos into my vyne, dotȝ þat ȝe conne,'
      So sayde þe lorde, and made hit toȝt;
      'What resonabele hyre be naȝt be runne
      I yow pay in dede and þoȝte.'
      Þay wente into þe vyne and wroȝte,                  165
      And al day þe lorde þus ȝede his gate,
      And nw men to hys vyne he broȝte,
      Welneȝ wyl day watȝ passed date.

        '"At þe date of day of euensonge,
      On oure byfore þe sonne go doun,                    170
      He seȝ þer ydel men ful stronge,
      And sade to he_m_ wyth sobre soun:
      'Wy stonde ȝe ydel þise dayeȝ longe?'
      Þay sayden her hyre watȝ nawhere boun.
      'Gotȝ to my vyne, ȝemen ȝonge,                      175
      And wyrkeȝ and dotȝ þat at ȝe moun.'
      Sone þe worlde bycom wel broun,
      Þe sunne watȝ doun, and hit wex late;
      To take her hyre he mad sumoun;
      Þe day watȝ al apassed date.                        180

        '"The date of þe daye þe lorde con knaw,
      Called to þe reue: 'Lede, pay þe meyny;
      Gyf hem þe hyre þat I hem owe;
      And fyrre, þat non me may reprené,
      Set hem alle vpon a rawe,                           185
      And gyf vchon ilyche a peny;
      Bygyn at þe laste þat standeȝ lowe,
      Tyl to þe fyrste þat þou atteny.'
      And þenne þe fyrst bygonne to pleny,
      And sayden þat þay hade trauayled sore:             190
      'Þese bot on oure hem con streny;
      Vus þynk vus oȝe to take more.

        '"'More haf we serued, vus þynk so,
      Þat suffred han þe dayeȝ hete,
      Þenn þyse þat wroȝt not houreȝ two,                 195
      And þou dotȝ hem vus to counterfete.'
      Þenne sayde þe lorde to on of þo:
      'Frende no waning I wyl þe ȝete;
      Take þat is þyn owne and go.
      And I hyred þe for a peny agrete,                   200
      Quy bygynneȝ þou now to þrete?
      Watȝ not a pené þy couenaunt þore?
      Fyrre þen couenaunde is noȝt to plete.
      Wy schalte þou þenne ask more?

        '"'More weþer †louyly† is me my gyfte             205
      To do wyth myn quat so me lykeȝ?
      Oþer elleȝ þyn yȝe to lyþer is lyfte
      For I am goude and non byswykeȝ?'
      'Þus schal I,' quod Kryste, 'hit skyfte:
      Þe laste schal be þe fyrst þat strykeȝ,             210
      And þe fyrst be laste, be he neuer so swyft;
      For mony ben calle, þaȝ fewe be mykeȝ.'"
      Þus pore men her part ay pykeȝ,
      Þaȝ þay com late and lyttel wore;
      And þaȝ her sweng wyth lyttel atslykeȝ,             215
      Þe merci of God is much þe more.

        'More haf I of ioye and blysse hereinne,
      Of ladyschyp gret and lyueȝ blom,
      Þen alle þe wyȝeȝ in þe worlde myȝt wynne
      By þe way of ryȝt to aske dome.                     220
      Wheþer welnygh now I con bygynne—
      In euentyde into þe vyne I come—
      Fyrst of my hyre my Lorde con mynne,
      I watȝ payed anon of al and sum.
      Ȝet oþer þer werne þat toke more tom,               225
      Þat swange and swat for long ȝore,
      Þat ȝet of hyre no þynk þay nom,
      Paraunter noȝt schal toȝere more.'

        Then more I meled and sayde apert:
      'Me þynk þy tale vnresounable;                      230
      Goddeȝ ryȝt is redy and euermore rert,
      Oþer Holy Wryt is bot a fable;
      In Sauter is sayd a verce ouerte
      Þat spekeȝ a poynt determynable:
      "Þou quyteȝ vchon as hys desserte,                  235
      Þou hyȝe Kyng ay pretermynable."
      Now he þat stod þe long day stable,
      And þou to payment com hym byfore,
      Þenne þe lasse in werke to take more able,
      And euer þe lenger þe lasse þe more.'               240

        'Of more and lasse in Godeȝ ryche,'
      Þat gentyl sayde, 'lys no ioparde,
      For þer is vch mon payed ilyche,
      Wheþer lyttel oþer much be hys rewarde,
      For þe gentyl Cheuentayn is no chyche;              245
      Queþersoeuer He dele nesch oþer harde,
      He laueȝ Hys gyfteȝ as water of dyche,
      Oþer goteȝ of golf þat neuer charde.
      Hys fraunchyse is large þat euer dard
      To Hym þat matȝ in synne rescoghe;                  250
      No blysse betȝ fro hem reparde,
      For þe grace of God is gret inoghe.

[Foot-note: 9 kyþeȝ] lyþeȝ _MS._]

[Foot-note: 22 manereȝ] marereȝ _MS._]

[Foot-note: 36 and] in _MS._]

[Foot-note: 112 _a line omitted in MS._]

[Foot-note: 119 he] ho _MS._]

[Foot-note: 164 pay] pray _MS._]

[Foot-note: 169 date of day] day of date _MS._]

[Foot-note: 172 hem] hen _MS._]

[Foot-note: 178 and] & & _MS._]

[Foot-note: 186 ilyche] īlyche _MS._]

[Foot-note: 243 ilyche] inlyche _MS._]



ABOUT 1375.

The Fall of Troy was one of the most popular subjects of mediaeval
story. Lydgate wrote a _Troy Book_ about 1420; fragments of another are
attributed to 'Barbour', whose identity with the author of _The Bruce_
has been questioned; a third version, anonymous, is known as the _Laud
Troy Book_; and Caxton chose as the first work to be printed in English
the _Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye_ (about 1474). More famous than
any of these full histories are two single stories detached from the
cycle: Jason's Quest of the Golden Fleece, which is admirably told by
Gower in the fifth book of his _Confessio Amantis_; and the Love of
Troilus and Cressida, which gave a theme both to Chaucer and to

The _Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy_, from which our
extracts are taken, is a free rendering of the prose _Historia Troiana_
finished in 1287 by Guido de Columna (most probably the modern Terranova
in Sicily). The translation, which appears to have been made in the
North or North-West Midlands in the second half of the fourteenth
century, is preserved only in an imperfect fifteenth-century MS. at the
Hunterian Museum, Glasgow. In the Early English Text Society's print,
edited by Panton and Donaldson, the text extends to over 14,000 lines.

The table of contents prefixed to the MS. promises '_the nome of the
knight þat causet it_ [sc. _the story_] _to be made, and the nome of hym
that translatid it out of Latyn into Englysshe_'; but the extant MS.
does not fulfil the promise. The execution suggests a set task and a
journeyman poet. Phrases are repeated carelessly; there is a great deal
of padding; the versification is monotonous; and the writer is too often
at the mercy of the alliteration to maintain a serious level. Yet he is
not a slavish or a dull translator. The more romantic elements of the
story, such as the matter of the _Odyssey_, had already been whittled
away in his original, and he shows little desire or capacity to restore
them. But he knew as well as the Old English poets the forcefulness of
alliterative verse in scenes of violence, and describes with unflagging
zest and vigour the interminable battles of the siege, and storms such
as that which wrecked the fleet of Ajax.

The Prologue is a curious example of the pseudo-critical attitude of the
Middle Ages. Homer is despised as a teller of impossible tales, and a
partisan of the Greeks,—for Hector is the popular hero of the mediaeval
versions. The narratives of Dares Phrygius and Dictys Cretensis,
products of the taste for fictitious history that spread westward from
Greek-speaking lands in the fourth and following centuries, are accepted
as reliable documents; and Guido de Columna as their authoritative
literary interpreter. No mention is made of Benoît de Sainte-Maure,
whose _Roman de Troie_, written in French about 1184, served as source
to Guido, and, directly or indirectly, as inspiration to the whole body
of Western writers who dealt with the 'Matter of Troy'. For these lapses
the English translator need not be held responsible. On the merits of
Homer, Dares, Dictys, and Guido de Columna, he probably accepted without
question the word of his master Guido.


      Maistur in magesté, Maker of alle,
      Endles and on, euer to last!
      Now, God, of þi grace, graunt me þi helpe,
      And wysshe me with wyt þis werke for to ende
      Off aunters ben olde of aunsetris nobill,                     5
      And slydyn vppon shlepe by slomeryng of age;
      Of stithe men in stoure, strongest in armes,
      And wisest in wer, to wale in hor tyme,
      Þat ben drepit with deth, and þere day paste,
      And most out of mynd for þere mecull age.                    10
      Sothe stories ben stoken vp, and straught out of mynde,
      And swolowet into swym by swiftenes of yeres,
      For new þat ben now next at our hond,
      Breuyt into bokes for boldyng of hertes,
      On lusti to loke with lightnes of wille,                     15
      Cheuyt throughe chaunce and chaungyng of peopull;
      Sum tru for to traist, triet in þe ende,
      Sum feynit o fere and ay false vnder.
        Yche wegh as he will warys his tyme,
      And has lykyng to lerne þat hym list after.                  20
      But olde stories of stithe þat astate helde
      May be solas to sum þat it segh neuer,
      Be writyng of wees þat wist it in dede,
      With sight for to serche of hom þat suet after,
      To ken all the crafte how þe case felle                      25
      By lokyng of letturs þat lefte were of olde.

        Now of Troy for to telle is myn entent euyn,
      Of the stoure and þe stryffe when it distroyet was.
      Þof fele yeres ben faren syn þe fight endid,
      And it meuyt out of mynd, myn hit I thinke,                  30
      Alss wise men haue writen the wordes before,
      Left it in Latyn for lernyng of us.
        But sum poyetis full prist þat put hom þerto
      With fablis and falshed fayned þere speche,
      And made more of þat mater þan hom maister were.             35
      Sum lokyt ouer litle, and lympit of the sothe.
      Amonges þat menye, to myn hym be nome,
      Homer was holden haithill of dedis
      Qwiles his dayes enduret, derrist of other,
      Þat with the Grekys was gret, and of Grice comyn.            40
      He feynet myche fals was neuer before wroght,
      And turnet þe truth, trust ye non other.
      Of his trifuls to telle I haue no tome nowe,
      Ne of his feynit fare þat he fore with:
      How goddes foght in the filde, folke as þai were!            45
      And other errours vnable, þat after were knowen,
      That poyetis of prise have preuyt vntrew:
      Ouyde and othir þat onest were ay,
      Virgille þe virtuus, verrit for nobill,
      Thes dampnet his dedys, and for dull holdyn.                 50
        But þe truth for to telle, and þe text euyn,
      Of þat fight, how it felle in a few yeres,
      Þat was clanly compilet with a clerk wise,
      On Gydo, a gome þat graidly hade soght,
      And wist all þe werks by weghes he hade,                     55
      That bothe were in batell while the batell last,
      And euþer sawte and assembly see with þere een.
      Thai wrote all þe werkes wroght at þat tyme
      In letturs of þere langage, as þai lernede hade:
      Dares and Dytes were duly þere namys.                        60
      Dites full dere was dew to the Grekys,
      A lede of þat lond, and logede hom with.
      The tother was a tulke out of Troy selfe,
      Dares, þat duly the dedys behelde.
      Aither breuyt in a boke on þere best wise,                   65
      That sithen at a sité somyn were founden,
      After, at Atthenes, as aunter befell.
      The whiche bokes barely, bothe as þai were,
      A Romayn ouerraght, and right hom hymseluyn,
      That Cornelius was cald to his kynde name.                   70
      He translated it into Latyn for likyng to here,
      But he shope it so short þat no shalke might
      Haue knowlage by course how þe case felle;
      For he brought it so breff, and so bare leuyt,
      Þat no lede might have likyng to loke þerappon;              75
      Till þis Gydo it gate, as hym grace felle,
      And declaret it more clere, and on clene wise.
        In this shall faithfully be founden, to the fer ende,
      All þe dedis bydene as þai done were:
      How þe groundes first grew, and þe grete hate,               80
      Bothe of torfer and tene þat hom tide aftur.
      And here fynde shall ye faire of þe felle peopull:
      What kynges þere come of costes aboute;
      Of dukes full doughty, and of derffe erles,
      That assemblid to þe citie þat sawte to defend;              85
      Of þe Grekys þat were gedret how gret was þe nowmber,
      How mony knightes þere come, and kynges enarmede,
      And what dukes thedur droghe for dedis of were;
      What shippes þere were shene, and shalkes within,
      Bothe of barges and buernes þat broght were fro Grese;       90
      And all the batels on bent þe buernes betwene;
      What duke þat was dede throughe dyntes of hond,
      Who fallen was in fylde, and how it fore after.
      Bothe of truse and trayne þe truthe shalt þu here,
      And all the ferlies þat fell, vnto the ferre ende.           95
        Fro this prologe I passe, and part me þerwith.
      Frayne will I fer, and fraist of þere werkes,
      Meue to my mater, and make here an ende.


GREKYS FRO TROY (ll. 12463-12547).

        Hyt fell thus, by fortune, þe fairest of þe yere
      Was past to the point of the pale wintur.                    100
      Heruest, with the heite and the high sun,
      Was comyn into colde, with a course low.
      Trees, thurgh tempestes, tynde hade þere leues,
      And briddes abatid of hor brem songe;
      The wynde of the west wackenet aboue,                        105
      Blowyng full bremly o the brode ythes;
      The clere aire ouercast with cloudys full thicke,
      With mystes full merke mynget with showres.
      Flodes were felle thurgh fallyng of rayne,
      And wintur vp wacknet with his wete aire.                    110
        The gret nauy of the Grekes and the gay kynges
      Were put in a purpos to pas fro the toune.
      Sore longit þo lordis hor londys to se,
      And dissiret full depely, doutyng no wedur.
      Þai counted no course of the cold stormys,                   115
      Ne the perellis to passe of the pale windes.
      Hit happit hom full hard in a hondqwile,
      And mony of þo mighty to misse of hor purpos.
        Thus tho lordes in hor longyng laghton þe watur,
      Shotton into ship mong shene knightes,                       120
      With the tresowre of þe toune þai token before,
      Relikes full rife, and miche ranke godes.
      Clere was the course of the cold flodis,
      And the firmament faire, as fell for the wintur.
      Thai past on the pale se, puld vp hor sailes,                125
      Hadyn bir at þere backe, and the bonke leuyt.
      Foure dayes bydene, and hor du nyghtis,
      Ful soundly þai sailed with seasonable windes.
        The fyft day fuersly fell at the none,
      Sodonly the softe winde vnsoberly blew;                      130
      A myste and a merkenes myngit togedur;
      A thoner and a thicke rayne þrublet in the skewes,
      With an ugsom noise, noy for to here;
      All flasshet in a fire the firmament ouer;
      Was no light but a laite þat launchit aboue:                 135
      Hit skirmyt in the skewes with a skyre low,
      Thurgh the claterand clowdes clos to the heuyn,
      As the welkyn shuld walt for wodenes of hete;
      With blastes full bigge of the breme wyndes,
      Walt vp the waghes vpon wan hilles.                          140
      Stith was the storme, stird all the shippes,
      Hoppit on hegh with heste of the flodes.
      The sea was unsober, sondrit the nauy,
      Walt ouer waghes, and no way held,
      Depertid the pepull, pyne to behold,                         145
      In costes vnkowthe; cut down þere sailes,
      Ropis al torochit, rent vp the hacches,
      Topcastell ouerturnyt, takelles were lost.
      The night come onone, noye was the more!
        All the company cleane of the kyng Telamon,                150
      With þere shippes full shene, and þe shire godis,
      Were brent in the bre with the breme lowe
      Of the leymonde laite þat launchit fro heuyn,
      And euyn drownet in the depe, dukes and other!
        Oelius Aiax, as aunter befelle,                            155
      Was stad in the storme with the stith windes,
      With his shippes full shene and the shire godes.
      Thrifty and þriuaund, thretty and two
      There were brent on the buerne with the breme low,
      And all the freikes in the flode floterand aboue.            160
        Hymseluyn in the sea sonkyn belyue,
      Swalprit and swam with swyngyng of armys.
      Ȝet he launchet to londe, and his lyf hade,
      Bare of his body, bretfull of water,
      In the slober and the sluche slongyn to londe;               165
      There he lay, if hym list, the long night ouer,
      Till the derke was done, and the day sprang;
      Þare sum of his sort, þat soght were to lond
      And than wonen of waghes, with wo as þai might,
      Laited þere lord on the laund-syde,                          170
      If hit fell h_y_m by fortune the flodes to passe.
        Þan found þai the freike in the fome lye,
      And comford hym kyndly, as þere kyd lord;
      With worchip and wordes wan hym to fote.
      Bothe failet hym the fode and the fyne clothes.              175
        Thus þere goddes with gremy with þe Grekes fore,
      Mighty Mynera, of malis full grete,
      For Telamon, in tene, tid for to pull
      Cassandra the clene out of hir cloise temple.
      Thus hit fell hom by fortune of a foule ende,                180
      For greuyng þere goddes in hor gret yre.
      Oftsythes men sayn, and sene is of olde,
      Þat all a company is cumbrit for a cursed shrewe.

[Foot-note: 168-9 _transposed in MS._]

[Foot-note: 171 hym] hom _MS._]





Recent criticism of _Piers Plowman_ has done more to weaken the hold of
opinions once generally accepted than to replace them by others better
founded. It is still most probable that 'Long Will', who is more than
once mentioned in the text as the poet, was William Langland. The
earliest external evidence of his home and parentage is given in a
fifteenth-century note in MS. Dublin D 4. 1, of which both the matter
and the vile Latinity bear the stamp of genuineness: 'Memorandum quod
Stacy de Rokayle, pater Willielmi de Langlond, qui Stacius fuit
generosus, et morabatur in Schiptone under Whicwode, tenens domini le
Spenser in comitatu Oxon., qui praedictus Willielmus fecit librum qui
vocatur Perys Ploughman.' Shipton-under-Wychwood is near Burford in
Oxfordshire. The poem shows familiarity with the Malvern Hills and the
streets of London; but it is hard to say how much is fact and how much
is fiction in the references to Long Will in the text itself, more
especially the description of his London life added as the Sixth Passus
in Version C, and reproduced here as the second extract.

Since Skeat's edition for the Early English Text Society, the many
manuscripts have been grouped into three main types. The shortest, or
A-text, appears from internal evidence to have been written about 1362.
The B-text (about 1377) has the most compact manuscript tradition. It is
distinguished by considerable additions throughout, and by the
reconstruction and expansion of the visions of Dowel, Dobet, Dobest,
which make up the second half of the poem. The C-text, the latest and
fullest form, appears to have been completed in the last decade of the
fourteenth century.

Until recently it has been assumed that these three versions represent
progressive revisions by the author. But Professor Manly has found
considerable support for his view that more than one writer—perhaps as
many as five—had a share in the work. For the present, judgement on
this question, and on the intricate problem of the relations of the
different versions, is suspended until the results of a complete
re-examination of all the MSS. are available. It would not be surprising
to find that even when this necessary work is done differences of
opinion on the larger questions remain as acute as ever.

It is impossible in short space to give an outline of the whole work,
which describes no less than eleven visions. The structure is loose, and
allegory is developed or dropped with disconcerting abruptness, for the
writer does not curb his vigorous imagination in the interests of formal

The first part is the best known. On a May morning the poet falls asleep
on the Malvern Hills and sees a 'Field full of Folk', where all classes
of men are busy about their occupations, more particularly the nefarious
occupations that engage the attention of the moralist. Holy Church
explains that a high tower in the Field is the home of Truth; and that a
'deep dale' is the Castle of Care, where Wrong dwells with the wicked.
She points out Falseness, who is about to marry Lady Meed (i.e. Reward,
whether deserved reward or bribe). Lady Meed and her company are haled
before the King, who, with Reason and Conscience as his guides, decides
her case, and upholds the plea of Peace against Wrong.

The second vision is prefaced (in the C-text only) by the passage
printed as the second selection. The poet falls asleep again, and sees
Conscience preaching to the people in the Field. Representatives of the
Seven Deadly Sins are vividly described. They are brought to penitence,
and all set out in search of Truth. But no one knows the way. A palmer
who wears the trophies of many pilgrimages to distant saints is puzzled
by their inquiries, for he has never heard of pilgrims seeking Truth.
Then Peter the Plowman comes forward and explains the way in
allegorical terms. Here the first extract begins. The second vision
closes with a general pardon given by Truth to Piers Plowman in this
simple form:

      Do wel, and haue wel, and God shal haue þi sowle;
      And do yuel, and haue yuel, hope þow non other
      But after þi ded-day þe Deuel shal haue þi sowle.

The several visions of the second part make up the lives of
Dowel, Dobet, and Dobest. Piers Plowman is there identified
with Christ, and the poem ends with Conscience, almost overcome
by sin, setting out resolutely in search of Piers.

First impressions of mediaeval life are usually coloured by the
courtly romances of Malory and his later refiners. Chaucer
brings us down to reality, but his people belong to a prosperous
middle-class world, on holiday and in holiday mood. _Piers Plowman_
stands alone as a revelation of the ignorance and misery of
the lower classes, whose multiplied grievances came to a head in
the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. It must not be supposed that
Langland idealized the labourers. Their indolence and improvidence
are exposed as unsparingly as the vices of the rich; and
Piers himself is not so much a representative of the English workman
in the fourteenth century as a character drawn straight
from the Gospels. Still, such an eager plea for humbleness, simplicity,
and honest labour, could not fail to encourage the political
hopes of the poor, and we see in John Ball's letter (p. 160) that
'Piers Plowman' had become a catchword among them. The
poet himself rather deprecates political action. His satire is
directed against the general slackening of the bonds of duty that
marked the last years of an outworn system of society. For the
remedy of abuses he appeals not to one class but to all: king,
nobles, clergy, and workers must model their lives on the pattern
of the Gospels.


Bodleian MS. Laud 581 (about 1400).

      'This were a wikked way, but whoso hadde a gyde
      That wolde folwen vs eche a fote:' þus þis folke hem mened.
        Quatȝ Perkyn þe plouman: 'Bi Seynt Peter of Rome!
      I haue an half-acre to erye bi þe heigh way.
      Hadde I eried þis half-acre, and sowen it after,                 5
      I w_o_l_de_ wende with ȝow, and þe way teche.'
        'Þis were a longe lettynge,' quod a lady in a sklayre;
      'What sholde we wommen worche þerewhiles?'
        'Somme shal sowe <þe> sakke,' quod Piers, 'for shedyng
            of þe whete;
      And ȝe, louely ladyes, with ȝoure longe fyngres,                10
      Þat ȝe han silke and sendal to sowe, whan tyme is,
      Chesibles for chapelleynes, cherches to honoure;
      Wyues and wydwes wolle and flex spynneth,
      Maketh cloth, I conseille ȝow, and kenneth so
          ȝowre douȝtres;
      Þe nedy and þe naked, nymmeth hede how hii liggeth,             15
      And casteth hem clothes, for so comaundeth Treuthe.
      For I shal lene hem lyflode, but ȝif þe londe faille,
      Flesshe and bred, bothe to riche and to pore,
      As longe as I lyue, for þe Lordes loue of heuene.
      And alle manere of men þat þorw mete and drynke lybbeth,        20
      Helpith hym to worche wiȝtliche þat wynneth ȝowre fode.'
        'Bi Crist!' quod a knyȝte þo, 'he kenneth vs þe best;
      Ac on þe teme trewly tauȝte was I neuere.
      Ac kenne me,' quod þe knyȝte, 'and, bi Cryst! I wil assaye.'
        'Bi seynt Poule!' quod Perkyn, 'ȝe profre ȝow so
            faire,                                                    25
      Þat I shal swynke, and swete, and sowe for vs bothe,
      And oþer laboures do for þi loue al my lyf tyme,
      In couenaunt þat þow kepe Holi Kirke and myselue
      Fro wastoures and fro wykked men þat þis worlde struyeth;
      And go hunte hardiliche to hares and to foxes,                  30
      To bores and to brockes þat breketh adown myne hegges,
      And go affaite þe faucones wilde foules to kille,
      For suche cometh to my croft, and croppeth my whete.'
        Curteislich þe knyȝte þanne comsed þise wordes:
      'By my power, Pieres,' quod he, 'I pliȝte þe my treuthe         35
      To fulfille þis forward, þowȝ I fiȝte sholde;
      Als longe as I lyue, I shal þe mayntene.'
        'Ȝe, and ȝit a poynt,' quod Pieres, 'I preye ȝow
            of more;
      Loke ȝe tene no tenaunt, but Treuthe wil assent.
      And þowgh ȝe mowe amercy hem, late Mercy be taxoure,            40
      And Mekenesse þi mayster, maugré Medes chekes;
      And þowgh pore men profre ȝow presentis and ȝiftis,
      Nym it nauȝte, an auenture ȝe mowe it nauȝte deserue;
      For þow shalt ȝelde it aȝein at one ȝeres ende
      In a ful perillous place, Purgatorie it hatte.                  45
      And mysbede nouȝte þi bondemen, þe better may þow spede;
      Þowgh he be þyn vnderlynge here, wel may happe in heuene
      Þat he worth worthier sette and with more blisse:
          _Amice, ascende superius_.
      For in charnel atte chirche cherles ben yuel to knowe,          50
      Or a kniȝte fram a knaue þere,—knowe þis in þin herte.
      And þat þow be trewe of þi tonge, and tales þat þow hatie,
      But if þei ben of wisdome or of witte, þi werkmen to chaste.
      Holde with none harlotes, ne here nouȝte her tales,
      And nameliche atte mete suche men eschue,                       55
      For it ben þe deueles disoures, I do þe to vnderstande.'
        'I assente, bi Seynt Iame!' seyde þe kniȝte þanne,
      'Forto worche bi þi wordes þe while my lyf dureth.'
        'And I shal apparaille me,' quod Perkyn, 'in pilgrimes wise,
      And wende with ȝow I wil til we fynde Treuthe,                  60
      And cast on me my clothes, yclouted and hole,
      My cokeres and my coffes, for colde of my nailles,
      And hange myn hoper at myn hals, in stede of a scrippe,
      A busshel of bredcorne brynge me þerinne,
      For I wil sowe it myself; and sitthenes wil I wende             65
      To pylgrymage, as palmers don, pardoun forto haue.
      Ac whoso helpeth me to erie or sowen here, ar I wende,
      Shal haue leue, bi owre Lorde, to lese here in heruest,
      And make hem mery þeremydde, maugré whoso bigruccheth it.
      And alkyn crafty men, þat konne lyuen in treuthe,               70
      I shal fynden hem fode, þat feithfulliche libbeth.'...
        (Dame 'Worche-whan-tyme-is' Pieres wyf hiȝte;
      His douȝter hiȝte 'Do-riȝte-so- or-þi-dame-shal-þe-bete';
      His sone hiȝte 'Suffre-þi-souereynes- to-hauen-her-wille-,
      Deme-hem-nouȝte-, for-, if-þow-doste-,
          þow-shalt-it-dere-abugge.')                                 75
        'Late God yworth with al, for so His worde techeth;
      For now I am olde and hore, and haue of myn owen,
      To penaunce and to pilgrimage I wil passe with þise other.
      Forþi I wil, or I wende, do wryte my biqueste.
        _In Dei nomine, amen_, I make it myseluen.                    80
      He shal haue my soule þat best hath yserued it,
      And fro þe fende it defende, for so I bileue,
      Til I come to His acountes, as my _Credo_ me telleth,
      To haue a relees and a remissioun on þat rental I leue.
      Þe kirke shal haue my caroigne and kepe my bones,               85
      For of my corne and catel he craued þe tythe;
      I payed it hym prestly, for peril of my soule,
      Forthy is he holden, I hope, to haue me in his masse,
      And mengen in his memorye amonge alle Crystene.
        My wyf shal haue of þat I wan with treuthe, and nomore,       90
      And dele amonge my douȝtres and my dere children;
      For þowgh I deye todaye, my dettes ar quitte;
      I bare home þat I borwed, ar I to bedde ȝede.
      And with þe residue and þe remenaunte, bi þe rode of Lukes!
      I wil worschip þerwith Treuthe bi my lyue,                      95
      And ben his pilgryme atte plow, for pore mennes sake.
      My plow-fote shal be my pyk-staf, and picche atwo þe rotes,
      And helpe my culter to kerue, and clense þe forwes.'
        Now is Perkyn and his pilgrymes to þe plowe faren;
      To erie þis halue-acre holpyn hym manye.                       100
      Dikeres and delueres digged vp þe balkes;
      Þerewith was Perkyn apayed, and preysed hem faste.
      Other werkemen þere were þat wrouȝten ful ȝerne;
      Eche man in his manere made hymself to done,
      And some, to plese Perkyn, piked vp þe wedes.                  105
        At heighe pryme Peres lete þe plowe stonde,
      To ouersen hem hymself, and whoso best wrouȝte
      He shulde be huyred þerafter whan heruest-tyme come.
        And þanne seten somme and songen atte nale,
      And hulpen erie his half-acre with 'how! trollilolli!'         110
        'Now, bi þe peril of my soule!' quod Pieres, al in pure tene,
      'But ȝe arise þe rather, and rape ȝow to worche,
      Shal no greyne þat groweth glade ȝow at nede;
      And þough ȝe deye for dole, þe deuel haue þat reccheth!'
        Tho were faitoures aferde, and feyned hem blynde;            115
      Somme leyde here legges aliri, as suche loseles conneth,
      And made her mone to Pieres, and preyde hym of grace:
      'For we haue no lymes to laboure with, lorde, ygraced be ȝe!
      Ac we preye for ȝow, Pieres, and for ȝowre plow bothe,
      Þat God of His grace ȝowre grayne multiplye,                   120
      And ȝelde ȝow of ȝowre almesse þat ȝe ȝiue
          vs here;
      For we may nouȝte swynke ne swete, suche sikenesse vs eyleth.'
        'If it be soth,' quod Pieres, 'þat ȝe seyne, I shal it sone
      Ȝe ben wastoures, I wote wel, and Treuthe wote þe sothe,
      And I am his olde hyne, and hiȝte hym to warne                 125
      Which þei were in þis worlde his werkemen appeyred.
      Ȝe wasten þat men wynnen with trauaille and with tene,
      Ac Treuthe shal teche ȝow his teme to dryue,
      Or ȝe shal ete barly bred and of þe broke drynke.
      But if he be blynde, _or_ broke-legged, or bolted with
          yrnes,                                                     130
      He shal ete whete bred and drynke with myselue,
      Tyl God of his goodnesse amendement hym sende.
      Ac ȝe myȝte trauaille as Treuthe wolde, and take mete
          and huyre
      To kepe kyne in þe felde, þe corne fro þe bestes,
      Diken, or deluen, or dyngen vppon sheues,                      135
      Or helpe make morter, or bere mukke afelde.
      In lecherye an in losengerye ȝe lyuen, and in sleuthe,
      And al is þorw suffrance þat veniaunce ȝow ne taketh.
        Ac ancres and heremytes, þat eten but at nones,
      And namore er morwe, myne almesse shul þei haue,               140
      And of my catel to cope hem with þat han cloistres and
      Ac Robert Renne-aboute shal nouȝe haue of myne,
      Ne posteles, but þey preche conne, and haue powere of þe bisschop;
      They shal haue payne and potage, and make hemself at ese,
      For it is an vnresonable religioun þat hath riȝte
          nouȝte of certeyne.'                                       145
      And þanne gan a Wastoure to wrath hym, and wolde haue
      And to Pieres þe plowman he profered his gloue;
      A Brytonere, a braggere, abosted Pieres als:—
      'Wiltow or neltow, we wil haue owre wille
      Of þi flowre and of þi flessche, fecche whan vs liketh,        150
      And make vs myrie þermyde, maugré þi chekes!'
        Thanne Pieres þe plowman pleyned hym to þe knyȝte,
      To kepe hym, as couenaunte was, fram cursed shrewes,
      And fro þis wastoures wolues-kynnes, þat maketh þe worlde
      'For þo waste, and wynnen nouȝte, and þat ilke while           155
      Worth neuere plenté amonge þe poeple þerwhile my plow
        Curteisly þe knyȝte þanne, as his kynde wolde,
      Warned Wastoure, and wissed hym bettere,
      'Or þow shalt abugge by þe lawe, by þe ordre þat I bere!'
        'I was nouȝt wont to worche,' quod Wastour, 'and now
            wil I nouȝt bigynne',                                    160
      And lete liȝte of þe lawe, and lasse of þe knyȝte,
      And sette Pieres at a pees, and his plow bothe,
      And manaced Pieres and his men ȝif þei mette eftsone.
        'Now, by þe peril of my soule!' quod Pieres, 'I shal apeyre
            ȝow alle!'
      And houped after Hunger, þat herd hym atte firste:             165
      'Awreke me of þise wastoures,' quod he 'þat þis worlde
        Hunger in haste þo hent Wastour bi þe mawe,
      And wronge hym so bi þe wombe þat bothe his eyen wattered.
      He buffeted þe Britoner aboute þe chekes,
      Þat he loked like a lanterne al his lyf after.                 170
      He bette hem so bothe, he barste nere here guttes;
      Ne hadde Pieres with a pese-lof preyed Hunger to cesse,
      They hadde ben doluen bothe, ne deme þow non other.
      'Suffre hem lyue,' he seyde 'and lete hem ete with hogges,
      Or elles benes and bren ybaken togideres,                      175
      Or elles melke and mene ale;' þus preyed Pieres for hem.
        Faitoures for fere herof flowen into bernes,
      And flapten on with flayles fram morwe til euen,
      That Hunger was nouȝt so hardy on hem for to loke,
      For a potful of peses þat Peres hadde ymaked.                  180
      An heep of heremites henten hem spades,
      And ketten here copes, and courtpies hem made,
      And wenten as werkemen with spades and with schoueles,
      And doluen and dykeden to dryue aweye Hunger.
        Blynde and bedreden were botened a þousande,                 185
      Þat seten to begge syluer; sone were þei heled.
      For þat was bake for Bayarde was bote for many hungry,
      And many a beggere for benes buxome was to swynke,
      And eche a pore man wel apayed to haue pesen for his huyre,
      And what Pieres preyed hem to do as prest as a sperhauke.      190
      And þereof was Peres proude, and put hem to werke,
      And ȝaf hem mete as he myȝte aforth, and mesurable
        Þanne hadde Peres pité, and preyed Hunger to wende
      Home into his owne erde, and holden hym þere:
      'For I am wel awroke now of wastoures, þorw þi myȝte.          195
      Ac I preye þe, ar þow passe,' quod Pieres to Hunger,
      'Of beggeres and of bidderes what best be  done?
      For I wote wel, be þow went, þei wil worche ful ille;
      For myschief it maketh þei beth so meke nouthe,
      And for defaute of her fode þis folke is at my wille.          200
      Þey are my blody bretheren,' quod Pieres, 'for God bouȝte
          vs alle;
      Treuthe tauȝte me ones to louye hem vchone,
      And to helpen hem of alle þinge ay as hem nedeth.
      And now wolde I witen of þe what were þe best,
      An how I myȝte amaistrien hem, and make hem to worche.'        205
        'Here now,' quod Hunger 'and holde it for a wisdome:
      Bolde beggeres and bigge, þat mowe her bred biswynke,
      With houndes bred and hors bred holde vp her hertis,
      Abate hem with benes for bollyng of her wombe;
      And ȝif þe gomes grucche, bidde hem go swynke,                 210
      And he shal soupe swettere whan he it hath deseruid.
        And if þow fynde any freke, þat fortune hath appeyred
      Or any maner fals men, fonde þow suche to cnowe;
      Conforte hym with þi catel, for Crystes loue of heuene;
      Loue hem and lene hem, so lawe of God techeth:—                215
          _Alter alterius onera portate_.
      And alle maner of men þat þow myȝte asspye
      That nedy ben and nauȝty, helpe hem with þi godis;
      Loue hem, and lakke hem nouȝte; late God take þe veniaunce;
      Theigh þei done yuel, late þow God aworthe:—                   220
          _Michi vindictam, et ego retribuam_.
      And if þow wil be graciouse to God, do as þe Gospel techeth,
      And bilow þe amonges low men; so shaltow lacche grace:—
          _Facite vobis amicos de mamona iniquitatis_.'
        'I wolde nouȝt greue God,' quod Piers, 'for al þe good on
            grounde;                                                 225
      Miȝte I synnelees do as þow seist?' seyde Pieres þanne.
        'Ȝe, I bihote þe,' quod Hunger, 'or ellis þe Bible lieth;
      Go to Genesis þe gyaunt, þe engendroure of vs alle:—
      "_In sudore_ and swynke þow shalt þi mete tilye,
      And laboure for þi lyflode," and so owre Lorde hyȝte.          230
      And Sapience seyth þe same, I seigh it in þe Bible:—
      "_Piger pro frigore_ no felde nolde tilye,
      And þerfore he shal begge and bidde, and no man bete his hunger."
        Mathew with mannes face mouthed þise wordis:—
      Þat _seruus nequam_ had a nam, and for he wolde nouȝte
          chaffare,                                                  235
      He had maugré of his maistre for euermore after,
      And binam  his mnam, for he ne wolde worche,
      And ȝaf þat mnam to hym þat ten mnames hadde;
      And with þat he seyde, þat Holi Cherche it herde,
      "He þat hath shal haue, and helpe þere it nedeth,              240
      And he þat nouȝt hath shal nouȝt haue, and no man hym
      And þat he weneth wel to haue, I wil it hym bireue."
        Kynde Witt wolde þat eche a wyght wrouȝte,
      Or in dykynge, or in deluynge, or trauaillynge in preyeres,
      Contemplatyf lyf or actyf lyf, Cryst wolde men wrouȝte.        245
      Þe Sauter seyth in þe psalme of _Beati omnes_,
      Þe freke þat fedeth hymself with his feythful laboure,
      He is blessed by þe boke, in body and in soule:—
          _Labores manuum tuarum, etc._'
        'Ȝet I prey ȝow,' quod Pieres, '_par charité!_ and
            ȝe kunne                                                 250
      Eny leef of lechecraft, lere it me, my dere.
      For somme of my seruauntȝ, and myself bothe,
      Of al a wyke worche nouȝt, so owre wombe aketh.'
        'I wote wel,' quod Hunger, 'what sykenesse ȝow eyleth;
      Ȝe han maunged ouermoche, and þat maketh ȝow grone.            255
      Ac I hote þe,' quod Hunger, 'as þow þyne hele wilnest,
      That þow drynke no day ar þow dyne somwhat.
      Ete nouȝte, I hote þe, ar hunger þe take,
      And sende þe of his sauce to sauoure with þi lippes;
      And kepe some tyl sopertyme, and sitte nouȝt to longe;         260
      Arise vp ar appetit haue eten his fulle.
      Lat nouȝt Sire Surfait sitten at þi borde....
      And ȝif þow diete þe þus, I dar legge myne eres
      Þat Phisik shal his furred hodes for his fode selle,
      And his cloke of Calabre, with alle þe knappes of golde,       265
      And be fayne, bi my feith, his phisik to lete,
      And lerne to laboure with londe, for lyflode is swete;
      For morthereres aren mony leches, Lorde hem amende!
      Þei do men deye þorw here drynkes, ar Destiné it wolde.'
        'By Seynt Poule!' quod Pieres, 'þise aren profitable
            wordis.                                                  270
      Wende now, Hunger, whan þow wolt, þat wel be þow euere,
      For this is a louely lessoun; Lorde it þe forȝelde!'
        'Byhote God,' quod Hunger, 'hennes ne wil I wende,
      Til I haue dyned bi þis day, and ydronke bothe.'
        'I haue no peny,' quod Peres 'poletes forto bigge,           275
      Ne neyther gees ne grys, but two grene cheses,
      A fewe cruddes and creem, and an hauer-cake,
      And two loues of benes and bran ybake for my fauntis;
      And ȝet I sey, by my soule, I haue no salt bacoun
      Ne no kokeney, bi Cryst, coloppes forto maken.                 280
      Ac I haue percil, and porettes, and many koleplantes,
      And eke a cow and a kalf, and a cart-mare
      To drawe afelde my donge þe while þe drought lasteth.
      And bi þis lyflode we mot lyue til Lammasse tyme;
      And bi þat I hope to haue heruest in my croft,                 285
      And þanne may I diȝte þi dyner as me dere liketh.'
        Alle þe pore peple þo pesecoddes fetten,
      Benes and baken apples þei brouȝte in her lappes,
      Chibolles and cheruelles and ripe chiries manye,
      And profred Peres þis present to plese with Hunger.            290
      Al Hunger eet in hast, and axed after more.
      Þanne pore folke for fere fedde Hunger ȝerne
      With grene poret and pesen—to poysoun Hunger þei þouȝte.
      By þat it neighed nere heruest, newe corne cam to chepynge;
      Þanne was folke fayne, and fedde Hunger with þe best,          295
      With good ale, as Glotoun tauȝte, and gerte Hunger go
        And þo wolde Wastour nouȝt werche, but wandren aboute,
      Ne no begger ete bred that benes inne were,
      But of coket, or clerematyn, or elles of clene whete,
      Ne none halpeny ale in none wise drynke,                       300
      But of þe best and of þe brounest þat in borgh is to selle.
        Laboreres þat haue no lande to lyue on but her handes,
      Deyned nouȝt to dyne aday nyȝt-olde wortes;
      May no peny-ale hem paye, ne no pece of bakoun,
      But if it be fresch flesch, other fische, fryed other bake,    305
      And that _chaude_ or _plus chaud_, for chillyng of here mawe.
      And but if he be heighlich huyred, ellis wil he chyde,
      And þat he was werkman wrouȝt waille þe tyme;
      Aȝeines Catones conseille comseth he to iangle:—
          _Paupertatis onus pacienter ferre memento_.                310
      He greueth hym aȝeines God, and gruccheth aȝeines resoun,
      And þanne curseth he þe kynge, and al his conseille after,
      Suche lawes to loke, laboreres to greue.
      Ac whiles Hunger was her maister, þere wolde none of hem
      Ne stryue aȝeines his statut, so sterneliche he loked.         315
        Ac I warne ȝow, werkemen, wynneth while ȝe mowe,
      For Hunger hideward hasteth hym faste,
      He shal awake with water wastoures to chaste.
      Ar fyue <ȝere> be fulfilled suche famyn shal aryse,
      Thorwgh flodes and þourgh foule wederes frutes shul faille;    320
      And so sayde Saturne, and sent ȝow to warne:
      Whan ȝe se þe sonne amys, and two monkes hedes,
      And a mayde haue þe maistrie, and multiplied bi eight,
      Þanne shal Deth withdrawe, and Derthe be Iustice,
      And Dawe þe Dyker deye for hunger,                             325
      But if God of his goodnesse graunt vs a trewe.

[Foot-note: 6 wolde] wil _MS._]

[Foot-note: 130 or] and _MS._]


MS. Phillips 8231 (about 1400).

      Thus ich awaked, wot God, wanne ich wonede on Cornehulle,
      Kytte and ich in a cote, cloþed as a lollere,
      And lytel _ylete_ by, leyue me for soþe,
      Among lollares of London and lewede heremytes;
      For ich made of þo men as Reson me tauhte.                       5
      For as ich cam by Conscience, wit Reson ich mette,
      In an hote heruest, wenne ich hadde myn hele,
      And lymes to labore with, and louede wel fare,
      And no dede to do bote drynke and to slepe:
      In hele and in vnité on me aposede,                             10
      Romynge in remembraunce, thus Reson me aratede:—
      'Canstow seruen,' he seide, 'oþer syngen in a churche,
      Oþer coke for my cokers, oþer to þe cart picche,
      Mowe, oþer mowen, oþer make bond to sheues,
      Repe, oþer be a repereyue, and aryse erliche,                   15
      Oþer haue an horne and be haywarde, and liggen oute a nyghtes,
      And kepe my corn in my croft fro pykers and þeeues?
      Oþer shappe shon oþer cloþes, oþer shep oþer kyn kepe,
      eggen oþer harwen, oþer swyn oþer gees dryue,
      Oþer eny kyns craft þat to þe comune nudeþ,                     20
      Hem þat bedreden be bylyue to fynde?'
      'Certes,' ich seyde, 'and so me God helpe,
      Ich am to waik to worche with sykel oþer with sythe,
      And to long, leyf me, lowe for to stoupe,
      To worchen as a workeman eny wyle to dure.'                     25
      'Thenne hauest þow londes to lyue by,' quath Reson, 'oþer
          lynage riche
      That fynden þe þy fode? For an hydel man þow semest,
      A spendour þat spende mot, oþer a spille-tyme,
      Oþer beggest þy bylyue aboute ate menne hacches,
      Oþer faitest vpon Frydays oþer feste-dayes in churches,         30
      The wiche is lollarene lyf, þat lytel ys preysed
      Þer Ryghtfulnesse rewardeþ ryght as men deserueþ:—
          _Reddit unicuique iuxta opera sua_.
      Oþer þow ert broke, so may be, in body oþer in membre,
      Oþer ymaymed þorw som myshap werby þow myȝt be excused?'        35
      'Wanne ich ȝong was,' quath ich, 'meny ȝer hennes,
      My fader and my frendes founden me to scole,
      Tyl ich wiste wyterliche wat Holy Wryt menede,
      And wat is best for þe body, as þe Bok telleþ,
      And sykerest for þe soule, by so ich wolle continue.            40
      And ȝut fond ich neuere, in faith, sytthen my frendes
      Lyf þat me lyked, bote in þes longe clothes.
      Hyf ich by laboure sholde lyue and lyflode deseruen,
      That labour þat ich lerned best þer_with_ lyue ich sholde:—
          _In eadem uocatione qua uocati estis_.                      45
      And ich lyue in Londene and on Londen bothe;
      The lomes þat ich laboure with and lyflode deserue
      Ys _Paternoster_, and my Prymer, _Placebo_ and _Dirige_,
      And my Sauter som tyme, and my Seuene Psalmes.
      Thus ich synge for hure soules of suche as me helpen,           50
      And þo þat fynden me my fode vochen saf, ich trowe,
      To be wolcome wanne ich come oþerwyle in a monthe,
      Now with hym and now with hure; and þusgate ich begge
      Withoute bagge oþer botel bote my wombe one.
      And also, moreouer, me þynkeþ, syre Reson,                      55
      Men sholde constreyne no clerke to knauene werkes;
      For by lawe of _Leuitici_, þat oure Lord ordeynede,
      Clerkes þat aren crouned, of kynde vnderstondyng,
      Sholde noþer swynke, ne swete, ne swere at enquestes,
      Ne fyghte in no vauntwarde, ne hus fo greue:—                   60
          _Non reddas malum pro malo_.
      For it ben aires of heuene alle þat ben crounede,
      And in queer in churches Cristes owene mynestres:—
          _Dominus pars hereditatis mee_; & alibi: _Clementia non
      Hit bycomeþ for clerkus Crist for to seruen,                    65
      And knaues vncrouned to cart and to worche.
      For shold no clerk be crouned bote yf he ycome were
      Of franklens and free men, and of folke yweddede.
      Bondmen and bastardes and beggers children,
      Thuse bylongeþ to labour, and lordes children sholde seruen,    70
      Bothe God and good men, as here degree askeþ;
      Some to synge masses, oþer sitten and wryte,
      Rede and receyue þat Reson ouhte spende;
      And sith bondemenne barnes han be mad bisshopes,
      And barnes bastardes han ben archidekenes,                      75
      And sopers and here sones for seluer han be knyghtes,
      And lordene sones here laborers, and leid here rentes to wedde,
      For þe ryght of þes reame ryden aȝens oure enemys,
      In confort of þe comune and þe kynges worshep,
      And monkes and moniales, þat mendinauns sholden fynde,          80
      Han mad here kyn knyghtes, and knyghtfees purchase,
      Popes and patrones poure gentil blod refuseþ,
      And taken Symondes sone seyntewarie to kepe.
      Lyf-holynesse and loue han ben longe hennes,
      And wole, til hit be wered out, or oþerwise ychaunged.          85
        Forþy rebuke me ryght nouht, Reson, ich ȝow praye;
      For in my conscience ich knowe what Crist wolde þat ich wrouhte.
      Preyers of  parfyt man and penaunce discret
      Ys þe leueste labour þat oure Lord pleseþ.
      _Non de solo_,' ich seide, 'for soþe _uiuit homo,               90
      Nec in pane et pabulo_, þe _Paternoster_ witnesseþ:
      _Fiat uoluntas tua_ fynt ous alle þynges.'
      Quath Conscience, 'By Crist! ich can nat see this lyeþ;
      Ac it semeth nouht parfytnesse in cytees for to begge,
      Bote he be obediencer to pryour oþer to mynstre.'               95
      'That ys soth,' ich seide 'and so ich byknowe
      That ich haue tynt tyme, and tyme mysspended;
      And ȝut, ich hope, as he þat ofte haueþ chaffared,
      Þat ay hath lost and lost, and at þe laste hym happed
      He bouhte suche a bargayn he was þe bet euere,                 100
      And sette hus lost at a lef at þe laste ende,
      Suche a wynnynge hym warth þorw wyrdes of hus grace:—
          _Simile est regnum celorum thesauro abscondito in agro, et
          _Mulier que inuenit dragmam, et cetera_;
      So hope ich to haue of Hym þat his almyghty                    105
      A gobet of Hus grace, and bygynne a tyme
      Þat alle tymes of my tyme to profit shal turne.'
        'Ich rede þe,' quath Reson þo 'rape þe to bygynne
      Þe lyf þat ys lowable and leel to þe soule'—
      'Ȝe, and continue,' quath Conscience; and to þe churche
          ich wente.                                                 110

[Foot-note: 3 And a lytel ich let by _MS._]

[Foot-note: 19 Heggen] Eggen _MS._]

[Foot-note: 44 þerwith] þerhwit _MS._]

[Foot-note: 62 alle] and alle _MS._]

[Foot-note: 63 in churches] and in kirkes _Ilchester MS._]

[Foot-note: 92 tua] tuas _MS._]

[Foot-note: 99 laste] latiste _MS._]



_Mandeville's Travels_ were originally written in French, perhaps in
1356 or 1357. Their popularity was immediate, and Latin and English
translations soon appeared. The English texts published show three
forms. The first, imperfect, is the text of the early prints. The
second, from Cotton MS. Titus C xvi (about 1400-25), was first printed
in 1725, and is followed in the editions by Halliwell, 1839 and 1866,
and by Hamelius, 1919. The third, from Egerton MS. 1982 (about 1400-25),
has been edited for the Roxburghe Club by G. F. Warner, with the French
text, and an excellent apparatus. Our selections follow the Cotton MS.

The _Travels_ fall into two parts: (i) a description of the routes to
the Holy Land, and an account of the Holy Places; (ii) a narrative of
travel in the more distant parts of Asia. Throughout the author poses as
an eyewitness. But in fact the book is a compilation, made without much
regard to time or place. For the first part William de Boldensele, who
wrote in 1336 an account of a visit to the Holy Land, is the main
source. The second part follows the description of an Eastern voyage
written by Friar Odoric of Pordenone in 1330. Other materials from the
mediaeval encyclopaedists are woven in, and there is so little trace of
original observation that it is doubtful whether the author travelled
far beyond his library.

In the preface he claims to be Sir John Mandeville, an Englishman born
at St. Albans. The people of St. Albans were driven to desperate shifts
to explain the absence of his tomb from their abbey; but until 1798 it
was actually to be seen at the church of the Guillemins, Liège, with
this inscription:

'Hic iacet vir nobilis Dom Ioannes de Mandeville, alias dictus ad
Barbam, Miles, Dominus de Campdi, natus de Anglia, medicinae professor,
devotissimus orator, et bonorum suorum largissimus pauperibus erogator,
qui, toto quasi orbe lustrato, Leodii diem vitae suae clausit extremum
A.D. MCCCLXXII, mensis Nov. die xvii.'

A Liège chronicler, Jean d'Outremeuse (d. 1399), who claims the
invidious position of his confidant and literary executor, gives further
details: Mandeville was 'chevalier de Montfort en Angleterre'; he was
obliged to leave England because he had slain a nobleman; he came to
Liège in 1343; and was content to be known as 'Jean de Bourgogne dit à
la Barbe'.

Now Jean de Bourgogne, with whom Sir John Mandeville is identified by
d'Outremeuse, is known as the writer of a tract on the Plague, written
at Liège in 1365. Further, the Latin text of the _Travels_ mentions that
the author met at Liège a certain 'Johannes ad Barbam', recognized him
as a former physician at the court of the Sultan of Egypt, and took his
advice and help in the writing of the _Travels_.

Again, in 1322, the year in which Sir John Mandeville claims to have
left England, a Johan de Burgoyne was given good reason to flee the
country, because a pardon, granted to him the previous year for his
actions against the Despensers, was then withdrawn. Curiously enough, a
John Mandeville was also of the party opposed to the Despensers.

Nothing has come of the attempts to attach the clues—St. Albans,
Montfort, Campdi, the arms on the tomb at Liège—to the English family
of Mandeville. It seems likely that 'Sir John Mandeville' was an alias
adopted by Jean de Bourgogne, unless both names cover Jean d'Outremeuse.
The Epilogue to the Cotton version shows how early the plausible
fictions of the text had infected the history of its composition.

It is clear that the English versions do not come from the hand of the
writer of the _Travels_, who could not have been guilty of such
absurdities as the translation of _montaignes_ by 'þe hille of Aygnes'
in the Cotton MS. But whoever the author was, he shows a courtesy and
modesty worthy of a knight, begging those with more recent experience to
correct the lapses of his memory, and remembering always the interests
of later travellers, who might wish to glean some marvels still untold.
He might well have pleaded in the fourteenth century that the time had
not come when prose fiction could afford to throw off the disguise of


British Museum MS. Cotton Titus C xvi (about 1400-25).

From chap. xiv (xviii), f. 65 b.

Ethiope is departed in two princypall parties; and þat is in the Est
partie, and in the Meridionall partie, the whiche partie meridionall
is clept Moretane. And the folk of þat contree ben blake ynow, and
more blake þan in the toþer partie; and þei ben clept Mowres. In þat
partie is a well, {5} þat in the day it is so cold þat no man may drynke
þereoffe; and in the nyght it is so hoot þat no man may suffre hys hond
þerein. And beȝonde þat partie, toward the South, to passe by the See
Occean, is a gret lond and a gret contrey. But men may not duell þere,
for the feruent brennynge of the {10} sonne, so is it passynge hoot in
þat contrey.

In Ethiope all the ryueres and all the watres ben trouble, and þei
ben somdell salte, for the gret hete þat is þere. And the folk of þat
contree ben lyghtly dronken, and han but litill appetyt to mete.... {15}

In Ethiope ben many dyuerse folk, and Ethiope is clept 'Cusis.' In
þat contree ben folk þat han but o foot; and þei gon so blyue þat it
is meruaylle; and the foot is so large þat it schadeweth all the body
aȝen the sonne, whanne þei wole lye and reste hem. {20}

In Ethiope, whan the children ben ȝonge and lytill, þei ben all
ȝalowe; and whan þat þei wexen of age, þat ȝalownesse turneth
to ben all blak. In Ethiope is the cytee of Saba, and the lond of the
whiche on of the þre Kynges, þat presented oure Lord in Bethleem, was
kyng offe. {25}

Fro Ethiope men gon into Ynde be manye dyuerse contreyes. And men clepen
the high Ynde 'Emlak'. And Ynde is devyded in þre princypall parties;
þat is: the more, þat is a full hoot contree; and Ynde the lesse, þat
is a full atempree contrey, þat streccheth to the lond of Medé; and the
þridde {30} part, toward the Septentrion, is full cold, so þat for pure
cold and contynuell frost the water becometh cristall.

And vpon tho roches of cristall growen the gode dyamandes, þat ben of
trouble colour. Ȝalow cristall draweth  colour lyke oylle. And
þei ben so harde þat no man may pollysch {35} hem; and men clepen hem
'dyamandes' in þat contree, and 'hamese' in anoþer contree. Othere
dyamandes men fynden in Arabye, þat ben not so gode; and þei ben more
broun and more tendre. And oþer dyamandes also men fynden in the Ile of
Cipre, þat ben ȝit more tendre; and hem men may wel {40} pollische.
And in the lond of Macedoyne men fynden dyamaundes also. But the beste
and the moste precyiouse ben in Ynde.

And men fynden many tyme harde dyamandes in a masse, þat cometh out of
gold, whan men puren it and fynen it out {45} of the myne, whan men
breken þat masse in smale peces. And sum tyme it happeneth þat men
fynden summe as grete as a pese, and summe lasse; and þei ben als harde
as þo of Ynde.

And all be it þat men fynden gode dyamandes in Ynde, {50} ȝit
natheles men fynden hem more comounly vpon the roches in the see, and
vpon hilles where the myne of gold is. And þei growen many togedre, on
lytill, another gret. And þer ben summe of the gretnesse of a bene, and
summe als grete as an hasell-note. And þei ben square and poynted of
here owne {55} kynde, boþe abouen and benethen, withouten worchinge of
mannes hond.

And þei growen togedre, male and femele. And þei ben norysscht with
the dew of heuene. And þei engendren comounly, and bryngen forth smale
children, þat multiplyen {60} and growen all the ȝeer. I haue often
tymes assayed þat ȝif a man kepe hem with a lityll of the roche, and
wete hem with May dew oftesithes, þei schull growe eueryche ȝeer;
and the smale wole wexen grete. For right as the fyn perl congeleth and
wexeth gret of the dew of heuene, right so doth the verray {65} dyamand;
and right as the perl, of his owne kynde, taketh roundnesse, right so
the dyamand, be vertu of God, taketh squarenesse.

And men schall bere the dyamaund on his left syde; for it is of grettere
vertue þanne, þan on the right syde. For the {70} strengthe of here
growynge is toward the North, þat is the left syde of the world, and the
left partie of man is, whan he turneth his face toward the Est.

And ȝif ȝou lyke to knowe the vertues of þe dyamand, as men may
fynden in þe Lapidarye, þat many men knowen {75} noght, I schall telle
ȝou, as þei beȝonde the see seyn and affermen, of whom all science
and all philosophie cometh from.

He þat bereth the dyamand vpon him, it ȝeueth him hardynesse and
manhode, and it kepeth the lemes of his body hole. {80} It ȝeueth
him victorye of his enemyes, in plee and in werre, ȝif his cause be
rightfull; and it kepeth him þat bereth it in gode wytt; and it kepeth
him fro strif and ryot, fro euyll sweuenes, from sorwes, and from
enchauntementes, and from fantasyes and illusiouns of wykked spirites.
And ȝif ony cursed wycche {85} or enchauntour wolde bewycche him
þat bereth the dyamand, all þat sorwe and myschance schall turne to
himself, þorgh vertue of þat ston. And also no wylde best dar assaylle
the man þat bereth it on him. Also the dyamand scholde ben ȝouen
frely, withouten coueytynge, and withouten byggynge; {90} and þan it
is of grettere vertue. And it maketh a man more strong and more sad
aȝenst his enemyes. And it heleth him þat is lunatyk, and hem þat
the fend pursueth or trauayleth. And ȝif venym or poysoun be brought
in presence of the dyamand, anon it begynneth to wexe moyst, and for to
{95} swete.

Þere ben also dyamandes in Ynde þat ben clept 'violastres',—for here
colour is liche vyolet, or more browne þan the violettes,—þat ben full
harde and full precyous. But ȝit sum men loue not hem so wel as the
oþere. But in soth to {100} me, I wolde louen hem als moche as þe oþere;
for I haue seen hem assayed. Also þere is anoþer maner of dyamandes þat
ben als white as cristall, but þei ben a lityll more trouble; and þei
ben gode and of gret vertue, and all þei ben square and poynted of here
owne kynde. And summe {105} ben six squared, summe four squared, and
summe þre, as nature schapeth hem.

And þerfore whan grete lordes and knyghtes gon to seche worschipe in
armes, þei beren gladly the dyamaund vpon hem. I schal speke a litill
more of the dyamandes, allþough {110} I tarye my matere for a tyme, to
þat ende þat þei þat knowen hem not be not disceyued be gabberes þat
gon be the contree, þat sellen hem. For whoso wil bye the dyamand, it
is nedefull to him þat he knowe hem, because þat men counterfeten hem
often of cristall þat is ȝalow; and of saphires of cytryne {115}
colour, þat is ȝalow also; and of the saphire loupe; and of many
oþer stones. But, I tell ȝou, theise contrefetes ben not so harde;
and also the poyntes wil breken lightly; and men may esily pollissche
hem. But summe werkmen, for malice, wil not pollische hem, to þat entent
to maken men beleue þat þei may {120} not ben pollisscht. But men may
assaye hem in this manere: First schere with hem, or write with hem, in
saphires, in cristall, or in oþer precious stones. After þat men taken
the ademand, þat is the schipmannes ston, þat draweth the nedle to him,
and men leyn the dyamand vpon the ademand, and leyn the nedle {125}
before the ademand; and ȝif the dyamand be gode and vertuous, the
ademand draweth not the nedle to him, whils the dyamand is þere present.
And this is the preef þat þei beȝonde the see maken. Natheles it
befalleth often tyme þat the gode dyamand leseth his vertue, be synne
and for incontynence of him þat {130} bereth it. And þanne is it nedfull
to make it to recoueren his vertue aȝen, or ell it is of litill value.

Chap. xxvi (xxx), f. 112 a.

Now schall I seye ȝou sewyngly of contrees and yles þat ben
beȝonde the contrees þat I haue spoken of. Wherfore {135} I seye
ȝou, in passynge be the lond of Cathaye toward the high Ynde, and
toward Bacharye, men passen be a kyngdom þat men clepen 'Caldilhe', þat
is a full fair contré. And þere groweth a maner of fruyt, as þough it
weren gowrdes; and whan þei ben rype, men kutten hem ato, and men fynden
{140} withinne a lytyll best, in flesch, in bon, and blode as þough it
were a lytill lomb, withouten wolle. And men eten bothe the frut and the
best: and þat is a gret merueylle. Of þat frute I haue eten, allþough
it were wondirfull: but þat I knowe wel, þat God is merueyllous in his
werkes. And natheles I tolde {145} hem of als gret a merueyle to hem,
þat is amonges vs: and þat was of the Bernakes. For I tolde hem þat in
oure contree weren trees þat baren a fruyt þat becomen briddes fleeynge;
and þo þat fellen in the water lyuen; and þei þat fallen on the erthe
dyen anon; and þei ben right gode to mannes mete. And hereof {150} had
þei als gret meruaylle þat summe of hem trowed it were an inpossible
thing to be. In þat contré ben longe apples of gode sauour, whereof
ben mo þan an hundred in a clustre, and als manye in another: and þei
han grete longe leves and large, of two fote long or more. And in þat
contree, and in {155} oþer contrees þere abouten, growen many trees, þat
beren clowe gylofres, and notemuges, and grete notes of Ynde, and of
canell, and of many oþer spices. And þere ben vynes þat beren so grete
grapes þat a strong man scholde haue ynow to done for to bere o clustre
with all the grapes. In {160} þat same regioun ben the mountaynes of
Caspye þat men clepen 'Vber' in the contree. Betwene þo mountaynes the
Iewes of ten lynages ben enclosed, þat men clepen Goth and Magoth; and
þei mowe not gon out on no syde. Þere weren enclosed twenty two kynges
with hire peple, þat dwelleden {165} betwene the mountaynes of Sy_t_hye.
Þere Kyng Alisandre chacede hem betwene þo mountaynes; and þere he
thoughte for to enclose hem þorgh werk of his men. But whan he saugh
þat he myghte not don it, ne bryng it to an ende, he preyed to God of
Nature þat He wolde parforme þat þat he {170} had begonne. And all were
it so þat he was a payneme, and not worthi to ben herd, ȝit God of
His grace closed the mountaynes togydre; so þat þei dwellen þere, all
faste ylokked and enclosed with high mountaynes alle aboute, saf only
on o syde; and on þat syde is the See of Caspye. Now {175} may sum men
asken: sith þat the see is on þat o syde, wherfore go þei not out on the
see syde, for to go where þat hem lyketh? But to this questioun I schal
answere: þat See of Caspye goth out be londe, vnder the mountaynes, and
renneth be the desert at o syde of the contree; and after it streccheth
vnto the endes {180} of Persie. And allþough it be clept a see, it is no
see, ne it toucheth to non oþer see; but it is a lake, the grettest of
the world. And þough þei wolden putten hem into þat see, þei ne wysten
neuer where þat þei scholde arryuen. And also þei conen no langage but
only hire owne, þat no man {185} knoweth but þei: and þerfore mowe þei
not gon out. And also ȝee schull vnderstonde þat the Iewes han no
propre lond of hire owne, for to dwellen inne, in all the world, but
only þat lond betwene the mountaynes. And ȝit þei ȝelden tribute
for þat lond to the queen of Amazoine, the whiche þat {190} maketh hem
to ben kept in cloos full diligently, þat þei schull not gon out on
no syde, but be the cost of hire lond. For hire lond marcheth to þo
mountaynes. And often it hath befallen þat summe of þe Iewes han gon vp
the mountaynes, and avaled down to the valeyes: but gret nombre of folk
ne {195} may not do so. For the mountaynes ben so hye, and so streght
vp, þat þei moste abyde þere, maugree hire myght. For þei mowe not
gon out, but be a litill issue þat was made be strengthe of men; and
it lasteth wel a four grete myle. And after is þere ȝit a lond all
desert, where men {200} may fynde no water, ne for dyggynge, ne for non
other þing: wherfore men may not dwellen in þat place. So is it full of
dragounes, of serpentes, and of oþer venymous bestes, þat no man dar not
passe, but ȝif it be be strong wynter. And þat streyt passage men
clepen in þat contree 'Clyron'. And þat {205} is the passage þat the
Queen of Amazoine maketh to ben kept. And þogh it happene sum of hem,
be fortune, to gon out, þei conen no maner of langage but Ebrew, so þat
þei can not speke to the peple. And ȝit natheles, men seyn þei schull
gon out in the tyme of Antecrist, and þat þei schull maken {210} gret
slaughter of Cristene men. And þerfore all the Iewes þat dwellen in all
londes lernen allweys to speken Ebrew, in hope þat whan the oþer Iewes
schull gon out, þat þei may vnderstonden hire speche, and to leden hem
into Cristendom, for to destroye the Cristene peple. For the Iewes seyn
þat {215} þei knowen wel be hire prophecyes þat þei of Caspye schull gon
out and spreden þorghout all the world; and þat the Cristene men schull
ben vnder hire subieccioun als longe as þei han ben in subieccioun of
hem. And ȝif þat ȝee wil wyte how þat þei schull fynden hire weye,
after þat I haue herd {220} seye, I schall tell ȝou. In the tyme of
Antecrist, a fox schall make þere his †trayne†, and mynen an hole,
where Kyng Alisandre leet make the ȝates: and so longe he schall
mynen and percen the erthe, til þat he schall passe þorgh towardes þat
folk. And whan þei seen the fox, they schull {225} haue gret merueylle
of him, because þat þei saugh neuer such a best. For of all oþere bestes
þei han enclosed amonges hem, saf only the fox. And þanne þei schulle
chacen him and pursuen him so streyte, till þat he come to the same
place þat he cam fro. And þanne þei schulle {230} dyggen and mynen so
strongly, till þat þei fynden the ȝates þat King Alisandre leet make
of grete stones and passynge huge, wel symented and made stronge for the
maystrie. And þo ȝates þei schull breken, and so gon out, be fyndynge
of þat issue. {235}

Fro þat lond gon men toward the lond of Bacharie, where ben full yuele
folk and full cruell. In þat lond ben trees þat beren wolle, as þogh
it were of scheep; whereof men maken clothes, and all þing þat may ben
made of wolle. In þat contree ben many ipotaynes, þat dwellen som tyme
in the {240} water, and somtyme on the lond: and þei ben half man and
half hors, as I haue seyd before; and þei eten men, whan þei may take
hem. And þere ben ryueres and watres þat ben fulle byttere, þree sithes
more þan is the water of the see. In þat contré ben many griffounes,
more plentee þan in ony {245} other contree. Sum men seyn þat þei han
the body vpward as an egle, and benethe as a lyoun: and treuly þei seyn
soth þat þei ben of þat schapp. But o griffoun hath the body more gret,
and is more strong, þanne eight lyouns, of suche lyouns as ben o this
half; and more gret and strongere þan an {250} hundred egles, suche as
we han amonges vs. For o griffoun þere wil bere fleynge to his nest a
gret hors, ȝif he may fynde him at the poynt, or two oxen ȝoked
togidere, as þei gon at the plowgh. For he hath his talouns so longe and
so large and grete vpon his feet, as þough þei weren hornes of grete
oxen, or of {255} bugles, or of kyȝn; so þat men maken cuppes of hem,
to drynken of. And of hire ribbes, and of the pennes of hire wenges, men
maken bowes full stronge, to schote with arwes and quarell.

From þens gon men be many iourneyes þorgh the lond of Prestre Iohn, the
grete emperour of Ynde. And men clepen {260} his roialme the Yle of


Þere ben manye oþer dyuerse contrees and many oþer merueyles beȝonde,
þat I haue not seen: wherfore of hem I can not speke propurly, to tell
ȝou the manere of hem. And also in the contrees where I haue ben,
ben manye {265} mo dyuersitees of many wondirfull thinges þanne I make
mencioun of, for it were to longe thing to deuyse ȝou the manere.
And þerfore þat þat I haue deuysed ȝou of certeyn contrees, þat I
haue spoken of before, I beseche ȝoure worthi and excellent noblesse
þat i_t_ suffise to ȝou at this tyme. For {270} ȝif þat I deuysed
ȝou all þat is beȝonde the see, another man peraunter, þat wolde
peynen him and trauaylle his body for to go into þo marches for to
encerche þo contrees, myghte ben blamed be my wordes, in rehercynge
manye straunge thinges; for he myghte not seye no thing of newe, in
the {275} whiche the hereres myghten hauen ouþer solace or desport or
lust or lykyng in the herynge. For men seyn allweys þat newe thinges
and newe tydynges ben plesant to here. Wherfore I wole holde me stille,
withouten ony more rehercyng of dyuersiteeȝ or of meruaylles þat
ben beȝonde, to þat entent {280} and ende þat whoso wil gon into þo
contrees, he schall fynde ynowe to speke of, þat I haue not touched of
in no wyse.

And ȝee schull vndirstonde, ȝif it lyke ȝou, þat at myn hom
comynge I cam to Rome, and schewed my lif to oure {285} holy fadir
the Pope, and was assoylled of all þat lay in my conscience, of many
a dyuerse gr_e_uous poynt, as men mosten nedes þat ben in company,
dwellyng amonges so many a dyuerse folk of dyuerse secte and of beleeve,
as I haue ben. And amonges all, I schewed hym this tretys, þat I had
made {290} after informacioun of men þat knewen of thinges þat I had
not seen myself; and also of merueyles and customes þat I hadde seen
myself, as fer as God wolde ȝeue me grace: and besoughte his holy
fadirhode þat my boke myghte ben examyned and corrected be avys of his
wyse and discreet {295} conseill. And oure holy fader, of his special
grace, remytted my boke to ben examyned and preued be the avys of his
seyd conseill. Be the whiche my boke was preeued for trewe; in so moche
þat þei schewed me a boke, þat my boke was examynde by, þat comprehended
full moche more be an {300} hundred part; be the whiche the _Mappa
Mundi_ was made after. And so my boke (all be it þat many men ne list
not to ȝeue credence to no þing, but to þat þat þei seen with hire
eye, ne be the auctour ne the persone neuer so trewe) is affermed and
preued be oure holy fader, in maner and forme {305} as I haue seyd.

And I Iohn Maundevyll knyght aboueseyd, (allþough I be vnworthi) þat
departed from oure contrees and passed the see the ȝeer of grace
1322, þat haue passed many londes and manye yles and contrees, and
cerched manye full {310} strange places, and haue ben in many a full
gode honourable companye, and at many a faire dede of armes, all be it
þat I dide none myself, for myn vnable insuffisance; and now I am comen
hom, mawgree myself, to reste, for gowtes artetykes þat me distreynen,
þat diffynen the ende of my labour, aȝenst {315} my will, God
knoweth. And þus takynge solace in my wrechched reste, recordynge the
tyme passed, I haue fulfilled þeise thinges and putte hem wryten in this
boke, as it wolde come into my mynde, the ȝeer of grace 1356 in the
34th ȝeer þat I departede from oure contrees. Wherfore I preye to all
{320} the rederes and hereres of this boke, ȝif it plese hem, þat þei
wolde preyen to God for me, and I schall preye for hem. And alle þo þat
seyn for me a _Paternoster_, with an _Aue Maria_, þat God forȝeue me
my synnes, I make hem parteneres and graunte hem part of all the gode
pilgrymages, {325} and of all the gode dedes þat I haue don, ȝif
ony ben to his plesance; and noght only of þo, but of all þat euere I
schall do vnto my lyfes ende. And I beseche Almyghty God, fro whom all
godenesse and grace cometh fro, þat He vouchesaf of His excellent mercy
and habundant grace to {330} fullfylle hire soules with inspiracioun of
the Holy Gost, in makynge defence of all hire gostly enemyes here in
erthe, to hire saluacioun, bothe of body and soule; to worschipe and
thankynge of Him þat is þree and on, withouten begynnynge and withouten
endyng; þat is withouten qualitee good, {335} withouten quantytee gret;
þat in alle places is present, and all thinges conteynynge; the whiche
þat no goodnesse may amende, ne non euell empeyre; þat in perfyte
Trynytee lyueth and regneth God, be alle worldes and be all tymes. Amen,
Amen, Amen. {340}




John Barbour was archdeacon of Aberdeen, an auditor of the Scottish
exchequer, and a royal pensioner. Consequently a number of isolated
records of his activities have been preserved. In 1364 he was granted a
safe-conduct to travel with four students to Oxford. In 1365 and 1368 he
had permission to travel through England so that he might study in
France. The notices of his journeys, his offices, and his rewards point
to a busy and successful life. He died in 1395.

According to Wyntoun, Barbour's works were (1) _The Bruce_; (2) _The
Stewartis Oryginalle_ (or _Pedigree of the Stewarts_), now lost; (3) a
_Brut_, which some have identified with extant fragments of a Troy Book
(see the prefatory note to No. VII), and others with (2) _The Stewartis

_The Bruce_ is found in two late MSS., both copied by John Ramsay; the
first, St. John's College, Cambridge, MS. G 23, in the year 1487; the
second, now at the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, in 1489. It has been
edited by Skeat for the Early English Text Society, and for the Scottish
Text Society. The poem is valuable for the history, more especially the
traditional history, of the period 1304-33. Barbour speaks of it as a
romance, and the freedom and vividness of the narrative, with its
hero-worship of Robert Bruce and Douglas, place it well above the
ordinary chronicle. But far from disclaiming historical accuracy,
Barbour prides himself that truth well told should have a double claim
to popularity:

      Storys to rede ar delitabill
      Suppos that thai be nocht bot fabill:
      Than suld storys that suthfast wer,
      And thai war said on gud maner,
      Hawe doubill plesance in heryng:
      The fyrst plesance is the carpyng,
      And the tothir the suthfastnes,
      That schawys the thing rycht as it wes.

He did not misjudge the taste of his country, and _The Bruce_,
with which the Scottish contribution to English literature begins,
long held its place as the national epic of Scotland.

The specimen describes an incident in the unsuccessful siege
of Berwick, 1319.

THE BRUCE, Bk. xvii, ll. 593 ff.

St. John's College (Cambridge) MS. G 23 (A.D. 1487).

        Thai  at the sege lay,
      Or it wes passit the fift day,
      Had maid thame syndry apparale
      To gang eftsonis till assale.
      Of gret gestis ane sow thai maid                     5
      That stalward heling owth it had,
      With armyt men enew tharin,
      And instrumentis als for to myne.
      Syndry scaffatis thai maid vithall
      That war weill hyar than the wall,                  10
      And ordanit als that by the se
      The toune suld weill assalȝeit be.
        And thai vithin that saw thame swa
      So gret apparale schap till ma,
      Throu Cra_bb_is consale, that ves sle,              15
      Ane cren thai haf gert dres vp hye,
      Rynand on quhelis, that thai mycht bring
      It quhar neid war of mast helping.
      And pik and ter als haf thai tane,
      And lynt  hardis, with brynstane,              20
      And dry treis that weill wald byrne,
      And mellit syne athir othir in;
      And gret flaggatis tharof thai maid,
      Gyrdit with irnebandis braid;
      Of thai flaggatis mycht mesurit be                  25
      Till a gret twnnys quantité.
      Thai flaggatis, byrnand in a baill,
      With thair cren thoucht thai till availl,
      And, gif the sow come to the wall,
      Till lat thame byrnand on hir fall,                 30
      And with ane stark cheyne hald thame thar
      Quhill all war brint  that ves thar.
        Engynys alsua for till cast
      Thai ordanit and maid redy fast,
      And set ilk man syne till his ward;                 35
      And Schir Valter, the gude Steward,
      With armyt men suld ryde about,
      And se quhar at thar var mast dout,
      And succur thar with his menȝhe.
        And quhen thai into sic degré                     40
      Had maid thame for thair assaling,
      On the Rude-evyn in the dawing,
      The Inglis host blew till assale.
      Than mycht men with ser apparale
      Se that gret host cum sturdely.                     45
      The toune enveremyt thai in hy,
      And assalit with sa gud will,—
      For all thair mycht thai set thartill,—
      That thai thame pressit fast of the toune.
      Bot thai that can thame abandoune                   50
      Till ded, or than till woundis sare,
      So weill has thame defendit thare
      That ledderis to the ground thai slang,
      And vith stanys so fast thai dang
      Thair fais, that feill thai left lyand,             55
      Sum ded, sum hurt, and sum swavnand.
      Bot thai that held on fut in hy
      Drew thame avay deliuerly,
      And skunnyrrit tharfor na kyn thing,
      Bot went stoutly till assalyng;                     60
      And thai abovin defendit ay,
      And set thame till so harde assay,
      _Quhill_ that feill of thame voundit war,
      _And_ thai so gret defens maid thar,
      That thai styntit thair fais mycht.                 65
      Apon sic maner can thai ficht
      Quhill it wes neir noyne of the day.
        Than thai without, in gret aray,
      Pressit thair sow toward the wall;
      And thai within weill soyne gert call               70
      The engynour that takyne was,
      And gret manans till him mais,
      And swoir that he suld de, bot he
      Provit on the sow sic sutelté
      That he t_o_frusch_yt_ hir ilke deill.              75
      And he, that has persauit weill
      That the dede wes neir hym till,
      Bot gif he mycht fulfill thar will,
      Thoucht that he all his mycht vald do:
      Bendit in gret hy than wes scho,                    80
      And till the sow wes soyn evin set.
      In hye he gert draw the cleket,
      And smertly swappit out the stane,
      That evyn out our the sow is gane,
      And behynd hir a litill we                          85
      It fell, and than thai cryit hye
      That war in hir: 'Furth to the wall,
      For dreid it is ouris all.'
        The engynour than deliuerly
      Gert bend the gyne in full gret hy,                 90
      And the stane smertly swappit out.
      It flaw  quhedirand with a rout,
      And fell richt evin befor the sow.
      Thair hertis than begouth till grow,
      Bot ȝeit than with thair mychtis all                95
      Thai pressit the sow toward the wall,
      And has hir set thar_to_ iuntly.
        The gynour than gert bend in hy
      The gyne, and swappit out the stane,
      That evin toward the lift is gane,                 100
      And with gret wecht syne duschit doune
      Richt by the wall, in a randoune,
      That hyt the sow in sic maner
      That it that wes the mast summer,
      And starkast for till stynt a strak,               105
      In swndir with that dusche he brak.
      The men ran out in full gret hy,
      And on the wallis thai can cry
      That 'thair sow ferryit wes thair!'
        Iohne Crab, that had his geir all ȝar,           110
      In his faggatis has set the fyre,
      And our the wall syne can thame wyre,
      And brynt the sow till brandis bair.
        With all this fast assalȝeand war
      The folk without, with felloune ficht;             115
      And thai within with mekill mycht
      Defendit manfully thar stede
      Intill gret auentur of dede.
      The schipmen with gret apparale
      Com with thair schippes till assale,               120
      With top-castellis warnist weill,
      And wicht men armyt intill steill;
      Thair batis vp apon thair mastis
      Drawyn weill hye and festnyt fast is,
      And pressit with that gret atour                   125
      Toward the wall. Bot the gynour
      Hit in ane hespyne with a stane,
      And the men that war tharin gane
      Sum dede, _sum_ dosnyt,  vyndland.
      Fra thine furth durst nane tak vpon hand           130
      With schippes pres thame to the vall.
        But the laiff war assalȝeand all
      On ilk a syde sa egyrly,
      That certis it wes gret ferly
      That thai folk sic defens has maid,                135
      For the gret myscheif that thai had:
      For thair wallis so law than weir
      That a man richt weill with a sper
      Micht strik ane othir vp in the face,
      As eir befor tald till ȝow was;                    140
      And feill of thame war woundit sare,
      And the layf so fast travaland war
      That nane had tume rest for till ta,
      Thair aduersouris assailȝeit swa.
      Thai war within sa stratly stad                    145
      That thar wardane with _him_ had
      Ane hundreth men in cumpany
      Armyt, that wicht war and hardy,
      And raid about for till se quhar
      That his folk hardest pressit war,                 150
      Till releif thame that had mister,
      Com syndry tymes in placis ser
      Quhar sum of the defensouris war
      All dede, and othir woundit sare,
      Swa that he of his cumpany                         155
      Behufit to leiff thair party;
      Swa that, be he ane cours had maid
      About, _of_ all _the_ men he had
      Thair wes levit with him bot ane,
      That he ne had thame left ilkane                   160
      To releve quhar he saw mister.
        And the folk that assalȝeand wer
      At Mary-ȝet behevin had
      The barras, and a fyre had maid
      At the drawbrig, and brynt it doune,               165
      And war thringand in gret foysoune
      Richt in the ȝet, ane fire till ma.
      And thai within gert smertly ga
      Ane to the wardane, for till say
      How thai war set in hard assay.                    170
      And quhen Schir Valter Steward herd
      How men sa stratly with thame ferd,
      He gert cum of the castell then
      All that war thar of armyt men,—
      For thar that day assalȝeit nane,—                 175
      And with that rout in hy is gane
      Till Mary-ȝet, and till the wall
      Is went, and saw the myscheif all,
      And vmbethoucht hym suddandly,
      Bot gif gret help war set in hy                    180
      Tharto, thai suld burne vp the ȝet
      _With_ the fire _he_ fand tharat.
        Tharfor apon gret hardyment
      He suddanly set his entent,
      And gert all wyde set vp the ȝet,                  185
      And the fyre that he fand tharat
      With strinth of men he put avay.
      He set hym in full hard assay,
      For thai that war assalȝeand thar
      Pressit on hym with vapnys bair,                   190
      And he defendit with all his mycht.
        Thar mycht men se a felloune sicht:
      With staffing, stoking, and striking
      Thar maid thai sturdy defending,
      For with gret strynth of men the ȝet               195
      Thai defendit, and stude tharat,
      Magré thair fais, quhill the nycht
      Gert thame on bath halfis leif the ficht.

[Foot-note: 15 Crabbis] Craggis _MS._: Crabys _MS. Edinburgh_.]

[Foot-note: 63 Quhill] How _MS._]

[Foot-note: 64 And] þat _MS._]

[Foot-note: 75 tofruschyt] till frusche _MS._]

[Foot-note: 97 tharto] þar in _MS._]

[Foot-note: 129 Sum dede dosnyt sum dede vyndland _MS._]

[Foot-note: 146 him] þame _MS._]

[Foot-note: 158 of] to _MS._ the] to _MS._]

[Foot-note: 182 With] And _MS._ he fand] haffand _MS._]



D. 1384.

Like Richard Rolle, Wiclif was a Yorkshireman by birth. Of his career at
Oxford little is known until 1360, when he is described as 'master of
Balliol'. From Balliol he was presented to the living of Fillingham,
and, after a series of preferments, he accepted in 1374 the rectory of
Lutterworth, which he held till his death in 1384.

Wiclif's life was stormy. His acknowledged pre-eminence as a theologian
and doctor in the University did not satisfy his active and combative
mind. 'False peace', he said, 'is grounded in rest with our enemies,
when we assent to them without withstanding; and sword against such
peace came Christ to send.' He lacked neither enemies nor the moral
courage to withstand them.

At first, under the powerful patronage of John of Gaunt, he entered into
controversies primarily political, opposing the right of the Pope to
make levies on England, which was already overburdened with
war-taxation, and to appoint foreigners to English benefices. On these
questions popular opinion was on his side.

He proceeded to attack the whole system of Church government, urging
disendowment; rejecting the papal authority, which had been weakened in
1378 by the fierce rivalry of Urban VI and Clement VII; attacking
episcopal privileges, the established religious orders, and the abuse of
indulgences, pardons, and sanctuary. Still his opinions found a good
deal of popular and political support.

Then in 1380 he publicly announced his rejection of the doctrine of
transubstantiation. From the results of such a heresy his friends could
no longer protect him. Moderate opinion became alarmed and conservative
after the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. Richard II was no friend of
heretics. John of Gaunt, himself unpopular by this time, commanded
silence. And in 1382 the secular party in Oxford were compelled, after
a struggle, to condemn and expel their favourite preacher and his
followers. Wiclif retired to Lutterworth, and continued, until struck
down by paralysis in the last days of 1384, to inspire his 'poor
preachers'—the founders of the Lollard sect which lived on to join
forces with Lutheranism in the sixteenth century—and to develop in a
series of Latin and English works the doctrines that later came to be
associated with Puritanism.

His authorship is often doubtful. In the interests of orthodoxy the
early MSS. of his writings were ruthlessly destroyed, as in the famous
bonfire of his works at Carfax, Oxford, in 1411. And his followers
included not only the simple folk from whom later the 'poor priests'
were recruited, but able University men, trained in his new doctrines,
bred in the same traditions, and eager to emulate their master in
controversy. So his share in the famous Wiclif Bible (ed. Forshall and
Madden, Oxford 1850) is still uncertain. Part of the translation seems
to have been made by Nicholas of Hereford, and a later recension is
claimed for another Oxford disciple, John Purvey. But Wiclif probably
inspired the undertaking, for to him, as to the later Puritans, the word
of the Bible was the test by which all matters of belief, ritual, and
Church government must be tried; and he was particularly anxious, in
opposition to the established clergy and the friars, that laymen should
read it in their own language. Contemporaries, friend and foe, ascribe
the actual translation to him. John Huss, the Bohemian reformer, who was
martyred in 1416 for teaching Wiclif's doctrines, states that Wiclif
'translated all the Bible into English'. Arundel, Archbishop of
Canterbury, is equally positive when he writes to the Pope in 1412 that
'the son of the Old Serpent filled up the cup of his malice against Holy
Church by the device of a new translation of the Scriptures into his
native tongue'.

The first selection, chapter xv of the _De Officio Pastorali_ (ed.
Matthew, pp. 429 f.), states the case for translation. In the second
(ed. Matthew, pp. 188 ff.) some essential points of Wiclif's teaching
are explained.

In abuse of his opponents he maintains the sturdy tradition of
controversy that still survives in Milton's prose. The style is rugged
and vigorous; the thought logical and packed close. And it is easy to
see the source of his strength. In an age whose evils were patent to
all, many reproved this or that particular abuse, but the system as a
whole passed unchallenged. Wiclif, almost alone in his generation, had
the reasoning power to go to the root of the matter, and the moral
courage not only to state fearlessly what, rightly or wrongly, he found
to be the source of evil, but to insist on basic reform. It is difficult
nowadays, when modern curiosity has made familiar the practice of mining
among the foundations of beliefs, society, and government, to realize
the force of authority that was ranged against unorthodox reformers in
the fourteenth century. If the popular support he received indicates
that this force was already weakening, Wiclif must still be reckoned
among the greatest of those who broke the way for the modern world.


_De Officio Pastorali, chap. xv._

MS. Ashburnham XXVII (15th century).

Ant heere þe freris wiþ þer fautours seyn þat it is heresye to write
þus Goddis lawe in English, and make it knowun to lewid men. And fourty
signes þat þey bringen for to shewe an heretik ben not worþy to reherse,
for nouȝt groundiþ hem but nygromansye. {5}

It semyþ first þat þe wit of Goddis lawe shulde be tauȝt in þat tunge
þat is more knowun, for þis wit is Goddis word. Whanne Crist seiþ in þe
Gospel þat boþe heuene and erþe shulen passe, but His wordis shulen not
passe, He vndirstondith bi His woordis His wit. And þus Goddis wit is
Hooly Writ, {10} þat may on no maner be fals. Also þe Hooly Gost ȝaf
to apostlis wit at Wit Sunday for to knowe al maner langagis, to teche
þe puple Goddis lawe þerby; and so God wolde þat þe puple were tauȝt
Goddis lawe in dyuerse tungis. But what man, on Goddis half, shulde
reuerse Goddis ordenaunse and {15} His wille?

And for þis cause Seynt Ierom trauelide and translatide þe Bible fro
dyuerse tungis into Lateyn, þat it myȝte be aftir translatid to oþere
tungis. And þus Crist and His apostlis tauȝten þe puple in þat tunge
þat was moost knowun to þe {20} puple. Why shulden not men do nou so?

And herfore autours of þe newe law, þat weren apostlis of Iesu Crist,
writen þer Gospels in dyuerse tungis þat weren more knowun to þe puple.

Also þe worþy reume of Fraunse, notwiþstondinge alle {25} lettingis,
haþ translatid þe Bible and þe Gospels, wiþ oþere trewe sentensis of
doctours, out of Lateyn into Freynsch. Why shulden not Engliȝschemen
do so? As lordis of Englond han þe Bible in Freynsch, so it were not
aȝenus resoun þat þey hadden þe same sentense in Engliȝsch; for
{30} þus Goddis lawe wolde be betere knowun, and more trowid, for onehed
of wit, and more acord be bitwixe reumes.

And herfore freris han tauȝt in Englond þe Paternoster in
Engliȝsch tunge, as men seyen in þe pley of Ȝork, and in many
oþere cuntreys. Siþen þe Paternoster is part of Matheus {35} Gospel, as
clerkis knowen, why may not al be turnyd to Engliȝsch trewely, as is
þis part? Specialy siþen alle Cristen men, lerid and lewid, þat shulen
be sauyd, moten algatis sue Crist, and knowe His lore and His lif. But
þe comyns of Engliȝschmen knowen it best in þer modir tunge; and þus
it {40} were al oon to lette siche knowing of þe Gospel and to lette
Engliȝsch men to sue Crist and come to heuene.

Wel y woot defaute may be in vntrewe translating, as myȝten haue be
many defautis in turnyng fro Ebreu into Greu, and fro Greu into Lateyn,
and from o langage into {45} anoþer. But lyue men good lif, and studie
many persones Goddis lawe, and whanne chaungyng of wit is foundun,
amende þey it as resoun wole.

Sum men seyn þat freris trauelen, and þer fautours, in þis cause for
þre chesouns, þat y wole not aferme, but God woot {50} wher þey ben
soþe. First þey wolden be seun so nedeful to þe Engliȝschmen of oure
reume þat singulerly in her wit layȝ þe wit of Goddis lawe, to telle
þe puple Goddis lawe on what maner euere þey wolden. And þe secound
cause herof is seyd to stonde in þis sentense: freris wolden lede þe
puple in {55} techinge hem Goddis lawe, and þus þei wolden teche sum,
and sum hide, and docke sum. For þanne defautis in þer lif shulden be
lesse knowun to þe puple, and Goddis lawe shulde be vntreweliere knowun
boþe bi clerkis and bi comyns. Þe þridde cause þat men aspien stondiþ
in þis, as þey seyn: alle {60} þes newe ordris dreden hem þat þer synne
shulde be knowun, and hou þei ben not groundid in God to come into þe
chirche; and þus þey wolden not for drede þat Goddis lawe were knowun in
Engliȝsch; but þey myȝten putte heresye on men ȝif Engliȝsch
toolde not what þey seyden. {65}

God moue lordis and bischops to stonde for knowing of His lawe!


Corpus Christi College (Cambridge) MS. 296 (1375-1400), p. 165.

Of feyned contemplatif lif, of song, of þe Ordynal of Salisbury, and of
bodely almes and worldly bysynesse of prestis; hou bi þes foure þe fend
lettiþ hem fro prechynge of þe Gospel.—

First, whanne trewe men techen bi Goddis lawe wit and {5} reson, þat
eche prest owiþ to do his myȝt, his wit, and his wille to preche
Cristis Gospel, þe fend blyndiþ ypocritis to excuse hem by feyned
contemplatif lif, and to seie þat, siþ it is þe beste, and þei may not
do boþe togidre, þei ben nedid for charité of God to leue þe prechynge
of þe Gospel, and {10} lyuen in contemplacion.

See nowe þe ypocrisie of þis false seiynge. Crist tauȝt and dide þe
beste lif for prestis, as oure feiþ techiþ, siþ He was God and myȝte
not erre. But Crist preched þe Gospel, and charged alle His apostlis and
disciplis to goo and preche þe {15} Gospel to alle men. Þan it is þe
beste lif for prestis in þis world to preche þe Gospel.

Also God in þe olde lawe techiþ þat þe office of a prophete is to schewe
to þe peple here foule synnys. But eche prest is a prophete bi his
ordre, as Gregory seyþ vpon þe Gospellis. {20} Þanne it is þe office of
eche prest to preche and telle þe synnys of þe peple; and in þis manere
schal eche prest be an aungel of God, as Holy Writt seiþ.

Also Crist and Ion Baptist leften desert and precheden þe Gospel to here
deþ þerfore; and þis was most charité; for ellis {25} þei weren out of
charité, or peierid in charité, þat myȝte not be in hem boþe, siþ
þe ton was God, and no man after Crist was holyere þan Baptist, and he
synned not for þis prechynge.

Also þe holy prophete Ieromye, halwid in his moder wombe, myȝtte not
be excused fro prechynge bi his contemplacion, {30} but chargid of God
to preche þe synnes of þe peple, and suffre peyne þerfore, and so weren
alle þe prophetis of God.

A Lord! siþ Crist and Ion Baptist and alle þe prophetis of God weren
nedid bi charité to come out of desert to preche {35} to þe peple, and
leue here solarie preiere, hou dore we fonnyd heretikys seie þat it
is betre to be stille, and preie oure owen fonnyd ordynaunce, þan to
preche Cristis Gospel?

Lord! what cursed spirit of lesyngis stiriþ prestis to close hem in
stonys or wallis for al here lif, siþ Crist comaundiþ to {40} alle His
apostlis and prestis to goo into alle þe world and preche þe Gospel.
Certis þei ben opyn foolis, and don pleynly aȝenst Cristis Gospel;
and, ȝif þei meyntenen þis errour, þei ben cursed of , and ben
perilous ypocritis and heretikis also. And siþ men ben holden heretikis
þat done {45} aȝenst þe popis lawe,  seiþ pleynly þat eche þat comeþ to presthod takiþ þe office of
a bedele, or criere, to goo bifore Domesday to crie to þe peple here
synnes and vengaunce of God, whi ben not þo prestis heretikis þat leuen
to preche Cristis Gospel, and {50} compelle oþere treue men to leue
prechynge of þe Gospel? Siþ þis lawe is Seynt Gregoryes lawe, groundid
opynly in Goddis lawe and reson and charité; and oþere lawes of þe peple
ben contrarie to Holy Writt and reson and charité, for to meyntene pride
and coueitise of Anticristis worldly clerkis. {55}

But ypocritis allegen þe Gospel,—þat Magdaleyne chees to hereself þe
beste part whanne she saat bisiden Cristis feet and herde His word. Soþ
it is þat þis meke sittynge and deuout herynge of Cristis wordis was
best to Magdeleyne, for sche hadde not office of prechynge as prestis
han, siþ sche was {60} a womman, þat hadde not auctorité of Goddis lawe
to teche and preche opynly. But what is þis dede to prestis, þat han
expresse þe comaundement of God and men to preche þe Gospel? Where þei
wolen alle be wommen in ydelnesse, and suen not Iesu Crist in lif and
prechynge þe Gospel, þat {65} He comandiþ Hymself boþe in þ_e_ olde lawe
and newe?

Also þis p_e_sible herynge of Cristis word and brennynge loue þat
Magdeleyne hadde was þe beste part, for it schal be ende in heuene of
good lif in þis world. But in þis _world_ þe beste lif for prestis
is holy lif in kepynge Goddis hestis, and {70} trewe prechynge of þe
Gospel, as Crist dide, and chargid alle His prestis to do <þe same>.
And þes ypocritis wenen þat here dremys and fantasies of hemself ben
contemplacion, and þat prechynge of þe Gospel be actif lif; and so þei
menen þat Crist tok þe worse lif for þis world, and nedid alle His
prestis {75} to leue þe betre and take þe worse lif; and þus þes fonnyd
ypocritis putten errour in Iesu Crist. But who ben more heretikis?

Also þes blynde ypocritis alleggen þat Crist biddiþ vs preie euermore,
and Poul biddiþ þat we preie wiþoute lettynge, and {80} þan we prestis
may not preche, as þei feynen falsly. But here þes ypocritis schullen
wite þat Crist and Poul vnderstonden of preiere of holy lif, þat eche
man doþ as longe as he dwelliþ in charité; and not of babelynge of
lippis, þat no man may euere do wiþouten cessynge; for ellis no man
in þis {85} world myȝte fulfille þe comaundement of Crist; and þis
techiþ Austyn and oþere seyntis.

And siþ men þat fulfillen not Goddis lawe, and ben out of charité, ben
not acceptid in here preiynge of lippis,—for here preiere in lippis
is abhomynable, as Holy Writt seiþ bi {90} Salomon,—þes prestis þat
prechen not þe Gospel, as Crist biddiþ, ben not able to preie  for
mercy, but disceyuen hemself and þe peple, and dispisen God, and stiren
Hym to wraþþe and vengaunce, as Austyn and Gregory and oþere seyntis
techen. {95}

And principaly þes ypocritis þat han rentes, and worldly lordischipes,
and parische chirchis approprid to hem, aȝenst Holy Writt boþe old
and newe, by symonye and lesyngis _on_ Crist and His apostelis, for
stynkynge gronyngys and abite of holynesse, and f_or_ distroiynge of
Goddis ordynaunce, and for {100} singuler profession maade to foolis
and, in cas, to fendis of helle,—þes foolis schullen lerne what is
actif lif and contemplatif bi Goddis lawe, and þanne þei myȝtten
wite þat þei han neiþer þe ton ne þe toiþer, siþ þei chargen more veyn
statutis _of_ synful men, and, in cas,  deuelys, þan þei {105}
chargen þe heste of God, and werkis of mercy, and poyntis of charité.
And þe fende blyndiþ hem so moche, þat þei seyn indede þat þei moten
neuere preie to p_le_synge of God, siþ þei vnablen hemself to do þe
office of prestis bi Goddis lawe, and purposen to ende in here feyned
deuocion, þat is blasphemye {110} to God.

Also bi song þe fend lettiþ men to studie and preche þe Gospel; for siþ
mannys wittis ben of certeyn mesure and myȝt, þe more þat þei ben
occupied aboute siche mannus song, þe lesse moten þei be sette aboute
Goddis lawe. For {115} þis stiriþ men to pride, and iolité, and oþere
synnys, and so vnableþ hem many gatis to vnderstonde and kepe Holy
Writt, þat techeþ mekenesse, mornynge for oure synnys and oþere mennus,
and stable lif, and charité. And ȝit God in all þe lawe of grace
chargiþ not siche song, but deuocion in {120} herte, trewe techynge, and
holy spekynge in tonge, and goode werkis, and holy lastynge in charité
and mekenesse. But mannus foly and pride stieþ vp euere more and more in
þis veyn nouelrie.

First men ordeyned songe of mornynge whanne þei weren {125} in prison,
for techynge of þe Gospel, as Ambrose, _as_ men seyn, to putte awey
ydelnesse, and to be not vnoccupied in goode manere for þe tyme. And þat
songe and o_u_r acordiþ not, for oure stiriþ to iolité and pride,
and here stiriþ to mornynge, and to dwelle lenger in wordis of Goddis
lawe. {130} Þan were matynys, and masse, and euensong, _placebo_ and
_dirige_, and comendacion, and matynes of Oure Lady, ordeyned of synful
men to be songen wiþ heiȝe criynge, to lette men fro þe sentence
and vnderstondynge of þat þat was þus songen, and to maken men wery,
and vndisposid to studie {135} Goddis lawe for akyng of hedis. And of
schort tyme þanne  more veyn iapis founden: deschaunt, countre
note, and orgon, and smale brekynge, þat stiriþ veyn men to daunsynge
more þan  mornynge; and herefore ben many proude lorelis founden and
dowid wiþ temperal and worldly {140} lordischipis and gret cost. But þes
foolis schulden drede þe scharpe wordis of Austyn, þat seiþ: 'As oft
as þe song likiþ me more þan doþ þe sentence þat is songen, so oft I
confesse þat I synne greuously.'

And ȝif þes knackeris excusen hem bi song in þe olde lawe, {145}
seie þat Crist, þat best kepte þe olde lawe as it schulde be aftirward,
tauȝt not ne chargid vs wiþ sich bodely song, ne ony of His apostlis,
but wiþ deuocion in herte, and holy lif, and trewe prechynge, and þat is
ynowþȝ and þe beste. But who schulde þanne charge vs wiþ more, oure
þe fredom and {150} liȝtnesse of Cristis lawe?

And ȝif þei seyn þat angelis heryen God bi song in heuene, seie þat
we kunnen not þat song; but þei ben in ful victorie of here enemys, and
we ben in perilous b_atai_le, and in þe valeye of wepynge and mornynge;
and oure song lettiþ vs {155} fro betre occupacion, and stiriþ vs to
many grete synnes, and to forȝete vs self.

But oure flecshly peple haþ more lykynge in here bodely eris in sich
knackynge and taterynge, þan in herynge of Goddis lawe, and spekynge of
þe blisse of heuene; for þei {160} wolen hire proude prestis and oþere
lorelis þus to knacke notis for many markis and poundis. But þei wolen
not ȝeue here almes to prestis and children to lerne and teche Goddis
lawe. And þus, bi þis nouelrie of song, is Goddis lawe vnstudied and not
kepte, and pride and oþere grete {165} synnys meyntenyd.

And þes fonnyd lordis and peple gessen to haue more þank of God, and
 worschipe Hym more, in haldynge vp of here owen nouelries wiþ grete
cost, þan in lernynge, and techynge, and meyntenynge of his lawe, and
his seruauntis, {170} and his ordynaunce. But where is more disceit in
feiþ, hope and charité? For whanne þer ben fourty or fyfty in a queer,
þre or foure proude lorellis schullen knacke þe most deuout seruyce þat
no man schal here þe sentence, and alle oþere schullen be doumbe, and
loken on hem as foolis. And þanne {175} strumpatis and þeuys preisen
Sire Iacke, or Hobbe, and Williem þe proude clerk, hou smale þei knacken
here notis; and seyn þat þei seruen wel God and Holy Chirche, whanne þei
dispisen God in his face, and letten oþere Cristene men of here deuocion
and compunccion, and stiren hem to worldly {180} vanyté. And þus trewe
seruyce of God is lettid, and þis veyn knackynge for oure iolité and
pride is preised abouen þe mone.

Also þe Ordynalle of Salisbury lettiþ moche prechynge of þe Gospel; for
folis chargen þat more þan þe maundementis of God, and to studie and
teche Cristis Gospel. For ȝif {185} a man faile in his Ordynale,
men holden þat grete synne, and reprouen hym þerof faste; but ȝif a
preste breke þe hestis of God, men chargen þat litel or nouȝt. And so
ȝif prestis seyn here matynes, masse, and euensong aftir Salisbury
vsse, þei hemself and oþere men demen it is ynowȝ, þouþ þei neiþer
{190} preche ne teche þe hestis of God and þe Gospel. And þus þei wenen
þat it is ynowȝ to fulfille synful mennus ordynaunce, and to leue þe
riȝtfulleste ordynaunce of God, þat He chargid prestis to performe.

But, Lord! what was prestis office ordeyned bi God bifore {195} þat
Salisbury vss was maad of proude prestis, coueitous and dronkelewe?
Where God, þat dampneþ alle ydelnesse, charg_id_ hem not at þe ful wiþ
þe beste occupacion for hemself and oþere men? Hou doren synful folis
chargen Cristis prestis wiþ so moche nouelrie, and euermore cloute more
to, {200} þat þei may not frely do Goddis ordynaunce? For þe Iewis in
þe olde lawe haden not so manye serymonyes of sacrifices ordeyned bi
God as prestis han now riȝttis and reulis maade of synful men. And
ȝit þe olde lawe in þes charious customes mosten nedes cesse for
fredom of Cristis Gospel. But þis {205} fredom is more don awei bi þis
nouelrie þan bi customes of þe olde lawe. And þus many grete axen where
a prest may, wiþouten dedly synne, seie his masse wiþouten matynys; and
þei demen it dedly synne a prest to fulfille þe ordynaunce of God in his
fredom, wiþoute nouelrie of synful men, þat lettiþ {210} prestis fro þe
betre occupacion; as ȝif þei demen it dedly synne to leue þe worse
þing, and take þe betre, whanne þei may not do boþe togidre.

And þus, Lord! Þin owen ordynaunce þat Þou madist for Þi prestis is
holden errour, and distroied for þe fonnyd nouelrie {215} of synful
foolis, and, in cas, of fendis in helle.

But here men moste be war þat vnder colour of þis fredom þei ben betre
occupied in þe lawe of God to studie it and teche it, and not slouȝ
ne ydel in ouermoche sleep, and vanyté, and oþer synnes, for þat is þe
fendis panter. {220}

See now þe blyndnesse of þes foolis. Þei seyn þat a prest may be excused
fro seiynge of masse, þat God comaundid Himself to þe substance þerof,
so þat he here on. But he schal not be excused but ȝif he seie
matynes and euensong himself, þat synful men han ordeyned; and þus þei
chargen {225} more here owene fyndynge þan Cristis comaundement.

A Lord! ȝif alle þe studie and traueile þat men han now abowte
Salisbury vss, wiþ multitude _of_ newe costy portos, antifeners,
graielis, and alle oþere bokis, weren turned into makynge of biblis,
and in studiynge and techynge þerof, hou {230} moche schulde Goddis
lawe be forþered, and knowen, and kept, and now in so moche it is
hyndrid, vnstudied, and vnkept. Lord! hou schulden riche men ben excused
þat costen so moche in grete schapellis, and costy bokis of mannus
ordynaunce, for fame and nobleie of þe world, and wolen not {235}
spende so moche aboute bokis of Goddis lawe, and for to studie hem and
teche hem: siþ þis were wiþoute comparison betre on alle siddis, and
lyȝttere, and sykerere?

But ȝit men þat knowen þe fredom of Goddis ordynaunce for prestis to
be þe beste, wiþ grete sorow of herte seyn here {240} matynes, masse,
and euensong, whanne þei schulden ellis be betre occupied, last þei
sclaundren þe sike conscience of here breþeren, þat ȝit knowen not
Goddis lawe. God brynge þes prestis to þe fredom to studie Holy Writt,
and lyue þerafter, and teche it oþer men frely, and to preie as long and
as {245} moche as God meueþ hem þerto, and ellis turne to oþere medeful
werkis, as Crist and His apostlis diden; and þat þei ben not constreyned
to blabre alle day wiþ tonge and grete criynge, as pies and iaies, þing
þat þei knowen not, and to peiere here owen soule for defaute of wis
deuocion and charité! {250}

Also bysynesse of worldly occupacion of prestis lettiþ prechynge of þe
Gospel, for þei ben so besy <þer>aboute, and namely in herte, þat þei
þenken litel on Goddis lawe, and han no sauour þerto. And seyn þat þei
don þus for hospitalité, and to releue pore men wiþ dedis of charité.
But, hou euere {255} men speken, it his for here owen couetise, and
lustful lif in mete and drynk and precious cloþis, and for name of þe
world in fedynge of riche men; and litel or nouȝt comeþ frely to pore
men þat han most nede.

But þes prestis schulden sue Crist in manere of lif and {260} trewe
techynge. But Crist lefte sich occupacion, and His apostlis also, and
weren betre occupied in holy preiere and trewe techynge of þe Gospel.
And þis determinacion and ful sentence was ȝouen of alle þe apostlis
togidre, whanne þei hadden resceyued þe plenteuous ȝiftis of þe Holy
Gost. Lord! {265} where þes worldly prestis  wisere þan ben alle þe
apostlis of Crist? It semeth þat þei ben, or ellis <þei ben> fooles.

Also Crist wolde not take þe kyngdom whan þe puple wolde haue maad Him
kyng, as Iones Gospel telleþ. But if it haade be a prestis office to
dele aboute þus bodi almes, {270} Crist, þat coude best haue do þis
office, wolde haue take þes temperal goodis to dele hem among poeuere
men. But He wolde not do þus, but fley, and took no man of þe aposteles
wiþ him, so faste He hiede. Lord! where worldly prestis kunnen bettere
don þis partinge of worldly goodis _þan_ Iesu {275} Crist?

And ȝif þei seyn þat Crist fedde þe puple in desert with bodily
almes, manye þousand, as þe Gospel saiþ: þat dide Crist by miracle,
to shewe His godhede, and to teche prestes {280} houȝ þei schulden
fede gostly Cristene men by Goddis word. For so dide Cristis aposteles,
and hadde not whereof to do bodily almes, whan þei miȝten haue had
tresour and iuelis ynowe of kynggis and lordis.

Also Peter saiþ in Dedis of Apostlis to a pore man þat to {285} him
neiþer was gold ne siluer; and ȝit he performede wel þe office of a
trewe prest. But oure prestis ben so bysye aboute worldly occupacioun
þat þei semen bettere bailyues or reues þan gostly prestis of Iesu
Crist. For what man is so bysy aboute marchaundise, and oþere worldly
doyngis, as ben {290} preostes, þat shulden ben lyȝt of heuenly lif
to alle men abouten hem?

But certes þei shulde be as bysy aboute studyinge of Goddys lawe,
and holy preyer, not of _Famulorum_, but of holy desires, and clene
meditacioun of God, and trewe techinge of {295} þe Gospel, as ben
laboreris aboute worldly labour for here sustenaunce. And muche more
bysie, ȝif þei miȝten, for þey ben more holden for to lyue wel,
and <ȝeue> ensaumple of holi lif to þe puple, and trewe techinge of
Holy Writ, þanne þe people is holden to ȝyue hem dymes or offringis
or ony {300} bodily almes. And þerfore prestis shulde not leue ensaumple
of good lif, and studyinge of Holi Writ, and trewe techinge þerof, ne
 bodily almes, ne for worldly goodis, ne for sauynge of here bodily

And as Crist sauede þe world by writynge and techinge of {305} foure
Euaungelistis, so þe fend casteþ to dampne þe world and prestis for
lettynge to preche þe Gospel by þes foure: by feyned contemplacioun, by
song, by Salisbury vse, and by worldly bysynes of prestis.

God for His mercy styre þes prestis to preche þe Gospel in {310} word,
in lif; and be war of Sathanas disceitis. Amen.

[Foot-note: 7 fend] fendis _MS._]

[Foot-note: 66 þe] þo _MS._]

[Foot-note: 67 pesible] posible _MS._]

[Foot-note: 69 world] lif _MS._]

[Foot-note: 98 on] & _MS._]

[Foot-note: 100 for (1st)] fro _MS._]

[Foot-note: 105 of (1st)] & _MS._]

[Foot-note: 108 plesynge] preisynge _MS. altered later_.]

[Foot-note: 126 as (2nd)] and _MS._]

[Foot-note: 128 oure] oþer _MS._]

[Foot-note: 154 bataile] baitale _MS._]

[Foot-note: 198 chargid] chargen _MS._]

[Foot-note: 202 not so] _repeated MS._]

[Foot-note: 228 of] & _MS._]

[Foot-note: 275 þan] of _MS._]



D. 1408.

John Gower, a Londoner himself, came of a good Kentish family. Chaucer
must have known him well, for he chose him as his attorney when leaving
for the Continent in 1378, and, with the dedication of _Troilus and
Criseyde_, labelled him for ever as 'moral Gower'. Gower's marriage with
Agnes Groundolf, probably a second marriage, is recorded in 1398.
Blindness came on him a few years later. His will, dated August 15,
1408, was proved on October 24, 1408, so that his death must fall
between those two points. By his own wish he was buried in St.
Saviour's, Southwark, the church of the canons of St. Mary Overy, to
whom he was a liberal benefactor.

On his tomb in St. Saviour's Church, Gower is shown with his head
resting on three great volumes, representing his principal works—the
_Speculum Meditantis_, the _Vox Clamantis_, and the _Confessio Amantis_.

The _Speculum Meditantis_, or _Mirour de l'Omme_, is a handbook of sins
and sinners, written in French.

The _Vox Clamantis_, written in Latin, covers similar ground. Opening
with a vision of the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, the poet passes in review
the faults of the different grades of society—clergy, nobles,
labourers, traders, lawyers—and ends with an admonition to the young
King Richard II.

In his English work, the _Confessio Amantis_, he expressly abandons the
task of setting the world to rights, and promises to change his style
henceforth. Now he will sing of Love. The machinery of the poem is
suggested by the great source of mediaeval conventions, the _Roman de la
Rose_. On a May morning the poet, a victim of love, wanders afield and
meets the Queen of Love (cp. the beginning of Chaucer's _Legend of Good
Women_). She bids him confess to her priest Genius. Genius hears the
confession, sustaining with some incongruity the triple rôle of high
priest of Love, Christian moralist, and entertainer—for it is he who
tells the stories which, woven about the frame work of the Seven Deadly
Sins, make the real matter of the poem.

The first form of the _Confessio_ was completed in 1390. It contains a
Prologue in which the suggestion for the poem is ascribed to Richard II,
and an Epilogue in his praise. In this version the Queen of Love at
parting gives Gower a message for Chaucer:

        And gret wel Chaucer whan ye mete,
      As mi disciple and mi poete:
      For in the floures of his youthe
      In sondri wise, as he wel couthe,
      Of ditees and of songes glade,
      The whiche he for mi sake made,
      The lond fulfild is overal.
      Wherof to him in special
      Above alle othre I am most holde.
      Forthi now, in hise daies olde,
      Thow schalt him telle this message,
      That he upon his latere age,
      To sette an ende of alle his werk,
      As he which is myn owne clerk,
      Do make his testament of love,
      As thou hast do thi schrifte above,
      So that mi Court it mai recorde.

In the final form, completed in 1392-3, Richard's name disappears from
the Prologue; the dedication to his popular rival, Henry of Lancaster,
is made prominent; the eulogy in the Epilogue is dropped; and with it
the compliment to Chaucer. Whether this last omission is due to chance,
or to some change in the relations between the two poets, is not clear.

In his own day Gower was ranked with Chaucer. His reputation was still
high among the Elizabethans; and he has the distinction of appearing as
Chorus in a Shakespearian play—_Pericles_—of which his story of
_Apollonius of Tyre_, in Bk. viii of the _Confessio_, was the immediate

A selection gives a very favourable impression of his work. He has a
perfect command of the octosyllabic couplet; an easy style, well suited
to narrative; and a classic simplicity of expression for which the work
of his predecessors in Middle English leaves us unprepared. Throughout
the whole of the _Confessio Amantis_, more than 30,000 lines, the level
of workmanship is remarkable, and almost every page shows some graceful
and poetical verses.

Yet the poem as a whole suffers from the fault that Gower tried to

      It dulleth ofte a mannes wit
      To him that schal it aldai rede.

One defect, obvious to a modern reader, would hardly be noticed by his
contemporaries: he often incorporates in his poetry matter proper only
to an encyclopaedia, such as the discourse on the religions of the world
in Bk. v, or that on Philosophy in Bk. vii. Another is more radical: for
all his wide reading, his leading ideas lack originality. It is hardly a
travesty to say that the teaching of his works amounts to this: 'In the
moral world, avoid the Seven Deadly Sins in the five sub-classifications
of each; in the political world keep your degree without presuming'.
Such a negative and conventional message cannot sustain the fabric of
three long poems. Their polished and facile moralizing becomes almost
exasperating if it be remembered that the poet wrote when a whole system
of society was falling, and falling noisily, about him. Modern taste
rejects Gower the moralist and political writer, and his claim to
present as apart from historical value rests on the delightful single
stories which served as embroidery to his serious themes.

The extracts are taken from the admirable edition by G. C. Macaulay:
'The Works of John Gower', 4 vols., Oxford 1899-1902.


From Bk. iv, ll. 2927 ff.

        This finde I write in Poesie:
      Ceïx the king of Trocinie
      Hadde Alceone to his wif,
      Which as hire oghne hertes lif
      Him loveth; and he hadde also                  5
      A brother, which was cleped tho
      Dedalion, and he per cas
      Fro kinde of man forschape was
      Into a goshauk of liknesse;
      Wherof the king gret hevynesse                10
      Hath take, and thoghte in his corage
      To gon upon a pelrinage
      Into a strange regioun,
      Wher he hath his devocioun
      To don his sacrifice and preie,               15
      If that he mihte in eny weie
      Toward the goddes finde grace
      His brother hele to pourchace,
      So that he mihte be reformed
      Of that he hadde be transformed.              20
        To this pourpos and to this ende
      This king is redy for to wende,
      As he which wolde go be schipe;
      And for to don him felaschipe
      His wif unto the see him broghte,             25
      With al hire herte and him besoghte
      That he the time hire wolde sein
      Whan that he thoghte come aȝein:
      'Withinne,' he seith, 'tuo monthe day.'
      And thus in al the haste he may               30
      He tok his leve, and forth he seileth,
      Wepende and sche hirself beweileth,
      And torneth hom, ther sche cam fro.
        Bot whan the monthes were ago,
      The whiche he sette of his comynge,           35
      And that sche herde no tydinge,
      Ther was no care for to seche:
      Wherof the goddes to beseche
      Tho sche began in many wise,
      And to Iuno hire sacrifise                    40
      Above alle othre most sche dede,
      And for hir lord sche hath so bede
      To wite and knowe hou that he ferde,
      That Iuno the goddesse hire herde,
      Anon and upon this matiere                    45
      Sche bad Yris hir messagere
      To Slepes hous that he schal wende,
      And bidde him that he make an ende,
      Be swevene and schewen al the cas
      Unto this ladi, hou it was.                   50
        This Yris, fro the hihe stage
      Which undertake hath the message,
      Hire reyny cope dede upon,
      The which was wonderli begon
      With colours of diverse hewe,                 55
      An hundred mo than men it knewe;
      The hevene lich unto a bowe
      Sche bende, and so she cam doun lowe,
      The god of Slep wher that sche fond;
      And that was in a strange lond,               60
      Which marcheth upon Chymerie:
      For ther, as seith the Poesie,
      The God of Slep hath mad his hous,
      Which of entaille is merveilous.
        Under an hell ther is a cave,               65
      Which of the sonne mai noght have,
      So that noman mai knowe ariht
      The point betwen the dai and nyht:
      Ther is no fyr, ther is no sparke,
      Ther is no dore, which mai charke,            70
      Wherof an yhe scholde unschette,
      So that inward ther is no lette.
      And for to speke of that withoute,
      Ther stant no gret tree nyh aboute
      Wher on ther myhte crowe or pie               75
      Alihte, for to clepe or crie;
      Ther is no cok to crowe day,
      Ne beste non which noise may;
      The hell bot al aboute round
      Ther is growende upon the ground              80
      Popi, which berth the sed of slep,
      With othre herbes suche an hep.
      A stille water for the nones
      Rennende upon the smale stones,
      Which hihte of Lethes the rivere,             85
      Under that hell in such manere
      Ther is, which ȝifth gret appetit
      To slepe. And thus full of delit
      Slep hath his hous; and of his couche
      Withinne his chambre if I schal touche,       90
      Of hebenus that slepi tree
      The bordes al aboute be,
      And for he scholde slepe softe,
      Upon a fethrebed alofte
      He lith with many a pilwe of doun.            95
      The chambre is strowed up and doun
      With swevenes many thousendfold.
        Thus cam Yris into this hold,
      And to the bedd, which is al blak,
      Sche goth, and ther with Slep sche spak,     100
      And in the wise as sche was bede
      The message of Iuno sche dede.
      Ful ofte hir wordes sche reherceth,
      Er sche his slepi eres perceth;
      With mochel wo bot ate laste                 105
      His slombrende yhen he upcaste
      And seide hir that it schal be do.
        Wherof among a thousend tho
      Withinne his hous that slepi were,
      In special he ches out there                 110
      Thre, whiche scholden do this dede:
      The ferste of hem, so as I rede,
      Was Morpheüs, the whos nature
      Is for to take the figure
      Of what persone that him liketh,             115
      Wherof that he ful ofte entriketh
      The lif which slepe schal be nyhte;
      And Ithecus that other hihte,
      Which hath the vois of every soun,
      The chiere and the condicioun                120
      Of every lif, what so it is:
      The thridde suiende after this
      Is Panthasas, which may transforme
      Of every thing the rihte forme,
      And change it in an other kinde.             125
      Upon hem thre, so as I finde,
      Of swevenes stant al thapparence,
      Which other while is evidence,
      And other while bot a iape.
        Bot natheles it is so schape,              130
      That Morpheüs be nyht al one
      Appiereth until Alceone
      In liknesse of hir housebonde
      Al naked ded upon the stronde,
      And hou he dreynte in special                135
      These othre tuo it schewen al:
      The tempeste of the blake cloude,
      The wode see, the wyndes loude,
      Al this sche mette, and sih him dyen;
      Wherof that sche began to crien,             140
      Slepende abedde ther sche lay,
      And with that noise of hire affray
      Hir wommen sterten up aboute,
      Whiche of here ladi were in doute,
      And axen hire hou that sche ferde;           145
      And sche, riht as sche syh and herde,
      Hir swevene hath told hem everydel:
      And thei it halsen alle wel
      And sein it is a tokne of goode.
        Bot til sche wiste hou that it stode,      150
      Sche hath no confort in hire herte,
      Upon the morwe and up sche sterte,
      And to the see, wher that sche mette
      The bodi lay, withoute lette
      Sche drowh, and whan that sche cam nyh,      155
      Stark ded, hise armes sprad, sche syh
      Hire lord flietende upon the wawe.
      Wherof hire wittes ben withdrawe,
      And sche, which tok of deth no kepe,
      Anon forth lepte into the depe               160
      And wolde have cawht him in hire arm.
        This infortune of double harm
      The goddes fro the hevene above
      Behielde, and for the trowthe of love,
      Which in this worthi ladi stod,              165
      Thei have upon the salte flod
      Hire dreinte lord and hire also
      Fro deth to lyve torned so
      That thei ben schapen into briddes
      Swimmende upon the wawe amiddes.             170
      And whan sche sih hire lord livende
      In liknesse of a bridd swimmende,
      And sche was of the same sort,
      So as sche mihte do desport,
      Upon the ioie which sche hadde               175
      Hire wynges bothe abrod sche spradde,
      And him, so as sche mai suffise,
      Beclipte and keste in such a wise,
      As sche was whilom wont to do:
      Hire wynges for hire armes tuo               180
      Sche tok, and for hire lippes softe
      Hire harde bile, and so ful ofte
      Sche fondeth in hire briddes forme,
      If that sche mihte hirself conforme
      To do the plesance of a wif,                 185
      As sche dede in that other lif:
      For thogh sche hadde hir pouer lore,
      Hir will stod as it was tofore,
      And serveth him so as sche mai.
        Wherof into this ilke day                  190
      Togedre upon the see thei wone,
      Wher many a dowhter and a sone
      Thei bringen forth of briddes kinde;
      And for men scholden take in mynde
      This Alceoun the trewe queene,               195
      Hire briddes ȝit, as it is seene,
      Of Alceoun the name bere.


From Bk. v, ll. 4937 ff.

        To speke of an unkinde man,
      I finde hou whilom Adrian,
      Of Rome which a gret lord was,
      Upon a day as he per cas
      To wode in his huntinge wente,                 5
      It hapneth at a soudein wente,
      After his chace as he poursuieth,
      Thurgh happ, the which noman eschuieth,
      He fell unwar into a pet,
      Wher that it mihte noght be let.              10
      The pet was dep and he fell lowe,
      That of his men non myhte knowe
      Wher he becam, for non was nyh
      Which of his fall the meschief syh.
        And thus al one ther he lay                 15
      Clepende and criende al the day
      For socour and deliverance,
      Til aȝein eve it fell per chance,
      A while er it began to nyhte,
      A povere man, which Bardus hihte,             20
      Cam forth walkende with his asse,
      And hadde gadred him a tasse
      Of grene stickes and of dreie
      To selle, who that wolde hem beie,
      As he which hadde no liflode,                 25
      Bot whanne he myhte such a lode
      To toune with his asse carie.
      And as it fell him for to tarie
      That ilke time nyh the pet,
      And hath the trusse faste knet,               30
      He herde a vois, which cride dimme,
      And he his ere to the brimme
      Hath leid, and herde it was a man,
      Which seide, 'Ha, help hier Adrian,
      And I wol ȝiven half mi good.'                35
        The povere man this understod,
      As he that wolde gladly winne,
      And to this lord which was withinne
      He spak and seide, 'If I thee save,
      What sikernesse schal I have                  40
      Of covenant, that afterward
      Thou wolt me ȝive such reward
      As thou behihtest nou tofore?'
        That other hath his othes swore
      Be hevene and be the goddes alle,             45
      If that it myhte so befalle
      That he out of the pet him broghte,
      Of all the goodes whiche he oghte
      He schal have evene halvendel.
        This Bardus seide he wolde wel;             50
      And with this word his asse anon
      He let untrusse, and therupon
      Doun goth the corde into the pet,
      To which he hath at þe ende knet
      A staf, wherby, he seide, he wolde            55
      That Adrian him scholde holde.
      Bot it was tho per chance falle,
      Into that pet was also falle
      An ape, which at thilke throwe,
      Whan that the corde cam doun lowe,            60
      Al sodeinli therto he skipte
      And it in bothe hise armes clipte.
      And Bardus with his asse anon
      Him hath updrawe, and he is gon.
      But whan he sih it was an ape,                65
      He wende al hadde ben a iape
      Of faierie, and sore him dradde:
      And Adrian eftsone gradde
      For help, and cride and preide faste,
      And he eftsone his corde caste;               70
      Bot whan it cam unto the grounde,
      A gret serpent it hath bewounde,
      The which Bardus anon up drouh.
      And thanne him thoghte wel ynouh
      It was fantosme, bot yit he herde             75
      The vois, and he therto ansuerde,
      'What wiht art thou in Goddes name?'
        'I am,' quod Adrian, 'the same,
      Whos good thou schalt have evene half.'
      Quod Bardus, 'Thanne a Goddes half            80
      The thridde time assaie I schal':
      And caste his corde forth withal
      Into the pet, and whan it cam
      To him, this lord of Rome it nam,
      And therupon him hath adresced,               85
      And with his hand ful ofte blessed,
      And thanne he bad to Bardus hale.
      And he, which understod his tale,
      Betwen him and his asse, al softe,
      Hath drawe and set him up alofte              90
      Withouten harm, al esely.
        He seith noght ones 'grant merci,'
      Bot strauhte him forth to the cité,
      And let this povere Bardus be.
      And natheles this simple man                  95
      His covenant, so as he can,
      Hath axed; and that other seide,
      If so be that he him umbreide
      Of oght that hath be speke or do,
      It schal ben venged on him so,               100
      That him were betre to be ded.
        And he can tho non other red,
      But on his asse aȝein he caste
      His trusse, and hieth homward faste:
      And whan that he cam hom to bedde,           105
      He tolde his wif hou that he spedde.
      Bot finaly to speke oght more
      Unto this lord he dradde him sore.
      So that a word ne dorste he sein.
        And thus upon the morwe aȝein,             110
      In the manere as I recorde,
      Forth with his asse and with his corde
      To gadre wode, as he dede er,
      He goth; and whan that he cam ner
      Unto the place where he wolde,               115
      He hath his ape anon beholde,
      Which hadde gadred al aboute
      Of stickes hiere and there a route,
      And leide hem redy to his hond,
      Wherof he made his trosse and bond.          120
      Fro dai to dai and in this wise
      This ape profreth his servise,
      So that he hadde of wode ynouh.
        Upon a time and as he drouh
      Toward the wode, he sih besyde               125
      The grete gastli serpent glyde,
      Til that sche cam in his presence,
      And in hir kinde a reverence
      Sche hath him do, and forth withal
      A ston mor briht than a cristall             130
      Out of hir mouth tofore his weie
      Sche let doun falle, and wente aweie
      For that he schal noght ben adrad.
      Tho was this povere Bardus glad,
      Thonkende God and to the ston                135
      He goth and takth it up anon,
      And hath gret wonder in his wit
      Hou that the beste him hath aquit,
      Wher that the mannes sone hath failed,
      For whom he hadde most travailed.            140
        Bot al he putte in Goddes hond,
      And torneth hom, and what he fond
      Unto his wif he hath it schewed;
      And thei, that weren bothe lewed,
      Acorden that he scholde it selle.            145
      And he no lengere wolde duelle,
      Bot forth anon upon the tale
      The ston he profreth to the sale;
      And riht as he himself it sette,
      The iueler anon forth fette                  150
      The gold and made his paiement;
      Therof was no delaiement.
        Thus whan this ston was boght and sold,
      Homward with ioie manyfold
      This Bardus goth; and whan he cam            155
      Hom to his hous and that he nam
      His gold out of his purs, withinne
      He fond his ston also therinne,
      Wherof for ioie his herte pleide,
      Unto his wif and thus he seide,              160
      'Lo, hier my gold, lo, hier mi ston!'
      His wif hath wonder therupon,
      And axeth him hou that mai be.
      'Nou, be mi trouthe! I not,' quod he,
      'Bot I dar swere upon a bok                  165
      That to my marchant I it tok,
      And he it hadde whan I wente:
      So knowe I noght to what entente
      It is nou hier, bot it be grace.
      Forthi tomorwe in other place                170
      I wole it fonde for to selle,
      And if it wol noght with him duelle,
      Bot crepe into mi purs aȝein,
      Than dar I saufly swere and sein
      It is the vertu of the ston.'                175
        The morwe cam, and he is gon
      To seche aboute in other stede
      His ston to selle, and he so dede,
      And lefte it with his chapman there.
      Bot whan that he cam elleswhere              180
      In presence of his wif at hom,
      Out of his purs and that he nom
      His gold, he fond his ston withal.
      And thus it fell him overal,
      Where he it solde in sondri place,           185
      Such was the fortune and the grace.
        Bot so wel may nothing ben hidd,
      That it nys ate laste kidd:
      This fame goth aboute Rome
      So ferforth that the wordes come             190
      To themperour Iustinian;
      And he let sende for the man,
      And axede him hou that it was.
      And Bardus tolde him al the cas,
      Hou that the worm and ek the beste,          195
      Althogh thei maden no beheste,
      His travail hadden wel aquit;
      Bot he which hadde a mannes wit,
      And made his covenant be mouthe,
      And swor therto al that he couthe,           200
      To parte and ȝiven half his good,
      Hath nou forȝete hou that it stod,
      As he which wol no trouthe holde.
        This Emperour al that he tolde
      Hath herd, and thilke unkindenesse           205
      He seide he wolde himself redresse.
      And thus in court of iuggement
      This Adrian was thanne assent,
      And the querele in audience
      Declared was in the presence                 210
      Of themperour and many mo;
      Wherof was mochel speche tho
      And gret wondringe among the press.
        Bot ate laste natheles
      For the partie which hath pleigned           215
      The lawe hath diemed and ordeigned
      Be hem that were avised wel,
      That he schal have the halvendel
      Thurghout of Adrianes good.
        And thus of thilke unkinde blod            220
      Stant the memoire into this day,
      Wherof that every wys man may
      Ensamplen him, and take in mynde
      What schame it is to ben unkinde;
      Aȝein the which reson debateth,              225
      And every creature it hateth.




Ranulph Higden (d. 1364) was a monk of St. Werburgh's at Chester, and
has been doubtfully identified with the 'Randal Higden' who is said to
have travelled to Rome to get the Pope's consent to the acting of the
Chester miracle plays in English.

His _Polychronicon_, so called because it is the chronicle of many ages,
is a compilation covering the period from the Creation to 1352. In the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries it was the favourite universal
history; and the First Book, which deals with general geography, has
still a special interest for the light it throws on the state of
knowledge in Chaucer's day.

Two English prose translations are known: Trevisa's, completed in 1387,
and modernized and printed by Caxton in 1482; and an anonymous rendering
made in the second quarter of the fifteenth century. Both are printed,
with Higden's Latin, in the edition by Babington and Lumby, Rolls
Series, 9 vols., 1865-86.

John of Trevisa was a Cornishman. He was a fellow of Exeter College,
Oxford, from 1362 to 1365; and was one of those expelled from Queen's
College for 'unworthiness' in 1379. He became vicar of Berkeley, and at
the request of Sir Thomas Berkeley undertook the translation of the
_Polychronicon_. In 1398 he brought to an end another long work, the
translation of _Bartholomaeus de Proprietatibus Rerum_, the great
encyclopaedia of natural science at this time. He died at Berkeley in

Trevisa was a diligent but not an accurate or graceful translator. He
rarely adds anything from his own knowledge, though we have an example
in the account of the reform of teaching at Oxford while he was there.
The interest of his work depends chiefly on the curiosity of some
passages in his originals.


CHAP. xlii.

MS. Tiberius D. vii (about 1400), f. 39 a.

In Brytayn buþ hoot welles wel arayed and yhyȝt to þe vse of
mankunde. Mayster of þulke welles ys þe gret spyryt of Minerua. Yn hys
hous fuyr duyreþ alwey, þat neuer chaungeþ into askes, bote þar þe fuyr
slakeþ, hyt changeþ ynto stony clottes. {5}

Yn Brytayn buþ meny wondres. Noþeles foure buþ most wonderfol. Þe
furste ys at Pectoun. Þar bloweþ so strong a wynd out of þe chenes of
þe eorþe þat hyt casteþ vp aȝe cloþes þat me casteþ yn. Þe secunde
ys at Stonhenge bysydes Salesbury. Þar gret stones and wondur huge buþ
{10} arered an hyȝ, as hyt were ȝates, so þat þar semeþ ȝates
yset apon oþer ȝates. Noþeles hyt ys noȝt clerlych yknowe noþer
parceyuet houȝ and wharfore a buþ so arered and so wonderlych
yhonged. Þe þridde ys at Cherdhol. Þer ys gret holwenes vndur eorþe.
Ofte meny men habbeþ {15} ybe þerynne, and ywalked aboute wiþynne, and
yseye ryuers and streemes, bote nowhar conneþ hy fynde non ende. Þe
feurþe ys þat reyn ys yseye arered vp of þe hulles, and anon yspronge
aboute yn þe feeldes. Also þer ys a gret pond þat conteyneþ þre score
ylondes couenable for men to dwelle {20} ynne. Þat pound ys byclypped
aboute wiþ six score rooches. Apon euerych rooch ys an egle hys nest;
and þre score ryuers eorneþ into þat pound, and non of ham alle eorneþ
into þe se, bot on. Þar ys a pound yclosed aboute wiþ a wal of tyyl and
of ston. Yn þat pound men wascheþ and baþeþ {25} wel ofte, and euerych
man feeleþ þe water hoot oþer cold ryȝt as a wol hymsylf. Þar buþ
also salt welles fer fram þe se, and buþ salt al þe woke long forto
Saturday noon, and fersch fram Saturday noon forto Moneday. Þe water of
þis welles, whanne hyt ys ysode, turneþ into smal salt, fayr and {30}
whyyt. Also þar ys a pond þe water þerof haþ wondur worchyng, for þey al
an ost stood by þe pond, and turnede þe face þyderward, þe water wolde
drawe  vyolentlych toward þe pond, and weete al here cloþes. So
scholde hors be drawe yn þe same wyse. Bote ȝef þe face ys aweyward
{35} fram þe water, þe water noyeþ noȝt. Þer ys a welle <þat> non
streem eorneþ þarfram noþer þerto, and ȝet four maner fysch buþ ytake
þarynne. Þat welle ys bote twenty foot long, and twenty foot brood,
and noȝt deop bote to þe kneo, and ys yclosed wiþ hyȝ bankkes in
euerych syde. {40}

Yn þe contray aboute Wynchestre ys a den. Out of þat den alwey bloweþ a
strong wynd, so þat no man may endure for to stonde tofor þat den. Þar
ys also a pond þat turneþ tre into yre and hyt be þerynne al a ȝer,
and so tren buþ yschape into whestones. Also þer ys yn þe cop of an hul
{45} a buryel. Euerych man þat comeþ and meteþ þat buriel a schal fynde
hyt euene ryȝt of hys oune meete; and ȝef a pylgrym oþer eny wery
man kneoleþ þerto, anon a schal be al fersch, and of werynes schal he
feele non nuy.

Fast by pe Ministre of Wynburney, þat ys noȝt fer fram {50} Bathe,
ys a wode þat bereþ moche fruyt. Ȝef pe tren of þat wode falle into
a water oþer grounde <þat> þar ys nyȝ, and lygge þar al a ȝer, þe
tren teorneþ ynto stoones.

Vndur þe cité of Chestre eorneþ þe ryuer Dee, þat now todeleþ Engelond
and Wales. Þat ryuer euerych monthe {55} chaungeþ hys fordes, as men of
þe contray telleþ, and leueþ ofte þe chanel. Bote wheþer þe water drawe
more toward Engelond oþer toward Wales, to what syde þat hyt be, þat
ȝer men of þat syde schal habbe þe wors ende and be ouerset, and þe
men of þe oþer syde schal habbe þe betre ende and be {60} at here aboue.
Whanne þe water chaungeþ so hys cours, hyt bodeþ such happes. Þis ryuer
Dee eorneþ and comeþ out of a lake þat hatte Pimbilmere. Yn þe ryuer ys
gret plenté of samon. Noþeles in þe lake ys neuer samon yfounde.


CHAP. lix.

As hyt ys yknowe houȝ meny maner people buþ in þis ylond, þer buþ
also of so meny people longages and tonges. Noþeles Walschmen and
Scottes, þat buþ noȝt ymelled wiþ oþer nacions, holdeþ wel nyȝ
here furste longage and speche, bote ȝef Scottes, þat were som tyme
confederat and wonede {5} wiþ þe Pictes, drawe somwhat after here
speche. Bote þe Flemmynges þat woneþ in þe west syde of Wales habbeþ
yleft here strange speche, and spekeþ Saxonlych ynow. Also Englysch men,
þeyȝ hy hadde fram þe bygynnyng þre maner speche, Souþeron, Norþeron,
and Myddel speche in þe {10} myddel of þe lond, as hy come of þre maner
people of Germania, noþeles by commyxstion and mellyng, furst wiþ Danes
and afterward wiþ Normans, in menye þe contray longage ys apeyred, and
som vseþ strange wlaffyng, chyteryng, harryng, and garryng grisbittyng.
Þis apeyryng of þe {15} burþtonge ys bycause of twey þinges. On ys for
chyldern in scole, aȝenes þe vsage and manere of al oþer nacions,
buþ compelled for to leue here oune longage, and for to construe here
lessons and here þinges a Freynsch, and habbeþ suþthe þe Normans come
furst into Engelond. Also gentil men {20} children buþ ytauȝt for
to speke Freynsch fram tyme þat a buþ yrokked in here cradel, and
conneþ speke and playe wiþ a child hys brouch; and oplondysch men wol
lykne hamsylf to gentil men, and fondeþ wiþ gret bysynes for to speke
Freynsch, for to be more ytold of. {25}

[Þys manere was moche y-vsed tofore þe furste moreyn, and ys seþthe
somdel ychaunged. For Iohan Cornwal, a mayster of gramere, chayngede
þe lore in gramerscole and construccion of Freynsch into Englysch; and
Richard Pencrych lurnede þat manere techyng of hym, and oþer men of
Pencrych, so þat {30} now, þe ȝer of oure Lord a þousond þre hondred
foure score and fyue, of þe secunde kyng Richard after þe Conquest
nyne, in al þe gramerscoles of Engelond childern leueþ Frensch, and
construeþ and lurneþ an Englysch, and habbeþ þerby avauntage in on syde,
and desavauntage yn anoþer. {35} Here avauntage ys þat a lurneþ here
gramer yn lasse tyme þan childern wer ywoned to do. Disavauntage ys þat
now childern of gramerscole conneþ no more Frensch þan can here lift
heele, and þat ys harm for ham and a scholle passe þe se and trauayle in
strange londes, and in meny caas also. {40} Also gentil men habbeþ now
moche yleft for to teche here childern Frensch.] Hyt semeþ a gret wondur
houȝ Englysch, þat ys þe burþ tonge of Englysch men, and here oune
longage and tonge, ys so dyuers of soon in þis ylond; and þe longage of
Normandy ys comlyng of anoþer lond, and haþ on maner {45} soon among al
men þat spekeþ hyt aryȝt in Engelond. [Noþeles þer ys as meny dyuers
maner Frensch yn þe rem of Fraunce as ys dyuers manere Englysch in þe
rem of Engelond.]

Also of þe forseyde Saxon tonge, þat ys deled a þre, and ys abyde
scarslych wiþ feaw vplondysch men, and ys gret {50} wondur, for men of
þe est wiþ men of þe west, as hyt were vnder þe same party of heuene,
acordeþ more in sounyng of speche þan men of þe norþ wiþ men of þe
souþ. Þerfore hyt ys þat Mercii, þat buþ men of myddel Engelond, as hyt
were parteners of þe endes, vndurstondeþ betre þe syde {55} longages,
Norþeron and Souþeron, þan Norþeron and Souþeron vndurstondeþ eyþer oþer.

Al þe longage of þe Norþhumbres, and specialych at Ȝork, ys so
scharp, slyttyng, and frotyng, and vnschape, þat we Souþeron men may
þat longage vnneþe vndurstonde. Y trowe {60} þat þat ys bycause þat a
buþ nyȝ to strange men and aliens, þat spekeþ strangelych, and also
bycause þat þe kynges of Engelond woneþ alwey fer fram þat contray;
for a buþ more yturnd to þe souþ contray, and ȝef a goþ to þe norþ
contray, a goþ wiþ gret help and strengthe. {65}

Þe cause why a buþ more in þe souþ contray þan in þe norþ may be betre
cornlond, more people, more noble cytés, and more profytable hauenes.



In the thirteenth century political poems were written chiefly in Latin
or French. In the fourteenth century a steadily growing tendency to use
English witnesses the increased interest of the people in politics and
social questions. The fullest collections are those edited by T. Wright,
_Political Songs of England_ (John to Edward II), Camden Society, 1839;
and _Political Poems and Songs_ (Edward III to Richard III), Rolls
Series, 2 vols., 1859-61.

The selections A and B are from the poems of Laurence Minot, of which
the best edition is the third by J. Hall, Oxford 1914. Minot was a
better patriot than a poet, and his boisterous contempt for the Scots
and French reflects the spirit of England in the early days of Edward
III's greatness.

The empty phrases in which the anonymous piece C abounds do not disguise
a note of despair. The long war with France was becoming more and more
hopeless. The plague that added to its miseries had carried off Henry,
first Duke of Lancaster, in 1361. The Black Prince, to whom the nation
looked for guidance, had died in 1376. The inglorious old age of Edward
III ended in the following year. But there remained the hope, soon to be
falsified, that the boy king Richard II would steer the ship of state to

D is the earliest text of the letter which John Ball addressed to the
Essex members of the Great Society of Peasants on the eve of the revolt
of 1381. It shows how deep an impression the characters and allegorical
form of _Piers Plowman_ had made on the oppressed serfs and labourers,
and it gives some idea of the vague and incoherent thinking that brought
ruin on their enterprise. Ball, who had defied established authority all
his life, was freed from prison by the rebels, became a ringleader, and
preached to their assembly on Blackheath a famous sermon with the text:

      When Adam dalf, and Eve span,
      Who was then the gentleman?

A few weeks later he was executed by sentence of Lord Chief Justice
Tressilian, who had been charged by the King to take vengeance on the

The distich E sums up briefly the history of a year which turned
moderate men against Richard II. A fuller contemporary picture of the
events that led to his deposition is found in the alliterative poem
_Richard the Redeles_, attributed by Skeat to the author of _Piers



MS. Cotton Galba E. ix (about 1425), f. 52 a.

      _Now for to tell ȝou will I turn
      Of batayl of Banocburn_

      Skottes out of Berwik and of Abirdene
      At þe Bannokburn war ȝe to kene;
      Þare slogh ȝe many sakles, als it was sene,
      And now has King Edward wroken it, I wene.
        It es wrokin, I wene, wele wurth þe while!                 5
        War ȝit with þe Skottes for þai er ful of gile!

      Whare er ȝe Skottes of Saint Iohnes toune?
      Þe boste of ȝowre baner es betin all doune.
      When ȝe bosting will bede, Sir Edward es boune
      For to kindel ȝow care, and crak ȝowre crowne.              10
        He has crakked ȝowre croune, wele worth þe while
        Schame bityde þe Skottes, for þai er full of gile!

      Skottes of Striflin war steren and stout,
      Of God ne of gude men had þai no dout.
      Now haue þai, þe pelers, priked obout,                      15
      Bot at þe last Sir Edward rifild þaire rout.
        He has rifild þaire rout, wele wurth þe while!
        Bot euer er þai vnder bot gaudes and gile.

      Rughfute riueling, now kindels þi care;
      Berebag with þi boste, þi biging es bare;                   20
      Fals wretche and forsworn, whider wiltou fare?
      Busk þe vnto Brig, and abide þare.
        Þare, wretche, saltou won, and wery þe while;
        Þi dwelling in Dondé es done for þi gile.

      Þe Skottes gase in Burghes and betes þe stretes;            25
      Al þise Inglis men harmes he hetes;
      Fast makes he his mone to men þat he metes,
      Bot fone frendes he findes þat his bale betes.
        Fune betes his bale, wele wurth þe while!
        He vses al threting with gaudes and gile.                 30

      Bot many man thretes and spekes ful ill
      Þat sum tyme war better to be stane—still.
      Þe Skot in his wordes has wind for to spill,
      For at þe last Edward sall haue al his will.
        He had his will at Berwik, wele wurth þe while!           35
        Skottes broght him þe kayes,—bot get for þaire gile.



MS. Cotton Galba E. ix (about 1425), f. 55 b.

      _How Edward als þe romance sais
      Held his sege bifor Calais._

      Calays men, now mai ȝe care,
      And murnig mun ȝe haue to mede;
      Mirth on mold get ȝe no mare,
      Sir Edward sall ken ȝow ȝowre crede.
      Whilum war ȝe wight in wede                                  5
      To robbing rathly for to ren;
      Mend ȝow sone of ȝowre misdede:
      Ȝowre care es cumen, will ȝe it ken.

      Kend it es how ȝe war kene
      Al Inglis men with dole to dere.                            10
      Þaire gudes toke ȝe al bidene,
      No man born wald ȝe forbere.
      Ȝe spared noght with swerd ne spere
      To stik þam, and þaire gudes to stele.
      With wapin and with ded of were                             15
      Þus haue ȝe wonnen werldes wele.

      Weleful men war ȝe iwis,
      Bot fer on fold sall ȝe noght fare:
      A bare sal now abate ȝowre blis
      And wirk ȝow bale on bankes bare.                           20
      He sall ȝow hunt, als hund dose hare,
      Þat in no hole sall ȝe ȝow hide;
      For all ȝowre speche will he noght spare,
      Bot bigges him right by ȝowre side.

      Biside ȝow here þe bare bigins                              25
      To big his boure in winter tyde,
      And all bityme takes he his ines
      With semly segantes him biside.
      Þe word of him walkes ful wide—
      Iesu saue him fro mischance!                                30
      In bataill dar he wele habide
      Sir Philip and Sir Iohn of France.

      Þe Franche men er fers and fell,
      And mase grete dray when þai er dight;
      Of þam men herd slike tales tell,                           35
      With Edward think þai for to fight,
      Him for to hald out of his right,
      And do him treson with þaire tales:
      Þat was þaire purpos, day and night,
      Bi counsail of þe Cardinales.                               40

      Cardinales with hattes rede
      War fro Calays wele thre myle;
      Þai toke þaire counsail in þat stede
      How þai might Sir Edward bigile.
      Þai lended þare bot litill while                            45
      Till Franche men to grante þaire grace:
      Sir Philip was funden a file,
      He fled and faght noght in þat place.

      In þat place þe bare was blith,
      For all was funden þat he had soght.                        50
      Philip þe Valas fled ful swith
      With þe batail þat he had broght.
      For to haue Calays had he thoght
      All at his ledeing, loud or still;
      Bot all þaire wiles war for noght:                          55
      Edward wan it at his will.

      Lystens now, and ȝe may lere,
      Als men þe suth may vnderstand,
      Þe knightes þat in Calais were
      Come to Sir Edward sare wepeand.                            60
      In kirtell one, and swerd in hand,
      And cried, 'Sir Edward, þine  are.
      Do now, lord, bi law of land
      Þi will with vs for euermare'.

      Þe nobill burgase and þe best                               65
      Come vnto him to haue þaire hire.
      Þe comun puple war ful prest
      Rapes to bring obout þaire swire.
      Þai said all: 'Sir Philip, oure syre,
      And his sun, Sir Iohn of France,                            70
      Has left vs ligand in þe mire,
      And broght vs till þis doleful dance.

      Our horses þat war faire and fat
      Er etin vp ilkone bidene;
      Haue we nowþer conig ne cat                                 75
      Þat þai ne er etin, and hundes kene
      Al er etin vp ful clene—
      Es nowther leuid biche ne whelp—
      Þat es wele on oure sembland sene,
      And þai er fled þat suld vs help.'                          80

      A knight þat was of grete renowne—
      Sir Iohn de Viene was his name—
      He was wardaine of þe toune
      And had done Ingland mekill schame.
      For all þaire boste þai er to blame,                        85
      Ful stalworthly þare haue þai streuyn.
      A bare es cumen to mak þam tame,
      Kayes of þe toun to him er gifen.

      Þe kaies er ȝolden him of þe ȝate,—
      Lat him now kepe þam if he kun.                             90
      To Calais cum þai all to late,
      Sir Philip, and Sir Iohn his sun.
      Al war ful ferd þat þare ware fun,
      Þaire leders may þai barely ban.
      All on þis wise was Calais won:                             95
      God saue þam þat it sogat wan!


Bodleian MS. Vernon (about 1400), f. 4106.

      A! dere God, what mai þis be,
      Þat alle þing weres and wasteþ awai?
      Frendschip is but a vanyté,
      Vnneþe hit dures al a day.
      Þei beo so sliper at assai,                                  5
      So leof to han, and loþ to lete,
      And so fikel in heore fai,
      Þat selden iseiȝe is sone forȝete.

      I sei hit not wiþouten a cause,
      And þerfore takes riht good hede,                           10
      For ȝif ȝe construwe wel þis clause,
      I puit ȝou holly out of drede
      Þat for puire schame ȝor hertes wol blede
      And ȝe þis matere wysli trete:
      He þat was vr moste spede                                   15
      Is selden iseye and sone forȝete.

      Sum tyme an Englisch schip we had,
      Nobel hit was and heih of tour,
      Þorw al Cristendam hit was drad,
      And stif wolde stande in vch a stour,                       20
      And best dorst byde a scharp schour,
      And oþer stormes, smale and grete.
      Now is þat schip, þat bar þe flour,
      Selden seȝe and sone forȝete.

      Into þat schip þer longed a rooþur                          25
      Þat steered þe schip and gouerned hit;
      In al þis world nis such anoþur,
      As me þinkeþ in my wit.
      Whyl schip and roþur togeder was knit,
      Þei dredde nouþer tempest, druyȝe nor wete;                 30
      Nou be þei boþe in synder flit,
      Þat selden seyȝe is sone forȝete.

      Scharpe wawes þat schip has sayled,
      And sayed alle sees at auentur.
      For wynt ne wederes neuer hit fayled                        35
      Whil þe roþur mihte enduir.
      Þouȝ þe see were rouh or elles dimuir,
      Gode hauenes þat schip wolde gete.
      Nou is þat schip, I am wel suir,
      Selde iseye and sone forȝete.                               40

      Þis goode schip I may remene
      To þe chiualrye of þis londe;
      Sum tyme þei counted nouȝt a bene
      Beo al Fraunce, ich vnderstonde.
      Þei tok and slouȝ hem with heore honde,                     45
      Þe power of Fraunce, boþ smal and grete,
      And brouȝt þe king hider to byde her bonde:
      And nou riht sone hit is forȝete.

      Þat schip hadde a ful siker mast,
      And a sayl strong and large,                                50
      Þat made þe gode schip neuer agast
      To vndertake a þing of charge;
      And to þat schip þer longed a barge
      Of al Fraunce ȝaf nouȝt a clete;
      To vs hit was a siker targe,                                55
      And now riht clene hit is forȝete.

      Þe roþur was nouþer ok ne elm,—
      Hit was Edward þe Þridde, þe noble kniht.
      Þe Prince his sone bar vp his helm,
      Þat neuer scoumfited was in fiht.                           60
      The Kyng him rod and rouwed ariht;
      Þe Prince dredde nouþur stok nor strete.
      Nou of hem we lete ful liht:
      Þat selde is seȝe is sone forȝete.

      Þe swifte barge was Duk Henri,                              65
      Þat noble kniht and wel assayed,
      And in his leggaunce worþili
      He abod mony a bitter brayd.
      Ȝif þat his enemys ouȝt outrayed,
      To chastis hem wolde he not lete.                           70
      Nou is þat lord ful lowe ileyd:
      Þat selde is seȝe is sone forȝete.

      Þis gode Comunes, bi þe rode!
      I likne hem to the schipes mast,
      Þat with heore catel and heore goode                        75
      Mayntened þe werre boþ furst and last,
      Þe wynd þat bleuȝ þe schip wiþ blast
      Hit was gode preȝers, I sei hit atrete.
      Nou is deuoutnes out icast,
      And mony gode dedes ben clen forȝete.                       80

      Þus ben þis lordes ileid ful lowe:
      Þe stok is of þe same rote;
      An ympe biginnes for to growe
      And ȝit I hope schal ben vr bote,
      To holde his fomen vnder fote,                              85
      And as a lord be set in sete.
      Crist leue þat he so mote,
      Þat selden iseȝe be not forȝete!

      Weor þat impe fully growe,
      Þat he had sarri sap and piþ,                               90
      I hope he schulde be kud and knowe
      For conquerour of moni a kiþ.
      He is ful lyflich in lyme and liþ
      In armes to trauayle and to swete.
      Crist leeue we so fare him wiþ                              95
      Þat selden seȝe be neuer forȝete!

      And þerfore holliche I ou rede,
      Til þat þis ympe beo fully growe,
      Þat vch a mon vp wiþ þe hede
      And mayntene him, boþe heiȝe and lowe.                     100
      Þe Frensche men cunne boþe boste and blowe,
      And wiþ heore scornes vs toþrete,
      And we beoþ boþe vnkuynde and slowe,
      Þat selden seȝe is sone forȝete.

      And þerfore, gode sires, takeþ reward                      105
      Of ȝor douhti kyng þat dyȝede in age,
      And to his sone, Prince Edward,
      Þat welle was of alle corage.
      Suche two lordes of heiȝ parage
      I not in eorþe whon we schal gete;                         110
      And nou heore los biginneþ to swage,
      Þat selde iseȝe is sone forȝete.

[Foot-note: 42 chilualrye _MS._]

[Foot-note: 110 I] In _MS._]

OF ESSEX, 1381.

St. Albans MS. British Museum Royal 13. E. ix (about 1400), f. 287 a.

Iohon Schep, som tyme Seynte Marie prest of Ȝork, and now of
Colchestre, greteth wel Iohan Nameles, and Iohan þe Mullere, and Iohon
Cartere, and biddeþ hem þat þei bee war of gyle in borugh, and stondeth
togidre in Godes name, and biddeþ Peres Plouȝman go to his werk, and
chastise {5} wel Hobbe þe Robbere, and takeþ wiþ ȝow Iohan Trewman,
and alle hiis felawes, and no mo, and loke schappe ȝou to on heued,
and no mo.

          Iohan þe Mullere haþ ygrounde smal, smal, smal;
        Þe Kynges sone of heuene schal paye for al.                10
        Be war or _y_e be wo;
        Knoweþ ȝour freend fro ȝour foo;
        Haueth ynow, and seith 'Hoo';
        And do wel and bettre, and fleth synne,
        And sekeþ pees, and hold ȝou þerinne;                      15

and so biddeþ Iohan Trewman and alle his felawes.

[Foot-note: 4 togidre] togidedre _MS._]

[Foot-note: 11 ye] þe _MS._]

E. ON THE YEAR 1390-1.

St. John's College (Oxford) MS. 209, f. 57 a.

      The ax was sharpe, the stokke was harde,
      In the xiiii yere of Kyng Richarde.



Under this head are grouped a number of short poems, representing forms
of composition that survive only by fortunate chance.

A is a curious little song, which has been printed from Hale MS. 135 by
G. E. Woodbine in _Modern Language Review_, vol. iv, p. 236, and
reconstructed by Skeat at vol. v, p. 105, of the same periodical.

B and C are the best-known lyrics of the important collection edited by
Böddeker, _Altenglische Dichtungen des MS. Harley 2253_, Berlin 1878.
They are literary and rather artificial in form.

D and E are minstrels' songs found, among other popular snatches, on a
fly-leaf of Bodleian MS. Rawlinson D. 913, and edited by Heuser in
_Anglia_, vol. xxx, p. 173. In E lines 14-16 and ll. 17-19 are to be
expanded on the model of ll. 7-13.

All these songs are early, and have a lightness and gaiety that become
rare as the fourteenth century advances.

F is one of several English scraps (ed. Furnivall in _Political,
Religious, and Love Poems_, E.E.T.S., pp. 249 ff.) that are found
scattered through the Latin text of MS. Harley 7322. Most of the English
pieces are without poetical merit, but in this one poem the writer has
attained a perfect simplicity.

G, printed in Wright and Halliwell's _Reliquiae Antiquae_, 1845, vol. i,
p. 144, has been recognized as the first of the English ballads. It is
the only example before 1400 of the swift and dramatic movement, the
sudden transitions, and the restrained expression, characteristic of the
ballad style.

H, first printed in _Reliquiae Antiquae_, vol. i, p. 240, is the latest
of the short pieces. With onomatopoeic effects it gives a vivid if
unfriendly picture of a blacksmith's forge on a busy night.

I is a charm edited by Furnivall at p. 43 of the E.E.T.S. volume in
which F appears.


Lincoln's Inn MS. Hale 135 (about 1300).

      _Nou sprinkes þe sprai,
      Al for loue icche am so seek
      Þat slepen I ne mai._

        Als I me rode þis endre dai
      O mi playinge,                       5
      Seih I hwar a litel mai
      Bigan to singge:
      'Þe clot him clingge!
      Wai es him i louue-longinge
      Sal libben ai!'                     10
        _Nou sprinkes, &c._

      Son icche herde þat mirie note,
      _Þ_ider I drogh;
      I fonde hire in an herber swot
      Vnder a bogh,
      With ioie inogh.                    15
      Son I asked: 'Þou mirie mai,
      Hwi sinkestou ai?'
        _Nou sprinkes, &c._

      Þan answerde þat maiden swote
      Midde wordes fewe:
      'Mi lemman me haues bihot           20
      Of louue trewe:
      He chaunges anewe.
      _Y_iif I mai, it shal him rewe
      Bi þis dai.'
        _Nou sprinkes, &c._

[Foot-note: 4 Þis endre dai als I me rode _MS.; corr. Skeat_.]

[Foot-note: 5 playinge] _indistinct_.]

[Foot-note: 8 clingge] clingges _MS._]


MS. Harley 2253 (about 1325), f. 71 b.

      Lenten ys come wiþ loue to toune,
      Wiþ blosmen and wiþ briddes roune,
        Þat al þis blisse bryngeþ.
      Dayeseȝes in þis dales,
      Notes suete of nyhtegales,                       5
        Vch foul song singeþ.
      Þe þrestelcoc him þreteþ oo,
      Away is huere wynter wo,
        When woderoue springeþ.
      Þis foules singeþ ferly fele,                   10
      Ant wlyteþ on huere †wynter† wele,
        Þat al þe wode ryngeþ.

      Þe rose rayleþ hire rode,
      Þe leues on þe lyhte wode
        Waxen al wiþ wille.                           15
      Þe mone mandeþ hire bleo,
      Þe lilie is lossom to seo,
        Þe fenyl and þe fille.
      Wowes þis wilde drakes;
      †Miles† murgeþ huere makes,                     20
        Ase strem þat strikeþ stille.
      Mody meneþ, so do_þ_ mo—
      Ichot ycham on of þo,
        For loue þat likes ille.

      Þe mone mandeþ hire lyht;                       25
      So doþ þe semly sonne bryht,
        When briddes singeþ breme.
      Deawes donkeþ þe dounes;
      Deores wiþ huere derne rounes,
        Domes for te deme;                            30
      Wormes woweþ vnder cloude;
      Wymmen waxeþ wounder proude,
        So wel hit wol hem seme.
      Ȝef me shal wonte wille of on,
      Þis wunne weole y wole forgon,                  35
        Ant wyht in wode be fleme.

[Foot-note: 22 doþ] doh _MS._]


MS. Harley 2253, f. 63 b.

      Bytuene Mersh and Aueril,
        When spray biginneþ to springe,
      Þe lutel foul haþ hire wyl
        On hyre lud to synge.
        Ich libbe in loue-longinge                     5
        For semlokest of alle þynge;
        He may me blisse bringe—
          Icham in hire baundoun.
            _An hendy hap ichabbe yhent;
            Ichot from heuene it is me sent;          10
            From alle wymmen mi loue is lent,
                And lyht on Alysoun._

      On heu hire her is fayr ynoh,
        Hire browe broune, hire eȝe blake;
      Wiþ lossum chere he on me loh,                  15
        Wiþ middel smal and wel ymake.
        Bote he me wolle to hire take,
        For te buen hire owen make,
        Longe to lyuen ichulle forsake,
          And feye fallen adoun.                      20
            _An hendy hap, &c._

      Nihtes when y wende and wake,
        Forþi myn wonges waxeþ won,
      Leuedi, al for þine sake
        Longinge is ylent me on.
        In world nis non so wyter mon                 25
        Þat al hire bounté telle con;
        Hire swyre is whittore þen þe swon,
          And feyrest may in toune.
            _An hend, &c._

      Icham for wowyng al forwake,
        Wery so water in wore,                        30
      Lest eny reue me my make,
        Ychabbe yȝyrned ȝore.
        Betere is þolien whyle sore
        Þen mournen euermore.
        Geynest vnder gore,                           35
          Herkne to my roun.
            _An hendi ._                40


Bodleian MS. Rawlinson D. 913.

      Icham of Irlaunde,
      Ant of the holy londe
          Of Irlande.
      Gode sire, pray ich _þ_e,
      For of saynte charité,                           5
      Come ant daunce wyt me
          In Irlaunde.

[Foot-note: 4 þe] ȝe _MS._]


Bodleian MS. Rawlinson D. 913.

      Maiden in the mor lay,
          In the mor lay,
      Seuenyst fulle, seuenist fulle,
      Maiden in the mor lay,
          In the mor lay,                              5
      Seuenistes fulle ant a day.

      Welle wa_s_ hire mete;
          Wat was hire mete?
          Þe primerole ant the,—
          Þe primerole ant the,—                      10
      Welle was hire mete;
      Wat was hire mete?—
          The primerole ant the violet.

      Welle ;
          Wat was hire dryng?                         15
      Þe chelde water of <þe> welle-spring.

      Welle was hire bour;
          Wat was hire bour?
      Þe rede rose an te lilie flour.

[Foot-note: 7 was] wat _MS._]


British Museum MS. Harley 7322 (about 1375), f. 135 b.

      Iesu, swete sone dere!
        On porful bed list þou here,
      And þat me greueþ sore;
      For þi cradel is ase a bere,
      Oxe and asse beþ þi fere:
        Weepe ich mai þarfore.
      Iesu, swete, beo noth wroþ,
      Þou ich nabbe clout ne cloþ
        Þe on for to folde,
        Þe on to folde ne to wrappe,                  10
      For ich nabbe clout ne lappe;
      Bote ley þou þi fet to my pappe,
        And wite þe from þe colde.


Trinity College (Cambridge) MS. B. 14. 39 (about 1300), f. 34 a.

      Hit wes upon a Scere Þorsday þat vre Louerd aros;
      Ful milde were þe wordes He spec to Iudas:

      Iudas, þou most to Iurselem, oure mete for to bugge;
      Þritti platen of seluer þou bere upo þi rugge.

      Þou comest fer i þe brode stret, fer i þe brode strete;      5
      Summe of þine cunesmen þer þou meist imete.

      Imette wid is soster, þe swikele wimon:
      'Iudas, þou were wrþe me stende þe wid ston, (_bis_)
      For þe false prophete þat tou bileuest upon.'

      'Be stille, leue soster, þin herte þe tobreke!              10
      Wiste min Louerd Crist, ful wel He wolde be wreke.'

      'Iudas, go þou on þe roc, heie upon þe ston,
      Lei þin heued i my barm, slep þou þe anon.'

      Sone so Iudas of slepe was awake,
      Þritti platen of seluer from hym weren itake.               15

      He drou hymselve bi þe top, þat al it lauede a blode;
      Þe Iewes out of Iurselem awenden he were wode.

      Foret hym com þe riche Ieu þat heiste Pilatus:
      'Wolte sulle þi Louerd, þat hette Iesus?'

      'I nul sulle my Louerd for nones cunnes eiste,              20
      Bote hit be for þe þritti platen þat He me bitaiste.'

      'Wolte sulle þi Lord Crist for enes cunnes golde?'
      'Nay, bote hit be for þe platen þat He habben wolde.'

      In him com ur Lord gon, as is postles seten at mete:
      'Wou sitte ye, postles, ant wi nule ye ete? (_bis_)         25
      Ic am iboust ant isold today for oure mete.'

      Up stod him Iudas: 'Lord, am I þat?
      I nas neuer o þe stude þer me Þe euel spec.'

      Up him stod Peter, ant spec wid al is miste:
      'Þau Pilatus him come wid ten hundred cnistes, (_bis_)      30
      Yet ic wolde, Louerd, for Þi loue fiste.'

      'Stille þou be, Peter! Wel I þe icnowe;
      Þou wolt fursake me þrien ar þe coc him crowe.'


British Museum MS. Arundel 292 (about 1425-50), f. 71 b.

      Swarte smekyd smeþes smateryd wyth smoke
      Dryue me to deth wyth den of here dyntes.
      Swech noys on nyghtes ne herd men neuer:
      What knauene cry and clateryng of knockes!
      Þe cammede kongons cryen after 'col, col!'                    5
      And blowen here bellewys, þat al here brayn brestes:
      'Huf, puf!' seith þat on; 'haf, paf!' þat oþer.
      Þei spyttyn and spraulyn and spellyn many spelles;
      Þei gnauen and gnacchen, þei gronys togydere,
      And holdyn hem hote wyth here hard hamers.                   10
      Of a bole-hyde ben here barm-fellys;
      Here schankes ben schakeled for the fere flunderys;
      Heuy hamerys þei han, þat hard ben handled,
      Stark strokes þei stryken on a stelyd stokke:
      Lus, bus! las, das! rowtyn be rowe.                          15
      Swech dolful a dreme þe deuyl it todryue!
      Þe mayster longith a lityl, and lascheth a lesse,
      Twyneth hem tweyn, and towchith a treble:
      Tik, tak! hic, hac! tiket, taket! tyk, tak!
      Lus, bus! lus, das! swych lyf thei ledyn                     20
      Alle cloþemerys: Cryst hem gyue sorwe!
      May no man for brenwaterys on nyght han hys rest!


Bodleian MS. Rawlinson C. 288, f. 113 (15th-century writing, blurred).

      I comawnde alle þe ratones þat are here abowte,
      Þat non dwelle in þis place, withinne ne withowte,
      Thorgh þe vertu of Iesu Crist, þat Mary bare abowte,
      Þat alle creatures owyn for to lowte,
      And thorgh þe vertu of Mark, Mathew, Luke, an Ion,—              5
      Alle foure Awangelys corden into on,—
      Thorgh þe vertu of Sent Geretrude, þat mayde clene,
          God graunte þat grace
          Þat  raton dwelle in þe place
      Þat here namis were nemeled in;                                 10
      And thorgh þe vertu of Sent Kasi,
      Þat holy man, þat prayed to God Almyty
          For skathes þat þei deden
          Hys medyn
      Be dayes and be nyȝt,                                           15
      God bad hem flen and gon out of euery manesse syȝt.
      _Dominus Deus Sabaot!_ Emanuel, þe gret Godes name!
      I betweche þes place from ratones and from alle oþer schame.
      God saue þis place fro alle oþer wykked wytes,
      Boþe be dayes and be nytes! _et in nomine Patris et Filii_,     20

[Foot-note: 13 skathes] t _altered from_ f (?) _MS._]



British Museum MS. Addit. 35290 (about 1430-40), f. 193 b.

The miracle play _Harrowing of Hell_ is assigned to the craft of
Saddlers in the York cycle, edited by Miss L. Toulmin-Smith, Oxford
1885, pp. 372 ff. This is the text reproduced below. It is also found,
though in a less perfect form, among the _Towneley Plays_, ed. England
and Pollard, E.E.T.S., 1897, pp. 293 ff.

All the mediaeval stories of Christ's Descent into Hell are based on the
gospel of Nicodemus, which seems to date from the fourth century, though
the legend is referred to nearly two centuries earlier. This apocryphal
narrative was popular throughout the Middle Ages. There is a prose
translation in late Anglo-Saxon, and a Middle English verse rendering
supplies some of the phrases in the play.

Two points deserve notice for their bearing on the development of
miracles. A trace of their origin in the services of the Church is seen
in the use made of the Scriptural passage 'Attollite portas, principes,
vestras, et elevamini portae aeternales, et introibit rex gloriae', the
dramatic possibilities of which were recognized in ritual from an early
date. And the growing taste for comic scenes is met, without prejudice
to the serious characters, by the rudimentary buffoonery of the Devil
and his companions.


      MICHILL (Archangel)

[SCENE I, _outside the gates of Hell_.]

      1. <_Iesus._ M>anne on molde, be meke to me,
      And haue thy Maker in þi mynde,
      And thynke howe I haue tholid for þe
      With pereles paynes for to be pyned.
      The forward of my Fadir free                       5
      Haue I fulfillid, as folke may fynde,
      Þerfore aboute nowe woll I bee
      Þat I haue bought for to vnbynde.
      Þe feende þame wanne with trayne,
      Thurgh frewte of erthely foode;                   10
      I haue þame getyn agayne
      Thurgh bying with my bloode.

      2. And so I schall þat steede restore
      F_ro_ whilke þe feende fell for synne;
      Þare schalle mankynde wonne euermore              15
      In blisse þat schall neuere blynne.
      All þat in werke my werkemen were,
      Owte of thare woo I wol þame wynne,
      And some signe schall I sende before
      Of grace, to garre þer gamys begynne.             20
      A light I woll þei haue
      To schewe þame I schall come sone;
      My bodie bidis in graue
      Tille alle thes dedis be done.

      3. My Fadir ordand on þis wise                    25
      Aftir His will þat I schulde wende,
      For to fulfille þe prophicye,
      And als I spake my solace to spende.
      My frendis, þat in me faith affies,
      Nowe fro ther fois I schall þame fende,           30
      And on the thirde day ryght vprise,
      And so tille heuen I schall assende.
      Sithen schall I come agayne
      To deme bothe goode and ill
      Tille endles ioie or peyne;                       35
      Þus is my Fadris will.

[SCENE II, _Hell; at one side Limbo, enclosing the
patriarchs and prophets; a light shines across_.]

      4. _Adame._ Mi bretheren, harkens to me here,
      Swilke hope of heele neuere are we hadde.
      Foure thowsande and sex hundereth ȝere
      Haue we bene heere in †þis stedde†.               40
      Nowe see I signe of solace seere,
      A glorious gleme to make vs gladde,
      Wherfore I hope oure helpe is nere,
      And sone schall sesse oure sorowes sadde.
      _Eua._ Adame, my husband hende,                   45
      Þis menys solas certayne;
      Such light gune on vs lende
      In Paradise full playne.

      5. _Isaiah._ Adame, we schall wele vndirstande;
      I, Ysaias, as God me kende,                       50
      I prechid in Neptalym þat lande,
      And Ȝabulon, even vntill ende.
      I spake of folke in mirke walkand,
      And saide a light schulde on þame lende;
      This lered I whils I was leuand,                  55
      Nowe se I God þis same hath sende.
      Þis light comes all of Criste,
      Þat seede, to saue vs nowe,
      Þus is my poynte puplisshid.
      But Symeon, what sais þou?                        60

      6. _Symeon._ Þhis, my tale of farleis feele,
      For in þis temple His frendis me fande;
      I hadde delite with Hym to dele,
      And halsed homely with my hande.
      I saide, 'Lorde, late thy seruaunt lele           65
      Passe nowe in pesse to liffe lastand,
      For nowe myselfe has sene Thy hele,
      Me liste no lengar to liffe in lande.'
      Þis light Þou hast purueyed
      To folkes þat liffis in leede,                    70
      Þe same þat I þame saide,
      I see fulfillid in dede.

      7. _Iohan. Baptista._ Als voyce criand to folke
          I kende
      Þe weyes of Criste, als I wele kanne;
      I baptiste Hym with bothe my hande                75
      Euen in þe floode of flume Iordanne.
      Þe Holy Goste fro heuene discende
      Als a white dowue doune on Hym þanne;
      The Fadir voice, my mirthe to mende,
      Was made to me euen als manne,                    80
      'This is my Sone,' he saide,
      'In whome me paies full wele.'
      His light is on vs laide,
      He comes oure cares to kele.

      8. _Moyses._ Of þat same light lernyng haue I,    85
      To me Moyses He mustered his myght,
      And also vnto anodir, Hely,
      Wher we were on an hille on hight.
      Whyte as snowe was His body,
      And His face like to þe sonne to sight:           90
      No man on molde was so myghty
      Grathely to loke agaynste þat light;
      Þat same light se I nowe
      Shynyng on vs sarteyne,
      Wherfore trewly I trowe                           95
      We schalle sone passe fro payne.

      9. _i Diabolus._ Helpe! Belsabub! to bynde þer
      Such harrowe was neuer are herde in helle.
      _ii Diab._ Why rooris þou soo, Rebalde? þou
      What is betidde, canne þou ought telle?          100
      _i Diab._ What! heris þou noȝt þis vggely
      Þes lurdans þat in Lymbo dwelle,
      Þei make menyng of many ioies,
      And musteres grete mirthe þame emell.
      _ii Diab._ Mirthe? nay, nay, þat poynte is
          paste,                                       105
      More hele schall þei neuer haue.
      _i Diab._ Þei crie on Criste full faste,
      And sais he schal þame saue.

      10. _Belsabub._ Ȝa, if he saue þame noght, we
      For they are sperde in speciall space;           110
      Whils I am prince and principall
      Schall þei neuer passe oute of þis place.
      Calle vppe Astrotte and Anaball
      To giffe þer counsaille in þis case,
      Bele-Berit and Belial,                           115
      To marre þame þat swilke maistries mase.
      Say to Satan oure sire,
      And bidde þame bringe also
      Lucifer louely of lyre.
      _i Diab._ Al redy, lorde, I goo.                 120

      11. _Iesus [Without]._ _Attollite portas,
      Oppen vppe, ȝe princes of paynes sere,
      _Et eleuamini eternales_,
      Youre yendles ȝatis þat ȝe haue here.
      _Sattan._ What page is þere þat makes prees,     125
      And callis hym kyng of vs in fere?
      _Dauid [in Limbo]._ I lered leuand, withouten
      He is a kyng of vertues clere.
      A! Lorde, mekill of myght,
      And stronge in ilke a stoure,                    130
      In batailes ferse to fight,
      And worthy to wynne honnoure.

      12. _Sattan._ Honnoure! in þe deuel way, for what
      All erthely men to me are thrall;
      Þe lady þat calles hym lorde in leede            135
      Hadde neuer ȝitt herberowe, house, ne halle.
      _i Diab._ Harke, Belsabub! I haue grete drede,
      For hydously I herde hym calle.
      _Belliall._ We! spere oure ȝates, all ill mot
          þou spede!
      And sette furthe watches on þe wall.             140
      And if he calle or crie
      To make vs more debate,
      Lay on hym þan hardely,
      And garre hym gang his gate.

      13. _Sattan._ Telle me what boyes dare be so
          bolde                                        145
      For drede to make so mekill draye.
      _i Diab._ Itt is þe Iewe þat Iudas solde
      For to be dede, þis othir daye.
      _Sattan._ O we! þis tale in tyme is tolde,
      Þis traytoure traues vs alway;               150
      He schall be here full harde in holde,
      Loke þat he passe noght, I þe praye.
      _ii Diab._ Nay, nay, he will noȝt wende
      Away or I be ware,
      He shappis hym for to schende                    155
      Alle helle, or he go ferre.

      14. _Sattan._ Nay, faitour, þerof schall he faile,
      For alle his fare I hym deffie;
      I knowe his trantis fro toppe to taile,
      He leuys with gaudis and with gilery.            160
      Þerby he brought oute of oure bale,
      Nowe late, Laȝar of Betannye,
      Þerfore I gaffe to þe Iewes counsaille
      Þat þei schulde alway garre hym dye.
      I entered in Iudas                               165
      Þat forwarde to fulfille,
      Þerfore his hire he has,
      Allway to wonne here stille.

      15. _Belsabub._ Sir Sattanne, sen we here þe
      Þat þou and _þ_e Iewes wer same assente,         170
      And wotte he wanne Laȝar awaye,
      Þat tille vs was tane for to tente,
      Trowe þou þat þou marre hym maye
      To mustir myghtis, what he has mente?
      If he nowe depriue vs of oure praye,             175
      We will ȝe witte whanne þei are wente.
      _Sattan._ I bidde ȝou be noȝt abasshed,
      But boldely make youe boune
      With toles þat ȝe on traste,
      And dynge þat dastard doune.                     180

      16. _Iesus [Without]._ _Principes, portas
      Vndo youre ȝatis, ȝe princis of pryde,
      _Et introibit rex glorie_,
      Þe kyng of blisse comes in þis tyde.
                         [_Enters the gates of Hell._
      _Sattan._ Owte! harrowe  is hee     185
      Þat sais his kyngdome schall be cryed?
      _Dauid [in Limbo]._ Þat may þou in my Sawter see
      For þat poynte _I_ prophicie.
      I saide þat he schuld breke
      Youre barres and bandis by name,                 190
      And on youre werkis take wreke;
      Nowe schalle ȝe see þe same.

      17. _Iesus._ Þis steede schall stonde no lenger
      Opynne vppe, and latte my pepul passe!
      _Diabolus._ Owte! beholdes, oure baill is
          brokynne,                                    195
      And brosten are alle oure bandis of bras.
      Telle Lucifer alle is vnlokynne.
      _Belsabub._ What þanne, is Lymbus lorne? allas!
      Garre Satan helpe þat we wer wroken;
      Þis werke is werse þanne euere it was.           200
      _Sattan._ I badde ȝe schulde be boune
      If he made maistries more;
      Do dynge þat dastard doune,
      And sette hym sadde and sore.

      18. _Belsabub._ Ȝa, sette hym sore, þat is
          sone saide,                                  205
      But come þiselffe and serue hym soo;
      We may not bide his bittir braide,
      He wille vs marre and we wer moo.
      _Sattan._ What! faitours, wherfore are ȝe
      Haue ȝe no force to flitte hym froo?             210
      Belyue loke þat my gere be grathed,
      Miselffe schall to þat gedlyng goo.
      [_To Iesus._] Howe! belamy, abide,
      With al thy booste and bere,
      And telle to me þis tyde,                        215
      What maistries makes þou here?

      19. _Iesus._ I make no maistries but for myne,
      Þame wolle I saue, I telle þe nowe;
      Þou hadde no poure þame to pyne,
      But as my prisoune for þer prowe                 220
      Here haue þei soiorned, noght as thyne,
      But in thy warde, þou wote wele howe.
      _Sattan._ And what deuel haste þou done ay syne,
      Þat neuer wolde negh þame nere, or nowe?
      _Iesus._ Nowe is þe tyme certayne                225
      Mi Fadir ordand before
      Þat they schulde passe fro payne,
      And wonne in mirthe euer more.

      20. _Sattan._ Thy fadir knewe I wele be sight,
      He was a write his mette to wynne,               230
      And Marie me menys þi modir hight,
      Þe vttiremeste ende of all þi kynne.
      Who made þe be so mekill of myght?
      _Iesus._ Þou wikid feende, latte be thy dynne!
      Mi Fadir wonnys in heuen on hight,               235
      With blisse þat schall neuere blynne.
      I am His awne sone,
      His forward to fulfille;
      And same ay schall we wonne,
      And sundir whan we wolle.                        240

      21. _Sattan._ God sonne! þanne schulde þou
          be ful gladde,
      Aftir no catel neyd thowe craue!
      But þou has leued ay like a ladde,
      And in sorowe, as a symple knaue.
      _Iesus._ Þat was for hartely loue I hadde        245
      Vnto mannis soule, it for to saue;
      And for to make þe mased and madde,
      And by þat resoune þus dewly to haue
      Mi godhede here, I hidde
      In Marie modir myne,                             250
      For it schulde noȝt be kidde
      To þe, nor to none of thyne.

      22. _Sattan._ A! þis wolde I were tolde in ilke
          a toune.
      So, sen þou sais God is thy sire,
      I schall þe proue, be right resoune,             255
      Þou motes His men into þe myre.
      To breke His bidding were þei boune,
      And, for they did at my desire,
      Fro Paradise He putte þame doune
      In helle here to haue þer hyre.                  260
      And thyselfe, day and nyght,
      Has taught al men emang
      To do resoune and right,
      And here werkis þou all wrang.

      23. _Iesus._ I wirke noght wrang, þat schal
          þow witte,                                   265
      If I my men fro woo will wynne;
      Mi prophetis playnly prechid it,
      All þis note þat nowe begynne.
      Þai saide þat I schulde be obitte,
      To hell þat I schulde entre in,                  270
      And saue my seruauntis fro þat pitte,
      Wher dampned saulis schall sitte for synne.
      And ilke trewe prophettis tale
      Muste be fulfillid in mee;
      I haue þame boughte with bale,                   275
      And in blisse schal þei be.

      24. _Sattan._ Nowe sen þe liste allegge þe lawes,
      Þou schalte be atteynted, or we twynne,
      For þo þat þou to wittenesse drawes
      Full even agaynste þe will begynne.              280
      Salamon saide in his sawes
      Þat whoso enteres helle withynne
      Shall neuer come oute, þus clerkis knawes,
      And þerfore, felowe, leue þi dynne.
      Iob, þi seruaunte, also                          285
      Þus in his tyme gune telle,
      Þat nowthir frende nor foo
      Shulde fynde reles in helle.

      25. _Iesus._ He saide full soth, þat schall
          þou see,
      Þat in helle may be no reles,                    290
      But of þat place þan preched he
      Where synffull care schall euere encrees.
      And in þat bale ay schall þou be,
      Whare sorowes sere schall neuer sesse,
      And for my folke þerfro wer free,                295
      Nowe schall þei passe to þe place of pees.
      Þai were here with my wille,
      And so schall þei fourthe wende,
      And þiselue schall fulfille
      Þer wooe withouten ende.                         300

      26. _Sattan._ O we! þanne se I howe þou menys
      Some mesure with malice to melle,
      Sen þou sais all schall noȝt gang,
      But some schalle alway with vs dwelle.
      _Iesus._ Ȝaa, witte þou wele, ellis were it
          wrang,                                       305
      Als cursed Cayme þat slewe Abell,
      And all þat hastis hemselue to hange,
      Als Iudas and Archedefell,
      Datan and Abiron,
      And alle of þare assente;                        310
      Als tyrantis euerilkone
      Þat me and myne turmente.

      27. And all þat liste noght to lere my lawe,
      Þat I haue lefte in lande nowe newe,
      Þat is my comyng for to knawe,                   315
      And to my sacramente pursewe,
      Mi dede, my rysing, rede be rawe,
      Who will noght trowe, þei are noght trewe,
      Vnto my dome I schall þame drawe,
      And iuge þame worse þanne any Iewe.              320
      And all þat likis to leere
      My lawe, and leue þerbye,
      Shall neuere haue harmes heere,
      But welthe, as is worthy.

      28. _Sattan._ Nowe here my hande, I halde me
          paied;                                       325
      Þis poynte is playnly for oure prowe;
      If þis be soth þat þou hast saide,
      We schall haue moo þanne we haue nowe.
      Þis lawe þat þou nowe late has laide
      I schall lere men noȝt to allowe.                330
      Iff þei it take, þei be betraied,
      For I schall turne þame tyte, I trowe.
      I schall walke este and weste,
      And garre þame werke wele werre.
      _Iesus._ Naye, feende, þou schall be feste,      335
      Þat þou schalte flitte not ferre.

      29. _Sattan._ Feste! þat were a foule reasoune,
      Nay, bellamy, þou bus be smytte.
      _Iesus._ Mighill! myne aungell, make þe boune,
      And feste yone fende, þat he noght flitte.       340
      And Deuyll, I comaunde þe go doune
      Into thy selle where þou schalte sitte.
                                      [_Satan sinks._
      _Sattan._ Owt, ay! herrowe! helpe Mahounde!
      Nowe wex I woode oute of my witte.
      _Belsabub._ Sattan, þis saide we are,            345
      Nowe schall þou fele þi fitte.
      _Sattan._ Allas! for dole and care,
      I synke into helle pitte.
                               [_Falls into the pit._

      30. _Adame._ A! Iesu Lorde, mekill is Þi myght,
      That mekis Þiselffe in þis manere,               350
      Vs for to helpe, as Þou has hight,
      Whanne both forfette, I and my feere.
      Here haue we leuyd withouten light
      Foure thousand and six hundred ȝere;
      Now se I be þis solempne sight                   355
      Howe Thy mercy hath made vs cle_r_e.
      _Eue._ A! Lorde, we were worthy
      Mo turmentis for to taste,
      But mende vs with mercye,
      Als Þou of myght is moste.                       360

      31. _Baptista._ A! Lorde, I loue Þe inwardly,
      That me wolde make Þi messengere
      Thy comyng in erth for to crye,
      And teche Þi faith to folke in feere;
      And sithen before Þe for to dye,                 365
      And bringe boodworde to þame here,
      How þai schulde haue Thyne helpe in hye:
      Nowe se I all Þi poyntis appere.
      Als Dauid prophete trewe
      Ofte tymes tolde vntill vs,                      370
      Of þis comyng he knewe,
      And saide it schulde be þus.

      32. _Dauid._ Als I haue saide, ȝitt saie I soo,
      _Ne derelinquas, Domine,
      Animam meam  inferno_,                       375
      Leffe noght my saule, Lorde, aftir Þe,
      In depe helle where dampned schall goo,
      Ne suffre neuere †saules fro Þe be†
      The sorowe of þame þat wonnes in woo
      Ay full of filthe, †þat may repleye†.            380
      _Adame._ We thanke His grete goodnesse
      He fette vs fro þis place,
      Makes ioie nowe more and lesse;
      _Omnis._ We laude God of His grace.

      33. _Iesus._ Adame and my frendis in feere,      385
      Fro all youre fooes come fourth with me,
      Ȝe schalle be sette in solas seere,
      Wher ȝe schall neuere of sorowes see.
      And Mighill, myn aungell clere,
      Ressayue þes saules all vnto þe,                 390
      And lede þame als I schall þe lere
      To Paradise with playe and plenté.
                           [_They come out of Limbo._
      Mi graue I woll go till,
      Redy to rise vpperight,
      And so I schall fulfille                         395
      That I before haue highte.

      34. _Michill._ Lorde, wende we schall aftir Þi
      To solace sere þai schall be sende,
      But þat þer deuelis no draught vs drawe,
      Lorde, blisse vs with Þi holy hende.             400
      _Iesus._ Mi blissing haue ȝe all on rawe,
      I schall be with youe, wher ȝe wende,
      And all þat lelly luffes my lawe,
      Þai schall be blissid withowten ende.
      _Adame._ To Þe, Lorde, be louyng,                405
      Þat vs has wonne fro waa,
      For solas will we syng,
      _Laus Tibi cum gloria_.

[Foot-note: 14 Fro] For _MS._]

[Foot-note: 40 in þis stedde] in darknes stad _Towneley_.]

[Foot-note: 49 Isaiah] Isaac _MS._]

[Foot-note: 170 þe] ȝe _MS._]

[Foot-note: 185 what harlot] _from Towneley MS.: om. MS._]

[Foot-note: 188 I] of _MS._]

[Foot-note: 242 neyd thowe craue] þus þe I telle _first hand_.]

[Foot-note: 244 as] _added later MS._]

[Foot-note: 244 knaue] braide _first hand_.]

[Foot-note: 347 dole] dolee _MS._]

[Foot-note: 356 clere] clene _MS._]



Towneley MS. (about 1475), ff. 76 ff.

The Towneley Miracles, so called because the manuscript belonged in
recent times to the library of Towneley Hall in Lancashire, are edited
by England and Pollard, E.E.T.S., 1897. The cycle is a composite
one—for instance it includes a later form of the York play _Harrowing
of Hell_ (No. XVI, above)—but it is distinguished by a group of plays
and interpolated scenes which seem to have been specially composed for
representation at Wakefield. Formally this group is marked by the use of
a peculiar nine-lined stanza, riming a a a a b c c c b, with central
rimes in the first four lines. The rough vigour of the comic scenes is
still more distinctive, and there can be little doubt that all are the
work of one man. The specimen of his style most often reprinted is _The
Second Shepherd's Play_, which has an original and purely secular comic
plot. The _Play of Noah_ is more typical of the English Miracle in its
later development. This subject was always popular with early
playwrights, for the Ark made a spectacle, and the traditional quarrels
of Noah and his wife gave scope for contests in fisticuffs and rough
raillery—the stuff of primitive comedy.


      VXOR NOE



       1.   _Noe._ Myghtfull God veray, Maker of all that is,
          Thre persons withoutten nay, oone God in endles blis,
          Thou maide both nyght and day, beest, fowle, and fysh,
          All creatures that lif may wroght Thou at Thi wish,
              As Thou wel myght;                                       5
          The son, the moyne, verament,
          Thou maide, the firmament,
          The sternes also full feruent
              To shyne Thou maide ful bright.

       2. Angels Thou maide ful euen, all orders that is,             10
          To haue the blis in heuen; this did Thou, more and les,
          Full mervelus to neuen; yit was ther vnkyndnes
          More bi foldis seuen then I can well expres;
              For whi?
          Of all angels in brightnes                                  15
          God gaf Lucifer most lightnes,
          Yit prowdly he flyt his des,
              And set hym euen Hym by.

       3. He thoght hymself as worthi as Hym that hym made,
          In brightnes, in bewty, therfor He hym degrade,             20
          Put hym in a low degré soyn after, in a brade,
          Hym and all his menye, wher he may be vnglad
              For euer.
          Shall thay neuer wyn away
          Hence vnto Domysday,                                        25
          Bot burne in bayle for ay;
              Shall thay neuer dysseuer.

       4. Soyne after, that gracyous Lord to his liknes maide man,
          That place to be restord euen as He began,
          Of the Trinité bi accord, Adam and Eue that woman,          30
          To multiplie without discord, in Paradise put He thaym,
              And sithen to both
          Gaf in commaundement
          On the Tre of Life to lay no hend.
          Bot yit the fals feynd                                      35
              Made Hym with man wroth,

       5. Entysyd man to glotony, styrd him to syn in pride;
          Bot in Paradise, securly, myght no syn abide,
          And therfor man full hastely was put out in that tyde,
          In wo and wandreth for to be, in paynes full vnrid          40
              To knowe,
          Fyrst in erth, _and_ sythen in hell
          With feyndis for to dwell,
          Bot He his mercy mell
              To those that will Hym trawe.                           45

       6. Oyle of mercy He hus hight, as I haue hard red,
          To euery lifyng wight that wold luf Hym and dred;
          Bot now before His sight euery liffyng leyde,
          Most party day and nyght, syn in word and dede
              Full bold;                                              50
          Som in pride, ire, and enuy,
          Som in couet_ei_s and glotyny,
          Som in sloth and lechery,
              And other wise many fold.

       7. Therfor I drede lest God on vs will take veniance,          55
          For syn is now alod, without any repentance.
          Sex hundreth yeris and od haue I, without distance,
          In erth, as any sod, liffyd with grete grevance
          And now I wax old,                                          60
          Seke, sory, and cold,
          As muk apon mold
              I widder away.

       8. Bot yit will I cry for mercy and call:
          Noe, Thi seruant, am I, Lord ouer all!                      65
          Therfor me, and my fry shal with me fall,
          Saue from velany, and bryng to Thi hall
              In heuen;
          And kepe me from syn
          This warld within;                                          70
          Comly Kyng of mankyn,
              I pray The, here my stevyn!

      [_God appears above._]

       9.   _Deus._ Syn I haue maide all thyng that is liffand,
          Duke, emperour, and kyng, with Myne awne hand,
          For to haue thare likyng, bi see and bi sand,               75
          Euery man to My bydyng shuld be bowand
              Full feruent,
          That maide man sich a creatoure,
          Farest of favoure;
          Man must luf Me paramoure                                   80
              By reson, and repent.

      10. Me thoght I shewed man luf when I made hym to be
          All angels abuf, like to the Trynyté;
          And now in grete reprufe full low ligis he,
          In erth hymself to stuf with syn that displeas_es_ Me       85
              Most of all.
          Veniance will I take
          In erth for syn sake;
          My grame thus will I wake
              Both of grete and small.                                90

      11. I repente full sore that euer maide I man;
          Bi me he settis no store, and I am his soferan;
          I will distroy therfor both beest, man and woman,
          All shall perish, les and more; that bargan may thay ban
              That ill has done.                                      95
          In erth I se right noght
          Bot syn that is vnsoght;
          Of those that well has wroght
              Fynd I bot a fone.

      12. Therfor shall I fordo all this medill-erd                  100
          With floodis that shall flo and ryn with hidous rerd;
          I haue good cause therto; for Me no man is ferd.
          As I say shal I do—of veniance draw My swerd,
              And make end
          Of all that beris life,                                    105
          Sayf Noe and his wife,
          For thay wold neuer stryfe
              With Me, then Me offend.

      13. Hym to mekill wyn, hastly will I go
          To Noe my seruand, or I blyn, to warn hym of his wo.       110
          In erth I se bot syn reynand to and fro,
          Emang both more and myn, ichon other fo
              With all thare entent.
          All shall I fordo
          With floodis that shall floo;                              115
          Wirk shall I thaym wo
              That will not repent.

      [_God descends and addresses Noah._]

      14. Noe, My freend, I thee commaund, from cares the to keyle,
          A ship that thou ordand of nayle and bord ful wele.
          Thou was alway well-wirkand, to Me trew as stele,          120
          To My bydyng obediand: frendship shal thou fele
              To mede.
          Of lennthe thi ship be
          Thre hundreth cubettis, warn I the,
          Of heght euen thirté,                                      125
              Of fyfty als in brede.

      15. Anoynt thi ship with pik and tar, without and als within,
          The water out to spar—this is a noble gyn;
          Look no man the mar, thre che_s_e chambres begyn;
          Thou must spend many a spar this wark or thou wyn          130
              To end fully.
          Make in thi ship also
          Parloures oone or two,
          And houses of offyce mo
              For beestis that ther must be.                         135

      16. Oone cubite on hight a wyndo shal thou make;
          On the syde a doore, with slyght, beneyth shal thou take;
          With the shal no man fyght, nor do the no kyn wrake.
          When all is doyne thus right, thi wife, that is thi make,
              Take in to the;                                        140
          Thi sonnes of good fame,
          Sem, Iaphet, and Came,
          Take in also hame,
              Thare wifis also thre.

      17. For all shal be fordone that lif in land, bot ye,          145
          With floodis that from abone shal fall, and that plenté;
          It shall begyn full sone to rayn vncessantlé,
          After dayes seuen be done, and induyr dayes fourty,
              Withoutten fayll.
          Take to thi ship also                                      150
          Of ich kynd beestis two,
          Mayll and femayll, bot no mo,
              Or thou pull vp thi sayll,

      18. For thay may the avayll when al this thyng is wroght.
          Stuf thi ship with vitayll, for hungre that ye perish
          Of beestis, foull, and catayll, for thaym haue thou in     155
          For thaym is My counsayll that som socour be soght
              In hast.
          Thay must haue corn and hay,
          And oder mete alway.                                       160
          Do now as I the say,
              In the name of the Holy Gast.

      19.   _Noe._ A! _benedicite!_ what art thou that thus
          Tellys afore that shall be? Thou art full mervelus!
          Tell me, for charité, thi name so gracius.                 165
            _Deus._ My name is of dignyté, and also full glorius
              To knowe.
          I am God most myghty,
          Oone God in Trynyty,
          Made the and ich man to be;                                170
              To luf Me well thou awe.

      20.   _Noe._ I thank The, Lord so dere, that wold vowchsayf
          Thus low to appere to a symple knafe.
          Blis vs, Lord, here, for charité I hit crafe,
          The better may we stere the ship that we shall hafe,       175
            _Deus._ Noe, to the and to thi fry
          My blyssyng graunt I;
          Ye shall wax and multiply
              And fill the erth agane,                               180

      21. When all thise floodis ar past, and fully gone away.
            _Noe._ Lord, homward will I hast as fast as that I may;
          My  will I frast what she will say,
                                                     [_Exit_ Deus.]
          And I am agast that we get som fray
              Betwixt vs both;                                       185
          For she is full tethee,
          For litill oft angré;
          If any thyng wrang be,
              Soyne is she wroth.

      _Tunc perget ad vxorem._

      22. God spede, dere wife, how fayre ye?                        190
            _Vxor._ Now, as euer myght I thryfe, the wars I thee
          Do tell me belife where has thou thus long be?
          To dede may we dryfe, or lif, for the,
              For want.
          When we swete or swynk,                                    195
          Thou dos what thou thynk,
          Yit of mete and of drynk
              Haue we veray skant.

      23.   _Noe._  Wife, we ar hard sted with tythyngis new.
            _Vxor._  Bot thou were worthi be cled in Stafford
                blew;                                                200
          For thou art alway adred, be it fals or trew,
          Bot God knowes I am led, and that may I rew,
              Full ill;
          For I dar be thi borow,
          From euen vnto morow                                       205
          Thou spekis euer of sorow;
              God send the onys thi fill!

      24. We women may wary all ill husbandis;
          I haue oone, bi Mary that lowsyd me of my bandis!
          If he teyn, I must tary, how so euer it standis,           210
          With seymland full sory, wryngand both my handis
              For drede.
          Bot yit other while,
          What with gam and with gyle,
          I shall smyte and smyle,                                   215
              And qwite hym his mede.

      25.   _Noe._  We! hold thi tong, ram-skyt, or I shall the
            _Vxor._  By my thryft, if thou smyte, I shal turne the
            _Noe._  We shall assay as tyte. Haue at the, Gill!
          Apon the bone shal it byte.
            _Vxor._           A, so, Mary! thou smytis ill!          220
              Bot I suppose
          I shal not in thi det
          Flyt of this flett!
          Take the ther a langett
              To tye vp thi hose!                                    225

      26.   _Noe._  A! wilt thou so? Mary! that is myne.
            _Vxor._  Thou shal thre for two, I swere bi Godis pyne!
            _Noe._  And I shall qwyte the tho, in fayth, or syne.
            _Vxor._  Out apon the, ho!
            _Noe._            Thou can both byte and whyne
              With a rerd;                                           230
          For all if she stryke,
          Yit fast will she skryke;
          In fayth, I hold none slyke
              In all medill-erd.

      27. Bot I will kepe charyté, for I haue at do.                 235
            _Vxor._ Here shal no man tary the, I pray the go to!
          Full well may we mys the, as euer haue I ro;
          To spyn will I dres me.
            _Noe._            We! fare well, lo;
              Bot wife,
          Pray for me beselé                                         240
          To eft I com vnto the.
            _Vxor._  Euen as thou prays for me,
              As euer myght I thrife.
                                                     [_Exit_ Vxor.]

      28.   _Noe._ I tary full lang fro my warke, I traw;
          Now my gere will I fang, and thederward draw;              245
          I may full ill gang, the soth for to knaw,
          Bot if God help amang, I may sit downe daw
              To ken;
          Now assay will I
          How I can of wrightry,                                     250
          _In nomine patris, et filii,
              Et spiritus sancti. Amen._

      29. To begyn of this tree my bonys will I bend,
          I traw from the Trynyté socoure will be send;
          It fayres full fayre, thynk me, this wark to my hend;      255
          Now blissid be He that this can amend.
              Lo, here the lenght,
          Thre hundreth cubettis euenly;
          Of breed, lo, is it fyfty;
          The heght is euen thyrty                                   260
              Cubettis full strenght.

      30. Now my gowne will I cast and wyrk in my cote,
          Make will I the mast or I flyt oone foote;
          A! my bak, I traw, will brast! This is a sory note!
          Hit is wonder that I last, sich an old dote,               265
              All dold,
          To begyn sich a wark!
          My bonys ar so stark,
          No wonder if thay wark,
              For I am full old.                                     270

      31. The top and the sayll both will I make,
          The helme and the castell also will I take,
          To drife ich a nayll will I not forsake,
          This gere may neuer fayll, that dar I vndertake
              Onone.                                                 275
          This is a nobull gyn,
          Thise nayles so thay ryn
          Thoro more and myn
              Thise bordis ichon.

      32. Wyndow and doore, euen as He saide,                        280
          Thre ches chambre, thay ar well maide,
          Pyk and tar full sure therapon laide;
          This will euer endure, therof am I paide;
              For why?
          It is better wroght                                        285
          Then I coude haif thoght.
          Hym that maide all of noght
              I thank oonly.

      33. Now will I hy me, and no thyng be leder,
          My wife and my meneye to bryng euen heder.                 290
          Tent hedir tydely, wife, and consider,
          Hens must vs fle, all sam togeder,
              In hast.
            _Vxor._  Whi, syr, what alis you?
          Who is that asalis you?                                    295
          To fle it avalis you
              And ye be agast.

      34.   _Noe._  Ther is garn on the reyll other, my dame.
            _Vxor._  Tell me that ich a deyll, els get ye blame.
            _Noe._  He that cares may keill—blissid be His
              name!—                                                300
          He has  for oure seyll to sheld vs fro shame,
              And sayd
          All this warld aboute
          With floodis so stoute,
          That shall ryn on a route,                                 305
              Shall be ouerlaide.

      35. He saide all shall be slayn, bot oonely we,
          Oure barnes that ar bayn, and thare wifis thre.
          A ship He bad me ordayn, to safe vs and oure fee;
          Therfor with all oure mayn thank we that fre,              310
              Beytter of bayll.
          Hy vs fast, go we thedir.
            _Vxor._ I wote neuer whedir,
          I dase and I dedir
              For ferd of that tayll.                                315

      36.   _Noe._  Be not aferd, haue done, trus sam oure gere,
          That we be ther or none, without more dere.
            _Primus filius._  It shall be done full sone. Brether,
                help to bere.
            _Secundus filius._  Full long shall I not hoyne to do
                my devere,
              Brether sam.                                           320
            _Tercius filius._  Without any yelp,
          At my myght shall I help.
            _Vxor._  Yit, for drede of a skelp,
              Help well thi dam.

      37.   _Noe._  Now ar we there as we shuld be;                  325
          Do get in oure gere, oure catall and fe,
          Into this vessell here, my chylder fre.
            _Vxor._  I was neuer bard ere, as euer myght I the,
              In sich an oostré as this.
          In fath, I can not fynd                                    330
          Which is before, which is behynd.
          Bot shall we here be pynd,
              Noe, as haue thou blis?

      38.   _Noe._  Dame, as it is skill, here must vs abide grace;
          Therfor, wife, with good will, com into this place.        335
            _Vxor._  Sir, for Iak nor for Gill will I turne my face,
          Till I haue on this hill spon a space
              On my rok.
          Well were he myght get me!
          Now will I downe set me;                                   340
          Yit reede I no man let me,
              For drede of a knok.

      39.   _Noe._  Behold to the heuen the cateractes all,
          That are open full euen, grete and small,
          And the planettis seuen left has thare stall.              345
          Thise thoners and levyn downe gar fall
              Full stout
          Both halles and bowers,
          Castels and towres.
          Full sharp ar thise showers                                350
              That renys aboute.

      40. Therfor, wife, haue done, com into ship fast.
            _Vxor._  Yei, Noe, go cloute thi shone, the better will
                 thai last.
            _Prima mulier._  Good moder, com in sone, for all is
          Both the son and the mone.
            _Secunda mulier._          And many wynd blast           355
              Full sharp.
          Thise floodis so thay ryn,
          Therfor, moder, come in.
            _Vxor._  In fayth, yit will I spyn;
              All in vayn ye carp.                                   360

      41.   _Tercia mulier._  If ye like ye may spyn, moder, in the
            _Noe._  Now is this twyys com in, dame, on my frenship.
            _Vxor._  Wheder I lose or I wyn, in fayth, thi felowship
          Set I not at a pyn. This spyndill will I slip
              Apon this hill,                                        365
          Or I styr oone fote.
            _Noe._  Peter! I traw we dote.
          Without any more note
              Come in if ye will.

      42.   _Vxor._  Yei, water nyghys so nere that I sit not dry,   370
          Into ship with a byr therfor will I hy
          For drede that I drone here.
            _Noe._              Dame, securly,
          It bees boght full dere ye abode so long by
              Out of ship.
            _Vxor._  I will not, for thi bydyng,                     375
          Go from doore to mydyng.
            _Noe._  In fayth, and for youre long taryyng
              Ye shal lik on the whyp.

      43.   _Vxor._  Spare me not, I pray the, bot euen as thou thynk,
          Thise grete wordis shall not flay me.
            _Noe._                    Abide, dame, and drynk,        380
          For betyn shall thou be with this staf to thou stynk;
          Ar strokis good? say me.
            _Vxor._             What say ye, Wat Wynk?
                _Noe._  Speke!
          Cry me mercy, I say!
            _Vxor._  Therto say I nay.                               385
            _Noe._  Bot thou do, bi this day!
              Thi hede shall I breke.

      44.   _Vxor._  Lord, I were at ese, and hertely full hoylle,
          Might I onys haue a measse of wedows coyll;
          For thi saull, without lese, shuld I dele penny doyll,     390
          So wold mo, no frese, that I se on this sole
              Of wifis that ar here,
          For the life that thay leyd,
          Wold thare husbandis were dede,
          For, as euer ete I brede,                                  395
              So wold I oure syre were.

      45.   _Noe._  Yee men that has wifis, whyls they ar yong,
          If ye luf youre lifis, chastice thare tong:
          Me thynk my hert ryfis, both levyr and long,
          To se sich stryfis wedmen emong.                           400
              Bot I,
          As haue I blys,
          Shall chastyse this.
            _Vxor._    Yit may ye mys,
              Nicholl Nedy!                                          405

      46.   _Noe._ I shall make þe still as stone, begynnar of
          I shall bete the bak and bone, and breke all in sonder.
                                                    [_They fight._]
            _Vxor._  Out, alas, I am gone! Oute apon the, mans
            _Noe._  Se how she can grone, and I lig vnder;
              Bot, wife,                                             410
          In this hast let vs ho,
          For my bak is nere in two.
            _Vxor._  And I am bet so blo
              That I may not thryfe.

      [_They enter the Ark._]

      47.   _Primus filius._  A! whi fare ye thus, fader and moder
                both?                                                415
            _Secundus filius._  Ye shuld not be so spitus, standyng
                in sich a woth.
            _Tercius filius._  Thise  ar so hidus, with
                many a cold coth.
            _Noe._  We will do as ye bid vs, we will no more be
              Dere barnes!
          Now to the helme will I hent,                              420
          And to my ship tent.
            _Vxor._  I se on the firmament,
              Me thynk, the seven starnes.

      48.   _Noe._  This is a grete flood, wife, take hede.
            _Vxor._  So me thoght, as I stode; we ar in grete
                 drede;                                              425
          Thise wawghes ar so wode.
            _Noe._                  Help, God, in this nede!
          As Thou art stereman good, and best, as I rede,
              Of all;
          Thou rewle vs in this rase,
          As Thou me behete hase.                                    430
            _Vxor._  This is a perlous case.
              Help, God, when we call!

      49.   _Noe._  Wife, tent the stere-tre, and I shall asay
          The depnes of the see that we bere, if I may.
            _Vxor._  That shall I do ful wysely. Now go thi way,     435
          For apon this flood haue we flett many day
              With pyne.
            _Noe._  Now the water will I sownd:
          A! it is far to the grownd;
          This trauell I expownd                                     440
              Had I to tyne.

      50. Aboue all hillys bedeyn the water is rysen late
          Cubettis fyfteyn, bot in a higher state
          It may not be, I weyn, for this well I wate:
          This forty dayes has rayn beyn; it will therfor abate      445
              Full lele.
          This water in hast
          Eft will I tast.
          Now am I agast,
              It is wanyd a grete dele.                              450

      51. Now are the weders cest, and cateractes knyt,
          Both the most and the leest.
            _Vxor._                  Me thynk, bi my wit,
          The son shynes in the eest. Lo, is not yond it?
          We shuld haue a good feest, were thise floodis flyt
              So spytus.                                             455
            _Noe._  We haue been here, all we,
          Thre hundreth dayes and fyfty.
            _Vxor._  Yei, now wanys the see;
              Lord, well is vs!

      52.   _Noe._  The thryd tyme will I prufe what depnes we
                bere.                                                460
            _Vxor._  _H_ow long shall thou hufe? Lay in thy lyne
            _Noe._  I may towch with my lufe the grownd evyn here.
            _Vxor._ Then begynnys to grufe to vs mery chere;
              Bot, husband,
          What grownd may this be?                                   465
            _Noe._ The hyllys of Armonye.
            _Vxor._ Now blissid be He
              That thus for vs can ordand!

      53.   _Noe._ I see toppys of hyllys he, many at a syght,
          No thyng to let me, the wedir is so bright.                470
            _Vxor._ Thise ar of mercy tokyns full right.
            _Noe._ Dame, th_ou_ counsell me, what fowll best myght,
              And cowth,
          With flight of wyng
          Bryng, without taryying,                                   475
          Of mercy som tokynyng,
              Ayther bi north or southe?

      54. For this is the fyrst day of the tent moyne.
            _Vxor._ The ravyn, durst I lay, will com agane sone;
          As fast as thou may, cast hym furth, haue done;            480
          He may happyn today com agane or none
              With grath.
            _Noe._ I will cast out also
          Dowfys oone or two.
          Go youre way, go,                                          485
              God send you som wathe!

      55. Now ar thise fowles flone into seyr countré;
          Pray we fast ichon, kneland on our kne,
          To Hym that is alone worthiest of degré,
          That He wold send anone oure fowles som fee                490
              To glad vs.
            _Vxor._ Thai may not fayll of land,
          The water is so wanand.
            _Noe._ Thank we God Allweldand,
              That Lord that made vs!                                495

      56. It is a wonder thyng, me thynk, sothlé,
          Thai ar so long taryyng, the fowles that we
          Cast out in the mornyng.
            _Vxor._                  Syr, it may be
          Thai tary to thay bryng.
            _Noe._                   The ravyn is a-hungrye
              All way;                                               500
          He is without any reson;
          And he fynd any caryon,
          As peraventure may be fon,
              He will not away.

      57. The dowfe is more gentill, her trust I vntew,              505
          Like vnto the turtill, for she is ay trew.
            _Vxor._ Hence bot a litill she commys, lew, lew!
          She bryngys in her bill som novels new;
          It is of an olif tre                                       510
          A branch, thynkys me.
            _Noe._ It is soth, perdé,
              Right so is it cald.

      58. Doufe, byrd full blist, fayre myght the befall!
          Thou art trew for to trist, as ston in the wall;           515
          Full well I it wist thou wold com to thi hall.
            _Vxor._ A trew tokyn ist we shall be sauyd all:
              For whi?
          The water, syn she com,
          Of depnes plom                                             520
          Is fallen a fathom
              And more, hardely.

      59.   _Primus filius._ Thise floodis ar gone, fader, behold.
            _Secundus filius._ Ther is left right none, and that be
                ye bold.
            _Tercius filius._ As still as a stone oure ship is
                stold.                                               525
            _Noe._ Apon land here anone that we were, fayn I wold,
              My childer dere,
          Sem, Iaphet and Cam,
          With gle and with gam,
          Com go we all sam,                                         530
              We will no longer abide here.

      60.   _Vxor._ Here haue we beyn, Noy, long enogh
          With tray and with teyn, and dreed mekill wogh.
            _Noe._ Behald on this greyn nowder cart ne plogh
          Is left, as I weyn, nowder tre then bogh,                  535
              Ne other thyng;
          Bot all is away;
          Many castels, I say,
          Grete townes of aray,
              Flitt has this flowyng.                                540

      61.   _Vxor._ Thise floodis not afright all this warld so wide
          Has mevid with myght on se and bi side.
            _Noe._ To dede ar thai dyght, prowdist of pryde,
          Euerich a wyght that euer was spyde
              With syn,                                              545
          All ar thai slayn,
          And put vnto payn.
            _Vxor._ From thens agayn
              May thai neuer wyn?

      62.   _Noe._ Wyn? No, iwis, bot He that myght hase             550
          Wold myn of thare mys, and admytte thaym to grace;
          As He in bayll is blis, I pray Hym in this space,
          In heven hye with His to purvaye vs a place,
              That we,
          With His santis in sight,                                  555
          And His angels bright,
          May com to His light:
              Amen, for charité.

      _Explicit processus Noe._

[Foot-note: 129 chese] chefe _MS._]



#Dialect#: North-East Midland of Lincolnshire.


      VERB: pres. ind. 2 sg. _hast_ 131.
                       3 sg. _stondeþ_ 8.
                       3 pl. _calle_ 32, _seye_ 254; beside _dos_ 157
                           (see note).
            imper. pl. _comeþ_ 80, _doþ_ 82.
            pres. p. _karoland_ (in rime) 117, 150, 222.
            strong pp. _wryte_ 37, _fal_ 195, _gone_ 161.
      PRONOUN 3 PERS.: fem. nom. _she_ 48; pl. nom. _þey_ 32; poss.
          _here_ 37; obj. _hem_ 39.

The inflexions are very much simplified as compared with those of the
Kentish _Ayenbyte_ (III), but the verse shows that final unaccented _-e_
was better preserved in the original than in our late MS., e.g.

      _And specyaly at hygh<ė> tymės_            13.
      _For to see þys hard<ė> dome_                173.
      _And at þe þre<ė> day<ė>s endė_        198.
      _Þat nonė myȝt<ė> leye yn grauė_    217.

#Sounds#: _ǭ_ is regular for OE. _ā_: _lothe_ 9, _wroth_ 10, &c.;
but the only decisive rime is _also_ (OE. _alswā_): _to_ (OE.
_tō_) 35-6, where _ǭ_ after _(s)w_ has become close _ọ̄_; see
Appendix § 8. ii, note.

#Syntax#: the loose constructions, e.g. ll. 15 ff. (note), 134-5, 138-9,
216-19, are characteristic of the period.

       *       *       *       *       *

The history of this legend is traced by E. Schröder, _Zeitschrift für
Kirchengeschichte_, vol. xvii, 1896, pp. 94 ff., and, more summarily, by
Gaston Paris, _Les Danseurs maudits_, Paris 1900. The circumstances from
which it sprang appear to belong to the year 1021. Kölbigk, in Anhalt,
Saxony, was the scene of the dance. In 1074 it is referred to as
'famous' by a German chronicler, who records the healing of one of the
dancers in 1038 through the miraculous powers of St. Wigbert.

Mendicants who suffered from or could simulate nervous diseases like St.
Vitus's dance, were quick to realize their opportunity, and two letters
telling the story were circulated as credentials by pretended survivors
of the band. Both are influenced in form by a sermon of St. Augustine of
Hippo which embodies a similar story (Migne, _Patrologia_, vol. xxxviii,
col. 1443). The first (Letter of Otbert), which claims to be issued by
Peregrinus bishop of Cologne, spread rapidly through Western Europe.
This was the version that Mannyng found in William of Wadington. The
second (Letter of Theodric) makes Bruno bishop of Toul, afterwards Pope
Leo IX, vouch for the facts. It was incorporated in the account of the
miraculous cure of Theodric at the shrine of St. Edith of Wilton, and is
known only from English sources. This was the text that Mannyng used. A
later English version, without merit, is found in the dreary
fifteenth-century _Life of St. Editha_ (ed. Horstmann, ll. 4063 ff.).

       *       *       *       *       *

1 ff. _games_: Dances and shows in the churchyard were constantly
condemned by the Church in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In
1287 a synod at Exeter rules _ne quisquam luctas, choreas, vel alios
ludos inhonestos in coemeteriis exercere praesumat, praecipue in
vigiliis et festis sanctorum_. See Chambers, _The Mediaeval Stage_, vol.
i, pp. 90 ff.

6. _or tabure bete_: Note the use of _bete_ infin. as a verbal noun =
_betyng_; cp. XI _b_ 184-5.

10-12. 'And he (_sc._ a good priest) will become angered sooner than one
who has no learning, and who does not understand Holy Writ.'

15 ff. _noght... none_: An accumulation of negatives in ME. makes the
negation more emphatic. Here the writer wavers between two forms of
expression: (1) 'do not sing carols in holy places', and (2) 'to sing
carols in holy places is sacrilege'.

25-8. _yn þys londe_, &c. The cure of Theodric, not the dance, took
place in England. Brightgiva is said to have been abbess of Wilton at
the time (1065), and 'King Edward' is Edward the Confessor (1042-66).

34-5. The church of Kölbigk is dedicated to St. Magnus, of whom nothing
certain is known. The memory of St. Bukcestre, if ever there was such a
saint, appears to be preserved only in this story.

36. _þat þey come to_: Construe with _hyt_ in l. 35.

37 ff. _Here names of alle_: The twelve followers of Gerlew are named in
the Latin text, but Mannyng gives only the principal actors. The
inconsistency is still more marked in the Bodleian MS., which after l.
40 adds:—

      _Þe ouþer twelue here names alle
      Þus were þey wrete, as y can kalle._

Otherwise the Bodleian MS. is very closely related to the Harleian,
sharing most of its errors and peculiarities.

44. _þe prestes doghtyr of þe tounne_, 'the priest of the town's
daughter'. In early ME. the genitive inflexion is not, as in Modern
English, added to the last of a group of words: cp. XIV _d_ 10 _Þe
Kynges sone of heuene_ 'the King of Heaven's son'. The same construction
occurs in VIII _a_ 19 _for þe Lordes loue of heuene_ = 'for the love of
the Lord of Heaven', and in VIII _a_ 214; but in these passages the
genitive is objective, and Modern English does not use the inflexion at
all (note to I 83). The ME. and modern expressions have their point of
agreement in the position of the genitive inflexion, which always
precedes immediately the noun on which the genitive depends. Cp. notes
to II 518, VI 23, and XIV _d_ 1.

46. _Aȝone_: _ȝ_ = _z_ here. The name is _Azo_ in the Latin.

55. _Beune_: (derived from the accusative _Beuonem_) = _Beuo_ of
l. 59 and _Beuolyne_ of l. 62. The form is properly _Bovo_ not _Bevo_.
Considerable liberties were taken with proper names to adapt them to
metre or rime: e.g. l. 52 _Merswynde_; l. 63 _Merswyne_; cp. note to l.
246. This habit, and frequent miscopying, make it difficult to rely on
names in mediaeval stories.

65. _Grysly_: An error for _Gerlew_, Latin _Gerleuus_, from Low German
_Gērlēf_ = OE. _Gārlāf_.

83. _for Crystys awe_: In Modern English a phrase like _Christ's awe_
could mean only 'the awe felt by Christ'. But in OE. _Cristes ege_, or
_ege Cristes_, meant also 'the awe of Christ (which men feel)', the
genitive being objective. In ME. the word order _eie Cristes_ is
dropped, but _Cristes eie_ (or _awe_, the Norse form) is still regular
for '(men's) fear of Christ'. Hence formal ambiguities like _þe Lordes
loue of heuene_ VIII _a_ 19, which actually means '(men's) love of the
Lord of Heaven', but grammatically might mean 'the Lord of Heaven's love
(for men)'—see note to l. 44 above.

96-7. The Latin Letter of Theodric in fact has _ab isto officio ex Dei
nutu amodo non cessetis_, but probably _amodo_ is miswritten for _anno_.

127. _a saue_: lit. 'have safe', i.e. 'rescue'. _Saue_ is here adj.

128-9. _ys_: _flessh_: The rime requires the alternative forms _es_ (as
in l. 7) and _fles(s)_. Cp. note to VII 4.

132. _Ȝow þar nat aske_: 'There is no need for you to ask'; _ȝow_
is dative after the impersonal _þar_.

156-7. _werynes_: _dos_. The rime is false. Perhaps Mannyng wrote: _As
many body for goyng es_ [sc. _wery_], and a copyist misplaced _es_,
writing: _As many body es for goyng_. If _body es_ were read as
_bodyes_, a new verb would then be added.

169. Note the irony of the refrain. The Letter of Otbert adds the
picturesque detail that they gradually sank up to their waists in the
ground through dancing on the same spot.

172. _Þe Emperoure Henry_: Probably Henry II of Germany, Emperor from
1014 to 1024. A certain vagueness in points of time and place would save
the bearers of the letter from awkward questions.

188-9. _banned_: _woned_. The rime (OE. _bannan_ and _wunian_) is false,
and the use of _woned_ 'remained' is suspicious. Mannyng perhaps wrote
_bende_ 'put in bonds': _wende_ (= _ȝede_ l. 191) 'went'; or (if the
form _band_ for _banned(e)_ could be evidenced so early) _band_
'cursed': _wand_, pret. of _winden_, 'went'.

195. _fal yn a swone_: So MS., showing that by the second half of the
fourteenth century the pp. adj. _aswon_ had been wrongly analysed into
the indef. article _a_ and a noun _swon_. Mannyng may have written
_fallen aswone_. See Glossary, _s.v._ _aswone_.

234. _Wyth sundyr lepys_: 'with separate leaps'; but _Wyth_ was probably
added by a scribe who found in his original _sundyrlepys_, adv., meaning

      _Kar suvent par les mains
      Des malvais escrivains
      Sunt livre corrumput._

240. _Seynt Edyght._ St. Edith (d. 984) was daughter of King Edgar, and
abbess of Wilton. The rime is properly _Edit_: _Teodric_, for _t_ and
_k_ are sufficiently like in sound to rime together in the best ME.
verse; cp. note to XV _g_ 27.

246. _Brunyng... seynt Tolous_: Latin _Bruno Tullanus_. Robert probably
did not hesitate to provide a rime by turning Toul into Toulouse. Bruno
afterwards became Pope Leo IX (1049-54).

254-5. _trowed_: _God_. Read _trŏd_, a shortened form, revealed by
rimes in North Midland texts. The identical rime occurs three times in
Mannyng's _Chronicle_ (ed. Hearne, p. 339; ed. Furnivall, ll. 7357-8,
8111-12); and, again with substitution of _troud_ for _trod_, in
_Havelok_, ll. 2338-9. Cp. note to XVII 56.


#Dialect#: South-Western, with some admixture of Northern forms due to a


      VERB: pres. ind. 1 sg. _ichaue_, &c. (see note to l. 129).
                       2 sg. _makest_ 169, _worst_ 170.
                       3 sg. _geþ_ (in rime) 238; contracted _fint_ 239,
                           _last_ 335, _sitt_ 443, _stont_ 556.
                       2 pl. _ȝe beþ_ 582.
                       3 pl. _strikeþ_ 252 (proved by rime with 3 sg.
            imper. pl. _make_ 216, _chese_ 217; beside _doþ_ 218.
            pres. p. _berking_ 286 (in rime with verbal sb.);
                _daunceing_ (in rime) 298. The forms _kneland_ 250,
                _liggeand_ 388, are due to a Northern copyist.
            strong pp. (various forms): _go_ (: _wo_) 196, _ygo_
                (: _mo_) 349, _ydone_ (: _-none_) 76, _comen_ 29, _come_
                181, _ycomen_ 203, _yborn_ 174, _bore_ 210.
            infin. Note _aski_ (OE. _acsian_) 467 (App. § 13 vii).
      PRONOUN 3 PERS.: fem. nom. _he_ 408, 446, _hye_ 337, beside _sche_
                75, 77, &c.
            pl. nom. _he_ (in rime) 185, _hye_ 91, beside _þai_ 32, 69,
            poss. _her_ 'their' 87, 413, 415; obj. _hem_ 69, &c.
      NOUN: Note the plurals _honden_ 79, _berien_ 258.

The original text preserved final _-e_ better than the extant MSS., e.g.

      _And seyd<ė> þus þe king<ė> to_       119.
      _Þat noþing help<ė> þe no schal_         172.
      _Al þe vt<ė>mast<ė> wal_              357.
      _So, sir, as ȝe seyd<ė> nouþė_     466.

#Sounds#: _ǭ_ for OE. _ā_ is proved in rime: _biholde_ (OE.
_beháldan_): _gold_ (OE. _góld_) 367-8 (cp. 467-8); and _yhote_ (OE.
_gehāten_): _note_ (OFr. _note_) 601-2.

The rime _frut_: _lite_ 257-8 points to original _frut_: _lut_ (OE.
_lȳt_), with Western _ǖ_, from OE. _ȳ_, riming with OFr.

       *       *       *       *       *

1-22. These lines, found also in _Lai le Freine_, would serve as preface
to any of the Breton lays, with the couplet ll. 23-4 as the special
connecting link. In the Auchinleck MS., _Orfeo_ begins on a fresh leaf
at l. 25, without heading or capitals to indicate that it is a new poem.
The leaf preceding has been lost. There is good reason to suppose that
it contained the lines supplied in the text from the Harleian MS.

4. _frely_, 'goodly': _Lai le Freine_ has _ferly_ 'wondrous'.

12. MS. _moost to lowe_: means 'most (worthy) to be praised', and there
are two or three recorded examples of _to lowe_ = _to alowe_ in this
sense. But MS. Ashmole and the corresponding lines in _Lai le Freine_
point to _most o loue_ 'mostly of love' as the common reading. The
typical 'lay' is a poem of moderate length, telling a story of love,
usually with some supernatural element, in a refined and courtly style.

13. _Brytayn_, 'Brittany': so _Brytouns_ 16 = 'Bretons'. Cp. Chaucer,
_Franklin's Tale, Prologue_, beginning

      _Thise olde gentil Britons in hir dayes
      Of diverse aventures maden layes
      Rymeyed in hir firste Briton tonge,
      Whiche layes with hir instrumentz they songe_, &c.

20. The curious use of _it_ after the plural _layes_ is perhaps not
original. _Lai le Freine_ has: _And maked a lay and yaf it name_.

26. _In Inglond_: an alteration of the original text to give local
colour. Cp. ll. 49-50 and l. 478.

29-30. _Pluto_: the King of Hades came to be regarded as the King of
Fairyland; cp. Chaucer, _Merchant's Tale_, l. 983 _Pluto that is the
kyng of fairye_. The blunder by which Juno is made a king is apparently
peculiar to the Auchinleck copy.

33-46. These lines are not in the Auchinleck MS., but are probably
authentic. Otherwise little prominence would be given to Orfeo's skill
as a harper.

41 ff. A confused construction: _In þe world was neuer man born_ should
be followed by _<þat> he  schulde þinke_; but the writer goes on as
if he had begun with 'every man in the world'. _And_ = 'if'.

46. _ioy and_ overload the verse, and are probably an unskilful addition
to the text.

49-50. These lines are peculiar to the Auchinleck MS., and are clearly
interpolated; cp. l. 26 and l. 478. Winchester was the old capital of
England, and therefore the conventional seat of an English king.

57. _comessing_: The metre points to a disyllabic form _comsing_ here,
and to _comsi_ in l. 247.

80. _it bled wete_: In early English the clause which is logically
subordinate is sometimes made formally co-ordinate. More normal would be
_þat (it) bled wete_ 'until (_or_ so that) it bled wet'; i.e. until it
was wet with blood.

82. _reueyd_ or some such form of _ravished_ is probably right.
_reneyd_ 'apostate' is a possible reading of the MS., but does not fit
the sense. _N. E. D._ suggests _remeued_.

102. _what is te?_: 'What ails you?; cp. l. 115. _Te_ for _þe_ after _s_
of _is_. Such modifications are due either to dissimilation of like
sounds, as _þ_: _s_ which are difficult in juxtaposition; or to
assimilation of unlike sounds, as _þatow_ 165, for _þat þow_.

115. 'What ails you, and how it came about?'; cp. l. 102.

129. _ichil_ = _ich wille_; and so _ichaue_ 209, _icham_ 382, _ichot_ XV
_b_ 23. These forms, reduced to _chill_, _cham_, &c., were still
characteristic of the Southern dialect in Shakespeare's time: cp. _King
Lear_, IV. vi. 239 _Chill not let go, Zir_.

131. _þat nouȝt nis_: 'That cannot be'; cp. l. 457 _þat nouȝt

157-8. _palays_: _ways_. The original rime was perhaps _palys_: _wys_

170. 'Wherever you may be, you shall be fetched.'

201-2. _barouns_: _renouns_. Forms like _renouns_ in rime are usually
taken over from a French original.

215. The overloaded metre points to a shorter word like _wite_ for

216. _Make ȝou þan a parlement_: _ȝou_ is not nom., but dat. 'for
yourselves'. Observe that Orfeo acts like a constitutional English king.

241. _þe fowe and griis_: A half translation of OFr. _vair et gris_.
_Vair_ (Lat. _varius_) was fur made of alternate pieces of the grey back
and white belly of the squirrel. Hence it is rendered by _fowe_, OE.
_fāg_ 'varicolor'. _Griis_ is the grey back alone, and the French
word is retained for the rime with _biis_, which was probably in the
OFr. original.

258. _berien_: The MS. may be read _berren_, but as this form is
incorrect it is better to assume that the _i_ has been carelessly shaped
by the scribe.

289. _him se_, 'see (for himself), and similarly _slep þou þe_ XV _g_
13. This reflexive use of the dative pronoun, which cannot be reproduced
in a modern rendering, is common in OE. and ME., especially with verbs
of motion; cp. note to XV _g_ 24. But distinguish _went him_ 475, 501,
where _him_ is accusative, not dative (OE. _wente hine_), because the
original sense of _went_ is 'turned', which naturally takes a reflexive

342. _me no reche_ = _I me no reche_. The alternative would be the
impersonal _me no recheþ_.

343. _also spac_ = _also bliue_ 142 = _also swiþe_ 574: 'straightway',

363. MS. _auowed_ (or _anowed_) is meaningless here. _Anowed_, or
the doubtful by-form _anowed_ 'adorned', is probably the true

382. The line is too long—a fault not uncommon where direct speech is
introduced, e.g. l. 419 and I 78. Usually a correct line can be obtained
by dropping words like _quath he_, which are not as necessary in spoken
verse as they are where writing alone conveys the sense. But sometimes
the flaw may lie in the forms of address: l. 382 would be normal without
_Parfay_; l. 419 may once have been:

      _And seyd 'Lord, ȝif þi wille were'._

There is no task more slippery than the metrical reconstruction of ME.
poems, particularly those of which the extant text derives from the
original not simply through a line of copyists, but through a line of
minstrels who passed on the verses from memory and by word of mouth.

388. The line seems to be corrupt, and, as usual, the Harleian and
Ashmole MSS. give little help. _Ful_ can hardly be a sb. meaning
'multitude' from the adj. _full_. Some form of _fele_ (OE. _fela_) 'a
great number' would give possible grammar and sense (cp. l. 401), but
bad metre. Perhaps _ful_ should be deleted as a scribe's anticipation
of _folk_ in the next line; for the construction _seiȝe... of folk_
cp. XVI 388; and _Hous of Fame_, Bk. iii, ll. 147 ff.

433. _Þei we nouȝt welcom no be_: Almost contemporary with _Sir
Orfeo_ is the complaint of an English writer that the halls of the
nobles stood open to a lawyer, but not to a poet:

      _Exclusus ad ianuam poteris sedere
      Ipse licet venias, Musis comitatus, Homere!_

'Though thou came thyself, Homer, with all the Muses, thou mightst sit
at the door, shut out!', T. Wright, _Political Songs_ (1839), p. 209.

446. _hadde he_, 'had she'. For _he_ (OE. _hēo_) = 'she' cp. l. 408.

450. 'Now ask of me whatsoever it may be'. The plots of mediaeval
romances often depend on the unlimited promises of an unwary king, whose
honour compels him to keep his word. So in the story of Tristram, an
Irish noble disguised as a minstrel wins Ysolde from King Mark by this
same device, but is himself cheated of his prize by Tristram's skill in

458. 'An ill-matched pair you two would be!'

479. The halting verse may be completed by adding _sum tyme_ before
_his_, with the Harley and Ashmole MSS.

483. _ybilt_ of the MS. and editors cannot well be a pp. meaning
'housed'. I prefer to take _bilt_ as sb. = _bild_, _build_ 'a building';
and to suppose that _y_ has been miswritten for _ȳ_, the contraction
for _yn_.

495. _gan hold_, 'held'; a good example of the ME. use of _gan_ +
infinitive with the sense of the simple preterite.

515. An unhappy suggestion _home_ for the second _come_ has sometimes
been accepted. But a careful Southern poet could not rime _home_ (OE.
_hām_) and _some_ (OE. _sŭm_). See note to VI 224.

518. _For mi lordes loue Sir Orfeo_, 'for my lord Sir Orfeo's love'.
Logically the genitive inflexion should be added to both of two
substantives in apposition, as in OE. _on Herodes dagum cyninges_ 'in
the days of King Herod'. But in ME. the first substantive usually has
the inflexion, and the second is uninflected; cp. V 207 _kyngeȝ hous
Arthor_ 'the house of King Arthur'; and notes to I 44, VI 23.

544. _Allas! wreche_: _wreche_ refers to the speaker, as in l. 333.

551. _hou it geþ—_: The sense is hard to convey without some cumbrous
paraphrase like 'the inexorable law of this world—'.

552. _It nis no bot of manes deþ_: 'There is no remedy for man's death',
i.e. violent grief will do no good. Note _it nis_ 'there is (not)'. In
ME. the anticipated subject is commonly _it_ where we use _there_.

565. _in ynome_: ' taken up my abode'; _in_ 'dwelling' = NE. 'inn'.

599. _herof_ overloads the line and is omitted in the Ashmole MS.


#Dialect#: Pure Kentish of Canterbury.

#Inflexions# are well preserved, and are similar to those found in
contemporary South-Western texts.

      VERB: pres. ind. 3 sg. _multiplieþ_ 1; contracted _ret_ 3, 16.
                       1 pl. _habbeþ_ 2.
            strong pp. _yyeue_ 25, _yhote_ 29.
      PRONOUN 3 PERS.: the new forms _she_, _they_, _their_, _them_ are
                not used.
            3 sg. fem. nom. _hi_ 32, _hy_ 45;
            poss. _hare_ 33, beside _hire_ 36;
            pl. nom. _hi_ 58.
            Note the objective form _his(e)_ = 'her' 32, 53 (twice);
                and = 'them' 7, 8, 28.
      NOUN: plurals in _-en_ occur: _uorbisnen_ 2, _ken_ 56. In
          _diaknen_ 5, _-en_ represents the dat. pl. inflexion.
      ADJECTIVE: _onen_ dat. sg. 4, _oþren_ dat. pl. 53, _þane_ acc. sg.
          masc. 59, _þet (word)_ nom. sg. neut. 57, show survivals rare
          even in the South at this date.

#Sounds#: Characteristic of the South-East is __ for OE.
(West-Saxon) _ȳ̆_: _kertel_ (OE. _cyrtel_) 39, _ken_ (OE. _cȳ_)

Old diphthongs are preserved in _greate_ (OE. _grēat_) 9, _yeaf_ 22.
In _hyerof_ 1, _yhyerde_ 49, _hier_ 2, _þieues_ 18, _ye_, _ie_ represent
diphthongs developed in Kentish rather than simple close _ē_.

Initial _z_ = _s_ in _zome_ 'some' 2, _zede_ 'said' 12, _zuo_ 'so' 17;
and initial _u_ = _f_ in _uele_ 2, _uayre_ 2, _uram_ 4, _bevil_ 41,
evidence dialectical changes which occurred also in the South-West.

#Syntax#: The constructions are distorted by slavish following of the
French original; see note to ll. 48-60.

       *       *       *       *       *

3. Saint Germain of Auxerre (MS. _Aucerne_) is famous for his missions
to Britain in the first half of the fifth century. This particular story
is found in the _Acta Sanctorum_ for July 31, p. 229.

16. St. John the Almoner (d. 616) was bishop of Alexandria. For the
story see _Acta Sanctorum_ for January 23, p. 115.

27-8. _and huanne he hit wiste þe ilke zelue þet his hedde onderuonge_:
an obscure sentence. Perhaps: 'and when he, the same who had received
them (i.e. John, who had received the five hundred pounds), knew it'
(sc. the truth).

38. This tale of Boniface, bishop of Ferentia in Etruria, is told in the
_Dialogues_ of Gregory the Great, Bk. i, chap. 9. Its first appearance
in English is in the translation of the _Dialogues_ made by Bishop
Wærferth for King Alfred (ed. Hans Hecht, Leipzig 1900, pp. 67 ff.).

48-60. The French original of the passage, taken from an elegant
fourteenth-century MS., Cotton Cleopatra A.V., fol. 144 a, will show how
slavishly Dan Michael followed his source:—

_Apres il fu un poure home, sicom on dit, qui auoit une vache; e oi dire
a son prestre en sarmon que Dieu disoit en leuangile que Dieu rendoit a
cent doubles quanque on donast por lui. Le prodomme du conseil sa femme
dona sa uache a son prestre, qui estoit riches. Le prestre la prist
uolentiers, e lenuoia pestre auoec les autres quil auoit. Kant uint au
soir, la uache au poure home sen uint a son hostel chies le poure homme,
com ele auoit acoustume, e amena auoeques soi toutes les uaches au
prestre, iukes a cent. Quant le bon home uit ce, si pensa que ce estoit
le mot de leuangile que li auoit rendu; e li furent aiugiees deuant son
euesque contre le prestre. Cest ensample moustre bien que misericorde
est bone marchande, car ele multiplie les biens temporels._

58-9. 'And they were adjudged to him before his bishop against the
priest', i.e. the bishop ruled that the poor man should have all the

The French _fabliau_ '_Brunain_' takes up the comic rather than the
moral aspect of the story. A peasant, hearing the priest say that gifts
to God are doubly repaid, thought it was a favourable opportunity to
give his cow Blérain—a poor milker—to the priest. The priest ties her
with his own cow Brunain. To the peasant's great joy, the unprofitable
Blérain returns home, leading with her the priest's good cow.


#Dialect#: Northern of Yorkshire.

#Inflexions#: are reduced almost as in Modern English.

      VERB: pres. ind. 1 sg. _settes_ _a_ 30; beside uninflected _sygh_
                           _a_ 69, _sob_ _a_ 69.
                       3 sg. _lastes_ _a_ 1.
                       1 pl. _flese_ _b_ 86: beside _we drede_ _b_ 85.
                       3 pl. _lyse_ _a_ 61, _lufes_ _b_ 7, &c.; beside
                           _þay take_, _þay halde_ _b_ 12, &c., which
                           agree with the Midland forms.
            pres. p. _lastand_ _a_ 25, _byrnand_ _a_ 26, riming with
            strong pp. _wryten_ _a_ 2.
            Note the Northern and North Midland short forms _mase_
                'makes' _a_ 15, _tane_ 'taken' _a_ 53 (in rime).
      PRONOUN 3 pers.: sg. fem. _scho_ _b_ 1;
            pl. nom. _þai_ _a_ 60;
            poss. _þar_ _a_ 59 or _þair_ _a_ 65;
            obj. _thaym_ _b_ 2.
            The demonstrative _thire_ 'these' at _b_ 55, _b_ 59 is
                specifically Northern.

#Sounds#: OE. _ā_ is regularly represented by _ā_, not by _ǭ_
of the South and most of the Midlands: _wa_ _a_ 2, _euermare_ _a_ 20,
_balde_ 'bold' _a_ 51; _bane_ (in rime) _a_ 54.

_ọ̄_ becomes _ū_ (_ǖ_?) in _gud(e)_ _b_ 9, _b_ 15; and its
length is sometimes indicated by adding _y_, as in _ruysand_ 'vaunting'
_b_ 80.

       *       *       *       *       *

_a._ 'This poem is largely a translation of sentences excerpted from
Rolle's _Incendium Amoris_, cc. xl-xli (Miss Allen in _Mod. Lang.
Review_ for 1919, p. 320). Useful commentaries are his prose _Form of
Perfect Living_ (ed. Horstmann, vol. i, pp. 3 ff.), and _Commandment of
Love to God_ (ibid. pp. 61 ff.), which supply many parallels in thought
and phrasing; see, for example, the note to l. 48 below.

       *       *       *       *       *

_a_ 1. _feste._ Not the adj. 'fast', but pp. 'fastened', and so in l.

_a_ 5. _louyng_, 'beloved one', here and in l. 56. This exceptional use
of the verbal noun occurs again in _my ȝhernyng_ 'what I yearn for',
_a_ 22; _my couaytyng_ 'what I covet', _a_ 23.

_a_ 9-12. The meaning seems to be: 'The throne of love is raised high,
for it (i.e. love) ascended into heaven. It seems to me that on earth
love is hidden, which makes men pale and wan. It goes very near to the
bed of bliss (i.e. the bridal bed of Christ and the soul) I assure you.
Though the way may seem long to us, yet love unites God and man.'

_a_ 24. _louyng_, 'praise' here and in XVI 405, from OE. _lof_ 'praise';
quite distinct from _louyng_, _lufyng_, in ll. 5 and 56.

_a_ 36. _fle þat na man it maye_, 'which no man can escape'. See
Appendix § 12, Relative.

_a_ 42. _styll_, 'always' rather than 'motionless'.

_a_ 43-4. Apparently 'the nature of love (_þat kyend_) turns from care
the man (_þe lyfe_) who succeeds in finding love, or who ever knew it in
his heart; and brings him to joy and delight.'

_a_ 48. Cp. _Form of Perfect Living_, ed. Horstmann, vol. i, pp. 39-40:
_For luf es stalworth als þe dede, þat slaes al lyuand thyng in erth;
and hard als hell, þat spares noght till þam þat er dede._ In _The
Commandment of Love_ Rolle explains: _For als dede slas al lyuand thyng
in þis worlde, sa perfite lufe slas in a mans sawle all fleschly desyres
and erthly couaytise. And als hell spares noght til dede men, bot
tormentes al þat commes bartill, alswa a man þat es in þis_ [sc. the
third, called 'Singular'] _degré of lufe noght anly he forsakes þe
wretched solace of þis lyf, bot alswa he couaytes to sofer pynes for
Goddes lufe._ (Ibid. p. 63.)

_b_ 4. _scho takes erthe_: From the _Historia Animalium_ attributed to
Aristotle, Bk. ix, c. 21. This is the authority referred to at l. 18,
and at l. 33 (Bk. ix, c. 9); but the citations seem to be second hand,
as they do not agree closely with the text of the _Historia Animalium_.

_b_ 21-2. 'For there are many who never can keep the rule of love
towards their friends, whether kinsmen or not.' MS. _ynesche_ has been
variously interpreted; but it must be corrected to _ynence_.

_b_ 47. _strucyo or storke_: the ostrich, not the stork, is meant. Latin
_struthio_ has both meanings. On the whole, fourteenth-century
translators show a fair knowledge of Latin, but the average of
scholarship, even among the clergy, was never high in the Middle Ages.
In the magnificent Eadwine Psalter, written at Canterbury Cathedral in
the twelfth century, Ps. ci. 7 _similis factus sum pellicano_ is
rendered by 'I am become like to the skin of a dog' (= _pelli canis_),
though an ecclesiastic would recite this psalm in Latin at least once
every week. The records of some thirteenth-century examinations of
English clergy may be found in G. G. Coulton, _A Medieval Garner_
(London 1910), pp. 270 ff. They include the classic answer of Simon, the
curate of Sonning, who, being examined on the Canon of the Mass, and
pressed to say what governed _Te_ in _Te igitur, clementissime Pater,...
supplices rogamus_, replied '_Pater_, for He governeth all things'. As
for French, Michael of Northgate, a shaky translator, is fortunate in
escaping gross blunders in the specimen chosen (III); but the English
rendering of Mandeville's _Travels_ is full of errors; see the notes to

_b_ 60. _teches_: better _toches_, according to the foot-note.


#Alliterative Verse.# The long lines in _Gawayne_, with _The Destruction
of Troy_, _Piers Plowman_, and _The Blacksmiths_ (XV _h_), are specimens
of alliterative verse unmixed with rime, a form strictly comparable with
Old English verse, from which it must derive through an unbroken oral
tradition. While the detailed analysis of the Middle English
alliterative line is complex and controversial, its general framework is
describable in simple terms. It will be convenient to take examples from
_Gawayne_, which shows most of the developments characteristic of Middle

1. The long line is divided by a caesura into two half lines, of which
the second is the more strictly built so that the rhythm may be well
marked. Each half line normally contains two principal stresses, e.g.

      _And wént on his wáy || with his wýȝe óne_                   6.
      _Þat schulde téche hym to tóurne || to þat téne pláce_          7.

But three stresses are not uncommonly found in the first half line:

      _Brókeȝ býled and bréke || bi bónkkeȝ abóute_            14;

and, even for the simpler forms in Old and Middle English, the
two-stress analysis has its opponents.

2. The two half lines are bound together by alliteration. In
alliteration _ch_, _st_, _s(c)h_, _sk_, and usually _sp_, are treated as
single consonants (see lines 64, 31, 15, 99, 25); any vowel may
alliterate with any other vowel, e.g.

      _Þis ~ó~ritore is ~v́gly || with ~é~rbeȝ ouergrówen_    122;

and, contrary to the practice of correct OE. verse, _h_ may alliterate
with vowels in _Gawayne_:

      _~H~álde þe now þe ~h~ýȝe ~h~óde || þat ~Á~rþur þe
          ráȝt_                                                  229.
      _The ~h~áþel ~h~éldet hym fró || and on his ~á~x résted_      263.

3. In correct OE. verse the alliteration falls on one or both of the two
principal stresses of the first half line, and invariably on the first
stress only of the second half line. This is the ordinary ME. type:

      _Þat schulde ~t~éche hym to ~t~óurne || to þat ~t~éne pláce_    7;

though verses with only one alliterating syllable in the first half
line, e.g.

      _Bot Í wyl to þe ~ch~ápel || for ~ch~áunce þat may fálle_      64,

are less common in ME. than in OE. But in ME. the fourth stress
sometimes takes the alliteration also:

      _Þay ~cl~ómben bi ~cl~ýffeȝ || þer ~cl~éngeȝ þe ~c~ólde_ 10.

And when there is a third stress in the first half line, five syllables
may alliterate:

      _~M~íst ~m~úged on þe ~m~ór || ~m~ált on þe ~m~óunteȝ_      12.

In sum, Middle English verse is richer than Old English in alliteration.

4. In all these verses the alliteration of the first stress in the
second half line, which is essential in Old English, is maintained; but
it is sometimes neglected, especially when the alliteration is otherwise
well marked:

      _With ~h~éȝe ~h~élme on his ~h~éde || his láunce in his
          ~h~ónde_                                        (129; cp. 75),

where the natural stress cannot fall on _his_.

5. So far attention has been confined to the stressed syllables, around
which the unstressed syllables are grouped. Clearly the richer the
alliteration, the more freedom will be possible in the treatment of the
unstressed syllables without undue weakening of the verse form. In the
first two lines of _Beowulf_—

      _Hwæt we Gárdéna || in géardágum
      Þéodcýninga || þrým gefrúnon—_

three of the half lines have the minimum number of syllables—four—and
the other has only five. In Middle English, with more elaborate
alliteration, the number of unstressed syllables is increased, so that
the minimum half line of four syllables is rare, and often contains some
word which may have had an additional flexional syllable in the poet's
own manuscript, e.g.

      || _þe sélf chápel_                                         79.
      || _árȝeȝ in hért_                                   209.

The less regular first half line is found with as many as eleven
syllables; e.g.

      _And syþen he kéuereȝ bi a crágge_ ||                      153.

6. The grouping of stressed and unstressed syllables determines the
rhythm. In Old English the falling rhythm predominates, as in || _Gáwayn
þe nóble_ 81; and historically it is no doubt correct to trace the
development of the ME. line from a predominantly falling rhythm. But in
fact, owing to the frequent use of unstressed syllables before the first
stress (even in the second half line where they are avoided in the OE.
falling rhythm) the commonest type is:

      || _and þe bróde ȝáteȝ_    1,
          (×   ×   -̍ ×  -̍ ×)

which from a strictly Middle English standpoint may be analysed as a
falling rhythm with introductory syllables (× × | -̍ × -̍ ×), or as
a rising rhythm with a weak ending (× × -̍ × -̍ | ×). A careful
reader, accustomed to the usage of English verse, will have no
difficulty in following the movement, without entering into nice
technicalities of historical analysis.

7. _The Destruction of Troy_ is more regular than _Gawayne_ in its
versification, and better preserves the Old English tradition. _Piers
Plowman_ is looser and nearer to prose, so that the alliteration
sometimes fails altogether, e.g. Extract _a_ 95, 138. Such differences
in technique may depend on date, on locality, or on the taste, training,
or skill of the author.

       *       *       *       *       *

#Dialect#: West Midland of Lancashire or Cheshire. (There is evidence of
local knowledge in the account of Gawayne's ride in search of the Green
Chapel, ll. 691 ff. of the complete text.)

#Vocabulary.# _Sir Gawayne_ shows the characteristic vocabulary of
alliterative verse.

It is rich in number and variety of words—Norse, French, and native.
Besides common words like _race_ 8, _wylle_ 16, _kyrk_ 128, _aȝ-_ 267
(which displace native English forms _rēs_, _wylde_, _chyrche_,
_eie_), Norse gives _mug(g)ed_ 12, _cayreȝ_ 52, _scowtes_ 99,
_skayned_ 99, _wro_ 154, _broþe_ 165, _fyked_ 206, _snyrt_ 244, &c.
French are _baret_ 47, _oritore_ 122, _fylor_ 157, _giserne_ 197,
_kauelacion_ 207, _frounses_ 238, &c. _Myst-hakel_ 13, _orpedly_ 164 are
native words; while the rare _stryþe_ 237 and _raþeled_ 226 are of
doubtful origin.

Unless the alliteration is to be monotonous, there must be many
synonyms for common words like _man_, _kniȝt_: e.g. _burne_ 3,
_wyȝe_ 6, _lede_ 27, _gome_ 50, _freke_ 57, _tulk_ 65, _knape_ 68,
_renk_ 138, most of which survive only by reason of their usefulness in
alliterative formulae. Similarly, a number of verbs are used to express
the common idea 'to move (rapidly)': _boȝen_ 9, _schowued_ 15,
_wonnen_ 23, _ferked_ 105, _romeȝ_ 130, _keuereȝ_ 153, _whyrlande_
154, &c. Here the group of synonyms arises from weakening of the
ordinary prose meanings; and this tendency to use words in colourless or
forced senses is a general defect of alliterative verse. For instance,
it is hard to attach a precise meaning to _note_ 24, _gedereȝ_ 92,
_glodes_ 113, _wruxled_ 123, _kest_ 308.

The _Gawayne_ poet is usually artist enough to avoid the worst fault of
alliterative verse—the use of words for mere sound without regard to
sense, but there are signs of the danger in the empty, clattering line:

      _Bremly broþe on a bent þat brode watȝ aboute_             165.

#Inflexions#: The rime _waþe_: _ta þe_ 287-9 shows that organic
final _-e_ was sometimes pronounced in the poet's dialect.

      VERB: pres. ind. 1 sg. _haf_ 23; _leue_ 60.
                       2 sg. _spelleȝ_ 72.
                       3 sg. _prayses_ 4; _tas_ 237.
                       2 pl. _ȝe han_ 25.
                       3 pl. _han_ 345.
            imper. pl. _gotȝ_ (= _gǭs_) 51, _cayreȝ_ 52.
            pres. p. normally _-ande_, e.g. _schaterande_ 15; but very
                rarely _-yng_: _gruchyng_ 58.
            strong pp. _born_ 2, _wonnen_ 23; _tone_ (= _taken_) 91.
            The weak pa. t. and pp. show occasional _-(e)t_ for _-(e)d_:
                _halt_ 11, _fondet_ 57, &c.
            Note that present forms in _-ie(n)_ are preserved, and the
                _i_ extended to the past tense: _louy_ (OE. _lufian_)
                27, _louies_ 31; _spuryed_ 25.
      PRONOUN 3 PERS.: pl. nom. _þay_ 9; poss. _hor_ 345, beside _her_
                352; obj. _hom_, beside _hem_ 353.

#Sounds#: _ǭ_ for older _ā_ is common, and is proved for the
original by rimes like _more_: _restore_ (OFr. _restorer_) 213-15,
_þore_: _restore_ 286-8. But _a_ is often written in the MS.: _snaw_ 20,
166 (note rimes), _halden_ 29, &c.

_u_ for OE. _y_, characteristic of Western dialects, is found especially
in the neighbourhood of labial consonants: _spuryed_ (OE. _spyrian_) 25;
_muryly_ 268, 277; _munt_ vb. 194 and sb. 282; beside _myntes_ 284,
_lyfte_ 78, _hille_ 13.

_u_ for OE. _eo_ (normal ME. _e_) is another Western feature: _burne_ 3,
21, &c., _rurde_ 151.

_aw_ for OE. _ēow_ (normal ME. _ew_, _ow_) as in _trawe_ 44, _trawþe_
219, _rawþe_ 136, is still found in some Northern dialects.

#Spelling#: _ȝ_ (= _z_) is commonly written for final _s_:
_bredeȝ_ 3, &c.; even when the final _s_ is certainly voiceless as
in _forȝ_, 'force', 'torrent' 105, _(aȝ-)leȝ_ 'fear-less' 267.
_tȝ_ is written for _s_ in monosyllabic verbal forms, where it
indicates the maintenance of voiceless final _s_ under the stress (see
rimes to _hatȝ_ 'has', VI 81): _watȝ_ 'was' 1, _gotȝ_ 'goes'
51, &c. In early Norman French _z_ had the sound _ts_, and so could be
written _tz_, as in _Fitz-Gerald_ 'son (Mod. Fr. _fils_) of Gerald'. But
later, French _(t)z_ fell together with _s_ in pronunciation, so that
the spelling _tz_ was transferred to original _s_, both in
fourteenth-century Anglo-French and in English.

_qu-_ occurs for strongly aspirated _hw-_ in _quyte_ 'white' 20, _quat_
'what' 111; but the alliteration is with _w_, not with _k(w)_, e.g.

      _And wyth ~qu~ettyng a~wh~arf, er he ~w~olde lyȝt_         152.

The spelling _goud_ 5, 50, &c., for _gōd_ 'good' may indicate a sound

Notable is the carefully distinguished use of _ȝ_ in _ȝe_, but _y_
in _yow_, e.g. at ll. 23-6.

       *       *       *       *       *

3. _blessed hym_, 'crossed himself'; cp. XII _b_ 86.

4-6. 'He gives a word of praise to the porter,— kneeled before the
prince (i.e. Gawayn)  greeted him with "God and good day," and
"May He save Gawayn!"—and went on his way, attended only by his man,
who, &c.' Clumsiness in turning direct speech into reported speech is a
constant source of difficulty in Middle English. For the suppressed
relative cp. note to XIII _a_ 36.

11. 'The clouds were high, but it was threatening below them.' _Halt_
for _halet_ pp. 'drawn up'.

16. 'The way by which they had to go through the wood was very wild.'
Note the regular omission of a verb of motion after _shall_, _will_, &c.
Cp. l. 64 _I wyl to þe chapel_; l. 332 _ȝe schal... to my woneȝ_,

28. 'If you would act according to my wit (i.e. by my advice) you would
fare the better.'

34. _Hector, oþer oþer_, 'Hector, or any other'. Hector is quoted as the
great hero of the Troy story, from which, and from the legends of
Arthur, the Middle Ages drew their models of valour.

35. 'He brings it about at the green chapel ', &c.

37. _dyngeȝ_: for MS. _dynneȝ_; Napier's suggestion.

41. 'He would as soon (lit. it seems to him as pleasant to) kill him, as
be alive himself.'

43. 'If you reach that place you will be killed, I may warn you,
knight.' Possibly _I_, _y_, has fallen out of the text after _y_ of
_may_ (cp. VI 3), though there are clear instances in Old and Middle
English where the pronominal subject must be understood from the
context, e.g. I 168, VIII _a_ 237, 273. Note the transitions from
plural _ȝe_ to singular _þe_ in ll. 42-3; and the evidence at l. 72
f. that _þou_ could still be used in addressing a superior.

44. _Trawe ȝe me þat_: _trow_ has here a double construction with
both _me_ and _þat_ as direct objects.

56. 'That I shall loyally screen you, and never give out the tale that
you fled for fear of any man that I knew.'

64. _for chaunce þat may falle_, 'in spite of anything that may happen'.

68-9. 'Though he be a stern lord (lit. a stern man to rule), and armed
with a stave'. The short lines are built more with a view to rime than
to sense.

72-4. 'Marry!' said the other, 'now you say so decidedly that you will
take your own harm upon yourself, and it pleases you to lose your life,
I have no wish to hinder you.'

76. _ryde me_: an instance of the rare ethic dative, which expresses
some interest in the action of the verb on the part of one who is
neither the doer of the action nor its object. Distinguish the uses
referred to in the notes to II 289, XV _g_ 24.

86. _Lepeȝ hym_, 'gallops'. For _hym_, which refers to the rider, not
the horse, cp. note to XV _g_ 24.

92. _Gryngolet_: the name of Gawayn's horse. _gedereȝ þe rake_ seems
to mean 'takes the path'. No similar transitive use of 'gather' is

95. _he wayted hym aboute_, 'he looked around him'. Cp. l. 221
_wayteȝ_, and note to l. 121.

99. 'The clouds seemed to him grazed by the crags'; i.e. the crags were
so high that they seemed to him to scrape the clouds. I owe to Professor
Craigie the suggestion that _skayned_ is ON. _skeina_ 'to graze',

102-4. 'And soon, a little way off on an open space, a mound (as it
appeared) seemed to him remarkable.'

107. _kacheȝ his caple_, 'takes control of his horse', i.e. takes up
the reins again to start the horse after the halt mentioned at l. 100.

109. _his riche_: possibly 'his good steed'. The substantival use of an
adjective is common in alliterative verse, e.g. l. 188 _þat schyre_
(neck); 200 _þe schene_ (axe); 245 _þe scharp_ (axe); 343 _þat cortays_
(lady). But it has been suggested that _brydel_ has fallen out of the
text after _riche_.

114. 'And it was all hollow within, nothing but an old cave.'

115 f. _he couþe hit noȝt deme with spelle_, 'he could not say '. For _deme_ 'to speak', &c., cp. VI 1, XV _b_ 29-30.

118. _Wheþer_ commonly introduces a direct question and should not be
separately translated. Cp. VI 205 and note to XI _a_ 51.

121. _wysty is here_, 'it is desolate here'. Note _Wowayn_ = _Wauwayn_,
an alternative form of _Gawayn_ used for the alliteration. The
alternation is parallel to that in _guardian_: _warden_; _regard_:
_reward_ XIV _c_ 105; _guarantee_: _warranty_; _(bi)gyled_ 359:
_(bi)wyled_ 357; _werre_ 'war' beside French _guerre_; _wait_ 'watch'
(as at l. 95) beside French _guetter_; and is due to dialectal
differences in Old French. The Anglo-Norman dialect usually preserved
_w_ in words borrowed from Germanic or Celtic, while others replaced it
by _gw_, _gu_, which later became simple _g_ in pronunciation.

125. _in my fyue wytteȝ_: construe with _fele_.

127. _þat chekke hit bytyde_, 'which destruction befall!' _þat... hit_ =
'which'. _chekke_ refers to the checkmate at chess.

135. Had we not Chaucer's Miller and _The Reeves Tale_, the vividness
and intimacy of the casual allusions would show the place of the
flour-mill in mediaeval life. Havelok drives out his foes

      _So dogges ut of milne-hous;_

and the Nightingale suggests as fit food for the Owl

                                    _one frogge
      Þat sit at mulne vnder cogge._

These are records of hours spent by the village boys amid the noise of
grinding and rush of water, in times when there was no rival mechanism
to share the fascination of the water-driven mill.

137-43. 'This contrivance, as I believe, is prepared, sir knight, for
the honour of meeting me by the way. Let God work His will, Lo! It helps
me not a bit. Though I lose my life, no noise causes me to fear.' It has
been suggested that _wel ooo_ 'weal or woe' should be read instead
of the interjection _we loo!_ But Gawayn's despair (l. 141) is not in
keeping with ll. 70 f., 90 f., or with the rest of his speech. The
looseness of the short lines makes emendation dangerous. Otherwise we
might read _Hit helppeȝ þe not a mote_, i.e. whatever happens, mere
noise will not help the Green Knight by making Gawayn afraid; or,
alternatively, _hermeȝ_ 'harms' for _helppeȝ_.

151. 'Yet he went on with the noise with all speed for a while, and
turned away  with his grinding, before he would come
down.' The nonchalance of the Green Knight is marked throughout the

155. _A Deneȝ ax_: the ordinary long-bladed battle-axe was called a
'Danish' axe, in French _hache danoise_, because the Scandinavians in
their raids on England and France first proved its efficiency in battle.

158. _bi þat lace_, ' by the lace'. In _Gawayne_ (ll. 217 ff.
of the full text) the axe used at the first encounter is described. It

      _A lace lapped aboute, þat louked at þe hede,
      And so after þe halme halched ful ofte,
      Wyth tryed tasseleȝ þerto tacched innoghe, &c._

'A lace wrapped about , which was fastened at the 
head, and was wound about the handle again and again, with many choice
tassels fastened to it', &c.

159. _as fyrst_, 'as at the first encounter', i.e. when he rode into
Arthur's hall. His outfit of green is minutely described at ll. 151 ff.
of the full text.

162. _Sette þe stele to þe stone_: i.e. he used the handle of the axe as
a support when crossing rough ground. _stele_ = 'handle', not 'steel'.

164. _hypped... strydeȝ_: note the frequent alternation of past tense
and historic present. So ll. 3-4 _passed... prayses_; 107-8
_kacheȝ... com... liȝteȝ_; 280-1 _haldeȝ... gef_, &c.

169 f. 'Now, sweet sir, one can trust you to keep an appointment.'

175. _þat þe falled_, 'what fell to your lot', i.e. the right to deal
the first blow.

177. _oure one_, 'by ourselves'. To _one_ 'alone' in early ME. the
dative pronoun was added for emphasis, _him one_, _us one_, &c. Later
and more rarely the possessive pronoun is found, as here. _Al(l)_ was
also used to strengthen _one_; so that there are six possible ME. types:
(1) _one_, e.g. ll. 6, 50; (2) _him one_; (3) _his one_; (4) _al one_ =
_alone_ l. 87; (5) _al him one_, or _him al one_; (6) _al his one_, or
_his al one_.

181. _at a wap one_, 'at a single blow'.

183. 'I shall grudge you no good-will because of any harm that befalls

189-90. 'And acted as if he feared nothing: he would not tremble
(_dare_) with terror.'

196. 'He (Gawayn) who was ever valiant would have been dead from his
blow there.'

200. It must not be supposed that the chief incidents of _Sir Gawayne_
were invented by the English poet. The three strokes, for example, two
of them mere feints and the third harmless, can be shown to derive from
the lost French source, which has Irish analogues. See pp. 71-4 of _A
Study of Gawain and the Green Knight_ (London 1916), by Professor
Kittredge, a safe guide in the difficult borderland of folklore and

207. 'Nor did I raise any quibble in the house of King Arthur.' On
_kyngeȝ hous Arthor_ see note to II 518.

222. _ryueȝ_: the likeness of _n_ and _u_ in MSS. of the time makes
it impossible to say whether the verb is _riue_ 'to cleave', which is
supported by l. 278, or _rine_, OE. _hrīnan_, 'to touch'.

230. 'And look out for your neck at this stroke,  if it may

233. _I hope_: here, and often in ME., _hope_ means 'believe', 'expect'.

250. Gawayn appears to have carried his shield on his back. By a
movement of his shoulders he lets it fall in front of him, so that he
can use it in defence.

258. _foo_, 'fiercely', adv. parallel with _ȝederly_.

269. _rykande_, 'ringing'; Napier's suggestion for MS. _rykande_.

271-2. 'Nobody here has ill-treated you in an unmannerly way, nor shown
you ': the object of _kyd_ being understood from _vnmanerly
mysboden_. _habbeȝ_ for MS. _habbe_ is Napier's reading.

278-9. 'And cleft you with no grievous wound,  I rightly
 proffered you, because of the compact we made fast', &c. It is
better to assume a suppression of the relative, than to put a strong
stop after _rof_ and treat _sore_ as sb. object of _profered_. This
latter punctuation gives _sore_ the chief stress in the line, and breaks
the alliteration and rhythm, which is correct as long as _sore_ is taken
with _rof_, so that its stress is subordinated.

286-7. 'Let a true man truly repay—then one need dread no peril.'

291. _weued_: perhaps not a weak pa. t. of _weave-woven_, but rather
means 'to give', from OE. _wǣfan_, 'to move'; _weue_ in this sense
occurs in _Gawayne_ l. 1976.

294-5. 'And truly you seem to me the most faultless man that ever walked
on foot.' The ME. construction, _on þe fautlest_, where _on_ 'one'
strengthens the superlative, is found in Chaucer, _Clerk's Tale_ 212:

      _Thanne was she oon the faireste under sonne,_

and still survives in Shakespeare's time, e.g. _Henry VIII_, II. iv. 48
f. _one the wisest prince_. It has been compared with Latin _unus
maximus_, &c. In modern English the apposition has been replaced, with
weakening of the sense: _one_ of _the (wisest)_, &c.

298. _yow lakked... yow wonted_: impersonal, since _yow_ is dative,
'there was lacking in you'.

319. 'Let me win your good-will', 'Pardon me'.

331. I have transposed MS. #of# _þe grene chapel_ #at# _cheualrous
knyȝteȝ_, because such a use of _at_ is hardly conceivable. A
copyist might easily make the slip. Cp. l. 35.

344. _Boþe þat on and þat oþer_: Besides the Green Knight's young wife,
there was a much older lady in the castle, 'yellow', with 'rugh, ronkled
chekeȝ', and so wrapped up

      _Þat noȝt watȝ bare of þat burde bot þe blake broȝes,
      Þe tweyne yȝen, and þe nase, þe naked lyppeȝ,
      And þose were soure to se, and sellyly blered._

      _Gawayne_ ll. 961-3.

350-1. 'And David afterwards, who suffered much evil, was 
blinded by Bathsheba.'

352-6. 'Since these were injured with their wiles, it would be a great
gain to love them well, and not believe them—for a man who could do it
[cp. note to XI _b_ 209]. For these (Adam, Solomon, &c.) were of old the
noblest, whom all happiness followed, surpassingly, above all the others
that lived beneath the heavens.' _mused_ 'thought' is used for the rime,
and means no more than 'lived'. ll. 354-6 amount to 'above all other


#Dialect#: West Midland, like _Gawayne_.

The metre occasionally gives clear evidence that final flexional _-e_ of
the original has not always been preserved in the extant MS., e.g.

      _Þaȝ cortaysly ȝe carp<ė> con_      21.

The most noteworthy verbal forms are:

      pres. ind. 1 sg. _byswykeȝ_ 208 (once only, in rime);
                 2 sg. _þou quyteȝ_ 235;
                 3 sg. _leþeȝ_ 17; _totȝ_ (= _tǭs_ = _tās_
                     = _takes_) 153 (note).
                 1 pl. _we leuen_ 65; _we calle_ 70;
                 3 pl. _temen_ 100 (and cp. ll. 151-2); _knawe_ 145; but
                       _þay gotȝ_ 150, _pykeȝ_ 213 (both in rime).
      imperative pl. _dyspleseȝ_ 62; _gos_, _dotȝ_ 161.
      pres. p. _spornande_ 3.
      pp. _runne_ (in rime) 163, beside _wroken_ 15, &c.

Characteristic Western forms are _burne_ 37 (OE. _beorn_); _vrþe_ 82
(OE. _eorþe_).

       *       *       *       *       *

5. 'Like bubbling water that flows from a spring', i.e. his wild words
rise from a heart that can no longer contain its affliction.

11-12. 'You, who were once the source of all my joy, made sorrow my

15. 'From the time when you were removed from every peril'. The child
died before she was two years old (l. 123).

22. 'I am but dust, and rough in manners.' The MS. has _marereȝ
mysse_, which has been rendered 'botcher's waste'; but the poet is
contrasting his own ill-mannered speech with the Pearl's courtesy.

23. 'But the mercy of Christ and of Mary and of John'. The genitive
inflexion is confined to the noun immediately preceding _mersy_, while
the two following nouns, which are logically genitives with exactly the
same construction as _Crystes_, remain uninflected. For analogies see
note to II 518.

36. _and_: MS. _in_. The sign for _and_ is easily mistaken for _ī_ =
_in_. Cp. note to XVII 42.

48. _Þat_, 'who'.

65. _þat... of_, 'from whom'; the later relative form _of quom_ occurs
at l. 93.

70. _Fenyx of Arraby_: the symbol of peerless perfection. Cp. Chaucer,
_Death of Blanche the Duchess_, ll. 980-3

      _Trewly she was to myn ye
      The soleyn Fenix of Arabye,
      For ther lyveth never but oon,
      Ne swich as she ne knew I noon._

71. 'which was faultless in form'; _fleȝe_ 'flew' is used with
weakened sense because a bird is normally thought of as on the wing.

74. _folde vp hyr face_, ' her face upturned'; _folde_ is pp.

91-2. 'And each would wish that the crowns of the others were five times
as precious, if it were possible to better them.'

97. _Poule_: the common OFr. and ME. form, as at VIII _a_ 25, 270, XI
_b_ 80. But the rime with _naule_ 'nail' (ON. _nagl_) points to the form
_Paule_ for the original. The reference is to 1 Corinthians vi. 15 and
xii. 12 ff.

100. _hys body_, 'its body', 'the body'. _tyste_: for _tyȝte_
'tight', like l. 102 _myste_ for _myȝte_ 'might'. The rimes with
_Kryst_, _gryste_, _lyste_ show that _st_ and _ȝt_ were very similar
in pronunciation. See Appendix § 6 (end).

106. 'Because you wear a ring on arm or finger.'

109-11. 'I  believe that there is great courtesy and charity among
you.' The construction of the next line (which conveys an apology, cp.
l. 62) is not clear owing to the following gap in the MS.; nor is it
easy to guess the missing rime word, as _emong_ can rime with OE.
_-ung-_ (e.g. with _ȝonge_, ll. 114, 175), or with OE. _-ang-_; see
the note to XVII 400.

116. _stronge_ may be adj. 'violent' with _worlde_, but is more likely
adv. 'severely'.

124-5. Note the cumulation of negatives. _cowþeȝ_ has a double
construction: 'You never knew how to please God nor pray to Him, nor
 the Paternoster and Creed.' The Lord's Prayer and
the Apostles' Creed were prescribed by the Church as the elements of
faith to be taught first to a child.

137. Matthew xx. 1-16.

139. 'He represented it very aptly in a parable.'

141. _My regne... on hyȝt_, 'My kingdom on high'.

145. _þys hyne_: the labourers. _This_, _these_ are sometimes used in
early English to refer to persons or things that have not been
previously mentioned, but are prominent in the writer's mind. Cp. XV
_b_ 4, 19; and the opening of Chaucer's _Prologue_ to the _Franklin's
Tale_ quoted in the note to II 13.

150. _pené_: in ME. the final sound developed from OFr. _-é_ (_e_) fell
together with the sounds arising from OE. _-ig_, OFr. _ie_, &c. Hence
_pené_ or _peny_ 186 (OE. _penig_); _reprené_ 184 for _repreny_;
_cortaysé_ 120, 121, beside _cortaysye_ 72, 84, 96. The acute accent is

153. 'At midmorning the master goes to the market.' _totȝ_ (=
_tǭs_) = _tās_, contracted form of _takes_ 'betakes himself'; cp.
_tone_ = _taken_ V 91. The spelling and rimes with _o_ (which cannot
develop normally from _ă_ lengthened in open syllables because this
lengthening is everywhere later than the change _ā_ > _ǭ_) are
usually explained as artificial. It is assumed that as Northern _bān_
corresponded to Midland _bǭn_, so from Northern _tá_ 'take' an
unhistorical Midland _tǭ_ was deduced. But it is possible that the
contraction of _tăke(n)_, and consequent lengthening _tá(n)_, is
older than the ordinary lengthening _tăke_ > _táke_, and also older
than the development of _ā_ to _ǭ_ in North Midland.

164. _I yow pay_: note the survival of the old use of the present to
express future tense.

176. _þat at ȝe moun_, 'what you can'. _At_ as a relative appears
usually to be from Old Norse _at_, with the same sense, and it is not
uncommon in Northern English. But _þat at_ here is more likely the
normal development of _þat þat_ > _þat tat_ (note to II 102) > _þat at_.

179. _sumoun_ is infin. not sb.: 'he had (them) summoned'; cp. note to
VIII _a_ 79.

192. 'It seems to us we ought to receive more.' _Vus þynk_ is a remnant
of the old impersonal construction of _þynceþ_ 'it seems'. In this
phrase, probably owing to confusion with _we þynk(en)_, the verb often
has no flexional ending; cp. l. 192. _vus oȝe_ is formed by analogy,
the verb being properly personal; cp. _must vs_ XVII 292, 334.

200. _And_, 'If'.

205-8. _More_, which is necessary for the metrical form, is best taken
as conj. 'moreover', 'further'; _weþer_ introduces a direct question
(note to V 118). _louyly_ is perhaps miswritten for _lauly_ 'lawful', as
the _Pearl-Gawayne_ group often show the converse _au_, _aw_ for normal
_ou_, _ow_, e.g. _bawe_ for _bowe_, _trawþe_ for _trowþe_. 'Further, is
my power to do what pleases me with my own lawful?' The meaning is fixed
by Matthew xx. 15 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine
own? Is thine eye evil because I am good?'

212. _mykeȝ._ In the few recorded examples _mik_, _myk_ seems to mean
'an intimate friend'. Here it is used for the sake of rime in an
extended sense 'chosen companion of the Lord'.

221 f. _Wheþer_, &c., 'Although I began  just now, coming into the
vineyard in the eventide, ', &c.

224. Note the rime (OE. _sŭm_) with ON. _blóm(i)_, OE. _dōm_,
_cōm_. Such rimes occur occasionally in Northern texts of the
fourteenth century—never in the South.

233. Psalm lxii. 12 'Also unto Thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy; for Thou
renderest to every man according to his work.'

237-40. Loosely constructed. 'Now, if you came to payment before him
that stood firm through the long day, then he who did less work would be
more entitled to receive pay, and the further , the less
, the more .'

249-51. On the meaning of these lines there is no agreement. Gollancz
and Osgood interpret: 'That man's privilege is great who ever stood in
awe of Him (God) who rescues sinners. From such men no happiness is
withheld, for,' &c. Yet it is difficult to believe that even a poet hard
pressed would use _dard to Hym_ to mean 'feared Him'. One of several
rival interpretations will suffice to show the ambiguities of the text:
'His (God's) generosity, which is always inscrutable (lit. lay hidden),
is abundant to the man who recovers his soul from sin. From such men no
happiness is withheld', &c. The sense and construction of _dard_ (for
which the emendation _fard_, pret. of _fere_ 'to go', has been
suggested, the rest of the interpretation following Gollancz), and the
obscurity of the argument, are the chief obstacles to a satisfactory


#Dialect#: Irregular, but predominantly North-West Midland; cp. V and


      VERB: pres. ind. 3 sg. _warys_ 19, _has_ 20.
                       3 pl. _ben_ 11, _sayn_ 182, _haue_ 31.
            pres. p. _claterand_ 137, _þriuaund_ 158, _leymonde_ 153;
                beside _blowyng_ 106, _doutyng_ 114.
            strong pp. _slydyn_ 6, _stoken_ 11.
            The weak pp. and pa. t. have _-it_, _-(e)t_ for _-(e)d_:
                _drepit_ 9, _suet_ 24.
      PRONOUN 3 PERS.: pl. nom. _þai_ 45;
            poss. _hor_ 8, beside _þere_ 9, 10;
            obj. _hom_ 24.

#Sounds and Spelling#: Northern and North Midland forms are _qwiles_ (=
_whiles_) 39, _hondqwile_ 117; and _wysshe_ 4 (note). West Midland
indications are _buernes_ 'men' 90, 91 = OE. _beorn_ (but _buerne_ 'sea'
159 = OE. _burn-_ is probably miswritten owing to confusion with _buern_
'man'); and perhaps the spelling _u_ in unaccented syllables: _mecull_
10, _watur_ 119, _wintur_ 124.

       *       *       *       *       *

4. _wysshe_ = _wisse_ 'guide'. In the North final _sh_ was commonly
pronounced _ss_; cp. note to I 128-9, and the rimes in XVII 1-4.
Conversely etymological _ss_ was sometimes spelt _ssh_.

7-8. _strongest... and wisest... to wale_, 'the strongest... and
wisest... that could be chosen' (lit. 'to choose').

15. _On lusti to loke_, 'pleasant to look upon'.

21 ff. A typical example of the vague and rambling constructions in
which this writer indulges: apparently 'but old stories of the valiant
 who  held high rank may give pleasure to some who never saw
their deeds, through the writings of men who knew them at first hand
(?) (_in dede_),  to be searched by those who followed
after, in order to make known (_or_ to know?) all the manner in which
the events happened, by looking upon letters (i.e. writings) that were
left behind of old'.

45. Benoît de Sainte-Maure says the Athenians rejected Homer's story of
gods fighting like mortals, but charitably explains that, as Homer lived
a hundred years after the siege, it is no wonder if he made mistakes:

      _N'est merveille s'il i faillit,
      Quar onc n'i fu ne rien n'en vit._

      _Prologue_, ll. 55-6.

53-4. 'That was elegantly compiled by a wise clerk—one Guido, a man who
had searched carefully, and knew all the actions from authors whom he
had by him.' See Introductory note, pp. 68 f.

66-7. Cornelius Nepos was supposed to have found the Greek work of Dares
at Athens when rummaging in an old cupboard (Benoît de Sainte-Maure,
_Prologue_, ll. 77 ff.).

157. Note the slovenly repetition from l. 151. So l. 159 repeats l. 152.

168-9. I have transposed these lines, assuming that they were misplaced
by a copyist. Guido's Latin favours the change, and the whole passage
will illustrate the English translator's methods:

_Oyleus uero Aiax qui cum 32 nauibus suis in predictam incidit
tempestatem, omnibus nauibus suis exustis et submersis in mari, in
suis uiribus brachiorum nando semiuiuus peruenit ad terram; et,
inflatus pre nimio potu aque, uix se nudum recepit in littore, vbi
usque ad superuenientis diei lucem quasi mortuus iacuit in arena, [et]
de morte sua sperans potius quam de uita. Sed cum quidam ex suis nando
similiter a maris ingluuie iam erepti nudi peruenissent ad littus,
dominum eorum querunt in littore [et] si forsitan euasisset. Quem in
arena iacentem inueniunt, dulcibus uerborum fouent affatibus, cum nec
in uestibus ipsum nec in alio possunt subsidio refouere._ (MS. Harley
4123, fol. 117 a—the bracketed words are superfluous.)

178. _Telamon_ was not at the siege, and his name appears here and in l.
150 as the result of a tangle which begins in the confusion of Oyleus
Ajax with Ajax the son of Telamon. In classical writers after Homer it
is Oyleus Ajax who, at the sack of Troy, drags Cassandra from the temple
of Minerva. This is the story in Dictys. Dares, like Homer, is silent.
In Benoît de Sainte-Maure's poem (ll. 26211-16), the best MSS. name
Oyleus Ajax as Cassandra's captor, but others have '_Thelamon Aiax_',
i.e. Ajax, the son of Telamon. Guido read Benoît in a MS. of the latter
class, and accordingly makes _Telamonius Aiax_ do the sacrilege. With
the English translator this becomes _Telamon_ simply (Bk. xxix, ll.
11993-7). So when later, in Bk. xxxi, he comes to describe the
shipwreck, he replaces Guido's _Aiax_ by _Telamon_, and spoils the story
of Minerva's vengeance on the actual violator of her sanctuary.


#Dialect#: South Midland, with mixture of forms.

      _a._ VERB: pres. ind. 2 sg. _seist_ 226, _wilnest_ 256.
                            3 sg. _comaundeth_ 16.
                            1 pl. _haue_ 118, _preye_ 119.
                            2 pl. _han_ 11, _wasten_ 127.
                            3 pl. _liggeth_ 15, &c.; beside _ben_ 50,
                                  _waste_ 155.
                 imper. pl. _spynneth_ 13.
                 pres. p. (none in _a_); _romynge_ _b_ 11.
                 strong pp. _bake_ 187, _ybake_ 278, _ybaken_ 175.
                 Infinitives in _-ie_ (OE. _-ian_) are retained: _erye_
                     4, _hatie_ 52, _tilye_ 229 (OE. _erian_, _hatian_,
           PRONOUN 3 PERS.: pl. nom. _þei_ 126, &c., beside _hii_ 15;
                 poss. _her_ 54; obj. _hem_ 2.

#Sounds#: OE. _y_ often shows the Western development, as in _huyre(d)_
108, 133, &c.; _abugge_ 75, 159; beside _bigge_ 275. So _Cornehulle_ _b_
1. But such forms were not uncommon in the London dialect of the time.

_b._ The second extract has a more Southern dialectal colouring. Note
especially the gen. pl. forms _lollarene_ 31, _knauene_ 56, _lordene_
77, continuing or extending the OE. weak gen. pl. in _-ena_; and _menne_
29, 74, retaining the ending of the OE. gen. pl. _manna_.

The representation of unaccented vowels by _u_ in _hure_ (= 'their') 50,
(= 'her') 53; _(h)us_ 'his' 60, 101; _clerkus_ 65, is commonest in
Western districts. _h(w)_ is no longer aspirated: _wanne_ 1, _werby_
35, MS. _eggen_ 19; and conversely _hyf_ 'if' 43, _his_ 'is' 105.

       *       *       *       *       *

_a_ 9. _for shedyng_, 'to prevent spilling'; and so _for colde_ 62 'as a
protection against cold'; _for bollyng_ 209 'to prevent swelling'; _for
chillyng_ 306, &c.

_a_ 11. _Þat ȝe han silke and sendal to sowe_: The construction
changes as if Piers had begun: _Ich praye ȝow_, which is the reading
in the C-text. The difficulty of excluding modern ideas from the
interpretation of the Middle Ages is shown by the comment of a scholar
so accomplished as M. Petit-Dutaillis: 'Il attaque les riches peu
miséricordieux, les _dames charmantes aux doigts effilés_, qui ne
s'occupent pas des pauvres' (_Soulèvement_, p. lxii). But there is no
hint of satire or reproach in the text. The poet, always conventional,
assigns to high-born ladies the work which at the time was considered
most fitting for them. So it is reported in praise of the sainted
Isabella of France, sister of St. Louis: _Quand elle fust introduicte
des lettres suffisamment, elle s'estudioit à apprendre à ouurer de soye,
et faisoit estolles et autres paremens à saincte Eglise_—'When she was
sufficiently introduced to letters, she set herself to learn how to work
in silk, and made stoles and other vestments for Holy Church.'
(Joinville, _Histoire d. S. Louys_, Paris 1668, pt. i, p. 169.)

_a_ 19. _for þe Lordes loue of heuene_: cp. l. 214, and notes to I 44, I
83, II 518.

_a_ 23. _on þe teme_, 'on this subject'; _teme_ 'theme' is a correct
form, because Latin _th_ was pronounced _t_. The modern pronunciation is
due to the influence of classical spelling.

_a_ 32. _affaite þe_, 'tame for thyself'; cp. l. 64 _(I shal) brynge
me_ = 'bring (for myself)', and the note to II 289.

_a_ 40-1. 'And though you should fine them, let Mercy be the assessor,
and let Meekness rule over you, in spite of Gain.' This is a warning
against abuse of the lord of the manor's power to impose fines in the
manorial court with the object of raising revenue rather than of
administering justice. Cp. Ashley, _Introduction to English Economic
History_, vol. i (1894), pt. ii, p. 266. For _maugré Medes chekes_ cp.

_a_ 49. Luke xiv. 10.

_a_ 50. _yuel to knowe_, 'hard to distinguish'.

_a_ 72-5. These clumsy lines, which are found in all versions, exemplify
the chief faults in _Piers Plowman_: structural weakness and superfluous

_a_ 79. _I wil... do wryte my biqueste_, 'I will have my will written';
_make(n)_, _ger_ (_gar_), and _lete(n)_ are commonly used like _do(n)_
with an active infinitive, which is most conveniently rendered by the
passive; so _do wryte_ 'cause to be written'; _dyd werche_ 'caused to be
made' I 218; _mad sumoun_ 'caused to be summoned' VI 179; _gert dres
vp_ 'caused to be set up' X 16; _leet make_ 'caused to be made' IX 223,

_a_ 80. _In Dei nomine, amen_: A regular opening phrase for wills.

_a_ 84. 'I trust to have a release from and remission of my debts which
are recorded in that book.' _Rental_, a book in which the sums due from
a tenant were noted, here means 'record of sins'.

_a_ 86. _he_: the parson, as representing the Church.

_a_ 91. _douȝtres._ In l. 73 only one daughter is named. In the
B-text, Passus xviii. 426, she is called _Kalote_ (see note to _b_ 2

_a_ 94. _bi þe rode of Lukes_: at Lucca (French _Lucques_) is a Crucifix
and a famous representation of the face of Christ, reputed to be the
work of the disciple Nicodemus. From Eadmer and William of Malmesbury we
learn that William the Conqueror's favourite oath was 'By the Face of
Lucca!', and it is worth noting that the frequent and varied adjurations
in Middle English are copied from the French.

_a_ 114. 'May the Devil take him who cares!'

_a_ 115 ff. _faitoures_ (cp. ll. 185 ff.), who feigned some injury or
disease to avoid work and win the pity of the charitable, multiplied in
the disturbed years following the Black Death. Statutes were passed
against them, and even against those who gave them alms (Jusserand,
_English Wayfaring Life_, pp. 261 ff.). But the type was long lived. In
the extract from _Handlyng Synne_ (No. I), we have already a monument of
their activities.

_a_ 141. 'And those that have cloisters and churches (i.e. monks and
priests) shall have some of my goods to provide themselves with copes.'

_a_ 142. _Robert Renne-aboute._ The type of a wandering preacher;
_posteles_ are clearly preachers with no fixed sphere of authority, like
the mendicant friars and Wiclif's 'poor priests'. Against both the
regular clergy constantly complained that they preached without the
authority of the bishop.

_a_ 186. _Þat seten_: the MS. by confusion has _þat seten to seten to
begge_, &c.

_a_ 187. _þat was bake for Bayarde_: i.e. 'horse-bread' (l. 208), which
used to be made from beans and peas only. _Bayard_, properly a 'bay
horse', was, according to romance, the name of the horse given by
Charlemagne to Rinaldo. Hence it became the conventional name for a
horse, just as _Reynard_ was appropriated to the fox. Chaucer speaks of
_proude Bayard_ (_Troilus_, Bk. i. 218) and, referring to an unknown
story, _Bayard the blynde_ (_Canon's Yeoman's Tale_, 860).

_a_ 221. _Michi vindictam_: Romans xii. 19.

_a_ 224. Luke xvi. 9.

_a_ 229. Genesis iii. 19.

_a_ 231. _Sapience_: the Book of Wisdom, but the quotation is actually
from Proverbs xx. 4.

_a_ 234. _Mathew with mannes face._ Each of the evangelists had his
symbol: Matthew, a man; Mark, a lion; Luke, a bull; John, an eagle; and
in early Gospel books their portraits are usually accompanied by the
appropriate symbols.

_a_ 235 ff. Matthew xxv. 14 ff.; Luke xix. 12 ff.

_a_ 245. _Contemplatyf lyf or actyf lyf._ The merits of these two ways
of life were endlessly disputed in the Middle Ages. In XI _b_ Wiclif
attacks the position of the monks and of Rolle's followers; and the
author of _Pearl_ (VI 61 ff.) takes up the related question of salvation
by works or by grace.

_a_ 246. Psalm cxxviii. 1.

_a_ 264. Jusserand gives a brief account of the old-time physicians
in _English Wayfaring Life_, pp. 177 ff. The best were somewhat
haphazard in their methods, and the mountebanks brought
discredit on the profession. Here are a few fourteenth-century

_For hym that haves the squynansy ['quinsy']_:—

  Tak a fatte katte, and fla hit wele and clene, and draw oute the
  guttes; and tak the grees of an urcheon ['hedgehog'], and the
  fatte of a bare, and resynes, and feinygreke ['fenugreek'], and
  sauge ['sage'], and gumme of wodebynde, and virgyn wax: al this
  mye ['grate'] smal, and farse ['stuff'] the catte within als thu
  farses a gos: rost hit hale, and geder the grees, and enoynt hym
  tharwith. (_Reliquiae Antiquae_, ed. Wright and Halliwell (1841),
  vol. i, p. 51.)

_Ȝyf a woud hund hat ybite a man_:—

  Take toukarsyn ['towncress'], and pulyole ['penny-royal'], and seþ
  hit in water, and ȝef hym to drynke, and hit schal caste out þe
  venym: and ȝif þou miste ['might'] haue of þe hundys here, ley
  hit þerto, and hit schal hele hit. (_Medical Works of the
  Fourteenth Century_, ed. G. Henslow, London 1899, p. 19.)

_A goud oynement for þe goute_:—

  Take þe grece of a bor, and þe grece of a ratoun, and cattys
  grece, and voxis grece, and hors grece, and þe grece of a brok
  ['badger']; and take feþeruoye ['feverfew'] and eysyl ['vinegar'],
  and stampe h_e_m togedre; and take a litel lynnesed, and stampe
  hit wel, and do hit þerto; and meng al togedre, and het hit in a
  scherd, and þerwith anoynte þe goute by the fuyre. Do so ofte and
  hit schal be hol. (Ibid., p. 20.)

_a_ 284. _Lammasse tyme_: August 1, when the new corn (l. 294) would be
in. On this day a loaf was offered as firstfruits: whence the name, OE.

_a_ 307 ff. Owing to repeated famines, the wages of manual labour rose
throughout the first half of the fourteenth century. A crisis was
reached when the Black Death (1349) so reduced the number of workers
that the survivors were able to demand wages on a scale which seemed
unconscionable to their employers. By the Statute of Labourers (1350 and
1351) an attempt was made to force wages and prices back to the level of
1346. For a day's haymaking 1_d._ was to be the maximum wage; for
reaping 2_d._ or 3_d._ Throughout the second half of the fourteenth
century vain attempts were made to enforce these maxima, and the
penalties did much to fan the unrest that broke out in the Peasants'
Revolt of 1381.

_a_ 309-10. From Bk. i of the _Disticha_ of Dionysius Cato, a collection
of proverbs famous throughout the Middle Ages.

_a_ 321. Saturn was a malevolent planet, as we see from his speech in
Chaucer's _Knight's Tale_, 1595 ff.

_a_ 324. _Deth_: the Plague.

_b_ 1. _Cornehulle._ Cornhill was one of the liveliest quarters of
fourteenth-century London, and a haunt of idlers, beggars, and doubtful
characters. Its pillory and stocks were famous. Its market where, if
_The London Lickpenny_ is to be credited, dealing in stolen clothes was
a speciality, was privileged above all others in the city. See the
documents in Riley's _Memorials of London_.

_b_ 2. _Kytte_: In the B-text, Passus xviii. 425-6, _Kytte_ is mentioned

                          _and riȝt with þat I waked
      And called Kitte my wyf and Kalote my douȝter._

_b_ 4. _lollares of London_: The followers of Wiclif were called
'Lollards' by their opponents; but the word here seems to mean 'idlers'
as in l. 31. _lewede heremytes_: 'lay hermits': hermits were not
necessarily in holy orders, and so far from seeking complete solitude,
they often lived in the cities or near the great highways, where many
passers would have opportunity to recognize their merit by giving alms.
See Cutts, _Scenes and Characters of the Middle Ages_, pp. 93 ff.

_b_ 5. 'For I judged those men as Reason taught me.' Skeat's
interpretation—that _made of_ means 'made verses about'—is forced. The
sense is that the idlers and hermits thought little of the dreamer, and
he was equally critical of them.

_b_ 6. _as ich cam by Conscience_: 'as I passed by Conscience',
referring to a vision described in the previous Passus, in which
Conscience is the principal figure.

_b_ 10 f. _In hele and in vnité_, 'in health and in my full senses', and
_Romynge in remembraunce_ qualify _me_.

_b_ 14. _Mowe oþer mowen_, 'mow or stack'. For these unrelated words see
the Glossary.

_b_ 16. _haywarde_: by derivation 'hedge-ward'. He watched over
enclosures and prevented animals from straying among the crops. Observe
that ME. nouns denoting occupation usually survive in surnames:—Baxter
'baker', Bow(y)er, Chapman, Dyer, Falconer, Fletcher 'arrow-maker',
Fo(re)ster, Franklin, Hayward, Lister (= litster, 'dyer'), Palmer,
Reeve(s), Spicer, Sumner, Tyler 'maker or layer of tiles', Warner
'keeper of warrens', Webb, Webster, Wright, Yeoman, &c.

_b_ 20-1. 'Or craft of any kind that is necessary to the community, to
provide food for them that are bedridden.'

_b_ 24. _to long_, 'too tall': cp. B-text, Passus xv. 148 _my name is
Longe Wille_. Consistency in such details in a poem full of
inconsistencies makes it probable that the poet is describing himself,
not an imagined dreamer.

_b_ 33. Psalm lxii. 12.

_b_ 45. 1 Corinthians vii. 20.

_b_ 46 ff. Cp. the note to XI _b_ 131 f. The dreamer appears to have
made his living by saying prayers for the souls of the dead, a service
which, from small beginnings in the early Middle Ages, had by this time
withdrawn much of the energy of the clergy from their regular duties.
See note to XI _b_ 140 f.

_b_ 49. _my Seuene Psalmes_: the Penitential Psalms, normally vi, xxxii,
xxxviii, li, cii, cxxx, cxliii, in the numbering of the Authorised
Version. The _Prymer_, which contained the devotions supplementary to
the regular Church service, included the Placebo, Dirige, and the Seven
Psalms: see the edition by Littlehales for the Early English Text

_b_ 50. _for hure soules of suche as me helpen_: combines the
constructions _for þe soules of suche as me helpen_, and _for hure
soules þat me helpen_.

_b_ 51. _vochen saf_: supply _me_ as object, 'warrant me that I shall be

_b_ 61. 1 Thessalonians v. 15; Leviticus xix. 18.

_b_ 63. _churches_: here and in l. 110 read the Norse form _kirkes_ for
the alliteration, as in _a_ 28, 85. But the English form also belongs to
the original, for it alliterates with _ch_ at _a_ 12, 50.

_b_ 64. _Dominus_, &c.: Psalm xvi. 5.

_b_ 83. _Symondes sone_: a son of Simon Magus—one guilty of simony, or
one who receives preferment merely because of his wealth.

_b_ 90. Matthew iv. 4.

_b_ 103-4. _Simile est_, &c.: Matthew xiii. 44. _Mulier que_, &c.: Luke
xv. 8 ff.


#Dialect#: South-East Midland.

#Vocabulary#: A number of French words are taken over
from the original, e.g. _plee_ 81, _ryot_ 83, _violastres_ 97, _saphire
loupe_ 116, _gowrdes_ 139, _clowe gylofres_ 157, _canell_ 158, _avaled_
195, _trayne_ (for _taynere_?) 222, _bugles_ 256, _gowtes artetykes_
314, _distreynen_ 315.

#Inflexions#: Almost modern.

      VERB: pres. ind. 3 sg. _schadeweth_ 19, _turneth_ 23.
                       3 pl. _ben_ 4, _han_ 14, _wexen_ 22, _loue_ 100.
            pres. p. _fle(e)ynge_ 148, 252; _recordynge_ 317.
            strong pp. _ȝouen_ 90, _begonne_ 171.
      PRONOUN 3 PERS.: pl. _þei_ 5; _here_ 71; _hem_ 20.

#Sounds#: OE. _ā_ becomes _ǭ_: _hoot_ 11, _cold_ 31.

OE. _y_ appears as _y_ (= _i_): _byggynge_ 90, _kyȝn_ 'kine' 256;
except regular _left_ (hand) 69, 71, 72, where Modern English has also
adopted the South-Eastern form of OE. _lyft_.

       *       *       *       *       *

21-3. The French original says that the children have white _hair_ when
they are young, which becomes black as they grow up.

24-5. The belief that one of the Three Kings came from Ethiopia is based
on Ps. lxviii. 31: 'Princes shall come out of Egypt, Ethiopia shall soon
stretch out her hands unto God.' In mediaeval representations one of the
three is usually a negro.

27. _Emlak_: miswritten for _Euilak_, a name for India taken from
_Havilah_ of Genesis ii. 11.

28. _þat is: þe more_: _Ynde_ has probably fallen out of the text after

34-5. _Ȝalow cristall draweth  colour lyke oylle_: the insertion
of _to_ is necessary to give sense, and is supported by the French:
_cristal iaunastre trehant a colour doile_. (MS. Harley 4383, f. 34 b.)

36-7. The translation is not accurate. The French has: _et appelle homme
les dyamantz en ceo pais 'Hamese'_.

64 ff. It was supposed that the pearl-bearing shell-fish opened at low
tide to receive the dew-drops from which the pearls grew.

74. _ȝif ȝou lyke_, 'if it please you', impersonal = French _si
vous plest_.

75. _þe Lapidarye_, Latin _Lapidarium_, was a manual of precious stones,
which contained a good deal of pseudo-scientific information about their
natures and virtues, just as the _Bestiary_ summed up popular knowledge
of animals. A Latin poem by Marbod bishop of Rennes (d. 1123) is the
chief source of the mediaeval lapidaries, and, curiously enough, there
is a French prose text attributed by so intimate an authority as Jean
d'Outremeuse to Mandeville himself. Several Old French texts have been
edited by L. Pannier, _Les Lapidaires Français du Moyen Âge_, Paris
1882. Their high repute may be judged from the inclusion of no less than
seven copies in the library of Charles V of France (d. 1380); and it is
surprising that no complete ME. version is known. But much of the matter
was absorbed into encyclopaedic works like the _De Proprietatibus
Rerum_ of Bartholomaeus, which Trevisa translated.

97. Mistranslated. The French has: _qi sont violastre, ou pluis broun qe

100-1. _But in soth to me_: French: _Mes endroit de moy_, 'but for my
part'; the English translator has rendered _en droit_ separately.

108. _þerfore_: the context requires the sense 'because', but the
translator would hardly have used _þerfore_ had he realized that ll.
108-9 correspond to a subordinate clause in the French, and do not form
a complete independent sentence. He was misled by the bad punctuation of
some French MSS., e.g. Royal 20 B. X and (with consequent corruption)
Harley 4383.

136. _Cathaye_: China. See the classic work of Colonel Yule, _Cathay and
the Way Thither_, 2 vols., London 1866. The modernization of the Catalan
map of 1375 in vol. i gives a good idea of Mandeville's geography.

142. _withouten wolle_: the story of the vegetable lamb is taken from
the Voyage of Friar Odoric, which is accessible in Hakluyt's _Voyages_.
Hakluyt's translation is reprinted, with the Eastern voyages of John de
Plano Carpini (1246) and of William de Rubruquis (1253), in _The Travels
of Sir John Mandeville_, ed. A. W. Pollard, London 1900. The legend
probably arose from vague descriptions of the cotton plant; and
Mandeville makes it still more marvellous by describing as without wool
the lamb which had been invented to explain the wool's existence.

143-4. _Of þat frute I haue eten_: This assertion seems to be due to the
English translator. The normal French text has simply: _et cest bien
grant meruaille de ceo fruit, et si est grant oure [= oeuvre] de nature_
(MS. Royal 20 B. X, f. 70 b).

147. _the Bernakes_: The barnacle goose—introduced here on a hint from
Odoric—is a species of wild goose that visits the Northern coasts in
winter. It was popularly supposed to grow from the shell-fish called
'barnacle', which attaches itself to floating timber by a stalk
something like the neck and beak of a bird, and has feathery filaments
not unlike plumage. As the breeding place of the barnacle goose was
unknown, and logs with the shell-fish attached were often found on the
coasts, it was supposed that the shell-fish was the fruit of a tree,
which developed in the water into a bird. Giraldus Cambrensis,
_Topographia Hibernica_, I. xv, reproves certain casuistical members of
the Church who ate the barnacle goose on fast-days on the plea that it
was not flesh; but himself vouches for the marvel. The earliest
reference in English is No. 11 of the Anglo-Saxon _Riddles_, of which
the best solution is 'barnacle goose'. For a full account see Max
Müller's _Lectures on the Science of Language_, vol. ii, pp. 583-604.

157. _grete notes of Ynde_, 'coco-nuts'.

163-4. _Goth and Magoth_: see Ezekiel xxxviii and xxxix. The forms of
the names are French.

170. _God of Nature_: Near the end of the _Travels_ it is explained that
all the Eastern peoples are Deists, though they have not the light of
Christianity: _þei beleeven in God þat formede all thing and made the
world, and clepen him 'God of Nature'_.

191-2. _þat þei schull not gon out on no syde, but be the cost of hire
lond_: the general sense requires the omission of _but_, which has no
equivalent in the original French text: _qils ne issent fors deuers
la coste de sa terre_ (MS. Sloane 1464, f. 139 b). But some MSS. like
Royal 20 B. X have _fors qe deuers_, a faulty reading that must have
stood in the copy used by the Cotton translator. Cp. note to l. 108.

199-200. _a four grete myle_: renders the French _iiii grantz lieus_.
There is no 'great mile' among English measures.

209 ff. In the Middle Ages references to the Jews are nearly always
hostile. They were hated as enemies of the Church, and prejudice was
hardened by stories, like that in the text, of their vengeance to come,
or of ritual murder, like Chaucer's _Prioress's Tale_. England had its
supposed boy martyrs, William of Norwich (d. 1144), and Hugh of Lincoln
(d. 1255) whom the Prioress invokes:

      _O yonge Hugh of Lyncoln, slayn also
      With cursed Jewes, as it is notable,
      For it is but a litel while ago,
      Preye eek for us_, &c.

Religion was not the only cause of bitterness. The Jews, standing
outside the Church and its laws against usury, at a time when financial
needs had outgrown feudal revenues, became the money-lenders and bankers
of Europe; and with a standard rate of interest fixed at over 40 per
cent., debtors and creditors could hardly be friends. In England the
Jews reached the height of their prosperity in the twelfth century, so
that in 1188 nearly half the national contribution for a Crusade came
from them. In the thirteenth century their privileges and operations
were cut down, and they were finally expelled from the country in 1290
(see J. Jacobs, _The Jews of Angevin England_, 1893). The Lombards,
whose consciences were not nice, took their place as financiers in
fourteenth-century England.

222. _trayne_: read _taynere_, OFr. _taignere_ 'a burrow'.

237-8. The cotton plant has already given us the vegetable lamb (l.
142). This more prosaic account is taken from the _Eþistola Alexandri ad
Aristotelem_: '_in Bactriacen... penitus ad abditos Seres, quod genus
hominum foliis arborum decerpendo lanuginem ex silvestri vellere vestes
detexunt_' (Julius Valerius, ed. B. Kübler, p. 194). From the same text
come the hippopotami, the bitter waters (Kübler, p. 195), and the
griffins (Kübler, p. 217). The _Letter of Alexander_ was translated into
Anglo-Saxon in the tenth century.

254 ff. _talouns_ etc.: In the 1725 edition there is a reference to 'one
4 Foot long in the Cotton Library' with the inscription, _Griphi Unguis
Divo Cuthberto Dunelmensi sacer_, 'griffin's talon, sacred to St.
Cuthbert of Durham'. This specimen is now in the Mediaeval Department of
the British Museum, and is really the slim, curved horn of an ibex. The
inscription is late (sixteenth century), but the talon was catalogued
among the treasures of Durham in the fourteenth century.

260. _Prestre Iohn_: Old French _Prestre Jean_, or 'John the Priest',
was reputed to be the Christian ruler of a great kingdom in the East. A
rather minatory letter professing to come from him reached most of the
princes of Europe, and was replied to in all seriousness by Pope
Alexander III. Its claims include the lordship over the tribes of Gog
and Magog whom Alexander the Great walled within the mountains. Official
missions were sent to establish relations with him; but neither in the
Far East nor in Northern Africa, where the best opinion in later times
located his empire, could the great king ever be found. The history of
the legend is set out by Yule in the article _Prester John_ in the
_Encyclopaedia Britannica_.

261. _Yle of Pentexoire_: to Mandeville most Eastern countries are
'isles'. _Pentexoire_ in the French text of Odoric is a territory about
the Yellow River (Yule, _Cathay_, vol. i, p. 146).

262 ff.: For comparison the French text of the Epilogue is given from
MS. Royal 20 B. X, f. 83 a, the words in < > being supplied from MS.
Sloane 1464:

'Il y a plusours autres diuers pais, et moutz dautres meruailles par de
la, qe ieo nay mie tout veu, si nen saueroye proprement parler. Et
meismement el pais en quel iay este, y a plusours diuersetes dont ieo ne
fais point el mencioun, qar trop serroit long chose a tout deuiser. Et
pur ceo qe ieo vous ay deuisez dascuns pais, vous doit suffire quant a
present. Qar, si ieo deuisoie tout quantqez y est par de la, vn autre qi
se peneroit et trauailleroit le corps pur aler en celles marches, et pur
sercher la pais, serroit empeschez par mes ditz a recompter nuls choses
estranges, qar il ne purroit rien dire de nouelle, en quoy ly oyantz y
puissent prendre solaces. Et lem dit toutdis qe choses nouelles
pleisent. Si men taceray a tant, saunz plus recompter nuls diuersetez qi
soyent par de la, a la fin qe cis qi vourra aler en celles parties y
troeue assez a dire.

'Et ieo, Iohan Maundeuille dessudit, qi men party de nos pais et
passay le mer lan de grace mil cccxxiide; qi moint terre et moint
passage et moint pays ay puis cerchez; et qy ay este en moint
bone compaignie et en molt beal fait, come bien qe ieo  ne feisse vncqes ne beal fait ne beal emprise; et qi
meintenant suy venuz a repos maugre mien, pur goutes artetikes qi
moy destreignont; en preignan solacz en mon cheitif repos, en
recordant le temps passe, ay cestes choses compilez et mises en
escript, si come il me poet souuenir, lan de grace mil ccc.lvime,
a xxxiiiite an qe ieo men party de noz pais.

'Si pri a toutz les lisauntz, si lour plest, qils voillent Dieu prier
pur moy, et ieo priera pur eux. Et toutz cils qi pur moy dirrount vne
_Paternoster_ qe Dieu me face remissioun de mes pecches, ieo les face
parteners et lour ottroie part dez toutz les bons pelrinages et dez
toutz les bienfaitz qe ieo feisse vnqes, et qe ieo ferray, si Dieu
plest, vncqore iusqes a ma fyn. Et pry a Dieu, de qy toute bien et toute
grace descent, qil toutz les lisantz et oyantz Cristiens voille de sa
grace reemplir, et lour corps et les almes sauuer, a la glorie et loenge
de ly qi est trinz et vns, et saunz comencement et saunz fin, saunz
qualite bons, saunz quantite grantz, en toutz lieus present et toutz
choses contenant, et qy nul bien ne poet amender ne nul mal enpirer, qy
en Trinite parfite vit et regne par toutz siecles et par toutz temps.

274. _blamed_: The Old French verb _empescher_ means both 'to hinder,
prevent', and 'to accuse, impeach'. But here _empeschez_ should have
been translated by 'prevented', not 'blamed'.

284-306. This passage, which in one form or another appears in nearly
all the MSS. in English, has no equivalent in the MSS. in French so far
examined: and, as it conflicts with ll. 313 ff., which—apart from the
peculiarities of the Cotton rendering—indicate that the _Travels_ were
written after Mandeville's return, it must be set down as an

The art of forging credentials was well understood in the Middle Ages,
and the purpose of this addition was to silence doubters by the
_imprimatur_ of the highest authority, just as the marvel of the Dancers
of Colbek is confirmed by the sponsorship of Pope Leo IX (I 246-9). The
different interpretation of the latest editor, Hamelius, who thinks it
was intended as a sly hit at the Papacy (_Quarterly Review_ for April
1917, pp. 349 f.) seems to rest on the erroneous assumption that the
passage belonged to the French text as originally written.

The anachronism by which the author is made to seek the Pope _in Rome_
gives a clue to the date of the interpolation. From the beginning of the
fourteenth century until 1377 Avignon, and not Rome, was the seat of the
Pope; and for another thirty years there was doubt as to the issue of
the conflict between the popes, who had their head-quarters at Rome and
were recognized by England, and the antipopes, who remained at Avignon
and had the support of the French. The facts were notorious, so that the
anachronism would hardly be possible to one who wrote much before the
end of the century, even though he were a partisan of the Roman court.

From internal evidence it would seem that the interpolation first
appeared in French. The style is the uniform style of translation, with
the same tags—_and ȝee schull vndirstonde_ = _et sachiez_; _ȝif
it lyke ȝou_ = _si vous plest_; and the same trick of double
rendering, e.g. _of dyuerse secte and of beleeve_; _wyse and discreet_;
_the auctour ne the persone_. More decisive is an example of the
syntactical compromise explained in the note to l. 329: #be# _the whiche
the Mappa Mundi was made_ #after#. With so many French MSS. of
Mandeville in use in England, an interpolation in French would have more
authority than one that could not be traced beyond English; and it can
hardly be an insuperable objection that no such French text exists
to-day, since our knowledge of the Cotton and Egerton versions
themselves depends in each case on the chance survival of a single MS.

The point has a bearing on the vexed question of the relations of the
English texts one to another. For brevity we may denote by D the
defective text of the early prints and most MSS., which is specially
distinguished by a long gap near the beginning; by C the Cotton text
(ed. Halliwell, Pollard, Hamelius); by E the Egerton text (ed. Warner).
Nicholson (in the _Encyclopaedia Britannica_) and Warner give priority
to D, and consider that C and E are independent revisions and expansions
of D by writers who had recourse to the French original. Their argument
seems to be this: There is precise evidence just before the gap that D
derives direct from a mutilated French text (see _Enc. Brit._), and if
it be granted that a single translation from the French is the base of
C, D, and E, it follows that C and E are based on D.

A fuller study by Vogels (_Handschriftliche Untersuchungen über die
Englische Version Mandeville's_, Crefeld 1891) brings to light a new
fact: the two Bodleian MSS., E Museo 116 and Rawlinson D 99, contain an
English translation (say L) made from a Latin text of the _Travels_.
Vogels also shows that E is based on D, because the characteristic
lacuna of D is filled in E by a passage which is borrowed from L and is
not homogeneous with the rest of E. So far there is no conflict with the
view of Nicholson and Warner. But, after adducing evidence in favour of
the contention that C, D, and E are at base one translation, Vogels
concludes that D derives from C, arguing thus: There is good evidence
that C is a direct translation from the French, and if it be granted
that a single translation from the French is the base of C and D, it
follows that D derives from C.

In short, the one party maintains that C is an expansion of D, the other
that D is an abridgement of C; and this flat opposition results from
the acceptance of common ground: that C and D represent in the main one
translation and not two translations.

To return to our interpolation:

(1) Vogels's first piece of evidence that C, D, and E are at base one
translation is the appearance in all of this interpolation, which is
absent from the MSS. in French. But a passage so remarkable might spread
from one to the other of two independent English texts; or if the
interpolation originated in England in a MS. of the French text since
lost, it might be twice translated.

(2) Vogels assumes that the interpolation first appeared in type C. But
C is the form in which it would be least likely to originate, because
here the contradiction of statement is sharpest owing to the rendering
at ll. 313-14: _and now I am comen hom_, which is peculiar to C (see the

(3) If, in order to eliminate individual peculiarities, we take two MSS.
of the D type—say Harley 2386 and Royal 17 C. XXXVIII—we find that
their text of the interpolation is identical with that of E. This is
consistent with Vogels's finding that the body of E derives from D; and
it confirms the evidence of all the defective MSS. that the
interpolation in this particular form was an integral part of the D

(4) But between the text of the interpolation in D and that in C there
are differences in matter, in sentence order, and in phrasing, which,
while they do not exclude the possibility of interdependence, do not
suggest such a relation. In D the passage is a naked attempt at
authentication; in C it is more artfully though more shamelessly
introduced by the touch of piety conventional in epilogues. And as the
signs of a French original that appear in C are absent from D, it is
unlikely that the text of the interpolation in C derives from D.

(5) Again, in D and E the addition follows the matter of ll. 307-20.
Unfortunately, though the balance of probability is in favour of the
order in C, the order intended by the interpolator is not certain enough
to be made the basis of arguments. But such a difference in position is
naturally explained from the stage when the interpolation stood in the
margin of a MS., or on an inserted slip, so that it might be taken into
the consecutive text at different points. And an examination of the
possibilities will show that if the interpolation originated in French,
the different placing is more simply explained on the assumption that C
and D are independent translations than on the assumption that one of
them derives from the other.

To sum up: the central problem for the history of the English texts is
the relation of C and D. Taken by itself the evidence afforded by the
text of the interpolation is against the derivation of C from D; it
neither favours nor excludes the derivation of D from C; it rather
favours independent translation in C and D.

For the relations of the rest of the text these deductions afford no
more than a clue. Against independent translation of C and D stands the
evidence adduced by Vogels for basic unity. Much of this could be
accounted for by the coincidences that are inevitable in literal prose
translations from a language so near to English in vocabulary and word
order; and a few striking agreements might be due to the use of French
MSS. having abnormal variants in common, or even to reference by a
second translator to the first. The remainder must be weighed against a
considerable body of evidence in the contrary sense, e.g. several places
where the manuscripts of the French text have divergent readings, of
which C translates one, and D another.

It is unlikely that any simple formula will be found to cover the whole
web of relationships: but any way of reconciling the conclusions of the
authorities should be explored; and the first step is an impartial
sifting of all the evidence, with the object of discovering to what
extent C and D are interdependent, and to what extent independent
translations. The chief obstacle is the difficulty of bringing the
necessary texts together; for an investigator who wished to clear the
ground would have to face the labour of preparing a six-text
_Mandeville_, in the order, French, C, D, E, L, Latin.

301. _Mappa Mundi_: OFr. and ME. _Mappemounde_, was the generic name for
a chart of the world, and, by extension, for a descriptive geography of
the world. It is not clear what particular _Mappa Mundi_ is referred to
here, or whether such a map was attached to the manuscript copy of the
_Travels_ in which this interpolation first appeared.

329. _fro whom all godenesse and grace cometh fro_: cp. 24-5 _the lond
of the whiche on of the þre Kynges... was kyng offe_; 76-8 _þei... of
whom all science... cometh from_; and 301-2 _be the whiche the_ Mappa
Mundi _was made after_. The pleonasm is explained by the divergence of
French and ME. word order. In French, as in modern literary English, the
preposition is placed at the beginning of the clause, before the
relative (_de qui_, _dont_, &c.). ME. writers naturally use the relative
_that_, and postpone the preposition to the end of the clause: e.g. _þat
all godenesse cometh fro_. The translator compromises between his French
original and his native habit by placing the preposition both at the
beginning and at the end.


#Dialect#: Northern (Scots): the MS. copy was made in 1487 more than a
century after the poem was composed.

#Vocabulary#: Note _till_ 'to' 4, 77 (in rime); _syne_ 'afterwards' 35,
112; the forms _sic_ 'such' 135, _begouth_ 94, and the short verbal
forms _ma_ (in rime) 'make' 14, _tane_ (in rime) 'taken' 19.


      VERB: pres. ind. 3 sg. _has_ 76.
                       3 pl. _has_ 52, _mais_ 72; but _thai haf_ 16.
            pres. p. _rynand_ 17, _vyndland_ 129 (in rime).
            strong pp. _gane_ 84, _drawyn_ 124.
      PRONOUN 3 PERS.: sg. fem. nom. _scho_ (in rime) 80;
            pl. _thai_ 1: _thair_ 28; _thame_ 3.

#Sounds#: OE. _ā_ remains: _brynstane_ (in rime) 20, _sare_ 51.

OE. _ō_ (close _ọ̄_) appears as _u_ (_ǖ_?): _gude_ 36, _fut_
57, _tume_ 143.

Unaccented _-(e)d_ of weak pa. t. and pp. becomes _-(i)t_: _passit_ 2,

#Spelling#: _i_ (_y_) following a vowel indicates length: _weill_ 10,
_noyne_ 'noon' 67.

OE. _hw-_ appears as _quh-_ (indicating strong aspiration): _quhelis_
'wheels' 17, _quhar_ 18.

_v_ and _w_ are interchanged: _vithall_ 9, _behevin_ 163, _in swndir_

       *       *       *       *       *

Book XVII of _The Bruce_ begins with the capture of Berwick by the Scots
in March 1318. Walter Stewart undertakes to hold the city, and is aided
in preparing defences by a Flemish engineer, John Crab. Next year King
Edward II determines to recapture the stronghold by an attack from both
land and sea. He entrenches his forces and makes the first assault
unsuccessfully early in September 1319. In this battle the Scotch
garrison capture a clever engineer (see note to l. 71 below). King
Robert Bruce meanwhile orders a raid into England as a diversion, and on
20 September 1319, an English army, led by the Archbishop of York, is
disastrously defeated by the invaders at Mitton. Our extract gives the
story of the second assault on Berwick, which was also fruitless. The
fortress fell into English hands again as a result of the battle of
Halidon Hill in 1333: see XIV _a_ 35-6.

       *       *       *       *       *

5-6. 'They made a sow of great joists, which had a stout covering over
it.' The _sow_ was essentially a roof on wheels. The occupants, under
shelter of the roof, pushed up to the walls of the besieged place and
tried to undermine them. For an illustration see Cutts, _Scenes and
Characters of the Middle Ages_, Pt. VI, chap. vi, where other military
engines of the time are described.

15. _Crabbis consale_: John Crab was the engineer of the garrison. He is
no doubt the same as the John Crab who in 1332 brought Flemish ships
round from Berwick to attack the English vessels at Dundee. There was an
important Flemish colony at Berwick from early times.

36. _Schir Valter, the gude Steward_: Walter Steward, whose surname
denotes his office as Steward of Scotland, was the father of Robert II,
the first king of the Stuart line.

42. _Rude-evyn_: September 13, the eve of the feast of the Exaltation of
the Cross.

49. _thame... of the toune_, 'the defenders of the town'.

51. _or than_, 'or else'.

71 ff. _The engynour_: an English engineer captured by the garrison in
the previous assault and forced into their service.

80. _scho_, 'she', some engine of war not previously referred to:
apparently a mechanical sling.

123 ff. The boats were filled with men and hoisted up the masts, so as
to overtop the walls and allow the besiegers to shoot at the garrison
from above. The same engine that proved fatal to the sow was used to
break up the boats.

146. _thar wardane with him had_, 'their warden  had with him'; cp.
note to XIII _a_ 36.

158-61. A confused construction. The writer has in mind: (1) 'Of all the
men he had there remained with him only one whom he had not left to
relieve', &c.; and (2) 'There were no members of his company (except
one) whom he had not left', &c.


#Dialect#: South Midland.

#Inflexions#: _u_ for inflexional _e_, as in _knowun_ _a_ 2, _seun_ _a_
51, _aȝenus_ _a_ 29, _mannus_ _b_ 114 is found chiefly in West

      VERB: pres. ind. 2 sg. _madist_ _b_ 214.
                       3 sg. _groundiþ_ _a_ 4.
                       3 pl. _seyn_ _a_ 1, _techen_ _b_ 5.
            pres. p. _brennynge_ _b_ 67.
            strong pp. _knowun_ _a_ 2, _ȝouen_ _b_ 264, _take_ _b_
      PRONOUN 3 PERS.: pl. _þey_, _þei_, _a_ 3, _b_ 9;
            possessive usually _þer_ in _a_ 1, 23, &c.; but _her_ _a_
                52, and regularly _here_ in _b_ 25, 36, &c.;
            objective _hem_ _a_ 4, _b_ 3.

#Sounds#: OE. _ā_ appears regularly as _o_, _oo_: _more_ _a_ 7,
_Hooly_ _a_ 10, _toolde_ _a_ 65.

OE. _y_ appears as _y_, _i_: _synne_ _a_ 61, _stiren_ _b_ 93.

The form _þouþ_ (= _þouȝ_) _b_ 190 probably indicates
sound-substitution; and in _ynowþȝ_ (= _ynouȝ_) _b_ 149 there is
wavering between the two forms.

       *       *       *       *       *

_a_ 12. _Wit Sunday_: the first element is OE. _hwīt_ 'white', not

_a_ 25 ff. Translations of the Bible were common in France at this
time. No less than six fine copies survive from the library of John,
Duke of Berry (d. 1416). About the middle of the fourteenth century King
John of France ordered a new translation and commentary to be made at
the expense of the Jews, but it was never finished, although several
scholars were still engaged on it at the end of the century. The early
French verse renderings, which incorporate a good deal of mediaeval
legend, are described by J. Bonnard, _Les Traductions de la Bible en
Vers Français au Moyen Âge_ (Paris 1884); the prose by S. Berger, _La
Bible Française au Moyen Âge_ (Paris 1884). Of the surviving manuscripts
mentioned in these excellent monographs several were written in England.

_a_ 28 ff. In earlier times, when most of those who could read at all
were schooled in Latin, the need for English translations of the
Scriptures was not so pressing, and the partial translations that were
made were intended rather for the use of the clergy and their noble
patrons than for the people. Bede (d. 735) completed a rendering of St.
John's Gospel on his death-bed. Old English versions of the Gospels and
the Psalms still survive. Abbot Aelfric (about A.D. 1000) translated the
first five books of the Old Testament; and more than one Middle English
version of the Psalms is known. Wiclif was perhaps unaware of the Old
English precedents because French renderings became fashionable in
England from the twelfth century onwards, and he would probably think of
the Psalter more as a separate service book than as an integral part of
the Bible. But the prologue to the Wiclifite version attributed to John
Purvey quotes the example of Bede and King Alfred; and the Dialogue on
Translation which, in Caxton's print, serves as preface to Trevisa's
translation of Higden, emphasizes the Old English precedents. Both may
be read in _Fifteenth Century Prose and Verse_, ed. A. W. Pollard,
London 1903, pp. 193 ff. The attitude of the mediaeval Church towards
vernacular translations of the Bible has been studied very fully by Miss
M. Deanesly, _The Lollard Bible and other Medieval Biblical Versions_,
Cambridge 1920.

_a_ 34. _þe pley of Ȝork._ The York Paternoster Play has not
survived, but there are records from 1389 of a Guild of the Lord's
Prayer at York, whose main object was the production of the play. It
seems to have been an early example of the moral play, holding up 'the
vices to scorn and the virtues to praise', and it probably consisted of
several scenes, each exhibiting one of the Seven Deadly Sins. The last
recorded representation was in 1572. See Chambers, _The Mediaeval
Stage_, vol. ii, p. 154. The association of the friars with the
production of religious plays is confirmed by other writings of the
time. They were quick to realize the value of dramatic representation
as a means of gaining favour with the people, and their encouragement
must be reckoned an important factor in the development of the Miracle

_a_ 51. _wher_, 'whether'; cp. _b_ 207. In ll. 197, 266, 274, it
introduces a direct question; see note to V 118.

_b_ 20. _Gregory_, Gregory the Great. See his work _In Primum Regum
Expositiones_, Bk. iii, c. 28: _praedicatores autem Sanctae Ecclesiae...
prophetae ministerio utuntur_ (Migne, _Patrologia_, vol. lxxix, col.

_b_ 44. <_God_>. Such omissions from the Corpus MS. are supplied
throughout from the copy in Trinity College, Dublin, MS. C. III. 12.

_b_ 79-80. Cp. Luke xxi. 36 and 1 Thessalonians v. 17.

_b_ 89-91. Proverbs xxviii. 9.

_b_ 126. _as Ambrose_: In 386 St. Ambrose, besieged in the Portian
Church at Milan by Arian sectaries, kept his followers occupied and in
good heart by introducing the Eastern practice of singing hymns and
antiphons. See St. Augustine's _Confessions_ Bk. ix, c. 7.

_b_ 131-2. _placebo._ Vespers of the Dead, named from the first word of
the antiphon, _Placebo Domino in regione vivorum_ (Psalm cxiv. 9).

_dirige._ Matins of the Dead, named from the first word of the antiphon,
_Dirige, Domine, Deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam_ (Psalm v. 9).
Hence our word _dirge_.

_comendacion_: an office in which the souls of the dead are commended to

_matynes of Oure Lady_: one of the services in honour of the Virgin
introduced in the Middle Ages.

The whole question of these accretions to the Church services is dealt
with by our English master in liturgical study, the late Mr. Edmund
Bishop, in his essay introductory to the Early English Text Society's
edition of the _Prymer_, since reprinted with additional notes in his
_Liturgica Historica_ (Oxford 1918), pp. 211 ff.

_b_ 137 f. _deschaunt, countre note, and orgon, and smale brekynge._ The
elaboration of the Church services in mediaeval times was accompanied by
a corresponding enrichment of the music. To the plain chant additional
parts were joined, sung in harmony either above or below the plain
chant. _Descant_ usually means the addition of a part above, _organ_ and
_countre-note_ (= counterpoint) the addition of parts either above or
below. All these could be composed note for note with the plain chant.
But _smale brekyng_ represents a further complication, whereby the
single note in the plain chant was represented by two or more notes in
the accompanying parts.

_b_ 140 f. The abuse is referred to in _Piers Plowman_:

      _Persones and parsheprests pleynede to the bisshop
      That hure parshens ben poore sitthe the pestelence tyme,
      To haue licence and leue in Londone to dwelle,
      And synge ther for symonye, for seluer ys swete._

      _Prologue_ ll. 81-4.

and by Chaucer in his description of the Parson:

      _He sette nat his benefice to hyre,
      And leet his sheepe encombred in the myre,
      And ran to Londoun, unto Seint Poules,
      To seken hym a chaunterie for soules._

      _Prologue_ ll. 507-10.

_b_ 183. _Ordynalle of Salisbury._ An 'ordinal' is a book showing the
order of church services and ceremonies. In mediaeval times there was
considerable divergence in the usage of different churches. But after
the Conquest, and more especially in the thirteenth century, there was
developed at Salisbury Cathedral an elaborate order and form of service
which spread to most of the English churches of any pretensions. This
was called 'Sarum' or 'Salisbury' use.

_b_ 209. _þei demen it dedly synne a prest to fulfille_, &c. For this
construction, cp. Chaucer, _Prologue_ 502 _No wonder is a lewed man to
ruste_; Shakespeare, _Two Gentlemen of Verona_, V. iv. 108 f. _It is the
lesser blot... Women to change their shapes_, &c. The same construction,
where we now insert _for_, is seen in _Gawayne_ (v. 352-3) _hit were a
wynne huge... a leude, þat couþe, to luf hom wel_, &c.

_b_ 221-3. 'They say that a priest may be excused from saying mass, to
be the substance of which God gave Himself, provided that he hears one.'

_b_ 228 f. _newe costy portos, antifeners, graielis, and alle oþere
bokis._ _Portos_, French _porte hors_, represents Latin _portiforium_, a
breviary convenient for 'carrying out of doors'. The _antifener_
contained the antiphons, responses, &c., necessary for the musical
service of the canonical hours. The _graiel_, or _gradual_, was so
called from the gradual responses, sung at the steps of the altar, or
while the deacon ascended the steps of the pulpit: but the book actually
contained all the choral service of the Mass.

_b_ 230. _makynge of biblis._ Wiclif in his _Office of Curates_ (ed.
Matthew, p. 145) complains of the scarcity of bibles. _But fewe curatis
han þe Bible and exposiciouns of þe Gospelis, and litel studien on hem,
and lesse donne after hem. But wolde God þat euery parische chirche in
þis lond hadde a good Bible!_ &c.

_b_ 234. At this time books, especially illuminated books, were very
dear. The Missal of Westminster Abbey, which is now shown in the
Chapter-house, was written in 1382-4 at a cost of £34 14_s._ 7_d._—a
great sum in those days, for the scribe, Thomas Preston, who took two
years to write it, received only £4 for his labour, 20_s._ for his
livery, and board at the rate of 21_s._ 8_d._ the half year. The
inscription in British Museum MS. Royal 19 D. II, a magnificently
illustrated Bible with commentary, shows that it was captured at
Poitiers with King John of France, and bought by the Earl of Salisbury
for 100 marks (about £66). Edward III gave the same sum to a nun of
Amesbury for a rich book of romance. In France John, Duke of Berry, paid
as much as £200 for a breviary, and the appraisement of his library in
1416 shows a surprisingly high level of values (L. Delisle, _Le Cabinet
des Manuscrits_, vol. iii, pp. 171 ff.). These were luxurious books. The
books from the chapel of Archbishop Bowet of York (d. 1423) sold more
reasonably: £8 for a great antiphonar and £6 13_s._ 4_d._ _pro uno libro
vocato 'Bibill'_, were the highest prices paid; and from his library
there were some fascinating bargains: 4_s._ for a small copy of
Gregory's _Cura Pastoralis_; 5_s._ _pro uno libro vocato 'Johannes
Andrewe', vetere et debili_, which would probably turn out to be a dry
work on the Decretals; and 3_s._ 4_d._ for a nameless codex, _vetere et
caduco_, 'old and falling to pieces'. (_Historians of the Church of
York_, ed. J. Raine, vol. iii, pp. 311, 315.)

But the failing activity of the monastic scriptoria, and the formation
of libraries by the friars and by rich private collectors, made study
difficult for students at the universities, where at this time a
shilling per week—a third of the price of Bowet's most dilapidated
volume—was reckoned enough to cover the expenses of a scholar living
plainly. The college libraries were scantily supplied: books were lent
only in exchange for a valuable pledge; or even pawned, in hard times,
by the colleges themselves.

These conditions were not greatly improved until printing gave an easy
means of duplication, and for a time caused the humble manuscripts in
which most of the mediaeval vernacular literature was preserved to be
treated as waste paper. As late as the eighteenth century Martène found
the superb illuminated manuscripts left by John, Duke of Berry, to the
Sainte Chapelle at Bourges serving as roosting places to their keeper's
hens (_Voyage Littéraire_, Paris 1717, pt. i, p. 29).

_b_ 261-3. The reference is to Acts vi. 2, 'It is not reason that we
should leave the word of God, and serve tables.'

_b_ 266. _wisere þan._ After these words the Corpus MS. (p. 170, col. i,
l. 34 mid.), without any warning, goes on to the closing passage of an
entirely unrelated 'Petition to the King and Parliament'. By way of
compensation, the end of our sermon appears at the close of the
Petition. Clearly the scribe (or some one of his predecessors) copied
without any regard for the sense from a MS. of which the leaves had
become disarranged.

_b_ 285. Cp. Acts iii. 6.


#Dialect#: London (SE. Midland) with Kentish features.


      VERB: pres. ind. 3 sg. _loveth_ _a_ 5; contracted _stant_ _a_ 74.
                       3 pl. _schewen_ _a_ 136, _halsen_ _a_ 148, _be_
                           (in rime) _a_ 92.
            pres. p. _growende_ _a_ 80.
            strong pp. _schape_ (in rime) _a_ 130, beside _schapen_ _a_
      PRONOUN 3 PERS.: sg. fem. nom. _sche_ _a_ 32;
            pl. _thei_ _a_ 148; _here_ _a_ 144; _hem_ _a_ 112.

Unaccented final _-e_ is treated as in Chaucer, having its full value in
the verse when it represents an inflexion or final vowel in Old English
or Old French, e.g.

      _And for he scholdė slepė softė_      _a_ 93
      _An apė, which at thilkė throwė_      _b_ 5

#Sounds#: _e_ appears as in Kentish for OE. _y_: _hell_ 'hill' _a_ 65,
79, 86; _keste_ 'kissed' _a_ 178; note the rimes _unschette_: _lette_
_a_ 71-2; _pet_ 'pit': _let_ _b_ 9-10; and less decisive _pet_: _knet_
(OE. _knyttan_) _b_ 29-30, 53-4; _dreie_: _beie_ _b_ 23-4.

#Spelling#: _ie_ represents close _ẹ̄_: _flietende_ _a_ 157, _hier_
_b_ 34; _diemed_ _b_ 216.

#Syntax#: The elaborate machinery of sentence connexion deserves special
attention; and many turns of phrase are explained by Gower's fluency in

       *       *       *       *       *

_a_ 1. Gower follows Ovid, _Metamorphoses_, Bk. xi. Chaucer tells the
story of Ceix and Alcyone in his _Death of Blanche the Duchess_, ll. 62
ff. This is presumably the early work to which the Man of Law refers:

      _I kan right now no thrifty tale seyn
      But Chaucer, thogh he kan but lewedly
      On metres and on rymyng craftily,
      Hath seyd hem, in swich Englissh as he kan,
      Of olde tyme, as knoweth many a man;
      And if he have noght seyd hem, leve brother,
      In o book, he hath seyd hem in another;
      For he hath toold of loveris up and doun
      Mo than Ovide made of mencioun
      In his ~Epistelles~, that been ful olde.
      What sholde I tellen hem, syn they ben tolde?
      In youthe he made of Ceys and Alcione_, &c.

      (Link to _Man of Law's Tale_, ll. 46 ff.)

Gower's rendering is the more poetical.

_a_ 2. _Trocinie._ Ovid's _Trachinia tellus_, so called from the city of
Trachis, north-west of Thermopylae.

_a_ 23. _As he which wolde go_: otiose, or at best meaning no more than
'desiring to go'. Cp. _b_ 25 _As he which hadde_ = 'having' simply; and
similarly _b_ 37, 203. It is an imitation of a contemporary French idiom
_comme celui qui_.

_a_ 26. _and_: the displacement of the conjunction from its natural
position at the beginning of the clause is characteristic of Gower's
verse. Cp. l. 152 _Upon the morwe and up sche sterte_ = 'and in the
morning she got up', and _a_ 45, 49, _b_ 121, 124, 135, 160, 182. See
notes to ll. 32, 78 f.

_a_ 32. Editors put a comma after _wepende_, and no stop after
_seileth_: but it is Alceoun who weeps. The displacement of _and_ is
exemplified in the notes to l. 26 and ll. 78 f.

_a_ 37. 'One had not to look for grief'; a regular formula of
understatement, meaning 'her grief was great'.

_a_ 53. _Hire reyny cope_, &c.: the rainbow, which was the sign or
manifestation of Iris.

_a_ 59 ff.

            _Prope Cimmerios longo spelunca recessu,
      Mons cavus, ignavi domus et penetralia Somni._

      (_Metamorphoses_ xi. 592-3.)

Much of the poetry of Gower's description is due to Ovid.

_a_ 78 f. Editors put no stop after _may_ and a comma after _hell_.
Hence _The New English Dictionary_ quotes this passage as an isolated
instance of _noise_, transitive, meaning 'disturb with noise'. But
_noise_ is intransitive, _hell_ is governed by _aboute round_, and the
position of _bot_ is abnormal as in l. 105. Cp. notes to ll. 26, 32, and
render 'But all round about the hill'.

_a_ 105. For the word order see notes to ll. 26, 32, 78 f.

_a_ 117. _The lif_, 'the man', cp. IV _a_ 43.

_a_ 118. _Ithecus_: for Icelos. According to Ovid 'Icelos' was the name
by which he was known to the gods, but men called him 'Phobetor'.

_a_ 123. _Panthasas_: Ovid's _Phantasos_.

_a_ 152. See note to l. 26.

_a_ 197. The halcyon, usually identified with the kingfisher, was
supposed to build a floating nest on the sea in midwinter, and to have
power to calm the winds and waves at that season, bringing 'halcyon

_b_ 2. _I finde._ Matthew Paris in his _Chronica Maiora_ (ed. Luard,
Rolls Series, vol. ii, pp. 413 ff.) gives a similar story, which, he
says, King Richard the First often told to rebuke ingratitude. In this
version, Vitalis of Venice falls into a pit dug as a trap for wild
beasts. The rescued animals are a lion and a serpent; the rescuer is
nameless, and the gem given to him by the serpent has not the magic
virtue of returning whenever sold. Nearer to Gower is the story told in
Nigel Wireker's _Speculum Stultorum_, a late twelfth-century satire in
Latin verse, which, from the name of its principal character Burnellus
the Ass, who is ambitious to have a longer tail, is sometimes called
_Burnellus_; cp. Chaucer, _Nun's Priest's Tale_, l. 492:

      _I have wel rad in Daun Burnel the Asse
      Among his vers_, &c.

The poem is printed in T. Wright's _Anglo-Latin Satirical Poets and
Epigrammatists of the Twelfth Century_ (Rolls Series, 1872), vol. i. At
the end the Ass returns disappointed to his master Bernardus (= Bardus).
Bernardus, when gathering wood, hears Dryanus (= Adrian), a rich citizen
of Cremona, call from a pit for help. The rescued animals are a lion, a
serpent, and an ape. The gem given by the serpent in token of gratitude
always returns to Bernardus, who, with more honesty than Gower's poor
man shows, takes it back to the buyer. The fame of the marvellous stone
reaches the king; his inquiries bring to light the whole story; and
Dryanus is ordered to give half his goods to Bernardus.

Gower probably worked on a later modification of Nigel's story.

_b_ 86. _blessed_, 'crossed (himself)'.

_b_ 89. _Betwen him and his asse_, i.e. pulling together with the ass.
The ass is, of course, the distinguished Burnellus.

_b_ 116. _his ape_: for _this ape_ (?).

_b_ 191. _Justinian_, Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire (d. 565), was
best known for his codification of the Roman Law, and so is named here
as the type of a lawgiver.


#Dialect#: South-Western, with some Midland forms.


      VERB: pres. ind. 3 sg. _bloweþ_ _a_ 7, _casteþ_ _a_ 8.
                       3 pl. _buþ_ _a_ 10, _habbeþ_ _a_ 15.
            pres. p. _slyttyng_, _frotyng_ _b_ 59.
            strong pp. _yknowe_ _a_ 12, _ysode_ _a_ 30.
      NOUN: Note the plural in _-(e)n_, _tren_ 'trees' _a_ 44, 51, 53;
                _chyldern_ _b_ 16 is a double plural.
      PRONOUN 3 PERS.: pl. _hy_ _a_ 17; _here_ _a_ 61; _ham_ _a_ 23.
            Note the unstressed 3 sg. and 3 pl. form _a_, e.g. at _a_
                13, 27.

#Sounds#: There is no instance of _v_ for initial _f_, which is
evidenced in the spelling of early South-Western writers like Robert of
Gloucester (about 1300), or of _z_ for initial _s_, which is less
commonly shown in spelling. _u_ for OE. _y_ occurs in _hulles_ 'hills'
_a_ 18 (beside _bysynes_ _b_ 24, where Modern English has _u_ in
spelling but _i_ in pronunciation; and _lift_ (OE. _lyft_) _b_ 39, where
Modern English has the South-Eastern form _left_).

       *       *       *       *       *

_a_ 2-3. _Mayster... Minerua... hys_: Trevisa appears to have understood
'Minerva' as the name of a god.

_a_ 6-49. Higden took all this passage from Book i of the
twelfth-century Annals of Alfred of Beverley (ed. Hearne, pp. 6-7). The
_Polychronicon_ is a patchwork of quotations from earlier writers.

_a_ 7. _Pectoun._ Higden has _ad Peccum_, and Alfred of Beverley _in
monte qui vocatur Pec_, i.e. The Peak of Derbyshire. _cc_ and _ct_ are
not distinguishable in some hands of the time, and Trevisa has made
_Peccum_ into _Pectoun_.

_a_ 14. _Cherdhol._ Hearne's text of Alfred of Beverley has _Cherole_;
Henry of Huntingdon (about 1150), who gives the same four marvels in his
_Historia Anglorum_, has _Chederhole_; and on this evidence the place
has been identified with Cheddar in Somerset, where there are famous

_a_ 22. _an egle hys nest_: cp. _b_ 23 _a child hys brouch_. This
construction has two origins: (1) It is a periphrasis for the genitive,
especially in the case of masculine and neuter proper names which had no
regular genitive in English; (2) It is an error arising from false
manuscript division of the genitive suffix _-es_, _-is_, from its stem.

_a_ 36. <_þat_> here and in l. 52 is inserted on the evidence of the
other MSS. Syntactically its omission is defensible, for the suppressed
relative is a common source of difficulty in Middle English; see the
notes to V 4-6, 278-9; X 146; XIV _c_ 54; XVII 66.

_a_ 50. _Wynburney._ Wimborne in Dorset. Here St. Cuthburga founded a
nunnery, which is mentioned in one of Aldhelm's letters as early as A.D.
705. The information that it is 'not far from Bath', which is hardly
accurate, was added by Higden to the account of the marvel he found in
the _Topographia Hibernica_ of Giraldus Cambrensis (vol. v, p. 86 of the
Rolls Series edition of his works).

_a_ 54-64. Higden took this passage from Giraldus, _Itinerarium
Cambriae_, Bk. ii, c. 11 (vol. vi, p. 139 of the Rolls edition).

_a_ 60-1. _be at here aboue_, 'be over them', 'have the upper hand'.

_a_ 63. _Pimbilmere_: the English name for Lake Bala.

_b_ 6-7. _þe Flemmynges._ The first settlement of Flemings in
Pembrokeshire took place early in the twelfth century, and in 1154,
Henry II, embarrassed alike by the turbulence of the Welsh, and of the
new host of Flemish mercenaries who had come in under Stephen,
encouraged a further settlement. They formed a colony still
distinguishable from the surrounding Welsh population.

_b_ 11-12. The threefold division of the English according to their
Continental origin dates back to Bede's _Ecclesiastical History_. But
the areas settled by Bede's three tribes do not correspond to Southern,
Northern, and Midland. The Jutes occupied Kent, whence the South-Eastern
dialect; the Saxons occupied the rest of the South, whence the
South-Western dialect; and the Angles settled in the Midlands and the
North; so that the Midland and Northern dialects are both Anglian, and
derive from the same Continental tribe or tribal group.

_b_ 26. _þe furste moreyn_: the Black Death of 1349. There were fresh
outbreaks of plague in 1362, 1369, 1376.

_b_ 26-42. The bracketed passage is an addition by Trevisa himself, and
is of primary importance for the history of English and of English
education. See the valuable article by W. H. Stevenson in _An English
Miscellany Presented to Dr. Furnivall_, pp. 421 ff.

_b_ 27-8. _Iohan Cornwal, a mayster of gramere._ A 'master of grammar'
was a licensed teacher of grammar. Mr. Stevenson points out that in
1347-8 John of Cornwall received payment from Merton College, Oxford,
for teaching the boys of the founder's kin. His countryman Trevisa
probably had personal knowledge of his methods of teaching.

_b_ 39-40. _and a scholle passe þe se_, 'if they should cross the sea'.

_b_ 47-8. The bracketed words are introduced by Trevisa.

_b_ 50 f. _and ys gret wondur_: _and_ is superfluous and should perhaps
be deleted.

_b_ 58-65. Though still often quoted as a fourteenth-century witness to
the pronunciation of Northern English (e.g. by K. Luick, _Historische
Grammatik der englischen Sprache_, 1914, pp. 40 f.), this passage, as
Higden acknowledges, comes from the Prologue to Book iii of William of
Malmesbury's _Gesta Pontificum_, completed in the year 1125: see the
Rolls Series edition, p. 209.


_a_ 2. _Bannokburn._ Minot's subject is not so much the defeat of the
English at Bannockburn in 1314, as the English victory at Halidon Hill
on 19 July 1333, which he regards as a vengeance for Bannockburn.

_a_ 7. _Saint Iohnes toune_: Perth, so called from its church of St.
John the Baptist. It was occupied by the English in 1332 after the
defeat of the Scots at Dupplin Moor.

_a_ 13. _Striflin_, 'Stirling'.

_a_ 15. Hall suggests that this refers to Scotch raids on the North of
England undertaken to distract Edward III from the siege of Berwick.

_a_ 19 f. _Rughfute riueling... Berebag_: nicknames for the Scots, the
first because they wore brogues (_riuelings_) of rough hide; the second
because, to allow of greater mobility, each man carried his own bag of
provisions instead of relying on a baggage train.

_a_ 22. _Brig_ = _Burghes_ l. 25, 'Bruges'. At this time Scots, English,
and French had all close connexions with the Netherlands. Observe that
John Crab, who aided the Scots in the defence of Berwick (note to X 15),
was a Fleming.

_a_ 35. _at Berwik._ Berwick fell as a result of the battle of Halidon
Hill which the Scots fought with the object of raising the siege. For an
earlier siege of Berwick, in 1319, see No. X.

_a_ 36. _get_, 'watch', 'be on the look out' (ON. _gǽta_).

_b_ 5-6. Calais was at this time a convenient base for piracy in the

_b_ 19. _A bare_: Edward III, whom Minot often refers to as
'the boar'.

_b_ 24-6. In preparation for the long siege Edward III had built a
regular camp beside Calais.

_b_ 32. _Sir Philip._ Philip de Valois, Philip VI of France (1293-1350).
His son, John Duke of Normandy (1319-64), who succeeded him in 1350, is
of good memory as a lover of fine books. Two are mentioned in the notes
to XI _a_ 25 ff. and XI _b_ 234. A splendid copy of the _Miracles de
Notre Dame_, preserved until recently in the Seminary Library at
Soissons, seems also to have been captured with his baggage at Poitiers,
for it was bought back from the English by King Charles V. Another
famous book produced by his command was the translation of Livy by
Bersuire, with magnificent illuminations. The spirit of the collector
was not damped by his captivity in England from 1356-60, for his account
books show that he continued to employ binders and miniaturists, to
encourage original composition, and to buy books, especially books of
romance. See _Notes et Documents relatifs à Jean, Roi de France_, &c.,
ed. by Henry of Orleans, Duc d'Aumale (Philobiblon Soc., London 1855-6).

_b_ 40. _þe Cardinales._ Pope Clement VI had sent cardinals Annibale
Ceccano bishop of Frascati, and Etienne Aubert, who became Pope Innocent
VI in 1352, to arrange a peace between France and England. But the
English were suspicious of the Papal court at Avignon, and accused the
cardinals of favouring the French cause.

_b_ 82. _Sir Iohn de Viene._ Jean de Vienne, seigneur de Pagny (d.
1351), a famous captain in the French wars.

_c_ 5 f. 'They (friends) are so slippery when put to the test, so
eager to have , and so unwilling to give up .'

_c_ 14. _And_, 'if'.

_c_ 47. King John of France was captured at Poitiers in 1356 and held in
England as a prisoner until the Treaty of Bretigny in 1360. See note to
XIV _b_ 32.

_c_ 54. Note the omission of the relative: 'which recked not a cleat for
all France', and cp. ll. 43-4, XIII _a_ 36 (note).

_c_ 59. _his helm_, 'its helm'—the bar by which the rudder was moved.

_c_ 61. 'The King sailed and rowed aright'; on _him_, see note to XV _g_

_c_ 83. _An ympe_: Richard II.

_c_ 90. _sarri_: not in the dictionaries in this sense, is probably OFr.
_serré_, _sarré_, in the developed meaning 'active', 'vigorous', seen in
the adv. _sarréement_.

_c_ 103-4. 'If we are disloyal and inactive, so that what is rarely seen
is straightway forgotten.'

_c_ 108. 'Who was the fountain of all courage.'

_c_ 111. _los_, 'fame'.

_d_ 1. SCHEP: here means 'shepherd', 'pastor', a name taken by Ball as
appropriate to a priest.

_Seynte Marie prest of Ȝork_, 'priest of St. Mary's of York' (cp.
note to I 44), a great Benedictine abbey founded soon after the
Conquest; see Dugdale, _Monasticon Anglicanum_, vol. iii, pp. 529 ff.
_Marie_ does not take the _s_ inflexion, because it has already the
Latin genitive form, cp. _Mary-ȝet_ X 163.

_d_ 2. _Iohan Nameles_, 'John Nobody', for _nameless_ has the sense
'obscure', 'lowly'.

_d_ 6. _Hobbe þe Robbere._ _Hob_ is a familiar form for _Robert_, and it
has been suggested that _Hobbe þe Robbere_ may refer to Robert Hales,
the Treasurer of England, who was executed by the rebels in 1381. But
_Robert_ was a conventional name for a robber, presumably owing to the
similarity of sound. Already in the twelfth century, Mainerus, the
Canterbury scribe of the magnificent Bible now in the library of
Sainte-Geneviève at Paris, plays upon it in an etymological account of
his family: _Secundus_ (sc. _frater meus_) _dicebatur Robertus, quia a
re nomen habuit: spoliator enim diu fuit et praedo_. From the fourteenth
century lawless men were called _Roberts men_. In _Piers Plowman_ Passus
v (A- and B-texts) there is a confession of 'Robert the Robber'; and the
literary fame of the prince of highwaymen, 'Robin Hood', belongs to this

_d_ 14. _do wel and bettre_: note this further evidence of the
popularity of _Piers Plowman_, with its visions of _Dowel_, _Dobet_, and


_a_ 8. _Þe clot him clingge!_ 'May the clay cling to him!' i.e. 'Would
he were dead!'

_a_ 12. _Þider_: MS. _Yider_, and conversely MS. _Þiif_ 23 for _Yiif_
'if'. _y_ and _þ_ are endlessly confused by scribes.

_b_ 1. _Lenten ys come... to toune._ In the Old English _Metrical
Calendar_ phrases like _cymeð... us to tune Martius reðe_, 'fierce March
comes to town', are regular. The meaning is 'to the dwellings of men',
'to the world'.

_b_ 3. _Þat_: construe with _Lenten_.

_b_ 7. _him þreteþ_, 'chides', 'wrangles' (ON. _þrǽta_?). See the
thirteenth-century debate of _The Thrush and the Nightingale_
(_Reliquiae Antiquae_, vol. i, pp. 241 ff.), of which the opening lines
are closely related to this poem.

_b_ 11. _Ant wlyteþ on huere wynter wele_, 'and look at their winter
happiness (?)'. This conflicts with _huere wynter wo_ above; and the
explanation that the birds have forgotten the hardships of the past
winter and recall only its pleasures is forced. Holthausen's emendation
_wynne wele_ 'wealth of joys' (cp. l. 35) is good.

_b_ 20. _Miles_: a crux. It has been suggested without much probability
that _miles_ means 'animals' from Welsh _mīl_.

_b_ 28. _Deawes donkeþ þe dounes._ Of the suggestions made to improve
the halting metre the best is _þise_ for _þe_. The poet is thinking of
the sparkle of dew in the morning sun; cp. _Sir Gawayne_ 519 f.:

      _When þe donkande dewe dropeȝ of þe leueȝ
      To bide a blysful blusch of þe bryȝt sunne._

_b_ 29-30. 'Animals with their cries (_rounes_) unmeaning to us
(_derne_), whereby they converse (_domes for te deme_).' For the
weakened sense of _deme_ (_domes_) see note to V 115.

_c_ 30. _Wery so water in wore_: the restless lover (l. 21) has tossed
all night like the troubled waters in a _wore_; cp. _I wake so water in
wore_ in another lyric of the same MS. It has been suggested that _wore_
= Old High German _wuor_ 'weir'; but the rimes in both passages show
that the stem is OE. _wār_, not _wōr_.

_d_ 2. _the holy londe_: because Ireland was _par excellence_ 'the Land
of the Saints'.

_f._ I am obliged to Professor Carleton Brown for the information that
this poem is found, with two additional stanzas, in MS. 18. 7. 21 of the
Advocates' Library, Edinburgh; and that the full text will be published
shortly in his _Religious Lyrics of the Fourteenth Century_.

_f_ 4. _bere_ (OE. _bȳr_) riming with _fere_ (OE. _(ge)fēra_)
indicates a South-Eastern composition.

_g_ 1. _Scere Þorsday_: Maundy Thursday, the eve of Good Friday.

_g_ 1-2. _aros_: _Iudas_: the alternative form _aras_ may have given the
rime in the original, but it is not justifiable to accept this as
certain and so to assume an early date of composition for the poem.
Morsbach, _ME. Grammatik_, § 135, n. 4, quotes a number of parallel
rimes with proper names, and the best explanation is that _o_ in _aros_
still represented a sound intermediate between _ā_ and _ǭ_, and
so served as an approximate rime to _ā̆_ in proper names.

_g_ 6. _cunesmen_: as _c_ and _t_ are hard to distinguish in some ME.
hands, and are often confused by copyists, this reading is more likely
than _tunesmen_ of the editors—Wright-Halliwell, Mätzner, Child, Cook
(and _N. E. D._ s.v. _townsman_). For (1) _tunesman_ is a technical, not
a poetical word. (2) In a poem remarkable for its terseness, _tunesmen_
reduces a whole line to inanity, unless the poet thinks of Judas quite
precisely as a citizen of a town other than Jerusalem; and in the
absence of any Biblical tradition it is unlikely that a writer who calls
Pilate _þe riche Ieu_ would gratuitously assume that Judas was not a
citizen of Jerusalem, where his sister lived. (3) Christ's words are
throughout vaguely prophetic, and as Judas forthwith _imette wid is
soster_—one of his kin—_cunesmen_ gives a pregnant sense. [I find the
MS. actually has _cunesmen_, but leave the note, lest _tunesmen_ might
appear to be better established.]

_g_ 8. The repetition of ll. 8, 25, 30 is indicated in the MS. by 'ii'
at the end of each of these lines, which is the regular sign for _bis_.

_g_ 16. 'He tore his hair until it was bathed in blood.' The MS. has
_top_, not _cop_.

_g_ 24. _In him com ur Lord gon._ In the MS. _c'ist_ = _Crist_ has been
erased after _Lord_. Note (1) the reflexive use of _him_, which is very
common in OE. and ME. with verbs of motion, e.g. _Up him stod_ 27, 29;
_Þau Pilatus him com_ 30; _Als I me rode_ XV _a_ 4; _The Kyng him rod_
XIV _c_ 61; cp. the extended use _ar þe coc him crowe_ 33, and notes to
II 289, V 86: (2) the use of the infinitive (_gon_) following, and
usually defining the sense of, a verb of motion, where Modern English
always, and ME. commonly (e.g. _ȝede karoland_ I 117; _com daunceing_
II 298), uses the pres. p.: 'Our Lord came walking in'.

_g_ 27. _am I þat?_ 'Is it I?', the interrogative form of _ich hit am_
or _ich am hit_. The editors who have proposed to complete the line by
adding _wrech_, have missed the sense. The original rime was _þet_:
_spec_, cp. note to I 240.

_g_ 30. _cnistes_: for _cniste_ = _cnihte_ representing the OE. gen. pl.
_cnihta_. On the forms _meist_ 6, _heiste_ 18, _eiste_ 20, _bitaiste_
21, _iboust_ 26, _miste_ 29, _cnistes_ 30, _fiste_ 31, all with _st_ for
OE. _ht_, see Appendix § 6 end.

_h_ 17-18. Difficult. Perhaps 'The master smith lengthens a little
piece [sc. of hot iron], and hammers a smaller piece, twines the two
together, and strikes [with his hammer] a treble note'.

_h_ 21-2. _cloþemerys... brenwaterys_: not in the dictionaries, but both
apparently nonce names for the smiths: they 'clothe horses' (for by the
end of the fourteenth century a charger carried a good deal of armour
and harness), and 'burn water' (when they temper the red-hot metal).

_i_ 4. _Þat_: dat. rel. 'to whom'; cp. VI 64. But _lowte_ is sometimes
transitive 'to reverence'.

_i_ 6. This line, at first sight irrelevant, supplies both rime and
doctrine. See in Chaucer's Preface to his _Tale of Melibeus_ the passage

      _I meene of Marke, Mathew, Luc and John—
      Bot doutelees hir sentence is all oon._

An erased _t_ after _Awangelys_ in the MS. shows that the scribe wavered
between _Awangelys_ 'Gospels' and _Awangelystes_.

_i_ 7. _Sent Geretrude_: Abbess of Nivelle (d. 659), commemorated on
March 17. She is appropriately invoked, for one or more rats make her

_i_ 11. _Sent Kasi._ I cannot trace this saint, or his acts against the
rats. But parallels are not wanting. St. Ivor, an Irish saint, banished
rats from his neighbourhood _per imprecationem_ because they gnawed his
books; and the charm-harassed life of an Irish rat was still proverbial
in Shakespeare's day: 'I was never so berhymed' says Rosalind (_As You
Like It_, III. ii) 'since Pythagoras' time, that I was an Irish rat'. In
the South of France the citizens of Autun trusted more to the processes
of the law, and brought a suit against the rats which ended in a victory
for the defendants because the plaintiffs were unable to guarantee them
safe conduct to the court (see Chambers, _Book of Days_, under Jan. 17).
Even in such little things the Normans showed their practical genius:—A
friend chancing to meet St. Lanfranc by the way inquired the cause of
the strange noises that came from a bag he was carrying: 'We are
terribly plagued with mice and rats', explained the good man, 'and so,
to put down their ravages, I am bringing along a cat' (_Mures et rati
valde nobis sunt infesti, et idcirco nunc affero catum ad comprimendum
furorem illorum_). _Acta Sanctorum_ for May 28, p. 824.


#Dialect#: Yorkshire.


      VERB: pres. ind. 2 sg. _þou royis_ 99, _þou is_ 360; beside _þou
                           hast_ 69.
                       3 sg. _bidis_ 23, _comes_ 57.
                       1 pl. _we here_ 169.
                       2 pl. _ȝe haue_ 124.
                       3 pl. _þei make_ 103, _þei crie_ 107, _dwelle_
                           (rime) 102 ; beside _musteres_ 104, _sais_
            imper. pl. _harkens_ 37, _beholdes_ 195; but _vndo_ 182.
            pres. p. _walkand_ 53 (in rime); beside _shynyng_ 94.
            strong pp. _stoken_ 193, _brokynne_ 195, &c.
            Contracted verbal forms are _mase_ pres. 3 pl. (in rime)
                116, _bus_ pres. 2 sg. 338, _tane_ pp. 172.
      PRONOUN 3 PERS.: pl. nom. _þei_ 21; poss. _thare_ 18, _þer_ 20;
                obj. _þame_ 9; but _hemselue_ 307.
                The demonstrative _þer_ 'these' 97, 399, is Northern.

#Sounds#: _ā_ remains in rimes: _are_: _care_ 345-7, _waa_: _gloria_
406-8, _lawe_: _knawe_ 313-15, _moste_ (for _māste_): _taste_ 358-60;
but _ō̮_ is also proved for the original in _restore_: _euermore_:
_were_ (for _wǭre_): _before_ 13 ff.

#Spelling#: In _fois_ (= _fǭs_) 30, the spelling with _i_ indicates
vowel length.

       *       *       *       *       *

17. _were_: rime requires the alternative form _wǭre_.

39. _Foure thowsande and sex hundereth ȝere._ I do not know on what
calculation the writer changes 5,500, which is the figure in the Greek
and Latin texts of the Gospel of Nicodemus, in the French verse
renderings, and the ME. poem _Harrowing of Hell_. Cp. l. 354.

40. _in þis stedde_: the rimes _hadde_: _gladde_: _sadde_ point to the
Towneley MS. reading _in darknes stad_, 'set in darkness', as nearer the
original, which possibly had _in þister(nes) stad_.

49. _we_: read _ȝe_ (?). For what follows cp. Isaiah ix. 1-2.

59. _puplisshid_: the rime with _Criste_ shows that the pronunciation
was _puplist_. Similarly, _abasshed_: _traste_ 177-9. In French these
words have _-ss-_, which normally becomes _-sh-_ in English. It is hard
to say whether _-ss-_ remained throughout in Northern dialects, or
whether the development was OFr. _-ss-_ > ME. _-sh-_ > Northern _-ss-_
(notes to I 128, VII 4).

62. _þis_: read _His (?) frendis_: here 'relatives', 'parents' (ON.
_frǽndi_); see Luke ii. 27.

65-8. Luke ii. 29-32.

73-82. Matthew iii. 13-17, &c.

75. _hande_: the rime requires the Norse plural _hend_ as at l. 400; cp.
XVII 255, IV _a_ 65 (foot-note).

86 ff. Cp. Matthew xvii. 3 ff., Mark ix. 2 ff.

113. _Astrotte_: cp. 2 Kings xxiii. 13 'Ashtoreth, the abomination of
the Zidonians'. I cannot identify _Anaball_ among the false gods.

115. _Bele-Berit_: Judges viii. 33 'the children of Israel... made
Baal-Berith their god'. For _Belial_ see 2 Cor. vi. 15.

122-4. A common misrendering for 'Be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors',
Psalm xxiv. 7.

125 ff. postulate a preceding _et introibit rex glorię_, which the
writer has not been able to work into the frame of his verse.

128. _a kyng of vertues clere_ = _dominus virtutum_, rendered 'Lord of
Hosts' in Psalm xxiv. 10.

154-6. _ware_: _ferre_: the rime indicates some corruption. _ware_
probably stands for _werre_ 'worse'. The Towneley MS. has _or it be

162. John xi.

165. John xiii. 27.

171 ff. 'And know he won away Lazarus, who was given to us to take
charge of, do you think that you can hinder him from showing the powers
that he has purposed (to show)?' But it is doubtful whether _what_ is a
true relative. Rather 'from showing his powers—those he has purposed
(to show)'.

188. _I prophicied_: MS. _of prophicie_ breaks the rime scheme.

190. Psalm cvii. 16 'For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the
bars of iron in sunder.'

205 ff. The rimes _saide_: _braide_: _ferde_: _grathed_ are bad. For the
last two read _flaide_ = 'terrified', and _graid_, a shortened form of

208. _and we wer moo_, 'if we were more', 'even if there were more of

220. _as my prisoune_ might be taken closely with _here_: 'in this place
as my prison'. The Towneley MS. has _in_ for _as_. Better would be
_prisoune_ 'prisoners'.

240. _wolle_: read _wille_ for the rime.

241. _God sonne_: MS. _God sonne_ might be defended as parallel to
the instances in the note to XVII 88.

256. Apparently, 'you argue his men in the mire', i.e. if Jesus is God's
Son, the souls should remain in hell because God put them there. But the
text may be corrupt.

267 ff. Cp. Ezekiel xxxi. 16, &c.

281 ff. _Salamon saide_: Proverbs ii. 18-19 taken with vii. 27 and ix.
18. It was hotly disputed in the Middle Ages whether Solomon himself was
still in hell. Dante, _Paradiso_, x. 110, informs a world eager for
tidings that he is in Paradise: but Langland declares _Ich leyue he be
in helle_ (C-text, iv. 330); and, more sweepingly, coupling him with
Aristotle: _Al holy chirche holden hem in helle_ (A-text, xi. 263).

285-8. Perhaps a gloss on Job xxxvi. 18 'Because there is wrath, beware
lest he take thee away with his stroke: then a great ransom cannot
deliver thee.'

301. _menys_, the reading of the Towneley MS. is better than _mouys_,
which appears to be a copyist's error due to the similarity of _n_ and
_u_, _e_ and _o_, in the handwriting of the time.

308. Judas hanged himself, according to Matthew xxvii. 3-5; Acts i. 18
gives a different account of his end. _Archedefell_: Ahithophel who
hanged himself (2 Samuel xvii. 23) after the failure of his plot against

309. _Datan and Abiron_: see Numbers xvi.

313-16. 'And all who do not care to learn my law (which I have left in
the land newly, and which is to make known my Coming), and to go to my
Sacrament, and those who will not believe in my Death and my
Resurrection read in order—they are not true.'

338. _þou bus_, 'you ought'; _bus_, a Northern contracted form of
_behoves_, is here used as a personal verb, where _þe bus_, 'it behoves
thee', is normal. See note to XVII 196.

360. _moste_: read _maste_ to rime with _taste_.

371. _Of þis comyng_: the Towneley MS. reading _of Thi commyng_ is

378-80: Corrupt. The copy from which the extant MS. was made seems to
have been indistinct here. The Towneley MS. has:

      _Suffre thou neuer Thi sayntys to se
      The sorow of thaym that won in wo,
      Ay full of fylth, and may not fle_,

which is more intelligible and nearer Psalm xvi. 10:

      _Nec dabis sanctum tuum videre corruptionem._

405. _louyng_: 'praise', cp. IV _a_ 24 (note).


#Dialect#: Late Yorkshire.

#Vocabulary#: Northern are _then_ 108 (note), and _at_ 'to' 235.


      VERB: pres. ind. 2 sg. _thou spekis_ 206.
                       3 sg. _ligis he_ 84; _he settis_ 92; _(God)
                           knowes_ 202.
                       1 pl. _we swete or swynk_ 195.
                       2 pl. _ye carp_ (in rime) 360.
                       3 pl. _thay ryn_ (in rime) 277, 357; beside
                           _has_ 345, _renys_ 351.
            pres. p. _liffand_ 73, _bowand_ 76, _wirkand_ 120 (all in
                rime); beside _lifyng_ 47, 48; _standyng_ 416; _taryyng_
            strong pp. _rysen_ 442; _fon_ 'found' 503 is a Northern
                short form.
      PRONOUN 3 PERS.: sg. fem. nom. _she_ 186;
            pl. _thay_ 27; _thare_ 75; _thaym_ 31. (MS. _hame_ 143 is
                miswritten for _thame_.)

#Sounds#: OE. _ā_ appears as _ǭ_ in rime: _old_: _cold_: _mold_
(OE. _móld_) 60-2, and probably _dold_: _old_ 266-70; _sore_: _store_:
_therfor_: _more_ 91-4; but elsewhere remains _ā_, e.g. _draw_ (OE.
_drăgan_): _knaw_ 245-6. The spelling with _o_ is the commoner.

See notes on _emong_ 400; _grufe_ 463.

#Spelling#: Note the Northern spellings with _i_, _y_ following a vowel
to indicate length: _moyne_ 'moon' 6, _bayle_ 'bale' 26, _leyde_ =
_lede_ 48; and conversely _farest_ 'fairest' 79, _fath_ 'faith' 330.

       *       *       *       *       *

The maritime associations of the play of _Noah_ made it a special
favourite with the Trinity House guild of master mariners and pilots at
Hull; and some of their records of payments for acting and equipment are
preserved, although the text of their play is lost (Chambers, _Mediaeval
Stage_, vol. ii, pp. 370-1):

      _anno_ To the minstrels, 6d.
      1485.  To Noah and his wife, 1s. 6d.
             To Robert Brown playing God, 6d.
             To the Ship-child, 1d.
             To a shipwright for clinking Noah's ship, one day, 7d.
             22 kids for shoring Noah's ship, 2d.
             To a man clearing away the snow, 1d.
             Straw for Noah and his children, 2d.
             Mass, bellman, torches, minstrels, garland &c., 6s.
             For mending the ship, 2d.
             To Noah for playing, 1s.
             To straw and grease for wheels, ¼d.
             To the waits for going about with the ship, 6d.
      1494.  To Thomas Sawyr playing God, 10d.
             To Jenkin Smith playing Noah, 1s.
             To Noah's wife, 8d.
             The clerk and his children, 1s. 6d.
             To the players of Barton, 8d.
             For a gallon of wine, 8d.
             For three skins for Noah's coat, making it, and a rope to
                 hang the ship in the kirk, 7s.
             To dighting and gilding St. John's head, painting two
                 tabernacles, beautifying the boat and over the table,
                 7s. 2d.
             Making Noah's ship, £5. 8s.
             Two wrights a day and a half, 1s. 6d.
             A halser [i.e. hawser] 4 stone weight, 4s. 8d.
             Rigging Noah's ship, 8d.

       *       *       *       *       *

10. _is_: read _es_ for the rime. Cp. note to I 128-9.

42. _and sythen_: MS. _in sythen_. Cp. note to VI 36.

49. _syn_: 3 pl. because _euery liffyng leyde_ is equivalent to a plural
subject 'all men'.

52. _coueteis_: MS. _couetous_.

56. _alod_: a shortened form of _allowed_, apparently on the analogy of
such words as _lead_ infin., _led_ pa. t. and pp. For a parallel see
note to I 254-5.

57. _Sex hundreth yeris and od_: the _od_ thrown in to rime, as Noah was
exactly 600 years old according to Genesis vii. 6.

66. _and my fry shal with me fall_: 'and the children  I may have'

88. _for syn sake_: 'because of sin'. Until modern times a genitive
preceding _sake_ usually has no _s_, e.g. _for goodness sake_. The
genitive of _sin_ historically had no _s_ (OE. _synne_), but the
omission in a Northern text is due rather to euphony than to survival of
an old genitive form. Cp. _for tempest sake_ I 177.

108. _then_: 'nor', a rare Northern usage, which is treated as an error
here in England and Pollard's text, though it occurs again at l. 535.
Conversely _nor_ is used dialectally for _than_.

109. _Hym to mekill wyn_: 'to his great happiness'.

137. _take_: 'make', and so in l. 272.

167-71. _knowe_: _awe_. The rime requires _knāwe_ or _ǭwe_.

191. 'The worse  I see thee.'

196. _what thou thynk_: 'what seems to you best', 'what you like'; _thou
thynk_ for _thee thynk_—the verb being properly impersonal; see notes
to XVI 338 and VI 192.

200. _Stafford blew_: from the context this line might mean 'you are a
scaremonger', for blue is the recognized colour of fear, and it might be
supposed that 'Stafford blue' represents a material like 'Lincoln
green'. But Mätzner is certainly right in interpreting the line 'you
deserve a beating'. _Stafford blew_ would then be the livid colour
produced by blows. The reference, unless there is a play on _staff_, is

202. _led_: 'treated'.

211. _sory_: the rime requires _sary_.

220. _Mary_: the later _marry!_ = 'by (the Virgin) Mary!' cp. l. 226. So
_Peter!_ 367 = 'by St. Peter!'

246. _to knaw_: 'to confess'.

247-8. _daw to ken_: 'to be recognized as stupid', 'a manifest fool'.

272. _castell_: note the rime with _sayll_: _nayll_: _fayll_, which may
be due to suffix substitution on the analogy of _catail_ beside _catel_
'cattle'. For _take_ see note to 137.

281. _chambre_: the rime points to a by-form _chamb(o)ur_, but the
uninflected form is awkward. Cp. _thre chese chambres_ 'three tiers of
chambers' 129, where the construction is the same as the obsolete _three
pair gloves_.

289-92. Read _lider_, _hider_, _togider_.

292. _must vs_: cp. l. 334 and note to VI 192.

298. 'There is other yarn on the reel', i.e. there is other business on

320. _brether sam_: 'brothers both'. Some editors prefer to read
_brother Sam_ 'brother Shem'.

336 ff. Chaucer refers to the quarrels of Noah and his wife in the
_Miller's Tale_ (ll. 352 ff.):—

      _'Hastou nat herd', quod Nicholas, 'also
      The sorwe of Noe with his felaweshipe
      Er that he myghte brynge his wyf to shipe?
      Hym hadde be levere, I dar wel undertake,
      At thilke tyme, than alle his wetheres blake,
      That she hadde had a shipe hirself allone.'_

The tradition is old. In the splendid tenth-century Bodleian MS. Junius
11, which contains the so-called Caedmon poems, a picture of the Ark
shows Noah's wife standing at the foot of the gangway, and one of her
sons trying to persuade her to come in.

370. _Yei_ is defensible; cp. l. 353. _Þe_ 'the' has been suggested.

383. _Wat Wynk_: an alliterative nick-name like _Nicholl Nedy_ in l.

400. _emong_: OE. _gemang_, here rimes as in Modern English with _u_
(OE. _iung_: _tunge_: _lungen_), cp. note to VI 109 ff.; but in ll.
244-7 it rimes with _lang_: _fang_: _gang_—all with original _a_.

417. <_floodis_>. Some such word is missing in the MS. Cp. ll. 454 f.
and 426.

461. _How_: MS. _Now_. The correction is due to Professor Child. Initial
capitals are peculiarly liable to be miscopied.

463. _grufe_: a Northern and Scottish form of the verb _grow_. The sb.
_ro_ 'rest' 237 sometimes has a parallel form _rufe_.

525. _stold_: for _stalled_ 'fixed'. Note the rime words, which all have
alternative forms _behald_: _bald_: _wald_.



§ 1. GENERAL. Gower's work shows that at the end of the century Latin
and French still shared with English the place of a literary language.
But their hold was precarious.

Latin was steadily losing ground. The Wiclifite translation of the Bible
threatened its hitherto unchallenged position as the language of the
Church; and the Renaissance had not yet come to give it a new life among
secular scholars.

French was still spoken at the court; but in 1387 Trevisa remarks (p.
149) that it was no longer considered an essential part of a gentleman's
education: and he records a significant reform—the replacement of
French by English as the medium of teaching in schools. After the end of
the century Anglo-French, the native development of Norman, was
practically confined to legal use, and French of Paris was the accepted
standard French.

English gained wherever Latin and French lost ground. But though the
work of Chaucer, Gower, and Wiclif foreshadows the coming supremacy of
the East Midland, or, more particularly, the London dialect, there was
as yet no recognized standard of literary English. The spoken language
showed a multiplicity of local varieties, and a writer adopted the
particular variety that was most familiar to him. Hence it is almost
true to say that every considerable text requires a special grammar.

Confusion is increased by the scribes. Nowadays a book is issued in
hundreds or thousands of uniform copies, and within a few months of
publication it may be read in any part of the world. In the fourteenth
century a book was made known to readers only by the slow and costly
multiplication of manuscripts. The copyist might work long after the
date of composition, and he would then be likely to modernize the
language, which in its written form was not stable as it is at present:
so of Barbour's _Bruce_ the oldest extant copies were made nearly a
century after Barbour's death. Again, if the dialect of the author were
unfamiliar to the copyist, he might substitute familiar words and forms.
Defective rimes often bear witness to these substitutions.

Nor have we to reckon only with copyists, who are as a rule careless
rather than bold innovators. While books were scarce and many could not
read them, professional minstrels and amateur reciters played a great
part in the transmission of popular literature; and they, whether from
defective memory or from belief in their own talents, treated the exact
form and words of their author with scant respect. An extreme instance
is given by the MSS. of _Sir Orfeo_ at ll. 267-8:

      Auchinleck MS.:   _His harp, whereon was al his gle,
                        He hidde in an holwe tre;_

      Harley MS.:       _He takeþ his harpe and makeþ hym gle,
                        And lyþe al nyȝt vnder a tre;_

      Ashmole MS.:      _In a tre þat was holow
                        Þer was hys haule euyn and morow._

If the Ashmole MS. alone had survived we should have no hint of the
degree of corruption.

And so, before the extant MSS. recorded the text, copyists and reciters
may have added change to change, jumbling the speech of different men,
generations, and places, and producing those 'mixed' texts which are the
will-o'-the-wisps of language study.

Faced with these perplexities, beginners might well echo the words of
Langland's pilgrims in search of Truth:

      _This were a wikked way, but whoso hadde a gyde
          That wolde folwen vs eche a fote._

There is no such complete guide, for the first part of Morsbach's
_Mittelenglische Grammatik_, Halle 1896, remains a splendid fragment,
and Luick's _Historische Grammatik der englischen Sprache_, Leipzig
1914-, which promises a full account of the early periods, is still far
from completion. Happily two distinguished scholars—Dr. Henry Bradley
in _The Making of English_ and his chapter in _The Cambridge History
of English Literature_, vol. i, Dr. O. Jespersen in _Growth and
Structure of the English Language_—have given brief surveys of the
whole early period which are at once elementary and authoritative. But
for the details the student must rely on a mass of dissertations and
articles of very unequal quality, supplemented by introductions to
single texts, and, above all, by his own first-hand observations made on
the texts themselves.

Some preliminary considerations will be helpful, though perhaps not
altogether reassuring:

(i) A great part of the evidence necessary to a thorough knowledge of
spoken Middle English has not come down to us, a considerable part
remains unprinted, and the printed materials are so extensive and
scattered that it is easy to overlook points of detail. For instance, it
might be assumed from rimes in _Gawayne_, _Pearl_, and the Shropshire
poet Myrc, that the falling together of OE. _-ang-_, _-ung-_, which is
witnessed in NE. _among_ (OE. _gemang_), _-monger_ (OE. _mangere_), was
specifically West Midland, if the occurrence of examples in Yorkshire
(XVII 397-400) escaped notice. It follows that, unless a word or form is
so common as to make the risk of error negligible, positive
evidence—the certainty that it occurs in a given period or district—is
immeasurably more important than negative evidence—the belief that it
never did occur, or even the certainty that it is not recorded, in a
period or district. For the same reason, the statement that a word or
form is found 'in the early fourteenth century' or 'in Kent' should
always be understood positively, and should not be taken to imply that
it is unknown 'in the thirteenth century' or 'in Essex', as to which
evidence may or may not exist.

(ii) It is necessary to clear the mind of the impression, derived from
stereotyped written languages, that homogeneity and stability are
natural states. Middle English texts represent a spoken language of many
local varieties, all developing rapidly. So every linguistic fact should
be thought of in terms of time, place, and circumstance, not because
absolute precision in these points is attainable, but because the
attempt to attain it helps to distinguish accurate knowledge from
conclusions which are not free from doubt.

If the word or form under investigation can be proved to belong to the
author's original composition, exactness is often possible. In the
present book, we know nearly enough the date of composition of extracts
I, III, VIII, X, XI _a_, XII, XIII, XIV; the place of composition of I,
III, X, XI _a_, XII, XIII, XVI, XVII (see map).

But if, as commonly happens, a form cannot be proved to have stood in
the original, endless difficulties arise. It will be necessary first to
determine the date of the MS. copy. This is exactly known for _The
Bruce_, and there are few Middle English MSS. which the palaeographer
cannot date absolutely within a half-century, and probably within a
generation. The place where the MS. copy was written is known nearly
enough for IV _b_, _c_, XII, XIV _e_, XV _b_, _c_ (possibly Leominster),
XVI, XVII; and ME. studies have still much to gain from a thorough
inquiry into the provenance of MSS. Yet, when the extant copy is placed
and dated, it remains to ask to what extent this MS. reproduces some
lost intermediary of different date and provenance; how many such
intermediaries there were between the author's original and our MS.;
what each has contributed to the form of the surviving copy—questions
usually unanswerable, the consideration of which will show the
exceptional linguistic value of the _Ayenbyte_, where we have the
author's own transcript exactly dated and localized, so that every word
and form is good evidence.

Failing such ideal conditions, it becomes necessary to limit doubt by
segregating for special investigation the elements that belong to the
original composition. Hence the importance of rimes, alliteration, and
rhythm, which a copyist or reciter is least likely to alter without
leaving a trace of his activities.

§ 2. DIALECTS. At present any marked variation from the practice of
educated English speakers might, if it were common to a considerable
number of persons, be described as dialectal. But as there was no such
recognized standard in the fourteenth century, it is most convenient to
consider as dialectal any linguistic feature which had a currency in
some English-speaking districts but not in all. For example, _þat_ as a
relative is found everywhere in the fourteenth century and is not
dialectal; _þire_ 'these' is recorded only in Northern districts, and so
is dialectal. Again, _ǭ_ represents OE. _ā_ in the South and
Midlands, while the North retains _ā_ (§ 7 b i): since neither
_ǭ_ nor _ā_ is general, both may be called dialectal.

If a few sporadic developments be excluded because they may turn up
anywhere at any time, then, provided sufficient evidence were
available,[29] it would be possible to mark the boundaries within which
any given dialectal feature occurs at a particular period: we could draw
the line south of which _þire_ 'these' is not found, or the line
bounding the district in which the Norse borrowing _kirke_ occurs; just
as French investigators in _L'Atlas linguistique de la France_ have
shown the distribution of single words and forms in the modern French

[Foot-note 29: Sufficient evidence is not available. If in the year 1340
at every religious house in the kingdom a native of the district had
followed the example of Michael of Northgate, and if all their autograph
copies had survived, we should have a very good knowledge of Middle
English at that time. If the process had been repeated about every ten
years the precision of our knowledge would be greatly increased. For the
area in which any feature is found is not necessarily constant: we know
that in the pres. p. the province of _-ing_ was extending throughout the
fourteenth century; that the inflexion _-es_ in 3 sg. pres. ind. was a
Northern and North-Midland feature in the fourteenth century, but had
become general in London by Shakespeare's time. And though less is known
about the spread of sound changes as distinct from analogical
substitutions, it cannot be assumed that their final boundaries were
reached and fixed in a moment. There is reason to regret the handicap
that has been imposed on ME. studies by the old practice of writing in
Latin or French the documents and records which would otherwise supply
the exactly dated and localized specimens of English that are most
necessary to progress.]

Of more general importance is the fixing of boundaries for sound changes
or inflexions that affect a large number of words, a task to which
interesting contributions have been made in recent years on the evidence
of place-names (see especially A. Brandl, _Zur Geographie der
altenglischen Dialekte_, Berlin 1915, which supplements the work of
Pogatscher on the compounds of _street_ and of Wyld on the ME.
developments of OE. _y_). For example, on the evidence available, which
does not permit of more than rough indications, OE. _ā_ remains
_ā_, and does not develop to _ǭ_, north of a line drawn west from
the Humber (§ 7 b i); _-and(e)_ occurs in the ending of the pres. p. as
far south as a line starting west from the Wash (§ 13 ii); farther south
again, a line between Norwich and Birmingham gives the northern limit
for _Stratton_ forms as against _Stretton_ (§ 8 iv, note).[30] The
direction of all these lines is roughly east and west, yet no two
coincide. But if the developments of OE. _y_ (§ 7 b ii) are mapped out,
_u_ appears below a line drawn athwart from Liverpool to London, and
normal _e_ east of a line drawn north and south from the western border
of Kent. Almost every important feature has thus its own limits, and the
limits of one may cross the limits of another.

[Foot-note 30: The evidence of place-names does not agree entirely with
the evidence of texts. _Havelok_, which is localized with reasonable
certainty in North Lincolnshire, has _(a)dradd_ in rimes that appear to
be original, and these indicate a North-Eastern extension of the area in
which OE. _strǣt_, _drǣdan_ appear for normal Anglian _strēt_,
_drēda(n)_. This evidence, supported by rimes in Robert of Brunne, is
too early to be disposed of by the explanation of borrowing from other
dialects, nor is the testimony of place-names so complete and
unequivocal as to justify an exclusive reliance upon it.]

What then is a ME. dialect? The accepted classification is

                { South-Western  = OE. West Saxon
      Southern  {
                { South-Eastern  = OE. Kentish

                { East Midland }
      Midland   {              } = OE. Mercian
                { West Midland }

      Northern                   = OE. Northumbrian

with the Thames as boundary between Southern and Midland, and the Humber
between Midland and Northern. And yet of five actual limiting lines
taken at random, only the first coincides approximately with the line of
Humber or Thames.

Still the classification rests on a practical truth. Although each
dialectal feature has its own boundaries, these are not set by pure
chance. Their position is to some extent governed by old tribal and
political divisions, by the influence of large towns which served as
commercial and administrative centres, and by relative ease of
communication. Consequently, linguistic features are roughly grouped,
and it is _a priori_ likely that London and Oxford would have more
features in common than would London and York, or Oxford and Hull; and
similarly it is likely that for a majority of phenomena York and Hull
would stand together against London and Oxford. Such a grouping was
recognized in the fourteenth century. Higden and his authorities
distinguish Northern and Southern speech (XIII _b_); in the Towneley
_Second Shepherds' Play_, ll. 201 ff., when Mak pretends to be a yeoman
of the king, he adopts the appropriate accent, and is promptly told to
'take outt that Sothren tothe'. In the _Reeves Tale_ Chaucer makes the
clerks speak their own Northern dialect, so we may be sure that he
thought of it as a unity.

But had Chaucer been asked exactly where this dialect was spoken, he
would probably have replied, _Fer in the North,—I kan nat telle where_.
A dialect has really no precise boundaries; its borders are nebulous;
and throughout this book 'Southern', 'Northern', &c., are used vaguely,
and not with any sharply defined limits in mind. The terms may, however,
be applied to precise areas, so long as the boundaries of single dialect
features are not violently made to conform. It is quite accurate to say
that _-and(e)_ is the normal ending of the pres. p. north of the Humber,
and that _u_ for OE. _y_ is found south of the Thames and west of
London, provided it is not implied that the one should not be found
south of the Humber, or the other north of the Thames. Both in fact
occur in _Gawayne_ (Cheshire or Lancashire); and in general the language
of the Midlands was characterized by the overlapping of features which
distinguish the North from the South.

From what has been said it should be plain that the localization of a
piece of Middle English on the evidence of language alone calls for an
investigation of scope and delicacy. Where the facts are so complex the
mechanical application of rules of thumb may give quick and specious
results, but must in the end deaden the spirit of inquiry, which is the
best gift a student can bring to the subject.

§ 3. VOCABULARY. The readiness of English speakers to adopt words from
foreign languages becomes marked in fourteenth-century writings. But the
classical element which is so pronounced in modern literary English is
still unimportant. There are few direct borrowings from Latin, and
these, like _obitte_ XVI 269, are for the most part taken from the
technical language of the Church. The chief sources of foreign words are
Norse and French.

(_a_) #Norse.# Although many Norse words first appear in English in late
texts, they must have come into the spoken language before the end of
the eleventh century, because the Scandinavian settlements ceased after
the Norman Conquest. The invaders spoke a dialect near enough to OE. to
be intelligible to the Angles; and they had little to teach of
literature or civilization. Hence the borrowings from Norse are all
popular; they appear chiefly in the Midlands and North, where the
invaders settled; and they witness the intimate fusion of two kindred
languages. From Norse we get such common words as _anger_, _both_,
_call_, _egg_, _hit_, _husband_, _ill_, _law_, _loose_, _low_, _meek_,
_take_, _till_ (prep.), _want_, _weak_, _wing_, _wrong_, and even the
plural forms of the 3rd personal pronoun (§ 12).

It is not always easy to distinguish Norse from native words, because
the two languages were so similar during the period of borrowing, and
Norse words were adopted early enough to be affected by all ME. sound
changes. But there were some dialectal differences between ON. and OE.
in the ninth and tenth centuries, and these afford the best criteria of
borrowing. For instance in ME. we have _þouȝ_, _þof_ (ON. _þō̆h_
for _*þauh_) beside _þei(h)_ (OE. _þē(a)h_) II 433; _ay_ (ON. _ei_)
'ever' XVI 293 beside _oo_ (OE. _ā_) XV _b_ 7; _waik_ (ON. _veik-r_)
VIII _b_ 23, where OE. _wāc_ would yield _wǭk_; the forms
_wǭre_ XVI 17 (note) and _wāpin_ XIV _b_ 15 are from ON. _várum_,
_vápn_, whereas _wēre(n)_ and _wĕppen_ V 154 represent OE.
(Anglian) _wēron_, _wēpn_. So we have the pairs _awe_ (ON. _agi_)
I 83 and _ay_ (OE. _ege_) II 571; _neuen_ (ON. _nefna_) 'to name' XVII
12 and _nem(p)ne_ (OE. _nemnan_) II 600; _rot_ (ON. _rót_) II 256 and
_wort_ (OE. _wyrt_) VIII _a_ 303; _sterne_, _starne_ (ON. _stjarna_)
XVII 8, 423 and native _sterre_, _starre_ (OE. _steorra_); _systyr_ (ON.
_systir_) I 112 and _soster_ (OE. _sweostor_) XV _g_ 10; _werre_,
_warre_ (ON. _verri_) XVI 154 (note), 334 and native _werse_, _wars_
(OE. _wyrsa_) XVI 200, XVII 191; _wylle_ (ON. _vill-r_) V 16 and native
_wylde_ (OE. _wilde_) XV _b_ 19.

Note that in Norse borrowings the consonants _g_, _k_ remain stops where
they are palatalized in English words: _garn_ XVII 298, _giue_, _gete_
(ON. _garn_, _gefa_, _geta_) beside _ȝarn_, _ȝiue_, _for-ȝete_
(OE. _gearn_, _giefan_, _for-gietan_); _kirke_ (ON. _kirkja_) beside
_chirche_ (OE. _cirice_). Similarly OE. initial _sc-_ regularly becomes
ME. _sh-_, so that most words beginning with _sk-_, like _sky_, _skin_,
_skyfte_ VI 209 (English _shift_), _skirte_ (English _shirt_), are
Norse; see the alliterating words in V 99.

There is an excellent monograph by E. Björkman: _Scandinavian Loan-Words
in Middle English_, 1900.

(_b_) #French.# Most early borrowings from French were again due to
invasion and settlement. But the conditions of contact were very
different. Some were unfavourable to borrowing: the Normans, who were
relatively few, were dispersed throughout the country, and not, like the
Scandinavians, massed in colonies; and their language had little in
common with English. So the number of French words in English texts is
small before the late thirteenth and the fourteenth centuries. Other
conditions made borrowing inevitable: the French speakers were the
governing class; they gradually introduced a new system of
administration and new standards of culture; and they had an important
literature to which English writers turned for their subject-matter and
their models of form. Fourteenth-century translators adopt words from
their French originals so freely (see note at p. 234, foot), that
written Middle English must give a rather exaggerated impression of the
extent of French influence on the spoken language. But a few examples
will show how many common words are early borrowings from French: nouns
like _country_, _face_, _place_, _river_, _courtesy_, _honour_, _joy_,
_justice_, _mercy_, _pity_, _reason_, _religion_, _war_; adjectives like
_close_, _large_, _poor_; and verbs _cry_, _pay_, _please_, _save_,
_serve_, _use_.

Anglo-French was never completely homogeneous, and it was constantly
supplemented as a result of direct political, commercial, and literary
relations with France. Hence words were sometimes adopted into ME. in
more than one French dialectal form. For instance, Late Latin _ca-_
became _cha-_ in most French dialects, but remained _ca-_ in the North
of France: hence ME. _catch_ and _(pur)chase_, _catel_ and _chatel_,
_kanel_ 'neck' V 230 and _chanel_ 'channel' XIII _a_ 57. So Northern
French preserves initial _w-_, for which other French dialects
substitute _g(u)_: hence _Wowayn_ V 121 beside _Gawayn_ V 4, &c. (see
note to V 121). Again, in Anglo-French, _a_ before nasal + consonant
alternates with _au_:—_dance_: _daunce_; _chance_: _chaunce_; _change_:
_chaunge_; _chambre_ XVII 281: _chaumber_ II 100. English still has the
verbs _launch_ and _lance_, which are ultimately identical.

As borrowing extended over several centuries, the ME. form sometimes
depends on the date of adoption. Thus Latin _fidem_ becomes early French
_feið_, later _fei_, and later still _foi_. ME. has both _feiþ_ and
_fay_, and by Spenser's time _foy_ appears.

The best study of the French element in ME. is still that of D. Behrens:
_Beiträge zur Geschichte der französischen Sprache in England_, 1886. A
valuable supplement, dealing chiefly with Anglo-French as the language
of the law, is the chapter by F. W. Maitland in _The Cambridge History
of English Literature_, vol. i.

§ 4. HANDWRITING. In the ME. period two varieties of script were in use,
both developed from the Caroline minuscule which has proved to be the
most permanent contribution of the schools of Charlemagne. The one,
cursive and flourished, is common in charters, records, and memoranda;
see C. H. Jenkinson and C. Johnson, _Court Hand_, 2 vols., Oxford 1915.
The other, in which the letters are separately written, with few
flourishes or adaptations of form in combination, is the 'book hand', so
called because it is regularly used for literary texts. Between the
extreme types there are many gradations; and fifteenth-century copies,
such as the Cambridge MS. of Barbour's _Bruce_, show an increasing use
of cursive forms, which facilitate rapid writing.

The shapes of letters were not always so distinct as they are in print,
so that copyists of the time, and even modern editors, are liable to
mistake one letter for another. Each hand has its own weaknesses, but
the letters most commonly misread are:—

_e_ : _o_ e.g. _Beuo_ for _Bouo_ I 59; _wroche_ for _wreche_ II 333;
_teches_ IV _b_ 60, where _toches_ (foot-note) is probably right;
pesible (MS. _posible_) XI _b_ 67.

_u_ : _n_ (practically indistinguishable) e.g. _menys_ (MS. _mouys_) XVI
301; _skayned_ (edd. _skayued_) V 99; _ryueȝ_ or _ryneȝ_ V 222
(note). This is only a special case of the confusion of letters and
combinations formed by repetition of the downstroke, e.g. _u_, _n_, _m_,
and _i_ (which is not always distinguished by a stroke above). Hence
_dim_ II 285 where modern editors have _dun_, although _i_ has the
distinguishing stroke.

_y_ : _þ_ e.g. _ye_ (MS. _þe_) XIV _d_ 11; see note to XV _a_ 12.
Confusion is increased by occasional transference to _þ_ of the dot
which historically may stand over _y_. _ȝ_ for _þ_ initially, as in
XVI 170, is more often due to confusion of the letters _þ_: _y_ and
subsequent preference of _ȝ_ for _y_ in spelling (§ 5 i) than to
direct confusion of _þ_: _ȝ_, which are not usually very similar in
late Middle English script.

_þ_ : _h_ e.g. _doþ_ (MS. _doh_) XV _b_ 22; and notes to XII _b_ 116, XVI

_b_ : _v_ e.g. _vousour_ (edd. _bonsour_) II 363.

_c_ : _t_ e.g. _cunesmen_ (edd. _tunesmen_) XV _g_ 6 (note); _top_ (edd.
_cop_) ibid. 16; see note to XIII _a_ 7.

_f_ : _ſ_ (= _s_) e.g. _slang_ (variant _flang_) X 53.

_l_ : _ſ_ (= _s_) e.g. _al_ (edd. _as_) II 108.

_l_ : _k_ e.g. _kyþeȝ_ (MS. _lyþeȝ_) VI 9.

§ 5. SPECIAL LETTERS. Two letters now obsolete are common in
fourteenth-century MSS.: _þ_ and _ȝ_.

_þ_: 'thorn', is a rune, and stands for the voiced and voiceless sounds
now represented by _th_ in _this_, _thin_. The gradual displacement of
_þ_ by _th_, which had quite a different sound in classical Latin (note
to VIII _a_ 23), may be traced in the MSS. printed (except X, XII). _þ_
remained longest in the initial position, but by the end of the
fifteenth century was used chiefly in compendia like _þe_ 'the', _þt_

_ȝ_: called '_ȝoȝ_' or '_yogh_', derives from __, the OE.
script form of the letter _g_. It was retained in ME. after the Caroline
form _g_ had become established in vernacular texts, to represent a
group of spirant sounds:

(i) The initial spirant in _ȝoked_ IX 253 (OE. _geoc-_), _ȝere_ I
151 (OE. _gēar_), where the sound was approximately the same as in
our _yoke_, _year_. Except in texts specially influenced by the
tradition of French spelling, _y_ (which is ambiguous owing to its
common use as a vowel = _i_) is less frequent than _ȝ_ initially.
Medially the palatal spirant is represented either by _ȝ_ or _y_:
_eȝe_ (OE. _ē(a)ȝ-_) XV _c_ 14 beside _eyen_ VIII _a_ 168;
_iseȝe_ (OE. _gesegen_) XIV _c_ 88 beside _iseye_ XIV _c_ 16. The
medial guttural spirant more commonly develops to _w_ in the fourteenth
century: _awe_ (ON. _agi_) I 83, _felawe_ (ON. _félagi_) XIV _d_ 7,
_halwes_ (OE. _halg-_), beside _aȝ-_ V 267, _felaȝ-_ V 83,
_halȝ-_ V 54.

(ii) The medial or final spirant, guttural or palatal, which is lost in
standard English, but still spelt in _nought_, _through_, _night_,
_high_: ME. _noȝt_, _þurȝ_, _nyȝt_, _hyȝ_: OE. _noht_,
_þurh_, _niht_, _hēh_. The ME. sound was probably like that in German
_ich_, _ach_. The older spelling with _h_ is occasionally found; more
often _ch_ as in _mycht_ X 17; but the French spelling _gh_ gains ground
throughout the century. Abnormal are _write_ for _wrighte_ XVI 230,
_wytes_, _nytes_ for _wyȝtes_, _nyȝtes_ XV _i_ 19 f.

(iii) As these sounds weakened in late Southern ME., _ȝ_ was
sometimes used without phonetic value, or at the most to reinforce a
long _i_: e.g. _Engliȝsch_ XI _a_ 28, 37, &c.; _kyȝn_ 'kine' IX

N.B.—Entirely distinct in origin and sound value, but identical in
script form, is _ȝ_, the minuscule form of _z_, in _Aȝone_ (=
_Azone_) I 105, _clyffeȝ_ 'cliffs' V 10, &c. It would probably be
better to print _z_ in such words.

§ 6. SPELLING. Modern English spelling, which tolerates almost any
inconsistency in the representation of sounds provided the same word is
always spelt in the approved way, is the creation of printers, schools,
and dictionaries. A Middle English writer was bound by no such arbitrary
rules. Michael of Northgate, whose autograph MS. survives, writes
_diaknen_ III 5 and _dyacne_ 9; _vyf_ 22, _uif_ 23, _vif_ 37; _þouzond_
30 and _þousend_ 34. Yet his spelling is not irrational. The comparative
regularity of his own speech, which he reproduced directly, had a
normalizing influence; and by natural habit he more often than not
solved the same problem of representation in the same way. Scribes, too,
like printers in later times, found a measure of consistency convenient,
and the spelling of some transcripts, e.g. I and X, is very regular. If
at first ME. spelling appears lawless to a modern reader, it is because
of the variety of dialects represented in literature, the widely
differing dates of the MSS. printed, and the tendency of copyists to mix
their own spellings with those of their original.

The following points must be kept in mind:

(i) _i_ : _y_ as vowels are interchangeable. In some MSS. (for instance,
I) _y_ is used almost exclusively; in others (VIII _a_) it is preferred
for distinctness in the neighbourhood of _u_, _n_, _m_, so that the
scribe writes _hym_, but _his_.

(ii) _ie_ is found in later texts for long close _ẹ̄_: _chiere_ XII
_a_ 120, _flietende_ XII _a_ 157, _diemed_ XII _b_ 216.

(iii) _ui_ (_uy_), in the South-West and West Midlands, stands for
_ǖ_ (sounded as in French _amuser_): _puit_ XIV _c_ 12; _vnkuynde_
XIV _c_ 103. The corresponding short _ü_ is spelt _u_: _hull_ '_hill_',

(iv) Quite distinct is the late Northern addition of _i_ (_y_), to
indicate the long vowels _ā_, _ē_, _ō_: _neid_ X 18, _noyne_
'noon' X 67.

(v) _ou_ (_ow_) is the regular spelling of long _ū_ (sounded as in
_too_): _hous_, _now_, _founden_, &c.

(vi) _o_ is the regular spelling for short _u_ (sounded as in _put_) in
the neighbourhood of _u_, _m_, _n_, because if _u_ is written in
combination with these letters an indistinct series of downstrokes
results. Hence _loue_ but _luf_, _come_ infin., _sone_ 'son', _dronken_
'drunk'. In _Ayenbyte_ _o_ for _ŭ_ is general, e.g. _grochinge_ III
10. In other texts it is common in _bote_ 'but'.

(vii) _u_ : _v_ are not distinguished as consonant and vowel. _v_ is
preferred in initial position, _u_ medially or finally: _valay_
'valley', _vnder_ 'under', _vuel_ (= _üvel_) 'evil', _loue_ 'love'.
(Note that in XII the MS. distinction of _v_ and _u_ is not reproduced.)

(viii) So _i_, and its longer form _j_, are not distinguished as vowel
and consonant. In this book _i_ is printed throughout, and so stands
initially for the sound of our _j_ in _ioy_, _iuggement_, &c.

(ix) _c_ : _k_ for the sounds in _kit_, _cot_, are often interchangeable;
but _k_ is preferred before palatal vowels _e_, _i_ (_y_); and _c_
before _o_, _u_. See the alliterating words in V 52, 107, 128, 153, 272,

(x) _c_ : _s_ alternate for voiceless _s_, especially in French words:
_sité_ 'city' VII 66, _resayue_ 'receive' V 8, _vyse_ 'vice' V 307,
_falce_ V 314; but also in _race_ (ON. _rás_) V 8 beside _rase_ XVII

(xi) _s_ : _z_ (_ȝ_) are both used for voiced _s_, the former
predominating: _kyssedes_ beside _raȝteȝ_ V 283; _þouzond_ III 30
beside _þousend_ III 34. But _ȝ_ occasionally appears for voiceless
_s_: _(aȝ-)leȝ_ 'awe-less' V 267, _forȝ_ 'force' 'waterfall' V

(xii) _sh_ : _sch_ : _ss_ are all found for modern _sh_, OE. _sc_: _shuld_
I 50; _schert_ II 230; _sserte_ III 40; but _sal_ 'shall', _suld_
'should' in Northern texts represent the actual Northern pronunciation
in weakly stressed words.

(xiii) _v_ : _w_: In late Northern MSS. _v_ is often found for initial
_w_: _vithall_ X 9, _Valter_ X 36. The interchange is less common in
medial positions: _in swndir_ X 106.

(xiv) _wh-_ : _qu(h)-_ : _w-_ :—_wh-_ is a spelling for _hw-_. In the
South the aspiration is weakened or lost, and _w_ is commonly written,
e.g. VIII _b_. In the North the aspiration is strong, and the sound is
spelt _qu(h)-_, e.g. _quhelis_ 'wheels' X 17. Both _qu-_ and _wh-_ are
found in _Gawayne_. The development in later dialects is against the
assumption that _hw-_ became _kw-_ in pronunciation.

See also § 5.

The whole system of ME. spelling was modelled on French, and some of the
general features noted above (e.g. ii, iii, v, vi, x) are essentially
French. But, particularly in early MSS., there are a number of
exceptional imitations. Sometimes the spelling represents a French
scribe's attempt at English pronunciation: _foret_ in XV _g_ 18 stands
for _forþ_, where _-rþ_ with strongly trilled _r_ was difficult to a
foreigner; and occasionally such distortions are found as _knith_,
_knit_, and even _kint_ (_Layamon_, _Havelok_) for _kniȝt_, which had
two awkward consonant groups. More commonly the copyist, accustomed to
write both French and English, chose a French representation for an
English sound. So _st_ for _ht_ appears regularly in XV _e_: _seuenist_
'sennight', and XV _g_: _iboust_ 'bought', &c. The explanation is that
in French words like _beste_ 'bête', _gist_ 'gît', _s_ became only a
breathing before it disappeared; and _h_ in ME. _ht_ weakened to a
similar sound, as is shown by the rimes with _Kryste_ 'Christ' in VI
98-107. Hence the French spelling _st_ is occasionally substituted for
English _ht_. Again, in borrowings from French, _an_ + consonant
alternates with _aun_: _dance_ or _daunce_; _change_ or _chaunge_ (p.
273); and by analogy we have _Irlande_ or _Irlaunde_ in XV _d_. Another
exceptional French usage, _-tz_ for final voiceless _-s_, is explained
at p. 219, top.

§ 7. SOUND CHANGES. (_a_) #Vowel Quantity.# No fourteenth-century writer
followed the early example of Orm. Marks of quantity are not used in
fourteenth-century texts; doubling of long vowels is not an established
rule; and there are no strictly quantitative metres, or treatises on
pronunciation. Consequently it is not easy to determine how far the
quantity of the vowels in any given text has been affected by the very
considerable changes that occurred in the late OE. and ME. periods.

Of these the chief are:

(i) In unstressed syllables original long vowels tend to become short.
Hence _ŭs_ (OE. _ūs_), and _bŏte_ (OE. _būtan_) 'but', which
are usually unstressed.

(ii) All long vowels are shortened in stressed close syllables (i.e.,
_usually_, when they are followed by two consonants): e.g. _kēpen_,
pa. t. _kĕpte_, pp. _kĕpt_; _hŭsband_ beside _hous_;
_wĭmmen_ (from _wĭf-men_) beside _wīf_.

_Exception._ Before the groups _-ld_, _-nd_, _-rd_, _-rð_, _-mb_, a
short vowel is lengthened in OE. unless a third consonant immediately
follows. Hence, before any of these combinations, length may be retained
in ME.: e.g. _fēnd_ 'fiend', _bīnden_, _chīld_; but

(iii) Short vowels _ă_, _ĕ_, _ŏ_ are lengthened in stressed
open syllables (i.e., _usually_, when they are followed by a single
consonant with a following vowel): _tă|ke_ > _táke_; _mĕ|te_ >
_méte_ 'meat'; _brŏ|ken_ > _bróken_. To what extent _ĭ_ and _ŭ_
were subject to the same lengthening in Northern districts is still
disputed. Normally they remain short in South and S. Midlands, e.g.
_drĭuen_ pp.; _lŏuen_ = _lŭven_ 'to love'.

There are many minor rules and many exceptions due to analogy; but
roughly it may be taken that ME. vowels are:

_short_ when unstressed;

_short_ before two consonants, except _-ld_, _-nd_, _-rd_, _-rð_, _-mb_;

_long_ (except _i_ (_y_), _u_) before a single medial consonant;

otherwise of the quantity shown in the Glossary for the OE. or ON.

(_b_) #Vowel Quality.# The ME. sound-changes are so many and so obscure
that it will be possible to deal only with a few that contribute most to
the diversity of dialects, and it happens that the particular changes
noticed all took effect before the fourteenth century.

(i) OE. and ON. _ā_ develop to long open _ǭ_ (sounded as in
_broad_), first in the South and S. Midlands, later in the N. Midlands.
In the North _ā_ (sounded approximately as in _f~a~ther_) remains:
e.g. _bane_ 'bone' IV _a_ 54, _balde_ 'bold' IV _a_ 51. The boundary
seems to have been a line drawn west from the Humber, and this
approximates to the dividing line in the modern dialects. There are of
course instances of _ǭ_ to the north and of _ā_ to the south of
the Humber, since border speakers would be familiar with both _ā_ and
_ǭ_, or would have intermediate pronunciations; and poets might use
convenient rimes from neighbouring dialects.

(ii) OE. _ȳ̆_ (deriving from Germanic _ū̆_ followed by _i_)
appears _normally_ in E. Midlands and the North as _ī̆_ (_ȳ̆_):
e.g. _kȳn_, _hill_ (OE. _cȳ_, _hyll_). In the South-East,
particularly Kent, it appears as _ẹ̆̄_: _kēn_, _hell_. In the
South-West, and in W. Midlands, it commonly appears as _u_, _ui_ (_uy_),
with the sound of short or long _ü_. London was apparently at a meeting
point of the _u_, _i_, and _e_ boundaries, because all the forms appear
in fourteenth-century London texts, though _ṻ̆_ and _ē̆_ gradually
give place to _ī̆_. The extension of _ṻ̆_ forms to the North-West
is shown by _Gawayne_, and a line drawn from London to Liverpool would
give a rough idea of the boundary. But within this area unrounding of
_ṻ̆_ to _ī̆_ seems to have been progressive during the century.
N.B.—It is dangerous to jump to conclusions from isolated examples.
Before _r_ + consonant _e_ is sometimes found in all dialects, e.g.
_schert_ II 230. _Church_, spelt with _u_, _i_, or _e_, had by etymology
OE. _i_, not _y_. And in Northern texts there are a number of
_e_-spellings in open syllables, both for OE. _y_ and _i_.

(_c_) #Consonants#:

(i) _f_ > _v_ (initial): this change, which dates back to OE. times, is
carried through in _Ayenbyte_: e.g. _uele uayre uorbisnen_ = Midland
'_fele fayre forbisnes_'. In some degree it extended over the whole of
the South.

(ii) _s_ > _z_ (initial), parallel to the change of _f_ to _v_, is
regularly represented in spelling in the _Ayenbyte_: _zome_ 'some', &c.
Otherwise _z_ is rare in spelling, but the voiced initial sound probably
extended to most of the Southern districts where it survives in modern

§ 8. PRONUNCIATION. One of the best ways of studying ME. pronunciation
is to learn by heart a few lines of verse in a consistent dialect, and
to correct their repetition as more precise knowledge is gained. The
spelling can be relied on as very roughly phonetic if the exceptional
usages noted in § 6 are kept in mind. Supplementary and controlling
information is provided by the study of rimes, of alliteration, and of
the history of English and French sounds.

#Consonants.# Where a consonant is clearly pronounced in Modern English,
its value is nearly enough the same for ME. But modern spelling
preserves many consonants that have been lost in speech, and so is
rather a hindrance than a help to the beginner in ME. For instance, the
initial sounds in ME. _kniȝt_ and _niȝt_ were not the same, for
_kniȝt_ alliterates always with _k-_ (V 43, 107) and _niȝt_ with
_n-_ (VII 149); and initial _wr-_ in _wringe_, _wriȝte_ is distinct
from initial _r-_ in _ring_, _riȝt_ (cp. alliteration in VIII _a_
168, V 136). Nor can _wriȝte_ rime with _write_ in a careful
fourteenth-century poem. In words like _lerne_, _doghter_, _r_ was
pronounced with some degree of trilling. And although there are signs of
confusion in late MSS. (IV _a_, XVI, XVII), double consonants were
generally distinguished from single: _sonne_ 'sun' was pronounced
_sŭn-ne_, and so differed from _sone_ 'son', which was pronounced
_sŭ-ne_ (§ 6 vi).

#Vowels.# Short vowels _ă_, _ĕ_, _ĭ_, _ŏ_, _ŭ_ (§ 6 vi)
were pronounced respectively as in French _patte_, English _pet_, _pit_,
_pot_, _put_. Final unstressed _-e_ was generally syllabic, with a sound
something like the final sound in _China_ (§ 9).

The long vowels _ā_, _ī_, _ū_ (§ 6 v) were pronounced
approximately as in _f~a~ther_, _mach~i~ne_, _cr~u~de_. But _ē_ and
_ō_ present special difficulties, because the spelling failed to make
the broad distinction between open _ǭ_ and close _ọ̄_, open
_ę̄_ and close _ẹ̄_—a distinction which, though relative only
(depending on the greater or less opening of the mouth passage), is
proved to have been considerable by ME. rimes, and by the earlier and
subsequent history of the long sounds represented in ME. by _e_, _o_.

  (i) Open _ǭ_ (as in _broad_) derives:

  (_a_) from OE. _ā_, according to § 7 b i: OE. _brād_,
  _bāt_, _báld_ > ME. _brǭd_, _bǭt_, _bǭld_ > NE.
  _broad_, _boat_, _bold_. The characteristic modern spelling is
  thus _oa_.

  (_b_) from OE. _ŏ_ in open syllables according to § 7 a iii:
  OE. _brŏcen_ > ME. _brǫ́́ke(n)_ > NE. _broken_.

NOTE.—In many texts the rimes indicate a distinction in
pronunciation between _ǭ_ derived from OE. _ā_ and _ǭ_
derived from OE. _ŏ_, and the distinction is still made in NW.
Midland dialects.

  (ii) Close _ọ̄_ (pronounced rather as in French _beau_ than as
  in standard English _so_ which has developed a diphthong _ọu_),
  derives from OE. _ō_: OE. _gōs_, _dōm_, _góld_ > ME.
  _gọ̄s_, _dọ̄m_, _gọ̄ld_ > NE. _goose_, _doom_, _gold_.
  The characteristic modern spelling is _oo_.

NOTE.—(1) After consonant + _w_, _ǭ_ often develops in ME.
to _ọ̄_: OE. _(al)swā_, _twā_ > ME. _(al)sǭ_, _twǭ_ >
later _(al)sọ̄_, _twọ̄_.

(2) In Scotland and the North _ọ̄_ becomes regularly
a sound (perhaps _ǖ_) spelt _u_: _gōd_ > _gud_, _blōd_ >
_blud_, &c.

Whereas the distribution of _ǭ_ and _ọ̄_ is practically the same
for all ME. dialects, the distinction of open _ę̄_ and close _ẹ̄_
is not so regular, chiefly because the sounds from which they derive
were not uniform in OE. dialects. For simplicity, attention will be
confined to the London dialect, as the forerunner of modern Standard

  (iii) South-East Midland open _ę̄_ (pronounced as in _there_)

    (_a_) from OE. (Anglian) _ǣ_: Anglian _dǣl_ > SE. Midl.
    _dę̄l_ > NE. _deal_;

    (_b_) from OE. _ēa_: OE. _bēatan_ > ME. _bę̄te(n)_ > NE.

    (_c_) from OE. _ĕ_ in open syllables according to § 7 a iii:
    OE. _mĕte_ > ME. _mę́te_ > NE. _meat_.

The characteristic modern spelling is _ea_.

  (iv) South-East Midland close _ẹ̄_ (pronounced as in French
  _été_) derives:

    (_a_) from OE. (Anglian) _ē_ of various origins: Anglian
    _hēr_, _mēta(n)_, _(ge)lēfa(n)_ > SE. Midl. _hẹ̄re_,
    _mẹ̄te(n)_, _lẹ̄ue(n)_ > NE. _here_, _meet_, _(be)lieve_.

    (_b_) from OE. _ēo_: OE. _dēop_, _þēof_ > ME. _dẹ̄p_,
    _þẹ̄f_ (_þief_) > NE. _deep_, _thief_.

The characteristic modern spellings are _ee_, and _ie_ which already in
ME. often distinguishes the close sound (§ 6 ii).

NOTE.—The distinction made above does not apply in South-Eastern
(Kentish), because this dialect has ME. _ea_, _ia_, _ya_ for OE. _ēa_
(iii b), and OE. _ē_ for Anglian _ǣ_ (iii a). Nor does it hold for
South-Western, because the West Saxon dialect of OE. had _gelīefan_
for Anglian _gelēfa(n)_ (iv a). West Saxon also had _strǣt_,
_-drǣdan_, where normal Anglian had _strẹ̄t_, _-drẹ̄da(n)_, but
the distribution of the place-names _Stratton_ beside _Stretton_, and of
the pa. t. and pp. _dradd(e)_ beside _dredd(e)_ (p. 270 and n.), shows
that the _ǣ_ forms were common in the extreme South and the East of
the Anglian area; so that in fourteenth-century London both _ę̄_ and
_ẹ̄_ might occur in such words, as against regular West Midland and
Northern _ẹ̄_.

In NE. Midland and Northern texts some _ē_ sounds which we should
expect to be distinguished as open and close rime together, especially
before dental consonants, e.g. _ȝēde_ (OE. _ēode_): _lēde_
(Anglian _lǣda(n)_) I 152-3.

§ 9. INFLEXIONS. Weakening and levelling of inflexions is continuous
from the earliest period of English. The strong stress falling regularly
on the first or the stem syllable produced as reflex a tendency to
indistinctness in the unstressed endings. The disturbing influence of
foreign conquest played a secondary but not a negligible part, as may be
seen from a comparison of some verbal forms in the North and the N.
Midlands, where Norse influence was strongest, with those of the South,
where it was inconsiderable:

                   Normal         Early        Early        Old
                   OE.            Sth.         Nth.and      Norse
                                  ME.          N. Midl.
      Infin.      _drīfan_    _driue(n)_   _driue_      _drífa_
      Pres. p.    _drīfende_  _driuinde_   _driuande_   _drífandi_
      Pp. strong  _gedrifen_     _ydriue_     _driuen_     _drifenn_

and although tangible evidence of French influence on the flexional
system is wanting (for occasional borrowings like _gowtes artetykes_ IX
314 are mere literary curiosities), every considerable settlement of
foreign speakers, especially when they come as conquerors, must shake
the traditions of the language of the conquered. A third cause of
uncertainty was the interaction of English dialects in different stages
of development.

The practical sense of the speakers controlled and balanced these
disruptive factors. There is no better field than Middle English for a
study of the processes of vigorous growth: the regularizing of
exceptional and inconvenient forms; the choice of the most distinctive
among a group of alternatives; the invention of new modes of expression;
the discarding of what has become useless.

At the beginning of the fourteenth century the inflexional endings are:
_-e_; _-en_; _-ene_ (weak gen. pl.); _-er_ (comparative); _-es_; _-est_;
with _-eþ_, _-ede_ (_-de_, _-te_), _-ed_ (_-d_, _-t_), _-ynge_ (_-inde_,
_-ende_, _-ande_), which are verbal only.

NOTE.—(_a_) Sometimes one of these inflexions may be substituted for
another: e.g. when _-es_ replaces _-e_ as the Northern ending of the 1st
sg. pres. ind. Such analogical substitutions must be distinguished from
phonetic developments.

(_b_) In disyllabic inflexions like _-ede_, _-ynge_ (_-ande_), final
_-e_ is lost early in the North. In polysyllables it is dropped
everywhere during the century.

(_c_) The indistinct sound of flexional _-e-_ covered by a consonant is
shown by spellings with _-i-_, _-y-_: _woundis_ X 51; _madist_ XI _b_
214; _blyndiþ_ XI _b_ 7; _fulfillid_ XVI 6; _etin_ XIV _b_ 76;
_brokynne_ XVI 195. And, especially in West Midland texts, _-us_, _-un_
(_-on_) appear for _-es_, _-en_: _mannus_ XI _b_ 234; _foundun_ XI _a_
47; _laghton_ VII 119. Complete syncope sometimes occurs: _days_ I 198,

Otherwise all the inflexions except _-e_, _-en_, are fairly stable
throughout the century.

#-en#: In the North _-en_ is found chiefly in the strong pp., where it
is stable. In the South (except in the strong pp.) it is better
preserved, occurring rarely in the dat. sg. of adjectives, e.g. _onen_
III 4, dat. pl. of nouns, e.g. _diaknen_ III 5, and in the infinitive;
more commonly in the weak pl. of nouns, where it is stable, and in the
pa. t. pl., where it alternates with _-e_. In the Midlands _-en_,
alternating with _-e_, is also the characteristic ending of the pres.
ind. pl. As a rule (where the reduced ending _-e_ is found side by side
with _-en_) _-e_ is used before words beginning with a consonant, and
_-en_ before words beginning with a vowel or _h_, to avoid hiatus. But
that the preservation of _-en_ does not depend purely on phonetic
considerations is proved by its regular retention in the Northern strong
pp., and its regular reduction to _-e_ in the corresponding Southern

#-e#: Wherever _-en_ was reduced, it reinforced final _-e_, which so
became the meeting point of all the inflexions that were to disappear
before Elizabethan times.

_-e_ was the ending of several verbal forms; of the weak adjective and
the adjective pl.; of the dat. sg. of nouns; and of adverbs like
_faste_, _deepe_, as distinguished from the corresponding adjectives
_fast_, _deep_.

That _-e_ was pronounced is clear from the metres of
Chaucer, Gower, and most other Southern and Midland
writers of the time. For centuries the rhythm of their verse
was lost because later generations had become so used to
final _-e_ as a mere spelling that they did not suspect that it
was once syllabic.

But already in fourteenth-century manuscripts there is evidence of
uncertainty. Scribes often omit the final vowel where the rhythm shows
that it was syllabic in the original (see the language notes to I, II).
Conversely, in _Gawayne_ forms like _burne_ (OE. _beorn_), _race_ (ON.
_rás_), _hille_ (OE. _hyll_) appear in nominative and accusative, where
historically there should be no ending. The explanation is that, quite
apart from the workings of analogy, which now extended and now curtailed
its historical functions, _-e_ was everywhere weakly pronounced, and was
dropped at different rates in the various dialects. In the North it
hardly survives the middle of the century (IV _a_, X). In the N.
Midlands its survival is irregular. In the South and S. Midlands it is
fairly well preserved till the end of the century. But everywhere the
proportion of flexionless forms was increasing. It may be assumed that,
in speech as in verse, final _-e_ was lost phonetically first before
words beginning with a vowel or _h_.

§ 10. NOUNS: Gender, which in standard West Saxon had been to a great
extent grammatical (i.e. dependent on the forms of the noun), was by the
fourteenth century natural (i.e. dependent on the meaning of the noun).
This change had accompanied and in some degree facilitated the transfer
of nearly all nouns to the strong masculine type, which was the
commonest and best defined in late OE.:

                        OE.        ME.
      Sg. nom. acc.  _cniht_    _kniȝt_
               gen.  _cnihtes_  _kniȝtes_
               dat.  _cnihte_   _kniȝte_

                        OE.        ME.
      Pl. nom. acc.  _cnihtas_  _kniȝtes_
               gen.  _cnihta_   _kniȝtes_
               dat.  _cnihtum_  _kniȝtes_

In the North final _-e_ of the dat. sg. was regularly dropped early in
the fourteenth century, and even in the South the dat. sg. is often
uninflected, probably owing to the influence of the accusative. In the
plural the inflexion of the nom. acc. spreads to all cases; but in early
texts, and relatively late in the South, the historical forms are
occasionally found, e.g. gen. pl. _cniste_ (MS. _cnistes_) XV _g_ 30
(note), dat. pl. _diaknen_ III 5.

#Survivals#: (i) The common mutated plurals _man_: _men_, _fot_: _fet_,
&c., are preserved, and in VIII _b_ a gen. pl. _menne_ (OE. _manna_)
occurs; _ky_ pl. of _cow_ forms a new double pl. _kyn_, see (iii) below;
_hend_ pl. of _hand_ is Norse, cp. XVI 75 (note).

(ii) Some OE. neuters like _shep_ 'sheep' VIII _b_ 18, _ȝer_ 'year'
II 492, _þing_ II 218, _folk_ II 389, resist the intrusion of the
masculine pl. _-es_ in nominative and accusative. Pl. _hors_ II 304,
XIII _a_ 34 remains beside _horses_ XIV _b_ 73; but _deores_ 'wild
animals' occurs at XV _b_ 29, where Modern English preserves _deer_.

(iii) In the South the old weak declension with pl. _-en_ persists,
though by the fourteenth century the predominance of the strong type is
assured. The weak forms occur not only where they are historically
justified, e.g. _eyȝen_ (OE. _ēagan_) II 111, but also by analogy
in words like _honden_ (OE. pl. _honda_) II 79, _tren_ (OE. pl.
_trēo_) XIII _a_ 51, _platen_ (OFr. _plate_) XV _g_ 4. The inflexion
still survives in three double plural formations: _children_ VIII _b_ 70
beside _childer_ (OE. pl. _cildru_); _bretheren_ VIII _a_ 201 beside
_brether_ XVII 320 (OE. pl. _brōþor_); and _kyȝn_ IX 256 for _ky_
(cp. (i) above). The OE. weak gen. pl. in _-ena_ leaves its traces in
the South, e.g. _knauene_ VIII _b_ 56, XV _h_ 4, and unhistorical
_lordene_ VIII _b_ 77.

(iv) The group _fader_, _moder_, _broþer_, _doghter_ commonly show the
historical flexionless gen. sg., e.g. _doghtyr arme_ I 136; _moder
wombe_ XI _b_ 29 f.; _brother hele_ XII _a_ 18; _Fadir voice_ XVI 79.

(v) The historical gen. sg. of old strong feminines remains in _soule
dede_ (OE. _sāwle_) I 212; but _Lady day_ (OE. _hlǣfdigan dæg_) I
242 is a survival of the weak fem. gen. sg.

§ 11. ADJECTIVES. Separate flexional forms for each gender are not
preserved in the fourteenth century; but until its end the distinction
of strong and weak declensions remains in the South and South Midlands,
and is well marked in the careful verse of Chaucer and Gower. The strong
is the normal form. The weak form is used after demonstratives, _the_,
_his_, &c., and in the vocative. As types _god_ (OE. _gōd_) 'good'
and _grene_ (OE. _grēne_) 'green' will serve, because in OE.
_grēne_ had a vowel-ending in the strong nom. sg. masc., while
_gōd_ did not. The ME. paradigms are:

              Singular.                      Plural.
        Strong        Weak               Strong and Weak
      _god_         _godė_              _godė_
      _grenė_    _grenė_             _grenė_

Examples: Strong sg. _a gret serpent_ (OE. _grēat_) XII _b_ 72; _an
unkindė man_ (OE. _uncynde_) XII _b_ 1; _a stillė water_ (OE.
_stille_) XII _a_ 83. Weak sg. _The gretė gastli serpent_ XII _b_
126; _hire oghnė hertes lif_ XII _a_ 4; _O lef liif_ (where the metre
indicates _leuė_ for the original) II 102. Strong pl. _þer wer
widė wones_ II 365. Weak pl. _the smalė stones_ XII _a_ 84.

Note that strong and weak forms are identical in the plural; that even
in the singular there is no formal distinction when the OE. strong masc.
nom. ended in a vowel (_grēne_); that monosyllables ending in a vowel
(e.g. _fre_), polysyllables, and participles, are usually invariable;
and that regular dropping of final _-e_ levels all distinctions, so that
the North and N. Midlands early reached the relatively flexionless stage
of Modern English.

#Survivals.# The _Ayenbyte_ shows some living use of the adjective
inflexions. Otherwise the survivals are limited to set phrases, e.g.
gen. sg. _nones cunnes_ 'of no kind', _enes cunnes_ 'of any kind', XV
_g_ 20, 22. That the force of the inflexion was lost is shown by the
early wrong analysis _no skynnes_, _al skynnes_, &c.

#Definite Article.# Parallel to the simplification of the adjective, the
full OE. declension _sē_, _sēo_, _þæt_, &c., is reduced to
invariable _þe_. The _Ayenbyte_ alone of our specimens keeps some of the
older distinctions. Elsewhere traces appear in set phrases, e.g. neut.
sg. _þat_, _þet_ in _þat on_ 'the one', _þat oþer_ 'the other' V 344,
and, with wrong division, _þe ton_ XI _b_ 27, _the toþer_ IX 4; neut.
sg. dat. _þen_ (OE. _þǣm_), with wrong division, in _atte nale_ (for
_at þen ale_) VIII _a_ 109.

§ 12. PRONOUNS. In a brilliant study (_Progress in Language_, London
1894) Jespersen exemplifies the economy and resources of English from
the detailed history of the Pronoun. In the first and second persons
fourteenth-century usage does not differ greatly from that of the
Authorized Version of the Bible. But the pronoun of the third person
shows a variety of developments. In the singular an objective case
replaces, without practical disadvantages, the older accusative and
dative: _him_ (OE. _hine_ and _him_), _her(e)_ (OE. _hīe_ and
_hiere_), _(h)it_ (OE. _hit_ and _him_). The possessive _his_ still
serves for the neuter as well as the masculine, e.g. _þat ryuer...
chaungeþ ~hys~ fordes_ XIII _a_ 55 f.; though an uninflected neuter
possessive _hit_ occasionally appears in the fourteenth century. In the
plural, where one would expect objective _him_ from the regular OE. dat.
pl. _him_, clearness is gained by the choice of unambiguous _hem_, from
an OE. dat. pl. by-form _heom_.

But as we see from _Orfeo_, ll. 408, 446, 185, in some dialects the nom.
sg. masc. (OE. _hē_), nom. sg. fem. (OE. _hēo_), and nom. pl. (OE.
_hīe_), had all become ME. _he_. The disadvantages of such ambiguity
increased as the flexional system of nouns and adjectives collapsed, and
a remedy was found in the adoption of new forms. For the nom. sg. fem.,
_s(c)he_, _s(c)ho_ (mostly Northern), come into use, which are probably
derived from _si̯ē_, _se̯ō_, the corresponding case of the
definite article. The innovation was long resisted in the South, and
_ho_, an unambiguous development of _heō_, remains late in W. Midland
texts like _Pearl_.

In the nom. pl. ambiguous _he_ was replaced by _þei_, the
nom. pl. of the Norse definite article. This is the regular
form in all except the Southern specimens II (orig.), III, XIII.
And although the full series of Norse forms _þei_, _þeir_, _þe(i)m_
is found in Orm at the beginning of the thirteenth century,
Chaucer and other Midland writers of the fourteenth century
as a rule have only _þei_, with native English _her(e)_, _hem_ in the
oblique cases. (For details see the language note to each

The poss. pl. _her(e)_, beside _hor(e)_, was still liable to confusion
with the obj. sg. fem. _her(e)_, cp. II 92. Consequently this was
the next point to be gained by the Norse forms, e.g. in VII 181.
In the Northern texts X, XVI, XVII, all from late MSS., the
Norse forms _þai_, _þa(i)r_, _þa(i)me_ are fully established; but
_(h)em_, which was throughout unambiguous, survived into
modern dialects in the South and Midlands.

Note the reduced nominative form _a_ 'he', 'they' in XIII; and the
objective _his(e)_ 'her', 'them' in III, which has not been
satisfactorily explained.

#Relative#: The general ME. relative is _þat_, representing all genders
and cases (note to XV _i_ 4). Sometimes definition is gained by adding
the personal pronoun: _þat... he (sche)_ = 'who'; _þat... it_ = 'which';
_þat... his_ = 'whose'; _þat ... him_ = 'whom', &c.; e.g. _a well, ~þat~
in the day ~it~ is so cold_ IX 5-6, cp. V 127 (note); _oon ~That~ with a
spere was thirled ~his~ brest-boon_ 'one whose breast-bone was pierced
with a spear', _Knight's Tale_ 1851. For the omission of _þat_ see note
to XIII _a_ 36.

In later texts, _which_, properly an interrogative, appears commonly as
a relative, both with personal and impersonal antecedents, e.g.
_Alceone... ~which~... him loveth_ XII _a_ 3 ff.; _þat steede... fro
~whilke~ þe feende fell_ XVI 13 f. Under the influence of French
_lequel_, &c., _which_ is often compounded with the article _þe_, e.g.
_a gret serpent... ~the which~ Bardus anon up drouh_ XII _b_ 72 f.; _no
thing of newe, in ~the whiche~ the hereres myghten hauen... solace_ IX
275 f. Further compounding with _þat_ is not uncommon, e.g. _the queen
of Amazoine, ~the whiche þat~ maketh hem to ben kept in cloos_ IX 190 f.

More restricted is the relative use of _whos_, _whom_, which are
originally interrogatives, though both are found very early in ME. as
personal relatives. Examples of the objective after prepositions are:
_my Lady, of ~quom~..._ VI 93; _God, fro ~whom~ ..._ IX 328 f.; _my
Sone... in ~whome~_ XVI 81 f. The possessive occurs in _Seynt Magne...
yn ~whos~ wurschyp_ I 90 f.; _I am ... the same, ~whos~ good_ XII _b_ 78
f.; and, compounded with the article, in _Morpheüs, ~the whos~ nature_
XII _a_ 113. The nominative _who_ retains its interrogative meaning,
e.g. _But ~who~ ben more heretikis?_ XI _b_ 77 f.; or is used as an
indefinite, e.g. _a tasse of grene stickes... to selle, ~who that~ wolde
hem beie_ XII _b_ 22 ff.; but it is never used as a relative; and
probably _what_ in XVI 174 is better taken as in apposition to _myghtis_
than as a true relative.

§ 13. VERB. Syntactically the most interesting point in the history of
the ME. verb is the development of the compound tenses with _have_,
_be_, _will_, _shall_, _may_, _might_, _mun_, _can_, _gan_. But the
flexional forms of the simple tenses are most subject to local
variation, and, being relatively common, afford good evidence of
dialect. Throughout the period, despite the crossings and confusions
that are to be expected in a time of uncertainty and experiment, the
distinction between strong and weak verbs is maintained; and it will be
convenient to deal first with the inflexions common to both classes, and
then to notice the forms peculiar to one or the other.

(i) #The Infinitive# had already in Northumbrian OE. lost final _-n_:
_drīfa_ 'to drive'. Hence in ME. of the North and N. Midlands the
ending is _-e_, which becomes silent at varying rates during the
fourteenth century; e.g. _dryue_ I 171, _to luf_ IV _a_ 17. In the South
and S. Midlands the common ending is _-e_, e.g. _telle_ III 3, which
usually remains syllabic to the end of the century; but _-(e)n_ is also
found, especially in verse to make a rime or to avoid hiatus: e.g.
_sein_ (: _aȝein_) XII _a_ 27; _to parte and ȝiven half his good_
XII _b_ 201.

(ii) #The Present Participle# (OE. _drīfende_) in the North and N.
Midlands ends in _-and(e)_, though _-yng(e)_, _-ing(e)_ is beginning to
appear in V, VII, XVI, XVII. In S. Midlands the historical ending
_-ende_ still prevails in Gower; but Chaucer has more commonly
_-yng(e)_; and in IX, XI, both late texts, only _-yng(e)_ appears. In
the South _-yng(e)_ is established as early as the beginning of the
century, e.g. in II.

N.B. Carefully distinguish the verbal noun which always ends in
_-yng(e)_. Early confusion resulted in the transference of this ending
to the participle.

(iii) #Present Indicative.#

(_a_) Singular: OE. 1 _drīfe_, 2 _drīf(e)s(t)_, 3 _drīf(e)ð_
(late Northumbrian _drīfes_).

In ME. _-e_, _-est_, _-eþ_ are still the regular endings for the South
and most of the Midlands. Shortened forms like _fint_ = _findeþ_ II 239;
_stant_ = _standeþ_ XII _a_ 74 are commonest in the South, where in OE.
they were a feature of West Saxon and Kentish as distinguished from
Anglian. Distinct are the Northern and N. Midland _mas(e)_ 'makes',
_tas_ 'takes', with contracted infinitives _ma_, _ta_; and _bus_
'behoves', which Chaucer uses in his imitation of Northern English,
_Reeves Tale_ 172.

In N. Midlands the modern 3rd sg. _-(e)s_ is common (V, VI, but not in
earlier I). Farther North it is invariable (IV, X, XVI, XVII). The
distribution of _-es_ as the ending of the 2nd sg. is the same, and it
is extended even to the 1st person.

(_b_) Plural: OE. _drīfað_ (late Northumbrian _drīfas_).

Only Southern ME. retains the OE. inflexion as _-eþ_ (II, III, XIII).
The Midland ending, whence the modern form derives, is _-e(n)_; though
in the N. Midlands _-es_ occasionally appears. Northern has regularly
_-es_, _unless the personal pronoun immediately precedes_, when the
ending is _-e_, as in the Midlands, e.g. _þei make_ XVI 103.

N.B. In applying this test, care must be taken to exclude inversions,
which are subject to special rules; to distinguish the subjunctive (e.g.
_falle_ XIII _a_ 52, _drawe_ XIII _b_ 6) from the indicative; and,
generally, to choose examples that are syntactically free from doubt,
because concord of number is not always logical in ME.



      1. sg. _drīf-e_
      2.     _drīf-es(t)_
      3.     _drīf-eð_ (Nth. _-es_)
      pl.    _drīf-að_ (Nth. _-as_)

             South   S. Midl.  N. Midl.           North
      1. sg. _-e_    _-e_      _-(e)_             _-(e)_ or _-(e)s_
      2.     _-est_  _-est_    _-es(t)_           _-es_
      3.     _-eþ_   _-eþ_     _-eþ_ or _-es_     _-es_
      pl.    _-eþ_   _-e(n)_   _-e(n)_ or _-es_   _-es_ or _-(e)_

(iv) #The Imperative Plural# might be expected to agree with the pres.
ind. pl. In fact it has the ending _-eþ_ not merely in the South, but in
most of the Midlands, e.g. I, VIII, Gower and Chaucer. Northern and NW.
Midland (V, VI, XIV _b_, XVI) have commonly _-es_. But Chaucer, Gower,
and most late ME. texts have, beside the full inflexion, an uninflected
form, e.g. _vndo_ XVI 182.

(v) #Past Tense.#

(_a_) Strong: The historical distinctions of stem-vowel were often
obscured in ME. by the rise of new analogical forms, the variety of
which can best be judged from the detailed evidence presented in the
_New English Dictionary_ under each verb. But, for the common verbs or
classes, the South and S. Midlands preserved fairly well the OE. vowel
distinction of past tense singular and plural; while North and N.
Midlands usually preferred the form proper to the singular for both
singular and plural, e.g. _þey bygan_ I 72; _þey ne blan_ I 73; _thai
slang_ X 53, where OE. has sg. _gan_: _gunnon_; _blan_: _blunnon_; ON.
_slǫng_: _slungu_.

(_b_) Weak: In the South and Midlands the weak pa. t. 2nd sg. usually
ends in _-est_ (N. Midland also _-es_): _hadest_ II 573; _cursedest_ I
130; _kyssedes_, _raȝteȝ_ V 283. In the North, and sometimes in N.
Midland, it ends in _-(e)_: _þou hadde_ XVI 219. The full ending of the
pa. t. pl. is fairly common in the South, S. Midlands, and NW. Midlands:
_wenten_ II 185, _hedden_ III 42, _maden_ XII _b_ 196, _sayden_ VI 174.

(vi) #Past Participle (Strong)#: OE. _(ge)drĭfen_.

In the North and N. Midlands the ending _-en_ is usually preserved, but
the prefix _y-_ is dropped. In the South the type is _y-driue_, with
prefix and without final _n_. S. Midland fluctuates—for example, Gower
rarely, Chaucer commonly, uses the prefix _y-_.

(vii) #Weak Verbs with -i- suffix#: In OE. weak verbs of Class II formed
the infinitive in _-ian_, e.g. _acsian_, _lufian_, and the _i_ appeared
also in the pres. ind. and imper. pl. _acsiað_ and pres. p. _acsiende_.
In ME. a certain number of French verbs with an _-i-_ suffix reinforced
this class. In the South and W. Midlands the _-i-_ of the suffix is
often preserved, e.g. _aski_ II 467, _louy_ V 27, and is sometimes
extended to forms in which it has no historical justification, e.g. pp.
_spuryed_ V 25. In the North and the E. Midlands the forms without _i_
are generalized.



To Sisam's _Fourteenth Century Verse and Prose_

p. xlv, l. 7: _for_ carat _read_ caret

p. xlvii: _for_ Jessop _read_ Jessopp

p. 21, l. 259: _for_ be _read_ he

p. 28, l. 493: _for_ enn _read_ en

p. 43, foot-note to l. 69: _omit_ 'for:'

p. 62, l. 100: _for_ tyste _read_ tyste (_Morris_); _and adjust
note at p. 225_.

p. 103, l. 254: _for_ largeand _read_ large and

p. 175, l. 1: _for_ Daib. _read_ Diab.

p. 214, note to _a_: _for_ 'The best... are' _read_ 'This poem is
largely a translation of sentences excerpted from Rolle's _Incendium
Amoris_, cc. xl-xli (Miss Allen in _Mod. Lang. Review_ for 1919, p.
320). Useful commentaries are'

p. 226, note to l. 153: in l. 8 for _tǫ_ read _tǭ_

p. 243, n. to ll. 5-6: _for_ 'external covering' _read_ 'covering over

p. 291, table, last column, 1 sg.: for '_-e_ or _(e)s_' read '_-(e)_ or

[Transcriber's Note: A number of editorial corrections are without
Footnotes or Notes. The manuscript readings for these are here supplied
by the transcriber from the editions of Hamelius and England & Pollard:

      IX 166 Sy_t_hye] Sychye _MS._
      IX 270 i_t_] is _MS._
      IX 287 gr_e_uous] grouous _MS._
      XVII 85 displeas_es_] displeasse _MS._
      XVII 472 th_ou_] thi _MS._

The CORRIGENDA to Sisam's _Fourteenth Century Verse and Prose_ (see
above) from the end of the accompanying vocabulary volume has been moved
here. All items listed have been corrected, except

      p. 62, l. 100: [...] _and adjust note at p. 225_

which remains unadjusted.

The line numbering has been regularised to multiples of 5. Lines of
prose have their line numbers in {braces} within the text. The companion
volume, _A Middle English Vocabulary, designed for use with SISAM's
Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose_, by J. R. R. Tolkien is available
at PG #43737.]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.