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Make We Merry More and Less

 | 
Jane Bliss
, 
Douglas Gray

Chapter 1

Voices from the Past

Texte intégral

  • 1 The Pastons, and Margery, are cited at some length later in this chapter.

This introductory chapter consists of extracts from chronicles, and other texts which illustrate medieval English life (and its anxieties and hazards), popular beliefs, magic and popular religion. ‘Voices from the past’ may seem a somewhat hopeful title, but extracts such as these are probably the nearest we can get to the actual voices. Snatches from songs are quoted by moralists and chroniclers. Chroniclers of course are interested in great events, but although they often sound impersonal they will often reveal their own opinions or record the opinions of humble folk. Letters (now being written in English) survive in some numbers in the fifteenth century. They are not the product of the humblest social class; those of the Pastons, a mercantile family in East Anglia, offer an unrivalled picture of local and family life. We have a precious Valentine letter, an appeal for money, and news and gossip from the area. The remarkable Book of Margery Kempe, a kind of spiritual ‘personal experience narrative’, the full text of which came to light only in the twentieth century, is another goldmine. Margery was the wife of a merchant of Lynn (now King’s Lynn, in Norfolk), and seems to have been illiterate or semi-literate: her ‘book’ was written by a priest who knew her. It records some vivid accounts of her experiences in England, and in Europe and the Holy Land. She was a religious enthusiast and a determined pilgrim.1 The rest of this chapter contains examples of pieces provided for the entertainment and instruction of the ‘folk’. Prophecies were very common, and seem to have satisfied a fascinated curiosity about the future and a yearning for order (perhaps their enigmatic quality added to the pleasure); magical charms, and the simple prayers of popular religion.

A. Snatches and Snippets, which give us a glimpse of the lost oral literature

i) This early fragment of a song is recorded by a twelfth-century chronicler in his Latin ‘Book of Ely’.2 He says that even at the present time these verses are still sung publicly in dances and remembered in the sayings of the wise. Perhaps there was a local legend concerning it, and King Cnut as its supposed author.

  • 2 Liber Eliensis, trans. Fairweather, book. II, ch. 85 (p. 182). Ely was then a virtual isla (...)
Merie sungen the munechesº binnenº Ely monks in
Thaº Cnut ching reuº ther by. when rowed
‘Roweth knightes noer the lant
And hereº we thes muneches sang.’ hear

ii) A rare example of a secular lullaby (see the religious examples in ch. 9, esp. xxix),3 found in a Latin sermon: Karissimi, bene scitis quod iste mulieres… that lulle the child wyth thair fote and singes an hauld [old] song, sic dicens:4

  • 3 Gray cites this verse in both From the Norman Conquest (p. 420) and Simple Forms (p. 221).
  • 4 [Dear brethren, you know well that those women… saying thus].
Wakeº wel, Annot watch
Thi mayden boure; º bower
And get the fraº Walterot, keep thee from
For he es lichure.º a lecher

iii) Two fragments of a Dance song5

  • 5 Gray cites this verse in From the Norman Conquest (pp. 170–1).
Atte wrastlingeº my lemman I chesº wrestling lover I chose;
And atte ston-kasting I him forles.º lost
At the ston-castinges my lemman I ches,
And at the wrastlinges sone I him les;
Alas that he so sone fel!
Why nadde he stonde, vile gorel?º fat fellow

iv) One of a number of snippets in a thirteenth-century Worcester Cathedral manuscript;6

  • 6 These three fragments are printed together, as one piece, in Early Middle English Verse an (...)
Ne saltou, levedi, º lady
Tuynklenº wyt thin eyen… wink

v) and from the same Worcester MS;

Ich habbe ydonº al myn youth have spent
Ofte, ofte, and ofte,
Long yloved and yerne ybeden, º eagerly entreated
Ful dere it is aboght! º very dearly paid for

vi) from the same.

Dore, º go thou stille, º door silently
Go thou stille, stille,
That ichil habbeº in the bowre until I have
Ydon al myn wille, wille…

vii) A lament quoted in a lawsuit involving the Neville family and the prior of Durham.7

  • 7 This, and the next (from the Red Book of Ossory), are both cited by Gray in his Simple For (...)

Note : 8 Holy Rood Day is 14th September.

Wel [a]! qwa sal thir hornes blau, º alas who shall these blow
Haly Rod, º thy day? Holy Rood8
Now is he dede and lies law
Was wontº to blaw thaim ay.º used always

viii) From the Red Book of Ossory.8

  • 8 See Gray’s From the Norman Conquest, pp. 420–1.
Alas! How shold y singe?
Ylorenº is my playinge; º lost delight
How shold y with that olde man
To leven and leteº my lemman, live and give up
Swettist of al thinge.
  • 9 This verse is cited in Orme’s Fleas, Flies, and Friars, chapter-title School Days; it (...)
ix)9 Whenne blowethº the bromº flowers broom
Thenne wowethº the grom; º woos youth
Whenne bloweth the fursº gorse
Thenne woweth he wurs.

B. Scenes and Events from Chronicles and Letters Chronicles

x) [1336]10

  • 10 In Brut, ed. Brie, p. 292.

… there arose suche a sprynggynge and welling op of waters and floodes, bothe of the see and also of fresshe ryvers and sprynges, that the see brynke wallaes [sea-walls] and coostes broken up [so that] men, bestes, and houses in meny places, and namely [especially] in lowe cuntres [regions], violently and soddenly were dreynt and driven awey; and the fruyte of the erthe, thorugh continuance and abundaunce of the see waters, evermore after were turned into more saltnes and sournes of savour…

xi) The Plague of 1348, the Black Death11

  • 11 In Brie, ed. p. 301; the second passage is on p. 303.

And in the xxiii yere of his [Edward III’s] regne, in the este parteys of the world ether aros and bygan a pestilence and deth of Sarasines and payngneins [pagans], that so grete a deth was never herde of afore, and that wasted awey so the peple that unnethes the xthe persone was left alive. And in the same yere, aboute the sowth cuntreys and also in the west cuntres, there fell so much reyne and so grete waters that, from Cristemasse unto Midsomer, ther was unnethes day ne nyght but that it rayned sumwhat; thorugh whiche waters the pestilence was sone fectid and so habundant in all cuntres, and namely aboute the court of Rome and other places and s [e] re [various] costes, that unnethes there were left alive folk to bery ham that were ded honestly. But maden grete diches and puttes [pits] that were wunder brood and depe, and therin beried, and made a renge [pile] of the dede bodyes, and another renge of erthe above ham; and thus were they buried, and non other wise, but yf [unless] it were the fewer that were grete men of state.

[A few years later]

  • 12 The date of Michaelmas is 29th September.
  • 13 Isaiah 24: 18.

In this same yere [1352], and in the yere afore, and also in the yere aftir, was so grete a pestilenc [e] of men fro the est into the west, and namely thorugh bocches [swellings], that he that siked this day, deid on the iii day after. To the wich men that so deaden in this pestilens, that haddyn but litel respite of lyggyng, the pope Clement, of his goodness and grace, yaf ham ful remissioun and foryevyng of all hire synnes that they were shriven of. And this pestilence lasted in London from Michelmasse into Auguste next folowyng almoste an hool yere.12 And in thes dayes was deth withoute sorwe, weddyng withoute friendship, wilfull penaunce, and derthe without scarste [scarcity], and fleyng withoute refute or socour; for meny fledden fro place to place bycause of the pestilens; but they were enfecte, and might not ascape the dethe, after the prophete Isaye seith: ‘ho that fleeth fro the face of drede, he shal fall into the diche; and he that wyndeth himself out of the diche, he shal be holde and teyd with a grenne [snare]’,13 but whan this pestilens was cesid and endid, as God wolde, unnethes the x parte of the peple was left alive, and in the same yere bygan a wonder thing that al that evere were born after that pestilens hadden ii chekteth [molars] in her hed than they had afore.

xii) A Storm… [1364]14

  • 14 In Brie, ed. p. 315.

About evesong tyme, ther aroos and come such a wynd out of the suoth, with such a fersnes, that he brast and blewe doun to ground hye houses and strong byldynges, toures, churches and steples, and other strong thynges; and al other strong werkes that stoden still, were so yshake therewith that they ben yet, and shol be evermore the feblere and weyker while they stonde; and this wynd lasted withoute eny cesyng vii. dayes.

… and a Great Frost.15

  • 15 Ibid. p. 467 (in Appendix F, worded slightly differently).

… in the yere of grace 1435, the grete, hard, bityng frost bygan the vii day of Decembre, and endured unto the xxii day of Feverere next, which greved the peple wonder sore; and moche pepel deyed in that tyme, for colde and for skarcite of wode and cole. And tender herbes were slayne with this frost, that is to say, rosemary, sauge, tyme, and many other herbes.

xiii) A Lynching [1427]16

  • 16 Ibid. pp. 442–3. Gray cites this story in his Later Medieval English Literature (p. 62).
  • 17 Whit Sunday (Pentecost) is the seventh after Easter.

… in the same yere, a fals Breton, between Ester and Witsontyde,17 mordrede a good wedowe in hir bedde, the whiche hadde found [provided for] hym, for almesse, withoute Algate, in the suburbs of London. And he bar away all that sche hadde, and after toke girth [asylum] of holy churche at Saint Georges in Suthwerk; but at the last he toke the crosse, and forsuore the kyng land. And as he went his way, it happid hym to come by the same place where he did that cursede dede. And women of the same parish come oute to hym with stones and with canell [gutter] dong and there made an ende of hym in the high streit so that he went no ferthere, notwithstondyng the constablis and other men also, which had hym in governaunce to convey hym forth in his way, for there was a grete companye of them, and on hym thei had neither mercie nor pite; and thus this fals thefe endede his life in this worlde for his falsnesse.

xiv) An Affray against the Lombards [1458?]18

  • 18 In ed. Brie, pp. 522–3.

In this same yere fill [occurred] a gret affray in London ayenst the Lumbardes. The cause began for a yong man toke a dagger fro a Lumbard, and brake it; wherfore the yong man on the morne was sent fore to come before the mair and aldermen, and ther, for the offense, he was committed to warde [custody]. And then the mair departed fro the Guyldhall for to go home to his dyner, but in the Chepe [Cheapside] the yong men of the mercerie, for the moste parte apprentises, held the mair and shyreves stil in Chepe and wold nat suffer him to departe unto the tyme that thare felow, which was committed to warde, wer delyvered; and so by force thei rescued ther felowe fro prisone, and that done, the mair and shyreves departed, and the prisoner was delyvered, which, if he had be put to prisone, had be in jubardie of his lyfe. And than began a rumor in the cite ayenst the Lumbardes, and the same evening the handcrafty peple of the town arose, and come to the Lumbardes houses, and dispoyled and robbed diverse of thame, wherfore the mair and aldermen come with the honest peple of the town, and drofe thame thens, and sent some of thame that had stollen to Newgate. And the yong man that was rescued bi his felowes saw this gret rumor, affray and robbery folowed of his first mevyng to the Lumbard. He departed and went to Westmynster to sanctuary, or els it had cost him his lyfe, for anone after come doun an other determine [d] for to do justice on al thame that so rebelled in the cite ayens the Lumbardes, upon which satt with the mayr that tyme William Marow, the duke of Bokyngham, and many other lordes, for to se execucion done, bot the comons of the cite secretely made thame redy, and did arme thame in ther houses and wer in purpose for to have rongen the common bell which is named Bow Bell; but thei wer let by sad [steady] men. Which come to the knowlege of the duke of Bokyngham and othir lordes. And forthwith thei arose, for thei durst no lenger abide, for thei doubted that the hole cite shold have risen ayenst theme, but yett neverthelesse ii or iii of the cite were juged to deth for this robbery, and wer honged at Tiburn.

xv) Religious Unrest at Evesham19

  • 19 Ibid. p. 330 [1377].

And in this same yere the m [e] n and the erles tenauntes of Warwyk arisen maliciously ayens the abbot and the covent of Evesham and her tenauntes, and destroyeden fersly the abbot and the toun, and wounded and bete her men and slowen of hem meny one, and wenten to her maners and places, and dede myche harme, and brekyn doun her parkes and her closes, and brenten and slowen her wild bestes, and chaced hem, brekyng her fishepond hedis, and lete the water of her pondes, stewes and ryvers renne out; and token the fish, and bere it with hem, and deden al the harme that they myghte.

xvi) A Heretic Venerated [1440]20

  • 20 An English Chronicle, ed. Davies, pp. 56–7.

The xix yeer of kyng Harri, the Friday before midsomer, a prest called ser Richard Wyche, that was a vicary in Estsexe, was brend on the Tourhille for heresie, for whoos deth was gret murmur and troubil among the peple, for some said he was a good man and an holy, and put to deth be malice; and some saiden the contrary; and so dyvers men hadde of him dyvers oppinions. And so fer forth the commune peple was brought in such errour that meny menne and women wente be nyghte to the place where he was brend, and offrid there money and ymages of wax, and made thair praiers knelyng as thay wolde have don to a saynt, and kiste the ground and baar away with thaym the asshis of his body as for reliques; and this endured viii daies, til the mair and aldermenne ordeyned men of armes forto restreyne and lette [prevent] the lewd peple fro that fals ydolatrie, and meny were therfore take and lad to prisoun. And among othir was take the vicary of Berkyngchirche beside the tour of Londoun, in whos parishe alle this was done, that received the offryng of the simple peple. And for to excite and stire thaym to offre the more fervently, and to fulfille and satisfie his fals coveitise, he took asshis and medlid thaym with powder of spices and strowed thaym in the place where the said heretic was brend; and so the simple peple was deceived, wenyng that the swete flavour hadde commeof the asshis of the ded heretic: for this the said vicari of Berkyngchirche confessed afterward in prisoun…

  • 21 Ibid. p. 64.

The Bishop of Salisbury murdered [1450, just after the murder of the Bishop of Chichester]21 And this… yer… William Ascoghe bishop of Salisbury was slayn of his owen parisshens and peple at Edyngdoun aftir that he hadde said masse, and was drawe fro the auter and lad up to an hille therbeside, in his awbe, and his stole aboute his necke; and there thay slow him horribly, their fader and their bisshoppe, and spoillid him unto the nakid skyn, and rente his blody shirte into pecis and baar thaym away with thaym, and made bost of their wickidnesse; and the day befor his deth his chariot was robbed be men of the same cuntre of an huge god and tresour, to the value of x.ml. marc, as thay saide that knewe it. Thise ii bisshoppis were wonder covetous men, and evil beloved among the commune peple, and holde suspect of meny defautes, and were assentyng and willyng to the deth of the duke of Gloucestre, as it was said.

xvii) A Portent [1440]22

  • 22 An English Chronicle, ed. Davies p. 63 (the date is here given as 1449).
  • 23 28th October.
  • 24 16th October; the events seem not to be in chronological order.

The xxviii yer of king Harri [Henry VI], on Simon day and Jude,23 and othir daies before and aftir, the sonne in his risyng and goyng doune apperid as reed as blood, as meny a man saw; wherof the peple hadde gret marvaille, and demed that it sholde betokened sum harm sone afterward. And this same yeer, in the feste of saint Mighelle in Monte Tumba,24 Roon [Rouen] was lost and yolden [surrendered] to the Frensshemenne… And the next yeer aftir alle Normandy was lost.

xviii) Roger Bolingbroke, Necromancer [July, 1440]25

  • 25 An English Chronicle, ed. Davies p. 57 (the date is here given as 1441).

… and the Sunday the xxv day of the same moneth, the forsaid maister Roger with all his instrumentis of nygromancie — that is to say a chaier ypeynted, wherynne he was wont to sitte whanne he wrought his craft, and on the iiii corners of the chaier stood iiii swerdis, and ypon every swerd hanggyng an ymage of copir — and with meny othir instrumentis according to his said craft, stood in a high stage above alle mennes heddis in Powlis chircheyerd befor the cros whiles the sermon endured, holding a suerd in his right hand and a septre in his lift hand, araid in a marvaillous aray whereynne he was wont to sitte whanne he wrought his nygromancie. And aftir the sermon was don, he abjured alle maner articles longing in any wise to the said craft of nigromancie, or mys sownyng [discordant] to the Cristen feith…

Letters26

  • 26 See Paston Letters, ed. Norman Davis, part I, though it is not certain that Gray used this (...)
  • 27 See also Bennett, The Pastons and their England.

In the fifteenth century, collections of letters in English are increasingly found. These are often written by merchants and others who are literate; in general women still seem to have been content to use the services of family scribes. Of especial importance is the extensive collection of those of the Paston family, a mercantile, landowning family of East Anglia, and its scribes and friends. These give us some vivid glimpses of life in that area.27

xix) News from a Wife [1448]28

  • 28 Paston Letters, 129, from Margaret Paston to her husband John Paston I (pp. 223–5).

Right worshipful husband, I recommend me to you and pray you to weet [know] that on Friday last past before noon, the parson of Oxnead being at mass in our parish church, even at the levation of the sacring, James Gloys had been in the town and came homeward by Wymondhams gate. And Wymondham stood in his gate, and John Norwood his man stood by him, and Thomas Hawes his other man stood in the street by the cannel side [gutter]. And James Gloys came with his hat on his head between both his men, as he was wont of custom to do. And when Gloys was against Wymondham, he said thus: ‘Cover thy head!’ And Gloys said again, ‘So I shall for thee’. And when Gloys was further passed by the space of three or four stride, Wymondham drew out his dagger and said, ‘Shalt thou so knave?’ And therewith Gloys turned him, and drew out his dagger and defended him, fleeing into my mothers place; and Wymondham and his man Hawes cast stones and drove Gloys into my mothers place, and Hawes followed into my mothers place and cast a stone as much as a farthing loaf into the hall after Gloys, and then ran out of the place again. And Gloys followed out and stood without the gate, and then Wymondham called Gloys thief and said he should die, and Gloys said he lied and called him churl, and bade him come himself or ell [else] the best man he had, and Gloys would answer him one for one. And then Hawes ran into Wymondhams place and fetched a spear and a sword, and took [gave] his master his sword. And with the noise of this assault and affray my mother and I came out of the church from the sacring, and I bade Gloys go into my mothers place again, and so he did. And then Wymondham called my mother and me strong whores…

xx) Another Dispute [pr. 1451]29

  • 29 Ibid. 24, from Agnes Paston to her son John Paston I (pp. 36–7).
  • 30 20th November.

I greet you well, and let you weet that on the Sunday before Saint Edmund,30 after evensong, Agnes Ball came to me to my closet and bade me good even, and Clement Spicer with her. And I asked him what he would; and he asked me why I had stopped in the kings way. And I said to him that I stopped no way but mine own, and asked him why he had sold my land to John Ball; and he swore he was never accorded with your father. And I told him if his father had do as he did, he would a be ashamed to a said as he said. And all that time Warren Harman leaned over the parckos [partition] and listened what we said, and said that the change was a ruely [deplorable] change, for the town was undo thereby and is the worse by £100. And I told him it was no courtesy to meddle him in a matter but if he were called to counsel…

xxi) Local News [1453]31

  • 31 Ibid. 26, from Agnes Paston to John Paston 1 (pp. 39–40).
  • 32 ‘God’s blessing and mine’ is a formula conventionally used between adult and (their own) c (...)

Son, I greet you well and send you Gods blessing and mine… .32 And as for tidings, Philip Berney is passed to God on Monday last past with the greatest pain that ever I saw man. And on Tuesday Sir John Heveningham yede [went] to his church and heard three masses, and came home again never merrier, and said to his wife that he would go say a little devotion in his garden and then he would dine; and forthwith he felt a fainting in his leg, and syed [sank] down. This was at 9 of the clock and he was dead ere noon…

xxii) A Wife’s Suggestions33

  • 33 Ibid. 153, from Margaret to John Paston I (pp. 257–8).

Right worshipful husband, I recommend me unto you. Please it you to weet that I sent your eldest son to my lady Morley to have knowledge what sports were used in her house in Christmas next following after the decease of my lord her husband. And she said there were none disguisings nor harping nor luting nor singing, not no loud disports, but playing at the tables [backgammon] and chess and cards; such disports she gave her folks leave to play, and none other…

… I pray you that ye will essay to get some man at Caister to keep your buttery, for the man that ye left with me will not take upon him to breve [make up accounts] daily as ye commanded. He saith he hath not used to give a reckoning neither of bread nor ale till at the weeks end, and he saith he wot well that he should not con [know how to] don it; and therefore I suppose he shall not abide. And I trow ye shall be fain to purvey another man for Simond, for ye are never the nearer a wise man for him.

I am sorry that ye shall not at home be for Christmas. I pray you that you will come as soon as ye may; I shall think myself half a widow because ye shall not be at home. God have you in his keeping. Written on Christmas Eve [pr. 1459], By your M. P.

xxiii) A Husband in playful mood writes a letter in doggerel verse34

  • 34 Ibid. at the end of 77 [1465], from John Paston I to Margaret (pp. 140–5).
  • 35 It is unclear whether John has taken some coins from his wife, to be exchanged (puzzli (...)
… Item, I shall tell you a tale:
Pamping and I have picked your mailº wallet, or luggage
And taken out piecesº five, coins, or dishes35

For upon trust of Calles promise we may soon unthrive.
And if Calle bring us hither twenty pound
Ye shall have your pieces again good and round;
Or else, if he will not pay you the value of the pieces there,
To the post do nail his ear…
… And look you be merry and take no thought,
For this rhyme is cunningly wrought.
My lord Percy and all this house
Recommend them to you, dog, cat, and mouse,
And wish ye had be here still…

For they say ye are a good gill.º woman [familiar]
  • 36 ODS gives 24th (or 25th) February; the vigil would be the day before. But the letter is da (...)

No more to you at this time,
But God him save that made this rhyme.
Writ the Vigil of St Matthew,36 By your true and trusty husband, J.P.

xxiv) A Son’s Requests37

  • 37 Ibid. 346, to Margaret Paston from her son John Paston III (pp. 565–6), dated 1471.

Aftyr humbyll and most dew recommendacyon, in as humbyll wyse as I can I beseche yow of your blyssyng, preying God to reward yow wyth as myche plesyer and hertys ease as I have latward causyd you to have trowbyll and thowght. And, wyth Godys grace, it shall not be longe to or then [before] my wrongys and othyr menys shall be redressyd, for the world was nevyr so lyek to be owyrs as it is now; werfor I prey yow let Lomnor no [t] be to besy as yet. Modyr, I beseche yow, and ye may spare eny money, that ye wyll do your almesse on me and send me some in as hasty wyse as is possybyll, for by my trowthe my lechecrafte and fesyk, and rewardys to them that have kepyd [cared for] me and condyt me to London, hathe cost me sythe Estern Day more then v li [pounds]. And now I have neythyr met, drynk, clothys, lechecraft, nor money but upon borowyng. And I have assayed my frendys so ferre that they begyn to fayle now in my gretest ned that evyr I was in…

… And if it plese yow to have knowlage of our royall person, I thank God I am hole of my syknesse, and trust to be clene hole of all my hurttys within a sevennyght at the ferthest, by wiche tym I trust to have othyr tydyngys. And those tydyngys onys had, I trust not to be longe owght of Norffolk, wyth Godys grace, whom I beseche preserve you and your for my part.

Wretyn the last day of Apryll. The berer herof can tell you tydyngys syche as be trew for the very serteyn. Your humbylest servaunt, J. of Gelston

xxv) A Valentine Letter, from Margery Brews to John Paston III [February 1477]38

  • 38 Ibid. 415, from Margery Paston (née Brews) soon before her marriage to John Paston III (pp (...)

Unto my ryght welbelovyd Voluntyn, John Paston, Squyer, be this bill delivered…

Ryght reverent and wurschypfull and my ryght welebeloved Voluntyne, I reccomande me unto yowe full hertely, desyring to here of yowr welefare, whech I beseche Almyghty God long for to preserve unto hys pleasure and yowr hertys desyre. And if it plese yowe to here of my welefare, I am not in good heele of body ner of herte, nor schall be tyll I here from yowe:

For ther wottys [knows] no creature what peyn I endure,
And for to be deede, I dare it not dyscure.

And my lady my moder hath labored the mater to my fadure full delygently, but sche can no more gete then ye knowe of, for the whech God knowyth I am full sory.

1But yf that ye loffe me, as I tryste verely that ye do, ye will not leffe me therfor; for if ye hade not halfe the lyvelode that ye hafe, for to do the grettyst labure that any woman on lyve myght, I wold not forsake yowe.

And yf ye commande me to kepe me true whereever I go,

Iwyse I will do all my might yowe to love and never no mo.

And yf my freendys say that I do amys, thei schal not me let so for to do.

Myn herte me byddys ever more to love yowe

Truly over all erthely thing.

And yf thei be never so wroth, I tryst it schall be bettur in tyme commyng.

2No more to yowe at this tyme, but the Holy Trinite hafe yowe in kepyng. And I besech yowe that this bill be not seyn of non erthely creature safe only your selfe. And this lettur was indyte at Topcroft wyth full hevy herte. Be your own M.B.

C. Popular Beliefs

xxvi) The Shipman’s Vision [1457]39

  • 39 An English Chronicle, ed. Marx; this is an enlarged and revised edition of the Chronicle e (...)

The xxxv yere of kyng Harry, and the yere of Oure Lorde m.cccc.lvii, a pylgryme that alle his dayes had be a shipmanne came fro seynt James in Spayne into Englond abowte Mighelmas and was loged in the toune of Weymouthe, in Dorsetshyre, with a brewer, a Duchemanne, the whiche had be with hym in his seyde pylgremage. And as the sayde pylgryme laye in his bedde waking, he sawe one come into the chamber clothed alle in whyte having a whyte heede, and sate doune on a fourme [bench] nat fer fro hys bed, and alle the chambre was as lyghte of hym as it had be clere day. The pylgryme was agaste and durste not speke, and anone the seyde spirite vanysshed awey. The second nyghte the same spyryte came ayene in lyke wyse, and wythoute eny tareyng vanysshed awey. In the morrow the pylgrym tolde alle this to his oste, and seyde he was sore afeerde, and wolde no more lye in that chambre. Hys oste counseled hym to telle this to the parysshe preeste, and shryve hym of all his synnes, demyng that he hadde be acombred [oppressed] with some grete deadly synne. The pylgrym sayd, ‘I was late shryve [shriven] at seynt James, and reseved there my Lord God, and sethe that tyme, as fer as I canne remembre, I have nat offended my conscience.’ Natheles he was shryvenne, and tolde alle this to the preest; and the preest seyde, ‘Sen [since] thow knowest thy selfe clere in conscience, have a good herte and be nat agast [afraid], and yef the sayde spirite come ayene, conjure hym in the name of the Fader and of the Sone and of the Holy Goste to telle the what he ys.’ The iiide nighte the spyryte came ayene into the chambre as he had do before, wyth a grete lyghte; and the pylgrym, as the preest had counselled him, conjured the spyryte, and bade hym telle what he was. The spyryte answered and seyde, ‘I am thyne eme [uncle], thy faderes brother.’ The pylgrym seyde, ‘How longe ys it ago sen thow deyde?’ The spiryte seyde, ‘ix yere.’ ‘Where ys my fader?’ seyde the pylgrime. ‘At home in his owne hous, ’ seyde the spiryte, ‘and hath another wyfe.’ ‘And where ys my moder?’ ‘In hevene, ’ seyde the spiryte. Thenne seyde the spiryte to the pylgryme, ‘Thou haste be at Seynt James; trowest thou that thow hast welle done thy pylgremage?’ ‘So I hoope, ’ seyde the pylgryme. Thanne sayde the spiryte, ‘Thou haste do [caused] to be sayde there iii masses, one for thy fader, another for thy moder, and the iiide [third] for thyselve; and yef thou haddest lete say a masse for me, I had be deliviered of the peyne that I suffre. But thou most go ayene to Seynt James, and do say a masse for me, and yeve iii d. [pence] to iii pore men.’ ‘O, ’ sayde the pylgrime, ‘howe shulde I go ayene to Seynt James? I have no money for myne expenses, for I was robbed in the shyppe of v nobles.’ ‘I know welle thys, ’ sayde the spirite, ‘for thow shalt fynde thy purce hanging at the ende of the shyp and a stoone therynne; but thow most go ageyne to Seynt James, and begge, and lyve of almesse.’ And when the spyryte had thus seyde, the pylgryme saw a develle drawe the same spyryte by the sleve, forto have hym thennys. Thenne saide the spyryte to the pylgryme, ‘I have folewed the this ix yere, and myghte never speke with the unto now; but blessed be the hous where a spyryte may speke, and farewell, for I may no lenger abyde with the, and therfore I am sory.’ And so he vanysshed awey. The pylgryme went into Portyngale, and so forthe to Seynt James, as the spyryte had hym commanded; wherfore I counseylle every man to worship Seynt James.

xxvii) Ghostly Battles [1365]40

  • 40 In Brie ed. (as above in chronicles), p. 314.

… and in the same tyme in Fraunce and Engelond… soddenly ther apperid ii castels, of the whiche wenten out ii ostes of armed men; and the to [on] oste was helid and clothed in white, and the tothere in blak; and whan batayl bytuene hem was bygunne, the white overcome the blake, and anone aftter, the blak token hert to hem and overcome the white; and after that, they went ayen into her castellis, and tha [n] the castels and al the oostes vanisshed awey…

xxviii) A Wife Rescued from the Fairies, recorded by the twelfth-century writer Walter Map41

  • 41 De Nugis Curialium, trans. James, Distinction iv, no. VIII (pp. 187–9); Gray made his own (...)

… a certain knight of Lesser Britain lost his wife, and lamented for a long time after her death. He found her at night in a great band of women in an enclosed valley in a great wilderness. He wondered, and was filled with fear when he saw her, whom he had buried, alive again. He did not believe his eyes, and was doubtful about what was being done by the fairies. He decided in his mind to carry her off so that he might rejoice in the capture if he saw truly, or might be deceived by the ghost, and should not be censured for timidity in giving up. And so he seized her and found delight in wedlock with her for many years, as pleasantly and as solemnly as the first marriage, and by her he had children, whose descendants are numerous today, and are called ‘the sons of the dead woman’. This would be an incredible and monstrous offence against nature if there were not dependable signs of its truth.

xxix) A Fairy Lover, from Walter Map42

  • 42 This story is not presented in Gray’s previous anthology (cited above), but it is clear he (...)
  • 43 Gray has printed? against the word ‘riders’; in his translation James writes ‘Naiads?’ wit (...)

Similar to this [the story of Gwestin Gwestiniog] is what is related of Edric ‘Wild’, a ‘silvestris’ [man of the woods], so called from the agility of his body and the liveliness of his words and deeds, a man of great worth and lord of Lydbury North, who, when he was coming back from hunting through remote country accompanied only by a single boy, until midnight wandered uncertain of his path, happened upon a big building on the edge of a wood, such as the English had as drinking houses, called ‘ghildhus’ in English, and when he was near it and saw a light in it, looking in he saw a great dance with many noble women. They were most beautiful, in elegant dress, of linen only, bigger and taller than ours. The knight observed among them one outstanding in form and figure, inspiring desire more than all the sweethearts of kings. They went around with light movement and with delightful carriage, and with lowered voices in solemn concord a delicate sound was heard, but their speech was incomprehensible. When he saw this the knight was wounded in his heart, and could scarcely bear the fires that were inflicted from the bow of Cupid; his whole being was kindled, his whole being burst into flame, and he took courage from that most beautiful of sicknesses, that golden danger. He had heard the tales of the pagans: the nightly hosts of demons, Dictynna [Diana] and the troops of Dryads and riders;43 and of the vengefulness of the offended gods, and the manner in which they summarily punish those who suddenly glimpse them, how they keep themselves separate and live secretly and apart, how they hate those who attempt to observe their councils to reveal them, who pry into them and lay them bare, how very carefully they conceal themselves, in case, if they are seen, they should be reviled. He had heard of their acts of vengeance and the examples of their victims, but — as Cupid is rightly depicted as blind — forgetting all this, he does not think it an illusion, is not aware of an avenger and, since his mind is darkened, incautiously he offends. He circles the hall, finds its entrance, and rushes in and takes her by whom he is taken. Immediately he is attacked by the others; although held back for a time by this fierce fight, finally, thanks to his efforts and those of his boy, he was freed, although not altogether unhurt, but wounded in the feet and legs by as much as the nails and teeth of women were capable of. He carried her off with him, and used her as he desired for three days and nights but could not extract a word from her; however she suffered the passion of his desire with gentle agreement. On the fourth day she spoke these words to him, ‘Greetings, my beloved: you shall be safe and shall live happily in person and in your affairs until you blame me or my sisters from whom I was taken, or the place or the wood whence I came, or anything around it. From that day in truth your felicity shall end, and after I have departed, you will fail, with a series of mishaps, and by your importunity anticipate your final day.’ He promised, with whatever security he could, to be steadfast and faithful in his love. He therefore summoned the nobles from near and far, and in that great gathering joined her to him in marriage. At that time there reigned William the Bastard, the new king of England. Hearing of this wonder, he desired to test it, investigate it, and to know publicly if it were true. He summoned both of them to come to London at once, and many witnesses came with them, and testimonies from many who did not come, and the woman’s beauty, of a kind not previously seen or heard of, was a convincing proof that she was of fairy origin. And with general amazement they were sent back to their own dwelling.

Later, after the passing of many years it happened that Edric, returning from hunting at about the third hour of the night, when he did not find her called her and commanded that she be summoned, and when she came slowly said in anger as he looked upon her, ‘Was it by your sisters that you were delayed so long?’, and uttered further reproaches — but to the air only, for she vanished at the mention of her sisters. The young man repented his great and disastrous outburst, and he searched for the place whence he had seized her, but by no weeping or lamentation could he recover her. He called by day and by night, but only to his own folly, for his life ended there in lasting grief.

xxx) Herla and his Troop, another story from Map44

  • 44 In Map, see Distinction i, no. XI (pp. 13–17); and in Gray, From the Norman Conquest, pp.  (...)

Herla, king of the ancient Britons, is suddenly visited by another king, small, like a pygmy, riding on a goat. With his splendidly dressed retinue, he provides a great feast in Herla’s honour, and insists that Herla should attend his wedding a year later.

  • 45 Ovid, Metamorphoses book ii, 1 ff.
  • 46 There is a long annotation to this story in Map, as a footnote to the title King Herla. It (...)

… And now, after a year, he suddenly appeared before Herla, urgently desiring that the agreement should be observed. He assented and, providing himself with enough to repay the debt, followed whither he was led. So they entered a cave in a very high cliff, and after a time of darkness passed into a light which did not seem that of the sun or the moon, but of very many lamps, to the dwelling of the pygmy, a mansion as noble, in truth, in every way as the palace of the Sun described by Ovid.45 When the wedding had been celebrated more, the debt to the pygmy repaid in seemly manner, and permission to leave granted, Herla left, burdened with gifts and presents of horses, hounds, hawks and all manner of excellent things for hunting and hawking. The pygmy led them as far as the darkness, and presented him with a small bloodhound to be carried, strictly forbidding that any of them from his whole company should dismount until that dog leapt out from the grasp of its bearer, then bade them farewell, and went back home. After a short time Herla came back to the light of the sun and to his own kingdom. He spoke to an old shepherd, and asked for news of his queen, by name. The shepherd, looking at him with wonder, said: ‘Lord, I scarcely understand your speech, since I am a Saxon, and you a Briton. I have not heard the name of that queen, except that they relate that long ago a queen of that name of the very ancient Britons was the wife of King Herla, who in legend is said to have disappeared with a pygmy at this cliff, and was never afterwards seen on earth. The Saxons conquered that kingdom two hundred years ago and drove out the ancient inhabitants.’ The king was astounded, who thought that he had stayed only for three days,46 and could hardly remain on his horse. And some of his companions, forgetful of the pygmy’s orders, dismounted before the dog had descended, and were instantly dissolved into dust. The king, realizing the reason for their dissolution, forbade under threat of a similar death that anyone should touch the earth before the dog had descended. However, the dog has not yet descended. And so the story has it that King Herla with his company continues his frantic rounds in endless wandering without rest or stopping. Many assert that they have often seen this band…

xxxi) Charms47

  • 47 My footnotes indicate one source for these poems; there are certainly others. Number xxxi (...)
Whatt manere of ivell thou be,
In Goddes name I coungereº the: conjure
I coungere the with the holy crosse
That Jesus was done on with fors; º violence

I conure the with nayles thre
That Jesus was nayled upon the tree;
I coungere the with the crowne of thorne
That on Jesus hede was done with scorne;
I coungere the with the precious blode
That Jesus shewyd upon the rode;
I coungere the with woundes fyve

That Jesus suffred beº his lyve; in
I coungere the with that holy spere
That Longeusº to Jesus hert can bere Longinus
I coungere the never the less
With all the vertues of the masse,
And all the holy prayers of seynt Dorathe.º Dorothy
  • 48 In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti.48 Amen

xxxii) For the Nightmare49

  • 49 Number xxxii is printed in Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse (ed. Sisam), no. 154, p.  (...)

Take a flynt stone that hath an hole thorow of his owen growing, and hange it over the stabill dore, or ell [else] over horse, and ell writhe this charme:

In nomine patris & c

Seynt Iorge, º our Lady knyghth, George
He walked day, he walked [ny] ghth,
Till he fownde that fowle wyghth, º creature
And whan that he here fownde,
He here bete and he here bownde,
Till trewly ther here trowthe sche plyghthº promised
That sche sholde not come be nyghthe,
Withinne vii rodeº of londe space rood (a measure)

Ther as seynt Ieorge inamyd was.
St Iorge. St Iorge. St Iorge
& wryte this in a bylle & hange it in the hors mane.

xxxii a) A charm for staunching blood50

  • 50 Gray prints this charm in his Later Medieval English Literature, on p. 54; unfortunately h (...)
Crist was born in Bethlehem,
And cristend in flomº Jordane; river
And als the flom stode als a stane, º as a stone
Stand thy blode, N. (nevenº his name) name
In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti.

xxxiii) Prognostications51

  • 51 Index of Middle English Verse number 1423; it is cited in Oliver (Poems Without Names, p.  (...)
  • 52 29th June (see ODS).
Giff sanct Paullis day be fair and cleir,52
Than sal betyd ane happie yeir;
Gif it chances to snaw or rane,
Than sal be deirº all kynde of grayne; expensive
And giff the wind be hie on loft,
Than weirº sall vex the kingdome oft; war
And gif the cloudis mak darke the skye,
Boith nowte and foullº that year sall dye. cattle and fowl

Prophecies53

  • 53 As is his wont, Gray has re-translated from the original Latin rather than using any publi (...)

xxxiv) In the twelfth century Geoffrey of Monmouth describes how the British king Vortigern saw two dragons come out of the pool and begin to fight. Merlin was asked to say what the battle portended…

Bursting into tears, he drank in the spirit of prophecy and spoke: ‘Woe to the Red Dragon, for its destruction hastens. The White Dragon will occupy its caverns, which signifies the Saxons whom you have invited. The Red Dragon signifies the people of Britain who are oppressed by the White Dragon. Its mountains and valleys will be made level, and the rivers of the valleys will flow with blood. The practice of religion will be blotted out and the ruin of the churches will be seen by all. At length the oppressed people will prevail and will resist the savagery of the foreign invaders.’

xxxiv a) from a later English version of one of Geoffrey’s prophecies54

  • 54 Historical Poems, ed. Robbins, section headed Political Prophecies, within no. 43. The ‘co (...)
  • 55 These are British princes.

… Then schal Cadwaladre Conan calle,55
And gadre Scotlonde unto hys flocke;
Thanne in ryveres blode schall falle.
And thanne schal perysche braunche and stocke.

  • 56 Britain west of the Severn.
Thanne schal alyonsº folde and falle foreigners
And be deposyde for ever and aye;
To ben free that nowe ben thralle
Schall befalle thanne ylke a daye.
Off Lytylle Bretayneº lordes feleº Brittany many
Schall be joyfulle men of thys;
Than schall Bretaynes crownes dele.
And ben then lordes where non ys.
Then schall Cambereº joyfulle be, Kambria56
The might of Cornewayle quyckeº anon; revive
Thys Englonde Bretayne calle may ye,
When thys tym ys commyn and gon.
  • 57 ‘A prophecy of Merlin the perfect doctor’. See The Prophecy of Merlin (Bodley MS), Poe (...)
xxxv) Prophecia Merlini doctoris perfecti57
Whane lordes wol lefeº theire olde laws
leave
And preestis been varying in theire sawes, º doctrine
And leccherie is holden solace.
And oppressyoun for truwe purchace, º winnings
And whan the moon is on David stall, º seat
And the kynge passe Arthures hall,
Than is the lande of Albyoun
Nexstº to his confusyoun. nearest
xxxvi) When the cocke in the north hath bilde his nest,
And buskithº his briddis and becenysº hem to fle, prepares beckons
Then shall Fortune his frend the yatisº up cast,
And right shall have his fre entrée;
gates

Thene shall the mone ris in the northewest,

3In a clowde of blacke as the bill of a crowe.

Then shall the lion louseº the boldest and the best, loose
That in Brytayne was born syne Arthers day.

And a dredefull dragon shall drawe hym from his denne

To helpe the lion with all his might.
A bull and a bastard with speris to spenº
Shall abide with the boreº to reken the right…
grasp boar

D. Popular Religion

Prayers58

  • 58 The first is cited in Gray’s Later Medieval English Literature, p. 298 (probably from The (...)

xxxvii) Moder of God, wich did lappe thy swete babe in clothes, and between two beestes in a crybbe layde hym in hey, pray for me that my naked soul be lapped in drede and love of my lorde God and the. Alleluya. Ave Maria.

O blessed Jesu, swetenes of hertes and gostely hony of soules, I bisiche the that for that bitternes of the asel [vinegar] and gall that thou suffred for me in thy passion, graunte for to receve worthily, holsomly and devoutely in the houre of my deth thi blessed body in the sacrament of the auter for remedy of my synnes and confort of my soule. Amen. Pater noster. Ave.

xxxviii) Prayer to a Guardian Angel59

  • 59 In A Selection of Religious Lyrics, ed. Gray, no. 70.
O Angel dere, wher ever I goo,
Me that am committed to thyn awarde.º
Save, defende, and govern also
That in hewyn with the be my reward.
keeping
Clense my sowle from syn that I have do,
And vertuosly me wiseº to Godward;
Shyld me from the fende evermo
And fro the peynes of hell so hard.
direct
O thou cumly angell so gud and clere,
That ever art abydyng with me,
Thowgh I may nother the se nor here
Yet devoutely with trust I pray to the.
My body and sowle thou kepe in fereº together

4With sodden deth departed that they not be,

For that is thyn offes, º both fereº and nere,
In every place wher ever I be.
office far

O blessid angell, to me so dere,
Messangere of God almyght,
Govern my dedis and thowght in fere,
To the plesaunce of God, both day and nyght.

xxxix) From Richard de Caistre’s prayer (stanzas 1–6)60

  • 60 In Gray’s Later Medieval English Literature, pp. 370–1; see his Selection of Religious Lyr (...)
  • 61 See ch. 43 in her Book (p. 102), for Richard Castyr.

Richard de Caistre (d. 1420), vicar of St Stephen’s Norwich, was a ‘good priest’ admired by Margery Kempe.61 This poem, of twelve stanzas in almost all copies, and attributed to Richard in several, seems to be an expanded version of a fourteenth-century poem (perhaps Richard’s own early version). Judging by the number of copies, this ‘Hymn’ seems to have been much used. It is carefully arranged for individual devotional use, with six stanzas devoted to petitions for oneself, and six to petitions for others. The tone is calm and gentle; it ends with a general petition: ‘and bring tho soules into blys Of qwom I have had ony goode, And spare [forgive] that thei han done amysse.’ It is a good example of the simple style of petitions provided by clerks for their humble layfolk.

Jesu lorde that madest me,
And with thi blyssyd blode has bowght, º
Foryeve that I have grevydº the
In worde, werke, º [wille] and thowght.
redeemed grieved deeds
Jesu, for thi woundys smerteº
On fote and handys too, º
Make me meke and lowe in hert,
And the to love as I schulde doo.
severe two
Jesu [Criste] to the I calle,
As thu art [Fader] full of myght,
Kepe me clene, that I ne falle
In fleshely synn, as I have tyght.º
resolved
Jesu, grante me myn askyng,
Perfite pacyonisº in my desesse, º
And never I mot doo that thyng
That schulde yn onythyng dysplese.
patience distress
Jesu, that art hevene kyng,
Sothfast God and man also,
Yeve me grace of [gode] ending
And hemº that I am beholdyn to.
them
Jesu, for thoo dulful terisº
That thu gretystº for my gylt,
Here and spedeº my preyorys,
And spare [me] that I be not spylt.º
those sorrowful tears wept prosper damned

From The Book of Margery Kempe62

  • 62 The Book of Margery Kempe, eds Meech et al.

This book is a remarkable work by a remarkable woman of Lynn (or Bishop’s Lynn, now King’s Lynn), helped by her priest. It is not a self-consciously literary work, but is an account of her spiritual experiences, of her travels and tribulations, and a book of comfort for pious readers. After a severe mental illness she had a long conversion experience, and embarked on a life of religious enthusiasm, going (from 1413) on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Rome, Compostella, and other shrines. The treatment of the events and adventures of her wandering life and of her visionary experiences are vivid and dramatic. She is frequently moved to tears, and her outbursts frequently embarrass bystanders. Her book is one of the most impressive testimonies to the depth of devotion found in popular religion, and one of the most compelling narratives of the fifteenth century.

xl) A Visionary Meditation63

  • 63 Ch. 6 (pp. 18–19). Margery refers to herself as ‘the creature’.

An instance of her imaginative participation in the Biblical stories, and of her simple and familiar relationship with Christ and other Biblical figures.

  • 64 ‘a potel of pyment’: a vessel (holding two quarts) of spiced and sweetened wine.

Another day this creatur schul [d] yeve [give] hir to medytacyon, as sche was bodyn [commanded] befor, and sche lay stylle, nowt knowing what sche mygth best thynke. Than sche seyd to ower lord Jesu Crist, ‘Jesu, what schal I thynke?’ Ower lord Jesu answeryd to hir mende, ‘Dowtyr, thynke on my modyr, for sche is cause of alle the grace that thu hast.’ And than anoon sche saw seynt Anne gret with chylde, and than sche preyd seynt Anne to be hir mayden and hir servawnt. And anon ower Lady was born, and than sche beside [busied] hir to take the chyld to hir and kepe it tyl it wer twelve yer of age wyth good mete and drynke, wyth fayr whyte clothys and whyte kerchys [kerchiefs]. And than sche seyd to the blyssed chyld, ‘Lady, ye schal be the Modyr of God.’ The blyssed chyld answeryd and seyd, ‘I wold I wer worthy to be the handmaiden of hir that shuld conseive the Sone of God.’ The creatur seyd, ‘I pray yow, Lady, yyf that grace falle yow, forsake not my servyse.’ The blysful chyld passyd awey for a certeyn tyme, the creatur being stylle in contemplacyon, and sythen cam ageyn and seyd, ‘Dowtyr, now am I bekome the Modyr of God.’ And than the creatur fel down on hir kneys wyth gret reverens and gret wepyng and syd, ‘I am not worthy, Lady, to do yow servyse.’ ‘Yys, dowtyr, ’ sche seyde, ‘folwe thow me, thi servyse lykyth me wel.’ Than went sche forthe wyth owyr Lady and wyth Josep, beryng wyth hyr a potel of pyment64 and spycys therto. Than went thei forth to Elysabeth, seynt John Baptystys modir, and whan thei mettyn togyder, eythyr of hem worshepyd [honoured] other, and so thei wonyd [dwelt] togedyr wyth gret grace and gladnesse xii wokys. And than seynt John was bor [born], and owyr Lady toke hym up fro the erthe wyth al maner reverens and yaf [gave] hym to hys modyr seyng of hym that he schuld be an holy man, and blyssed hym. Sythen thei toke her leve eythyr [each] of other wyth compassyf [piteous] terys. And than the creatur fel down on kneys to seynt Elyzabeth and preyd hir sche wolde prey for hir to owyr Lady that sche mygth do hir servyse and plesawns. ‘Dowtyr, me semyth, ’ seyd Elysabeth, ‘thu dost right wel thi dever [duty].’ And than went the creatur forth wyth owyr Lady to Bedlem and purchasyd [procured] hir herborwe [lodging] every nyght wyth gret reverens, and owyr Lady was received wyth glad cher. Also sche beggyd owyr Lady fayr whyte clothys and kerchys for to swaythyn in hir Sone whan he wer born, and, whan Jesu was born, sche ordeyned beddyng for owyr Lady to lyg in wyth hir blyssed Sone. And sythen sche beggyd mete for owyr Lady and hir blyssyd chyld. Aftyrward sche swathyd hym wyth byttyr teerys of compassion, having mend [thought] of the scharp deth that he schold suffyr for the lofe of sinful men, seyng to hym, ‘Lord, I schal fare fayr wyth yow; I schal not byndyn yow soor. I pray yow beth not dysplesyd wiyth me.’

xli) She meets a Poor Pilgrim with a Crooked Back65

  • 65 In Ch. 30, pp. 76–7.

On her travels she meets a variety of interesting people, some hostile or critical, others well disposed to her. Some are sympathetic clerics, but others are simple folk and ‘outsiders’ like William Wever with his white beard, from Devon, or ‘Rychard wyth the broke bak’, whom she met on her way between Venice and Rome after her company of pilgrims had abandoned her ― some saying that they would not go with her for a hundred pounds.

Than anon, as sche lokyd on the on syde, sche set [saw] a powyr man sittyng whech had a gret cowche [hump] on hys bakke. Hys clothis wer all forclowtyd [patched], and he semyd a man of fifty wyntyr age. Than sche went to hym and seyde, ‘Gode man, what eyleth yowr bak?’ He seyd, ‘Damsel, it was brokyn in a sekenes.’ Sche askyd what was his name and what cuntreman he was. He seyd hys name was Richard and he was of Erlond [Ireland]. Than thowt sche of hir confessorys wordys which was an holy ankyr [anchorite], as is wretyn befor, that seyd to hir whil sche was in Inglond in this maner, ‘Dowtyr, whan yowr owyn felawshep hath forsakyn yow, God shal ordeyn a broke-bakkyd man to lede yow forth ther ye wil [wish to] be.’ Than sche wyth a glad spirit seyde unto hym, ‘Good Richard, ledith me to Rome, and ye shal be rewardyd for yowr labowr.’ ‘Nay, damsel, ’ he seyd, ‘I wot [know] wel thi cuntremen han forsakyn the, and therfor it wer hard to me to ledyn the. [For t] hy cuntremen han bothyn bowys and arwys, wyth the [whec] h they myth defendyn bothyn the and hemself [themselves], and [I have] no wepyn save a cloke ful of clowtys [patches]. And yet I drede me that myn enmys shul robbyn me and peraventur taken the awey fro me and defowlyn thy body, and therfor I dar not ledyn the, for I wold not for an hundryd pownd that thu haddyst a vylany in my cumpany.’ And than sche seyd ayen [replied], ‘Richard, dredith yow not; God shal kepyn us bothen ryth wel, and I shal yeve yow too [two] noblys for yowr labowr.’ Than he consentyd and went forth wyth hir. Sone aftyr ther cam too Grey Frerys [Franciscans] and a woman that cam wyth hem fro Jerusalem, and sche had wyth hir an asse the whech bar a chyst and an ymage therin mad aftyr our Lord. And than seyd Richard to the forseyd creatur, ‘Thu shalt go forth wyth thes too men and woman, and I shal metyn wyth the at morwyn and at evyn, for I must gon on my purchase [occupation] and beggyn [beg] my levyng.’ And so sche dede aftyr hys cownsel and went forth wyth the frerys and the woman. And non of hem cowde understand hir langage, and yet thei ordeyned for hir every day mete, drynke and herborwe as wel as he [they] dedyn for hemselfe and rather bettyr, that [so that] sche was evyr bownden to prey for hem. And every evyn and morwyn Richard wyth the broke bak cam and comfortyd hir as he had promysed. And the woman the which had the ymage in hir chist, whan thei comyn in good citeys, sche toke owt the ymage owt of hir chist and sett it in worshepful wyfys lappys. And thei wold puttyn schirtys thereupon and kyssyn it as thei [though] it had ben God hymselfe.

xlii) A Visiting Priest Reads to Her66

  • 66 In Ch. 58 (pp. 142–3).
  • 67 See Luke 19: 41-4.
  • 68 Notes in the edition give further details of these; a translation of Margery’s Book (for e (...)

… ther cam a preste newly to Lynne, which had nevyr knowyn hir beforn, and, whan he sey hir gon in the stretys, he was gretly mevyd to speke wyth hir and speryd [inquired] of other folke what maner woman sche was. Thei seyden thei trustyd to God that sche was a ryth good woman. Aftyrward the preyst sent for hyr, preyng hir to come and spekyn wyth hym and wyth hys modyr, for he had hired a chawmbyr for hys modyr and for hym, and so they dwellyd togedyr. Than the sayd creatur cam to wetyn [know] hys wille and speke wyth hys modyr and wyth hym and had ryth good cher of hem bothyn. Than the preyste toke a boke and red therin how owr Lord, seyng the cyte of Jerusalem, wept thereupon, rehersyng the myschevys [misfortunes] and sorwys that shulde comyn therto, for sche knew not the tyme of hyr visitacyon.67 Whan the sayd creatur herd redyn how owr Lord wept, than wept sche sor and cryed lowde, the preyste ne hys modyr knowing no cawse of hyr wepyng. Whan hir crying and hir wepyng was cesyd, thei joyyd and wer ryth mery in owr Lord. Sithyn sche toke hir leve and partyd fro hem at that tyme. Whan sche was gon, the preste seyd to hys modyr, ‘Me merveyleth mech of this woman why sche wepith and cryith so. Nevyrtheles me thynkyth sche is a good woman, and I desire gretly to spekyn mor wyth hir.’ Hys modyr was wel plesyd and cownselyd that he shulde don so. And aftyrwardys the same preste lovyd hir and trustyd hir ful meche and blissed the tyme that evyr he knew hir, for he fond gret gostly comfort in hir and cawsyd hym to lokyn meche good scriptur and many a good doctor which he wolde not a [have] lokyd at that tyme had sche ne be. He red to hir many a good boke of hy contemplacyon and othyr bokys, as the Bibel wyth doctowrys thereupon, seynt Brydys boke, Hyltons boke, Boneventur, Stimulus Amoris, Incendium Amoris,68 and swech other…

xliii) A Fire at Lynn [1420–21]69

  • 69 Ch. 67, pp. 162–3.

On a tyme ther happyd to be a gret fyer in Lynne Bischop, which fyer brent up the Gyldehalle of the Trinite and in the same town an hydows fyer and grevows [destructive] ful likely to a [have] brent the parysch church dedicate in the honowr of seynt Margarete, a solempne place and rychely honowryd, and also al the town, ne had grace ne miracle ne ben. The seyd creatur being ther present and seyng the perel and myschef [plight] of al the towne, cryed ful lowde many tymes that day and wept ful habundawntly, preyng for grace and mercy to alle the pepil. And, notwythstondyng in other tymes thei myth not enduren hir to cryen and wepyn for the plentyvows grace that owr Lord wrowt in hir, as this day for enchewyng [eschewing] of her [their] bodily perel thei myth suffyr hir to cryen and wepyn as mech as evyr sche wolde, and no man wolde byddyn hir cesyn [cease] but rather preyn hir of contynuacyon, ful trustyng and belevyng that thorw hir crying and wepyng owr Lord wolde takyn hem to mercy. Than cam hir confessor to hir and askyd yyf it wer best to beryn [carry] the Sacrament to the fyer er not. Sche seyd, ‘Yys, ser, yys, for owr Lord Jesu Crist telde me it shal be ryth wel.’ So hir confessor, parisch preste of seynt Margaretys cherche, toke the precyows Sacrament and went beforn the fyer as devowtly as he cowde and sithyn browt it in ageyn to the cherche, and the sparkys of the fyer fleyn abowte the church. The seyd creatur, desiring to folwyn the precyows Sacrament to the fyre, went owt at the church-dor, and, as sone as sche beheld the hedows flawme of the fyr, anon sche cryed wyth lowed voys and gret wepyng, ‘Good Lorde, make it wel.’ Thes wordys wrowt in hir mende inasmeche as owr Lord had seyd to hir beforn that he shulde makyn it wel, and therfor sche cryed, ‘Good Lord, make it wel and sende down sum reyn er sum wedyr [storm] that may thorw thi mercy qwenchyn this fyer and esen myn hert.’ Sithyn sche went ageyne into the church, and than sche beheld how the sparkys comyn into the qwer [choir] thorw the lantern of the cherch. Than had sche a newe sorwe and cryed ful lowde ageyn for grace and mercy wyth gret plente of terys. Sone aftyr, comyn in to hir thre worschepful men wyth whyte snow on her clothys, seying unto hir, ‘Lo, Margery, God hath wrowt gret grace for us and sent us a feyr snowe to qwenchyn wyth the fyr. Beth now of good cher and thankyth God therfor.’

xliv) A Woman who was Out of her Mind70

  • 70 Ch. 75, pp. 177–8. The woman recovers and is purified in church; it is regarded as a ‘righ (...)

As the seyd creatur was in a chirch of seynt Margaret to sey hur devocyons, ther cam a man knelyng at hir bak, wryngyng hys handys and schewyng tokenys of gret hevynes. Sche, parceyvyng hys hevynes, askyd what hym eylyd. He seyd it stod ryth hard wyth hym, for hys wyfe was newly delyveryd of a childe and sche was owt hir mende. ‘And, dame, ’ he seyth, ‘sche knowyth not me ne non of hir neyborys. Sche roryth and cryith so that sche makith folk evyl afeerd [terribly afraid]. Sche wyl bothe smytyn and bityn, and therfor is sche manykyld [manacled] on hir wristys.’ Than askyd sche the man yyf he wolde that sche went wyth hym and sawe hir, and he seyd, ‘Ya, dame, for Goddys lofe.’ So sche went forth wyth hym to se the woman. And, whan sche cam into the hows, as sone as the seke woman that was alienyd of hir witte saw hir, sche spak to hir sadly [soberly] and goodly and seyd sche was ryth welcome to hir. And sche was ryth glad of hir comyng and gretly comfortyd be hir presens, ‘For ye arn’, sche seyd, ‘a ryth good woman, and I beheld many fayr awngelys abowte yow, and therfor, I pray yow, goth not fro me, for I am gretly comfortyd be yow.’ And, whan other folke cam to hir, sche cryid and gapyd as sche wolde an [have] etyn hem and seyd that sche saw many develys abowtyn hem. Sche wolde not suffyrn hem to towchyn hir be hyr good wyl. Sche roryd and cryid so bothe nyth and day for the most part that men wolde not suffyr hir to dwellyn amongys hem, sche was so tediows to hem. Than was sche had to the forthest ende of the town into a chambyr that the pepil shulde not heryn hir cryin. And ther was sche bowndyn handys and feet with chenys of iron that sche shulde smytyn nobody. And the seyd creatur went to hir iche day onys er twyis at the lest wey [at least], and, whyl sche was wyth hir, sche was meke anow [enough] and herd hir spekyn and dalyin [converse] wyth good wil wythowtyn any roryng er crying. And the syd creatur preyid for this woman every day that God shulde, yyf it were hys wille, restoryn hir to hir wittys ageyn. And owr Lord answeryd in hir sowle and seyd, ‘Sche shulde faryn ryth wel.’ Than was sche mor bolde to preyin for hir recuryng [recovery] than sche was beforn, and iche day, wepyng and sorwyng, preyid for hir recur tyl God yaf hir hir witte and hir mende ayen [again]…

xlv) A Conversation with Christ71

  • 71 In ch. 77, p. 184; both participants speak in a straightforward idiomatic style.
  • 72 A hurdle was used to carry prisoners to execution; the public might throw ‘slurry and slud (...)

… Than answeryd owr Lord to hir and seyd, ‘I prey the, dowtyr, yeve me not ellys but lofe. Thou maist nevyr plesyn me bettyr than havyn me evyr in thi lofe, ne tho shalt nevyr in no penawns that thu mayst do in erth plesyn me so meche as for to lovyn me. And, dowtyr, yyf thu wilt ben hey in hevyn wyth me, kepe me alwey in thi mende as meche as thu mayst and foryete me not at thi mete [mealtimes], but think alwey that I sitte in thin hert and knowe every thowt that is therin, bothe good and ylle, and that I parceyve the lest thynkyng and twynkelyng of thyn eye.’ Sche seyd ayen [in reply] to owr Lord, ‘Now trewly, Lord, I wolde I cowed lovyn the as mych as thu mythist [might] makyn me to lovyn the. Yyf it wer possible, I wolde lovyn the as wel as alle the seyntus in hevyn lovyn the and as wel as alle the creaturys in erth myth lovyn the. And I wolde, Lord, for thi lofe be leyd nakyd on an hyrdil,72 alle men to wondryn on me for thi love, so it wer no perel to her [their] sowlys, and thei to castyn slory and slugge on me, and be drawyn fro town to town every day my lyfetyme, yyf thu wer plesyd therby and no mannys sowle hyndryd, thi wil mote be fulfillyd and not myn.’

xlvi) Margery’s Own Tale73

  • 73 In Ch. 52, pp. 126–7.

Accused before the Archbishop of York of preaching, she defiantly announces ‘I preche not, ser, I come in no pulpytt. I use but comownycacion and good wordys… ’. But a ‘doctor’ present says she told him ‘the werst talys of prestys that evyr I herde’; the Archbishop commands her to tell the tale.

Sir, with yowr reverens, I spake but of o [one] preste be the maner of exampyl, the which as I have lernyd went wil [wandering] in a wode thorw the sufferawns of God for the profite of his sowle tyl the nygth cam upon hym. He, destitute of hys herborwe [lodging], fond a fayr erber [arbor] in the which he restyd that nyght, having a fayr pertre [pear-tree] in the myddys al floreschyd wyth flowerys and belschyd [embellished], and blomys ful delectabil to hys sight, wher cam a bere, gret and boistows [rough], hogely to beheldyn, schakyng the pertre and fellyng down the flowerys. Gredily this grevows best ete and devowryd tho fayr flowerys, and, whan he had etyn hem, turning hys tayl-ende in the prestys presens, voydyd hem owt ageyn at the hy [nd] yr party. The preste, having gret abhominacyon of that lothly sight, conceyvyng gret hevynes [sorrow] for dowte what it myth mene, on the next day he wandrid forth in his wey al hevy and pensife, whom [and to him] it fortunyd to metyn wyth a semly agydd man lych to a palmyr or a pilgrim, the whiche enqwiryd of the preste the cawse of hys hevynes. The preste, rehersyng the mater beforn-wretyn, seyd he conceyvyd gret drede and hevynes whan he beheld that lothly best defowlyn and devowryn so fayr flowerys and blomys and afterward so horrybely to devoydyn hem befor hym at hys tayl-ende, and he not undirstondyng what this myth mene. Than the palmyr, schewyng hymselfe the massanger of God, thus aresond [addressed] hym, ‘Preste, thu thiself art the pertre, sumdel [to some degree] florischyng and floweryng thorw thi servyse seyyng and the sacramentys ministryng, thow thu do undevowtly, for thu takyst ful lytyl heede how thu seyst thi mateynes and thi servyse, so it be blaberyd [babbled] to an ende. Than gost thu to thi Messe wythowtyn devocyon, and for thi synne hast thu ful lityl contricyon. Thu receyvyst ther the frute of evyrlestyng lyfe, the sacrament of the awter, in ful febyl disposicyon. Sithen [then], al the day aftyr thu myssespendist thi tyme: thu yevist the [give yourself] to bying and selling, chopping and chongyng, as it wer a man of the world. Thu sittyst at the ale, yevyng the to glotonye and excesse, to lust of thy body, thorw letchery and unclennesse. Thu brekyst the commawndmentys of God thorw sweryng, lying, detraccyon, and swech other synnes usyng. Thus be thy mysgovernawns, lych onto the lothly ber, thu devowryst and destroist the flowerys and blomys of vertuows levyng to thyn endles dampnacyon and many mannys hyndryng lesse than [unless] thu have grace of repentawns and amending.’ Than the Erchebisshop likyd wel the tale and comendyd it, seying it was a good tale. And the clerk which had examynd hir befortyme in the absens of the Erchebischop, seyd, ‘Ser, this tale smytyth me to the hert.’

Notes

1 The Pastons, and Margery, are cited at some length later in this chapter.

2 Liber Eliensis, trans. Fairweather, book. II, ch. 85 (p. 182). Ely was then a virtual island surrounded by fens.

3 Gray cites this verse in both From the Norman Conquest (p. 420) and Simple Forms (p. 221).

4 [Dear brethren, you know well that those women… saying thus].

5 Gray cites this verse in From the Norman Conquest (pp. 170–1).

6 These three fragments are printed together, as one piece, in Early Middle English Verse and Prose, number VIII R (and note p. 333).

7 This, and the next (from the Red Book of Ossory), are both cited by Gray in his Simple Forms (pp. 215–16).

8 See Gray’s From the Norman Conquest, pp. 420–1.

9 This verse is cited in Orme’s Fleas, Flies, and Friars, chapter-title School Days; it is juxtaposed with a verse in Latin, as part of a lesson on Latin Grammar.

10 In Brut, ed. Brie, p. 292.

11 In Brie, ed. p. 301; the second passage is on p. 303.

12 The date of Michaelmas is 29th September.

13 Isaiah 24: 18.

14 In Brie, ed. p. 315.

15 Ibid. p. 467 (in Appendix F, worded slightly differently).

16 Ibid. pp. 442–3. Gray cites this story in his Later Medieval English Literature (p. 62).

17 Whit Sunday (Pentecost) is the seventh after Easter.

18 In ed. Brie, pp. 522–3.

19 Ibid. p. 330 [1377].

20 An English Chronicle, ed. Davies, pp. 56–7.

21 Ibid. p. 64.

22 An English Chronicle, ed. Davies p. 63 (the date is here given as 1449).

23 28th October.

24 16th October; the events seem not to be in chronological order.

25 An English Chronicle, ed. Davies p. 57 (the date is here given as 1441).

26 See Paston Letters, ed. Norman Davis, part I, though it is not certain that Gray used this edition. Some are cited in his Later Medieval English Literature.

27 See also Bennett, The Pastons and their England.

28 Paston Letters, 129, from Margaret Paston to her husband John Paston I (pp. 223–5).

29 Ibid. 24, from Agnes Paston to her son John Paston I (pp. 36–7).

30 20th November.

31 Ibid. 26, from Agnes Paston to John Paston 1 (pp. 39–40).

32 ‘God’s blessing and mine’ is a formula conventionally used between adult and (their own) child.

33 Ibid. 153, from Margaret to John Paston I (pp. 257–8).

34 Ibid. at the end of 77 [1465], from John Paston I to Margaret (pp. 140–5).

35 It is unclear whether John has taken some coins from his wife, to be exchanged (puzzlingly) for the money Calle will bring, or whether the ‘peces’ are dishes, also round and perhaps valuable. There may be a family joke going on (he can hardly be serious about nailing Calle’s ear to a post) that we shall never be able to fathom.

36 ODS gives 24th (or 25th) February; the vigil would be the day before. But the letter is dated 20th September in the edition.

37 Ibid. 346, to Margaret Paston from her son John Paston III (pp. 565–6), dated 1471.

38 Ibid. 415, from Margery Paston (née Brews) soon before her marriage to John Paston III (pp. 662–3).

39 An English Chronicle, ed. Marx; this is an enlarged and revised edition of the Chronicle ed. Davies. The rubric reads 1456–7, King Harry is Henry VI.

40 In Brie ed. (as above in chronicles), p. 314.

41 De Nugis Curialium, trans. James, Distinction iv, no. VIII (pp. 187–9); Gray made his own translation: see his From the Norman Conquest, p. 84 for the rescued wife.

42 This story is not presented in Gray’s previous anthology (cited above), but it is clear he has made his own translation of this too (as well as the other two presented here). It is in Map’s Distinction ii, no. XII (pp. 82–5). Gray has added the reference to Gwestin (the previous story in Map) so that readers will not think the Edric story is supposed to resemble the Rescued Wife in this volume.

43 Gray has printed? against the word ‘riders’; in his translation James writes ‘Naiads?’ with a note to the effect that the Latin phrase et alares is so far unexplained. For Gray’s Dictynna as Diana, see OCCL, q.v.

44 In Map, see Distinction i, no. XI (pp. 13–17); and in Gray, From the Norman Conquest, pp. 86–8. Here again, the latter translation (his own) corresponds almost exactly with the text presented here.

45 Ovid, Metamorphoses book ii, 1 ff.

46 There is a long annotation to this story in Map, as a footnote to the title King Herla. It begins: ‘One of the most famous of the folk-tales related by Map… ’. Readers will be familiar with legends such as that of Sleepy Hollow or Rip Van Winkle.

47 My footnotes indicate one source for these poems; there are certainly others. Number xxxi is printed in Medieval English Lyrics, ed. Silverstein, p. 124.

48 In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

49 Number xxxii is printed in Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse (ed. Sisam), no. 154, p. 384; Gray refers to it in Later Medieval English Literature, p. 55.

50 Gray prints this charm in his Later Medieval English Literature, on p. 54; unfortunately he does not give a source for it (however, there is a book-list at the end of each chapter).

51 Index of Middle English Verse number 1423; it is cited in Oliver (Poems Without Names, p. 114) and elsewhere; see also Secular Lyrics of the XIVth and XVth Centuries, ed. Robbins (number 71).

52 29th June (see ODS).

53 As is his wont, Gray has re-translated from the original Latin rather than using any published translation; see Geoffrey’s History, trans. Thorpe, p. 171.

54 Historical Poems, ed. Robbins, section headed Political Prophecies, within no. 43. The ‘cocke in the north’, below, is ibid. no. 43.

55 These are British princes.

56 Britain west of the Severn.

57 ‘A prophecy of Merlin the perfect doctor’. See The Prophecy of Merlin (Bodley MS), Poems of Political Prophecy, in Medieval English Political Writings, ed. Dean. In this edition, ‘stall’ is glossed as ‘stable’. See also The Oxford Book of Late Medieval Verse and Prose, ed. Gray, p. 22.

58 The first is cited in Gray’s Later Medieval English Literature, p. 298 (probably from The Rosary, p. 304); for the second, see Womens Writing in Middle English, ed. Barratt, among the Fifteen Prayers Revealed to a Recluse. The Lord’s Prayer (Pater Noster) and Hail Mary (Ave Maria), with the Creed, were the best-known prayers of the Middle Ages.

59 In A Selection of Religious Lyrics, ed. Gray, no. 70.

60 In Gray’s Later Medieval English Literature, pp. 370–1; see his Selection of Religious Lyrics, no. 51 (and notes) for the long version.

61 See ch. 43 in her Book (p. 102), for Richard Castyr.

62 The Book of Margery Kempe, eds Meech et al.

63 Ch. 6 (pp. 18–19). Margery refers to herself as ‘the creature’.

64 ‘a potel of pyment’: a vessel (holding two quarts) of spiced and sweetened wine.

65 In Ch. 30, pp. 76–7.

66 In Ch. 58 (pp. 142–3).

67 See Luke 19: 41-4.

68 Notes in the edition give further details of these; a translation of Margery’s Book (for example by Windeatt, 1985) may also be consulted.

69 Ch. 67, pp. 162–3.

70 Ch. 75, pp. 177–8. The woman recovers and is purified in church; it is regarded as a ‘right great miracle’.

71 In ch. 77, p. 184; both participants speak in a straightforward idiomatic style.

72 A hurdle was used to carry prisoners to execution; the public might throw ‘slurry and sludge’ over the unfortunates.

73 In Ch. 52, pp. 126–7.

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