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APPENDIX TO THE MEDIEVAL BRITISH LITERATURE HANDBOOK, ED. DANIEL T. KLINE (CONTINUUM, 2009).
MEDIEVAL BRITISH LITERATURE
et us discuss the shape of
medieval culture in Britain, combining the study of its
languages with those of its literatures across space and
time. It was Pan-European and was
influenced by the Mediterranean through the continuing use
of the Latin language and its alphabet adopted from the
Phoenicians. It was also shaped by the oral telling and
sharing of tales in the many vernacular languages, the
Romance languages deriving from Latin in southern Europe and
the Germanic languages in northern Europe. In the British
Isles the earlier layers of Celtic and Pictish culture that
had become Christian with a knowledge of Roman and Greek
civilization were overrun by barbarian Jute and Anglo-Saxon
invaders in the great migrations that swept across Europe.
The long ships of the Vikings had a technological advantage
militarily over the hide-covered round coracles of the
Celts. An Anglo-Saxon scop ('shaper', poet)
of tales treasured a word hoard of vocabulary and of
history, of identity through memory. These invaders in turn
became Christian and also, with the aid of Irish scholars,
studied Biblical and Latin literature, among them Bede in
Northumbria. That culture was then suppressed in 1066 by the
French-speaking Normans ('Northmen'), themselves recent
descendants of Vikings who had settled in Normandy (giving
it its name), the Norman Conquest extending to Ireland as
well as England. The story of the Conquest is compellingly
told in embroidery by women and in Latin in the Bayeux
Germanic English was no longer a
written language for some centuries and when it would
re-emerge it would be half Romance French. The Song
of Roland had been sung orally at the Battle of
Hastings by the Norman jongleur Taillefer
and its earliest manuscript is in Anglo-Norman French and
still preserved at Oxford: http://image.ox.ac.uk/show?collection=bodleian&manuscript=msdigby23b
The powerful Norman culture extended also to
Sicily and to the Jerusalem Kingdom which was conquered by
these 'Crusaders' in 1099.
The languages of the people who built
Stonehenge, then of the Picts and of the Celts in Cornwall,
are now extinct. The British Celtic language (Brittonic) is
still spoken and written in Wales and in Brittany (next to
Normandy in France); a related Celtic language (Goidelic)
being spoken and written in Ireland and Scotland (Scotland being settled by the Irish,
known as Scoti). We can see this continuing linguistic and literary
heritage in the Carmina
Gadelica of songs collected from the islands of
Scotland in the past century: http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/gaidhlig/corpus/Carmina/ However, the centre of power about
London and its Thames river displaced these earlier
languages to the margins of the British Isles and Continent.
To know what our English language was
like before the 1066 Norman Conquest, we should instead look
to Iceland and its saga literature where the Vikings
preserved our tongue in its purity, their alphabet still
combining Roman and Runic alphabets, even on their computer
keyboards, and where through their voyages they knew all of
the Old World, both Constantinople and Islam, and as well
the New World, called by them, Vinland.
Arni Magnusson Institute, Reykjavik, Iceland
We speak of 'Old English' (OE) before
1066, then call the mixed language that emerged in the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries 'Middle English' (ME),
to differentiate these from our Modern English (ModE).
The mysterious monument of Stonehenge had preceded all these cultures and when it was discussed in Geoffrey of Monmouth, William Blake and Thomas Hardy it was erroneously attributed by them to the later Celtic Druids. Celts used Ogham, a phonetic alphabet of straight and slanted lines in number combinations. However, the Runes of our phonetic alphabet, travelled rapidly from Semitic Phoenicia along the trade routes and were in use amongst the Etruscans in Italy and as far north and west as Iceland, Greenland and Vinland. All these were memory retrieval systems. Like Ogham, Runes were typically inscribed on tombstones and on swords, on stone, metal and wood. We shall find the saint's legend, St Erkenwald, carefully discussing such arcane letters on a tomb and using the histories created by both Anglo-Saxon Bede and Celtic Geoffrey of Monmouth. The spread of literacy was closely linked with the Bible as a book written first on papyrus, then on parchment, the earlier scroll form using vegetable matter being replaced by the more handy codex or bound book written on prepared skins of animals. Irish monks collated the Latin Bible with Greek and Hebrew texts, their work being crowned by the Anglo-Saxon Codex Amiatinus, now in the Laurentian Library in Florence, having been brought to Italy by Bede's Abbot Ceolfrith. Other great Bibles of the period are the Irish Books of Durrow, Kells and Armagh, preceded by the Cathach, a Psalter; the Saint Chad Gospels, likely Welsh; the Anglo-Saxon Codex Aureus, captured by Vikings from Canterbury, then ransomed back, and now in Stockholm; and the Codex Barberinus in the Vatican Library. (See http://www.florin.ms/aleph.html) Monasteries stocked pagan as well as Christian books in their libraries, for instance Terence's Comedies and Roman histories, and also oversaw the writing down later of oral pagan texts, such as Beowulf. We hear of Caedmon, Abbess Hilda's cowherd at Whitby, chanting Biblical stories in Anglo-Saxon verse to a harp. We hear of the Norman minstrel Taillefer chanting the Song of Roland at the Battle of Hastings. Oblates, boys given to monasteries and educated there, sang liturgical drama in Latin Gregorian Chant. At the Peasants' Revolt lines from Piers Plowman were being sung. Medieval literary works are often by anonymous authors, or even generations of authors, oral and scribal.
English language was a melting pot, a rich chaos, of not
only other languages but many regional dialects; so likewise
was medieval English literature borrowed from everywhere.
Just as literature flourished in oral forms in song as well
as in writing as prose, so did it exist in visual forms,
again in multitudes of styles, as well as in words. In the
miracles celebrated in stained glass about the tomb of St
Thomas Becket we witness Anglo-Saxon peasants, Norman
nobility, and Celtic slaves, particularly in the story of
the Norman Fitzeisulf family. Their Celtic nurse, Britonwy,
dies of the plague, then their own Norman son is afflicted,
while Anglo-Saxon Gimp the leper reminds them to make their
promised offerings at the tomb for the boy's recovery.
Britonwy would have kept her charge entertained with
stories, like those in the Welsh and Arthurian Mabinogion.
Latin poetry had used measured non-rhyming
lines but Celtic poetry, next adopted by the French from
Brittany, then by Chaucer, delighted in rhyme in the
vernacular. Rhyme similarly swept across Europe from the
Celtic western islands in medieval Latin poetry. Instead,
the native form of English verse in Beowulf
and in Langland's Piers Plowman used
alliteration, with lines whose stressed words begin with the
same letter in three out of four instances before and after
the caesura, the break in the middle of the
line, typical also of Hebrew poetry and to be used again by
Gerard Manly Hopkins. The poem, Sir Gawain and
the Green Knight, brilliantly combined both forms,
rhyme and alliteration.
Scribal literature was
produced in 'textual communities'. A textual community which
bridged all these peoples and their languages did so through
Latin and was to be found in the monasteries which
flourished in the British Isles from Celtic Christianity,
through Anglo-Saxon Christianity, and on through Norman
Christianity, only ending when Henry VIII dissolved them.
Architecturally, a monastery consisted of a church, against
which was built the cloister, a square garden with a well at
its centre, representing Paradise. Around the cloister would
be a scriptorium for writing out books, a library for
keeping them in, a dormitory for the monks to sleep in and a
refectory for their meals, as well as store-rooms for grain
and other produce, orchards for fruit trees, fishponds and
fields for grain and cattle. Monasteries produced Bibles in
Latin and liturgical texts also in that language, as well as
commentaries and universal histories. To train oblates (boys
given by their parents to monasteries) in Latin and
Gregorian chant monastic communities used liturgical dramas
in which they could act and sing. Monastic culture produced
a literature deeply based on contemplative reading of the
Bible. While for reading in the refectory it employed
saints' 'legends' (legend=what is read),
later collected in the Golden Legend. These
hagiographical writings about saints are an amalgam of many
cultures and their story forms, often on the order of Bruno
Bettelheim's Uses of Enchantment covering
trauma abuse, and they lent a vicarious survival and
psychiatric overcoming of what is insupportable with violent
culture clashes. Because the canon of saints was
cosmopolitan so also are these stories intensely
multicultural. An example is Chaucer's Man of
Law's Tale, whose Christian heroine, Constance, first
marries an African Moslem ruler, then a pagan Northumbrian
offshoots of cathedral schools, belong likewise to the
clerical world and shared in its literature, but were more
one-sidedly intellectual from rigorous training in
Aristotelian logic, lacking the humanistic aspects of
monastic learning. Their curriculum was compartmentalized
into the trivium (grammar, rhetoric,
dialectic, corresponding to our grammar schools), the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy,
music, corresponding to our secondary schools and
universities) and the 'Queen of Sciences', Theology
(corresponding to graduate school), and was related to the
Guilds' formation of apprentice, journeyman, master, and
doctor, reflected still in our degrees of bachelor and
master of arts, and doctor of philosophy.
Monasteries defined the
three divisions or 'estates' of society as being those who
prayed (themselves, as Monks), those who fought (Knights),
and those who labored (Ploughmen). The culture of those who
fought, particularly the armoured knights who lived in
crenellated moated stone castles, with drawbridges and
portcullises, produced their own distinctive literature,
preferring 'Romances' (what was translated from the Romance
languages, such as French) and pseudo-genealogies about the
Matter of Troy (Aeneas), the Matter of Britain (Arthur), the
Matter of France (Charlemagne). Many of these
pseudo-histories involved episodes of adultery, punished by
death in the class that possessed property to be inherited
by the legitimate children born to their wives, though the
Church counselled mercy in such cases. The upbringing of the
nobility was traumatic, a young boy being sent to a
different family to be trained as a page, then becoming a
squire, and finally a knight. Working people in the
countryside and in the towns, agricultural labourers and
merchants, knew of the monastic and courtly writings largely
through oral means, peasants at the Revolt singing lines
from Piers Plowman. Left out of the ideal
paradigm are the merchants and townspeople, who came to
emulate the nobility while at the same time seeking piety,
hence their literature muddled the categories and produced
such a rich kaleidoscope as is Chaucer's Canterbury
Books were written out by
hand, each copy being different, often using alternating
colours for capitals, such as red and blue, as a memory
system, and sometimes illuminated miniatures, until the
introduction of the printing press into England in the Tudor
period. This umilta website uses the techniques of medieval
manuscripts. The front (recto) and backs (verso) of pages
are numbered as 'folios' or leaves. Old and Middle English
used some letters derived partly from Runes that differ from
our own: 'th' being thorn, written
as Þ þ; or as eth, Ð ð; while 'y',
'gh', yogh, was written as '3'; capital 'F'
was 'ff'. Some words, which are useful to learn, are
glossed. Modern spelling has changed and become
standardized. Where words seem unfamiliar to the eye, try
reading them aloud to hear, rather than see, what they are.
Among the samples in this chapter you are exposed to the
languages of the British Isles, Latin, Irish, Welsh,
Italian, Anglo-French, Old English and Middle English. All
these texts were typically read aloud and thus partake of
both oral and scribal culture. Students can best enter into
these textual worlds through similarly reading out loud the
examples given here. We suggest you explore in your university's library the
red-bound volumes in Latin and the facing page
translations of the Loeb Classical Library, published by
Harvard University Press, the green-bound volumes of the
Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, published by Columbia
University Press, and the brown-bound volumes of the Early
English Text Society with the Alfred jewel (itself a
bookmarker) stamped in gold on their covers. The EETS was
initiated by Frederick James Furnivall in the nineteenth
century in order to assist James Murray with his edition
of the Oxford English Dictionary,
demonstrating the development of the English language.
This chapter's entries give the Early English Text Society
Original Series (EETS), Supplementary Series, (EETS SS),
and Extra Series (EETS ES) volume numbers. The great
classics, Chaucer, Piers Plowman and
Julian of Norwich, are published separately.
I have found in
teaching that it is wise to give a structure of both space
and time. I learned this from seeing how Japanese students
travelling in Europe studied European culture, with
newsprint books in their own language and a facing page in
the language of the country through which they are
travelling with maps and historical information about each,
thus structuring their information gathering in situ spatially and
I have found in
teaching that it is wise to give a structure of both space
and time. I learned this from seeing how Japanese students
travelling in Europe studied European culture, with
newsprint books in their own language and a facing page in
the language of the country through which they are
travelling with maps and historical information about each,
thus structuring their information gathering in situ spatially and
and Medieval British Culture:
and Medieval British Culture:
As an exercise
study the pilgrimages medieval women made. Print out these
two maps and plot on the second one the pilgrimages of the
following women who copied each other:
As an exercise
study the pilgrimages medieval women made. Print out these
two maps and plot on the second one the pilgrimages of the
following women who copied each other:
St Helena +
327, Constantine's mother (York, by land, Rome, by sea,
Bethlehem, Jerusalem, by land, Sinai, by sea, Constantinople)
Egeria 381-384 (Spain, by sea, Sinai, by land, Jerusalem, by sea, Constantinople)
Saints Paula and Eustochium 385, Jerome's colleagues (Rome, by sea, Egypt, by land, Sinai, Jerusalem, Bethlehem)
Pega + 719, Guthlac's sister (Crowland, nr Cambridge, by land, Rome)
St Bridget 876, St Andrea's sister (Ireland, by land, Fiesole in Italy)
Guthrithyr 1000 (Iceland, by sea, Greenland, Vinland, Iceland, Rome, Iceland)
Margaret of Jerusalem 1155- (Jerusalem, by land, Beverley, Jerusalem, Turkey, Compostela, Rome, Normandy)
St Birgitta 1303-1373 (Finstad, near Uppsala, by land, Trondheim, Compostela, Arras, Alvastra, Rome, Naples, by sea, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Rome)
Margery Kempe 1373-1430 (Lynn, by land, Bologna, Venice, by sea, Jerusalem, by land, Bethlehem, by sea, Venice, by land, Assisi, Rome, Norwich, Bristol, Compostela, Bristol, Leicester, York, Lambeth, Lynn, Norwich, by sea, Bergen, Gdansk, by land, Aachen, Syon, Lynn)
Chaucer's fictional Wife of Bath, Canterbury Tales, General Prologue 565-466 (Bath, Rome, Bologna, Bath, Compostela, Cologne, Bath, Canterbury)
The map is based on a tracing of the Google shot. It can demonstrate the multicultural influences upon the British Isles and likewise the influence of the British Isles upon the globe in the Middle Ages.
Time and the British Isles:
43 A.D. Roman Invasion of Britain. Celtic and Latin languages.
410 Romans leave Britain.
449 Jute Invasion of Britain by Hengist and Horsa. Anglo-Saxon and Latin languages.
V/VI C? King Arthur.
625 Sutton Hoo Ship Burial of King Readwald.
930-1798 The Althing (parliament) held at Thingvellir in Viking Iceland annually.
1000 Althing at Thingvellyr converts unanimously to Christianity.
Circa 1000 Guthrithyr sails from Iceland to Greenland and Vinland (America) giving birth to a son there, returns to Iceland to be an anchoress, then journeys to Rome as a pilgrim. From her five bishops descend.
995-1035 King Canute, half-Viking, half-Slav (Polish), King of England, Denmark, Norway and part of Sweden.
1013-42 England ruled by Danes imposing the Danelaw and the Danegelt.
1003-1066 King Edward the Confessor, son of Queen Emma (wife of King Canute), by a previous marriage.
1066 Battle of Hastings, Norman Conquest, depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. French and Latin languages.
1095 First Crusade
1099 Crusaders' Conquest of Jerusalem
1103-1170 Archbishop Thomas Becket, murdered, Canterbury Cathedral
1154-1189 King Henry II
1155 Birth of Margaret of Jerusalem
1157-99 Richard I
1187 Seige of Jerusalem
1220 Thomas Becket's Translation from Crypt to Trinity Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral
1291 Fall of Acre, Loss of Crusaders' Jerusalem Kingdom
1312-1377 King Edward III
1337-1453 Hundred Years War between France and England. English, French and Latin languages.
1342 Birgitta of Sweden's Vision, at Arras on Compostela Pilgrimage, of St Dionysius for Peace between Kings of France and England
1348 Black Death
1330-1376 Edward, the Black Prince, Tomb beside Thomas Becket's in Canterbury Cathedral.
1373 Death in Rome, following Jerusalem Pilgrim, of Birgitta of Sweden
1376-1399 King Richard II
1381 Peasants' Revolt
1382 Blackfriars 'Earthquake' Council condemning John Wyclif.
1383 Coronation of Richard II and Queen Anne of Bohemia.
1384 Death of John Wyclif at Lutterworth Parsonage
1391 Canonization of Saint Birgitta of Sweden
1398 Henry Bolingbroke exiled by Richard II
1399-1416 Coronation of Henry Bolingbroke as King Henry IV
1399-1400 Abdication and Murder of Richard II.
1401 De Haeretico Comburendo, Act to burn Lollard heretics at the stake
1405 Henry IV has Archbishop of York Richard le Scrope executed for treason
1406-1424 King James I of Scotland prisoner of Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI of England
1408 Archbishop Arundel's Constitutions forbids translation of Bible into English, etc.
1410 Archbishop Arundel authorizes Nicholas Love's Mirror of the Life of Jesus Christ
1413 Sir John Oldcastle, Lollard, escapes from Tower of London
1415 Battle of Agincourt, Henry IV founds Brigittine Syon Abbey, dies in Jerusalem Chamber, Westminster Abbey
1416-1422 King Henry V
1416 Henry V lays foundation stone of Syon Abbey
1417 Sir John Oldcastle recaptured and executed.
1422-71 Henry VI
1455-1487 Wars of the Roses (Civil War in England between the Houses of York and Lancaster)
1485 Henry VII marries Margaret of York
1538-1551 Henry VIII's Destruction of Becket's Tomb, Dissolution of the Monasteries
ordinal phonetic Phoenician alphabet is not temporal,
therefore the encyclopaedic entries that follow are preceded
by the sequential ordering in which these texts were written
and these people lived):
St Brendan (circa 530)
Cathach (VI-VII C)
Book of Durrow (late VII C)
Arculf and Adamnan (late VII C,-704)
Whitby Abbey; Abbess Hilda (657-680) and Caedmon
'Dream of the Rood' on Ruthwell Cross (circa 710)
Codex Amiatinus (692-716)
Bede, History of the English Church and People (673-735)
Book of Durrow (VII C)
Saint Chad Gospels (VIII C)
Lindisfarne Gospels (early VIII C)
Codex Aureus (mid VIII C)
Barberini Gospels (late VIII C)
Book of Kells (circa 800)
Book of Armagh (809)
Havamal (IX C)
Icelandic Sagas (930-1030, written down XII-XIV Cs)
Voyage of Bran (700-900)
King Alfred (849-899)
Beowulf (VIII-X C)
Anglo-Saxon Riddles, Exeter Book (X C)
'Dream of the Rood', Vercelli Manuscript (late X C)
Chanson de Roland (1066-XII C)
Bayeux Tapestry (1077)
Marie de France (late XII C)
Voyage of St Brendan
St Patrick's Purgatory (445-XII C)
Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain (1100-1155)
Christina of Markyate (1095-1155)
Margaret of Jerusalem and Thomas de Froidmont (1155- )
Ancrene Wisse and Katherine Group, after 1214
Aelred of Rievaulx (1109-1166)
Guernes de Pont Saint Maxence (circa 1174)
Nigel Wireker, Speculum Stultorum (circa 1170-1200)
La3amon, Brut (XIII C)
Mirks Festial (XIV C)
Roman de la Rose (-1305)
Marguerite Porete (1310)
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)
Auchinleck Manuscript (1330s)
Guillaume de Deguileville, Pilgrimage of the Life of Man (1330-1355)
Richard Rolle (1290-1349)
Luttrell Psalter (early XIV C)
Mabinogion (written down circa 1350)
Sir John de Mandeville, Travels (1357-1371)
Wynnere and Wastoure (1352-1370)
William Flete leaves Cambridge for Siena (1359)
John Whiterig (-1371)
King Richard II (1367-1400)
John Wyclif (1320s-1384)
Cloud of Unknowing (later XIV C)
Birgitta of Sweden, Revelationes (1303-1373)
Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374)
Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375)
Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)
Adam Easton (-1397)
Julian of Norwich, Showing of Love (circa 1342-1416)
Walter Hilton, Ladder of Perfection (-1396)
William Langland, Piers Plowman (1360-1399)
Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400)
Pearl (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and possibly St Erkenwald) Poet (late XIV C)
Thomas Usk (executed 1388)
John Gower (1330-1408)
Nicholas Love, Mirror of the Life of Jesus Christ (-1424)
Amherst Manuscript (1413-1430s)
Thomas Hoccleve (1368-1450)
Christine de Pizan (1365-1430)
John Lydgate (1371-1450)
Margery Kempe, Book (1373-1438)
Corpus Christi Plays (1377-late XVI C)
James I of Scotland, Kingis Quair (1394-1437)
Sir Thomas Malory (1405-1471)
Syon Abbey (1415-)
Ellesmere Manuscript (early XV C)
Robert Thornton Manuscript (XV C)
Paston Letters (1422-1509)
Promptorium Parvulorum (1440)
Scottish Chaucerians: Robert Henryson (1425-1520), William Dunbar (1460-1530)
We suggest going through this list on a second reading of this Handbook, backwards through time, from the more recent to the more ancient, from the most to the least familiar, reading its relevant texts, to study the development of the English language and of its use of other languages and cultures. Likewise, it helps to read the Bible in parallel text with its Old English interlinear to the Lindisfarne Gospels or the Wyclif Middle English translation beside the Latin Vulgate text. James Joyce in the 'Oxen of the Sun' chapter to Ulysses, gave a similar nine centuries' survey of the English language and its literature, beginning with Anglo-Saxon lyrics, such as 'The Wanderer', that had been translated by his friend Ezra Pound, and going on, by way of Malory, Blake, and others, up to American speech.
Easton: A Benedictine
monk of Norwich who taught Hebrew at Oxford, translating the
whole Bible from that language, and deeply versed in
Pseudo-Dionysius and the Victorines. He wrote in defense of
Pope Urban VI the Liber Defensorium Potestatis
Ecclesiasticorum, for which he was made Cardinal of
England, having the basilica of St Cecilia in Trastevere,
but he was then imprisoned by the Pope and tortured in a
dungeon. He effected Birgitta of Sweden's canonization in
1391, with a document he wrote supporting women's prophetic
writings, such as her Revelationes, having
prayed to her for his release, and he worked closely with
the editor of her text, Hermit Bishop Alfonso of Jaén. He
was present in Norwich with the manuscript of Birgitta's Revelationes at the time Julian was composing
the Long Text of her Showing in which the Revelationes is quoted. He may have edited
Julianâ's Long Text. He may also have written the Liber Regalis for Richard II and Anne of
Bohemia's 1383 double Coronation. Likewise, he could be the
unknown author of the Cloud of Unknowing,
for he was noted to have written now lost texts in the
vernacular of spiritual direction, as well as his Latin
works. (See http://www.umilta.net/anchor.html)
Adamnan, Arculf's Voyage: Bishop Arculf from Gaul was shipwrecked on Iona on his way home from pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The Abbot Adamnan, who died in 704, carefully recorded all he had to say about the Holy Places, including in the Latin account architectural drawings of the church in and about Jerusalem. Bede in turn used this account in his History of the English Church and People, which came to be translated into Old English.
of Rievaulx: A Cistercian
monk in Yorkshire, Aelred (1109-66) wrote Latin treatises on friendship
between men and one for his sister, whose name we do not
know, on how to be an anchoress, called De
Institutione Inclusarum. This treatise influenced the
Ancrene Wisse, Walter Hilton and Julian of
Norwich. EETS 287, p. 1, edits its translation into Middle
English in a medieval manuscript:
Here begynneth a tretys that is a rule
and a forme of lyuynge perteyning to a recluse.
Why suche solitary lyf was ordeyned of fadirs in the olde tyme.
Suster, thou hast ofte axed of me a forme of lyuyng accordyng to thyn estat, inasmuche as thou art enclosed.
begins a treatise that is a rule and a form of living for a
Why such solitary living was ordered by the Fathers in ancient times.
Sister, you have often asked me for a form of living according to your state, because you are enclosed.
Anglo-Saxon King Alfred (849-899) succeeded in gaining a
certain amount of freedom for his Christian people against
the conquering non-Christian Danes, and he translated three
works into Old English, Boethius' Consolation
of Philosophy, Gregory's Pastoral Care
and Orosius' Geography. His biography is
given in Bede's History of the English Church
and People. His bookmark is known as the 'Alfred
Jewel', now in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, and its image
is used on the covers of the Early English Text Society
volumes. The manuscript of his translation of Boethius,
British Library Cotton Otho A.vi, was very badly damaged in
the fire of 1731. EETS 45, 50, 79, EETS SS 6. We present its
Old English here, Walter J. Sedgefield, ed., King
Alfred's Anglo-Saxon Version of Boethius, Consolatione
Philosophiae, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899, p. 1;
trans. Kevin S. Kiernan, 'Alfred the Great's Burnt
Boethius', The Iconic Page in Manuscript, Print, and
Digital Culture, ed. George Bornstein and Theresa
Tinkle, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998, 7-32.
AELFRED KUNING waes wealhstod ðisse bec, 7 hie of boclaedene on englisc wende, swa hio nu is gedon. Hwilum he sette word be worde, hwilum andgit of andgite, swa swa he hit þa sweotolost 7 andgitfullicast gereccan mihte for þam mistlicum 7 manigfealdum weoruldbisgum þe hine oft aegðer ge on mode ge on lichoman bisgodan. Ða bisgu us sint swiþe earfoþrime þe on his dagum on þa ricu becoman þe he underfangen haefde, 7 þ eah ða þas boc haefde geleornode 7 of laedene to engliscum spelle gewende, 7 geworhte hi eft to leoðe, swa swa heo nu gedon is.
Morte Arthure: Using Geoffrey of
Monmouth and La3amon's Brut, and used in
turn as a source by Sir Thomas Malory, this poet writes both
about the Arthurian past and makes it a 'Distant Mirror' for
his own time, creating a quasi-epic work. The English won
the Battle of Agincourt because of their use of the long bow
made from yew, these trees being protected in the realm for
this purpose and planted in graveyards. The text is found in
the fifteenth-century Robert Thornton Manuscript. EETS 8, p.
62, lines 2095-2100:
[Then the British archers fiercely fought
with foreign brigands in that land, with fletched arrows
they shot the men, piercing with feathers through their fine
mail; such shooting is foul that hurts the flesh so much,
that flies far into the flanks of steeds.]
Manuscript, British Library
Additional 37,790: A compilation written for a woman
contemplative, which includes works by Richard Rolle,
Marguerite Porete, Julian of Norwich, Jan van Ruusbroec,
Henry Suso and others, written out by the same scribe who
writes out Guillaume de Deguileville, St John's College,
Cambridge, G.21, and Mechtild of Hackeborn's Book
of Ghostly Grace, British Library, Egerton 2006, all
in Middle English. Julian's Short Text Showing
in it is dated 1413. (See http://www.umilta.net/amherst.html)
This excerpt from Jan van Ruusbroec's Sparkling
Stone, written first in Flemish, ('ende
ic sal hem gheven', spreect hi, 'een blinckende steenken,
ende in dien steenken eenen nuwen name ghescreven, die
niemen en weet dan diene ontfeet'), then
translated into Latin as De perfectione
filiorum Dei by Ruusbroec's disciple, van Jordaens,
which is translated again into Middle English and is here
transcribed from its version in the Amherst Manuscript,
folio 117 verso:
may no man entere the sayde exercyse be cunnynge ffor
contemplatyfe lyfe may nou3t be tau3t oone be anoÃ¾ere bot
where as god whiche es verrey trowthe manyfestys hym selfe
in spirit. Þer
all necessaries moste plentevously are lerned and that is
that the spirit says in the Apochalips vincenti says he
schalle gyffe hym a litil white stone and in it a newe name
the whiche no man knowes but who that takys it. This litel
stone promysed to a victorious man it is called .Calcalus.
for the litelnes þerof. ffor 3yf alle a man trede it
with his fete 3it he is not hurte þerwith.
A large medieval Latin and English literature consisted of
writings giving advice to anchoresses, women who lived in
solitude, usually beside a church in its graveyard, having a
'room of their own'. Among these are Aelred of Rievaulx's De Institutione Inclusarum, the Ancrene
Wisse, Walter Hilton's Ladder of
Perfection, the Cloud of Unknowing,
while Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love is
a work written by an anchoress.
Recti diligunt te. 4 'Lauerd', seið Godes spuse to hire deore[wu]rðe spus, 'þe rihte luuieð þe.' Þeo beoð rihte þe 5 l[i]uieð efter riwle. Ant 3e, mine leoue sustren, habbe[ð] moni dei icrauet on me [e]fter ri[wl]e. 6 Monie cunne riwle beoð; ah twa beoð bimong alle þet Ich chulle speoken of þurh ower bone, 7 wið Godes grace.
[The upright love you. 'Lord', says the bride of God to
her beloved bridegroom, 'the upright love you.' The upright
are those who live according to a rule. And you, my dear
sisters, have been asking me for a long time for a rule.
There are many kinds of rule; but there are two in
particular that I will discuss because of your request, with
God's grace. ]
Compare and contrast the texts written by men for women, Ancrene Wisse, Walter Hilton, Ladder of Perfection, and/or the Cloud of Unknowing.
Thomas Arundel: Archbishop, also
Chancellor, Arundel was the leader in suppressing the
Lollard movement about John Wyclif, whose supporters had
included Queen Anne of Bohemia and Richard II's uncle, John
of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Arundel forbade the translating
of the Bible into the English language and forbade
laypeople, especially women, to teach theology. At this
time, English literature switched from its former learned
contemplative theology to more authoritarian simplistic
texts such as that by Prior Nicholas Love of Mount Grace
Charterhouse, the Mirror of the Life of Jesus
Christ, translating the thirteenth-century
Pseudo-Bonaventure work written for Clarissan nuns. (See http://www.umilta.net/arundel.html )
)These are Arundel's Constitutions published in 1408 throughout his Archdiocese of Canterbury:
Quod nullus praedicet absque licentia, nisi persona fuerit
in jure privilegiata.
II. De poena admittentium praedicare absque literis.
III. Quod praedicator conformet se auditorio, aliter puniatur.
IV. De poena temere disputantium de sacramento altaris, et aliis sacramentis, contra determinationem ecclesiae.
V. Ne magistri in artibus vel grammatica intromittant se de sacramentis pueros suos instruendo.
VI. Ne quis librum, vel tractatum aliquem Jo. Wycliff legat, antequam examinetur.
VII. Ne quis texta S. scripturae transferat in linguam Anglicanam.
VIII. Quod ne quis conclusiones, propositiones, bonis moribus adversantes, asserat.
IX. Ut nullus disputet de articulis per ecclesiam determinatis, nisi ad verum intellectum habendum.
X. Quod nullus capellanus celebret in provincia Cant. absque literis testimonialibus.
XI. Quod in universitate Oxon. fiat inquisitio quolibet mense, per principales.
XII. De poena contra facientium, et infringentium statuta praemissa.
XIII. De modo procedendi in casibus praenotatis, et articulis memoratis.
[I. That no one can preach without a licence. II. On the punishment for those preaching without a licence. III. That the preacher must conform or be punished. IV. Of the penalties for preaching on the sacraments of the altar and other sacraments against the Church's teaching. V. That no teacher with only an MA or BA instruct children about the sacraments. VI. That no book or treatise of John Wyclif may be read, before it is examined. VII. That no text of Holy Scripture may be translated into English. VIII. That no one join those opposed to these conclusions, propositions and good customs. IX. That no one may question the Articles Holy Church determines. X. That no chaplain may celebrate in the Canterbury Archdiocese without testimonial letters. XI. That at the University of Oxford an inquisition should be held each month concerning these principles. XII. Of the penalties for countering these. XIII. Of the procedures to be followed in such cases.]
Literature, 'Matter of Britain': Celtic
King of Britain, largely legendary but a figure of great use
in political literature, his story being known throughout
Europe and in the Crusaders' Jerusalem Kingdom, though it
was ignored by the Anglo-Saxons, apart from La3amon in his Brut. It is likely that the cycle was
popularized by Breton minstrels singing the legend to Norman
lords in England, Sicily and Jerusalem. Mabinogion,
Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of
Britain, Alliterative Morte Arthure,
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Malory.
Auchinleck Manuscript: National Library of Scotland, Advocates Manuscript 19.2.1, is a compilation of many early Middle English texts written out in an Anglo-Norman nuns' convent. It contains saints' legends, jumbled together with St Patrick's Purgatory of the Vision of the Knight Owain, and romances of Guy of Warwick, Sir Degare, Amis and Amiloun, Floris and Blancheflur, Sir Bevis of Hamtoun, Arthur and Merlin, Lay le freine, King Alisaunder, Sir Tristram, Sir Orfeo, King Richard the Lion Heart, Horn Child, together with Lives of the Virgin, lists of Norman barons, 'Sayings of St Bernard', and a poem on the 'Evil Times of Edward II', as well as a prayer composed at his death, thus dating this manuscript. Some of the texts are a mixture of Middle English and Norman French.
Tapestry: The Bayeux
Tapestry recounts, in embroidery on linen carried out by
women with images and Latin text, the historical event of
the Battle of Hastings at the Norman Conquest of England,
significant also for its enduring change to the English
language, making it half-French.
Compare and contrast the Song
of Roland with the Bayeux Tapestry.
Bede: The Venerable Bede (673-735), monk at the monasteries of Wearmouth Jarrow, had access to the library of Cassiodorus brought to Northumbria by the Abbot Ceolfrith and was associated with the massive project of creating the Codex Amiatinus, the most authoritative surviving Vulgate Bible. He wrote an Ecclesiastical History of the English People in Latin which came to be translated into Old English, including its story of the Abbess Hilda's ploughman, Caedmon, singing in oral formulaic alliterative verse about the Creation of the World by God.EETS 95, 96, 110, 111.
sculon herigean heofonrices weard,
meotodes meahte ond his modgeþanc,
weorc wuldorfaeder, swa he wundra gehwaes,
ece drihten, or onstealde.
heofon to hrofe, halig scyppend;
þa middangeard moncynnes weard,
He aerest sceop eorðan bearnum
ece drihten, aefter teode
firum foldan, frea aelmihtig.
[Now we must praise
the Protector of the heavenly kingdom,
the might of the Measurer and His mind's purpose,
the work of the Father of Glory, as He for each of the wonders,
the eternal Lord, established a beginning
He shaped first for the sons of the Earth
heaven as a roof, the Holy Maker;
then the Middle-World, mankind's Guardian,
the eternal Lord, made afterwards
solid ground for men, the almighty Lord.]
[Often Scyld Scefing took mead-benches away from enemy bands, from many tribes, terrified their nobles â€“ after the time that he was first found helpless. He lived to find comfort for that, became great under the skies, prospered in honors until every one of those who lived about him, across the whale-road, had to obey him, pay him tribute. That was a good king.]
The huge Codex Amiatinus, now in the Laurentian Library in
Florence, was produced by Ceolfrith and Bede at
Wearmouth-Jarrow, then was accompanied by Ceolfrith to be
given to the Pope. Under the influence of learned Irish
scholars its Psalterium is Jerome's second and better
translation from the Hebrew. It is still the single most
authoritative Jerome Vulgate Bible we have. The related
manuscript, the Lindisfarne Gospels, has an Anglo-Saxon
interlinear to its text. Chaucer would mention in his Man of Law's Tale such an ancient Bible, 'A
Britoun book, written with Evaungiles' (II.666). Other such
Bibles were produced in Ireland and England. Interestingly
these great Bibles use splendid Celtic interlaced 'Carpet
Pages', from Islamic influence. Later, Adam Easton would
also seek to translate the Bible from the original Hebrew
into Latin, while John Wyclif and his followers translated
it from the Latin Vulgate into Middle English. Archbishop
Arundel then forbade translations of the Bible.
Owr lorde Ihesu Cryst tellyth seynte Birgitte why he chesyth hyr to be hys spovse, and how as a spowse she awyth to aray hyr and be redy to hym.
am maker of heuen and erth and see and of all thynges that
bene in hem. I am . . . not as goddys of stones or of
golde, as some tyme was seyde, ne mony goddys, as then was
[Our Lord Jesus Christ told St Birgitta why he chose her to be his bride, and how as a bride she should array herself and be ready for him.
am maker of heaven and earth and of all things in them. I
am . . . not as gods of stone or of gold, as was once
said, nor of many gods, as was then believed.]
Another manuscript of the Revelationes, British Library, Harley 4800,
fol.107, gives the account of her vision which became her
Book of Questions, in which she sees Jesus and Mary answer
all the theological doubts of a monk (Magister Mathias)
upon a ladder stretching between earth and heaven (demyns=judges, letted=stopped;
meyne=followers, retainers; wyttys=senses):
As she rode on a day towarde a Castel wyth moche meyne that was cleped Watzthen . . . she reysed up her mynde and made her prayeres to God. And anoon she was ravisshed yn spyrit and went forthe as she had ben oute of her self reysed from the wyttes of her body and yn a dremyns or a masynes, yn contemplacion yn her mynde. Then she sawe yn spirit a laddre sett on þe erthe wereof the ovyr ende touched heven. She sawe our lorde Ihu Cryst sytt yn a wonder throone as a juge demyns. At whose feete stode mayden mary.
And after this the lady kepte thys
hoole booke wel yn mynde and in thys same revelation she
reyshed to the Castel. And than they that wer aboute her
toke the brydel of her horse and begane to meeve her. And
whan she was awaked oute of that ravysshyng she turned to
her self and was sory that she was letted of that swetnes
that she was yn. Þe whych booke of questyons effectually
dwelled stylle yn her herte and in her mynde as though yt
had be graven yn stone. Soone aftyr she wrote thys booke
yn her owne tonge the whych booke her confessour
translated yn to latin as he was wonte to do to thys books
of her Revelations.
[As she rode one day toward a castle called Vadstena with a great entourage . . . she raised up her mind and prayed to God. And soon she was ravished in spirit and went forth as if outside of her self, raised above the senses of her body as if in a dream or wonderment, in contemplation in her mind. Then she saw in spirit a ladder set on the earth with one end touching heaven. She saw our Lord Jesus Christ sit on a wonderful throne as if a Judge. At whose feet stood the Virgin Mary.
Compare and contrast Birgitta of Sweden and Margery Kempe.
Consolation of Philosphy:
Written in Latin, with the full knowledge of Aristotle and
Plato, by a learned Late Roman statesman, imprisoned and
awaiting execution, this work was translated into Old
English by King Alfred, into Middle English by Geoffrey
Chaucer and into Elizabethan English by Queen Elizabeth I.
Its manuscripts are often profusely illuminated with
allegorical figures used also by the Roman de
la Rose miniaturists and others. Boethius was used in
medieval psychotherapy as an argument against depression,
the 'wanting of will' as Julian of Norwich calls it, or
'wanhope', which is despair, the antidote being a
responsible reasonable freedom of will. (See http://www.umilta.net/august.html)
EETS 113, 170, Extra Series 5. Boethius, De
Consolatione Philosophiae, ed and trans. S.J. Tester,
Harvard University Press, 1978, Loeb Classical Library 74,
V.ii, p. 390-391; Geoffrey Chaucer, 'Boece', in The
Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1987, p. 458:
Quare quibus in ipsis inest ratio, inest etiam
volendi nolendique libertas.
them freedom to will or not to will.]
Gadelica/ Ortha nan Gaidheal:
In the nineteenth century the folkorist Alexander Carmichael
collected the oral sung prayers in Goidelic Scots from the
Western Isles off Scotland, such as the Hebrides, and from
the Highlands. They had been sung so for nearly two thousand
years and are blessings, like those in Judaism, covering
every activity, fishing, spinning, weaving, lullabys, going
to sleep, washing hands. (See http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/gaidhlig/corpus/Carmina/)
of Siena, The Orcherd
Catherine of Siena, who died before reaching the age
of 25 and who was illiterate, dictated the Dialogo
in Italian to her secretaries. A manuscript translating it
was found at Brigittine Syon Abbey and it was early printed
as The Orcherd of Syon. A related Syon
Abbey publication is The Myrroure of Oure Lady.
The Orcherd of Syon opens with a preface
describing the orchard at Syon Abbey in Richmond which the
Brigittine nuns walked and contemplated. We should imagine
them in their Clarissan (Franciscan) grey habits and their
black veils with white crown and cross on them intersected
with five red roundels for Christ's wounds that Birgitta, in
a vision, had designed for them as they read about the
Dominican tertiary Catherine of Siena, herself garbed in
white and black. clepe=call, gost=spirit,
oned=united. (See http://www.umilta.net/cathersiena.html,
EETS 258, pp. 1,18:
Þe reuelaciouns of oure Lord to his chosen mayde, Kateryn of Sene.
Þis book of reuelaciouns as for 3oure goostly cumfort to 3ou I clepe it a fruytful orcherd. This orcherd by Goddis grace my wil is to deuyde into seuene parties, and ech party into fyue chapitres, as 3e mowe se and rede in Ã¾e kalender folowynge.
In þis orchard, whanne 3e wolen be
conforted, 3e mowe walke and se boþe fruyt and herbis. And albeit þat sum fruyt or herbis seeme to
summe scharpe, hard, or bitter, 3it to purgynge of þe soule þei ben ful speedful and profitable,
ben discreetly take and resceyued by counceil. Therefore,
religiouse sustren, in þis goostli orchard at resonable
tyme ordeyned, I wole þat 3e disporte 3ou & walke aboute where
3e wolen wiþ
3oure mynde & resoun, in what aleye 3ou lyke, and namely
þere 3e sauouren best, as 3e ben
disposid. 3e mowe chese if 3e wole of xxxv aleyes where 3e
wolen walke, þat
is to seye, of xxxv chapitres, o tyme in oon, anoþir tyme in anoþir. But first my counceil is
clerely to assaye & serche þe hool orchard, and taste of sich
fruyt and herbis reasonably aftir 3oure affeccioun, &
what 3ou likeþ
best, afterward chewe it wel & ete þereof for heelþe of 3oure soule.
[The Revelations of our Lord to his chosen virgin, Catherine of Siena.
I call this book of Revelations for your spiritual strengthening a fruitful orchard. This orchard by the grace of God I intend to divide into seven parts, and each part into five chapters, as you may see and read in the Table of Contents following.
orchard, when you want to be comforted, you may walk and see
both fruit and herbs. And though some fruit or herbs seem to
some of you sharp, hard or bitter, yet for the purging of
the soul they are very useful and profitable, when they are
taken moderately and according to caution. Therefore,
cloistered Sisters, in this spiritual orchard I would have
you play and walk about at the reasonable ordained times and
walk about where you will with your mind and reason, in what
alley you like, and mostly which seems to you best, as you
choose. You may choose, if you will, the whole of the
thirty-five alleys where you will walk, that is say, of the
thirty-five chapters, one time in one, one time in another.
But first my advice is to try and search the whole orchard,
and taste of such fruit and herbs reasonably after your
desire, and what you like best, then chew it well and eat of
it for the health of your soul.]
And here foloweþ þe first chapitre of þis boke, whiche is how3 þe soule of þis maiden was oned to God, and how3 sche made iiii peticiouns to oure Lord in þat time of contemplacioun, and of þe answere of God; and of miche oþer doctrine, as it is specified in þe kalender before.
þat is reised vp wiþ heuenli and gostli desires and
affecciouns to þe worship of God and to þe helþe of mannes soule, and wiþ a grete desire langoureþ, vertuousli inhabited bi a space
of a long time, ful bisily laboreþ in gostli exercise, and mekeli
in her inward biholdinge to knowe herself, to þat entent onli þat sche my3t better knowe in
goodness of God; for as sche wel feleþ bi grace þat after þat knowing þe loue þat loueth is knytt and ioyned wiþ a loue to þat þat is loued, and forseþ and bisieþ her to loue and folowe þat knowinge, and wiþ continuel exercise inhabiteþ hir wiþ soþfastnes.
[And here follows the first chapter of this book, which is how the soul of this virgin was oned to God and how she made four petitions to our Lord in that time of contemplation and of Godâ€™s answer; and of much other teaching, as shown in the Table of Contents.
A soul that is raised up with heavenly and spiritual desires and affection to the worship of God and to the health of man's soul, and with a great desire languishes, virtuously inhabited for a long time, very busily labours in spiritual exercise, and meekly abides in her inward seeing to know herself, only so that she might know better in herself God's goodness. For as she feels by grace that after that knowing the love that loves is knit and joined with a love to that which is loved, and forces and busies herself to love and follow that knowing and with continual exercise steadfastly dwells in her.]
Raid of Cooley/ Tain bo Cualgne: Ireland's
great epic, in which King Aillil acquires the White Bull of
Connaught, so his Queen, Mebd, strives to acquire his equal,
the Brown Bull of Cooley, acquiring him from Daire, and of
the great warrior Cuchulain.
[Pagans are wrong, Christians are right!]
Chaucer's context is courtly and diplomatic. He served as a
page in noble households, had access to French and later
Italian books, in the latter of which were presented scenes
and tales of life amongst the labouring classes, for
instance, in Boccaccio's use of Terence's Comedies
and Apuleius' Golden Ass, and in Sercambi's
Novelle pilgrim tellers and tales. He
translated Boethius and the Roman de la Rose.
His earlier works are The Book of the Duchess,
The Legend of Good Women, Troilus
and Criseyde, a scientific Treatise on
the Astrolabe (EETS ES 16), written for his little son
Louis. His magnum opus is the unfinished Canterbury Tales, which combines fabliaux,
saints' legends, beast fables, romances, told by men and
women, and he ends it all with a penitential treatise,
shaped as a sermon told by a Wycliffite Parson. Middle
English has second person singular form, thou
(thow), thee (the), thine, where we use a second
person plural form, you, yours.This passage
is from Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde V,
lines 1793-1799, in Chaucer, ed. Benson, p.
584, written in 'rhyme royal' stanzas, so-called because
James I of Scotland when a prisoner of the English, would
adopt them for his Kingis Quair:
And for ther is so gret diversite
In Englissh and in wrytyng of oure tonge,
So prey I God that non myswrite the,
Ne the mysmetre for defaute of tonge;
And red wherso thow be, or elles songe,
That thow be understonde, God I biseche!
But yet to purpose of my rather speche:
of Markyate: Christina became
an anchoress, then foundress of the nuns of St Albans. The
St Albans Psalter is associated with her, likewise an
unfinished vita in Latin which includes
snatches of vernacular English. The Life of
Christina of Markyate: A Twelfth Century Recluse, ed.
and trans. C.H. Talbot, Toronto: Toronto University Press,
1998, pp. 106, 110-111:
letare mecum. ait anglico sermone. myn
['Rejoice with me', he said in English,
'my Sunday daughter'.]
Compare and contrast the Life of Christina of Markyate with the Ancrene Wisse or with Hilton's Ladder of Perfection.
de Pizan: Daughter
of an Italian astrologer at the French court, this brilliant
woman writer had had the run of the King's library when a
child, and wrote books counselling kings and nobles, queens
and ordinary women how to conduct their lives. Le
Chemin de Longs Estudes is a feminist version of
Dante's Commedia and Virgil's Aeneid
where Christine is guided by the Sybil into the knowledge of
all things. She oversaw the production of her most
beautifully illuminated manuscripts with images showing
herself as writing them. Though France and England were at
war against each other, her son was page to the Earl of
Salisbury and her books were treasured and translated into
English. Among them The Book of Fayttes of
Armes and of Chyualrye and the Epistle of
Othea, EETS 189, 264.
Þe Prolog upon þe Translation of Deonise Hid Diuinite
Þis writyng þat next foloweþ is þe Inglische of a book þat Seynte Denys wrote vnto Thimothe, þe whiche is clepid in Latyn tonge Mistica Theologia. Of þe whiche book, for-þi þat it is mad minde in þe 70 chapter of a book wretin before (þe whiche is clepid Ãže Cloude of Vnknowing) how þat Denis sentence wol cleerli afferme al þat is wretyn in þat same book: þerfore, in translacioun of it, I haue not onliche folowed þe nakid lettre of þe text, bot for to declare þe hardnes of it, I haue moche folowed þe sentence of þe Abbot of Seinte Victore, a noble & a worþi expositour of þis same book.
Þis is Seinte Deonise Preier
Þou vnbigonne & euerlastyng
whiche in þiself
souereyn-substancyal Firstheed, þe souereyn Goddesse, & þe souereyn Good, þe inliche beholder of þe godliche maad wisdome of Cristen
men: I beseche þee for to drawe us up in an acordyng abilnes
souereyn-vnknowen and þe souereyn-schinyng hei3t of þi derke inspirid spekynges, where
pryue thinges of deuinytee ben kouerid and hid vnder þe souereyn-schinyng derknes of
wisest silence, makyng þe souereyn-clerest souereynly for
to schine priuely in þe derkyst; and þe whiche is - in a maner þat is alweys inuisible &
vngropable - souereynli fulfillyng wiþ ful fayre cleertees alle þoo soules þat ben not hauyng i3en of mynde.
[The Prologue to the Translation of Dionysius' Hidden God
This writing that follows is the Englishing of a book that St Denis wrote to Timothy, titled in Latin Mystica Theologia. Therefore, concerning which book, because it is mentioned in the 70th chapter of a book I wrote earler (which is titled The Cloud of Unknowing) that Denis' writing would clear affirm all that is written in that same book, in translating it I have not only followed the naked letter of the text, but because it is difficult, I have given the explanation of the Abbot of St Victor, a noble and worthy expositor of this same book.
This is St Denis' Prayer
eternal and everlasting Wisdom, who are in yourself the
highest substantial Prime, the highest Goddess and the
highest Good, the inward beholder of the spiritual wisdom of
Christian men, I beg you to draw us up in like capacity to
the highest unknown and greatest shining height of the dark
inspired speakings, where all the secret things of divinity
are covered and hid under the greatest shining darkness of
wisest silence, making the highest clearness greatly to
shine secretly in the darkest, and which is in a way always
invisible and unfelt, highly fulfilling with most beautiful
clearness all those souls who lack the eyes of the mind-]
Compare and contrast the Cloud of Unknowing and Julian of Norwich, Showing of Love.
Confession Manuals: The adoption of Aristotelian taxonomies in universities encouraged priests trained there to categorize and discuss the 'Seven Deadly Sins', Pride, Avarice, Lechery, Envy, Greed, Sloth (acedie or depression), which required being confessed before a good death. These lists occur also in other literary texts, such as Piers Plowman.
Literature: Aelred of
Rievaulx, Ancrene Wisse, Walter Hilton, Ladder of Perfection, Cloud of
Unknowing, Julian of Norwich, Showing of
Love, Nicholas Love, Mirror of the
Blessed Life of Jesus Christ. Cloister literature.
sely shepardes/ that walkys on the moore,
In fayth we are nere handys/ outt of the doore,
No wonder as it standys/ if we be poore,
ffor the tylthe of our landys/ lyys falow as the floore,
As ye ken
We ar so hamyd,
ffor-taxed and ramyd,
We ar mayde hand tamyd,
With thyse gentlery men.
we innocent shepherds who walk on the moors
Truly we sre nearly out of the door
No wonder, thus, that we be poor,
For the harvest from our land lies fallow as the floor.
As you know
We are so oppressed,
Taxed and bullied,
We are made tame
By these gentlemen.]
thay refe vs oure rest/ oure lady theym wary!
These men that ar lord fest/ thay cause the ploghe tary.
That men say is for the best/ we fynde it contrary;
Thus ar husbandys opprest/ in pointe to myscary,
Thus hold thay vs hunder,
Thus thay bring vs in blonder;
It were greatte wonder,
And euer shuld we thryfe.
they take from our rest, Our Lady curse them!
These men that are linked to lords, make the plough tarry.
That men say is for the best, we find it contrary;
Thus are householders oppressed, in point to miscarry
Thus they hold us under,
Thus they bring us to blunder
It were great wonder
That ever we should thrive.]
Take a liturgical drama in Latin and compare it with a matching Corpus Christi play in Middle English. Or take the speeches by the shepherds in this play and compare them with the arguments in Wynnere and Wastoure or Piers Plowman concerning subsistence farming.Dante Alighieri: Geoffrey Chaucer, Adam Easton and Julian of Norwich all display knowledge of the Italian and/or Latin writings of Dante Alighieri.
heryen=praise; tryne=triple: wemmelees= spotless, wone=dwell. (See http://www.florin.ms/danteportal.html) La Commedia secondo l'antica vulgata, ed. Giorgio Petrocchi, Milan: Mondadori, 1967, Paradiso XXXIII, 1-9.
[You Maid and Mother, daughter of your Son,
Monasteries with both men and women under an Abbess:
Anglo-Saxon seventh-century Whitby, Northumbria; Brigittine
fifteenth century Syon, London. Both places had fine libraries
and produced a rich literature, conversant with classic and
'Dream of the Rood', Ruthwell Cross, the Vercelli Manuscript, the Exeter Riddles: The 'Dream of the Rood' first appears in runes on a stone missionary cross in the Pictish area of Scotland to which Ceolfrith had sent stonemasons and missionaries, then in a parchment manuscript left behind by a pilgrim at Vercelli in Italy. The poem is not unlike the Anglo-Saxon riddles which say 'I saw' and 'I am', the answers being such objects as crosses and Bibles, Exeter Book EETS 104, 194; Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records III. 'Hlaflord', 'bread giver', 'loaf giver', a kenning for one's ruler. (See http://www.umilta.net/hilda.html) The Vercelli Book, ed. George Philip Krapp, New York: Columbia University Press, 1931, Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 2, pp. 61-65, lines 39-66; trans. adapted from Michael Alexander, The Earliest English Poems, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966, pp. 107-108; Ruthwell Cross Runes shared with Vercelli text are shown in red:
hine þa geong haeleð, (þaet waes god aelmihtig),
strang ond stiðmod. Gestah he on gealgan heanne,
modig on manigra gesyhðe, þa he wolde mancyn lysan.
Bifode ic þa me se beorn ymbclypte. Ne dorste ic hwaeðre bugan to eorðan,
feallan to foldan sceatum, ac ic sceolde faeste standan.
Rod waes ic araered. Ahof ic ricne cyning,
heofona hlaford, hyldan me ne dorste.
Ãžurhdrifan hi me mid deorcan naeglum. On me syndon þa dolg gesiene,
opene inwidhlemmas. Ne dorste ic hira naenigum sceððan.
Bysmeredon hie unc butu aetgaedere. Eall ic waes mid blode bestemed,
begoten of þaes guman sidan, siððan he haefde his gast onsended.
Feala ic on þam beorge gebiden haebbe
wraðra wyrda. Geseah ic weruda god
þearle þenian. þystro haefdon
bewrigen mid wolcnum wealdendes hraew,
scirne sciman, sceadu forðeode,
wann under wolcnum. Weop eal gesceaft,
cwiðdon cyninges fyll. Crist waes on rode.
Hwaeðere þaer fuse feorran cwoman
to þam aeðelinge. Ic þaet eall beheold.
Sare ic waes mid sorgum gedrefed, hnag ic hwaeðre þam secgum to handa,
eaðmod elne mycle. Genamon hie þaer almihtigne god,
ahofon hine of ðam hefian wite. Forleton me þa hilderincas
standan steame bedrifenne; eall ic waes mid straelum forwundod.
Aledon hie ðaer limwerigne, gestodon him aet his lices heafdum,
beheoldon hie ðaeae heofenes dryhten, ond he hine ðaer hwile reste,
meðe aefter ðam miclan gewinne. Ongunnon him þa moldern wyrcan
beornas on banan gesyhðe. . . .
the young warrior, Almighty God, ungirded himself,
eagerly mounted the Cross, in the sight of many.
He would set free mankind.
I shook when his arms embraced me, but I durst not bow to ground,
Stoop to Earth's surface . Stand fast I must.
I was reared up, a rood . I held the King, Heaven's lord, I dared not bow.
They drove me through with dark nails: on me are the wounds
Wide-mouthed hate dents. I durst not harm any of them.
They mocked us together . I was all wet with blood
Sprung from the Man's side . after he sent forth his soul.
Many wry wierds I underwent . up on that hilltop;
Saw the Lord of Hosts stretched out stark .
Darkness shrouded the King's corpse.
A shade went out wan under cloud pall . All creation wept,
Keened the King's death . Christ was on the Cross.
But there quickly came from afar . many to the Prince.
All that I beheld had grown weak with grief . yet with glad will bent then
Meek to those men's hands . yielded Almighty God.
They lifted Him down from the leaden pain . left me, the commanders
Standing in blood sweat. I was sorely smitten with sorrow
Wounded with shafts. Limb-weary they laid him down.
They stood at his head. They looked on him there.]
Compare and contrast the 'Dream of the Rood' in runes on the Ruthwell Cross with the same poem in the Vercelli manuscript on parchment. Compare and contrast the 'Dream of the Rood' with the Exeter Riddles. Compare and contrast the Cross visions in this poem and in Julian of Norwich, Showing of Love.
Visions: Dream vision
narratives are given in Bede, St Patrick's Purgatory, Christina of Markyate,
Dante, Birgitta, Chaucer, Christine de Pizan, Wynnere
and Wastoure, Piers Plowman, Julian
of Norwich, Margery Kempe, John Lydgate. Cloister
and Town literature.
Manuscript: This magnificent
illuminated manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury
Tales, now at the Huntington Museum, San Marino,
California, is one of the two major witnesses to Chaucer's
text, the other being the Hengwrt Chaucer, in the National
Library of Wales.
Troy, 'Matter of Troy':
Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde; Henryson, Testament of Criseyd, Lydgate, Troy
Book, based on Boccaccio, Guido da Colonna,
particularly used by English writers because of the
statements in Histories that London was New Troy,
Trinovantium. In this way Trojan stories were seen as a
'Distant Mirroring' of their own moment in time, the
Cambridge Corpus Christi College Manuscript of Troilus
and Criseyde illuminates Chaucer as preaching on
Troilus to Richard II surrounded by his court, from a pulpit
structure. Castle literature.
Amd if it so be þat 3e have consentid
and fallen in ony temptacion, beth sory, and crieth god
mercy þerof, and beth not discomforted þerfore. þenke wel on the grete
mercy of god, how he forgaf Dauid his grete synnes, and
Petir and Maudeleyn, and not only hem but also alle tho þat haue be or mow be
and schulen ben contrite for here synnes and cryen god
if it is that you have consented and fallen into any
temptation, be sorry and ask God for mercy, and do not be
uneasy. Think well on the great mercy of God, how he forgave
David his great sins, and Peter and Magdalen, and not only
them but also all that have been or may be or shall be
contrite for their sins and ask for God's mercy. ]
Somtyme the feelynge of swetnesse and of
comfort is with drawen from a man, for ellis he schulde
waxen proud and presumptuouse, or necgligent and recheles in
vertues; and þerfore it is withdrawen for the beste to
helthe of his soule. And also hardenesse and scharpnesse
sent to a creature is ful profitable to the soule, for Seynt
Augustyn seyth þus in techynge of vs alle, þat þe manere of god is, þat quan a man is feble
and newly turned to hym, to 3eue hym pees and swetnesse, and
soo to stable hym in his lawe and loue; but quan he is
stabled and sadly set and grounded in loue, þan suffereth he hym to
be al to trauailed for twoo skylles. Oon is to preue hym,
and to crowne hym þe more hy3e in the blisse of heuene,
and another is to purge hym of his synnes in this world that
he in no wyse be longe from hym in þe tother worlde.
[Sometimes the feeling of sweetness and of comfort is withdrawn from a man, lest he become proud and presumptious, or negligent and careless in virtue; and therefore it is withdrawn for the health of his soul. And also hardness and sharpness sent to a creature is very profitable to a soul, for St Augustine said thus to teach us all, that Godâ€™s custom is, when a man is weak and newly turned to him, to give him peace and sweetness, and so to ground him in his law and his love, but when he is stable and eriously set and grounded in love, that he lets him be tried for two reasons. One is to prove him, and to crown him with more bliss in heaven, and another is to purge him of his sins in the world that he in no way will be far from him in the other world.]
Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain:
Written in Latin by a Welshman giving the Celtic history of
Britain, including the story of Arthur, this work influenced
many works in Middle English.
Gower: John Gower wrote
in Latin, in French, and in English, the Confessio
Amantis, modelled on the Roman de la Rose.
EETS ES 81, 82.
de Pont St Maxence, La Vie de St Thomas Becket:
Monk narrates life of martyr in French verses from
altar steps in Canterbury Cathedral.
de Deguileville, The Pilgrimage of the Life of
Influenced by the Roman de la Rose, a
Cistercian monk creates a lengthy three part vision poem of
the Pilgrimage of Man, of the
Soul, and of Jesus Christ. Translated into Middle
English it is written out by the same scribe as who writes
out the Amherst Manuscript with Julian of Norwich and
Marguerite Porete's works as well as another manuscript
containing Mechtild of Hackeborn's Book of
Ghostly Grace. EETS 77, 83, 92, 288, 292, EETS ES 77,
de Lorris, Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose:
The first part of the Roman de la Rose is a
courtly allegory, its second part is considerably more
coarse and realistic. Written in the Loire region in French,
it is a dream vision of a Lover and his Rosebud, its text
being filled up with debates by its various characters. Many
of its manuscripts are superbly illuminated. Chaucer both
translated it and adapted it to his own purposes.
IV: Henry Bolingbroke,
son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, conquered England
from Richard II, being crowned Henry IV. He often lived
abroad in exile and many of his exploits echo those of
Chaucer's Knight. He had vowed a Crusade to recapture
Jerusalem, but died instead from leprosy contracted on his
pilgrimages in Westminster Abbey's Jerusalem Chamber. Unlike
his father he opposed Lollardy, seeing it as a threat to the
State as well as to the Church, Lollards being executed as
both traitors and heretics.
With the use of the stirrup allowing for knights to fight on
horseback in full armour, their identities were
distinguished by their heraldic crests on their helmets,
their arms on their shields, and their mottoes or war cries,
these clusters known as armorial bearings, or coat of arms,
the descriptions using Norman French terms rather than
English ones for the colors, 'argent, or, gules, azure,
vert, sable, tawny, sanguine', etc. Heraldry is important in
Arthurian texts, where it is anachronistic, as the
pre-Beowulfian Arthurian warriors would have actually fought
in hand to hand combat on foot. For instance, in the Bayeux
Tapestry we see the Saxons under Harold fighting as foot
soldiers against the Norman cavalry under William, the
horses being brought over in the long ships. Heralds
functioned as umpires in tournaments and still regulate
Hilton, The Ladder of Perfection:
Written in two parts the Ladder of Perfection
begins with spiritual advice to an Anchoress. It repeatedly
uses the Pilgrim's Prayer, 'I have nought, I am nought, I
seek nought but sweet Jesus in Jerusalem', to be used again by Dom Augustine
Baker in Holy Wisdom, his book of spiritual
direction for English nuns in exile, the descendants of St
Thomas More, in the seventeenth century. (See http://www.umilta.net/Hiltonpilgrim.html)
' I. am no3t
no3t. nou3t .I. seke ne coveite bot þe luf of ihesu '
British Library, Harley 6579, fol. 88v.
Caesar, Gildas, Chronicles, Bede, Wace, La3amon, Geoffrey of
Monmouth, taking their form largely from the Bible and from
Eusebius' History of the Church. Cloister
and Castle literature.
Hoccleve, The Regiment of Princes:
Chaucer's friend and bureaucratic colleague, Hoccleve
wrote The Regiment of Princes for Henry V,
then still Prince Hal. He also translated Christine de
Pizan. EETS 313, EETS SS 19, EETS ES 61, 72, 73.
of Scotland, The Kingis Quair:
A prisoner of the English, spending time in the Tower of
London, King James I of Scotland composed an allegory in
seven line Chaucerian stanzas, known from its use by this
king as 'rhyme royal'. The dream vision is based on
Boethius, and Chaucer's 'Knight's Tale', is written in
Middle Scots (Anglian) dialect, and is titled The
Kingis Quair ('The King's Book').
of Norwich, Showing
of Love: An anchoress of
St Julian's Church in Norwich, she wrote several versions of
the Showing of Love which survive in
manuscripts at Westminster, the Paris Bibliothèque
Nationale, and the British Library. The Short Text in the
Amherst Manuscript, which dates itself 1413, has been
thought to be earlier, composed soon after 1373, though its
self-censorship is typical of texts written during the
period of Lollard persecution by Archbishop Chancellor
Arundel. The Long Text in the Paris and Sloane Manuscripts
is divided into chapters, the Sloane providing comments in
the style of the Brigittine Revelationes,
written by her editor. She translates directly from the
Hebrew Bible into Middle English, before the King James
Bible did so, and may have been a Norwich Jewish conversa. It is likely that Adam Easton, who
effected Birgitta of Sweden's canonization as a saint and
who had taught Hebrew at Oxford, was her editor for the Long
Text. All versions of Julian's text present the
contemplation of the Virgin and the vision of the hazelnut
in the palm of Julian's hand. Julian of Norwich, Showing of Love , ed. Anna Maria Reynolds,
C.P. and Julia Bolton Holloway, Florence: SISMEL, 2001. (See
Transcription from Westminster Cathedral Manuscript, folio
in this he showed me a little ]
thing the quantity of a hazel
nut, lying in the palm of
my hand as it seemed, and
it was as round as any ball.
I looked on it with the eye of
my understanding, and I
thought, 'What may this be?' And
it was answered generally thus,
'It is all that is made.'
Compare Julian's Showing
with Margery's Book on their conversation
with each other.
Kempe and her Book:
The daughter of John Brunham, Mayor of Lynn, Margery
married, and like Birgitta of Sweden she bore many children,
and went on far-flung pilgrimages. Like St Catherine of
Siena she was illiterate, needing priests to read books to
her and she dictated her Book to these authority figures,
though the first version was likely written down by her
daughter-in-law from Gdansk, familiar with Birgitta's
similar book. At one point Margery is accused of being Sir
John Oldcastle's daughter and is nearly burnt at the stake.
She describes visiting Julian of Norwich and her account of
their conversation is as if we had an electronic recording
of their conversation. Chaucer has his Wife of Bath make the
same pilgrimages as does Margery Kempe, but without her
piety. ankres=anchoress, recluse; bodyn=commanded; dalyawns=lingering
delight; wetyn=know. EETS 212;
transcription from Butler Bowden Manuscript, British
Library, Additional 61,823, folio 21, http://www.umilta.net/soulcity.html:
þan sche was bodyn be owyr lord . for
to gon to an ankres in þe same Cyte whych hyte Dame Jelyan.
& so sche dede & schewyd hir þe grace þat god put in hir sowle of compunccyon
contricyon swetnesse & devocyon compassyon with holy
meditacyon & hy contemplacyon . & ful many holy
speches & dalyawns, þt owyr Lord spak to hir sowle. And
many wondirful reuelacyons whech sche schewyd to þe ankres to wetyn yf þer were any deceyte in hem, for þe ankres was expert in swech thynges
& good cownsel cowd 3euyn.
[And then she was told by our Lord to go to an anchoress in
the same city who was called Dame Julian, and so she did
showed her by the grace that God put in her soul of compunction, contrition, sweetness and devotion, compassion with holy
meditation and high contemplation, and very many holy speeches and dalliance that our Lord spoke in her soul, and many
wonderful revelations which she showed to the anchoress to know if there were any deceit in them, for the anchoress was
expert in such things and could give good counsel.]
Langland, Piers Plowman:
The alliterative pilgrim vision poem, Piers
Plowman, is said to be written by William Langland and
is set in Malvern, Westminster and London. It exists in
three versions, the A, B, and C versions, which Jill Mann
has argued should be reversed, the C and A versions being
Langland's later response to Archbishop Arundel's censorship
of Lollard teachings, the B version reflecting the original
Lollard text, which was being chanted at the Peasants
Revolt. In its allegory Will, as sinning Everyman, has a
vision of Christ as Piers the Plowman, who begins as a Moses
figure giving the Law, then becomes a Christ as Samaritan,
finally as a failing Piers or Peter, the Church at the
Schism betraying Christ. Birgitta of Sweden had prophesied
that Christ would come as Plowman and plough Christendom
under with the Black Death. ferly=marvel; sweyued= sounded; wonyth=dwell.
William Langland, The Vision of Piers the
Plowman, ed. Walter W. Skeat, London: Oxford
University Press, 1886, I,2; trans. J.F. Goodrich,
Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1959, B Text, p. 63;
[One summer season, when the sun was warm, I rigged myself out in shaggy woollen clothes, like a sheep; and in the garb of an easy-living hermit I set out to roam far and wide through the world, hoping to hear of marvels. But on a morning in May, among the Malvern Hills, a strange thing happened to me, as though by magic. For I was tired out by my wanderings, and as I lay down to rest under a broad bank by the side of a stream, and leaned over gazing into the water, it sounded so pleasant that I fell asleep.
And I dreamt a marvellous dream: I was in a
wilderness, I could not tell where, and looking Eastwards I
saw a tower high up against the sun, and splendidly built on
top of a hill; and far beneath it was a great gulf, with a
dungeon in it, surrounded by deep, dark pits, dreadful to
see. But between the tower and the gulf I saw a smooth
plain, thronged with all kinds of people, high and low
together, moving busily about their worldly affairs.]
C Text, p 234;
trans. Goodrich, p. 298:
The most needy aren oure neighebores . and we
nyme good hede,
As prisones in puttes . and poure folke in cotes,
Charged with children . and chef lordes rente,
That thei with spynnynge may spare . spenen hit in hous-hyre,
Bothe in mylk and in mele . to make with papelotes,
To a-glotye with here gurles . that greden after fode.
Al-so hem-selue . suffren muche hunger,
And wo in winter-tyme . with wakynge a nyghtes
To ryse to the ruel . to rocke the cradel,
Both to karde and to kembe . to clouten and to wasche,
To rubbe and to rely . russhes to pilie,
That reuthe is to rede . other in ryme shewe
The wo of these women . that wonyth in cotes.
[The poorest folk are our neighbours, if we
look about us - the prisoners in dungeons and the poor in
their hovels, overburdened with children, and rack-rented by
landlords. For whatever they save by spinning they spend on
rent, or on milk and oatmeal to make gruel and fill the
bellies of their children who clamour for food. And they
themselves are often famished with hunger, and wretched with
the miseries of winter - cold, sleepless nights, when they
get up to rock the cradle cramped in a corner, and rise
before dawn to card and comb the wool, to wash and scrub and
mend, and wind yarn and peel rushes for their rushlights. -
The miseries of these women who dwell in hovels are too
pitiful to read, or describe in verse. ]
Compare Wynnere and
Wastoure and the opening scenes of Piers
3urstendaei wes Baldulf; cnihten alre baldest.
nu he stant on hulle; & Auene bi-haldeð.
hu ligeð i þan straeme; stelene fisces.
mid sweorde bi-georede; heore sund is awemmed.
heore scalen wleoteð; swulc gold-fa3e sceldes.
þer fleoteð heore spiten; swulc hit spaeren weoren.
þis beoð seolcuðe þing; isi3en to þissen londe.
swulche deor an hulle; swulche fisces in waelle.
Liturgical Drama: These dramas in Latin and Gregorian chant were performed in Benedictine abbey churches and cathedrals in England and across Europe on the liturgical days of their action, partly to teach the young oblates in play their Gospel and Gregorian Chant. The costuming would have made use of the abbeys' liturgical vestments and, in the case below, of the garb of a pilgrim who had perhaps died at there while on his journey to or from Rome, Compostela or Jerusalem. The Regularis Concordia describes such a liturgical performance at Winchester Abbey at Easter, while at the same time suggesting that these detracted from the seriousness of the monks' lives of contemplation. They influence Piers Plowman and other works. EETS SS1 gives related non-cycle plays and fragments. This excerpt, complete with staging directions, is from the Officium Peregrinorum in the Fleury Manuscript, Orléans 201, perhaps originating from Winchester, and which also gives the music for the oblates acting the play to chant. Text, which students can perform, Julia Bolton Holloway, The Pilgrim and the Book: A Study of Dante, Langland and Chaucer, Berne: Peter Lang, 1992, pp. 28-55:
Illis hec cantantibus 'Jesu, nostro redemptio, amor et desiderium', accedat quidam alius in similitudinem Domini peram cum longa palma gestans bene ad modum peregrini paratus, pilleum in capite habens hacla vestitus et tunica nudus pedes, latenterque eos retro sequator eos, finitisque versibus. Veniat eis: Qui sunt hii sermones quos offertis ad invicem ambulantes et estis tristes, Alleluja. Alter autem ex duobus converso vultu ad eum dicat: Tu solus peregrinus es in Ierusalem et non cognovisti que facta sunt in illa his diebus, Alleluja. Cui Peregrinus: Que? Ambo discipulis: De Iesu Nazareno qui fuit vir propheta potens in opere et sermone coram deo et omni populo. Quo modo tradiderunt eum summi sacerdotes et principes nostri in dampnacione mortis et crucifixerunt eum et super omna tercia dies est quod hec facta sunt, Alleluja. His dictis Peregrinus gravi voce quasi eos increpando, cantare incipiat: O stulti et tardi corde ad credendum in omnibus que locuti sunt prophete, Alleluja. Nonne sic opportuit pati Christum et intrare ub gloriam suam, Alleluja.
[While they are singing 'Jesus, our redeemer, love and desire', another approaches in the likeness of the Lord with a scrip and carrying a long palm, dressed well in the manner of pilgrims, having a hat on his head, dressed in a sheepskin cloak and tunic, with bare feet, following them from behind; these verses finished, he comes to them: What are these things you speak of together as you walk and are sad. Alleluia! The other of the two, turning his face, says to him. You surely must be a stranger in Jerusalem not to know what has been done there in these days? Alleluia! To whom the Pilgrim: What? Both Disciples: Of Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, powerful in deed and word in the heart of God and all the people. Who was betrayed by our high priest and princes, and condemned to death, and they crucified him, and moreover it is now the third day since these things were done. Alleluia! This having been said, the Pilgrim in a stern voice, as if to scold them, begins to sing: O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have said. Is it not right that Christ should suffer and enter into his glory. Alleluia!]
Lollardy: Wyclif's Lollard disciples believed the Bible should be accessible in English, speaking of our 'Even Christians', a term Julian also uses, and they disliked having to perform compulsory pilgrimages, preferring to worship Christ, not a wooden cross with a carved painted image on it. Their sermons, treatises and the Wycliffite Bible are in fine manuscripts, lacking images or ornamentation, accurately transcribed and collated with each other and written on good vellum. Many of these manuscripts in England were destroyed first by the anti-Lollard actions of the combined Church and State, threatened by their appeal to Gospel equality, then by the anti-Catholic actions of the Church and State at the Reformation. However, a similar movement grew up in Bohemia, from which Queen Anne came, centred upon Jan Hus, which acquired these texts, now to be found at Charles University in Prague. Town literature.
Love, Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus
Christ: The Carthusian
Prior at Mount Grace Charterhouse in Yorkshire translated an
Italian Franciscan work encouraging lay peopleâ€™s pious
devotion through the affective contemplation of episodes in
the Virgin Mary's life, akin to the Dominican use of the
Rosary which tells the story of the Gospel affectively
through Mary's eye-witnessing. Love's Mirror of
the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ was authorized by
Archbishop Thomas Arundel as a means of countering the
Lollard movement amongst the laity which sought access to
the text of the Bible itself.
Psalter: The British
Library's Luttrell Psalter Manuscript is richly illuminated
with scenes of East Anglian agriculture and culture. The
grotesque faces of the peasants may well derive from the
actors' masks in Terence manuscripts. Used with the Promptorium Parvulorum (the earliest
Latin-English dictionary, written for schoolchildren in Lynn
and including their games) it can present the context for
Chaucer, Langland, Julian, Margery and the Corpus Christi
Lydgate: John Lydgate,
Benedictine monk at St Albans Abbey, was a prolific writer
of verse, including using King James I of Scotland's 'rhyme
royal'. He copied Chaucer, including creating a continuation
to the unfinished Canterbury Tales. He
wrote ceremonial pieces for such events of kings' visits,
revised saints' legends and dream visions, and rewrote
classical stories about Troy and Thebes. EETS 192, EETS ES
60, 66, 69, 80, 84, 89, 97, 106, 107, 108, 121, 122, 123,
124, 124, 126.
Lyric Verse: Rhyme had been a characteristic of
the Celts, the Irish, the Welsh, the Breton, but not of the
Anglo-Saxons. Irish monks had scribbled rhyming lyrics on
the edges of their Latin manuscripts, for instance the one
about Pangur Ban, the monk's white cat chasing mice while
his master chases scholarly references, or the one about
journeying on pilgrimage and finding only the king who is
sought if he has travelled with them. However, these
language groups shared themes such as exile in their poetry.
Here is a later Welsh lyric, a penillion to be sung to a harp, in our
British, not English language (H.I. Bell, The
Development of Welsh Poetry, Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1936), p. 9:
Gwynt ar fôr a haul ar fynydd,
Cerrig llwydion yn lle coedydd,
A gwylanod yn lle dynion,
Och, Dduw, sut na thorrai â€˜nghalon?
[Wind on sea and sun on mountain,
Gray stones instead of woods,
And seagulls instead of men;
O God, why does my heart not break?]
Franciscan Friars inherited from their Founder, St Francis of Assisi, the idea of creating spiritual lyrics in the vernacular, in rhyme, and composed to the same tunes as were secular love songs. Generally these are anonymous but often are exceedingly fine, such as this punning lyric where rode=face, Cross:
sonne under wode;
Me rewes, Marie, þi faire rode.
Nou gooth sonne under tre;
Me rewes, Marie, þi sone and þe.
the sun under the wood,
I sorrow, Mary, for thy fair face/cross.
Now goes the sun under the tree;
I sorrow, Mary, for your Son and you.]
Not a few Middle English lyrics play
with the tension of sexuality in the Spring, and Lent's
simultaneous mandatory abstinence from sexuality, for
example: 'Lenten is comen with love to toun', and the text
and music in British Library Manuscript Harley 978, of
'Sing, Cuckoo', a motet sung in Middle English and Latin
simultaneously celebrating Nature and Christ, for which we
have the music as well as the words, written out by a monk
at Reading Abbey.
Explore lyrics from the British Isles:
Latin, Irish, Welsh, Old English, Middle English.
The Welsh cycle of the Mabinogion gives
Celtic tradition, also present in the Arthurian cycles. It
divides itself into four 'Branches', each named after a
character in its opening tales, 'Pwyll',
'Branwen', 'Manawydan' and 'Math'. The 'Peredur' gives: 'On
the bank of the river he saw a tall tree: from roots to
crown one half was aflame and the other green with leaves'.
The earliest surviving manuscript, writing down these oral
tales, is called the 'White Book of Rhydderch', the complete
version is in the 'Red Book of Hergerst'. The title appears
to refer to a boy's education., which may be the theme of
the Pryderi son of Pwyll cycle in the four Branches.
Whan La Beale Alys sawe
hym juste so well, she thought hym a passyng goodly knyght
on horsebacke. And than she lepe oute of hir pavylyon and
toke sir Alysaundir by the brydyll, and thus she seyde:
'Fayre knight! Of thy knyghthode, shew me thy vysage'.
'That dare I well', seyde sir Alysaundir, 'shew my vysage'.
And than he put of his helme, and whan she sawe his vysage she seyde,
'A, swete Fadir Jesu! The I muste love, and never othir'
'Than shewe me youre vysage', seyde he.
And anone she unwymnpled her, and whan he sawe her he seyde,
'A, Lord Jesu! Here have I founde my love and my lady! And therefore, fayre lady, I promise you to be youre knyght, and none other that beryth the lyff'
'Now, jantyll knighte', seyde she, 'tell me youre name'.
'Madame, my name is sir Alysaundir le Orphelyne'.
'A, sir', seyde she, 'syth ye lyst to know my name, wyte you well my name is Alys la Beale Pellaron. And whan we be more at our hartys ease, bothe ye and I shall telle of what blood we be com'.
So there was grete love betwyxt them.
Whan La Beale Alys sawe
hym juste so well, she thought hym a passyng goodly knyght
on horsebacke. And than she lepe oute of hir pavylyon and
toke sir Alysaundir by the brydyll, and thus she seyde:
de Mandeville, Travels:
Sir John de Mandeville, an Anglo-Norman knight from St
Albans, wrote a travel book into which he put all other
travel books to which he had access. He says of Othello's
monsters, the 'anthropophagi and men whose heads do grow
beneath their shoulder', that these he has not seen, while
discussing as eyewitness, monkeys, bamboo and bananas. He
describes coming to the coast of China and desiring to take
ship across that Ocean to return home, but the Franciscans
with him, instead, insist on a land journey back across Asia
to Europe. He wrote in Anglo-Norman and his account was
quickly and often translated into Middle English. EETS 153,
154, 253, 269, 319. This is from EETS 154, ed. P. Hamelius,
1919, p. 3:
Mandevylle knight all be it I be not worthi that was born in
Englond, in the town of seynt Albones & passed the see
in the yeer of oure lord jhesu crist M ccc & xxij in the
day of seynt Michel & hiderto have ben longe tyme over
the see and have seyn & gon thorgh manye dyverse londes
& many provynces & kyngdomes & jles And have
passed thorghout Turkye Ermonye the lityll & the grete
thorgh Tartarye Percye Surrye Arabye Egypt the high &
the lowe thorgh Lybye Caldee & a grete partie of Ethipe
thorgh Amazoyne Inde the lasse & the more a gret partie
& thorgh out many othere jles that ben abouten Inde
where dwellen many diverse folk & of diverse maneres
& lawes and of diverse schappes of men . . . to visite
the holy citee of Ierusalem & the holy places that are
thereaboute . . . I schall tell the weye that thei schull
holden . . . For I have often tymes passed & ryden that
way with gode company of many lordes, god be thonked.
[I, John Mandeville, Knight, although I am not worthy, was born in England in the town of St Albans and crossed the sea in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 1322 on St Michaelâ€™s feastday and have been a long time abroad and have seen and gone through many diverse countries and many provinces and kingdoms and islands. Ad I have gone through Turkey, Armenia the less and the great, through Tartary, Persia, Syria, Arabia, upper and lower Egypt, through Lybia and Iraq and a great part of Ethiopia, through the Amazon, India the less and the great and throughout many other islands that are about India where many diverse people dwell and of different manners and laws and of different shapes of men . . . . to visit the holy city of Jerusalem and the Holy Places that are around there . . . . I shall tell the way that they should travel . . . . For I have often passed and ridden that way with a good company of many lords, God be thanked.]
Mox et concipior, Anglorum gente relicta,
Ierusalem tendit sanctus uterque parens.
His onerosa comes materno deferor alvo.
Post menses aliquot, urbs sacra finit iter,
Et dum vota pater pia solvit nascor ibidem . . .
was conceived', she says, 'my pious parents left England on
pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I was carried there in my mother's
womb. After several months of pilgrimage we arrived in
Palestine, and I was born there, while my parents were in
the process of fulfilling their vow'. ]
Her brother, Thomas, whom
she raised when they were left orphans, was Thomas Becket's
colleague and became a monk at the Cistercian Abbey of
Froidmont. Later, Margaret returned to Jerusalem, and fought
in the siege by Saladin with a cookpot on her head, next
making her way back to Christendom, passing through many
dangers until she came to her brother's Cistercian monastery
in France. He wrote a poem in Latin about all her
adventures, including this episode, demonstrating both
literacy and tolerance, where a Muslim Turk seizes her
Psalter, then gives it back to her.
Haud procul aspicio sylvam; sylvaeque sub ora
State Parthus, psalmos vi rapit ille meos.
Tristis discedo; sed cum longius essem
Me vocat: et pedibus volvitur ille meis.
Poenitet et facti valde, redditque libellum.
Sed tamen devotus barbarus unde mihi?
Marie de France, Lais: In England in the twelfth century, likely at court, Marie de France wrote Breton lais, short poems, some of which are Arthurian, the manuscripts which survive being in Anglo-Norman. Dante speaks of lais in connection with the lovers, Paolo and Francesca, in Inferno V, and Chaucer copies the form in the Franklin's Tale.
Mirk's Festial: A Middle English compilation of sermons written by John Mirk to be preached on the Feast Days for Saints, which often incorporate stories, including those of pilgrims. EETS ES 96.
Paston Letters: Letters written by a large and powerful merchant family in East Anglia demonstrate the roles men and women could play in late medieval English society. EETS SS 20, 21, 22.
St Patrick's Purgatory: Pilgrimage, dream vision text translated from Norman French from an Irish account into Middle English. EETS 298.
The Pearl Poet: It is thought that the Pearl Poet also wrote Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as they are found together in the same manuscript and both are of such excellence that it is held one person wrote both poems. The author appears to be lay but deeply versed in theology, blending this playfully with the disparate world of court and castle. Similarly, the equally brilliant St Erkenwald is attributed to this anonymous author.
Opening of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, with its origin myths, alliterative lines, then Celtic rhyming five-line 'bob and wheel'. This Arthurian romance humorously recounts the failure of its young hero in the beheading game. biges=builds; bur3e=city; kynde=kindred; neuens=names; teldes=dwellings; skete hat3 skyfted=quickly alternated; trammes=trammels; tulk=man; wynne=joy. Facsimile of British Library Manuscript Cotton Nero A.x., containing Pearl, Cleanness, Patience and Sir Gawain, EETS 162; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, EETS 210, p. 1, 1-19; trans. adapted from John Gardner, The Complete Works of the Gawain-Poet, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970, p. 223:
Siþen þe sege & þe assaut wat3 sesed at Troye,
Þe borz brittened & brent to bronde3 & aske3,
Þe tulk þat þe trammes of tresoun þer wro3t
Watz tried for his tricherie, þe trewest on erthe.
Hit watz Ennias þe athel & his highe kynde
Þat siþen depreced prouinces, & patrounes bicome
Welne3e of al þe wele in þe west iles,
Fro riche Romulus to Rome ricchis hym swyþe;
With gret bobbaunce þat bur3e he biges vpon fyrst,
& neuenes hit his aune nome, as hit now hat;
Ticius to Tuskan, & teldes bigynnes;
Langaberde in Lumbardie lytes vp homes;
& fer ouer þe French flod Felix Brutus
On mony bonkkes ful brode Bretayn he sette3,
Where were & wrake & wonder
Bi syþe3 hat3 wont þer-inne,
Oft boþe blysse & blunder
Ful skete hat3 skyfted synne.
[After the siege and assault was ended at Troy, ]
The battlements breached and burnt to brands and ashes,
Antenor, he who the trammels of treason there wrought,
Was well known for his wrongs â€“ the worst yet on earth.
Aeneas the noble it was and his kingly kinsmen
That afterward conquered kingdoms and came to be lords
Of well-nigh all the wealth of the Western Isles;
For royal Romulus to Rome rushed swiftly
And with great splendour established that first of all cities
And named it with his own name, as we now know it;
And Ticius to Tuscany went and built there his towers;
And Longbeard in Lombardy lifted up houses;
And far over the French flood Felix Brutus
On the slopes of many broad hills established Britain
Where war and wrack and wonder
Have sometimes since held sway,
And now bliss, now blunder,
Spins like dark and day.
The Pearl uses
not only alliteration but also a most intricate rhyme
scheme, as well as the last word of each of its 101 12-line
stanzas being echoed in the first line of the next, to speak
of a vision of Jerusalem in which the poet and his dead
daughter dialogue on consolation. Pearl, ed.
E.V. Gordon, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1953, p. 1, lines
1-12; trans. John Gardner, p. 95:
Perle, plesaunte to
To clanly clos in golde so clere,
Oute of orient, I hardyly saye,
Ne proued I neuer her precios pere.
So rounde, so reken in vche araye,
So small, so smoþe her syde3 were,
Quere-so-euer I jugged gemme3 gaye,
I sette hyr sengeley in synglere
Allas! I leste hyr in on erbere;
Þur3 gresse to grounde hit fro me yot.
I dewyne, fordolked of luf-daungere
Of þat pryuy perle wythouten spot.
pleasing as a prince's pay,
So chastely buckled in gold, so pure,
In all the East, I boldly say,
I never found her precious peer;
So light, so priceless her array,
So small her sides, so smooth they were,
Wherever I judged fine jewelry
I found her supreme and singular.
Alas! I lost that pearl in an arbour;
Through the grass to the ground she shot;
And robbed of what was mine, I mourned
My own prized pearl without a spot.]
Discuss the Apocalypse and the Pearl poem. Discuss Richard II and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Petrarca: Italian writer,
whose tale of Griselda is used by Boccaccio in the Decameron and by Chaucer in the Clerk's
Tale of the Canterbury Tales. His
sonnets are also echoed in Chaucer's Troilus
Discuss the figure of Griselda in
Petrarca, Boccaccio and Chaucer.
and Travel Literature: Adamnam,
Arculf's Voyage, Orosius, 'Elena',
'Andreas', Guthrithyr, Icelandic Sagas, Old English lyrics,
'The Wanderer', 'The Seafarer', the Irish Voyage
of Bran, Voyage of St Brendan, St
Patrick's Purgatory, Margaret of Jerusalem,
Mandeville, Travels, Birgitta of Sweden, Revelationes, Margery Kempe, Book.
Using ships and horses or on foot, medieval people could
travel extensively, participating in different cultures.
Langland's Piers Plowman and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales satirize pilgrimage.
Cloister and Castle literature. See map giving women's
pilgrimages, in which later women, like Birgitta and Margery
Kempe, imitate Saints Helen and Paula. (See http://www.umilta.net/egeria.html )
Porete, The Mirror of Simple Souls:
Marguerite Porete first had her book burned at Valenciennes,
then she herself was burned at the stake in Paris in 1310
for it. Nevertheless, this book of contemplative
Pseudo-Dionysan theology was preserved anonymously and it
exists in Middle English translations in three manuscripts,
one of which, the Amherst Manuscript in the British Library,
also contains the Short Text of Julian's Showing,
Jan van Ruusbroec's Sparkling Stone, an
extract from Henry Suso's Horologium Sapientiae
and various writings by Richard Rolle.
The first Latin-English Dictionary, its title meaning a
'store room for children', written by a recluse in Margery
Kempe's Lynn, this work is given in Julian's and Margery's
dialect and includes much information on the games medieval
schoolboys played and on their intimate household details.
Both he and Julian likely taught young boys their alphabet
and their Latin. EETS ES 102. (See http://www.umilta.net/promptorium.html)
Luttrell Psalter, fol. 70v
EETS ES 102, column 14.
Apsy: Alfabetum, -i;
neut. 2 decl: Abecedarium, -i.
Apsy lerner, or he þat lernyth his apsy; Alphabeticus, -i: Abecadarius, -ij
ABC: Alphabet, neuter,
2nd declension; Abecadarius
ABC learner, or he who is learning his ABC: Alphabeticus, Abecedarius
Executions: Books could be
burnt, also their writers (Marguerite Porete). Lollards were
executed as heretics to the Church by burning. Margery
Kempes Lollard chaplain William Sawtre was first defrocked
successively of all his priestly orders, then burnt. Margery
Kempe is herself frequently threatened with execution by
burning as a heretic. Those declared traitors to the State,
such as Sir Thomas Usk, were hung, drawn and quartered.
These methods could be combined, heresy being equated with
treason. Lollard Sir John Oldcastle was burnt, 'gallows and
all'. A high-ranking personage,
such as the Archbishop of York Richard le Scrope who opposed
King Henry IV, would be beheaded by a sword. Exile and
pilgrimage, as with Henry Bolingbroke, were also used. Less
horrendous but still serving as a deterrent was the
humiliating pillorying of a fishmonger in the market place
with his rotten fish tied beneath his nose. The intent of
such public executions, exiles and punishments was to induce
trauma and obedience in the populace.
II (1367-1400): He became king as
a boy when his grandfather Edward II died, his own father,
the Black Prince, being already buried in a magnificent tomb
beside St Thomas Becket's shrine. As a youngster Richard II
showed great courage during the Peasants' Revolt, then
became unpopular. He was married first to Anne of Bohemia,
daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, in a magnificent double
coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey designed by
Cardinal Adam Easton at the Pope's bidding. Anne, deeply
beloved by the people, died of the Black Death at Sheen.
Richard's second wife was to the child bride Isabelle,
Princess of France. There were no children born to either
marriage. Richard's male favorites corrupted the realm,
resulting in conspiracies against him, and Richard had his
uncle the Duke of Gloucester murdered for participating in
them. Eventually Richard II was forced to abdicate, dying in
prison, Henry Bolingbroke, John of Gaunt's son, succeeding
to the throne as Henry IV. An intensive Bolingbroke
propaganda campaign worsened Richard's fame. See Terry
Jones, Who Murdered
Rolle: Rolle chose as a
young man to quit university and become a hermit having, his
sister, who thought him mad, make his clothes. As a
contemplative he composed many texts, both in Middle English
and in Latin, often writing these to Margaret Kirkeby, a
Cistercian contemplative nun who would inherit his hermitage
as anchoress. He is similar to Henry Suso and to John of the
Cross, leaping into song from the midst of prose. He died at
Hampole in 1349 and his women followers sought his
canonization. In the Amherst Manuscript some of Rolle's
Latin writings are translated by Richard Misyn, Carmelite
Prior of Lincoln, into Middle English for Margaret
Heslyngton. gost=spirit; hele=wellness;
learning; lere=learn; melle=speak;
um=surrounds. EETS 20, 106, 293, p. 41:
Gostly gladnesse in Ihesu, and ioy in hert,
with swetnesse in soule of þe sauour of heuyn in
hope, is helth in to hele, and my lyf lendeth in loue, and
lightsomnes vmlappeth my thoght. I dred nat þat me may wirch wo, so
myche I wot of wele. Hit ware no wonder if dethe ware dere,
þat I myght se hym þat I seke; but now hit
lengthes fro me, and me behoueth to lyve here til he wil me
lese. List and lere of þis lare, and þe shal nat myslike. Loue
maketh me to melle, and ioy maketh me jangle. Loke þou lede þi life in lightsomnes;
and heuynesse, hold hit away. Sorynesse let nat sit with
the, bot in gladnes in God euermore make þou þi glee.
[Ghostly gladness in Jesus, and joy in heart, with sweetness in soul of the taste of Heaven in hope, is health into healing, and my life lends to love and lightly surrounds my thought. I fear not that I may work woe, so much I know of weal. It would be no wonder if death were dear, that I might see him whom I seek; but this is now distanced from me, and I must live here until he will loose me. Listen and learn of this teaching, and you shall not dislike it. Love makes me to speak, and joy makes me voluble. Look that you live your life lightly, and hold heaviness away. Let not sorrow sit with you, but in gladness in God ever more joy.]
Anglo-Saxon, Chaucer, Canterbury Tales,
Arthurian, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The
word 'Romance' comes from what is told or written in the
languages derived from Latin or 'Roman', and were stories
generally about love and adventure. There are romances in
Irish, in Icelandic and in other vernacular languages not
derived from Latin. Castle and Town
Sagas and Eddas: Icelandic Sagas present historical accounts of events connected with the Viking settlers of Iceland and include those about the Scottish Orkney and Shetland Isles as well as those about the settling of Greenland and Vineland (America) and those recounting the pilgrimage to Jorsalaborg (Jerusalem). Icelandic chronicles mention the presence of Christian Irish hermits with bells and books on Iceland as preceding the pagan Vikings. In the year 1000 the Althing at Thingvellyr, Iceland's republican, democratic parliament, voted unanimously to convert to Christianity. The oral sagas were transmitted into writing and their history thus preserved for posterity. Iceland's conversion and this profound love of book-learning could have been due to the presence of Christian slaves captured on raids in Ireland. Aspects of 'The Dream of the Rood' and of Beowulf are closely related to Icelandic and Finnish material such as the HÃ¡vamÃ¡l.
Legends: Lives of the
saints in the Vercelli Manuscript (St Helen, St Andrew),
Katherine Group (St Katherine, St Margaret), Golden
Legend (all the saints), Guernes de Pont St Maxence
(St Thomas Becket), St Erkenwald (Bede's
St Earconwald). Cloister, Castle and Town
Chaucerians: King James I of
Scotland, who had been imprisoned by the English and
educated by them, was the initiator of the school, using
'Rhyme royal' in his Kingis Quair. Other
Scottish Chaucerians include Robert Henryson, author of the
Boethian and Chaucerian Testament of Creseid,
and William Dunbar, author of the Golden Targe
and other works. They are Lowland Scots from the area around
Edinburgh, who were Anglian settlers, not Celtic Highlanders
and Islanders. Robert Henryson describes preparing to write
his Testament of Cresseid, in a cold
Scottish Lent, ed. Bruce Dickens, London: Faber and Faber,
1925, p. 7:
I mend the fyre and beikit me
Than tuik ane drink my spreitis to comfort
And armit me weill fra the cauld thairout.
To cut the winter nicht and mak it schort
I tuik ane Quair and left all uther sport,
Writtin be worthie Chaucer glorious
Of fair Cresseid, and worthie Troylus.
Compare and contrast Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and Henryson's Testament of Creseid. Create a similar dream
vision poem from the fiction of falling asleep over a book.
Literature: Sermons that could
be preached are given in the Vercelli Manuscript, Mirk's Festial, William Langland's Piers Plowman, Chaucer's Parson's
Sermon in the Canterbury Tales,
Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Lollards. Cloister and
Awareness Literature: Wynnere
Wastoure, Piers Plowman, Wyclif,
Lollard texts, Second Shepherds' Play.
University, Town and Field literature.
and/or for Women: 'Wife's Lament',
Mechtild of Hackeborn, Ancrene Wisse and
Katherine Group, Aelred of Rievaulx, Christina of Markyate,
Birgitta of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Marguerite Porete, Cloud of Unknowing, Walter Hilton, Ladder of Perfection, Julian of Norwich,
Amherst Manuscript, Margery Kempe, Christine de Pizan, Syon
Abbey. (See http://www.umilta.net/equally.html)
Castle and Cloister literature.
Estates: Literature for
the Cloister, Monks, Nuns, Hermits, Anchoresses (Monk);
Literature for Court and Castle (Knight); Literature for
Town and Village (Plowman).
Figure in the Arthurian cycle, associated with
Cornwall and Ireland. His adultery with King Mark's Queen
Iseult parallels that of Lancelot for King Arthur's Queen
These came into being in twelfth century Oxford and
Cambridge, adopted the Greco-Arabic model which excluded
women, and emphasized Aristotelian taxonomies, while living
with stress between 'town and gown'. For literature
featuring them see Nigel Wireker, Chaucer's 'Miller's Tale',
'Reeve's Tale', 'Franklin's Tale', 'Wife of Bath's Tale'.
Usk, The Testament of Love: While in Newgate Prison, awaiting his 1388
execution by hanging, drawing and quartering, Usk wrote the
Testament of Love, a prose allegory, modelling it on
Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy,
similarly written while awaiting execution. The work,
addressed in an acrostic, which includes the author's name,
to a 'Margaret' or pearl, borrows from Chaucer's Troilus
and Criseyde and Knight's Tale.
It is also a paradigm for King James I of Scotland's similar
book written while a prisoner of the English, The
Vercelli Manuscript: An Anglo-Saxon or Irish monk left behind
at Vercelli, perhaps because he died there, a manuscript
that contains sermons and poems in Old English related to
pilgrimage, including the Andreas, the Elene and the 'Dream of the Rood'. Sermons,
EETS 300; Poems, Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records 2. (See Dream of the Rood, http://www.umilta.net/hilda.html)
Voyage of St Brendan: The Saints' Legend of St Brendan, who journeys from island to island in the Atlantic and of his adventures and miracles. Perhaps a Christianizing of the Voyage of Bran? Popular throughout Europe, these literary voyages prompted Dante's Commedia and Columbus' voyage to America.
Compare and contrast the Voyage of Bran and the Voyage of St Brendan.
Wars of the Roses: England, in the fifteenth century, was torn apart by the struggle for the crown of the Lancastrian and York dynasties, not to be reconciled until the marriage between them wrought by the Tudors. Unlike the rich literature of the fourteenth century, the fifteenth century produces little that is notable in the English language apart from Malory and the Scottish Chaucerians.
John Whiterig: A Benedictine from Durham, educated at Oxford with Adam Easton, he then became a hermit on Farne Island, writing contemplative treatises in Latin, which Julian uses in her Showing, and a Life of St Cuthbert. John Whiterig, Christ Crucified and Other Meditations, ed. David Hugh Farmer, trans. Dame Frideswide Sandeman OSB, Gracewing, 1994. (See http://www.umilta.net/whiterig.html)
Chapter 5, folio 8:
Nigel Wireker, Speculum Stultorum: A beast fable written in Latin verse, whose hero is a donkey, satirizing education, by a contemporary of Thomas Becket. Used by Chaucer in the Nuns' Priest's Tale of The Canterbury Tales.
Compare the Speculum Stultorum and Chaucer's Nuns' Priest's Tale.
John Wyclif: An Oxford University Professor of Theology, his desire for worker priests, proficient in Biblical scholarship and able to communicate with the people in the spirit of the Gospel, which they translated into English, sparked a revolution in England, the Peasants' Revolt. Wyclif was supported by Richard II's Queen, Anne of Bohemia, and by John, Duke of Gaunt, the king's uncle. He was attacked by the Benedictine Adam Easton of Norwich and condemned at the Earthquake Council at Blackfriars, London. He died at Lutterworth Parsonage in 1384. Wyclif's followers were condemned as Lollards and heretics, many being burned to death at the stake. Margery Kempe is at risk of such a condemnation and execution as she travels about England during the various Lollard Revolts associated with the figure of Sir John Oldcastle. Chaucer's ideal Parson is possibly a Wyclif figure. EETS 74; Lollard texts include Dives and Pauper EETS 275, 280, 323, Sermons EETS 294, 301, 317.
Discuss John Wyclif's Gospel ideals in the figures of Langland's Piers the Plowman and Chaucer's Parson.
Wynnere and Wastoure: A splendid though unfinished alliterative vision poem in which 'Wynnere', the folk who toil to produce, and 'Wastoure', the consuming class, debate with each other. It is a political allegory set in the time of Edward II and his son, the Black Prince, and makes use of the 'Honi soit qui mal y pense', 'Shame to him who evil thinks', of the Order of the Garter, used also at the ending of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
besantes=coins, Byzantine coins; hathell=man; hethyng=shame. EETS 297; Age of Chaucer, ed. Boris Ford, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965, p. 317:
[And I prayed for peace, until the prince come,
For he was worthier in wit than any other man
To govern and advise and to rule the wrathful
That were on the heath, each against the other.
At the top of a cliff, a pavilion was raised,
All striped in red, both its roof and its sides,
With bright English coins, beaten from gold.
And each one surrounded with an Indian garter,
And each a garter of gold, richly woven.
These were the words in the web, worked above them,
Painted with blue, and with points in between,
That were beautifully formed, with fresh letters,
And all with one phrase in the English language,
'Shame to him who evil thinks'.]
The medieval literature of
the British Isles is profoundly multi-cultural, using
many languages and dialects, genres and forms, both oral
and scribal, and also it shamelessly borrows from
Pan-European literatures, particularly from France and
from Italy, from Rome, from Greece. In this literature
women have a voice as well as do men. There are great
spiritual depths, there is much playfulness. As you
study these writers and these texts, make them come
alive to yourself, listen to their different languages
and dialects, and to their music, see their manuscripts'
miniatures, and imagine these ancient and most beautiful
books on parchment and paper, with their illuminations,
as like our modern computer videos and I-pod tunes, of
stories told to you across time and space, a word-hoard
given to you which you, too, can shape into the
literature read in centuries to come.
APPENDIX TO THE
MEDIEVAL BRITISH LITERATURE HANDBOOK,
ED. DANIEL T. KLINE (CONTINUUM, 2009).
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APPENDIX TO THE MEDIEVAL BRITISH LITERATURE HANDBOOK, ED. DANIEL KLINE (CONTINUUM, 2009).
Medieval Women's Pilgrimages.
Key: Helena of York, Rome,
Sinai, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Constantinople; Egeria
of Spain, Sinai, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Constantinople,
copying Helena's pilgrimages, travelling, Bible in hand,
the Vetus Latina before Jerome's Vulgate, to the places
of the Bible; Paula
and Eustochium of Rome, Jerusalem and Bethlehem; Guthrithyr
of Iceland, Vinland and Rome; Bridget of Ireland and Sasso; Margaret of Jerusalem, Beverley,
Froidmont; Birgitta of Sweden,
Compostela, Rome, Jerusalem, Bethelehem; Margery
Kempe of Lynne, Compostela, Rome, Jerusalem, Bethelehem
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