Click on red arrow below for soundtracks of readings  British Library, Harley 2250, fols. 72v-75r. Compare with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Purgatorio X, Earliest Life of St Gregory Bede, History of the English Church and People, Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain.


ST ERKENWALD, BISHOP OF LONDON, +693


Chertsey Breviary, Bodleian, Lat. liturg. d.42, fol. 27r, St Erkenwald


t london in englonde no3t fulle longe tyme
 sythen crist suffride on crosse and cristendome stablyde
 ther was a byschop in that burghe blessyd and sacryd
 saynt erkenwolde as i hope that holy mon hatte
 in his tyme in that ton the temple aldergrattyst
 was drawen don that one dole to dedifie new
 for hit hethen had bene in hengyst dawes
 that the saxones vnsa3t haden sende hyder
 thai bete oute the bretons and bro3t hom into wales
 and peruertyd alle the pepul that in that place dwellide
 then wos this reame renaide mony ronke 3eres
 til saynt austyn into sandewiche was sende fro the pope
 then prechyd he here the pure faythe and plantyd the trouthe
 and conuertyd alle the communnates to cristendame newe
 he turnyd temples that tyme that temyd to the deuelle
 and clansyd hom in cristes nome and kyrkes hom callid
 he hurlyd owt hor ydols and hade hym in sayntes
 and chaungit cheuely hor nomes and chargit hom better
 that ere was of appolyn is now of saynt petre
 mahon to saynt margrete other to maudelayne
 the synagoge of the sonne was sett to oure lady
 jubiter and jono to jhesu other to james
 so he hom dedifiet and dyght alle to dere halowes
 that ere wos sett of sathanas in saxones tyme
 now that london is neuenyd hatte the new troie
 the metropol and the maysterton hit euermore has bene
 the mecul mynster therinne a maghty deuel aght
 and the title of the temple bitan was his name
 for he was dryghtyn derrest of ydols praysid
 and the solempnest of his sacrifices in saxon londes
 the thrid temple hit wos tolde of triapolitanes
 by alle bretaynes bonkes were bot othire twayne
 now of this augustynes art is erkenwolde bischop
 at loue london ton and the laghe teches
 syttes semely in the sege of saynt paule mynster
 that was the temple triapolitan as i tolde are
 then was hit abatyd and beten don and buggyd efte new
 a noble note for the nones and new werke hit hatte
 mony a mery mason was made ther to wyrke
 harde stones for to hewe with eggit toles
 mony grubber in grete the grounde for to seche
 that the fundement on fyrst shuld the fote halde
 and as thai mukkyde and mynde a meruayle thai founden
 as 3et in crafty cronecles is kydde the memorie
 for as thai dy3t and dalfe so depe into the erthe
 thai founden fourmyt on a flore a ferly faire toumbe
 hit was a throghe of thykke ston thryuandly hewen
 with gargeles garnysht aboute alle of gray marbre
 the speke of the spelunke that spadde hit olofte
 was metely made of the marbre and menskefully planede
 and the bordure enbelicit with bry3t golde lettres
 bot roynyshe were the resones that ther on row stoden
 fulle verray were the vigures ther auisyde hom mony
 bot alle muset hit to mouthe and quat hit mene shulde
 mony clerke in that clos with crownes ful brode
 ther besiet hom aboute no3t to brynge hom in wordes
 quen tithynges token to the ton of the toumbewonder
 mony hundrid hende men highide thider sone
 burgeys boghit therto bedels ande othire
 and mony a mestersmon of maners dyuerse
 laddes laften hor werke and lepen thiderwardes
 ronnen radly in route with ryngande noyce
 ther commen thider of alle kynnes so kenely mony
 that as alle the worlde were thider walon within a hondequile
 quen the maire with his meynye that meruaile aspied
 by assent of the sextene the sayntuare thai kepten
 bede vnlouke the lidde and lay hit byside
 thai wolde loke on that lome quat lengyd withinne
 wy3t werkemen with that wenten thertille
 putten prises therto pinchid onevnder
 kaghten by the corners with crowes of yrne
 and were the lydde neuer so large thai laide hit by sone
 bot then wos wonder to wale on wehes that stoden
 that my3t not come to toknowe a quontyse strange
 so was the glode within gay al with golde payntyde
 and a blisfulle body opon the bothum lyggid
 araide on a riche wise in rialle wedes
 al with glisnande golde his gowne wos hemmyd
 with mony a precious perle picchit theron
 and a gurdille of golde bigripide his mydelle
 a meche mantel on lofte with menyuer furrit
 the clothe of camelyn ful clene with cumly bordures
 and on his coyfe wos kest a coron ful riche
 and a semely septure sett in his honde
 als wemles were his wedes withouten any tecche
 other of moulynge other of motes othir moghtfreten
 and als bry3t of hor blee in blysnande hewes
 as thai hade 3epely in that 3orde bene 3isturday shapen
 and als freshe hym the face and the fleshe nakyde
 bi his eres and bi his hondes that openly shewid
 with ronke rode as the rose and two rede lippes
 as he in sounde sodanly were slippide opon slepe
 ther was spedeles space to spyr vschon other
 quat body hit my3t be that buried wos ther
 how longe had he ther layne his lere so vnchaungit
 and al his wede vnwemmyd thus ylka weghe askyd
 hit my3t not be bot suche a mon in mynde stode longe
 he has ben kynge of this kithe as couthely hit semes
 he lyes doluen thus depe hit is a derfe wonder
 bot summe segge couthe say that he hym sene hade
 bot that ilke note wos noght for nourne none couthe
 nother by title ne token ne by tale nother
 that wos breuyt in brut ne in boke notyde
 that euer mynnyd suche a mon more ne lasse
 the bodeworde to the byschop was broght on a quile
 of that buriede body al the bolde wonder
 the primate with his prelacie was partyd fro home
 in esex was ser erkenwolde an abbay to visite
 tulkes tolden hym the tale and the troubulle in the pepul
 and suche a cry aboute a cors crakit euermore
 the bischop sende hit to blynne by bedels and lettres
 ande buskyd thiderwarde bytyme on his blonke after
 by that he come to the kyrke kydde of saynt paule
 mony hym metten on that meere the meruayle to telle
 he passyd into his palais and pes he comaundit
 and deuoydit fro the douthe and ditte the durre after
 the derke ny3t ouerdrofe and daybelle ronge
 and ser erkenwolde was vp in the vghten ere then
 that welneghe al the ny3t hade naityd his houres
 to biseche his souerayn of his swete grace
 to vouchesafe to reuele hym hit by avision or elles
 thaghe i be vnworthi al wepande he sayde
 thurghe thi deere debonerte digne hit my lorde
 in confirmynge thi cristen faithe fulsen me to kenne
 the mysterie of this meruaile that men opon wondres
 and so longe he grette after grace that he graunte hade
 an ansuare of the holy goste and afterwarde hit dawid
 mynsterdores were makyd opon quen matens were songen
 the byschop hym shope solemply to synge the heghe masse
 the prelate in pontificals was prestly atyride
 manerly with his ministres the masse he begynnes
 of spiritus domini for his spede on sutile wise
 with queme questis of the quere with ful quaynt notes
 mony a gay grete lorde was gedrid to herken hit
 as the rekenest of the reame repairen thider ofte
 tille cessyd was the seruice and sayde the later ende
 then heldyt fro the autere alle the heghe gynge
 the prelate passide on the playn ther plied to hym lordes
 as riche reuestid as he was he rayked to the toumbe
 men vnclosid hym the cloyster with clustrede keies
 bot pyne wos with the grete prece that passyd hym after
 the byschop come to the burynes him barones besyde
 the maire with mony ma3ti men and macers before hym
 the dene of the dere place deuysit al on fyrst
 the fyndynge of that ferly with fynger he mynte
 lo lordes quoth that lede suche a lyche here is
 has layn loken here on loghe how longe is vnknawen
 and 3et his colour and his clothe has ca3t no defaute
 ne his lire ne the lome that he is layde inne
 ther is no lede opon lyfe of so longe age
 that may mene in his mynde that suche a mon regnyd
 ne nother his nome ne his note nourne of one speche
 quether mony porer in this place is putte into graue
 that merkid is in oure martilage his mynde for euer
 and we haue oure librarie laitid thes longe seuen dayes
 bot one cronicle of this kynge con we neuer fynde
 he has non layne here so longe to loke hit by kynde
 to malte so out of memorie bot meruayle hit were
 thou says sothe quoth the segge that sacrid was byschop
 hit is meruaile to men that mountes to litelle
 towarde the prouidens of the prince that paradis weldes
 quen hym luste to vnlouke the leste of his my3tes
 bot quen matyd is monnes my3t and his mynde passyde
 and al his resons are torent and redeles he stondes
 then lettes hit hym ful litelle to louse wyt a fynger
 that alle the hondes vnder heuen halde my3t neuer
 there as creatures crafte of counselle oute swarues
 the comforthe of the creatore byhoues the creature take
 and so do we now oure dede deuyne we no fyrre
 to seche the sothe at oureselfe 3e se ther no bote
 bot glew we alle opon godde and his grace aske
 that careles is of counselle vs comforthe to sende
 anande that in fastynge of 3our faithe and of fyne bileue
 i shal auay 3ow so verrayly of vertues his
 that 3e may leue vpon longe that he is lord my3ty
 and fayne 3our talent to fulfille if 3e hym frende leues
 
hen he turnes to the toumbe and talkes to the corce
 lyftande vp his eghelyddes he loused suche wordes
 now lykhame that thus lies layne thou no lenger
 sythen jhesus has iuggit today his ioy to be schewyde
 be thou bone to his bode i bydde in his behalue
 as he was bende on a beme quen he his blode schedde
 as thou hit wost wyterly and we hit wele leuen
 ansuare here to my sawe councele no trouthe
 sithen we wot not qwo thou art witere vs thiselwen
 in worlde quat weghe thou was and quy thow thus ligges
 how longe thou has layne here and quat laghe thou vsyt
 quether art thou ioyned to ioy other iuggid to pyne
 quen the segge hade thus sayde and syked therafter
 the bry3t body in the burynes braythed a litelle
 and with a drery dreme he dryues owte wordes
 thurghe sum lyfly goste lant of hym that al redes
 bisshop quoth this ilke body thi bode is me dere
 i may not bot boghe to thi bone for bothe myn eghen
 the name that thou neuenyd has and nournet me after
 al heuen and helle heldes to and erthe bitwene
 fyrst to say the the sothe quo myselfe were
 one the vnhapnest hathel that euer on erthe 3ode
 neuer kynge ne cayser ne 3et no kny3t nothyre
 bot a lede of the laghe that then this londe vsit
 i was committid and made a maystermon here
 to sytte vpon sayd causes this cite i 3emyd
 vnder a prince of parage of paynymes laghe
 and vche segge that him sewide the same faythe trowid
 the lengthe of my lyinge here that is a lappid date
 hit to muthe to any mon to make of a nombre
 after that brutus this burghe had buggid on fyrste
 no3t bot aght hundred 3ere ther aghtene wontyd
 before that kynned 3our criste by cristen acounte
 thre hundred 3ere and thritty mo and 3et threnen aght
 i was on eire of an oyer in the new troie
 in the regne of the riche kynge that rewlit vs then
 the bolde breton ser belyn ser berynge was his brothire
 mony one was the busmare boden hom bitwene
 for hor wrakeful werre quil hor wrathe lastyd
 then was i iuge here enioynyd in gentil lawe
 quil he in spelunke thus spake ther sprange in the pepulle
 in al this worlde no worde ne wakenyd no noice
 bot al as stille as the ston stoden and listonde
 with meche wonder forwrast and wepid ful mony
 the bisshop biddes that body biknowe the cause
 sithen thou was kidde for no kynge quy thou the cron weres
 quy haldes thou so heghe in honde the septre
 and hades no londe of lege men ne life ne lym aghtes
 dere ser quoth the dede body deuyse the i thenke
 al was hit neuer my wille that wroght thus hit were
 i wos deputate and domesmon vnder a duke noble
 and in my power this place was putte altogeder
 i iustifiet this ioly toun on gentil wise
 and euer in fourme of gode faithe more then fourty wynter
 the folke was felonse and fals and frowarde to reule
 i hent harmes ful ofte to holde hom to ri3t
 bot for wothe ne wele ne wrathe ne drede
 ne for maystrie ne for mede ne for no mounes aghe
 i remewit neuer fro the ri3t by reson myn awen
 for to dresse a wrange dome no day of my lyue
 declynet neuer my consciens for couetise on erthe
 in no gynful iugement no iapes to make
 were a renke neuer so riche for reuerens sake
 ne for no monnes manas ne meschefe ne routhe
 non gete me fro the heghe gate to glent out of ry3t
 als ferforthe as my faithe confourmyd my hert
 thaghe had bene my fader bone i bede hym no wranges
 ne fals fauour to my fader thaghe felle hym be hongyt
 and for i was ry3twis and reken and redy of the laghe
 quen i deghed for dul denyed alle troye
 alle menyd my dethe the more and the lasse
 and thus to bounty my body thai buriet in golde
 cladden me for the curtest that courte couthe then holde
 in mantel for the mekest and monlokest on benche
 gurden me for gouernance the graythist of troie
 furrid me for the fynest of faithe ther withinne
 for the honour of myn honeste of heghest enprise
 thai coronyd me the kidde kynge of kene iustises
 that euer was tronyd in troye other trowid euer shulde
 and for i rewardid euer ri3t thai raght me the septre
 the bisshop baythes hym 3et with bale at his hert
 thaghe men menskid him so how hit my3t worthe
 that his clothes were so clene in cloutes me thynkes
 hom burde haue rotid and bene rent in rattes longe sythen
 thi body may be enbawmyd hit bashis me noght
 that hit thar ryne ne rote ne no ronke wormes
 bot thi coloure ne thi clothe i know in no wise
 how hit my3t lye by monnes lore and last so longe
 nay bisshop quoth that body enbawmyd wos i neuer
 ne no monnes counselle my clothe has kepyd vnwemmyd
 bot the riche kynge of reson that ri3t euer alowes
 and loues al the lawes lely that longen to trouthe
 and moste he menskes men for mynnynge of ri3tes
 then for al the meritorie medes that men on molde vsen
 and if renkes for ri3t thus me arayed has
 he has lant me to last that loues ry3t best
 3ea bot say thou of thi saule then sayd the bisshop
 quere is ho stablid and stadde if thou so stre3t wroghtes
 he that rewardes vche a renke as he has ri3t seruyd
 my3t euel forgo the to gyfe of his grace summe brawnche
 for as he says in his sothe psalmyde writtes
 the skilfulle and the vnskathely skelton ay to me
 forthi say me of thi soule in sele quere ho wonnes
 and of the riche restorment that ra3t hyr oure lorde
 then hummyd he that ther lay and his hedde waggyd
 and gefe a gronynge ful grete and to godde sayde
 ma3ty maker of men thi myghtes are grete
 how my3t thi mercy to me amounte any tyme
 nas i a paynym vnpreste that neuer thi plite knewe
 ne the mesure of thi mercy ne thi mecul vertue
 bot ay a freke faitheles that faylid thi laghes
 that euer thou lord wos louyd in  allas the harde stoundes
 i was non of the nombre that thou with noy boghtes
 with the blode of thi body vpon the blo rode
 quen thou herghedes hellehole and hentes hom theroute
 the loffynge oute of limbo thou laftes me ther
 and ther sittes my soule that se may no fyrre
 dwynande in the derke dethe that dy3t vs oure fader
 adam oure alder that ete of that appulle
 that mony a ply3tles pepul has poysned for euer
 3e were entouchid with his teche and toke in the glette
 bot mendyd with a medecyn 3e are made for to lyuye
 that is fulloght in fonte with faitheful bileue
 and that han we myste alle merciles myselfe and my soule
 quat wan we with oure weledede that wroghtyn ay ri3t
 quen we are dampnyd dulfully into the depe lake
 and exiled fro that soper so that solempne fest
 ther richely hit arne refetyd that after right hungride
 my soule may sitte ther in sorow and sike ful colde
 dymly in that derke dethe ther dawes neuer morowen
 hungrie inwith hellehole and herken after meeles
 longe er ho that soper se other segge hyr to lathe
 thus dulfully this dede body deuisyt hit sorowe
 that alle wepyd for woo the wordes that herden
 and the bysshop balefully bere don his eghen
 that hade no space to speke so spakly he 3oskyd
 til he toke hym a tome and to the toumbe lokyd
 to the liche ther hit lay with lauande teres
 oure lord lene quoth that lede that thou lyfe hades
 by goddes leue as longe as i my3t lacche water
 and cast vpon thi faire cors and carpe thes wordes
 i folwe the in the fader nome and his fre childes
 and of the gracious holy goste and not one grue lenger
 then thof thou droppyd doun dede hit daungerde me lasse
 with that worde that he warpyd of his wete eghen
 the teres trillyd adon and on the toumbe lighten
 and one felle on his face and the freke syked
 then sayd he with a sadde soun oure sauyoure be louyd
 now herid be thou heghe god and thi hende moder
 and blissid be that blisful houre that ho the bere in
 and also be thou bysshop the bote of my sorowe
 and the relefe of the lodely lures that my soule has leuyd in
 for the wordes that thou werpe and the water that thou sheddes
 the bry3t bourne of thin eghen my bapteme is worthyn
 the fyrst slent that on me slode slekkyd al my tene
 ry3t now to soper my soule is sette at the table
 for with the wordes and the water that weshe vs of payne
 li3tly lasshit ther a leme loghe in the abyme
 that spakly sprent my spyrit with vnsparid murthe
 into the cenacle solemply ther soupen alle trew
 and ther a marcialle hyr mette with menske aldergrattest
 and with reuerence a rowme he ra3t hyr for euer
 i heere therof my heghe god and also the bysshop
 fro bale has bro3t vs to blis blessid thou worthe
 wyt this cessyd his sowne sayd he no more
 bot sodenly his swete chere swyndid and faylide
 and alle the blee of his body wos blakke as the moldes
 as roten as the rottok that rises in powdere
 for as sone as the soule was sesyd in blisse
 corrupt was that other craft that couert the bones
 for the aylastande life that lethe shalle neuer
 deuoydes vche a vayneglorie that vayles so litelle
 then wos louynge oure lorde with loves vphalden
 meche mournynge and myrthe was mellyd togeder
 thai passyd forthe in procession and alle the pepulle folowid
 and alle the belles in the burghe beryd at ones
 at london in englonde no3t fulle longe sythen
 thre sperles of the spelunke that sparde hit olofte
 mony clerkes in that clos with crownes ful brode
 that my3t not come to knowe a quontyse strange
 that euer wos breuyt in burghe ne in boke notyde
 and deuoydit fro the dede and ditte the durre after
 the comforthe of the creatore byhoues the cure take
 bot glow we alle opon godde and his grace aske
 the bry3t body in the burynes brayed a litelle
 thurghe sum lant goste lyfe of hym that al redes
 the lengthe of my lyinge here that is a lewid date
 hit is to meche to any mon to make of a nombre
 gurden me for the gouernour and graythist of troie
 furrid me for the fynest of faithe me withinne
 that hit thar ryue ne rote ne no ronke wormes
 thi loffynge oute of limbo thou laftes me ther
 3e were entouchid with his tethe and take in the glotte