Art. 73, God that al this myhtes may: Introduction

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Art. 73, God that al this myhtes may: Introduction

Abbreviations: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); DOML: Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library; FDT: French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages (Sinclair 1979); FDT-1French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages, . . . First Supplement (Sinclair 1982); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

God Who Wields All This Might is an English penitential lyric fashioned as a prayer. The speaker voices contrition over how his innately errant nature has caused him to withhold what he owes to God, who has sacrificed all for his eternal welfare. The speaker expresses his abject unworthiness, his personal lack of sufficient humility, virtue, courage, or stamina. He stands before God’s almighty power, a power that frames the lyric in the first and last lines: “God that al this myhtes may.” Frequent end-stopped verses give the lyric a staccato movement, an effect that may be meant to dramatize the speaker’s state of penitential anguish: speech, the necessary instrument for confessing personal weaknesses, comes haltingly.

As the text that opens booklet 6, God Who Wields All This Might summons a mood of piety and submission, in address to God and on God’s name. Despite the fact that booklet 6 holds quite a lot of secular and ribald material, it will eventually end in the pious Prayer for Protection (art. 99). The first two stanzas of God Who Wields All This Might appear in a manuscript that predates Harley: Cambridge, CUL Addit. MS 2585(b). The other manuscripts are later. For commentary on this poem, see the bibliography in MWME 11:4356–58.

[Fol. 106r. IMEV, NIMEV 968. MWME 11:4201 [29]. Quire : 12. Scribe : B (Ludlow scribe). Meter : Seven 8–line stanzas, abababab4. Layout : No columns, two verses per manuscript line. Editions : Wright 1842, pp. 99–101 (no. 36); Böddeker, pp. 222–24; Patterson, pp. 64–66; Brown 1932, pp. 156–58 (no. 88); Brook, pp. 68–69 (no. 29). Other MSS : New York, Columbia University, Plimpton Addenda 3, fol. 238v (ed. Brown 1932, p. 158); London, BL Addit. MS 5901, fol. 325v (a modern transcription of the New York MS); Cambridge, CUL Addit. MS 2585(b), fol. 2v (2 stanzas).]

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