The King and the Hermit
THE KING AND THE HERMIT: FOOTNOTES
THE KING AND THE HERMIT: EXPLANATORY NOTES
1 Jhesu that is hevyn kyng. This text often has genitives with no inflectional ending.
13 Unlike John the Reeve, The King and the Hermit does not name which Edward is being spoken of; and unlike King Edward and the Shepherd, The King and the Hermit is not at all specific about contemporary people or events. The only identifier we have for which Edward is meant is the phrase in line 13: “be god Edwerd deys.” The phrase implies that the poem is set in the past, so not in the time of a contemporary king Edward. The adjective god more or less eliminates the deposed Edward II, in comparison to his much more successful father or son. If the poem is late enough, the Yorkist king Edward IV is a possible target for the allusion (reigned 1461–70 and again 1471–83), and the northern origins of the poem are compatible with widespread support of the Yorkists in the North. And Edward IV did enjoy hunting in his royal forests and had new apartments in Nottingham Castle that would have made a stay there while hunting in Sherwood Forest an attractive proposition (see Ross, Edward IV, pp. 9, 55, 148, 261, 271, 354 for the hunting, p. 272 for the apartments). But Edward I was a hunter too (Prestwich, Edward I, pp. 115–17), as was Edward III. Froissart reports that during his 1359 expedition in France, the king had for his personal use thirty mounted falconers and their loads of birds and sixty couples of big hounds and as many coursing dogs, with which he went either hunting or wild-fowling every day (Froissart, Chronicles, ed. Brereton, p. 165).
Of the various Edwards, Edward III is the one most likely to have been looked back upon by everyone, of whatever faction, as “god Edwerd.” But what king is understood to be referred to here is very much dependent on the time and politics of the reader. A sixteenth-century somewhat analogous chapbook poem, King Edward IV and the Tanner of Tamworth, is explicit in its title (which may however be editorial) about which King Edward it is who goes out hunting and meets a suspicious and surly tanner, trades horses with him, and eventually rewards him with lands, but the poem itself never specifies its protagonist beyond “King Edward.” That poem is closely analogous to a fifteenth-century poem, The King and the Barker, from Cambridge University Library MS Ee.4.35, in which the king is never named. Similarly a seventeenth-century poem, The Pleasant Ballad of King Henry II and the Miller of Mansfield, specifies only in its (editorial?) title which King Henry goes hunting in Sherwood Forest, is lost, and takes lodging with a suspicious and surly miller who eventually warms up to him and feeds him venison. For the poets in question, the main value in choosing an Edward or a Henry as protagonist may be that there are several of them, safely in the past, and there is therefore no need for historical detail beyond the contrast between the richly dressed king and the commoner he meets and, in most cases, the general knowledge of poaching practices and regulations.
16 The kyng to Scherwod gan wend. Gan is a past tense marker in this poem; gan wend means “went.” Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire once covered a much larger area than it does now. The area was a royal forest, and like other royal forests, protected from hunting except by the king and those he explicitly authorized. The territory of a royal “forest” included not just woodland but also open land and wetland, a variety of habitats. A bureaucracy of foresters existed to patrol and protect the forest and the wildlife. Modern tradition remembers Robin Hood as one inhabitant of and poacher in Sherwood Forest, this poem tells of another, but there were poachers in all the royal forests of England.
63 The manuscript reads: “A ro chasyd hym ry3t fast.” This makes no sense: a deer would not be chasing the king. But neither would the king be chasing a roe, the smallest of the three species of deer in England at the time (red, fallow, and roe). It would be a red deer (a hart) that would be impressively large and carry a large set of antlers. “A” must signify “he” (not usual in this scribe’s writing, but all the more likely then that it would confuse him in a source text), and “ro chasyd” should be read as “rechasyd” (as it is by Albert Kurz in his edition).
69 Hys hert away was past. Probably “the horse’s spirit was broken” but could be “the hart had escaped.”
85–87 I have herd pore men call at morow / Seynt Julyan send them god harborow / When that they had nede. St. Julian the Hospitaller was the legendary patron saint of hospitality. Edward tells us that he has heard poor men calling on Julian in the morning (presumably before setting off on a journey, or perhaps these are homeless men) to send them a good lodging when they need one. Middle English literature has other instances of travelers calling on St. Julian for lodging when they are, like Edward here, stranded and in need of shelter. Sir Gawain thanks “Jesus and sayn Gilyan” on his first glimpse of Hautdesert, and goes on to petition them, “Now bone hostel. . . I beseche yow yette” (line 776) in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. For further information, consult the introduction to The Life of St. Julian the Hospitaller in the "Scottish Legendary" (c. 1400), edited by E. Gordon Whatley, with Anne B. Thompson and Robert K. Upchurch, in Saints' Lives in Middle English Collections (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2004), pp. 307–15.
106 The manuscript reads: “Now seynt Julyan a bonne vntyll,” here emended for sense and rhyme. The conventional plea to St. Julian was for “bon hostel,” “good lodging.” Compare Chaucer’s House of Fame, line 1022 (“Seynt Julyan, loo, bon hostel”), and line 776 of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
107 As pylgrymes trow full wele. That is, pilgrims believe that Julian provides “a bonne hostel.”
117 Wele worth thee, Sir Frere. The hermit is apparently a friar of either the Carmelite or Augustinian order. Both orders had their origin in eremiticism, but both, soon after their arrival in England, moved towards communal life in larger towns. Nevertheless, the early foundations were in isolated areas, the hermit’s life was the ideal underlying both orders, and it was possible to have a small priory in an outlying area with only a single friar. For information on both orders, see Knowles, Religious Orders in England, 1:194–204, 2:144–51.
122–23 For sych a lord as ye be, / Y have non herbour tyll. For is a conjunction here, and tyll a preposition. The two lines together mean “For I have no shelter appropriate for such a lord as you are.”
139 Mary, the Virgin Mother of Jesus, was the most familiar and the most frequently invoked of all the saints. If there is a particular aptness to her invocation here and at line 173 below, it is that she too was rather famously treated with minimal hospitality in her hour of need, when she was turned away from the inn in Bethlehem.
140 Schorte sirvys getys thou here. That is, no service at all. This is probably a reference to the customary service owed by a tenant to a lord. Here and below at lines 154–56 the hermit is emphasizing (ironically, as his guest is after all the king) that he doesn’t have any duty to his pushy and unwanted guest.
155–56 The hermit’s irony is scathing in the face of the stranger’s declaration that he intends to stay overnight.
178–79 George Shuffelton aptly remarks, “The king . . . performs his chores before dinner with the enthusiasm of a visitor to a dude ranch” (Codex Ashmole 61, p. 592).
193–94 Probably the rhyme is on the forms slape and cape.
213 scape. This is an unusual form of the past tense, which should be scaped, or if the strong verb form, scope.
224 Thou boughtes never so god sirvese. That is, “you have never gained such good compensation as you will by helping me.” The form of the verb “boughtes” is an impossible one: it was incorrect in every dialect area of England to have an –es ending on a past tense strong verb such as buy. But could this be some form of hypercorrection, with a southern scribe trying to reproduce what he imagines to be a northern dialect form, since –es is a normal ending in the present tense for the second person singular in the North?
232 Sethen thyn drynke he dreughe. “Then he [probably the hermit] drew [from a cask] thin drink.” The thin drink is probably weak beer.
286 The hermit has a change of heart between the stanzas.
292–95 The richness of this food and its presentation are in striking contrast to the hermit’s professed poverty. Candles, a tablecloth, and fine white bread for trenchers were all extravagances for rich men’s tables. Baked venison implies both that the hermit has been poaching deer in the royal forest and that he has access to the services of someone with an oven and fuel (probably also illegally gathered from the royal forest) to stoke it. See lines 421–25 for an explanation for the hermit’s wealth.
320 To feche the hors corne and bred. Bread made of beans or pease, sometimes bran and chaff, was baked specifically for horse fodder.
328 A howvyd pote, that stondes ther. The word howved is unattested in OED or MED; Hazlitt reads hownyd, a form for honeyed. I take howuyd as meaning “lidded,” related to houve, a substantive meaning “cap” or “head covering.”
329–30 And Godes forbot that we it spare / To drynke to it be dey. That is more literally, “And [it is] God’s prohibition that we refrain from [emptying] it, to drink until it is day.”
341–45 Fusty bandyas and stryke pantner or pantnever appear to be nonsense syllables, but they can be resolved into the following components:
The principal oddity is the component strike. It is nowhere beyond this poem attested as a verb meaning “drink up,” although it seems to mean exactly that in line 376 (which MED cites in def. 10b).
fusty: smelling of the cask
ban: bon, or good
dias, dyas: medicines
stryke: drink up
“This is a good fusty medicine.” “Drink it up at one gulp.”
The game seems to be slightly more demanding than the drinking game in King Edward and the Shepherd. Whenever the servant fills the cup and puts it in the designated place, the first to call “Fusty bandias” gets to drink, and can continue till the other calls out “Strike pantner,” when he in turn gets the cup and finishes the drink in it.
369 The hermit tends to use heavy irony. The consumption of excessive amounts of meat and liquor would not constitute “holy life,” but the diet of roots and bark he claims to follow at line 128 would certainly be ascetic deprivation enough to be holy.
409–11 Y have be ther and takyn dole, / And have hade many merry mele, / Y dare full savely sey. After the mocking echo of the last lines, the hermit is now exercising a heavy irony. As becomes clear in the next lines, very little food is distributed to the poor at the king’s court, and he is unwilling to hang around half a day waiting for it when he has a sweet system of exchange with his neighbors worked out at home.
422 presente. The rhyme on nygh-hand depends on the northern form presand.
423 Sydes of the wyld dere. A side of deer is half the animal split the length of the backbone, a more manageable size for a household to deal with at a single time than the whole carcass.
434 Or that thou gon awey. Gon is an impossible form of the verb go in the second person singular subjunctive. My guess is that the poet originally used the verb gang(en) or gong(en) in the phrase “or that thou gong awey,” and that a subsequent scribe tried to make sense of an unfamiliar verb by converting it partway to a more southern form, choosing the synonymous similar verb go(n) but not adjusting the ending appropriately.
436 Thoff I be here in pore clothing. Unlike the king in John the Reeve, this king is apparently dressed in shabby clothes. But they must be only relatively shabby (hunting clothes fit for a king), because the hermit recognizes him immediately as a great lord (see line 122). Of course the excellent horse and trappings would be an additional clue.
448 Jhake Flecher. “Jake the Arrow-maker.” As Shuffelton points out, “The lengthy description of the hunt at the outset of the tale and King Edward’s choice of pseudonyms . . . only emphasize the common bonds between the poacher/ host and his royal guest. Hermits, unlike peasants, were essentially outside the bounds of class” (Codex Ashmole 61, pp. 591–92). That makes The King and the Hermit different from the other king and commoner poems, in that the hermit is not a peasant.
471 Bot it schuld spyll his stale. A deer will often empty its bladder when frightened or wounded.
525 The manuscript breaks off here, but from the other king and commoner stories certain aspects of the ending are predictable. As in Rauf Coilõear (RC), the king finds his way back to court on his own. The next day the hermit decides to follow his guest to court and take him up on his offer of hospitality there, despite his misgivings, as in King Edward and the Shepherd (KS), John the Reeve (JR), and RC. Once there, he runs into conflict with the porter (as in JR) but on the king’s instructions, does get into the hall, where he is uneasy at feeling himself very out of place and where courtiers laugh at him. Eventually he spots his guest, is made to feel terrified of reprisals for his poaching when the man proposes to play the drinking game in front of the king’s courtiers, reproaches him, and only then discovers that his guest has been the king (roughly as in KS). Because in this story the antagonist is a hermit friar, it is unlikely that the ending can involve the king’s knighting the (often) reluctant man and giving him lands and riches (as in JR and RC, and roughly as in the later King Edward IV and a Tanner of Tamworth and the much later Pleasant Ballad of King Henry II and the Miller of Mansfield). But there is undoubtedly some comparably rich reward for his hospitality, perhaps advancement in the Church.
THE KING AND THE HERMIT: TEXTUAL NOTES
ABBREVIATIONS: MS: manuscript, here referring to copy-text.
title No title appears in the MS. Instead the words “Amen quod Rate” appear above the poem, running from within the left margin.
14–15 In the right margin of the MS, canceled, appear these words:
18 This line is missing in the MS; no gap.
32 MS: Ouer all lord is gret plete. Emendation for sense.
50 MS: With hundes and with honnes blast. Emendation for sense.
59 MS: They ronne the dere as thei wer wode. The line as it stands in the MS partly repeats line 58. Conjectural emendation.
69 MS: Hys hert away was s past.
88 MS: And yit whe that thei wer trauyst. Emendations for sense (when, trayst) and rhyme (trayst).
99 MS: Off an hermyte <...> hym besyde. But the hermit is inside his hermitage, as we learn below (line 112); it must be the building in a clearing that the king spots. Emendation for sense.
103 MS: An hermytage he fond ther. Emended for sense (since after the emendation to line 99, this is the second mention of the hermitage).
109 MS: A lytell 3ate he fond ner. Emendation for rhyme.
116 MS: He seyd sir gode euyn. Emendation for rhyme.
124 MS: Bot if it <
129 ff. The stanza form calls for three more lines.
135 MS: Or passy3h this fortny3t. Emendation for sense.
152 MS: Ermyte I schall herabour with the this ny3ht. Emendation for sense.
170 MS: Two thake bendes full without no. Emendation for better sense.
173 The saint’s name is blurred: What I read as “mayre” is read “mayry” by Kurz and Shuffelton, and “Mary” by Hazlitt. At line 139 of the poem, the name is spelled Mary.
193 MS: When fosters wer gon to slep<.>. The last letter is blurred.
195 MS: And wake beth est and weste.
215 MS: The kyng rode on hutyng.
220 MS: Y haue <..>lowyd hym all this dey. There is a blot before “lowyd.”
224 MS: Thou boughtes never so god siruege. Emendation for rhyme.
228 MS: We schall we not hyll with the. Emendation for sense.
275 This line is followed by the following canceled line: And on to prison bryng.
277 MS: Bo be in prayer and in penans. Emendation for sense.
318 MS: And bad hym be lyue and go. Emendation for sense.
334 MS: The hermyte seyd now scha<.> i se. The last letter of shal is blurred.
360 MS: That well ny3 of iyede. Emended for sense.
361 MS: The knaue fyllyd and vp it õede in plas.
367 MS: ffyll this eft and late vs lyke. Emendation for sense.
374 MS: The kyng seyd stryke pantneuer. Emendation for rhyme.
423 MS: Be sydes of the wyld dere. Emendation for sense.
438 MS: Yiftys two our thre. Emendation for sense.
466 MS: An arow off an elle lond. Emendation for sense.
467 MS: In hys low he it throng. Emendation for sense.
474 ff. After line 474, three lines are missing from the stanza. No gap in MS.
490 MS: Jake and thou wyll ha of myn arowys haue.
507 MS: When tyme thou se thou myght. Emendation for sense.
516 MS: With sygheng and sorrowyg sore.
525 The poem breaks off here, at the end of a leaf. There is one more leaf in the MS, but it is blank.
Go To Bibliography