Second Book of Maccabees 6 and 9

SECOND BOOK OF MACCABEES 6 AND 9: EXPLANATORY NOTES


ABBREVIATIONSCA: Gower, Confessio AmantisCMCursor mundiCT: Chau­cer, Canterbury TalesDBTELA Dic­tionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature, ed. Jeffrey; HS: Peter Comes­tor, Historia Scholastica, cited by book and chapter, followed by Patrologia Latina column in paren­theses; K: Kalén-Ohlander edition; MEDMiddle English DictionaryNOABNew Oxford Annotated BibleOEDOxford English DictionaryOFPOld French Paraphrase, British Library, MS Egerton 2710, cited by folio and column; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Pro­verbial PhrasesYorkYork Plays, ed. Beadle. For other abbreviations, see Textual Notes.

The Paraphrase-poet’s presentation of the story of Eleazar after the story of the more famed Maccabean martyrs stands against that of Comestor, who passes on his information in bib­lical order. The alteration is put to good use here, however; it allows the poet to provide a brief recapitu­lation of Antiochus’ wickedness, in the form of additional martyrological exempla, before he concludes the whole of his work with an illustration of God’s ultimate, if perhaps be­lated, justice.

18303–04 Jerusalem, whore the Jewys con dwell, / wyll he dystroy ever ylke stone. The Bible men­tions Antiochus’ intention to desconstruct the city itself only in passing during discussion of his deathbed sorrows (2 Maccabees 9:14). An oath to un­make Jerusalem would perhaps be familiar to the poet’s audience, how­ever, in the form of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies under the command of future emperors Titus and Vespasian in the year 70. In the Middle English Siege of Jerusalem, for instance, Vespasian swears not to leave the Holy Land until “no ston in the stede [is] stondande alofte, / Bot alle overtourned and tilt, Temple and other” (ed. Livingston, lines 1019–20).

18305–08 Antiochus’ interest in the wealth of Jerusalem’s treasury has no source in the Bible or HS (though 2 Maccabees 9:16 reports that on his deathbed he regrets having previously plundered the Temple). It may be transposed from an identical interest in the riches of Persepolis’ temples: according to 2 Maccabees 9:1–4, it was his rage at being defeated in that pursuit that put him in mind to take his anger out on the Jews and to make Jerusalem their burial ground. It is also worth observation, however, that the pil­laging of the Temple’s treasures stands as one of the acts of Jerusalem’s Roman conquerors in the final stanza of Siege of Jeru­salem (ed. Livingston, lines 1337–40); perhaps imperial (or ecclesiastical?) Rome, too, has been guilty of over-weaning pride.

18313–16 Thei geydder sone grett cumpany . . . to wend in were. 2 Maccabees 9 says nothing of an army on either side: in his rage Antiochus spurs his chari­oteer to take him to Jerusalem as quickly as possible, the lack of an accom­panying force to help him destroy the Jews yet one more outward sign of his inner arro­gance in thinking himself of equal power to God. The siege of Jeru­salem quickly sketched here, however, would be a familiar one from the many legends surrounding the historical siege in 70. Antiochus’ “chare” (line 18318) might thus remind readers of the “chayre” in which Caiaphas sits during one of the first battles in the Middle English Siege of Jerusalem (ed. Livingston, line 471).

18325–32 On the worm-infected body of the diseased Antiochus, whose stench of rotting flesh was so great that none, even his fast friends, dared approach him, compare Chaucer’s Monk’s Tale (CT VII[B2]2615–20).

18369–72 Pray we to God forthi, / with the moyder and hyr suns sevyn, / That we may be worthy / to wun with them in Hevyn. The Paraphrase-poet completes his Old Testa­ment paraphrase by using prayer to fuse his account of 2 Maccabees 9 to 2 Maccabees 7. The poet, underscoring his conclusion that the mar­tyred mother and her seven sons are saved (see explanatory note to lines 17761– 62, above), thus leaves the reader with an understanding that the whole of the Old Testament serves as a proto-Christian text.


SECOND BOOK OF MACCABEES 6 AND 9: TEXTUAL NOTES


ABBREVIATIONS: L: MS Longleat 257; H: Heuser edition (partial); K: Kalén-Ohlander edition; O: Ohlander’s corrigenda to K; : Peck edition (partial); S: MS Selden Supra 52 (base text for this edition).

18253, 55 Lines indented to leave space for an initial capital; first letter of line 18253 writ­ten in the middle of the space.

18258 not. So L, K. S omits.

18267 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 167v): Anthiocus.

18279 thei. So L. S, K: þe.

18286 had. So L, K. S omits.

18291 cummand. So L, K. S: cumnand.

18297 thyng. S: s thyng.

18312 hys. S: yl his hys.

18320 spylt. So L, K. S: spyll.

18323 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 168r): no heading.

18326 led. So L, K. S: layd.

18328 bred. So L, K. S: breyd.

18337 in. So L, K. S omits.

18347 so. So L, K. S omits.

18349 allways. So L, K. S: all.

18352 graydly. So L, K. S: gayly.

18361 be. S: inserted above the line.

18368 to. So K. S omits. L alters line.
 
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Second Book of Maccabees 6 and 9


DE ANTHIOCO.
On Antiochus
[ANTIOCHUS ABOLISHES THE LAW (6:1–9)]
 



18255




18260




 
1522. 
Anthiocus, that hethyn kyng,
   unto the Jews had ever envy,
And in hys bowndom them to bryng
   in all his cuntré gart he cry:
Yf any Ebrew, old or yyng,
   that wold not menske his mawmentry,
In preson sone men suld them thryng
   with dyverse doles to gare them dy,
Bot yf thei wold forgeyt
   the lyf that Moyses led,
And als bot thei wold ete
   swylke flesch as he forbed.
 

heathen; (t-note)

jurisdiction


honor his idolatry; (t-note)
prison; thrust
sorrows to cause them to die
Unless
also unless; eat

such flesh (i.e., pork)
[ELEAZAR MARTYRED (6:18–31)]
 

18265




18270




18275

 
1523.
And als thei went, so were thei ware
   a prince that was of power grett,
An old Ebrew, Elyazar,
   that no forbodyn flesch wold ete.
Sone was he bun and broyght to barre,
   and full throly thei con hym threytt:
That he suld with Phylysteyns fare
   and os on of them mete to ete.
He sayd that suld he never,
   nauder for evyn ne ode;
To dy were hym wele lever
   then breke the Law of God.
 

they became aware of

Eleazar; (t-note)
forbidden
bound; to court
fiercely; threaten
Philistines
as one; to eat food

neither by even nor odd (i.e., in no way)
he much preferred

 
[TWO WOMEN MARTYRED (6:10)]
 




18280




18285



 
1524. 
So was he ded with dole and wo,
   and furth thei soyght on ylka syde;
And sone thei wyst of wemen two
   that ther two suns had circumscised
Or thei couth other speke or go;
   and so thei hoped them forto hyd.
Bott full tyte were thei tone them fro,
   and over the wals thei gard them glyd.
And so this cursyd kyng,
   that of God had non aw,
Gart stroy both ald and yyng
   that lyfed by Moyses Law.
 


each side [of the land]
knew; (t-note)
their; sons
Before they (the children); walk

very quickly; taken
caused them to fall

fear; (t-note)
Caused to be destroyed; old and young
[ANTIOCHUS’ PRIDE (9:8)]
 


18290




18295




18300
 
1525. 
Hym thynkes he is swylke lord in land
   that he myght conquere ylk cuntré,
All creaturs forto cummand.
   So that yf he wold say to the see
Styll in a state ay forto stand,
   als he wold byd, so suld yt be.
And remeve hyls ryght with his hand — 
   swylke hegh prid in his hert had he.
Hym thynkes all erthly thyng
   suld be bowsom and bayn
At bow to his bydyng
   and nothyng thor agayn.
 

such a lord on earth

creatures; (t-note)
sea
To stand still forever in one way
as he commanded
removed hills
such high pride
(t-note)
humble and obedient


 
[ANTIOCHUS ATTACKS JERUSALEM AND IS KILLED (9:1–7)]
 





18305




18310






18315




18320




 
1526.
With all swylke maystrys con he mell;
   mete unto hym he nevyns none.
Jerusalem, whore the Jewys con dwell,
   wyll he dystroy ever ylke stone,
For in the Tempyll herd he tell
   was gold and sylver full gud wone.
To foche yt and the folke to fell
   his purpase playnly hath he toyne.
Bot God, ther governowre,
   wold not yt lynag lose.
He sent them sone socoure
   and pared hys yll purpose.

1527.
Thei geydder sone grett cumpany
   of allablasters and of other geyre,
Of charyottes and chyvalry
   that wysest were to wend in were.
Hymself was sett full sekerly
   up in a chare Goddes folke to fere,
Bot thrugh grace of God Allmighty
   his sped was spylt withoutyn spere.
For all his men omell
   and most in his hegh pryde,
Out of his chare he fell
   and bressed both bake and syde.
 

such tyranny; busy himself
he thinks no one equal to him
(see note)
each
(see note)
in abundance
fetch; destroy
taken

lose that lineage

thwarted his wicked; (t-note)


gathered; (see note)
arbalests; engines of war
chariots and knights
go in battle
securely
chariot; frighten

fortune; without weapon; (t-note)
among

(t-note)
bruised; back

 
[SICKNESS, FALSE REPENTANCE, AND DEATH OF ANTIOCHUS (9:8–28)]
 

18325




18330




18335






18340




18345






18350




18355




18360






18365




18370     




1528. 
Slyke seknes sone on hym was sent
   that in a lytter was he led.
He was so bressed on that bent;
   wyld bestes in his bowels bred,
And qwyke out of his wome thei went.
   and in swylke stynke then was he sted
That none wold take to hym entent;
   his next frendes fast fro hym fled.
When grett party were gon
   and he allon was layd,
Falsly he mad his mone
   and sorowand thus he sayd:

1529.
“Now in myselfe the sothe se I,
   and kare me kaches kyndly to knaw:
All erthly men that ere dedly,
   of dew dett evermore thei aw
To honour a God Allmighty
   and serve Hym ever in dede and saw.
Paynyms lyf wyll I lefe forthi
   and lere to lyf by Ebrews Law.”
Thus with gabbyng he glosys;
   noyt for his syn he sore rewys,
Bot for he so supposys
   to geyt frenschep of the Jewys.

1530. 
For allways was he in dyspayre
   of any helpe fro Hevyn on hyght.
He felyd his fors full fast con pare,
   and letters gart he graydly dyght
Unto the Jewys and pray them fare
   forto be frendly day and nyght,
Anthiocus, his sun and ayre,
   forto releve hym in his ryght.
He hetes, and he may lyf,
   all that he had of thayrs
The dubyll agayn to gyf
   fro hym and fro his ayrs,

1531.
And to be rewled aftur ther red.
   Hys werke was wast withoutyn were.
He myght not then be styrd of sted,
   ne for stynke no man com hym nere.
So lay he bolnand, blo als led,
   withoutyn beld of bed or bere.
With dyverse dole so was he dede;
   we trow his demyng to be dere.
Pray we to God forthi,
   with the moyder and hyr suns sevyn,
That we may be worthy
   to wun with them in Hevyn!

AMEN.

Such sickness; (see note)
litter; (t-note)
bruised; field
wild worms; (t-note)
belly
such stench; placed

closest friends
his great army
alone
lament
sorrowing


truth; (t-note)
distress urges me naturally to confess
mortal
proper duty; ought

in deed and word
A pagan; abandon therefore
learn
deceit he lies
sorely rues
(t-note)



despair; (t-note)

felt his life; did weaken
caused he quickly to be prepared; (t-note)


heir
to succeed
promises, if
theirs
double
heirs


governed; their counsel; (t-note)
doubt
moved from that place
for the stench; came near him
swelling, blue as lead
comfort; bier

believe his judgment [by God] to be severe; (t-note)
therefore; (see note)


dwell

 

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