Prologue

PROLOGUE: EXPLANATORY NOTES


ABBREVIATIONS: CA: Gower, Confessio Amantis; CM: Cursor mundi; CT: Chau­cer, Canterbury Tales; DBTEL: A 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; MED: Middle English Dictionary; NOAB: New Oxford Annotated Bible; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; OFP: Old French Paraphrase, British Library, MS Egerton 2710, cited by folio and column; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Pro­verbial Phrases; York: York Plays, ed. Beadle. For other abbreviations, see Textual Notes.

7 Thrugh mediacy of Mary chast. While there are aspects of the poem that have the ring of reform (and thus of Wycliffe and Lollardy, see the introduction), the Paraphrase-poet begins his story on solidly dogmatic grounds with an allusion to Mary in her role as mediatrix.

10–11 boke ryght to aray, / Begynnyng, myddes, and end. At the outset of his work, the Paraphrase-poet reveals a preoccupation with issues of literary design: he hopes to compose a book rightly from beginning to end. This concern relates to his desire to tell tales that are both entertaining and edifying, his project to “romance the Bible.” Though the poet presumably could not access Aristotle’s discussions of narrative structure directly, Aristotle’s tri-partite organization could nevertheless be known in principle from many sources: e.g., Cicero, John of Garland, and even some of the French cycles. As a formal structure it is particularly fitting for the task of translating Scrip­ture, of course, which is defined as proceeding from the literal begin­ning to the presumed end of all things.

18 the maystur of storyse. Peter Comestor, author of the Historia Scholastica (c. 1170). Like many other late medieval authors of biblical commentary, the poet relies heavily on HS for extra biblical embellishments and legendary materials. See, for example, the use of HS among such varied works as CM, York, Northern Homily Cycle, and Genesis and Exodus (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 444). The “storyse” that the poet refers to is the text of HS.


PROLOGUE: TEXTUAL NOTES


As noted in the introduction, the orthography of L differs significantly from that of S. As a result, Kalén and Ohlander often altered spellings from L when emending from that manuscript, making an effort to “match” orthography as well as possible to that of their base text, S. I have followed this same principle. As a result, I have chosen to ignore minor spel­ling variations when compiling these notes. The actual readings of line 1737 in the two man­u­scripts, for example, are: “Nothyng myght byde theire byt” (L) and “No thyng myg3t byte þerof” (S). Following K, I have emended this to read “Nothyng myght byd ther byte” and attributed the reading to L. The minor orthographic variations in such instances (here being byd for byde, ther for theire, byte for byt) seem largely inconsequential and have thus been ignored. For the reader wishing such precision, however, K provides all relevant details, and I have found its readings to be generally accurate.

For the most part (see, e.g., lines 49–52 for an exception), the base text (S) of the poem preserves the lines in pairs, two to a line; thus lines 1–2 appear as a single line, lines 3–4 appear as the next, etc. Like previous editors, I have regularized this across the whole of the poem in both the numbering and the indented presentation of the text.

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

above 1 Marginalia in S (at right of fol. 2r): Samuel Purchas.
Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 2r): Genesis.

1–1472 Missing in L.
1, 3 Lines indented to leave space for an initial capital; first letter of line 1 writ­ten in the middle of the space.

7 Mary. S: r inserted above the line.

20 schort. So K. S: schortes.

30 ever. So K. S: ouer. H reads on.

31 wer. So S, K. H reads wur.

32 kawn. So S. H emends to knawn, but K suggests that kawn is the past parti­ciple of Old English ceowan. Thus kawn has the Middle English sense of “mediated on” or, more literally, “chewed over.”
 
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Prologue


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1.
God, Fader in Hevyn of myghtes most,
   that mad this mold and all mankynd,
The Sun that sendes us throwth to tast,
   wesdom and welth and wytt at wyn,
The grace of the Holy Gast
   in whom all gudnes behoves to begyn
Thrugh mediacy of Mary chast
   that helpes to safe uus of our syn,
Swylke myght unto me send
   thys boke ryght to aray,
Begynnyng, myddes, and end,
   that yt be to Goddes pay.

2.
This buke is of grett degré,
   os all wettys that ben wyse,
For of the Bybyll sall yt be
   the poyntes that ar mad most in price,
Als maysters of dyvinité
   and on, the maystur of storyse,
For sympyll men soyn forto se,
   settes yt thus in this schort assyse;
And in moyr schort maner
   is my mynd forto make yt,
That men may lyghtly leyre
   to tell and undertake yt.

3.
This boke that is the Bybyll cald,
   and all that owtt of yt is drawn,
For Holy Wrytt we sall yt hald
   and honour yt ever os our awn;
All patriarkes and prophettes yt told,
   so ever ther saynges sekerly ar knawn,
And all wer fygurs fayr to fald
   how coymmyng of Crist myght be kawn.
God graunt us Crist to knaw
   All our form faders cravyd
And so to lere Is law
   that our sawlis may be savyd.
 
(t-note)
(t-note)
made this world
Son; truth; taste
wisdom; intelligence to obtain

goodness must needs begin
mediation; chaste; (see note); (t-note)
save us from
Such
correctly to compose; (see note)
middle
liking


stature
as all know
Bible shall
highlights; are made; of importance
As masters
and one [especially]; (see note)
to understand at once
sets it; paraphrase; (t-note)
more brief

easily learn
recite; understand


called the Bible

shall; hold
as our own

whenever their sayings are known certaintly; (t-note)
were figures; tell; (t-note)
mediated upon; (t-note)
Christ to know
ancestors desired to know
learn His law
souls

 

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