The Storie of Asneth
THE STORY OF ASNETH: FOOTNOTES1 And carve out the kernels to improve your store (of wisdom)
2 It is irksome, but the meaning I shall pursue as exactly as possible
3 These were the Egyptian girls who were her same age and who served at her pleasure
4 It was adorned with jacinth and fine purple linen throughout
5 He sent twelve wise counsellors to the priest Putifar, conveying the message
6 Our sire Joseph greets you heartily, and gives advance notice that
7 He's a fugitive, released by plea bargaining, and I tell you quite frankly / That shepherd's son from Canaan would have defiled his lady.
8 Was fiercely troubled in his dreams, dreaming repeatedly
9 Her spirits failed, her body shook, for having scorned his noblesse
10 Therefore remove the strange woman, so that in nothing may she harm me
11 May the great God who gives life to all things bless you, maiden
12 And, overwhelmed with sorrow, she wept bitterly until the sun settled in the west
13 And shut the door with bar and bolt, one across the other
14 Her ornamental neckpiece also, and bracelets of rich goldsmith's work
15 And put a hair shirt upon her body and beat her breast repeatedly
16 The maiden was humbled, emaciated, and sorrowfully marked (self-condemned)
17 Now may they rejoice in my misfortune and utterly despise me
18 And say to everyone, great and small, "Asneth is not our daughter, / For she has destroyed our golden gods and trampled them underfoot"
19 Do you not believe that God has heard my prayer?
20 Joseph, with scepter, stole, and crown, his countenance bright as a flash of lightning
21 And said [to herself], "Don't you believe that of this honeycomb this man (angel) has eaten?
22 Even more, they marvelled that she wore her wedding stole
23 "May all go well with you forever"
24 And then they turned themselves mouth to mouth and kissed each other
25 For he has taken Asneth to be his wife, who was ordained at a prior time to be my wife
26 "Behold, life and death is placed here before you."
27 Your father's head aches from keeping watch, and now he is resting
28 According to the plan agreed upon with Gad and Dan
THE STORIE OF ASNETH: NOTES1 Initial A rubricated, with face in profile with visor. Here and henceforth in the text I indicate rubricated cadels by capitalizing the whole word. The cadels range in height from four to six lines, usually four. Though all contain profiles none are the same. In fact, they offer a rather witty diversity of noses, chins, and caps.
5-8 Through the rhetorical demurral of talent to translate, the poet anticipates the food-supplier trope of the subsequent narrative. Although here at the outset he doubts that he can supply much grain for his Lady's graunge, i.e., her granary, by the time he finishes he will have supplied the narrative of Joseph himself in one of his most fructuous acts, the marrying of Asneth and the producing of his people's heritage. The metaphor continues in line 30, where sentence could be translated as "kernel." Graunge might also be taken as a metaphor of his Lady's library - her storehouse of wisdom - to which another book will soon be added, to her delight.
14 cowe in a cage. Compare Mum & Sothsegger 3.262: as becometh a kow to hoppe in a cage!
15 MacCracken emends The to Ye to read: Ye desire to make a fool of my lordis ape. The MS reading (The desire) turns the line into an appositional gloss on a cowe in a cage, which is possible, albeit less clear than MacCracken's emended version.
18 jaile. From OF jalir: to cause to spring up, to cast forth.
30 sentence. A rhetorical term meaning the fruit within the chaff, the kernel of the idea. See note to lines 5-8 above.
31 grave. Perhaps from OF graver: to part hair, to make smooth; or from OE grafan: to engrave, carve.
33 Initial P rubricated, profile with fool's cap.
35 The fifthe day, in the secunde monthe. April 5, with March being the first month.
37 the ferthe monthe, the eyhtethe day. June 18. According to J. van Goudoever, Biblical Calendars (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1961) the day would be a Sunday (p. 63). It might also be "an indication of the summer solstice" (p. 120), which would befit the impending harvest.
48 specious. OED cites Holland, Howlat line 733, as earliest instance of this usage (i.e., c. 1450).
52-53 According to Midrashic tradition Asneth is the daughter of Dinah by Shechem, son of Hamar, who, to avoid tribal embarrassment, was whisked away by an angel to be raised by Potiphar's wife, who was barren. This rabbinical tradition keeps the Hebraic line more pure than the tradition that views her as a convert, the true proselyte who finds refuge in and through God. Here the poet has it both ways: Asneth is the natural daughter of Potiphar who converts, but looks and behaves like a Hebrew woman from the outset. See Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, tr. Henrietta Szold (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1913) II, 38; Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, tr. Gerald Friedlander (New York, Benjamin Blom, Inc., 1971), pp. 287-88; and Kaufmann Kohler, "Asenath, Life and Confession or Prayer of" in The Jewish Encyclopedia II, 172-76.
54-55 Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel: Hebrew women of great virtue, cited in the Christian marriage service as models for good women, Rachel being praised for her friendliness to her husband, Rebecca for her wisdom, and Sarah for her long life and fidelity. In choosing his adjectives to describe them the Middle English poet follows closely the formulas of his Latin source which reads: eratque magna ut Sarra, speciosa ut Rebecca, et formosa ut Rachel.
58 gan is an auxiliary used to indicate perfective aspect, similar to did, but sometimes (though not necessarily) with ingressive and causative implications as well, like began and made. Here gan tel = spoke.
68 soleyn. unique, one of a kind, as in Chaucer, BD 982-83: The soleyn fenix of Arabye; / For ther livyth never but oon.
70-95 The tower built specially for Asneth, with its three chambers for herself and seven chambers for her attendants, who have no intercourse in no manere entent with men, signifies her cloistered chastity. That her main chamber's purview has windows to the north and south but with the firste retardynge to the est suggests, perhaps, her pious orientation backward toward Paradise. See Gen. 2:8.
74 polimites. From OF polmite or polimite, a multi-colored precious stone.
84 MS: The seven chambir was remenant were ordeyned on this manere. MacCracken emends chambir was to chambiris.
89 MacCracken reads MS as wyndows there, which he emends to wyndowys three to match the rhyme and the sense of the text and to avoid the redundant there. In fact, the first e in there has a dot placed under it which, according to scribal practices of correction, expunges the unwanted letter. The MS thus reads thre and requires no emendation.
94 purpur bise. OF bysse, a fine linen; from Greek byssos, flax. The word is often used with purple and as a word to designate a blue pigment (see line 175). In ME bis is often linked with Egypt. N.b., Trevisa, Barth. 233b, which identifies bis as a kind of flax of which the fayrest of alle groweth in egipte.
98 The recurrent appearance of 18 (the 18th day of the 4th month [line 37] and the 18 guards of this 18 year old girl [line 49]) is intriguing. The number is sometimes construed by gematria to be a sign of Jesus since, in Greek numbering, it gives us the first two letters of Jesus' name [iota=10 + eta=8]. If such a gloss is applicable here it would enhance the chosenness of Joseph's bride to be, Joseph himself being in this narrative a Christ type. See note to line 149. The point would seem to be that they are both numbered in Christ, though they do not yet know it. Such a numerological crux is in keeping with other biblical numberings in the poem, especially the uses of 3, 7, 8, and 12, which seem likewise to carry Christian and Hebraic overtones. This kind of evidence perhaps places the original Greek narrative more closely within the Christian component of the Hebrew-Hellenic community of Alexandria than scholars such as Kaufmann Kohler have acknowledged. On the intimacy of early Christian and Hellenic Hebrew iconography see Christoph Burchard, "The Importance of Joseph and Aseneth for the Study of the New Testament," NTS, 32 (1986), and E. W. Smith, Jr., Joseph and Asenath and Early Christian Literature: A Contribution to the Corpus Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti, Ph.D. dissertation, Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California, 1974.
99 MS: after halle the scribe's eye skipped to 101, and he copied that ran as cristalle cleer, which he then crossed out and finished the line correctly with trees faire behonge.
103 MS: between and and aroos the word row is stricken.
106 MS: the first word Heu is corrected to He.
123 armillis. From OF armilles, a bracelet.
124 bie. From OF buie, a chain. The poet seems to have in mind a more elaborate neckpiece than a simple chain, given its ornamentation and the fact that it is "bent."
129 terestre. The Latin text reads theristrum, which is a summer garment. Compare line 444, where the poet translates the same Latin word as theustre vail.
144 contharalle. From Medieval Latin, referring to a companion or spouse.
145-58 Asneth's forthrightness in addressing her father here is a virtue, albeit a blind one. The passage sets up her penitential prayer (lines 339 ff.) through which she becomes a dreme redere herself and achieves a kyngis sone as husband beyond her present unenlightened capacities of perception, namely, as she subsequently perceives, Godis sone . . . ful noble of alliance, / And the saveour of al Egipt (199-200).
148 In line 158 the scribe uses take to mean "marry." If that is the word's sense here the line could perhaps mean "To marry me as a slave to a renegade."
149 by bargayn bouht. By alluding to Joseph's having been sold into slavery by his brothers, Asneth unwittingly underscores the typology whereby Joseph is said to prefigure Christ. The Christian commentators on the biblical event regularly parallel it with Jesus' being sold by Judas for thirty pieces of silver. Implicit as well may be an allusion to his having been imprisoned for the falsely alleged flirtation with Potiphar's wife, then released through a deal with Pharaoh.
150 That herdis sone of Chanan. See note to line 727.
152 MS: a letter is expunged before happid.
158 make. MS: take.
159 Rubricated initial on And, with an old fool's face.
163 cenacle: A small dining room on an upper floor (n.b. the cenacle of the Last Supper). It is in this room that Asneth has her subsequent conversation and communion meal with the Angel.
166 And. MS: Ant.
169 terrage. The word perhaps comes from Medieval Latin terragium, referring to land, territory, or district. There is no equivalent in the Latin source.
176-80 The gold crown with the circle of twelve imperial stones suggests that Joseph is truly the king of the twelve tribes of Israel just as the twelve stars suggest that, as a Christ type, he is obedient to the ruler of the zodiac as well. The scepter designates his nobility and the olive branch that he is a prince of peace. The tone of his majestic entrance is apocalyptic, a vision in keeping with Asneth's impending conversion and encounter with the angel.
211 MS: apt canceled between hym and that.
215 MS reduplicates that mid-line to read was sche that that in the wyndow stod.
215-21 Joseph's initial response to Asneth seems as unknowing as hers to him as he scorns her for affecting his heart and for marrynge of my mod and scorns the infeccion of femenyn insolence.
229 And. MS: Ant.
232-33 Joseph's insistence on cleanness and his refusal withoute variaunce to have to do with wymmen of straunge alliance is identical to that of Simeon and Levi when they slay the Shechemites for defiling Dinah in Gen. 34 (see notes to lines 756 and 52-53, where rabbinical tradition avoids the problem by making Asneth Dinah's daughter). The question remains, however: how is it that Joseph can marry Asneth withoute variaunce? It is not enough that she be unlike other Egyptian women or that she, like Shechem, would agree to take on Hebrew customs. The point in this version is that both she and Joseph are made the same, withoute variance, through the new grace dispensed by the angel, who cleanses her and transforms her even as he transforms Joseph. Through that new dispensation she too comes to believe withoute variaunce (line 402).
245 MS: Between went and here, fo is crossed out.
256 MS reads steeight instead of streight.
256 and layd yt on here brestis. The Latin text is more emphatic and explicit: apposuit ad pectus eius medio duarum mamillarum, et mamille eius prominebant foras. Compare Song of Songs 8:10.
259 The eucharistic allusion in the line comes directly from the Latin source: et manducare panem benedictum vite, et bibere calicem benedictum incorruptionis.
265 A portion of the poem here is missing, certainly more than the remainder of the stanza. The scribe of the MS is careful in catching eyeskip errors; thus it seems likely that the error here of the missing page occurred at an earlier stage of copying and was already in his exemplar. The skip takes place about a third of the way down fol. 124r. Since there are no stanza divisions marked in the manuscript the short stanza is not evident. About twenty-eight lines of the Latin text's narrative are missing, lines in which Joseph tells Asneth about the God of Israel and His power to give life and His superiority over Egyptian idols. Joseph then calls for his horses. Potiphar asks him to stay longer, but Joseph replies with the new stanza beginning at line 266. Perhaps our scribe or the scribe he or she was copying from skipped the remainder of the page of the Middle English manuscript being copied (assuming the ME source was ruled about the same as the ruling in the Ellesmere MS). The ratio of Latin lines per page is about the same as that of the Ellesmere and the Middle English scribe at this point in the text is ruling his/her page for forty-two lines. The break occurs twenty-nine lines from the bottom of the page.
266 ff. Joseph apparently departs to celebrate the creation of the world. His return on the eighth day is part of the Christian apocalyptic typology of the poem, where eight, the new life number, signifies the new day, a new week, and a new beginning.
283 Compare OF couverture, a bedcovering, or a robe.
286 pavement: a tiled floor.
287 This stanza is one line short in its concluding couplet. It seems likely that the scribe skipped a line while copying from the exemplar manuscript. See also the stanza beginning line 580.
294 MS: between yt and aketh, the word asketh has been stricken.
306 MS: thaf cancelled between here and the.
309 That Asneth throws the idols out the north window may imply that she is returning to Satan what is Satan's, whose dwelling place is traditionally in the north.
317 Asneth's casting of the idols and the sacred vessels to strangers' dogs carries biblical overtones of defilement. See Matt. 7:6 ("Give not that which is holy unto the dogs") and Exod. 22:31, I Kings 14:11, 16:4, and 21:19-24 on the corpses of wretched sinners being cast to the dogs. Asneth's sensitivity to the moral welfare of her own household dogs (line 318), who don't get fed, is, in its way, touching.
323 MacCracken misreads the line And did an heve upon here bodi, omitting the first here. He interprets heve to mean hives, as if Asneth has had an allergic reaction to the ashes and sackcloth. The equivalent phrase in the Latin text is et circumposuit cilicium tristicie, which indicates that she put on a penitential hair shirt. MacCracken did not have access to the Latin text that was the source for the Middle English poet, only Vincent of Beauvais' condensation, which was no help to him on this point.
328 The poet translates lutum (mud, mire) as fen. See also line 453.
331 MS: Ausneth corrected to Asneth. The phrase Asneth by here name seems to imply some hidden meaning in the etymology of Asneth's name. See note to line 464.
333 The eyhte day the cokkys crew: the eighth day and the cockcrow mark a new beginning as Asneth rises from her fast and, facing the east, offers her penitential prayer to which the angel responds and translates her to blessedness. Compare the Gospel references to Easter as the day after the Sabbath, that is, the eighth day, and the resurrected Jesus appearing to the Apostles eight days later (John 20:26). This day marks Asneth's new beginning of her new life with her new name. It also marks the day on which Joseph, her new lord, will return. See lines 266 ff.
338 Asneth's twofold penitential prayer (lines 339-407) is delivered at the east window, a point made again at line 364, and it is from the east that the sterre Lucifer shines brightly (line 408), indicative that her prayer has been answered. The heaven then parts and the angel comes to her from the east (i.e., from Paradise).
339 Ha is an interjection of distress. See the "Epilogue," line 885.
343 disparplid. A neologism based on the Latin disperdidit, to destroy, ruin, utterly undo.
384 The whole of Asneth's penitential prayer is a pastiche of biblical verses. Here see especially Psalm 8:3 and Wisdom 10:21.
392 The whale (Leviathan) is a common medieval figure of Hell. Hellmouth, in the mystery plays and medieval art, is normally represented by the whale's open mouth. Jonah, entering the whale and then returning, prefigures Christ's descent into Hell to reclaim the patriarchs prior to the Resurrection. See biblical commentaries such as the Glossa ordinaria or the representations of the event in The Forty-Leaf Blockbook Called the Biblia Pauperum, plate G, which juxtaposes with the Entombment of Christ Joseph's being placed in the well as his brothers sell him into slavery and Jonah's being cast into the whale's mouth, and plate I, which juxtaposes with Christ's Resurrection Samson's removal of the gates and Jonah's being cast up at Ninevah. (See Plates II and III below.)
396 conculcacioun. A neologism from the Latin text conculcari, from conculco, -avi, -atum, to tread under foot, to crush or bruise by hostile trampling.
405 Asneth's request to be God's handmaiden (ancilla in the Latin text) associates her with the Virgin Mary (ancilla domini) at the Annunciation. The whole passage is filled with Annunciation echoes - lines 410-11, 416, 418-19, 421- 23, 425, 429-31, 489-91, 503-05. The motif of light descending repeats the visual iconography of the Annunciation, as does Asneth's modesty as servant receiving that benefaction. See notes to lines 578 and 604.
414 MS: A expunged between face and on.
415 ff. Kee (pp. 400-05) relates the appearance of the heavenly visitor adorned with solar imagery and Asneth's personal conversion to divine interventions and personal transformations in the Isis and Asklepios cults of the second century A.D. as portrayed by Apuleius in The Golden Ass and Aelius Aristides in The Sacred Teachings, where the acolyte in the epiphanic vision receives a new dress and a new name and is confirmed in the new eternal life through the eating and drinking of the heavenly substance.
417 The angel's calling of Asneth - Asneth! Asneth! - echoes the biblical trope of a divine calling, usually of the innocent, who replies, "Here am I, send me," or at least, like Asneth, indicates that she is listening: Lo, my Lord, / . . . Tell me who thu art. See Gen. 22:11-12 [Abraham]; I Sam. 3:4-18 [Samuel]; Isaiah 6:8-9 [Isaiah]. As in the biblical analogues, the call leads to the bestowal of a new name upon the one addressed. See note to line 462.
429 MS: dredere corrected to dere.
431 The emendation [I] is MacCracken's. The MS line has no subject, as is often the case in compound constructions (e.g., line 800 where the subject is simply omitted). In line 439, the scribe leaves out the subject "I," as he does here, but then inserts it superscript.
433 ff. Asneth's divesting of her penitential garb to put on her new white robe is apocalyptic in tone and typology. It marks her putting on the new clothing of faith to become the recipient of grace, symbolized by the honeycomb on which she and the angel feast.
444 theustre vail. MacCracken interprets the phrase to mean "dark veil," suggesting that theustre is from ME theostre, meaning dark. But it is more likely that the poet derives the word from theristrum in the Latin text, meaning a summer garment, or veil. See line 129, where the neologism terestre avoids the pleonasm of theustre vail.
446 By eyeskip error the scribe has miscopied and then deleted the phrase sayde lay don between aungel and and. The phrase occurs in the following line, after the word aungel, as saide lai don.
454-58 The Latin text here is loaded with new life metaphors: Ecce ab hodierno die renovata es et vivificata es, et manclucabis panem benedictionis, et bibes potum incorruptionis, et unqueris crismate sancto" (p. 103).
460 in wordle withoute end, here and elsewhere, is in the Latin text the liturgical phrase in secula seculorum.
462 Moche-of-Refute. In the Latin text: Multis refugii. According to Kaufmann Kohler, the new title is implicit in her given name, "'Asenath,' which by a transposition of the letters, is made to read 'nasat' (she has fled) - from her idolatry, and which also suggests the idea of 'manos' (refuge) and 'nas' (to flee), also taken as 'refuge"' (II, 174). Kohler sees in this passage the conception of the Shekinah under whose wings the heathen came to take refuge, a concept, he argues, that is crucial to the proselytizing Jewish community in Alexandria. In Christian tradition Asneth's new name is rich in Marian iconography of shelter for those in need or for the chosen people. The phrase under thi wynggis is akin to Mary's sheltering folk under her robe. See John V. Fleming's discussion of the trope in "Anticlerical Satire as Theological Essay: Chaucer's Summoner's Tale," Thalia, 6 (1983), 5-22.
465 The allusion to Asneth's protective walle is affiliated with her new name and wynggis (line 464). The ideal bride knows her privité, maintains her sacred place, and is a wall against corruption. See Song of Songs 8:10, where the chosen one is referred to as a wall with breasts like towers. Compare note to line 256.
472 MS: siketly instead of sikerly.
474 ministreth. MacCracken has difficulty with the word, which begins with seven minims in a row. He thinks the first four letters resemble numr but concludes by offering purchaceth, a word which makes sense of the passage. The Latin text provides the necessary clue, however, as it reads: et ministrat eis in eterna secula (p. 103). If one reads with that clue in mind the word quite clearly is ministreth.
507 palle. Compare OE pael: a costly robe. The poet is translating the Latin word pallium, meaning a covering.
516 MS: to deleted between And and went.
520 Asneth's recurrent mention of hour heritage where her parents work and out of which they come to greet her on various occasions seems to bear typological significance as the barren old place which will be displaced by a new dispensation through Asneth, as the angel directs her to the honeycomb.
521 celer: a storeroom, not necessarily underground, though it could be. In the Cursor Mundi Joseph commands Depe selers to delve (line 4676) to store grain for the famine years. Asneth, like Joseph, is a cellarer, and like the poem's patron, a keeper of the graunge (line 8).
522 MS: sche fond is written and crossed out between honycomb and redy. The scribe's eye appears to have skipped momentarily to 526, then caught the error as he or she approached the rhyme.
537 On the sweet odor of the honeycomb and the eater's breath as signs of divine presence, see Philippians 4:18 on the sweet odor of grace, and 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 on the fragrance of Christ that leads to life. For an extended medieval commentary on sacred odors see St. Bernard's Sermon 22 on fragrance in Song of Songs (Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Song of Songs II, trans. Kilian Walsh [Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications Inc., 1983], III, 14-24.)
543 MS: for is repeated on either side of a hole in the parchment.
545-77 The angel's breaking and serving of the honeycomb to Asneth has strong eucharistic overtones that are subsequently picked up in his making it whole again with the sign of the cross (lines 559-77) and the account of the bees of paradise who make the honeycomb. All this vision stands as a sign to Asneth: as the angel says, al this thu seest?
551 MS: there is a heavily crossed out word prior to remenant.
557 MS: Of is written twice at head of line; the second is expunged by dots.
578 ff. on o nyht bore: "born on the same night," an echo, perhaps, of the Egyptian Pleiades myth. Asneth's desire to save her seven sister servants, born on the same night she was born, implies a kind of pregnancy by the Holy Spirit whereby she becomes fruitful as Mary did at the Annunciation. She would have these seven, born on her birthday, be reborn on her new name day to become assisting pillars for the City of Refuge she has become. See Chaucer's St. Cecile in The Second Nun's Tale, where Valerian, once converted, would immediately share his fruitful condition with his brother Tiburce.
580 This stanza is one line short. Either the second line of the couplet is missing or the poet has ignored the Latin line Et conversa est seponere illam as well as the exigencies of his seven-line stanza. See the note to line 287.
583 MS: four words are stricken after Cité of Refute.
585 MS: The line clearly reads This lord awey thu dihte. Taking his cue from Vincent of Beauvais, who mentions the removal of the table, MacCracken emends the line: This bord awey thu dihte. The Latin source, which MacCracken did not know, in fact accords with his reading: Dixitque angelus Aseneth: "Leva mensam inde.'' It could be that the ME poet writes lord rather than bord, whereby the angel refers to his own lordly departure, for instantly Asneth sees the chariot coming from heaven to carry him away, in which case the emendation is inappropriate. Perhaps the missing line (see note to line 580) could provide the key to the problem.
586 The arrival of the chariot drawn by four horses carries apocalyptic implications, as do the thunder and lightning. See 2 Kings 2:11 where Elijah is carried to heaven in the fiery chariot. Also compare Habakkuk 3:8 on God's chariot of salvation, and Revelation 9 on the horsemen of the Apocalypse.
591 The references to Asneth as her lord's handmaide link her to the Virgin Mary, who refers to herself just prior to Gabriel's departure after the annunciation as God's handmaiden: Ecce ancilla domini (Luke 1:38). See note to line 405.
597 tresance. The Latin source reads: et stetit in ypodromo domus. Her standing in the trace, or gateway, as she awaits Joseph's return is perhaps a sign of the bride's right guardianship of what is hers to guard. See Theresa Coletti's discussion of the trope of Mary and Elizabeth at the gate, "The Meeting at the Gate: Comic Hagiography and Symbol in The Shipman's Tale," Studies in Iconography, 3 (1977), 47-56.
598 MS: spredere, with de expunged.
604 "I am thi handmaide," quod sche. The Latin source reads: Ego sum ancilla. See line 591.
607 MS: to is expunged before unto.
610 MS: I passe is cancelled between schal and the sende. See line 612, which accounts for the eyeskip.
626 MS: scribal correction is made in the midst of another.
638 MS: scribal correction is made in the midst of beheld.
663-67 A short stanza. The third and fifth lines appear to be missing.
667 OED lists the earliest usage of in perpetuity with the meaning of perpetual possession as Hoccleve c. 1406.
669 MS: A expunged between were and of.
670 MS reads: Upon the right side of Joseph Asneth then sette. MacCracken silently emends the line to read: Upon the right side of Joseph Asneth he sette, thus maintaining the Pharaoh's instrumentality throughout the passage.
686 MS: Sche saide sche saide.
687 ff. Asneth's second penitential prayer, like the first, is a pastiche from Psalms, especially penitential ones such as Psalm 51. The recurrent refrain Synned, Lord, I have synned adds a liturgical quality to the prayer. The Latin phrase, peccavi, domine, peccavi, is repeated eleven times in the source, perhaps as a reflection upon the problem, eleven being commonly cited by commentators as a number of sin (both of excess and deficiency).
710-11 Through love, Joseph's beauty draws her to him like a hooked fish. The poet is manipulating a love trope in which the Latin term for love (amor) is derived from the word for hook (hamus), whereby the love is like a hooked fish. See Andreas Cappellanus, De amore I. cap. iii. The figure is found in the Latin source: Joseph . . . comprehendit me sicut piscam per hamum pulcritudine sua.
713 MS: dry is stricken, mistakenly, then drynke is written out.
717 Rubricated A, with face and visor, demarcating the end of the seven years of plenty and the beginning of the last section of the narrative.
721-22 I.e., April 21.
724 MacCracken reads: The father I schal go se. But the MS clearly reads Mi father. In the next line Asneth refers to Jacob as thi fader. Perhaps the point is that through her spiritual rebirth and holy marriage to Joseph Asneth now claims Jacob as her father even as Joseph does, identifying him first as hers, then as his, as she desires to meet him.
727 The Latin source has no equivalent for Jessen welle, only the phrase in terra Gessen. Earlier, for line 723, the Latin source reads in terra Iessen. In Genesis 46:28-34 Goshen is designated as the place where Jacob and Joseph are reunited, but no mention of a well is made, only that it is an area of cattlemen where every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians, which might explain Asneth's earlier scorn of Joseph as herdis sone of Chanan (line 150).
731-32 Israel is Jacob's new, God-given name. See Gen. 35:10.
737 and. MS: ant.
741 If Joseph is "son of God," Asneth is doughter of hiest God, which is all the lineage she needs for her new, important role within the patriarchy.
744 Simeon and Levy are regularly paired in Genesis, as in chapter 34, where they are seen as strong holy men, or in 49:5-6, where Jacob curses them as instruments of cruelty. In Numbers 18 the tribe of Levy is charged with responsibilities of the priesthood.
756 Sichym. The allusion seems to be to Genesis 34, where Simeon and Levi engineer the slaughter of Shechem and his tribe after he has violated Dinah, Joseph's sister, and then attempted to marry her. Jacob and his sons give the would-be husband a dishonest reply, agreeing to the marriage providing that Shechem, his father Hamor, and their fellow citizens be circumcised. On the third day, when the newly circumcised are still sore, Simeon and Levi, the "full brethren" of Dinah, enter the city and kill every male. Pharaoh's son seems to be worried about fooling around with the women of the House of Israel, particularly if they are protected by Simeon and Levi, the full brethren of Joseph.
768 MS: afraye is miswritten, the error crossed out, and then the word completed.
769 and. MS: ant.
800 MacCracken emends the line to read: Lord [what] schal we do? and inexplicably leaves out then.
804 MS miscopying of fair is crossed out then corrected.
824-28 The sense of the ME is unclear. The Latin source reads: Et surrexit filius Pharaonis nocte illa, et custodes patris euis prohibuerunt eum intrare ad patrem suum, dicentes: "Pater tuus caput doluit, et vigilavit tota nocte, et nunc quievit paululum, et dixit nobis quod nulla intret ad me, neque filius meus primogenitus" (p. 113).
827 MS: asketh. I follow MacCracken's emendation: aketh.
831 MS: two letters expunged between that and yt.
846 MS: quicly.
885 ff. The "Epilogue" was so designated by MacCracken. Robbins in the Index of Middle English Verse considers it to be a separate poem, and it is printed as such in Carleton Brown, Religious Lyrics of the XVth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1939), pp. 241-43. There is a space of three lines in the MS between the end of The Storie of Asneth and this lament. There is no spacing between any other parts of the poem, not even the stanzas. But the poem is copied by the same scribe, it is in rhyme royal, it uses comparable meter and alliteration, and it begins with the same rubrications as the Asneth poem does: here, in 885, a rubricated H, with face and cap that extends upward across two of the three lines of spacing. The pronoun usage, idiom, word formation, and spelling practices are the same in both poems. It seems likely to me that the lament is by the same poet, and perhaps is for the same lady he addresses in the Prologue, the lady who asked him to translate the story of Asneth. The affection expressed in the latter stanzas of the lament is quite personal and in keeping with the flirtatious courtesy of the Prologue. Perhaps the lament might be considered to be an after-the-fact epilogue. In the notes to his edition Carleton Brown observes: "The very remarkable personal tone in these verses distinguishes them sharply from other elegies in Middle English" (p. 339).
900 MS: Thi solas.
912 Adam the alderman. The old Adam, who brought sin into the world, thus giving death its universal privilege throughout the wordle.
920 Whos. MS: Wos.
926 MS: whyt. MacCracken emends to wyth.
929 and. MS: an.
930 and. MS: ant.
by: Russell A. Peck (Editor)
As I on hilly halkes logged me late,
Biside ny of a Ladi sone was I war;
La Bele me desired in Englysh to translate
The Latyn of that lady, Asneth Putifar.
And I answered, "Ma Bele, langage I lakke
To parforme youre plesir, for yt ys ful straunge
That broken tuskes shold wel harde nuttis crakke,
And kerve out the kernelis, to glade with yowre graunge; 1
For lame and unlusty now age hath me left;
Mi spiritis are spended, I lakke sapience,
Dulled I am with dotage, my reson ys me reft,
Prived and departed from al eloquence,
So my seson ys passed with langage to jape.
Hit ys not fetis forto see a cowe in a cage -
The desire to make a fool of my lordis ape.
He plesed never lady wel that lakked corage.
For as the oule ys unable to blase the sunnebemys,
So ys the moselynge molle to jaile the rede rose,
And as able ys the asse to Danielis dremys,
As the cukkou with crochetis ony countour to close."
And when daunger deynusly here desire refused,
La Bele ful benignely sayde to me than,
"That servant ys not to blame, but fully excused,
That meketh hym to his maystresse, and doth as he can."
Concluded thus with gentilnesse, I toke on to me the cure,
Asneth storie to translate after my cunnynge,
Fro Latyn into Englysh as God me sendeth oevre.
Gyde this werke, gracious Lord, and graunte it good endynge,
Utterali the Latyn in Englyshe to transpose;
Hit is nuyus, but the sentence I schal sue in trace, 2
And yf ye fynde fautes, grave hem with yowr glose,
I pray yow thus, my maystresse, of yowre good grace.
PHARAO, the famus kynge of Egipt land aboute,
The firste yeer of seven yeeris of plenteuus abundance,
The fifthe day, in the secunde monthe, he sende Joseph oute
To purveie wete for the peple of his obeisance;
And in the ferthe monthe, the eyhtethe day, to make purveance
Joseph cam into the cuntré of Helinpoleos,
And gadered whete of that regioun: nobeli sprange his loos.
And in that cité there was a prince of Pharao the kynges,
That was wondir noble and riche, and of gret prudence,
Sad of conseyl, meke and wise, in alle manere thyngys,
Chief cunseilour to Pharao for his intelligence.
Above alle princes he was preferred for his excellence;
Of Helinpoleos preest Putifar, so men did hym calle,
Honoured in alle Egipt of gret and of smalle.
This prince hadde a dowter dere, Asneth was her name,
A virgine ful specious and semely of stature;
Of eyhtene yeer age sche was, withoute ony blame,
Florishynge in here beauté, the most comely creature
Of Egipt, and alle virgines sche passed in feture,
Not lyke the dowhtres of Egipt in here resemblance,
But assemblynge the Hebrees in colour and cuntenance.
Of stature semeli as Sare, specious as Rebekke,
Fair formed of feturis as semblyng to Rachel,
Her cors was ful comely of hue, hed and nekke.
Cumfortable of cuntenance, hit becam here wel;
Of here soverain beauté al Egipt gan tel,
And praysed here in alle that lande, so noble was here fame,
That bataile among princes childeren was joyned for that dame.
But when that Pharois eldist child, his sone and his heir,
Herde telle of this ladi, to his fadir he wente right
And said, "Grante me to my wyf Asneth the feyr!"
But Pharao denyed hym and answered to the knyght,
"Thu schalt have to thin astate a ladi of more myght,
The kyngis dowter of Moab of noble alliance,
A comeli quene fair and free, evene to thi plesance."
But Asneth that was so feir, soleyn she was withal,
Dispisynge eche man deynusly, and prowd of her corage.
A ful high tour was bild for here, of werk that was rial,
Joynynge to here fadir hous, and above it upon stage
Ten chambres for here wer bild of precious parage.
The firste was fair and large with porferett stonis walled,
Poudred with precious polimites, of diverse colours called.
With carpettis of cloth of gold hit was laid abowte,
And in the wallis here Egipt godis sette in sundry wyse,
Wrouht of goold and silver wel; of hem sche had gret doute,
For everi day to the same sche dide sacrifice.
In the secunde chamber was here atire, of ful riche assise,
Goold, silver, preciouse stonis, and garnementis gaye,
Schetis of silk, and robis fyne of ful riche araye.
The thridde chambir was for stoor, stuffed as ye shul here
Of alle goodis that growe on erthe to mannys sustinance.
The seven chambiris remenant were ordeyned on this manere,
For seven maidenes, that lowly served here with plesance.
Thise were here Egipt eveneldis to here daliance, 3
Fair of face, bright of ble as sterre in the firmament,
With man ne manlichild speke thei in no manere entent.
In the chief chambir of Asneth ther were wyndowys thre,
The firste retardynge to the est, the secunde was sought right,
The thirde lay north upon the strete in swych manere degré
That of alle that passed by sche mihte have a syght.
In this chambir a bed was raid of goold and purpur bright;
Contexit it was with jacintt and purpur bise with alle. 4
Alone lay Asneth in this bed that riche was and rialle.
A gret halle was bild abowte with wallis wonder hie,
With foure yren gatis, spered faste and stronge,
And kept with eyhtene men of armes harneised surely.
Yet ther were planted in the side the halle trees faire behonge
With frutes that were delectable, and fair leves amonge,
And a cundite beside the halle that ran as cristalle cleer,
That moisted the trees lustily and dide to hem gret chere.
The fame of gentil Joseph sprange gretly and aroos
To alle the lordis of Egipt land with gret reverence.
And when he was come into the cuntré of Helinpoleos,
He sende twelve wyse to Putifar preest seiynge in sentence, 5
"Greteth the wel oure sire Joseph, and noteth yn advertence, 6
To dyner at midday to thi hous he cometh for his cumfort,
In the shade fro the sunne to take there his disport."
And Putifar, plesed plesantly, sayd with voise joiynge,
"Blessed be the Lord God of Joseph that my noble sire
Ys comynge toward my hous; to me yt is plesynge."
He called the prevost of ys hous and sayd, "I the require
Make redi a grete feste, and most deynteus to desire,
And governe it goodly, I the charge, in thi beste aray,
For Joseph the stronge man of God schal come to us this day."
Then herde Asneth that her fadir and her modir bothe
Wer come in hervest fro the feeld of here heritage
And sayde, "With joye I schal go and se hem forsothe,"
And hasted here forth busyly, agayns hem in passage,
Clothed comely in bright byse, lykynge to here lynage,
And wrought with goold of jacintt, a girdel of goold therto,
With armillis aboute here handis, and here feet also.
A bie of bright burned goold aboute here nekke was bent
Pyght ful of preciouse stonys, and grave in were alle
The idolis namys of Egipt, plesant to here entent.
And above here hed was sett a riche coronalle,
That constreyned here fair frount, that was so virginalle;
Here hed was covered with terestre, and went forth with plesance
And haileed here fadir and here modir with comely cuntenance.
Ful curteysly sche kyste hem and gretly gan joye,
To se here douhter so honestly in riche ornature.
The deynteuus frutes of the feld to here thei did emploie,
That delicious were and delectable and noble in nature.
The mayde rejosed of the frutes that were ful mature,
Of figes, dates, pomgarnettis and of grapes grete,
Of dove briddes and othir frittes that savery were and swete.
And Putifar sayde to Asneth, "The closett dore the shitte."
She did so, and he here kiste and saide, "My dowter dere,
Novellis newe I schall the telle - tend now to my witte:
The myhty man, Joseph of God, this day wel be here
And he ys governour to save Egipt, by Pharao saunz pere,
A maide clene as ye be, so virgine he ys specialle;
I schal marie yow to hym and make yow his contharalle."
And when Asneth had herd here fadir thise wordis reherse,
With straunge yes on hym sche loked, here color gan disteyne,
And seide to hym, "Why seie ye thus, my worshyp to reverse,
To take me caytyf to a straunger? Of hym I have disdeyne.
A futif he ys, by bargayn bouht, and more I say yow pleine,
That herdis sone of Chanan his lady wold have fuyled. 7
In prison therefore he was put and of al worshyp spuyled.
"And after yt happid that Pharao, as he lay in slepe,
Dreyht was dered in hys dremys, diversely dremynge, 8
And then this Joseph was take out of the prison depe
To rede hym right the redeles of his swevenynge.
The olde wyfis of Egipt han craft in that cunnynge,
And therfore that dreme redere I utterly forsake,
And take me to the kyngis sone, my marie and my make."
AND as Putifar with his douhter stood thus talkynge,
There com on of his meyné and thus to hym saide,
"Joseph ys come to yowre gatis, I do yow to wytynge."
And when he spak of Joseph, anon Asneth the mayde
Ascended to here cenacle; to the wyndow sche here braide,
That lay estward in the chambir of here stately tour,
To se Joseph, for hir fadir of hym spak gret honour.
And Putifar went forth with his wyf and with his kynrede,
To mete with Joseph that gentil juge, as man that was sage;
He commaunded the porteris sone the gatis up to sprede,
And in entred Joseph thanne, upon that terrage,
Standynge on Pharaos secunde chare, statli upon stage,
With foure stronge stoute stedis therinne were drawynge,
That were white as the snow and prowd of here likynge.
The brideles were fineli gild, the trais of noble atire;
Joseph clothed was al in white, covered with purpure palle.
Wrought with braunches of bright byse contexit with goold wire,
A coronite of goold on his heed that riche was and rialle,
And in the cercle therof were sette twelf stonis imperialle,
And above the saide stonis, twelf sterris of goold pure,
With a sceptir in his hand that noble was in nature.
A braunche with beries of olive tree in hand he bar with alle;
Ful plenteus it was of frut, therin was gret fatnesse.
Then entered Joseph in at the gatis, and cam into the halle,
And the peple was voided sone with gret busynesse;
The porteris shitte the gatis faste, with moche hastynesse,
And Putifar, his wyf, and hys kynred, with worthi governance,
Except Asneth, honoured Joseph with lowly obeisaunce.
Joseph descended of his chaar, glorious to beholde,
And tok hem on his right syde, thankynge in noble wyse.
Grett joye there was mad among yong and olde,
Save when Asneth saw Joseph, here sorwe gan arise,
Here spirites failed, here bodi trembled, his noblei to dispise. 9
"Alas," sche saide, "I have misdo, dispisynge this nobil man,
When I called hym herdis sone of the land of Chanan.
"And nowe he cometh as the sunne fro heven, with his bemys
Radiant richeli in his chaar, with glorious excellence,
Passynge peerles and plesant, in rulynge of remys,
With beauté bounté he is braced, and grace of influence.
Allas that ever I dispised hym or made hym resistence;
Godis sone, I wot, is ful noble of alliance,
And the saveour of al Egipt, withoute variance.
"Who was ever gete of a man so fair, so fresh of face?
Or what womman myhte conceive and bere so moche light?
Of most wrecched now I am; forfeted I have hys grace,
When I dispurned hym to my fadir with wordis of unright.
Now wyl I hide me fro his face, and kepe me fro his sight;
And yet nothynge fro hym ys hid, he hath so gret cunnyngge.
But mercy, gret God of Joseph, of my missayngge.
"I wolde my fadir wolde me gife to Joseph in service,
Forever therto I wolde assente to be hys owen servant."
By that had Joseph wasshe his feet and in noble wyse
A boord was laid for hym that was to hym plesant,
For with the Egiptianis in etynge he was not conversant,
But eschued heem in here metis and of hem had drede.
And after he spak to Putifar thus, and to his kynrede:
"What womman was sche that in the wyndow stod
Of the cenacle as I cam in? Sche ys ageyns my herte.
Remeveth her sone out of this hous for marrynge of my mod."
For Joseph dred wanton wymmen, that good men do perverte.
Therfore he saide, "Have here out that I may be querte,"
For he was chast and virgine pure, and clene in continence,
Dredynge with fere the infeccion of femenyn insolence.
And for as moche as the dowtres of the dukys grete
Of Egipt wowed hym ofte tyme to wanton wikkednesse,
Therfore he fledde here felauship, and ofte tyme did hem threte,
Tho voyde hem fro the presence of his pure clennesse;
Alle faire femelis of Egipt he had in hevynesse,
For thei desired to slepe with hym, he was so amiable;
But he dispised hem and here menis - in clennesse he was stable.
And saide, "In the sight of gret God of my fadir Israel
I wyl not synne in no wyse, but have in remembrance
The commaundementis of my fadir, and ever kepe hem wel;
For he bad me and my bretheren, withoute variaunce,
To kepe us clene fro wymmen of straunge alliance,
And saide that here felauship wold man with deth destruye.
Therfore have out the straunge womman, nothynge that sche me nuye." 10
Then seyde Putifar thus: "My lord, the womman that ye saw stande
Ys non alien, but of herinne, and howre dowhtere dere,
Hatynge the cumpanie of alle men; and more, I take an hande,
Sche ys virgine pure and clene. Therfore I pray yow here,
That sche may come to yowr presence and haile yow with good chere."
And Joseph gretly joied then for that Putifar saide
That sche loved no man flesly, but lyved a clene maide.
"That sche ys a maide," quod Joseph, "I love here the more,
And as myn owen sister, ful wel sche pleseth me.
Lett here come anon to me." Here modir went here fore,
And brouhte here to his presence, that maide fair and fre.
Here fadir saide to here ful sone, "Dowhter, I charge the
Salu thi brother, a maide as yow, of dede and purpos pure,
Hatynge alienes and unclene wymmen, as thu in thi nature."
Then Asneth, nurshid nobely, on knes fair hym grette,
And said, "Hail lord, blessed of God, hie hevene Kynge."
And Joseph answered gentilly, hys wordis to her he sette:
"Blisse the maide, the grete God that quikketh al thynge." 11
Than said the fadir, "Go kis thy brother, douhter, on my blessynge."
And Asneth wente to kysse hym after here fadir hestis;
But Joseph streight his right hand out and layd yt on here brestis,
And sayd, "Sothly, unsemynge and unsittynge hit ys
To the man that schulde serve God, and with his mouth Hym blesse,
And ete the blessed brede of lyve, and drinke of His chalis,
Ony womman, alien or straunger for to kesse,
That blysse mamettis with here mouth, and idolis in liknesse
That are bothe dumbe and dede, and ete brede of here bord;
Ony swych womman for to kysse, hit lyketh not God my Lord.
"But the man that worshipeth God, his modir kysse he schal
Hys sister, his wyf, and his kynrede, and make heem good chere."
[Some portion of the poem, probably a whole page, is missing. See note.]
Joseph sayd, "I wil departe upon this same day,
For in this day God bygan alle His creature,
And hereafter eyhte dayes, sothly as I the say,
I schal retourne and dwelle here, and therto do my cure."
Putifar thenne and his kynrede, with humblesse of nurture,
Toke at hym his bien aille, with ful gentil langage,
And so dide Joseph at hym, and tok forth his viage.
And Asneth abood soul alone with seven virgines clene,
And, greved with sorwe, sche wepte sore to the sunne siled west. 12
Bred ne water wolde sche noon, by no maner mene.
When nyht cam, alle thei slept and wente to here rest
Save Asneth, wakynge allone, lay knockynge here brest.
For sche hadde take ful gret drede, and shok with tremblynge.
Sche was constrayned so with sorwe, that caused here mournynge.
And then sche roos fro here bed and cam fro here chamber doun,
The gatis where portere and his men slepte sure,
And to wyndowe faste by sche busked here ful boun,
And there sche drow out a large skyn for here couverture,
And filde the skyn ful of askes, and after by aventure
Sche ascended into here chamber, the doris fast barrynge,
And lay doun on the pavement and syhed with waylynge.
A virgine that Asneth loved most herde of here sobbynge;
Alle sixe virgines here felawys anon sche gan up rere.
Thei wente to the chamber dore, and herde here syhynge.
Thei founde the dore lokked faste, thei myhte hit not unspere;
Werefore thei cried with vois echon, and callid on here there,
And sayde, "Madame, what ailes you, and ys your nuysance?"
Asneth opened not here dore, but sayde in this wyse,
"Mi heed yt aketh grevusly; on bed therfore I lye.
I am so sik in al my membris, that I may not rise
To open the dore. Goth fro me; to your chambres you hie."
Thei passed forth as sche bad, and Asneth privelye
Com to the chamber where here robis pressed were welle,
And drow to here a blacke robe, a cloth of sorwe and deelle
That sche had mad for the deth of here yungger brother.
With this cloth into here chamber sche returned sone,
And schytte the dore with barre and bolt at travers upon othir, 13
And in haste dide of here robe, with ful moche mone,
That riall was with bise and goold ful preciously bygone,
And so sche did here ceynte of goold that riche was of valour,
And did on here the blake robe, the vesture of dolour.
The coronalle that covered her hed, in the pavement sche yt laide;
Here byes als and bracelettis of riche orfeoure, 14
And in the north part of the chamber to a wyndow sche brayde,
And threw hem out by and by, that noble were of feiture;
Here garmentis of goold and girdelis of gay garnetture
And alle here godis of goold and silver, sche tok hem in haste,
With alle the idolis of Egipt, at the wyndow out sche caste.
Sche tok here souper, araid fore here of wyld foul and fisshes,
The carcais als of fatte calfis, and of other sacrifice,
The vesselis for wyne of sacrifice - toupes, cuppis, disshes -
Cast hem out to straungeris houndis, and so did hem dispise
And sayde, "Alas how schod my houndis ete in ony wyse,
Of this souper of sacrifice, of fals maumettrie?
I take yt therfore to straungeris houndis, and forsake al ydolatrie."
And after Asneth askes tok and strewed hem in and oute
Upon the pavement, and bond her leendis with saccloth for penance,
And did an here heve upon here bodi, and bette here breste aboute 15
With bothe handis, and wepte sore for here ignorance,
And laide here doun upon the askes, with teris of repentance,
Sobbyn sore with moche sorwe, sett on every side,
Al the nyth contynuynge so, til the morwe tyde.
In the mornynge when she roos, with fen sche was fuyled,
That with the teris and askes were medled so in same,
Sche fil agayn flatt on here face, here body so sche spuyled,
And lay there til hit was nyht, Asneth by here name.
So sche meked here by seven daies, that noble worthi dame;
The eyhte day the cokkys crew, the day bygan to sprynge,
The mayde a lytel lefte up here heed, ful faynt of fastynge.
After she roos on here knees, feble sche was and feynt,
And lifte up here heed a lite, and syhed wondir sore.
The maide was meked, and made megre, and with sorwe atteynt 16
To a wyndow that lay estwarde sche dressed here therfore,
And sette here doun undir yt, and saide, "Ha Lord! Thyn ore!
What schal I do? Were may I go? Were schal I have refute?
Desolate maide and deserte, of cumfort destitute.
"Mi fadir, my modir, and my kyn, thei wel me have in hate,
For I have disparplid al here goodis, and cast hem underfote,
And forsake me for here douhter, and with me debate.
Who may delivere fro this daunger? My balis who may bote?
Yett moreover in my mynde with sorwe I marke and note,
That al my lovers that me wowed, I hated in alle wyse;
Now may thei glade on my myschief, and utterly me dispise. 17
"But the heyhe Lord God of Joseph, almyhti in His trone,
He ys jelous upon His peple, hatynge al idolatrie.
Therfore, dredful Lord, to The now make I my mone,
For I have worshiped fals godis, and mortal mamettrie;
Of here sacrifices I have ete; mercy therfore I crie,
For the Lord God of Hebreis ys trewe and mercyable,
Longe abydynge, mylde and meke, on hem that be unstable.
"He repreveth no maner man that turneth Hym with penance.
Therfore I wil returne to Hym and fro me synne chace;
I wil forsake al my synnes, and after to His plesance
Yete out my praieres in His siht, and to His love me brace.
And yf that I be repentant, He wil take me to grace,
For He is protectour and defendour of fadirles children alle.
Therfore to His grete mercy I schal clepe and calle."
And than sche roos out of the place ther sche satt, and stood
To the wyndowys that to the est parties hadde here regard,
And saide, "Lord God of al rightful, that madest land and flood,
That inspirest al wysdam in hertis that ben hard,
And makyst thynggis invisible apparent afterward,
That hast enhanced heven an high and stablyd yt above the wyndes,
And foundid land upon the wateris as creatour to al kyndes,
"That hast made the stonis grete and wateris of hyhe depnesse,
Conservynge kyndly Thi preceptis, and to Thi vois obeisant:
Thei wyl nawt offende Thi maundementis, for in sekirnesse
To al lyvynge creatures Thi word ys lyf plesant;
Therfore I flute, Lord, to The, Thyn humble suppliant,
Cryinge to The with my prayere in Thyn hihe presence,
Confessynge to The my grete synnes, and schewe The my offence.
"Synnynge, Lord, I have synned ful gretly in Thi syght,
And worsheped idolis and maumettis agayns Thi magesté;
Therfore to open my mouth to The, unworthy I am by right.
O Lord God, summe tyme I was a proud lay of degré,
Preferrid in richesse above alle other; in worship gret plenté
I hadde, but ful desolate and destitute I am forsake.
Werefore, Lord, I fle to The; to Thi mercy I me betake.
"And as the infaunt, that sothly soketh his modir breste,
For drede fleeth to the fadyr, to have of hym socoure,
So, Lord, I sprede out my handis: to The ys al my treste;
Take me, Lord, and calle me to The, and helpe me with Thi favoure,
For the develle, that wod lyoun, will ravesshe me with erroure,
For he is fadir of fals godis of al Egipt land,
But I have cast hem fro me, and destruyed hem with my hand.
"Delivere me, Lord, fro his powere and fro his mouth me drawe,
Lest on happe he ravesshe me and sle me, that grett whale
That ys acursyd eternally, by the sentence of the lawe;
Receyve me, Lord, for fadir and modir refuse me with bale,
And seyn, 'Asneth is not oure douhter,' to grete and to smale,
'For sche hath destruyed oure godis of goold, and gyfe hem in conculcacioun, 18
To alle men passynge by the way in gret abhominacioun.'
"Werefore I fle to The, my God, that art of myhtes most:
Delivere me, and spare me, Lord; I have synned by ignorance
When I called Thi child Joseph, in despite with my goost,
The heerdis sone of Chanan, in pride of my bobaunce;
And now he is above alle men, withoute variaunce,
For he The knoweth for on God, veray Lord and trewe.
Therfore Thu hast gyfe witt to hym, wisdam and vertue.
"Now, good Lord, take me to hym to be his handmaide,
And I schal wassche louly hys feet; subdue me to his servage,
Lernynge the knowlych of veray God." And when sche thus had said,
The sterre Lucifer in the est shewed his visage,
And therof Asneth was ful glad, and seide in here langage,
"Trowest not God hath my prayer herd? The message - lo! - of lyht 19
Is rise up!" And sodeynly sche saw a selcouth siht.
Sche saw faste by the sterre how hevene partyd in two,
And a wondirful gret liht lemed out in that stede,
And Asneth ferd fel on here face, on the askes tho,
And a man com doun fro hevene, and stood upon here heed,
Callynge Asneth by here name; sche answered not for dred,
And he called here the secounde tyme, and saide, "Asneth! Asneth!"
Then sche answered, "Lo, my Lord," and therwith sche took breth,
And saide, "Tell me who thu art," and he answered in haste,
"I am a prince of Godis hous, and of Hys hevenly ost.
Arise, and stand on thi feet, and be nothynge agast,
And my wordis schal speke to the to cumfort of thi gost."
Sche lyfte then here heed and saw a man like almost
Joseph, with scepter, stole, and coroune, his cheer as lyhtyng leem, 20
And his yes bright shynynge as doth the sunne beem.
The heris of hys heed, thei were as flame of fire brennynge,
And Asneth, frayd of the syhte, fel to his feet for fere,
In so moche that al here membris were meved with tremblynge.
And the aungel saide thenne, "Asneth, nothinge the dere;
Be thu cumforted, and rise up, and on thi feet the rere,
And [I] schal speke my wordis to the after myn entent."
And Asneth roos upon here feet at his commaundement.
The aungel saide to Asneth, "Do of thi blak haire,
And thi garnement of drede, the saccloth, do away;
Smyte the askes fro thi heed, and washe thi face faire,
And thi handis with rennynge water; do on thi riche aray,
Thi lynnen robe, untouched newe, that glorious ys and gay,
And gird the with the double ceynt of thi virginité,
And then com to me agayn, and I schal speke to the."
Asneth hasted forth anon and did as he desired,
And caste on the white robe with precious parementis,
With double ceynt gird aboute, and diversly atired
Above the brestis, and on the lendis gird on here garnementis,
A lynen newe theustre vail with riche ornamentis;
Here hed was voluped with that vail, for virginal excellence,
And returned to the aungel, and stood in his presence.
The aungel saide, "Lai don thi vail; discovere thi hed in haste.
Why dost thu thus? Thu art maide, thin heed is fair to se,
As the heed of a yonglynge." The vail away sche caste.
The aungel said, "Asneth, maide, of good chere thu be,
Oure Lord hath herd thi prayer and thi confession fre;
Thi fast he saw of seven dayes, and thi lou mekynge,
And the fen, mad of the askes and of gret terynge.
"Be glad, virgine, for thi name ys write in the book of lif,
And schal never be don away, but ay in remembrance.
Lo fro this day thu art renuwed and quicked fro al strif,
And thu schalt ete of blessynge bred and have drinke of plesance;
Thu schalt be enoynted with holi creme of glorious purveance.
And, more, I gif the into wyf to Joseph my dere frend,
And Joseph into thi spouse in wordle withoute end.
"And thi name schal be called Asneth no more,
But hit schal be Moche-of-Refute, and so men schul the calle,
For peple schul turne to God by the, I warne the bifore,
And undir thi wynggis thei schul be covered, tristynge in God alle,
And attendynge to the hiest God schul be kept in thi walle,
For thi penaunce hath prayd to Hym for the every hour,
And upon alle other penantes, in Godis name with dolour.
"For penaunce ys the dere douhter of hiest God in hevene,
And entendynge upon maidenes and loveth you gretly,
And praieth for you every hour to God, I telle the evene,
And for alle repentant in Godis hie name mekly.
Yt maketh maidenes to reste in hevene in place arayd sikerly,
And renoveleth virgines clene to Goddis dere blessynge,
And ministreth hem joye and blisse in wordlis withoute endynge.
"Penaunce ys a maide good, glad, and mesurable.
The hiest God hath here in lond, his angelis in reverence,
I love here wel. Now schal I go withoute ony fable,
To Joseph and telle of the the wordis of my sentence,
And he schal come this dai to the and see thyn excellence,
And with joye love the well; thi spouse be he schalle,
And wedded wyf to hym in wordlis eternalle.
"And now here me, Asneth, maide: do on thi garnementis
Of weddynge now in thi chambre, and atire the with alle,
And enbelise thi bright beauté, with preciouse ornamentis,
And go forth to mete Joseph, thi spouse specialle.
For he schal come and se the today, in vesture imperialle."
And after he had endyd his word, Asneth with consolacion
Worshiped hym don on the erthe, and said in comendacyon,
"Blessed be thi God most hiest, that thus the hath sent,
And delivered me fro derknesse and depnesse of my bale;
Blessed ever be His name, Lord God omnipotent."
And to the angel afterward thise wordis sho gan availe:
"What is thi name? Tel me sone, and give yt me in tale,
That I mai worship and thanke the, my lord and my frend,
And glorifie thi grete name, in wordle without ende."
The angel saide, "My name is write in Godis book in heven,
With Godis fynger afore al othir in the bokys bygynnynge.
For I am the Prince of Godis Hous, and so I tel the even,
That al that writen is in that boke, hit passed mannys spekynge;
Inconvenient therfore yt ys, to eche man unsyttynge,
To commune or to here of hem that are celestialle,
For thei be gret fro mannys mynde, and wonderfull with alle."
Thenne seide Asneth, "Good lord, lat me fynde grace
That I mai knowe that yt be do that thu hast said to me.
Gyf thyn handmaide leve to speke in presence of thi face."
The angel said, "Spek on, Asneth, thi bone I graunte the."
And sche tok hym by the palle, and said with vois ful free,
"I pray the, lord, to sitte a while upon this bed so clene,
For man ne womman satt never theron by no maner mene,
"And I schall make a bord redy, and offre to your plesir
Breed and wyn fro my celer, ful swete and redolent;
And when ye have ete and drunke then aftir your desire,
Ye mai folwe forth your way aftir your entent."
The aungel saide, "Bringe yt sone, therto I consent."
And Asneth sette a newe bord with business and haste,
And went to fette breed and wyne plesant to his taste.
The aungel saide, "A honycombe bringe thu me ful sone,"
And for sche had non redy sche stood al dismaid.
Sche saide, "I schal send a chyld into the feeld anone
Of hour heritage to fette on, and sone yt schal be rayd."
"Entre into thi celer," the aungel to here saide,
"And thu schalt fynde an honycomb redy on the bord,
Take and brynge yt to me." And Asneth sayd, "My lord,
Knowyth wel ther is non, in no maner of wyse."
"Entre thi celer," quod the aungel, "and on ther schalt thu fynde."
Sche entred in; an honycomb sche fond of a gret assise,
Also white as the snowe, clene and pure in kynde,
Of odour swete. And Asneth mervayled in her mynde,
And said, "Trowest not that of this comb that this man hath ete, 21
For the flavour ys as the breeth of his mouth so swete?"
And annon sche tok the comb and afore hym sette.
The angel said, "Whi saidest thu ther was non in thi celer?
Now hast thu brouht a ful fair on, that was in thi recette."
And Asneth with gret drede saide in this manere,
"Lord, non swych honycomb in governance hadde I there,
But by commaundement of thi mouth, so yt was do,
For the odour therof ys lik the breth of thi mouth also."
And the aungel smyled then, with lauhynge cuntenance,
For the wisdam of Asneth, upon here intelligence.
He called here unto hym, his right hand he did hance
Upon here heed. Sche loked on hym with shame and reverence;
He gaf here then hys benison of gracious influence.
He saide to here, "Thu art blessed, for thu hast left the fay
Of alle maner fals ydolys, and belevist in God veray.
"And blessed be thei that come to God in holy penance,
For thei schul ete of this comb, that bees made of Paradise,
Of the dew of rosis there, that are of gret plesance.
The angelis of God schul ete also this comb of prise,
And who that eteth of the same schal never dye in no wise."
After he brak it and ete a part of that hony swete;
The remenant he putte in Asneth mouth and bad here to ete.
The aungel saide, "Lo, thu hast ete of the bred of lyf,
And thu art enoynted with holi creme, and thi flesh fro this day
Schal be renewed, and thi bonys cured from al strif,
And thi vertu nevere faile; the sothe now I the say.
Thy juvente schal have non age, thi beauté schal laste ay.
Of alle that fle to oure Lordis name, God and Hevene Kynge,
Thu schalt be as cité bild of joye, withoute endynge."
He touched the comb broke with his hand: hool it was anone;
He touched the hony with hys fynger upon the este partie,
He drow his fynger ageyn to hym to the west part sone,
And the way of his fynger was mad al blodi.
He drow his fynger theron fro the north to the sowth surly;
The way of hys fynger ther was turned into blood,
And Asneth biheld al that he did; in his lift side sche stood.
The aungel saide, "Upon the comb behold and take hede,"
And bees come out therof ful fele, and white as the snow;
Here wynges were of purpre hewe; aboute here thei yede
And wrouhte a honycomb in here handis and ete therof inow.
The aungel saide then to the bees as I schal tel yow:
"Go ye now into your place." Thei wente toward the est,
Into paradis. The angel said, "Asneth, al this thu seest?"
She answered, "Ye, my lord." The aungel saide thenne,
"So my wordis schul be fulfild that I have said to the."
The comb he touched with his hand, and fire bygan to brenne,
And consumed the comb anon, not hurtynge bord ne tre.
The fragrant odour of that brennynge yt was swete and fre.
Asneth saide, "I have seven maidenes on o nyht bore
With me; as my sisteres I love hem all therfore.
"To blesse hem as thu hast me afore the I hem calle."
"Calle on," he saide. Sche called sone; thei com to his presence.
The aungel seide, "Almyhti God Lord blesse you alle,
Be ye to the Cité of Refute seven pileris in assistence,
And alle dwellynge in that cité schul reste on your prudence."
The aungel saide to Asneth then, "This bord awey thu dihte."
[See note on the missing line.]
Sche turned and saw lik a char with foure hors passynge
In heven toward the est lik flame of fire reed,
The hors assemblinge to the flame of thunder leihtnynge;
Sche saw the aungel upon the char standynge in that steed.
That he was aungel sche was unknowe; therfore sche said with dreed,
"Alas! I have spoke with Godis aungel. Have mercy on thi handmaide,
For the wordis I spak in thi presence, in ignorance I hem saide."
And Asneth yet thus spekynge, a yonge man cam ful faste
Of the servantes of Putifaris, and to here he saide,
"Joseph the stronge man of God cometh here in haste.
His messanger ys at the gate." And Asneth forth sche braide
And stood aside in a tresance: sche was ful wel apaide.
Joseph entred into halle. The gatis men did sprere
And shitte out alle straungeris that no man schul hym dere.
And Asneth wente to mete Joseph, out of the tresance goynge.
Joseph saw here and gan to wonder upon beauté briht,
For sche was chaunged and enbelised by the angelis communynge;
And Joseph saide, "Who art thu? Telle me anon riht."
"I am thi handmaide," quod sche, "to thi commaundement diht,
And alle mamettis I have do away, and utterli forsake;
The aungel of God fedde me today and hevenly fode me take,
"And saide, 'I have gyfe the today wyf unto Joseph,
And he schal be thi spouse in the wordle withoute ende;
And saide my name schulde no more be called Asneth,
But the Cité of Refute, and thi Lord God schal the sende
Moche peple that thu schalt turne and to Almyhty God wende.'
He saide me more, 'To Joseph forth now schal I passe,
And spake thise wordis in his eris, of the more and lasse.'
"Now thu knowyst, my lord Joseph, yf the aungel cam to the,
And spoke to the of me the wordis that I shewe."
Then Joseph sayde, "Of hiest God, Asneth, blessed thu be,
And thi name, in kynredis blessed, of kynredes schal renewe,
For God of hevene loved the and send me his angel trewe,
And spake of the to me thise wordis; and therfore, maide, com ner.
What ys the cause thu standist fro me now so fer?"
And Joseph streihte out his hand, and loveli gan her brace.
Thei kiste then bothe in same with cuntenance excellent.
Then saide sche, "My lord Joseph, entre into oure place."
Sche ladde him in by the right hand. Here fadir was absent.
Sche broughte water to wasse his feet, with ful trewe entent,
And he ashed another maide to whasshe ys feet there.
And Asneth saide, "I schal hem wasshe, ye ar my lord dere.
"Fro hennys forth I am thin awne, thi handmaid and thi thralle.
Whi ashest thu anothir maide to wasshe thi feet here?
Thi feet ar myn owne feet, thi handdis also with alle,
And thi soule ys my soule: thu are thn myn owen fere."
Sche constreyned hym and weeshe hys feet with ful good chere.
And he beheld here fair handis: of beauté ther was no misse.
He tok here by the right hand and lovely did here kysse.
He made here then sitte by hym upon his right hand;
Here fadir, here modir, and here kynred com out of the feld
Of here heritage, and wondringe stil thei gan stande.
The glorious beauté of here douhter mervaillus thei beheld.
Thei saw here sitte with Joseph; reverence to hym thei yeld.
More thei mervailed that sche wered on the stole of here weddynge. 22
And after thei ete and drunke togedir, gretly enjoynge,
Then saide Putifar to Joseph, "Tomorwe I schal calle
Alle the governouris of Pharao and princes of Egipt lande,
And make espousailes unto you; my douhter take thu schalle
Unto thi wyf." Then saide Joseph, "Thu schalt understande:
I schal go myself tomorwe, and that werke take on hande,
And speke to Pharao of Egipt king, my fadir of gret honour;
Of al his land he hath me mad chief prince and governour.
"And I schal speke in his eris of Asneth plesantly,
And he schal yeve here me to wyf with solempnité."
Then said Putifar, "Go forth with pees ful obeisantly."
But with Putifar he dwelled al nyght with tranquillité,
And with Asneth sclepte he not, but said in verité
"Hit is no right that a man that wirshipeth God an hihe
Afore his espousailes in no wyse with his wyf to lye."
Joseph ros up tymely, to kynge Pharao he goos,
And said, "Graunte me to wyf Asneth, the maide reverent,
The douhter of preest Putifar of Olinpoleos."
And Pharao saide, "To the, Joseph, the maide is congruent,
For sche is a maide clene as thu. Tak to here to thin entent.
Be sche to the thi dere spouse in wordle everlastynge."
And Pharao send to Putifar his douhter forth to bringe.
Afore Pharao Asneth stood in his hihe presence;
And he wonderinge on here beauté: "Endure with the for ay; 23
The rightful God of Joseph hath chose the his spouse today.
And Joseph is called the sone of God of hih dignité,
And thu schalt be called his owen spouse in perpetuité."
Pharao then tok hem bothe and here hedis frette
With crounys of pure gold, that riche were of atire,
Upon the right side of Joseph Asneth then sette,
And laide his handis on here hedis and saide in his desire.
"Blesse you now the Lord God of the hevenly empire,
And fulfille you eternally with glorie, joye, and blisse."
And after turned hem mouth to mouth, and togedir did hem kysse. 24
And after Pharao dide the weddynggys to be solempnised,
Callynge alle princes and governours of Egipt land therto,
A rial feste by seven dayes duringe was devised,
And Pharao declaret a newe decree to alle hys land also,
Saiyngge, "What man that ony werke ever hereafter do
In the day that Joseph and Asneth were wedded inne,
Thei schul dye in grevus deth for that gret synne."
And after Joseph knewe his wyf and sche conceived sone,
And bar Manasses and Effraim - this was here procreacion.
And after Asneth seurly to God sche mad here mone,
Remembringe here olde synne by privé meditacion,
And after mournynge thus sche saide, with gret lamentacion,
"Lord, synned I have synned, moche synned in Thi presence,
Asneth, dowhter of Putifar, pardone myn offence.
"Most foulest in my fadir hous I was of governance,
A maide enhansed and right proud, I have synned, Lord, to The,
Fals godis herid withoute nombre to my daliance,
And ete bred of her sacrifice so synned in that degré;
Synned, Lord, I have synned in thi sihte fre,
And ete of bord of pestilence, bred that is straunglinge,
And drunke of the chalis of defaute, in thi presence synnynge.
"And of The, Lord God of hevene, I was ignoraunt,
Not tristinge in the hihe God that art lyf eternalle.
I have synned, Lord, in Thi presence, my synne is displiant,
For I triste on my richesse and my beauté withalle.
I have synned, Lord, lift up with pride, confesse so I schalle:
I was dispisynge every man on erthe with errour;
There stood never man in my presence that I gaf favor.
"Alle my woweris I dispised; of hem I hadde disdeyn.
Synned, Lord, I have synned in presence of Thi face,
For I saide there was no prince, with glorie that was veyn,
That the girdel of my maydenhed was worthi to unbrace.
I willed to marie the kyngis sone, so proud was my trace.
Synnynge, Lord, I have synned contynuynge in Thi presence,
Til Joseph the myghty man of God tok me with excellence;
"For as the fyssh by the hook ys take by distresse,
So ys beauté drow me to hym by vertuus provydence,
And ladde me to Almighty God with gret gentynesse,
And did me taste of the drynke of the eternal sapience.
And now I am mad his conthorall by his advertence
Ay to dwelle an byde with hym in wordle withoute ende.
Synned, Lord, I have synned; remission thu me sende."
AND after seven yeer were passed of plenteuus abundance
Ther bygunne seven yeer of hunger scars and chere,
And Jacob herde of Joseph, and with gret plesance,
He com into Egipt land with his kynrede in fere,
In the secunde monthe the secunde yeer when vitaile was dere,
The on and twenti day of the monthe, Israell com don then
And descended with his kynred into the land of Jessen.
Then saide Asneth to Joseph, "Mi fadir I schal go se,
For a god he is to me, thi fader Israel."
Joseph saide, "To se hym com now forth with me,"
And thei come to Jacob, to the land of Jessen welle.
And Joseph bretheren mette hem with reverence and revelle;
Thei wirshiped hym, don upon the erthe louely obeyinge,
Thei entred into Jacob where was his loggynge.
Israel was sittynge on his bed, old and of gret age;
Asneth saw hym and mervailed for Jacob was good in sight,
Of hys age ful reverent, as youthe of fair parage,
His heed white as the snow, his berd to the brest right
Al white was sittynge, and his yees schynyng as liht.
Hys synewis, schuldres, and his armes were stable and vailant,
His knes, schynys, and his feet like to a geaunt.
And Asneth salued hym on here knes with humble contenance;
Then said Jacob to Joseph, "My sone, thy wyf this is?"
He said, "Ye." Than Jacob this wordis to here gan vance:
"Blessed be thu, doughter of hiest God," and after he did here kys.
And after thei ete and drunke togedir with gret joy and blys,
And thenne Joseph and Asneth to here hous thei wente
And the bretheren of Joseph afore hem were sente.
In the right side of Asneth was Levy in assistence,
And Symeon the left parte wente by and by,
And Asneth loved Levy wel for hys intelligence.
And after, as sche in Pharaois hous walked plesauntly,
Pharaois sone beheld here as he loked an hy,
That was his first bygeten child, his sone and his heir.
Anon he brente on here for love, her beauté was so feir.
Wherfore he languyshid for love, and nyste what to do.
But sone he sente messagers to Symeon and Levi,
That were the bretheren of Joseph, and thus said hem to:
"I knowe wel that ye are men stronge and mihty,
And meny a Sichym ye han slayn with swerd manfully,
And now I pray you tendrly for to helpe me:
I schal you gife goold and silver and men gret plenté;
"Servantis, assis, and chamelis to youre lote schal falle.
I warne you that to your brother I have gret envye,
For he hath Asneth to his wyf, ordeyned me first of alle.25
Therfore assenteth now to me: on my swerd schal he dye;
Asneth to spouse then schal I have I tel you trulye.
Then schal I take you as my brethere tristy and trewe;
And if ye dispise my cunseil, sore ye schul yt rewe.
"For my swerd ageyns you then schal I araye."
Then spak Levi unto hym with riht bolde chere,
"Wherto speketh my lord thise wordis us to afraye?
We are men that worship God, and oure fadir dere
Ys the child of hie God and our brother in al manere,
Ys dredynge gretly God; thi word hou schul we do
To synne so in Godis presence and oure fadris also?
"Therefore, heer now my wordis, and do not thyn entent,
For howre brother tok here not of his owen acceptance,
But by the lawe of thi fadir and of his consent;
And yf thu dwelle in thi purpoos of wykked purveance,
Oure swerdis, lo, in oure handis wyth the in variance,
In thi presence with oure brother ful redi for to dye."
And when Pharaois sone herd this, he dred hem gretlye.
Then Symeon and Levi went out fro his presence,
And Pharaois sone was replete with sorwe, drede, and ire.
To injure he dradde Joseph for his gret prudence;
Yet on the beauté of Asneth his corage was afire.
His meyné then saide to hym, to plesance of his desire,
"Lo, the sonys of handmaides to Rachell and to Lye,
Of Bale and of Zelphe, to Joseph have envye;
"Thei wil be redy to do thi wil." And forth thei were fett,
And Pharaois sone unto hym then did hem calle,
And saide, "Lo, here lyf and deth afore your face ys fett. 26
Taketh the lyf and not the deth, I cunseyl you withal.
I herde Joseph sey to my fadyr that ye wer children thral
'And not my bretheren. I abyde hem utterly to destruye
After the deth of my fadir and al here generacion nuye;
"'Thei schul never enherite with us, the sonis of servage.
Thise schalde me to the Ismalitis; I schal yelde hem malice,
That thei maligned ageyns me in here gret outrage.'
My fadyr Pharao preised hym and said that he was wyse,
And saide, 'I schal werke with the after thi devyse."'
And after thei hadde herde thise wordis of the sone of Pharao,
Thei said, troubled gretly, "Then, Lord, schal we do?"
He saide, "My fadir Pharao I schal sle this nyht,
For he is as fadir to Joseph and loveth hym gretly,
And ye youre brother Joseph to deth ye schul dyht.
Then schal I have Asneth to wyf, that fair is and lovely,
And ye shul have part of myn heritage as my brether tristy.
Then saide the bretheren Gad and Dan, "Thi men, lord, we be;
What thu cumaundis, hit schal be do and more, we telle the.
"We herde Joseph to Asneth saie, 'Tomorwe thu schal go
Into felde of howere heritage, for now is hervest seson,'
And commaundet six hundred men to passe with here also.
Commaunde us, lord, mo fihtynge men that we may by reson
Go afore hem on the nyht and leye a bushement with treson,
Bi the brook and hide us there in the spers of the redis,
And tak with the fyve hundred archeris whatsoever nedis,
"And go afore us a good way, fert out in lengthe;
And Asneth withynne our bushement then come schalle,
And we schulle sle here men echon, that be with here by strenthe,
And Asneth wil fle on here char and in oure handis falle.
Thu schalt parfourme then thi wil and thi desires alle,
Then schul we Joseph and hys children sle byfore thi ye."
When Pharaois sone thise wordis herde, he enjoyed gretlye,
And sende to hem two thousand that armed were briht.
Thei wente and hidde hem by the broke in the reed slily,
And Pharaois sone roos hym upon the same nyht,
And com to his fadir chamber to entre in prively.
His fadir wacche forbad hit hym, and told the cause why:
"Thi fadir hed of wacche it aketh and now reste hath take; 27
He forbad entré to every man, that non schulde hym wake."
And when he herde thise wordis he departed than,
And toke five hundred archiris; afore the gate he wente,
After that that yt was spoke bothe by Gad and Dan. 28
And Asneth aros tymely, to Joseph sche here mente:
"I go to the feld of oure heritage after thyn entente,
But sory dredeth now my soule that we schul parted be."
Joseph said, "Dred nothynge, for God is with the
And schal keep the fro al disese, as the appel of the ye,
For I schal go and gif bred to the land aboute."
And bothe thenne thei toke here way, and Asneth cam bye
Upon the brook, and six hundred men with here in a route.
And sodeynly the busment brake on hem a shoute,
And slowe hem ful cruelly in the egge of the swerde,
And Benjamyn fledde with Asneth on here char aferd.
A man ther scaped away, that was with Asneth there,
And told Levi and his brother in haste of the afrai.
Men of armes thei tok forth, hors, harneis, and geer,
And after Asneth quickly thei folwed on the way,
And sone in haste thei come there that the busment lay,
And fille on hem sodeinly, and gaf hem dethis wounde.
Gad and Dan entred the redis and hid hem that stounde.
Benjamyn, abydynge with Asneth, saw Pharaois sone com on
To sette hand upon here; therof he was war.
In the lift side of the sculle he smote hym with a ston,
That fro his hors with the same to the grounde he hym bar;
As good as ded there he lay, he gaf hym swych a scar.
His horsmen and archeris when thei saw that siht,
Thei fledde to the redis and hidde hem there right.
When Benjamyn saw Symeon and Levi comynge
He was glad, and gaf Asneth wordis of good chere.
And after thei assembled ful gretly enjoynge,
Askynge after Gad and Dan, yf thei sawe hem there,
Willynge to have slayn hem with purpose entere;
But Asneth saw thei souhte her brether to sle hem in rage,
And myldely with softe wordis her wrathe sche gan swage.
"Ye schal not now do this thynge; youre brothere thei be,
Of the kynde of youre fadir, and yf ye slowe hem so,
Ye schulde be repref to alle men, tristeth to me,
And make your fadir sori and sette his herte in wo."
And when sche hadde thus said, her ire swaged tho,
Aftir thei tok up Pharaois sone, the blood fro hym wasshynge,
And sette hym on a hors, his wondis softe byndynge.
Then thei laidede hym to hys fadir, and told hym more and myn.
Pharao thanked gretly God that he was not slayn.
The thridde day he was ded by the wounde of Benjamin,
And Pharao sorwed sore for hym and gretly did complayn,
And that sorwe with sikenesse so sore gan hym constrayn
That Pharao dide in the age of nynty and nyne yeer,
Levynge his kingdam to Joseph that was hym leef and deer.
Joseph regned nobeli there wyth gret prosperité
Fourty yeer and eyhte, ful graciously governynge,
And after he gaf his diademe to Pharaois sone fre,
That was at his fadir deth at the brest soukynge.
And Joseph was called in Egipt fadir to the kynge.
Thus endeth the storie of Asneth to youre remembrance.
My rude translacion I pray you tak hit with plesance.
Ha, cruell deeth! contrarious to creatures in kynde,
Ha, deeth dispitous! Who may advertise
Thi mourther, thi malice? Who may have in mende
The myschief that to mankynde thu dost excercise?
Thi rigour, thi rancour, who may devyse?
The matynge of thi miserie no man may endure,
For thi chekkes conclude everi creature.
Thu art to alle creatures hidous to beholde -
Thu pyllour! thu pirate! - cesse of thi prise.
Thi felonye ys multiplied in so many folde
That al the wordle generally of the, deth, agrise.
Stynt of thi malice, for wyth thy malgyse
Lovers ful lykynge and lusty in game
Thu marrest with myschief, and makest hem lame.
Thu tyraunt untemperat, with thi tene and treson,
The solas of soveraignes thu dost silvestrise,
And ladies likynge thu sleest out of seson,
And revest hem here ryalté with thi reprise.
Thyn insaciable malice who may acomplise,
When that loveli ladies thu leyest so lowe
And here bright beauté thu blemshest in a throwe?
For thi malice me semeth reames sholde arise,
To destruye cruell deeth, and do hym of dawe.
But oon wynked on me then: "War!" quod the wyse,
And cesse of thi sentence, for symple is thi sawe;
For deeth universelly the wordle schal vengyse;
So ys the tyraunt tytled to that victorie,
By Adam the alderman of old auncetrie."
Then sorwed I that sentence recovered by assyse,
And mourned for my maystresse here marred in molde.
There ys countour ne clerk bounté can decyse;
In vertu here wommanhed was volupid many folde -
Discreet, devoute, diligent. Deeth, thu mayst agrise
To represse so noble, so gentille a creature,
In tendir age untymely agayn the ordir of nature.
O myghty Lord, Whos goodnesse never schal fynyse,
Have mercy on the soule of my dere maistresse.
The fendis power fro that soule chare and chastise.
Delivere here, gracious Lord, fro peyne and distresse.
Endowe here in Thi place of plesaunt paradise,
And receyve here, blyssed Lord, upon Thi right side,
In Thy blysse eternally wyth The to abyde.
Of lordis lyne and lynage sche was: here sche lyse,
Bounteuus, benigne, enbleshed with beauté,
Sage, softe, and sobre, and gentylle in al wyse,
Florishynge and fecunde with femenyn beauté,
Meke, mylde, and merciful, of pité sche bar the prise.
Comely, kynde, and curteis, in nobleye of nurture,
Vernant in alle vertu, plesaunt and demure.
recesses recently lodged myself; (see note)
Near beside; aware
The Lovely Lady
My Lovely Woman; lack; (see note)
taken from me
season; to dally
suitable; cow/chough; (see note)
burrowing mole; cast forth; (see note)
quarternotes; duet; end
resistence haughtily her
faults; smooth them out; (see note)
procure wheat; jurisdiction
eighth; inventory; (see note)
lovely; becoming; (see note)
surpassed; bodily form
daughters; appearance; (see note)
Sarah; lovely; (see note)
Pleasing; it became her
did talk; (see note)
noble; well-matched to thy
different from others; (see note)
tower; royal; (see note)
Sprinkled; (see note)
remaining; (see note)
countenance as stars
male youth spoke
east; faced south
iron; securely locked
guarded; armored; (see note)
reached; (see note)
steward of his; you
to meet them
linen; appropriate to
bracelets; (see note)
chain-link neckpiece; (see note)
a veil; (see note)
[they] did rejoice
their; splendidly; decor
birds; fruits; savory
marry; spouse; (see note)
honor to diminish
captive; disdain; (see note)
fugitive; (see note)
defiled; (see note)
advise; riddles; dreaming
husband; mate; (see note)
came one; household
let me inform you
she herself hastened; (see note)
household; (see note)
place; (see note)
next best chariot
bridles; gilt; traces
blue woven; (see note)
By that time
table; (see note)
shunned them; food
Then rid them
without wavering; (see note)
for her; (see note)
as you do by nature
well bred; knees
reached; (see note)
worships false gods
from her table
humility of manners
nearby; hastened; eagerly
bed cover; (see note)
ashes; by determination
floor; cried out; (see note)
heard; (see note)
aches; (see note)
took off; moan
blue; done up
put on; (see note)
on the floor
rushed; (see note)
flesh as well
dogs; (see note)
Grieving sorely; beset
mud; defiled; (see note)
was her name; (see note)
mortified herself for
presented herself; (see note)
mercy; (see note)
probably hate me
ruined; (see note)
Utter; sight; cling
east; their prospect
suckles; (see note)
by chance; leviathan; (see note)
entrust; (see note)
[the morning star]
afraid; ashes; (see note)
in front of her; (see note)
not at all afraid
(will) harm you; (see note)
Take off your grim hairshirt; (see note)
put on; trimmings
summer veil; (see note)
mud made; ashes; weeping
written; (see note)
world; (see note)
Refuge; (see note)
sacred domain; (see note)
tell you directly
provides; (see note)
loves her on earth
realms of eternity
hear; put on
too immense for
robe; (see note)
Bread; cellar; fragrant
our; fetch one; ready; (see note)
storeroom; (see note)
board; (see note)
faith; (see note)
bees of Paradise
fly; (see note)
on his left
came; very many
table nor wood
Refuge; (see note)
table; take; (see note)
chariot; (see note)
gateway; pleased; (see note)
close; (see note)
obedient; (see note)
given you as wife; (see note)
convert; send on
asked; wash his feet; (see note)
their; (see note)
give her to me
Before; (see note)
their heads adorned
[Pharaoh] placed Asneth; (see note)
royal; duration; arranged
prayer of confession
contrition; (see note)
praised; in my foolishness
table of death; deadly
cup of deprivation
constraint; (see note)
his; drew; powerful
caused me to; (see note)
and abide; world
food; scarce; (see note)
to look upon
knees; shins; giant; (see note)
led the procession; (see note)
[Pharaoh's] first begotten
knew not what
Shechemite; (see note)
intimidate; (see note)
high; in every respect
[Since it would be]
behold; in opposition
these sons of slaves
sold; give them
[what] shall; (see note)
you; is necessary
ambush; (with) a shout
slew; with the blade
with great joy
their whole will
their anger; assuage
a disgrace; trust
their anger eased then
wounds softly binding
without pity; convey
pillager; give up your prize
world; shudders with fear
banish; (see note)
in an instant
ban him from life (day)
"Beware," said the wiseman
of ancient ancestry; (see note)
delivered by edict
in the earth
neither accountant nor; diminish
take fright yourself
Whose; be exhausted; (see note)
bounteous; (see note)
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