Abbreviations: C: Caius College Library, Cambridge, MS 175; F&H: French and Hale; Tr: Trounce; Sa: Sands; Z: Zupitza

1-6 The invocation is typical of tail-rhyme romances. Tr notes the similarity in two ME Breton lays - Sir Gowther and Emaré. Chaucer's The Tale of Sir Thopas offers an amusing send up of exhortations to pay attention.

6 That we may hevene wynne. C: That may heven wynne. Z adds we; Tr follows, as do F&H. The addition maintains the integrity of the meter and heals a headless clause.

8 Of. C: Off. F&H note that the copyist is "prodigal with the letter F, frequently doubling it after a long vowel (wyff), and using it initially when no capital could have been intended" (p. 179). But he also does so after short vowels as in affter and gyff. We have reduced double ff to simple f in all instances of of, to clarify the distinction between of and off, which in C are spelled the same way.

9 A man that ledes hym therin. As Tr notes, man is dative, hym reflexive. Thus the invocation requests listeners to pay attention to the consequences of disloyalty, a theme that is central to the poem.

10 weddyd bretheryn. Sworn brotherhood or "blood" brotherhood, as it is sometimes called, is an ancient custom, whereby men bound themselves with an oath to be faithful to each other till death. Herodotus reports, for example, that the Scythians participated in a ritual whereby they cut their fingers, let the blood run into a chalice, dipped the tips of their swords in the blood, and drank it (see John Boswell, Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe [New York: Villard Books, 1994], p. 94). Tr notes that this bond among men was "superior to the marriage tie," evidence of which appears in lines 306-07 when the calumniated queen expresses the disparity between these two oaths of loyalty, expecting that the bishop will honor the king before he will honor her: He wole doo more for hym, I wene, / Thanne for me, though I be qwene.

John Boswell also notes the multiple meanings for the term: in fact, the relationships called "blood brotherhood," "sworn-brotherhood," "spiritual brotherhood" and so on, vary enormously from culture to culture (and sometimes within a single society) in their mode of formation, in their social, legal, and religious significance, and in their personal (e.g., affective) aspects" (p. 272). Sworn brotherhood is also a central theme in Amis and Amiloun, the analogue Tr considers so closely related to Athelston. Elizabeth Ashman Rowe sees the phrase "sworn brother" as a cynical substitution for an "opportunistic brotherhood" who "join in pursuit of political opportunity rather than economic profit" (p. 81). Rowe compares this alliance to the false brotherhood of Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale.

11 That wolden yn Yngelond go dwel. Z emends to wilen yn Yngelond gon dwel. Tr rejects Z's emendation on the grounds that the "phrase 'of dyvers cuntre' [in line] 20 strengthens the idea of strangers from widely separated parts meeting and joining themselves in brotherhood" (pp. 93-94). Because sworn-brotherhood is a central theme of the poem, Tr's return to the MS has been retained. George Taylor, "Notes on Athelston," suggests that wilen is preferred in line 11, while wolden is preferable for line 14: "to assume that the messengers were foreigners, as does T[rounce] only leads to further difficulties" (p. 20).

17 Wayside crosses were common in the Middle Ages, though here there is undoubtedly added religious significance, since the poem is preoccupied with ecclesiastical authority, Goddys werk, and the phenomenon of miracle.

21 In book iwreten we fynde. A conventional phrase often repeated in the poem in variant forms, that is a probable reason scholars still seek a lost source.

26 Athelston. The name could allude to at least three historical persons: Athelstan I, an obscure king of East Anglia and Kent in the ninth century, Athelstan II, the Danish prince Guthrum conquered by King Alfred and renamed Athelstan at baptism, and Athelstan III, victor at the Battle of Brunanburh in the year 937. (See Laura A. Hibbard, "Athelston, A Westminster Legend," PMLA 36 [1921], 223-44.)

30 neyghyd hym nere. The usual meaning of neyghyd, "to approach," makes "sound sense" according to George Taylor: "Athelston, being the king's cousin, considered it advantageous to be about the Court, and his expectation was realised as we see in the vv. following where he succeeds his cousin" (p. 20).

40 Eerl of Dovere. Just as Egeland is given the castle at Stone, Wymound is given the castle at Dover, a strategically important site.

43 Stone is on the road from London to Canterbury. As F&H point out, nearly all the place names mentioned in the poem are on this road.

47 Edyff. The name may suggest a tenth-century Anglo-Saxon saint whose veneration continued into the fourteenth century. The name might also allude to Edward the Confessor's wife.

56 That noble clerk, on book cowde rede. Literacy in late medieval England meant those who could read Latin, i.e., members of the clergy.

67 Tr draws a parallel between the precocious growth of the children in Amis and Amiloun and that of the children here, all of which seems to suggest nobility. The growth of the hero in Sir Gowther is also precocious, but is considered an effect of demonic paternity.

77 to boure and to halle. F&H suggest that the meaning is "both to public and to private counsel." The bower was a relatively secluded area used for sleeping. For a more complete explanation, see the explanatory note for Havelok, line 239.

84 To don hem brenne and sloo. Tr notes that this is a "conventional punishment, especially of women, in the French chansons de geste, and, since it differs from the drawing and hanging with which offenders are later threatened, it may point to confusion of an old tale with a newer one" (pp. 98-100).

97-98 F&H's comment that "the monks of St. Augustine's in Canterbury were reputed to be gay fellows and good singers" is challenged by Tr who asserts that the merry monks are not engaged in frivolity, but rather are experiencing the "pleasant effect of the chanting of the services" (p. 182).

99 erly and late. A tag meaning throughout the day or perhaps, like line 302, suggesting matins and evensong.

101 on Goddys werk. Tr notes the variation between this line and line 50, of Goddys werk. The terms are interchangeable, but Goddys werk may be a specific reference to the Benedictine Rule.

136 worl. Tr notes the probable meaning (world) as correct. Z shows a parallel in Layamon in line 23081.

139 For in thy land, sere, is a fals traytour. The omission of sere in this line would improve the meter. Tr notes the many times this expression appears in Bevis of Hampton as well as in Athelston.

142 deposen. Tr retains as do F&H. Z's emendation to poysoun, in Taylor's opinion, is to be preferred.

145 So moot thou the. This phrase, repeated regularly throughout the text, has something of the force of the modern "So help me God."

149-50 Tr determines these lines to constitute "padding"; similar expressions may be found in the well-padded Bevis of Hampton and virtually all other English verse romances.

154 Thanne the kyng his hand up raughte. The raising of the hand, usually the right hand, indicates an ancient ritual of oathtaking that originally involved placing the right hand on a sacred object, sometimes a sword, while speaking the oath.

155 Several lines in the poem indict and, according to Tr, vilify the "false man," a "constant habit of medieval narrative, including Chaucer" (p. 105).

166 Tr notes that despite the popularity of poisoning in literature as well as in life, "it seems to have been less used in England than elsewhere" (p. 105).

172-74 Tr attributes what seems to be gratuitous punishment of wife and children to ordeal stories derived from German and Scandinavian sources. Laura Hibbard Loomis, on the other hand, sees the Queen Emma and the Ploughshare story as indigenous to England, which suggests that such cruelty is not always culturally bound.

176 Wymound's attitude, fostered by envy, is typical of literary traitors. Tr notes that the name Wymound connotes "rascality." He points to the third executioner in a York Mystery play with the same name. Also, in a poem in the Reliquiae Antiquae the "wimorant" is a pejorative term for the rascally rabbit. George Taylor sees connotations in ME wighel, "deceit," wicke, "wicked," and wik-hals "rogue" (see "Notes on Athelston," p. 20).

184-85 I wene he bar his owne name: / He was hoten Athelstane. The messenger is also named Athelston. This practice of reduplicating names is evident in Celtic tradition. Sa suggests that this is a possible indication of a lost source.

208-09 The kyng wole for the cuntas sake . . . knyghtes make. The couplet is repeated in lines 211-12, a linking strategy frequently found in tail-rhyme romance.

238 Westemynstyr. A feature of the poet's attempt to adapt the narrative to an English environment, says Tr, who assumes a French source.

256 According to Thomas Wright's Domestic Manners and Sentiments in England during the Middle Ages (London: Chapman and Hall, 1862), cherries "appeared to have been one of the most popular fruits in England during the Middle Ages" (p. 299). In romances such as Sir Cleges, the fruit is miraculous and instrumental in restoring Cleges' status in the world.

266 playne parlement. At this point Tr and others have noted a lacuna occurring similar to another at line 448, where the phrase appears again and the rhyme scheme and the sense of the poem are disrupted. See Kevin Kiernan's article listed in the bibliography. George Taylor's explanation for the break is that "the scribe was beginning a new page" (p. 22). Because the poem exists in a single MS, such defects are difficult to verify.

281 Abyyd. Z notes that this early example of ME abye "to pay for" leads to confusion with abyde, "to abide" (p. 22).

282-83 Many critics have commented on the cruelty in this passage. Gordon Hall Gerould suggests that the behavior is Angevin in nature; he looks for a source in Walter Map. Tr remarks at the commonplace of this sort of treatment of women in the Middle Ages. As Elizabeth Ashman Rowe argues, "Despite its appearance to modern eyes, Athelston's kicking his wife would not have been a crime in fourteenth-century England, and the resulting death of his child was not one for which he would have been likely to have been convicted" (p. 87). See Select Bibliography.

288-89 Soone withinne a lytle spase / A knave-chyld iborn ther wase. The end rhyme in this couplet is a favorite of East Midlands romance.

291 He was bothe whyt and red. A curious class distinction is made by F&H who suggest that white and red, conventional descriptions of flesh and blood, are "colors of the aristocracy," and therefore distinct from the blac and brown used in Havelok (line 1009) to describe the lower classes. Tr points out other uses of the latter term in his rejection of F&H's determination.

294 baret. Tr notes that this is a word found frequently in West Midlands poems. He offers no explanation for its presence here, suggesting the difficulty of locating poems within specific dialect areas.

296 The implication here is that he will be paid back in the end.

309 The mention of Spayne in this line has led to speculation among scholars concerning a historical model for Edyff. Among those considered are Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I, and Constance of Castile, second wife of John of Gaunt, despite the fact that she was never a queen. Tr insists that this is evidence of a French original since in the chansons dealing with the "enfances of Charlemagne, his wife whom he ill-treats and who needs a rescuer, is a Spanish princess" (p. 110).

312 besauntys. A bezant (byzantium nummus) was a gold coin of the Byzantine Empire in widespread circulation in medieval Europe through the fifteenth century.

315 moregeve. A gift given a bride by the groom on the morning after the wedding. It is not part of a dowry, which would be provided by the bride's family as a gift to her husband. Rather, it is proferred directly to the bride by her husband.

324 fyve and twenti thertoo. Tr conjectures that the five and twenty added to thirty miles announced in line 321 equals the distance from Canterbury to London.

327-30 Around 6 a.m., or less exactly, very early in the morning. For a more complete explanation, see the explanatory note for Horn, line 855. Tr makes a curious comment in response to the messenger's putting his personal needs before duty: "John Bull wants his dinner" (p. 110).

335 Charynge-cross. Charing Cross is an area between modern Whitehall and Trafalgar Square now lending its name to a nearby London commuter train station. One of a series of thirteen memorial crosses erected by command of Edward I along the funeral procession route of his wife, Eleanor of Castile, in 1291. The route began and ended at Westminster Abbey.

336 Flete-strete. Named from the Fleet River, first recorded in 1280, it became a center of journalism in the modern era until most British newspapers moved to outlying areas of London.

340 Loundone-brygge. The original bridge was built in 994 A. D., but is now found in Lake Havesu, Arizona. Tr notes that this is the bridge over which Wat Tyler and his followers entered the city during the Rising of 1381. He dates the poem to about that time, though according to A. V. C. Schmidt and Nicolas Jacobs, it could have been written as late as 1399. Elizabeth Ashman Rowe concurs, suggesting that the poem points to Richard II and his troubled reign.

341 los. Tr rejects the F&H gloss on los as "praise" because it "gives no sense; whereas 'loss' provides us with just such an expression as medieval popular poets loved - the restatement of a fact in a negative form" (p. 111). But to our way of thinking "praise," "glory," or "repute" makes much better sense than loss in that the messenger loses - his time, his horse, and his effort - neither can he get any recognition from the church or aristocracy for this hard work. His perpetual frustration is a key part of the bourgeois humor of the poem.

342 Stone into Steppyngebourne. Stone Castle was a resting place for the bishops of Rochester on their journeys to and from London. Steppyngebourne is probably Sittingbourne.

344 Sparyd he nought for myre ne mos. Tr omits nought for the meter. We have retained it for the sense.

346 Fro Osprynge to the Blee. Ospringe is a resting place on the Canterbury pilgrim route. Blee refers to the ancient forest of Blean on the plain above Canterbury.

349 bysschop ryke. Z suggests that ryke be understood as an adjective rather than as a suffix for bysschop.

364 have this and reed. Recalls the famous tolle lege passage in Book 8 of Augustine's Confessions exhorting the Bishop of Hippo to take and read a Scriptural passage that subsequently changes his life (8.12.29). The archbishop's tearful response here makes the allusion all the more probable.

369 For more on palfray, see the explanatory note to Havelok, line 2060.

391 A horse worth a hundred pounds would be very valuable in the Middle Ages. Perhaps the messenger is given to exaggeration.

394 Oure gostly fadyr undyr God. Tr points out the similarity of this expression with what Becket says in the Early South-English Legendary (EETS o.s. 87 [London: Trübner, 1887], p. 136): "Also dignete of the preost, herre than the kyngus is, and is gostliche fader ich am."

402-04 And thy warysoun I schal thee geve . . . hundryd yere. Tr would like to omit and to improve the meter and logic of the passage. We have retained it because it is unlikely to have been an inadvertent insertion by a minstrel or copyist as Tr contends. Warysoun is an interesting term here. The archbishop tantalizes the messenger with more than a simple reward or payment, implying that he will be permitted to enjoy it even though he lives to a very old age. Perhaps it is a pension of some sort that is implied, or an annuity, or a land holding which would be in his name until death.

407 so lyght. The phrase could signify the bright illumination of Westminster in the morning sun.

412 kyrke. Probably the chapel within Westminster Abbey.

423 Gyltless men yiff thay be. The MS shows a word replacement - yiff for that - which is crossed out. We have retained the scribal correction.

424 presoun free. Tr disagrees with F&H who suggests that this term means "on parole." Instead, Tr believes that it means "strong prison," which would make it more consistent with the following line and an earlier reference to fettering.

437 He swoor be God levande. There is a disagreement over who is swearing by God. While Z says that he refers to the king, Tr prefers to assign the gesture to the archibishop, which is more in keeping with the office and the urgency of the matter. S agrees with Tr.

448 In the playne parlement. As in line 266, a lacuna is suspected here.

456 Edith Rickert refers to Kyng Alisaunder (line 1750) - He laughwith and swerith by the sonne - as evidence of pre-Christian influence on oath taking.

459-60 See note for line 470.

465 Tr makes a lengthy comparison between Alryke and Bishop William Bateman who was a champion of the church and an opponent of the king's power.

469-70 The cross, staff, miter, and ring are symbols of the archbishop's office. The king is implying that since he gave these symbols to the archbishop, he also has the right to take them away. The struggle over the right to invest a bishop with the symbols of his office in the Middle Ages was called the Investiture Controversy - an extremely important power struggle between ecclesiastical and secular authority.

472 The archbishop is talking here about the formal process of Interdiction, in which the sacraments of the church were forbidden to those under its ban. The medieval church used the Interdict as a weapon in its struggles with secular authority, sometimes applying it to whole countries.

480 Heretics were denied burial in consecrated ground, as were criminals and prostitutes.

483-94 Tr notes an unusual repetition of the same rhymes in this stanza.

513 entyrdytyd. Tr suggests entyrdyt to improve the meter.

516-17 But yiff he graunte me that knyght, / His wyff and chyldryn fayr and bryght. These lines repeat in lines 537-38. Such repetition is not uncommon in ME romance. See, for example, Emaré, line 45.

546 Brokene-cros. The history of this important landmark has been a source for determining the poem's date. The landmark acquired its name in 1379 and was removed in 1390. Despite this fact Schmidt and Jacobs contend that the poem could have been written "during or after the deposition crisis of 1399 and still have referred to a famous landmark removed a mere ten years or so previously" (Medieval English Romances, p. 194). Elizabeth Ashman Rowe notes that "neither Trounce nor Schmidt and Jacobs read Taylor's 'Notes on Athelston,' which revives Z's identification of the cross with the Chester Cross. Not only was the Chester Cross located in the correct place (it was in the Strand, which lies between Fleet Street and Westminster) but it also marked the bounds of Westminster and the liberty belonging to the house of Lancaster, making it a suitable place for the Archbishop of Canterbury to wait for the king" (p. 95). Rowe also notes that nothing known about Chester Cross contributes to the dating of the poem.

571 The ordeal by ploughshare leads Laura A. Hibbard [Loomis] to conclude that the source for the poem resides in a Westminster legend of Queen Emma, mother of Edward the Confessor. The story is told in the Annales of Wintonia as follows:

In 1042 Emma, once known as the Flower of Normandy and the widow successively of the English king, Athelred the Redeless (978-1016), and of the Danish conqueror, Canute, was living at Winchester. She was possessed of great treasures many of which she gave to the great church of Saint Swithin whose bishop Alwyn was her most familiar friend. To her English sons, Athelred, Alfred and Edward, later known as the Confessor, she had given little or nothing, all her favor having been lavished on Harthacnut, her son by Canute. When, therefore, Edward came to the throne in 1042, he showed her no honour. Instead he surrounded himself with those Norman friends who had aided him in his long exile, and among them he especially honoured Robert of Jumieges whom he made Bishop of London and afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. The king was a man of wonderful simplicity and at last he would believe Robert even if the latter told him a black crow was white. In time Robert poisoned Edward's mind against the good bishop Alwyn and Queen Emma.
The queen, who was imprisoned at Wherwell, promptly wrote a letter to those bishops whom she could trust and begged them to persuade the king that she might clear herself by an ordeal to take place at Saint Swithin's. In a long speech which uninvited he made to the bishops, Robert accused the queen not only of evil conduct with Alwyn but of having consented to the murder of Alfred, the king's brother, and of having planned to poison the king himself.
On the day of the trial a great concourse of people gathered in Saint Swithin's church where in a row were placed nine red hot plough-shares. The queen, who had passed the previous night in prayer before the shrine of Saint Swithin and had been comforted by beholding the saint in a dream, walked forth bravely. Having cast off her mantle she closed her eyes and was led by two bishops across the burning metal while the people cried aloud: "Swithune, Sancte Swithune, tu illam adjuva!" Unconscious that she had passed the ordeal the queen opened her eyes and beheld the miracle. She prayed to be taken to the king who, overwhelmed with holy penitence, lay prostrate on the floor. Willingly he confessed his fault, willingly he restored Bishop Alwyn to highest favor. Joyous was the tumult of the people.
From Dover, where he had waited to hear the result of the ordeal, Robert fled to Jumieges where presently he died. In Winchester king and queen and bishop vied with each other in giving treasure and manors to the church of the holy saint who had saved them all. (As quoted in Laura A. Hibbard, "Athelston, A Westminster Legend," pp. 227-28)

575 The doom, or ordeal, was a method of testing guilt or innocence by means of direct physical trial. The accused was "subject to some physical test, such as the plunging of a hand into boiling water" (OED). The result was thought to represent the immediate judgment of God. Trial by ordeal was no longer used by the time Athelston was written, but it continued to be an important literary convention. One thinks of a work such as Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan, where Isolde's ordeal is one of the central episodes in the narrative.

582-83 It was customary to remove the clothes of ordeal victims, though here the queen retains her garments.

592 The high altar of St. Paul's was famous for its elaborate adornment. Sa suggests that the offering may be part of the ordeal ceremony.

611 Thorwghout they wente apase. C: Þorwghout he went apase. Z's emendation is followed universally.

617 schewyd. Often used in relation to miracles, it indicates the suspension of natural phenomena by God, here to demonstrate innocence. Divine intervention is usually initiated by prayer in medieval romance.

625 To Jesu Cryst he prayde a bone. On general grounds this should be a prayer uttered by the queen. Tr argues that he refers to the archbishop.

638 And sithen it fell at syght. Tr notes that he can make nothing of this line. Sa also finds the line a mystery. Z, on the other hand, translates "It came to pass that she sighed." Taylor suggests that the scribe may have mistook "sighed" for "sight" (p. 25). But it may mean that the baby has dropped into the birthing position.

646 As it was the landys lawe. This may refer to the custom whereby women had exclusive rights to witness and participate in the birthing process. Only under extra-ordinary circumstances would a man be allowed to intervene. A similar expression for privacy in birth is spoken by Josian in Bevis of Hampton (lines 3627-31).

649 The St. Edmund mentioned here is St. Edmund of East Anglia. Born of Saxons, raised a Christian, he became king of the East Angles in the ninth century. During a Viking raid he was killed either by scourging or shot with arrows as tradition relates, or by being offered to the gods in accord with Viking ritual practices. His body, later found to be incorrupt, was transferred to Bedricsworth (Bury St. Edmunds). In 925 King Athelstan founded a community of priests and deacons to take care of the shrine. One of the most famous representations of Edmund is in the Wilton Diptypch where he and Edward the Confessor are depicted as two royal patrons of England. Together they present King Richard II to the Virgin and Child. His traditional emblem is the arrow, the instrument of his passion, but he is occasionally depicted with a wolf, believed to have guarded his head after death. See the Oxford Dictionary of Saints, pp. 120-21; also see Lord Francis Hervey, Corolla Sancti Eadmundi: The Garland of Saint Edmund King and Martyr (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1907).

652 into the plas. Edith Rickert and F&H take this to mean "open square." Tr thinks it means simply "thither," just as in that plas is used for "there."

669 Seynt Anne. The traditional name of the mother of the Virgin Mary; St. Anne does not appear in the Gospels, but her cult is popular in late medieval England. She is also the patron saint of childbirth. (See Kathleen Ashley and Pamela Sheingorn, eds. Interpreting Cultural Symbols: Saint Anne in Late Medieval Society [Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990.])

676-78 From what has the king to be absolved? Z suggests that the king's sin is breaking his oath to his sworn brother. The rhetorical question posed by Tr is thus answered since he agrees with Z. But perhaps the absolution is necessary to eradicate his participation in the death of his unborn son. Though the act would not be considered criminal, it could be construed as immoral.

697-98 trees three . . . hors fyve. F&H suggest that "trees three" refers to the two uprights and crossbar of the gallows. Fyve, Tr remarks, is nothing more than a "popular number [used] as a rhyme word" (p. 130). Legal dragging usually required only one horse. Taylor suggests a relation to an incident involving Thomas Becket as described in L. F. Salzman's English Trade in the Middle Ages (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1931):

When Thomas Becket went to Paris in 1158, as Chancellor and Ambassador of Henry II, it is true that twelve well-appointed pack-horses formed part of his imposing Cavalcade, but there were also eight splendid chariots each drawn by five horses no less strong and shapely than war-horses. (p. 204)

705 Sey. Z: Sere; Tr: Sere.

733 youre arende. The messenger's journey to Canterbury and back is his "business" in a double sense according to Tr, concerning both Egeland's imprisonment and Wymound's trial by ordeal.

751 Gravysende. The town of Gravesend on the road from London to Dover.

760 nought yit! lete! Sa remarks on the king's imperious retort. "[E]ssentially it says something like 'Do not indeed allow,' to which we might add 'yourself familiarities with me'" (p. 152).

776 To preve the trewthe with alle. C: To preve the trewþe in dede. Z emends to maintain the meter. Tr adopts the emendation "because it is convenient for the text and is a pleasant example of his [Z's] unfailing ingenuity" (p. 134). We have maintained Z's emendation for the sake of the rhyme.

784 schole. Z alters to scholde; Tr rejects it, as do we.

803 Alle men. I.e., the citizens of London.

805 the Elmes. Thought to be west of Smithfield, a place where many elm trees grew. It was also a place of execution; such luminaries as William Wallace and Roger Mortimer met their fate there. Tr argues that Tyburn is a more likely site and the reference to the Elmes is based upon an OF phrase - juges de dessous l'orme (judges without tribunal) - as well as the frequent use of elm trees for hanging.
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Lord that is off myghtys most,
Fadyr and Sone and Holy Gost,
Bryng us out of synne
And lene us grace so for to wyrke
To love bothe God and Holy Kyrke
That we may hevene wynne.
Lystnes, lordyngys, that ben hende,
Of falsnesse, hou it wil ende
A man that ledes hym therin.
Of foure weddyd bretheryn I wole yow tell
That wolden yn Yngelond go dwel,
That sybbe were nought of kyn.

And all foure messangeres they were,
That wolden yn Yngelond lettrys bere,
As it wes here kynde.
By a forest gan they mete
With a cros, stood in a strete
Be leff undyr a lynde,
And, as the story telles me,
Ylke man was of dyvers cuntré,
In book iwreten we fynde —
For love of here metyng thare,
They swoor hem weddyd bretheryn for evermare,
In trewthe trewely dede hem bynde.

The eldeste of hem ylkon,
He was hyght Athelston,
The kyngys cosyn dere;
He was of the kyngys blood,
Hys eemes sone, I undyrstood;
Therefore he neyghyd hym nere.
And at the laste, weel and fayr,
The kyng him dyyd withouten ayr.
Thenne was ther non hys pere
But Athelston, hys eemes sone;
To make hym kyng wolde they nought schone,
To corowne hym with gold so clere.

Now was he kyng semely to se:
He sendes afftyr his bretheryn thre
And gaff hem here warysoun.
The eldest brothir he made Eerl of Dovere —
And thus the pore man gan covere —
Lord of tour and toun.
That other brother he made Eerl of Stane —
Egelond was hys name,
A man of gret renoun —
And gaff him tyl hys weddyd wyff
Hys owne sustyr, Dame Edyff,
With gret devocyoun.

The ferthe brothir was a clerk,
Mekyl he cowde of Goddys werk.
Hys name it was Alryke.
Cauntyrbury was vacant
And fel into that kyngys hand;
He gaff it hym that wyke,
And made hym bysschop of that stede,
That noble clerk, on book cowde rede —
In the world was non hym lyche.
Thus avaunsyd he hys brother thorwgh Goddys gras,
And Athelston hymselven was
A good kyng and a ryche.

And he that was Eerl of Stane —
Sere Egeland was hys name —
Was trewe, as ye schal here.
Thorwgh the myght off Goddys gras,
He gat upon the countas
Twoo knave-chyldren dere.
That on was fyfftene wyntyr old,
That other thryttene, as men me told:
In the world was non here pere —
Also whyt so lylye-flour,
Red as rose off here colour,
As bryght as blosme on brere.

Bothe the Eerl and hys wyff,
The kyng hem lovede as hys lyff,
And here sones twoo;
And offtensythe he gan hem calle
Bothe to boure and to halle,
To counsayl whenne they scholde goo.
Therat Sere Wymound hadde gret envye,
That Eerle of Dovere, wyttyrlye.
In herte he was ful woo.
He thoughte al for here sake
False lesyngys on hem to make,
To don hem brenne and sloo.

And thanne Sere Wymound hym bethoughte:
"Here love thus endure may noughte;
Thorwgh wurd oure werk may sprynge."
He bad hys men maken hem yare;
Unto Londone wolde he fare
To speke with the kynge.
Whenne that he to Londone come,
He mette with the kyng ful sone.
He sayde, "Welcome, my derelyng."
The kyng hym fraynyd seone anon,
By what way he hadde igon,
Withouten ony dwellyng.

"Come thou ought by Cauntyrbury,
There the clerkys syngen mery
Bothe erly and late?
Hou faryth that noble clerk,
That mekyl can on Goddys werk?
Knowest thou ought hys state?
And come thou ought be the Eerl of Stane,
That wurthy lord in hys wane?
Wente thou ought that gate?
Hou fares that noble knyght,
And hys sones fayr and bryght
My sustyr, yiff that thou wate?"

"Sere," thanne he sayde, "withouten les,
Be Cauntyrbery my way I ches;
There spak I with that dere.
Ryght weel gretes thee that noble clerk,
That mykyl can of Goddys werk;
In the world is non hys pere.
And also be Stane my way I drowgh;
With Egelond I spak inowgh,
And with the countesse so clere.
They fare weel, is nought to layne,
And bothe here sones." The king was fayne
And in his herte made glad chere.

"Sere kyng," he saide, "yiff it be thi wille
To chaumbyr that thou woldest wenden tylle,
Consayl for to here,
I schal thee telle a swete tydande,
There comen nevere non swyche in this lande
Of all this hundryd yere."
The kyngys herte than was ful woo
With that traytour for to goo;
They wente bothe forth in fere;
And whenne that they were the chaumbyr withinne,
False lesyngys he gan begynne
On hys weddyd brother dere.

"Sere kyng," he saide, "woo were me,
Ded that I scholde see thee,
So moot I have my lyff!
For by Hym that al this worl wan,
Thou has makyd me a man,
And iholpe me for to thryff.
For in thy land, sere, is a fals traytour.
He wole doo thee mykyl dyshonour
And brynge thee of lyve.
He wole deposen thee slyly,
Sodaynly than schalt thou dy
By Chrystys woundys fyve!"

Thenne sayde the kyng, "So moot thou the,
Knowe I that man, and I hym see?
His name thou me telle."
"Nay," says that traytour, "that wole I nought
For al the gold that evere was wrought —
Be masse-book and belle —
But yiff thou me thy trowthe will plyght
That thou schalt nevere bewreye the knyght
That thee the tale schal telle."
Thanne the kyng his hand up raughte,
That false man his trowthe betaughte,
He was a devyl of helle!

"Sere kyng," he sayde, "thou madyst me knyght,
And now thou hast thy trowthe me plyght
Oure counsayl for to layne:
Sertaynly, it is non othir
But Egelane, thy weddyd brothir —
He wolde that thou were slayne;
He dos thy sustyr to undyrstand
He wole be kyng of thy lande,
And thus he begynnes here trayne.
He wole thee poysoun ryght slyly;
Sodaynly thanne schalt thou dy,
By Him that suffryd payne."

Thanne swoor the kyng be Cros and Roode:
"Meete ne drynk schal do me goode
Tyl that he be dede;
Bothe he and hys wyf, hys soones twoo,
Schole they nevere be no moo
In Yngelond on that stede."
"Nay," says the traytour, "so moot I the,
Ded wole I nought my brother se;
But do thy beste rede."
No lengere there then wolde he lende;
He takes hys leve, to Dovere gan wende.
God geve hym schame and dede!

Now is that traytour hom iwent.
A messanger was afftyr sent
To speke with the kyng.
I wene he bar his owne name:
He was hoten Athelstane;
He was foundelyng.
The lettrys were imaad fullyche thare,
Unto Stane for to fare
Withouten ony dwellyng,
To fette the eerl and his sones twoo,
And the countasse alsoo,
Dame Edyve, that swete thyng.

And in the lettre yit was it tolde,
That the kyng the eerlys sones wolde
Make hem bothe knyght;
And therto his seel he sette.
The messanger wolde nought lette;
The way he rydes ful ryght.

The messanger, the noble man,
Takes hys hors and forth he wan,
And hyes a ful good spede.
The eerl in hys halle he fande;
He took hym the lettre in his hande
Anon he bad hym rede:
"Sere," he sayde also swythe,
"This lettre oughte to make thee blythe:
Thertoo thou take good hede.
The kyng wole for the cuntas sake
Bothe thy sones knyghtes make —
To London I rede thee spede.

The kyng wole for the cuntas sake
Bothe thy sones knyghtes make,
The blythere thou may be.
Thy fayre wyff with thee thou bryng —
And ther be ryght no lettyng —
That syghte that sche may see."
Thenne sayde that eerl with herte mylde,
"My wyff goth ryght gret with chylde,
And forthynkes me,
Sche may nought out of chaumbyr wyn,
To speke with non ende of here kyn
Tyl sche delyveryd be."

But into chaumbyr they gunne wende,
To rede the lettrys before that hende
And tydingys tolde here soone.
Thanne sayde the cuntasse, "So moot I the,
I wil nought lette tyl I there be,
Tomorwen or it be noone.

To see hem knyghtes, my sones fre,
I wole nought lette tyl I there be;
I schal no lengere dwelle.
Cryst foryelde my lord the kyng,
That has grauntyd hem here dubbyng.
Myn herte is gladyd welle."

The eerl hys men bad make hem yare;
He and hys wyff forth gunne they fare,
To London faste they wente.
At Westemynstyr was the kyngys wone;
There they mette with Athelstone,
That afftyr hem hadde sente.

The goode eerl soone was hent
And feteryd faste, verrayment,
And hys sones twoo.
Ful lowde the countasse gan to crye,
And sayde, "Goode brothir, mercy!
Why wole ye us sloo?
What have we ayens yow done,
That ye wole have us ded so soone?
Me thynkith ye arn ourn foo."
The kyng as wood ferde in that stede;
He garte hys sustyr to presoun lede —
In herte he was ful woo.

Thenne a squyer, was the countasses frende,
To the qwene he gan wende,
And tydyngys tolde here soone.
Gerlondes of chyryes off sche caste,
Into the halle sche come at the laste,
Longe or it were noone.
"Sere kyng, I am before thee come
With a child, doughtyr or a sone.
Graunte me my bone,
My brothir and sustyr that I may borwe
Tyl the nexte day at morwe,
Out of here paynys stronge;

That we mowe wete by comoun sent
In the playne parlement."
"Dame," he saide, "goo fro me!
Thy bone shall nought igraunted be,
I doo thee to undyrstande.
For, be Hym that weres the corowne of thorn,
They schole be drawen and hangyd tomorn,
Yyff I be kyng of lande!"

And whenne the qwene these wurdes herde,
As sche hadde be beten with yerde,
The teeres sche leet doun falle.
Sertaynly, as I yow telle,
On here bare knees doun she felle,
And prayde yit for hem alle.
"A, dame," he sayde, "verrayment
Hast thou broke my comaundement
Abyyd ful dere thou schalle."
With hys foot — he wolde nought wonde —
He slowgh the chyld ryght in here wombe;
She swownyd amonges hem alle.

Ladyys and maydenys that there were,
The qwene to here chaumbyr bere,
And there was dool inowgh.
Soone withinne a lytyl spase
A knave-chyld iborn ther wase,
As bryght as blosme on bowgh.
He was bothe whyt and red;
Of that dynt was he ded —
His owne fadyr hym slowgh!
Thus may a traytour baret rayse
And make manye men ful evele at ayse,
Hymselff nought afftyr it lowgh.

But yit the qwene, as ye schole here,
Sche callyd upon a messangere,
Bad hym a lettre fonge.
And bad hym wende to Cauntyrbery,
There the clerkys syngen mery
Bothe masse and evensonge.
"This lettre thou the bysschop take,
And praye hym for Goddys sake,
Come borewe hem out off here bande.
He wole doo more for hym, I wene,
Thanne for me, though I be qwene —
I doo thee to undyrstande.

An eerldom in Spayne I have of land;
Al I sese into thyn hand,
Trewely, as I thee hyght,
And hundryd besauntys of gold red.
Thou may save hem from the ded,
Yyff that thyn hors be wyght."
"Madame, brouke weel thy moregeve,
Also longe as thou may leve.
Therto have I no ryght.
But of thy gold and of thy fee,
Cryst in hevene foryelde it thee;
I wole be there tonyght.

Madame, thrytty myles of hard way
I have reden syth it was day.
Ful sore I gan me swynke;
And for to ryde now fyve and twenti thertoo
An hard thyng it were to doo,
Forsothe, ryght as me thynke.
Madame, it is nerhande passyd prime,
And me behoves al for to dyne,
Bothe wyn and ale to drynke.
Whenne I have dynyd, thenne wole I fare.
God may covere hem of here care,
Or that I slepe a wynke."

Whenne he hadde dynyd, he wente his way,
Also faste as that he may,
He rod be Charynge-cross
And entryd into Flete-strete
And sithen thorwgh Londone, I yow hete,
Upon a noble hors.
The messanger, that noble man,
On Loundone-brygge sone he wan —
For his travayle he hadde no los —
From Stone into Steppyngebourne,
Forsothe, his way nolde he nought tourne;
Sparyd he nought for myre ne mos.

And thus hys way wendes he
Fro Osprynge to the Blee.
Thenne myghte he see the toun
Of Cauntyrbery, that noble wyke,
Therin lay that bysschop ryke,
That lord of gret renoun.

And whenne they runggen undernbelle,
He rod in Londone, as I yow telle:
He was non er redy;
And yit to Cauntyrbery he wan,
Longe or evensong began;
He rod mylys fyffty.

The messanger nothing abod;
Into the palays forth he rod,
There that the bysschop was inne.
Ryght welcome was the messanger,
That was come from the qwene so cleer,
Was of so noble kynne.
He took hym a lettre ful good speed
And saide, "Sere bysschop, have this and reed,"
And bad hym come with hym.
Or he the lettre hadde halff iredde,
For dool, hym thoughte hys herte bledde;
The teeres fyl ovyr hys chyn.

The bysschop bad sadele hys palfray:
"Also faste as thay may,
Bydde my men make hem yare;
And wendes before," the bysschop dede say,
"To my maneres in the way;
For nothyng that ye spare,
And loke at ylke fyve mylys ende
A fresch hors that I fynde,
Schod and nothing bare;
Blythe schal I nevere be,
Tyl I my weddyd brother see,
To kevere hym out of care."

On nyne palfrays the bysschop sprong,
Ar it was day, from evensong —
In romaunce as we rede.
Sertaynly, as I yow telle,
On Londone-brygge ded doun felle
The messangeres stede.
"Allas," he sayde, "that I was born!
Now is my goode hors forlorn,
Was good at ylke a nede;
Yistyrday upon the grounde,
He was wurth an hundryd pounde,
Ony kyng to lede."

Thenne bespak the erchebysschop.
Oure gostly fadyr undyr God,
Unto the messangere:
"Lat be thy menyng of thy stede,
And thynk upon oure mykyl nede,
The whylys that we ben here;
For yiff that I may my brother borwe
And bryngen hym out off mekyl sorwe,
Thou may make glad chere;
And thy warysoun I schal thee geve,
And God have grauntyd thee to leve
Unto an hundryd yere."

The bysschop thenne nought ne bod:
He took hys hors, and forth he rod
Into Westemynstyr so lyght;
The messanger on his foot alsoo:
With the bysschop come no moo,
Nether squyer ne knyght.
Upon the morwen the kyng aros,
And takes the way, to the kyrke he gos,
As man of mekyl myght.
With hym wente bothe preest and clerk,
That mykyl cowde of Goddys werk,
To praye God for the ryght.

Whenne that he to the kyrke com;
Tofore the Rode he knelyd anon,
And on hys knees he felle:
"God, that syt in Trynyté
A bone that thou graunte me,
Lord, as Thou harewyd helle —
Gyltless men yiff thay be,
That are in my presoun free,
Forcursyd there to yelle,
Of the gylt and thay be clene,
Leve it moot on hem be sene,
That garte hem there to dwelle."

And whenne he hadde maad his prayer,
He lokyd up into the qweer;
The erchebysschop sawgh he stande.
He was forwondryd of that caas,
And to hym he wente apas,
And took hym be the hande.
"Welcome," he sayde, "thou erchebysschop,
Oure gostly fadyr undyr God."
He swoor be God levande,
"Weddyd brother, weel moot thou spede,
For I hadde nevere so mekyl nede,
Sith I took cros on hande.

Goode weddyd brother, now turne thy rede;
Doo nought thyn owne blood to dede
But yiff it wurthy were.
For Hym that weres the corowne of thorn,
Lat me borwe hem tyl tomorn,
That we mowe enquere,
And weten alle be comoun asent
In the playne parlement
Who is wurthy be schent.
And, but yiff ye wole graunte my bone,
It schal us rewe bothe or none,
Be God that alle thyng lent."

Thanne the kyng wax wrothe as wynde,
A wodere man myghte no man fynde
Than he began to bee:
He swoor othis be sunne and mone:
"They scholen be drawen and hongyd or none —
With eyen thou schalt see!
Lay doun thy cros and thy staff,
Thy mytyr and thy ryng that I thee gaff;
Out of my land thou flee!
Hyghe thee faste out of my syght!
Wher I thee mete, thy deth is dyght;
Non othir then schal it bee!"

Thenne bespak that erchebysschop,
Oure gostly fadyr undyr God,
Smertly to the kyng:
"Weel I wot that thou me gaff
Bothe the cros and the staff,
The mytyr and eke the ryng;
My bysschopryche thou reves me,
And Crystyndom forbede I thee!
Preest schal ther non syngge;
Neyther maydynchyld ne knave
Crystyndom schal ther non have;
To care I schal thee brynge.

I schal gare crye thorwgh ylke a toun
That kyrkys schole be broken doun
And stoken agayn with thorn.
And thou shalt lygge in an old dyke,
As it were an heretyke,
Allas that thou were born!

Yiff thou be ded, that I may see,
Assoylyd schalt thou nevere bee;
Thanne is thy soule in sorwe.
And I schal wende in uncouthe lond,
And gete me stronge men of hond;
My brothir yit schal I borwe.
I schal brynge upon thy lond
Hungyr and thyrst ful strong,
Cold, drougthe, and sorwe;
I schal nought leve on thy lond
Wurth the gloves on thy hond
To begge ne to borwe."

The bysschop has his leve tan.
By that his men were comen ylkan:
They sayden, "Sere, have good day."
He entryd into Flete-strete;
With lordys of Yngelond gan he mete
Upon a noble aray.
On here knees they kneleden adoun,
And prayden hym of hys benysoun,
He nykkyd hem with nay.
Neyther of cros neyther of ryng
Hadde they non kyns wetyng;
And thanne a knyght gan say.

A knyght thanne spak with mylde voys:
"Sere, where is thy ryng? Where is thy croys?
Is it fro thee tan?"
Thanne he sayde, "Youre cursyd kyng
Hath me refft of al my thyng,
And of al my worldly wan;
And I have entyrdytyd Yngelond:
Ther schal no preest synge Masse with hond,
Chyld schal be crystenyd non,
But yiff he graunte me that knyght,
His wyff and chyldryn fayr and bryght:
He wolde with wrong hem slon."

The knyght sayde, "Bysschop, turne agayn;
Of thy body we are ful fayn;
Thy brothir yit schole we borwe.
And, but he graunte us oure bone,
Hys presoun schal be broken soone,
Hymselff to mekyl sorwe.
We schole drawe doun both halle and boures,
Bothe hys castelles and hys toures,
They schole lygge lowe and holewe.
Though he be kyng and were the corown,
We scholen hym sette in a deep dunjoun:
Oure Crystyndom we wole folewe."

Thanne, as they spoken of this thyng,
Ther comen twoo knyghtes from the kyng,
And sayden, "Bysschop, abyde,
And have thy cros and thy ryng,
And welcome whyl that thou wylt lyng,
It is nought for to hyde.
Here he grauntys thee the knyght,
Hys wyff and chyldryn fayr and bryght;
Again I rede thou ryde.
He prayes thee pur charyté
That he myghte asoylyd be,
And Yngelond long and wyde."

Hereof the bysschop was ful fayn,
And turnys hys brydyl and wendes agayn —
Barouns gunne with hym ryde —
Unto the Brokene-cros of ston;
Thedyr com the kyng ful soone anon,
And there he gan abyde.
Upon hys knees he knelyd adoun,
And prayde the bysschop of benysoun,
And he gaff hym that tyde.
With holy watyr and orysoun,
He asoylyd the kyng that weryd the coroun,
And Yngelond long and wyde.

Than sayde the kyng anon ryght:
"Here I graunte thee that knyght,
And hys sones free,
And my sustyr hende in halle.
Thou hast savyd here lyvys alle:
Iblessyd moot thou bee."
Thenne sayde the bysschop also soone:
"And I schal geven swylke a dome —
With eyen that thou schalt see!
Yiff thay be gylty off that dede,
Sorrere the doome thay may drede,
Thanne schewe here schame to me."

Whanne the bysschop hadde sayd soo,
A gret fyr was maad ryght thoo,
In romaunce as we rede —
It was set, that men myghte knawe,
Nyne plowgh-lengthe on rawe,
As red as ony glede.
Thanne sayde the kyng: "What may this mene?"
"Sere, of gylt and thay be clene,
This doom hem thar nought drede."
Thanne sayde the good Kyng Athelston:
"An hard doome now is this on:
God graunte us alle weel to spede."

They fetten forth Sere Egelan —
A trewere eerl was ther nan —
Before the fyr so bryght.
From hym they token the rede scarlet,
Bothe hosyn and schoon that weren hym met,
That fel al for a knyght.
Nyne sythe the bysschop halewid the way
That his weddyd brother scholde goo that day,
To praye God for the ryght.
He was unblemeschyd foot and hand;
That sawgh the lordes of the land,
And thankyd God of Hys myght.

They offeryd him with mylde chere
Unto Saint Powlys heyghe awtere,
That mekyl was of myght.
Doun upon hys knees he felle,
And thankyd God that harewede helle
And Hys modyr so bryght.

And yit the bysschop tho gan say:
"Now schal the chyldryn gon the way
That the fadyr yede."
Fro hem they tooke the rede scarlete,
The hosen and schoon that weren hem mete,
And al here worldly wede.
The fyr was bothe hydous and rede,
The chyldryn swownyd as they were ded;
The bysschop tyl hem yede;
With careful herte on hem gan look;
Be hys hand he hem up took:
"Chyldryn, have ye no drede."

Thanne the chyldryn stood and lowgh:
"Sere, the fyr is cold inowgh."
Thorwghout they wente apase.
They weren unblemeschyd foot and hand:
That sawgh the lordys of the land,
And thankyd God of His grace.
They offeryd hem with mylde chere
To Seynt Poulys hyghe awtere
This myracle schewyd was there.
And yit the bysschop efft gan say:
"Now schal the countasse goo the way
There that the chyldryn were."

They fetten forth the lady mylde;
Sche was ful gret igon with chylde
In romaunce as we rede —
Before the fyr whan that sche come,
To Jesu Cryst he prayde a bone,
That leet His woundys blede:
"Now, God lat nevere the kyngys foo
Quyk out of the fyr goo."
Therof hadde sche no drede.

Whenne sche hadde maad here prayer,
Sche was brought before the feer,
That brennyd bothe fayr and lyght.
Sche wente fro the lengthe into the thrydde;
Stylle sche stood the fyr amydde,
And callyd it merye and bryght.
Hard schourys thenne took here stronge
Bothe in bak and eke in wombe;
And sithen it fell at syght.
Whenne that here paynys slakyd was,
And sche hadde passyd that hydous pas,
Here nose barst on bloode.
Sche was unblemeschyd foot and hand:
That sawgh the lordys of the land,
And thankyd God on Rode.
They comaundyd men here away to drawe,
As it was the landys lawe;
And ladyys thanne tyl here yode.
She knelyd doun upon the ground
And there was born Seynt Edemound:
Iblessed be that foode!

And whanne this chyld iborn was,
It was brought into the plas;
It was bothe hool and sound
Bothe the kyng and bysschop free
They crystnyd the chyld, that men myght see,
And callyd it Edemound.
"Halff my land," he sayde, "I thee geve,
Also longe as I may leve,
With markys and with pounde;
And al afftyr my dede —
Yngelond to wysse and rede."
Now iblessyd be that stounde!

Thanne sayde the bysschop to the Kyng:
"Sere, who made this grete lesyng,
And who wroughte al this bale?"
Thanne sayde the kyng, "So moot I thee,
That schalt thou nevere wete for me,
In burgh neyther in sale;
For I have sworn be Seynt Anne
That I schal nevere bewreye that manne,
That me gan telle that tale.
They arn savyd thorwgh thy red;
Now lat al this be ded,
And kepe this counseyl hale."

Thenne swoor the bysschop, "So moot I the,
Now I have power and dignyté
For to asoyle thee as clene
As thou were hoven off the fount-ston.
Trustly trowe thou therupon,
And holde it for no wene:
I swere bothe be book and belle,
But yiff thou me his name telle,
The ryght doom schal I deme:
Thyselff schalt goo the ryghte way
That thy brother wente today,
Though it thee evele beseme."

Thenne sayde the kyng, "So moot I the,
Be schryffte of mouthe telle I it thee;
Therto I am unblyve.
Sertaynly, it is non othir
But Wymound, oure weddyd brother;
He wole nevere thryve."
"Allas," sayde the bysschop than,
I wende he were the treweste man,
That evere yit levyd on lyve.
And he with this ateynt may bee,
He schal be hongyd on trees three,
And drawen with hors fyve."

And whenne that the bysschop the sothe hade
That that traytour that lesyng made,
He callyd a messangere,
Bad hym to Dovere that he scholde founde,
For to fette that Eerl Wymounde:
(That traytour has no pere!)
Sey Egelane and hys sones be slawe,
Bothe ihangyd and to-drawe.
(Doo as I thee lere!)
The countasse is in presoun done;
Schal sche nevere out of presoun come,
But yiff it be on bere."

Now with the messanger was no badde;
He took his hors, as the bysschop radde,
To Dovere tyl that he come.
The eerl in hys halle he fand:
He took hym the lettre in his hand
On hygh, wolde he nought wone:
"Sere Egelane and his sones be slawe,
Bothe ihangyd and to-drawe:
Thou getyst that eerldome.
The countasse is in presoun done;
Schal sche nevere more out come,
Ne see neyther sunne ne mone."

Thanne that eerl made hym glade,
And thankyd God that lesyng was made:
"It hath gete me this eerldome."
He sayde, "Felawe, ryght weel thou bee!
Have here besauntys good plenté
For thyn hedyr-come."
Thanne the messanger made his mon:
"Sere, of youre goode hors lende me on:
Now graunte me my bone;
For yystyrday deyde my nobyl stede,
On youre arende as I yede,
Be the way as I come."

"Myn hors be fatte and cornfed,
And of thy lyff I am adred."
That eerl sayde to him than,
"Thanne yiff min hors sholde thee sloo,
My lord the kyng wolde be ful woo
To lese swylk a man."

The messanger yit he broughte a stede,
On of the beste at ylke a nede
That evere on grounde dede gange,
Sadelyd and brydelyd at the beste.
The messanger was ful preste,
Wyghtly on hym he sprange.
"Sere," he sayde, "have good day;
Thou schalt come whan thou may;
I schal make the kyng at hande."
With sporys faste he strook the stede;
To Gravysende he come good spede,
Is fourty myle to fande.

There the messanger the traytour abood,
And sethyn bothe insame they rod
To Westemynstyr wone.
In the palays there thay lyght;
Into the halle they come ful ryght,
And mette with Athelstone.
He wolde have kyssyd his lord swete.
He sayde: "Traytour, nought yit! lete!
Be God and be Seynt Jhon!
For thy falsnesse and thy lesyng
I slowgh myn heyr, scholde have ben kyng,
When my lyf hadde ben gon."

There he denyyd faste the kyng,
That he made nevere that lesyng,
Among hys peres alle.
The bysschop has hym be the hand tan;
Forth insame they are gan
Into the wyde halle.
Myghte he nevere with crafft ne gynne,
Gare hym shryven of hys synne,
For nought that myghte befalle.
Thenne sayde the goode Kyng Athelston:
"Lat hym to the fyr gon,
To preve the trewthe with alle."

Whenne the kyng hadde sayd soo,
A gret fyr was maad thoo,
In romaunce as we rede.
It was set, that men myghten knawe,
Nyne plowgh-lenge on rawe,
As red as ony glede.
Nyne sythis the bysschop halewes the way
That that traytour schole goo that day:
The wers him gan to spede.
He wente fro the lengthe into the thrydde,
And doun he fell the fyr amydde:
Hys eyen wolde hym nought lede.

Than the eerlys chyldryn were war ful smerte,
And wyghtly to the traytour sterte,
And out of the fyr him hade;
And sworen bothe be book and belle:
"Or that thou deye, thou schalt telle
Why thou that lesyng made."
"Certayn, I can non other red,
Now I wot I am but ded:
I telle yow nothyng gladde —
Certayn, ther was non other wyte:
He lovyd him to mekyl and me to lyte;
Therfore envye I hadde."

Whenne that traytour so hadde sayde,
Fyve good hors to hym were tayde,
Alle men myghten see with yghe —
They drowen him thorwgh ylke a strete,
And sethyn to the Elmes, I yow hete,
And hongyd him ful hyghe.
Was ther nevere man so hardy,
That durste felle hys false body:
This hadde he for hys lye.
Now Jesu, that is Hevene-kyng,
Leve nevere traytour have betere endyng,
But swych dome for to dye.

powers greatest; (see note)

(see note)
will bring about an end to; (see note)
a man [who] leads himself; (see note)
sworn; (see note)
(see note)
relative; family

their occupation
did; meet
by a road; (see note)
By a leaf; linden (tree)

Each; different
(see note)
an oath

them all
called; (see note)

a [blood] relative
approached; (see note)
died; heir
refuse (shun)

[sworn] brothers
them their reward
(see note)
Stone; (see note)

to be
(see note)

fourth; cleric
Much; knew

(see note)
advanced; grace


begat; countess
years; (see note)

their equal
As white as [a] lily flower


inner chamber; (see note)

on their account
cause them [to be] burned and slain; (see note)

thought to himself
Through word; advance

right away
questioned soon


(see note)
(see note)

much knows of; (see note)
what his condition is
out of; way

if; know

Where; dear [person]

knows much
well; nothing to conceal
their; happy

go to




lies; began

Dead; [it] should
As I may
world redeemed; (see note)

helped; thrive
(see note)
kill you
depose you; (see note)

might; thrive; (see note)
if I

(see note)

Unless; vow; pledge
[to] you
raised; (see note)
faith entrusted; (see note)



to lead her astray
(see note)

[Neither] food

(see note)

(see note)
began to go


believe; bore; (see note)
a foundling
fully there




countess'; (see note)

advise; hurry



I regret [that]
no part

began to go
courteous lady



their dubbing

began to go

dwelling; (see note)


chained; truly


insane behaved; place

did go

Garlands of cherries; off; (see note)


act as surety for


might know by unanimous assent
(see note)

request (boon)

by; wears

been; stick

[If] you have broken
Pay for; (see note)
refrain; (see note)
slew; her

dole (sorrow) enough
space of time; (see note)

(see note)
From that blow; dead
strife raise; (see note)
ill at ease
after; laughed; (see note)


rescue; bonds

(see note)
give as a possession
besant (a coin); (see note)
use; morning gift; (see note)


thirty miles
(see note)

nearly past six a.m.; (see note)

relieve; their

Charing Cross; (see note)
Fleet Street; (see note)

London bridge; reached; (see note)
work; praise (fame); (see note)
(see note)
not alter
mud nor bog; (see note)

(see note)

powerful; (see note)

morning bell

before six p.m.
fifty miles



take; read; (see note)

Before; read

(see note)
themselves ready
go before





messenger's horse

utterly lost
at each need

(see note)

spiritual; (see note)

Desist your lamenting; horse
great need


reward; (see note)
Even if

remained no longer

nimbly; (see note)

no others

church; (see note)

Who knew much


boon (i.e., favor)
Guiltless; if they; (see note)
(see note)
Condemned; shriek
if; innocent
Grant; seen [by them]
Who made them to dwell there


astonished at; situation
by; hand

by; living; (see note)


change your mind
[cause] to die

be surety for
might have an inquiry
know; agreement
full; (see note)

grieve us both; before noon

grew angry; wind
An angrier

oaths by; moon; (see note)
before noon
(see note)


(see note)
(see note)
bishopric; deny
forbid; (see note)

girl; boy

lie; ditch; (see note)
if you; heretic

(see note)

go; unknown



leave taken
each one

refused them by saying no

kind of knowing
began to speak

mild voice

interdicted England; (see note)
celebrate Mass
No child shall be christened
Unless; release to me; (see note)



[driven] to great




advise you return
by pure charity

Of this; eager

(see note)

for blessing
gave it to him
absolved; who wore

their lives

your own eyes

More grievous

fire; immediately

ploughshares; in a row; (see note)

from; if; innocent
ordeal; need not fear; (see note)

judgment; one

truer; none

(see note)
hose; shoes; suitable
were appropriate
times; consecrated

gentle bearing
Paul's; altar; (see note)




shoes; fit
as if
to them went



quickly; (see note)

miracle; (see note)

very pregnant

favor; (see note)


end; third [ploughshare]

[labor] pains
back; also
(see note)
After; pain abated

move away from here
law of the land (customary); (see note)
to her went

(see note)

place; (see note)
whole (healthy)

guide; advise

town; hall
(see note)

are; counsel
hold (keep secret); entirely

(see note)
absolve; guiltless
lifted from; baptismal font
Truly believe

judgment; pronounce

ill befits you

By confession



If; guilty
(see note)



(see note)


Unless; bier



In haste; delay


besants (coins)
coming hither

business; went; (see note)



lose; such

One; this very need

With agility

spurs; struck
(see note)

then; together

[allow] it not! desist!; (see note)
Because of

strongly denied
ever made that lie


Have himself absolved

(see note)


lengths; row
times; blessed
(see note)
worse; happened

lead (guide)

fully aware
quickly; ran

made that lie
know no other
nearly dead
reluctantly (without joy)
much; little

eye; (see note)
drew; each
then; assure; (see note)

dared take down