Item 27, Ypotis


1 [Even] if he wrote about them until judgment day

2 Lines 401–02: How many unconfessed sins / Against God cannot be forgiven?


Abbreviations: B: London, British Library MS Additional 36983; CT: Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales; MED: Middle English Diction­ary;

Title No title or incipit. The text is occasionally referred to as Ipotis; Rate’s spelling is Ypotys (line 144). The text begins one-fifth down from the top of fol. 83r.

4 Seynt John. John the Apostle is traditionally believed to have written the Gospel of John, but that text contains no references to Emperor Hadrian or to any aspects of the Ypotis story.

10 Syr Adryan. Hadrian ruled the Roman Empire from 117 to 138 A.D. He did not convert to Christianity, as this text implies. His name appears here largely due to his supposed connections to the stoic philosopher Epictetus (see introduction).

24 dedly synne. Four lines are missing after line 24, in which Ypotis reveals his name; B also lacks these lines, which suggests that the lines may have been absent in Rate’s copy-text. In British Library MS Cotton Caligula A.2, the missing lines read as follows: “The emperour sayde wythout blame: / “Chylde, tell me thy ryght name.” / “My name,” he sayde, “ys Ypotyse, / That mych kon telle of heven blysse” (lines 29–32 of Horstmann’s edition).

26 Godys privyté. Generally, this phrase refers to sacred mysteries; see MED, “privete” 3b. Here, however it also suggests another common sense of privyté, “intimacy, familiarity.”

43 That joy. In lines 41–43, Rate has made a common scribal eyeskip error, and skipped from one mention of the Trinity to the next, omitting nine lines as a result. These lines include the emperor’s next question about the number of God’s heavens, and Ypotis’s description of the first and second heavens (for the Trinity and for humanity after the day of judgment, respectively). The notion of seven heavens derives from Jewish mysticism and is shared by Islam. Compare, for example, the reading in B:
The Emperoure sayde tho wel [Ieven]
“Child, thou hast be in hevene,
How felle hevenus hath God Allmight?”
“Sevene,” sayde the childe aplight.
“The hiest hevene that may be,
There is the holy Trintity.
There is the Fadir and the Sonne
The Holi Gost togedyre wonne,
Thre persons in one godhede,
As clerkes in bokes dothe rede
That joye . . .”

How many

55 innocentys. Child martyrs, including the 144,000 children legendarily slain by Herod at the time of the nativity of Jesus.

76 Nine ordoures of angellus. The notion that there are nine orders of angels was created by counting the nine different terms used in the Bible; the theological groundwork for most medieval accounts of the angelic hierarchy is the De coelesti hierarchia, attributed to St. Denis the Areopagite.

108 herd and nessch. Following this line, Ashmole 61 and two closely-related manu­scripts (British Library MSS Arundel 140 and Cotton Titus A.XXVI) are missing a couplet describing the creation of trees and grass on Tuesday, as in B’s read­ing: “Erbus, treys and gras, / And all other thinge as his wille was.”

147 Of seven. The following list of elemental sources of Adam’s body ultimately derives from The Book of the Secrets of Enoch, an apocryphal work of Hellenist Judaism dating back to the first century A.D. The scheme of seven elements used in Ypotis is not simply an expansion of the usual four, but derives from an entirely different tradition of lore. The list appears in slightly different forms in the tradition of “Solomon and Saturn” dialogues, and the exact sources for the list here are unknown. Though she does not mention Ypotis or the L’Enfant sage tradition, J. M. Evans provides an overview of this list of seven elements of the body and notes appearances in the Cursor Mundi and Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the World; see “Microcosmic Adam,” pp. 38–42.

204 wyld wey of wendyng. This question and answer, present in both the Latin Altercatio and French Enfant sage, recalls the predominance of riddles and aphor­isms in the source material of Ypotis.

213 The angel that guards Eden; see Genesis 3:24.

226 In this seven. Because of textual corruption present in several manuscripts, lines 222–25 only list six sins — sacrilege, fornication, avarice, covetousness, gluttony, and pride — and omit envy (and oddly double the sin of greed, for which avarice and covetousness are usually considered synonyms). The subsequent recounting of sins is further complicated by the inclusion of manslaughter in lines 235–38, thievery in lines 239–42, and sloth in lines 253–55. The confusion may go back to the French Enfant sage, the main source of Ypotis, where the child responds that Adam was guilty of eight sins (not the usual seven): pride, sacri­lege, homicide, theft, fornication, avarice (desire to learn more than he needed), concupiscence (greed for what God had pro­hib­ited), and “excusacion de peni­tance” (i.e., failure to repent); see L’Enfant sage, lines 430–31.

250 No wondour. Several lines accusing Adam of gluttony are missing here; compare the reading in B: “In glotonye he synned ylle, / Whanne he pute hymselfe to that perille, / Whanne he that apulle gon take, / That God forbede hym and his make.”

263 with wykyd wyll. Adam’s will (desire, intention) is evil in that rather than acknow­ledge his fault, he places the blame elsewhere.

264 The eddyr. In an omission probably due to eyeskip, several lines in which Adam blames Eve and Eve in turn blames the serpent (“eddyre”) are missing here. Compare the equivalent reading for lines 261–64 in B:
Our Lorde to Adam sayde
“Man, why deste thou that dede?”
Adam answerde ayen with wille,
“Eve tysed me thertylle.
Sche made me to doth that dede”
Oure Lorde to Eve seyde,
“Woman, why wroughttest thou that perille?”
“The addur, Lorde, me gaune bygille.”
287 A meyden schall bere a byrth blyth. Though this goes considerably beyond God’s words in Genesis 3:15, the curse upon the serpent was commonly interpreted as the protoevangelium (“first gospel”), the promise of the Incarnation.

290 Nine hundreth and thre and thritty yere. Though Genesis 5:5 gives Adam’s lifespan as 930 years, Roman numerals were particularly vulnerable to scribal error, and other texts of Ypotis set Adam’s lifespan at either 930, 932, or 933.

298–304 Holy Goste. The allusion appears to be to the Harrowing of Hell when Adam and Eve, along with the good patriarchs, are released from hell and led to eternal joy and bliss in paradise. Traditionally, God's agent for this task is Christ (or Anima Christi, as in the N-Town play), who releases them on Holy Saturday, after the Crucifixion but before the Resurrection. Perhaps Holy Goste implies Anima Christi (i.e., “Spirit of the Creator”).

329 Seynt Paul seys in his story. Saint Paul was legendarily supposed to have had a vision of the pains of hell and purgatory; for the wheel of punishment, see lines 47–53 of Saint Paul’s Visions of the Pains of Hell (in Horstmann, Minor Poems, pp. 251–60). However, in that poem and the Latin original, the wheel is not specifically reserved for the sin of covetousness. See Brandes, Visio S. Pauli, p. 71.

375 They suere than. Medieval preachers frequently associated gluttony and drunk­en­ness with blasphemous oaths; see, for example, the Pardoner’s Tale (CT VI[C] 468–75), the Parson’s Tale (CT X[I]817–80), and Owst, Literature and Pul­pit in Medieval England, pp. 425–49.

392 Gode word and thought and gode dede. On the effects of good deeds, compare lines 625–48 of Stimulus Consciencie Minor (item 33).

434 See Genesis 4.

442 conseyved. Other texts more properly read circumcised; the conception of Christ is thought to have taken place at the moment of the Annunciation, already mentioned in lines 435–38.

444 Seynt Stephyn. St. Stephen, whose death by stoning is recounted in Acts 6–8. Though Herod was king at the time of Stephen’s martyrdom, he was not directly involved.

448 a stound duelle. Here the text is missing four lines on the death of John the Baptist, as in B: “Apon a Fryday Seynt Jon Baptyste / Was martered for the love of Criste / In the herveste aftur Assumpcyoune / His day is clepud Decollacioune.”

453 Seynt Andrew. The apostle Andrew was thought to have been martyred in Greece by being crucified on a “decussate” (x-shaped) cross.

456 How Seynt Elyn fond the rode. St. Helen, mother of the emperor Constantine, was believed to have found the relic of the cross in the year 326, buried under a tem­ple of Venus.

463 Saterdey after. Saturdays had been dedicated to veneration of the Virgin Mary since the ninth century; the origins of this association are not fully known.

464 for Oure Lady. After this line, Rate’s text skips over several more lines describing the virtues of the Virgin. Compare the reading in British Libarary MS Cotton Caligula A.II (lines 575–86 in Horstmann’s edition):
Thorow her we ben of bale unbonde
And browght out of helle grounde;
She ys called welle of mercy
To alle that wyll to her cry,
To wash and to make clene
All tho that yn synne bene.
The see-sterre called she ys
The ryght way us to wys.
Of her sprong that swete flour,
Jhesus Cryste, our savyour.
I-blessed mote they all be
That serven Marye mayden fre.

to show to us

These lines are much curtailed in B, and Rate’s copy-text may have been miss­ing them entirely.

490 hys blyssyng. There is no explicit; this line is followed by a drawing of a smiling fish and then a large five-petaled flower on a stem. The drawings separate Ypotis from The Northern Passion (item 28).


Abbreviations: see Explanatory Notes

31 That is selcouthe. MS: I am selcouthe. Emendation on the basis of Oxford, Bodleian Library Eng.poet.a.1 (Vernon).

59 nere. MS: were.

79 party thridde of. MS: party of.

86 every. MS: ever.

91 In hevyn. MS: Hevyn.

114 Bestys by downes. MS: Bestys and downes.

132 Bot. MS: Boot.

133 kepe. MS: ke.

153 stones. MS: sones.

159 wyttis. MS: wytte is.

161 stone. MS: sone.

233 awn. MS: aw.

247 covet. MS: coute.

251 When. MS: Whe.

255–56 MS: lines transposed.

257 haste. MS: wyste.

265 seyd. MS: sey.

271 Oure Lord seyd. MS: Oure Seyd.

282 temptyd. MS: tempyd.

290 and thre. MS: and thre and thre.

291 When. MS: Whe.

293 were. MS: with.

302 nam. MS: man.

325 lecher. MS: lechoo.

359 schryve thee thi pride. MS: schryve thee pride.

361 thou. MS: thei.

362 thi saule. MS: ther saules.

386 thi. MS: that.

387 synfull. MS: syfull.

408 And he wyll. MS: And wyll.

411 Wanhope. MS: When hope.

419 seyd. MS: sey.

431 reson. MS: reso.

456 Seynt. MS: Sey.

471 wykyd. MS: wydyd.

473 he. MS: th.
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Item 27, Ypotis








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All that wyll of wysdom lere,
Lystyns to me and ye schall lere
Of a tale of holy wryte.
Seynt John the apostyll wytnes ite,
How it befell in grete Rome,
The chefe cyté of Cristyndom.
A chyld was send of myghtys moste,
Thorow the vertu of the Holy Goste,
To the Emperour of Rome than —
Hys name was callyd Syr Adryan.
When the chyld of grete honour
Was brought befor the Emperour,
On hys kne he hym sette
And feyre the Emperour he grete.
The Emperour, withouten les,
Asked the chyld of when he was.
The chyld ansuerd son aplyght,
“Fro my Fader I com ryght,
Fro my Fader the hyghe justys,
To teche men that be not wyse.”
“Than arte thou wys, wysdom to teche?”
The chyld ansuerd with myld speche,
“He is wyse that heven may wyne
And kepe hym oute of dedly synne.”

“What,” he seyd, “may heven be?”
“Syr,” he seyd, “Godys privyté.”
“What,” he seyd, “is God allmyght?”
The chyld ansuerd anon ryght,
“He was withouten begynnyng,
And schall be withouten endyng.”
The Emperour seyd, “That is selcouthe.
What com fyrst of Godys mouthe?”
The chyld ansuerd sone anone,
“Therof spekys the apostell John
In hys gospell, all and some:
In principio erat verbum.
Thys was the fyrst begynnyng
That ever spake oure heven kyng.
With that Word was Fader and Sone
And the Holy Gost togeder wone;
Thre persones in a Godhede,
Als clerkys in bokys rede.

“That joy may no man dyscryve,
Lernyd ne lewyd that is on lyve.
That our heven is gostly wrought,
Withouten joy it is nought.
That joy may no man telle
Tyll domes dey thofe he spelle.1
The thyrd heven schynes as crystall,
Full of joys grete and small.
For confessorys that place is dyght,
That serve God full of myght.
The forth heven is gostlyche,
And full of presyos stones.
For innocentys that place is dyght;
Ther ever dey and never nyght.
The fyfte is long and brode
And full of Godys manhode.
And if Godys manhode nere,
All this werld forlore were.
Thorow his Passyon and hys manhed
Hevens blys schall be oure mede.
The sexte heven Holy Chyrch is,
Full of bryght angellus, iwys,
That syngys both dey and nyght
Of Godys strenth and of hys myght.
The sefynte heven, as sey the story,
Is paradys after purgatory,
When the saules have do ther penans
Ther to lyve withouten stans.
Thys be our hevyns, Syr Emperour,
That hath Jhesu, oure savyour.”

The Emperour seyd anone ryght,
“How many orders be of angellus bryght?”
The chyld ansuerd ageyne,
“Nine ordoures of angellus ther bene.
The fyrst ordour is Jerubyn,
And the other Serafyne.
The party thridde of ordourys is Thrones,
The forte is Dominaciones,
The fyfte Princypaciones,
The sext Potestates.
The sefeynte order Vertutes is,
The eyghth Angelica, iwys.
The ninthe ordour is Archangelus,
And every prince hath hys partys.
Many thousandys of thes ther be
To serve Jhesu both ferre and ne.
The tenthe ordour schall mankynd bene,
To fullfyll that place agene
In hevyn that is large and wyde
That Lusyfer lest for pride.
Ther schall the manhed of God almyght
Be oure joy, as it is ryght.”

The Emperour seyd, “I thee praye,
What made God the fyrst dey?”
The chyld ansuerd full evyn,
“Angellus and archangellus in hevyn,
That werke of nobulnes to sey,
God made on the fyrst dey.
The Mondey after, verament,
God made the fyrmament,
Sone and mone to schyn bryght,
And the sterres he made ryght.
The Towysdey, I understond,
He made both water and lond,
Wellys feyre and wateres fressch,
To temper the erth herd and nessch.
The Wednesdey made God almyght
Fyssches in flodys and foules in flyght,
And bad them aboute the werld wynd
For to helpe all mankynd.
The Thurysdey God made tho
Bestys by downes and dalys also
And gafe them ther mode
And bad them turne all men to gode.
On the Frydey God made Adame;
After hys lyknes he made hym man.
He mad hym man of myghtys moste,
And gafe hym lyfe of the Holy Goste.
A gret lord he gan hym make,
All paradys he gan hym take.
The Saterdey God forgate nought
All the werkys that he had wrought,
That dey blyssyd them loud and styll,
All hys werkys with gode wyll.
He bade them wex and multyplye,
Every thing in hys partye.
Upon the Sondey God rest toke,
As we fynd wryten in boke.
On the Sondey schuld no man wyrche,
Bot serve God and Holy Chyrche,
And kepe hym fro dedly synne
And loke that he fall not therine.”

The Emperour seyd, “This may wele be,
Bot one thyng, chyld, tell thou me:
What man dyed and was not borne?”
The chyld ansuerd hym beforne,
“Adam our fourmer fader, iwys,
That gode lyve had in paradys.
He was not borne, I understond,
Bot God made hym with hys hond.”
The Emperour therof was glad.
Chyld Ypotys sone he bad
If that he couth tell hym ought
Of how many thyngys man is wrought.
The chyld ansuerd and seyd, “Of seven;
Whych thei be, I schall them nevyn.
The erth slyme was one of tho,
Water of the se God toke also,
Of the sone and of the wynd,
And of the cloudys, wryten I fynd,
And of the stones be the se coste,
And also of the Holy Goste.
Of the erth he made hys flesch,
And of the water hys blod so nesch;
Of the son hys hert and hys bowellys,
And of hys other gode dedys;
Of the cloudys hys wyttis beste,
And of the wynd breth of breste,
And of the stone he made hys bone,
And the Holy Gost hys saule alone.
Lo, Syr Emperour Adryan,
Of thes thyngys is made man.
And therfor thei that be here
Be made of dyverse maner.
Man that is made of erth moste,
He schall be hevy, wele thou woste,
Hevy in thought and dede,
And in other thyngys, as we rede.
A man that hath most of the se
Ever in travell he schall be,
And covet mych of lond and lede,
And all schall feyll hym at his nede,
For it farys be an ebe and flod,
As it doth be the werldys gode.
Whoso of the wynd hath most myght,
Be ryght reson he schall be lyght,
Merry in herte and thought,
And speke wordys that turnys to nought.
Whoso of the cloudys hath most seyson
He schall be lyght be reson,
And be lyght in word and dede,
And in other thingys, as we rede.
Whoso of the son hath most plenté,
Hote and hasty he schall be,
And stalworth man of mayn and myght,
And be reson he schall be lyght.
Whoso of the ston is most wrought,
He schall be stedfast in thought,
And in travell trysty and trew,
And be reson pale of hew.
Whoso hath most of the Holy Goste,
He schall have in hert moste
Gode wordys and gode thought and dede,
And the pore cloth and fede,
And love well God and Holy Chyrch,
And sofer penans and penans wyrch.”

The Emperour sey with wordys myld,
Anon ryght to the chyld,
“Tho spake ryght now of the se;
I wold wyte what it may be.”
The chyld seyd. “Withoute lesyng,
It is a wyld wey of wendyng.
Sych a wey thou myght wynd therine
That thou schall never lond wyne.”

The Emperour seyd, “I thee pray,
Tell me withouten deley
What tyme dyde Adam amys
Wherfor he lest paradys?”
The chyld seyd, “At morow tyde;
At myd-dey he lost hys pride.
An angell drofe hym to deserte
With a bryght brynneng suerd
To be in sorow and in wo ther,
He and his offspryng, forever more.”
“Alas,” seyd the Emperour for dole,
“That Adam was so gret a fole!
How many synnes dyde Adam
Wherfor he lost hys kyngdam?”
“Seven,” he seyd, “withouten mo:
Sacrilege was one of tho,
Fornycacion was one of thys,
Averys and covetys,
In glotony and in pride;
In this seven Adam dyed.
In pride Adam syned ylle
When he wrought hys awne wylle
And nat after the hest of God;
He held not well hys forwerd.
In sacrylege he syned sore
When he wroght after the fendys lore,
And fullfylled hys awn talent,
And dyde the fendys commandment.
Man-sleyr he was inowghe
When he hys awne soule slewghe,
And all that ever to hym com
The fend with hym to hell he nom.
Thefe he was ageyn God
When he stole that he was forbede;
Sertenly, I thee sey,
Worthy he was for to dey.
Lechery he had in hond
When he wrought after the fend
And held that God was fals.
In averys he syned als
When he covet more to have
Than he hade nede for to crave,
And paradys was at hys wyll.
No wondour was if he lyked yll
When he that appull gan take
That God forbed hym and hys make.
Sleuth he dyde werst of all:
When he into that lust gan fall
He hade no grace for to aryse.
God come to Adam in this wyse,
And seyd, ‘Adam what haste thou don?’
Adam ansuerd with wo anon,
‘Lord, I here thee speke aplyght,
Bot of thee I have no syght.’
Oure Lord to Adam seyde,
‘Man, why dyde thou that dede?’
Adam ansuerd with wykyd wyll,
‘The eddyr he tysed me thertyll.’
Oure Lord seyd to the edder tho,
‘Fend, why dyde thou hym that wo?’
The fend ansuerd with avarysy,
‘For I had to hym envye,
That thei schuld have that blysse;
Therfor I tysed them to do amysse.’
Oure Lord seyd than to Adam,
‘For thi gylte, synfull man,
Thou schall gete thi mete with suete,
And sufer both cold and hete.’
To Eve seyd Our Lord, heven kyng,
‘Woman, for thy wyked tysyng,
Ever thou schall be mans thrall,
In sorow and travell withall,
And bere thi fruyt with grefe and care,
Thow and thy ofspryng forever more.’
Oure Lord seyd to Sathan,
‘In forme of a worme thou temptyd them,
On thi wombe thou schall glyde,
And all that so be, be any syde,
Of thee they schall be sore aferd
When thou comyst into mydell erde.
A meyden schall bere a byrth blyth
That all thi posty schall destreysse.’
Thus Adam lyfed in erth here
Nine hundreth and thre and thritty yere.
When he was dede to hell he name,
And all that ever of hym come,
Ther soulys were in hell ther
Foure hundred yere and a thousand more
And foure yere and two deys evyn.
And throw the myghty kyng of heven,
Als he was man of myghtys moste,
He sente Adam the Holy Goste,
And fette out Adam and Eve
And all that were hym leve.
Moyses, David and Abram,
All that were god with hem he nam,
And led hem to paradys
Ther joy and blysse ever more is.
Lo, Syr Emperour Adrian,
This is the begynnyng of Adam.”

The Emperour seyd, “Be heven kyng,
This was a feyre begynnyng!
Tell me chyld if thou kan,
Wherwith the fend begyled man?
And I thee pray thou me tell,
What drew mans saule to hell?”
The chyld seyd, “Synne fyve —
Among mankynd thei be full ryve:
Wyked thought of mans herte
Whyle that he is hole in quert.
Manslaughter is another schame
And bryngys man in mekyll blame;
Bot he fyrst ther of make hym clere,
He goth els to hell fyre.
Pryde also is another,
And glotony the thyrd his brother.
Lechery, that is the forth
And the werst abovyn erth:
The lecher wenes that lyve non is
So mery as hys awne is.
Covetys the fyveth; I thee tell
Thys do wynne man saule to hell.
Seynt Paul seys in his story
Of the peynes of purgatory
For covetys be hymselve is dyght
A whele of bras brynning bryght,
And full of hukys abofe and under;
When it goth, it rowtes as thunder.
As full of saulys it is hynging
As any may be of other thyng.
Wyld fyre among them rynnes,
And what it takys, it forebrynes.
Why covetyse is lykend to a whele
A sample I canne thee schew wele:
A man in youth settys grete prise
And gyffys all to covetyse,
And in age he wyll not lyne,
Bot ever he ledys hys lyfe therine.
For covetys now I thee telle,
Whoso it doth, he gos to helle.
Now I have told thee every dele
Why it is lykend to a whele.
In pride therof, thei be bold:
That is wers be a hundreth fold.
Angellus that were in heven lyght,
That were both feyr and bryght,
For pride God gan wrech take,
And son thei were fendys blake,
And fell doune, as I thee tell,
Into the depyst pytte of hell.
And som be yit among mankyn,
And tyse them to dedly synne.
Therfor, man, schryve thee thi pride,
For wormes schall crepe be thi syde
When that thou lyght in ground
And thi saule in wo is bound.
Sore may thei than smerte
That kepyd grete pride in herte.
For pride is most aplyght
That grevys Jhesu full of myght.
Lechery, it is the forth,
One of the werst aboven erth.
In holy wryte it is sette
Lechery is the fendys nette.
Glotony, I schall deserne,
Among mankynd it is full yern.
Therof the fend takys bale
When men be dronke of wyne or ale.
They suere than as thei were wode:
‘Be Crystys Passyon!’ and ‘Be hys blode!’
And upbrayd hym of hys Passyon;
Therfor thi have hys malyson.
Bot thei schryve them of ther glotony,
In hell schall be ther baly.”

The Emperour seyd, “That is a herd chans.
Bot what letys man to do penans?”
“Slauth it is, withouten stans,
That drawys man fro hys penans;
Therfor it is, withouten fabull.
Bot thi God is mersyabull:
He wyll of synfull take no wrech
Yif thei take schryft to ther lech.”
The Emperour seyd, “Thus it is.
What bryngys man to heven blys?”
The chyld ansuerd thus and seyd,
“Gode word and thought and gode dede.
Ther was never no gode doyng
Bot godnes were at the begynnyng.
A gode dede is full of myght
For to ples God that is so bryght.
A man may with his gode dede
Wynne heven blys to hys mede.”

The Emperour seyd, “I thee pray,
Tell me one thyng if thou may:
How many synnes be unschryven
Agens God be not forgyven?”2
The chyld seyd, “Synnes two.
Mysbyleve ys one of tho:
Many man wyll for no reson
Beleve onne the carnacion
And that he dyghed on a tre.
And he wyll not beleve that, sothlye,
Sertenly as I thee telle,
Body and saule he goth to helle.
Wanhope is not to leve ther synne
That many man is bondyn ine:
Many man wyll not mersy crave,
For he trow ys non to have.”

The Emperour seyd, “Seth it is so,
Tell me, chyld, or that thou go,
Wherwith a man may hym were
That the fend schall not hym dere.”
The chyld seyd, “With god devocion
Thynke on Chrystys Passyon.
Man, thynke onne hys wondys smerte
And have his passyon in thyn herte.”
The Emperour with wordys myld

Askyd a mand of the chyld:
“Why men fast the Frydey commonlyke,
More than other deys in the weke?”
The chyld ansuerd hym ageyn,
“For thretene resons that ther bene.
The fyrst reson telle I canne:
On the Frydey God made man.
The secunde reson I telle thee:
Of a rybbe Eve made He.
The thryd reson wote ye wele:
On a Frydey Caym slew Abelle.
The forte resone is full suete:
How Gabryell Our Lady grete
On a Frydey with myld mode:
Jhesu toke both flessch and blode.
The fyft reson I tell thee beforn:
Jhesu was of Mary born.
The sexte reson is gode praysed:
That Jhesu Cryst was conseyved.
The sevent reson tell I canne:
That Seynt Stephyn, the holy man,
On a Frydey was stonyd to ded
Throw Herod and hys fals rede
The eight reson I wyll you telle
If that ye wyll a stound duelle.
The ninth resone is full gode:
That Jhesu dyed onne the rode.
On the Frydey was Our Lady Assumpsyon:
That is callyd the tenthe reson.
The eleventh, of Seynt Andrew, that holy man,
How he sufferd hys martyrdom.
The twelfth reson, with myld mode,
How Seynt Elyn fond the rode.
The thretenth reson, verament,
That God on efter dey schall gyff jugement.
On the Frydey with drery mode
Oure Lord bought us with hys blode.
Man, thou have Frydey in mynd
For this resons wryten I fynd.
The Saterdey after, sertenly,
Is gode to faste for Oure Lady.”

The Emperour seyd, “I conjure thee
In the name of the Trinyté,
And of the Passyon of Jhesu Cryste,
Of hys deth and his upryste,
That thou me the soth sey
Or that thou wend fro me awey,
Whether thou be wykyd angelle or gode.”
The chyld ansuerd with myld mode,
“I ame he that thee hath wrought
And on the rode dere have bought.”

The chyld went to heven tho,
Unto the blys that he com fro.
The Emperour knelyd on the grounde
And thankyd God that blyssed stounde.
And becom a gode man, as we rede,
In prayer and in almus dede.
Seynte John the Wangelyst,
That was in erth with Jhesu Cryst,
Thys tale he wrote in Latyn.
In holy wryte and in perchemyn
He commandyd all mankynd
The Passyon of Cryst to have in mynd.
Amen, Amen, for charyté,
God grante us that it so be.
Her endys this talkyng;
God grante us all hys blyssyng.
learn; (see note)

holy writ (scripture)
witnesses it; (see note)

sent; greatest power

Hadrian; (see note)

from where he came
soon indeed

(see note)

he [the Emperor]
God’s mystery; (see note)

marvelous; (t-note)

all together
In the beginning was the Word (John 1:1)

in one
read (tell)

(see note)
Learned nor unlearned
made spiritually
i.e., There are no joys it does not include



prepared; (see note)
[is] always day

God’s humanity
if it were not [for] God’s humanity; (t-note)


Who sing


have done

(see note)






hard and soft; (see note)

in the waters
ordered them to travel

hills and dales; (t-note)
appearance (character)

gave to him

[But he] blessed them that day

part (domain)


former (first)

could tell him anything

(see note)
mud; those




wits (senses, intelligence); (t-note)


[A] man who is composed
melancholy; know

toil (motion)
land and people
fail; at his time of need
moves by
by the world’s wealth

cheerful (unsteady)

seisin (claim)




perform penance


traveling; (see note)
make land

did Adam fail

In the morning time

(see note)


(see note)

followed his own will

fiend’s teaching
own desire; (t-note)




avarice; also

at his command
was ill pleased; (see note)




(see note)
snake; enticed me thereto; (see note)
then; (t-note)



food; sweat


snake; (t-note)
i.e., whoever lives

middle earth
joyful birth; (see note)
power; destroy

(see note); (t-note)
went; (t-note)


(see note)
brought out
dear to him

He took all who were good with them; (t-note)

How did the fiend beguile man


health (fortune)

believes that no life; (t-note)

This brings
(see note)

the covetous man; prepared
i.e., as full as it can be
burns up

sets great value



confess yourself; (t-note)

lie in the ground; (t-note)


deals out evil

swear; insane; (see note)


bailiwick (domain)

keeps man from doing penance
in truth

in truth
vengeance; (t-note)
doctor (i.e., confessor)

(see note)

as his reward

i.e., not be persuaded by reason
in the incarnation


Despair; (t-note)
bound by
beg for mercy
believes there is none


How; guard himself




(see note)


conceived; (see note)

(see note)
stoned to death

listen a moment; (see note)

(see note)

(see note); (t-note)
the last day
sad heart

(see note)
(see note)



Before you go

cross dearly

blessed occasion

alms giving


Here; story
(see note)
Go To Item 28, The Northern Passion, introduction
Go To Item 28, The Northern Passion, text