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Art. 25a, Lord that lenest us lyf


ABBREVIATIONS: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CCC: Corpus Christi College (Cambridge); CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); IMEV Suppl.: Supplement to the Index of Middle English Verse (Robbins and Cutler); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

3 cocke with knyf. This phrase means literally “fight with a knife”; see MED, cokken (v.(1)). This invocation depicts God as ready to act belligerently, indeed, somewhat like a common brawler. On the verbal echoes between this opening and the juxtaposed ending of The Execution of Sir Simon Fraser (art. 25), see Stemmler 2000, p. 116; and Revard 2007, pp. 110–11. The opening also quietly parallels the first and last stanzas of The Three Foes of Man (art. 27), as the texts of quire 6 will soon close upon the subject of God’s moral bidding and final judgment.

9 In wunne. “In bliss,” that is, in the garden of Eden.

19 drahtes wol drawe. For the idiom here, drawen draught, meaning “to play a trick,” see MED, draught (n.), sense 3.(e).

22 smoke. The smock is her necessary underwear. The speaker laments that these underclass girls dress themselves up without modestly tending first to having proper undergarments. Attendant sexual laxity is implied.

24 boses. Fashionable hair buns worn over each cheek; see MED, boce (n.), sense 2. “The total result looked remarkably like a pig with drooping ears” (Turville-Petre 1989, p. 12).

38 joustynde gyn. The phrase appears to be a comic insult over the size of the hair buns: they are like targets to joust at. See justen (v.), sense 3.(a). In resembling either a baited pig or a target, the hairstyle seems always to be a conspicuous lure by which to attract the devil’s attention.

40–42 The joke in these lines lies in the proverbial saying on mutability, “all comes to decline,” applied to a hair fashion that literally hangs low about the ears. It comically reprises the moralisms of the preceding poems: Lament for Simon de Montfort (art. 24), lines 130–35, and The Execution of Sir Simon Fraser (art. 25), lines 169–70. For Scattergood, the lines reveal the poet’s attitude of resistance to social change: “this sense of things going to the bad is characteristic of the political and quasi-political verses in the manuscript. Old certainties were being questioned, and a new order was emerging in all sorts of areas — political, economic, and social” (2000a, p. 201).

43–44 The fashion invites the devil to hold court on the girl’s head, with the irony being that she sets herself up as vulnerable to his decree. The word halymotes may carry latinate inflection; see MED, halimot (n.).

47–48 Commentators often suppose that the “worse” liquid is urine (Turville-Petre 1989, p. 13; Revard 2007, p. 111), an alkaline solution like lye. Another possibility is that it is spit. Turville-Petre speculates that the original word was wouse, “plant sap.”

49 The words bout and barbet are not recorded elsewhere in Middle English.

51 fauce. “False,” indicating that the cloth is not of the silk quality worn by ladies.

54–55 Between these lines there is a comic pause and reversal of meaning.


ABBREVIATIONS: As: Aspin; Bö: Böddeker; Bos: Bossy; Br: Brook; BS: Bennett and Smithers; BZ: Brandl and Zippel; B13: Brown 1932; B14: Brown 1952; DB: Dunn and Byrnes; Deg: Degginger; Do: Dove 1969; Gr: Greene 1977; Ha: Halliwell; Hal: Hall; Hol: Holthausen; Hor1: Horstmann 1878; Hor2: Horstmann 1896; Hu: Hulme; JL: Jeffrey and Levy; Ju: Jubinal; Kel: Keller; Ken: Kennedy; Le: Lerer 2008; Mc: McKnight; Mi: Millett; MR: Michelant and Raynaud; Mo: Morris and Skeat; MS: MS Harley 2253; Mu: H. M. R. Murray; Pa: Patterson; Pr: Pringle 2009; Rei: Reichl 1973; Rev1: Revard 2004; Rev2: Revard 2005b; Ri1: Ritson 1877; Ri2: Ritson 1885; Ro: Robbins 1959; Sa: Saupe; Si: Silverstein; St: Stemmler 1970; Tr: Treharne; Tu: Turville-Petre 1989; Ul: Ulrich; W1: Wright 1839; W2: Wright 1841; W3: Wright 1842; W4: Wright 1844; WH: Wright and Halliwell.

10 monkune. So MS, W1, B13, Tu. Bö: monkunne.

16 lyne. So MS, W1, B13, Tu. Bö: lyue.

19 wol. MS, W1, Bö, B13, Tu.: wl.

29 shrewe. So MS, W1, Bö, B13. Tu: schrewe.

45 Yef. So MS (3ef), W1, Bö, Tu. B13: 3of.

47 worse. So MS, W1, B13, Tu. Bö: forse.
wet. So MS, W1, B13, Tu. Bö: fet.

48 lac. So Bö, B13, Tu. MS, W1: lat.












¶ Lord, that lenest us lyf
Ant lokest uch an lede,
Forte cocke with knyf
Nast thou none nede;
Bothe wepmon ant wyf
Sore mowe drede
Lest thou be sturne with strif
For bone that thou bede
             In wunne:
       That monkune
       Shulde shilde hem from sunne.

Nou hath prude the pris
In everuche plawe;
By mony wymmon unwis
Y sugge mi sawe,
For yef a ledy lyne is
Leid after lawe,
Uch a strumpet that ther is
Such drahtes wol drawe
             In prude:
       Uch a screwe wol hire shrude
       Thah he nabbe nout a smoke hire foule ers to hude!     

Furmest in boure
Were boses ybroht;
Levedis to honoure
Ichot he were wroht;
Uch gigelot wol loure
Bote he hem habbe soht;
Such shrewe fol soure
Ant duere hit hath aboht
             In helle:
       With develes he shule duelle
       For the clogges that cleveth by here chelle!

Nou ne lacketh hem no lyn
Boses in to beren:
He sitteth ase a slat swyn
That hongeth is eren.
Such a joustynde gyn
Uch wrecche wol weren;
Al hit cometh in declyn,
This gigelotes geren
             Upo lofte:
       The Devel may sitte softe
       Ant holden his halymotes ofte!

Yef ther lyth a loket
By er outher eye,
That mot with worse be wet
For lac of other leye.
The bout ant the barbet
Wyth frountel shule feye.
Habbe he a fauce filet,
He halt hire hed heye
             To shewe
       That heo be kud ant knewe,
       For strompet in rybaudes rewe!
¶ Lord, who lends us life
And watches over everyone,
To point a knife
You have no need;
Both man and woman
Must fearfully dread
Lest you be stern with strife
Over the request you made
             In bliss:
       That mankind
       Should refrain from sin.

Nowadays pride takes the praise
At every social occasion;
By example of many foolish women
I express my verdict,
For if a lady’s clothing is
Fitted according to fashion,
Every strumpet that’s around
Will follow such tricks
       Every shrewish girl will dress herself up
       Though she hasn’t a smock to hide her foul arse!     

First into lady’s chamber
Were brought hair buns over cheeks;
For the honor of ladies
I know they were devised;
Every vain girl will scowl
Unless she’s obtained them;
This shrew full bitterly
And dearly has bought it
             In hell:
       With devils she shall dwell
       For the clumps that cling in her hairnet!

Nowadays they don’t lack linen
To support their hair buns:
They sit like a baited pig
That hangs its ears.
Such a jousting device
Each wench will wear;
All comes to decline,
This vain girl’s fashion
             Up on top:
       The Devil may sit comfortably
       And hold his court sessions often!

If there lies a curl
By either ear or eye,
It may be wet down with a worse fluid
For lack of any other lye.
The loop and the cloth band
Has to match the forehead piece.
She has a faux-silk headband,
Yet she holds her head high
             To show
       That she’s recognized and known,
       As a strumpet in rogues’ company!

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