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Freers, Freers Wo Ye Be


1 Lines 30-31: Although they are [normally] just petty thieves / who help themselves to the penance money


1 Freers. MS ffreers. Here and elsewhere in this poem I substitute F for initial ff. The manuscript lines are written as long lines, with the Latin ending each line. In these notes I do not record Wr's normalizations of the text in PPS, which include a for o in folnes and floure, final e on some words, doughtour for doughtor, etc. Wr reprints his PPS version in Reliquiae Antiquae.

5 Whan seyntes. There is a direct lineal descent from the fallen angels (here called seyntes) to the satanic friars.

7 synnus seven. The author alleges that the fallen angels transmitted the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, lust) directly to the friars. Wr, PPS, reads the for tho (MS þo).

9 ffloure. Wr, PPS, spells fflauré.

10 quem. Wr, RA and PPS, reads quae.

18 fruges. A reference to the first fruits of Romans 8:23 ("And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit"). See also PPC lines 728-29: "Right so fareth freres with folke opon erthe; / They freten up the furste-froyt and falsliche lybbeth."

23-25 Odur thi wyff . . . or thi sun. In antifraternal literature friars were alleged to be lecherous and untrustworthy, especially when they could enter homes. For a parallel see Preste, Ne Monke, Ne Yit Chanoun, lines 73-96.

29 Jacke and Gylle. Proverbial for every male and female. See Whiting, Proverbs, J2 and J7.
(Trinity College Cambridge MS 1144 fol. 58v)
Freers, freers, wo ye be,
ministri malorum!
For many a mannes soule brynge ye
ad penas inffernorum
Whan seyntes ffelle ffryst ffrom heven,
quo prius habitabant
In erthe leyfft tho synnus seven
et ffratres communicabant
Folness was the ffryst ffloure
quem ffratres pertulerunt
For folnes and fals derei
multi perierunt
Freers, ye can weyl lye,
ad ffalandum gentem
And weyl can blere a mannus ye
pecunias habentem.
Yf thei may no more geytte,
fruges petunt isti
For folnes walde thei not lette,
qui non sunt de grege Cristi
Lat a ffreer off sum ordur,
tecum pernoctare
Odur thi wyff or thi doughtor
hic vult violare;
Or thi sun he weyl prefur,
sicut ffurtam ffortis
God gyffe syche a ffreer peyn
in inferni portis!
Thei weyl assayle boyth Jacke and Gylle,
licet sint predones, 1
And parte off pennans take hem tylle,
qui sunt latrones
Ther may no lorde of this cuntré
sic edifficare
As may thes ffreers, were thei be,
qui vadunt mendicare
Mony-makers I trow thei be,
regis proditores
Therffore yll mowyth thei thee,
ffalsi deceptores
Fader ffyrst in Trinité,
ffilius atque fflamen
Omnes dicant Amen.
woe be to you; (see note)
ministers of evil
to the pains of hell
first; (see note)
who originally dwelt [there]
(see note)
and consigned them to the friars
Foulness; first blossom; (see note)
which the friars perfected; (see note)
many perish
to deceive people
fool; eye
to get money
they seek the first-fruits; (see note)
would; cease
who are not of Christ's flock
of some order
spend the night with you
Either; (see note)
he will want to violate
son; will abduct
like a strong thief
give; pain
at the gates of hell
will accost; (see note)
who are thieves
build in this way
who go about begging
traitors to the king
For this may they ill prosper
false deceivers
Son and Holy Ghost
Let all say Amen

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