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Addresses of the Commons


1 Mylner . . . mylne, Miller . . . mill; alloquitur socios sic, speaks to his comrades in this way; asket, requires.
3 Loke . . . aright, Make sure your mill works properly.
14-15 make . . . begunnen, do a good job of finishing what you have begun.
15 doth wele . . . heryth, do well, and always better and better, for in the evening men praise.
17 dyght us corne, harvest wheat for us.
18 to dyghte . . . fayle, fetch your food and drink, so that none of you falter; Lokke that, Beware lest.
18-19 Hobbe Robbyoure, Hob the Robber.
19 lesyng, losing.
21 Jakke. . . doth, Jack Trewman gives.
21-22 falsnes . . . long, deceit and fraud have reigned too long.
22 trewthe . . . lokke, truth (troth) has been locked up.
23 flokke, flock (congregation); trewthe . . . dedero, come to truth unless he can sing ``If I should give.''
23-24 Speke . . . quoth, Speak, spend and prosper, says.
24 fareth . . . flode, behaves like a wild river.
25 clerkus . . . wo, clerks for riches cause them grief; do bote, provide the remedy.
27 Exemplar . . . Balle, Model for John Ball's letter; gretyth, greets; doth . . . understande, lets you know.
31 everydele, in everything.
32 helpe to, to aid.
33-34 pur charité, by charity.
35 Prima . . . Balle, John Ball's first letter; seynte . . . hem, Saint Mary's priest greets favorably all manner of men and asks them.
36 stonde . . . togedyr, stand together in a manly way.
37 helpez, aid.


1 mylne. The mill here seems to be a figure for the political cause, the rebellion. When the mill is working properly, with its four sails turning yarely, then all goes well. But they must proceed with circumspection and reason (skyl).

3 foure sayles. The four sails of a windmill. The post is the grinding axel.

5-13 With ryght and with myght. This lyric is a variant of a popular complaint type, cited by Wenzel (1978) as the first of four special versions of Type B complaint. He prints the following extract from "The Sayings of the Four Philosophers" in Speculum Christiani:
My3te is ry3te,
Ly3te is ny3te,
Fy3t is fly3t.
See Preachers, Poets, and the Early English Lyric, p. 185; Index § 2167. For a version even closer to the lyric type, see Addresses, lines 27-29.

6 skyl. Implies "reason," "intellect," "discretion," or "self-control," as well as "craft."

13 mys-adyght. MED glosses this specific usage as "improperly adjusted," though "ill-used," or "abused" are implicit as well.

14 have. So Green; Lumby hane.

16 Peres the Plowman. See The Letter of John Ball (Royal MS), line 4 and note.

18-19 Hobbe Robbyoure. See The Letter of John Ball (Royal MS), note to lines 4-5.

20 For nowe is tyme to be ware. The sentiments in this line appear on fourteenth-century church bells. See Susan Crane, "The Writing Lesson of 1381," in Chaucer's England, ed. Barbara Hanawalt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), p. 220, note 36 (citing Caroline Barron).

21-22 falsnes and gyle have regned to long. These lines should be compared with Wenzel's third poem of the "Type B" complaint lyrics (Hallas! men planys of litel trwthe). See below, note to line 23.

22 trewthe. Truth, with the meaning of troth, keeping one's word. Aston has pointed out that this word appears often in Lollard writings. Writing about Knighton's phrases trewe prechoures and false prechoures, she observes: "Knighton provides no explanation of his two examples, presumably because he expected his reader to understand their force without his aid. It is not difficult to guess their import: trewe prechoures are those who propound Wycliffite doctrine, false prechoures those who controvert this, or who preach unorthodox beliefs rejected by the Lollards" (Lollards and Their Books, p. 166). See also R. F. Green, "John Ball's Letters," pp. 183-84.

23 si dedero. A satirical Latin song, in couplets, that begins "Si dedero decus accipiam flatumque favoris: / Ni dedero, nil percipiam, spem perdo laboris." See H. Walther, Initia carminum ac versuum medii aevi posterioris latinorum § 17697; Reliquiae Antiquae, ed. T. Wright and J. O. Halliwell (New York: Pickering, 1843), 2:6:
Si dedero, decus accipiam flatumque favoris:
Ni dedero, nil percipiam, spem perdo laboris.

Si dedero, genus accumulo famamque potentis;
Ni dedero clauso sacculo, perit ars sapientis;

Si dedero, mihi laus, lex, et jus prospera dantur:
Ni dedero, mihi fraus, fel, faex adversa parantur;

Si dedero, mereor in summa sede locari:
Ni dedero, tenui compellor in aede morari;

Si dedero, veneratus ero, vocor et gratiosus:
Ni dedero, diffamor ego, vocor et vitiosus.
A fourteenth-century quatrain contains a reference to the Latin song: "Now goot falshed in everi flok, / And trwethe is sperd under a lok; / Now no man may comen er to / But yef he singge si dedero" (Reliquiae Antiquae, ed. Wright and Halliwell, 2:121; Index § 2319, Contra falsos iudices). For other references, see The Macro Plays, ed. Mark Eccles, p. 190 (note to The Castle of Perseverance line 879); Peter Idley's Instructions to His Son, ed. Charlotte d'Evelyn (London: Oxford University Press, 1935), line 560 and note (p. 216); and W. K. Smart, "Some Notes on Mankind," Modern Philology, 14 (1916), 296-97, who adduces John Lydgate's "Si dedero ys now so mery a song." The phrase "Si dedero," according to Smart, "is a popular expression for bribery or buying of favors of any sort" (p. 296). See also The Simonie, line 24. I am indebted to Paul F. Schaffner and Siegfried Wenzel for their help with this Latin song.

24 Jon of Banthon. Not identified. The manuscripts record his name as B_thon.

24-25 trewe love is away. An important motif of Middle English moral and didactic poetry is that charity 3/4 love 3/4 has grown cold in the world's last days, according to Christ's description of the end of the world in Matthew 24:12: "And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold." This scriptural passage was often interpreted to mean that when antichrists (1 John 2, Matt. 24:6), false prophets (Matt 24:11), and specifically the friars (the hypocrites and those who love to be called "master" of Matt. 23) shall effect such iniquity, then Christian charity will cool on earth as "many" will follow these false leaders. See, for example, a lyric from Merton College Oxford MS 248 fol. 166v entitled De mundo (On the world):
Hallas! men planys of litel trwthe;
hit ys dede and tat is rwthe;
falsedam regnis and es abowe,
and byrid es trwlove.
it; dead; that; pity
falsehood; is on high
buried is true love
In Religious Lyrics of the XIVth Century, ed. C. Brown, rev. G. V. Smithers, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1957), p. 54; Index § 2145. (I have normalized the spelling.) See also Munus fit iudex, line 23: "Symony is above, and awey is trwlove" (RHR, p. 144), and R. F. Green, "John Ball's Letters," p. 184. Siegfried Wenzel analyzes Hallas! men planys as a third popular version of Type B complaint lyrics. This lyric derives from two Latin hexameters. See Preachers, Poets, and the Early English Lyric, p. 191.

29-31 See above lines 5-13 and note.

31 everydele. So Green (adopting the reading from the Cotton Claudius MS); Lumby every ydele (the reading of the Cotton Tiberius MS). The Cotton Claudius reading is superior, since Ball would not ask God to bring prosperity to "idle men."

38-43 Now regneth pride in pris. These lines (and material in Jakke Trewman's address) are a version of Wenzel's popular verses of "Type B" complaint lyrics. He cites Index § 2356 (Now pride ys yn pris) which, like the present poem, contains not the traditional four evils but the seven deadly sins (Preachers, Poets, p. 197). See also When Rome Is Removed into England, line 5 and note; The Letter of John Ball (Stow version).

(From Chronicon Henrici Knighton)

Jakke Mylner
Jakke Mylner alloquitur socios sic: Jakke Mylner asket help to turne hys mylne
aright. He hath grounden smal, smal; the Kings sone of heven he schal pay for alle.
Loke thi mylne go aright, with the foure sayles, and the post stande in
    With ryght and with myght,
    With skyl and with wylle,
    Lat myght helpe ryght,
    And skyl go before wille
    And ryght before myght,
    Than goth oure mylne aryght.
    And if myght go before ryght,
    And wylle before skylle
    Than is oure mylne mys-adyght.        
(see note)
intellect; will; (see note)
improperly adjusted; (see note)

Jak Carter
Jakke Carter prayes yowe alle that ye make a gode ende of that ye have
begunnen, and doth wele and ay bettur and bettur, for at the evyn men heryth the
day. For if the ende be wele, than is alle wele. Lat Peres the Plowman my brother
duelle at home and dyght us corne, and I will go with yowe and helpe that I may
to dyghte youre mete and youre drynke, that ye none fayle. Lokke that Hobbe
Robbyoure be wele chastysed for lesyng of youre grace; for ye have gret nede to
take God with yowe in alle youre dedes. For nowe is tyme to be ware.

Jakke Trewman
Jakke Trewman doth you to understande that falsnes and gyle have regned to
long, and trewthe hat bene sette under a lokke, and falsnes regneth in every
flokke. No man may come trewthe to, bot he syng si dedero. Speke, spende and
spede, quoth Jon of Banthon, and therefore synne fareth as wilde flode, trew love
is away, that was so gode, and clerkus for welthe worche hem wo. God do bote,
for nowghe is tyme.


Exemplar epistolae Johannis Balle
    Jon Balle gretyth yow wele alle and doth yowe to understande, he hath rungen
youre belle.
   Nowe ryght and myght,
   Wylle and skylle,
   God spede everydele.
Nowe is tyme Lady helpe to Jhesu thi sone, and thi Sone to His Fadur, to make
a gode ende, in the name of the Trinité of that is begunne amen, amen, pur
charité, amen.
Prima epistola Johannis Balle
   John Balle seynte Marie prist gretes wele alle maner men and byddes hem in
the name of the Trinité, Fadur, and Sone and Holy Gost stonde manlyche togedyr
in trewthe, and helpez trewthe, and trewthe schal helpe yowe.
    Now regneth pride in pris,
    And covetys is hold wys,
    And leccherye withouten shame
    And glotonye withouten blame.
    Envye regnith with tresone,
    And slouthe is take in grete sesone.
    God do bote, for nowe is tyme. Amen.    
supremely; (see note)
[to be] wisdom
[is] shameless
bestow [fitting] reward

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