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Anticlerical Poems and Documents: Introduction


1 Jill Mann, "Satiric Subject and Satiric Object in Goliardic Literature," Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch 15 (1980), 63-86.

2 Matthew Paris had prepared the way in his Chronica Majora (1247) by attacking the ostentation of mendicant convents and by calling them the "modern Pharisees." And he called the friars "no longer fishers of men, but of coins." See W. R. Thomson, "The Image of the Mendicants in the Chronicles of Matthew Paris," Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 70 (1977), 3-34, at 20. For William and his treatise, see M.-M. Dufeil, Guillaume de Saint-Amour et la polémique universitaire parisienne, 1250-1259 (Paris: Picard, 1972), especially pp. 253-56.

3 See Wr, PSE, pp. 137-48, and Isabel S. T. Aspin, ed., Anglo-Norman Political Songs (Oxford: Blackwell, 1953), pp. 130-42.

4 Printed by RHR pp. 121-27; Index § 762.

5 "The 'O and I' Refrain in Middle English Poems: A Grammatology of Judgment Day," Neophilologus 71 (1987), 620-21.

6 "The Franciscans and Books: Lollard Accusations and the Franciscan Response" (1987), rpt. in Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts, ed. Mary A. Rouse and Richard H. Rouse (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991), pp. 409-24. They cite and quote from JU, Fifty Heresies and Errors of the Friars (1384?), How Religious Men Should Keep Certain Articles, Of Clerks Possessioners, the prologue to the Floretum (1384-96), and the Opus Arduum (1389-90); and they trace such charges to FitzRalph's Defensio Curatorum (see quote on p. 413). The Franciscan William Woodford, in his Responsiones ad Quaestiones LXV (Oxford Bodley 703, fols. 41-57), acknowledged that regular clergy withheld books from secular clergy: "For all such have libraries to keep their books in, whether works on Holy Scripture or on other subjects, which are closed up so that seculars are excluded, for the most part" (p. 416). He observed that restricting access to books was the rule rather than the exception in monastic libraries; that theft was a problem (so books were often chained to library stacks); and that books must be available for use by regular clergy (see p. 418).

7 Francis L. Utley, "The Layman's Complaint and The Friar's Answer," Harvard Theological Review 38 (1945), 143; Henry A. Person, Cambridge Middle English Lyrics (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1953), p. 79.

8 On the paired poems see the Introductions to FDR and UR in Six Ecclesiastical Satires, ed. Dean. Another telling example of this paired genre may be found in the Epistola Jesu Christi ad Prelatos, a supposed response to Peter Ceffons of Clairvaux's Epistola Luciferi ad Cleros, a mid-fourteenth century satiric attack on the clergy. But the alleged refutation is as anticlerical in its way as is the Epistola Luciferi. For the Epistola Luciferi in Middle English (from Huntington Library HM 114 fols. 319r-325v), see Robert R. Raymo, "A Middle English Version of the Epistola Luciferi ad Cleros," in Medieval Literature and Civilization: Studies in Memory of G. N. Garmonsway, ed. D. A. Pearsall and R. A. Waldron (London: Athlone Press, 1969), pp. 233-48. Raymo includes the Latin Epistola below the Middle English text.

9 V. J. Scattergood, Politics and Poetry in the Fifteenth Century (London: Blandford, 1971), p. 248.

10 Politics, p. 246.

11 John Trevisa translated the Defensio curatorum. See the edition of A. J. Perry: EETS o.s. 167 (London: Oxford University Press, 1925), pp. 39-93.

12 Steven Ozment, The Age of Reform 1250-1550 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), p. 210.

13 See Hudson, The Premature Reformation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988), pp. 2-4. The word Lollard was also applied to German heretics in the early fourteenth century. A cleric in Liége wrote, in 1309: "Eodem anno quidam hypocritae gyrovagi, qui Lollardi sive Deum laudantes vocabantur, per Hannoniam et Brabantiam quasdam mulieres nobiles deceperunt." (In that year deceitful wanderers, who are called Lollards or praisers of God, beguiled some noble women in Hainault and Brabant), Dictionnaire de théologie catholique (Paris: Letouzey and Ané, 1926), 9.1: col. 911.

14 Arundel's Constitutions are printed in English translation in The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe, ed. Stephen Reed Cattley, vol. 3 (London: Seeley, 1837), 242-48. By Foxe's reckoning, the seventh constitution is that "no man, hereafter, by his own authority translate any text of the Scripture into English or any other tongue, by way of a book, libel, or treatise; and that no man read any such book, libel, or treatise, now lately set forth in the time of John Wickliff, or since, or hereafter to be set forth, in part or in whole, privily or apertly [openly], upon pain of greater excommunication, until the said translation be allowed by the ordinary of the place, or, if the case so require, by the council provincial. He that shall do contrary to this, shall likewise be punished as a favourer of error and heresy" (p. 245).

15 The most accurate contemporary account of Oldcastle's problems with authorities is Walsingham's. For the story in Latin with facing English translation and explanation, see Gesta Henrici Quinti, ed. and trans. Frank Taylor and John S. Roskell (Oxford: Clarendon, 1975), chapter 1 and Appendix 1.

16 David C. Fowler, "John Trevisa and the English Bible," Modern Philology 58 (1960), 81-98; Hudson, The Premature Reformation, pp. 395-98. Fowler mounts a plausible though circumstantial case that scholars of Queen's College, Oxford - who for four years resisted the election of Thomas Carlisle, a northerner, as provost (1376) - were in an excellent position to serve as translators based on a list of books returned to the provost, a list that includes Higden's Polychronicon (which Trevisa translated), a Bible, and two commentaries of Nicholas of Lyra (often cited by the author of the General Prologue). For the list of twenty-four books, see p. 94. There is evidence of other translations made in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. See Henry Hargreaves, "The Wycliffite Versions," in The Cambridge History of the Bible, ed. G. W. H. Lampe, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 389-90.

17 Some of the manuscripts that Forshall and Madden identified as belonging to the Earlier Version have been subsequently identified as intermediary stages between the EV and the LV. For an even-handed summary of the state of present scholarship on these controversial issues, see Hudson, The Premature Reformation, pp. 239-40.

18 See also Chronicon Henrici Knighton, ed. J. R. Lumby, Rolls Series 92 (1895), 2:151-52.

19 "Translations and Paraphrases of the Bible, and Commentaries," in A Manual of the Writings in Middle English 1050-1500, vol. 2, ed. J. Burke Severs (New Haven: The Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1970), 403.

20 For a spirited and learned defense of translating Scripture into English, see C. F. Bühler's edition of "A Lollard Tract," Medium Ævum 7 (1938), 167-83. The anonymous author of this treatise points out that better access helps promote the faith and that this is why Jerome translated the Bible into Latin. He also cites precedent for Scripture in English, including Bede the Venerable, King Alfred, and Richard Rolle. The sentiments of this document agree closely with those of John Trevisa in his Dialogue Between a Lord and a Clerk upon Translation, which serves as something like a preface to the Polychronicon.

21 Margaret Aston, Lollards and Reformers: Images and Literacy in Late Medieval Religion (London: Hambledon Press, 1984), p. 198.

22 The Lanterne of Lit, ed. Lilian M. Swinburn, EETS o.s. 151 (London: Kegan Paul, 1917), p. viii. For corroboration of Swinburn's dating of the treatise and a retelling of Claydon's story with its implications for Lollardy, see Hudson, The Premature Reformation, pp. 13, 211-14.

23 As quoted in Swinburn's edition (from Foxe's Actes and Monuments), p. ix.

24 Hudson characterizes it as "Lollard and indeed of the radical wing of Lollardy" (The Premature Reformation, p. 213).
Protest against political institutions found greatest expression in anticlerical literature: poems and treatises attacking friars, the papacy, Lollards, or religious in general. Satirists and writers of complaint literature - often clerics themselves - deplored the manifest gap between professed ecclesiastical ideals and the too often sordid realities of religious orders and their detractors.

Middle English anticlerical literature derives from a rich tradition of Latin writings on the Investiture Controversy of the eleventh and twelfth centuries and from the later interest in clerical reform as embodied, for example, in estates satire. Earlier writers in the Latin tradition include Peter Damian, Benzo of Alba (who attacked Pope Gregory VII), Serlo of Wilton, Bernard of Morval, Walter Map, Hugo of Orléans, Walter of Châtillon, the Archpoet of Cologne, Gerald of Wales, Nigel Wireker, and the author of the Apocalypse of Golias. It is perhaps not sufficiently appreciated that the extensive so-called "goliardic" corpus of verse is concerned less with "wine, women, and song" (in Symonds's celebrated phrase) than with satirical attacks on clerical abuses and contempt of the world. 1 "Golias," who indicts himself through his words, anticipates Jean de Meun's Faussemblant and Chaucer's Pardoner as much as Gargantua or Pantagruel.

Anticlerical literature in England was also much influenced by the vicious quarrels between the secular masters and the mendicants at the University of Paris in the mid-thirteenth century. The secular faculty resented the strong (and growing) fraternal influence in the university; and William of St-Amour virtually inaugurated the antifraternal tradition with his influential treatise De periculis novissorum temporum (On the dangers of the latemost times), written in 1256. 2 In this treatise, which attempts to expose the friars as the "many antichrists" of 1 John 2:18 as well as the "lovers of themselves" of 2 Timothy 3 and the "false prophets" of Matthew 24, William draws parallels with the scriptural "last times" or the "consummation of the world" and his own time. He chronicles the forty-one "signs" which distinguish the "true apostles" from the "pseudo-apostles." Jean de Meun imported William's extremist prophecy into his section of Le Roman de la Rose, a poem Geoffrey Chaucer says he translated. Viewed in one way, then, the anticlerical literature of the later Middle Ages may be seen as documenting the predicted end of the world. Seen in another way, as it also should be, the attack on friars - the antifraternal tradition - merely refocuses the anticlerical tradition of the "goliard poets" and clerical reformists of the late eleventh and twelfth centuries. Antifraternal writers sharpened the portrait of a society in spiritual disarray; and the friars would become a favorite target of estates satirists, joining the traditional hierarchy of pope, bishop, archdeacon, dean, parson, vicar, monk of The Apocalypse of Golias. In this way Chaucer's Friar Huberd takes his place alongside the courtly Prioress, the hunt-loving Monk, the studious Clerk, and the ideal Parson of the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales.

English anticlerical writers of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries attacked the new orders in complaint and satire. They regarded the very novelty as both a break with traditional Christianity and as a portent of the end of the world. A poem from Harley MS 2253 - which begins "Qui vodra à moi entendre" - portrays "un Ordre novel," a new order, that combines all the alleged worst aspects of the traditional orders. This is "le Ordre de Bel-Eyse" (the Order of Fair Ease), which encourages frequent meals and drinking (points from Sempringham and Beverly), fine clothes (Hospitalers), meat three times daily (regular canons), drunkenness (Benedictines), fraternization with nuns (secular canons), lewd "praying" with nuns on the floor and private visitation cells (Cistercians), luxury accommodations when traveling (Franciscan friars), horseback riding (Dominican friars), and material enhancement (Austin friars). 3 The Order of Fair Ease adopts the outrageous pose of "bishop Golias" and anticipates the carnal pleasures of The Land of Cokaygne, an often-printed Middle English poem from Harley MS 913 fols. 3r-6v. 4

The first anticlerical poem in this collection is a unique lyric against friars from British Library MS Cotton Cleopatra B. ii fols. 63v-65r beginning "Preste, ne monke, ne yit chanoun" (Index § 2777), which RHR (following Wr) dates to 1382. (The foliation differs from the traditional paging since the manuscript was recently refoliated.) Rhyming aaabcccbdede in 180 semi-alliterating lines, this piece begins as mock encomium and features a vigorous portrait of the mendicant orders as vagrant pedlars and tricksters; and as in PPC and JU, this lyric links the four orders to Caym (Cain): Carmelites, Austins, Jacobins (Dominicans), and Minorites. Another antifraternal poem from the same MS (fol. 65v) follows, this one beginning "Of thes Frer Mynours me thenkes moch wonder" (Index § 2663, also of 1382). This forty-two line poem, with semi-alliterating verses rhyming aaaabb (in stanzas), attacks the Franciscan order for its alleged tendencies to dramatize Minorite piety by making false analogies between modern-day friars and Christ. Joseph Grennen explains the "overriding message" of this lyric as an attack on friars: "for their distortions, lies, heresy, pride, cupidity, and above all hypocrisy, the friars will be 'brent' - consigned to the flames, not as the self-regarding myth in which they see themselves in the role of Elijah in the fiery chariot would have it, but to the flames of hell-fire." 5 The lyric has a refrain (bb) beginning "With an O and an I," a formula (exploited in other poems) which has not been convincingly explained. The present texts of both poems are based on a photographic reproduction of the British Library manuscript, which is checked against the editions of Wr, Cook (who reprints Wr's texts), Heuser (for "Of thes Frer Mynours"), RHR, Grennen, and Krochalis and Peters.

Next are two antifraternal poems from St. John's College Cambridge MS 195 (fol. 1v and 1v-2r = flyleaves) beginning "Thou That Sellest the Worde of God" (Index § 3697), in three six-line stanzas rhyming aabccb; and "Allas, what schul we freris do" (Index § 161), in nine four-line stanzas rhyming abab. The first poem professes to be an outspoken layman's attack on simoniac clergy - those who sell God's word. The narrator singles out the friars as especially blameworthy and bids them to appear only when summoned. The second lyric purports to be an aggrieved friar's rejoinder to "Thou That Sellest." The narrator reveals his anxieties about laymen's access to Scripture. Mary and Richard Rouse have collected accusations against friars to the effect that they conspired to keep secular clergy away from books of Scripture; and they argue that these charges may reflect actual fourteenth-century conditions. 6 The present texts are based upon an electrostatic print of the Cambridge MS, which is checked against the versions of Utley, RHR, and Person; and I adopt several of Utley's and RHR's readings, notably Utley's reading of line 3 of "Thou That Sellest." Utley and RHR entitle "Thou That Sellest" The Layman's Complaint, believing that "Allas! What Schul We Freris Do" (which they entitle The Friar's Answer after a marginal inscription) responds directly to it. Browne and Wells suggest that "Thou That" and "Allas, What Schul" were part of the same poem; but Utley argues that they are separate poems, that the author of the former "belonged to the reforming party," and that "his purpose was similar to that of the fourteenth century author of Pierce the Ploughmans Crede." Person likewise says: "That the scribe . . . regarded them as a single poem might be inferred from the absence of any break in the MS. and the fact that the title to the latter part has been supplied in the margin by a later hand. . . . In any event, since each of the parts has more meaning in juxtaposition with the other than by itself, it is probably just as safe to look upon it as a sort of dialogue, a plaint and response reminiscent of Chaucer's Fortune." 7 If RHR and Person are correct, these poems provide further evidence for a tradition of satirical paired poems (like FDR and UR or Chaucer's Friar's and Summoner's Tales). 8 Scattergood doubts that the author of "Allas, What Schul We Freris Do" could be a friar because of certain disparaging remarks. 9

These paired lyrics are followed by a forty-two line macaronic, antifraternal poem in a unique text of about 1490 from Trinity College Cambridge MS 1148 fol. 58v beginning "Freers, freers, wo ye be, ministri malorum" (Index § 871). As in so much antifraternal literature, the anonymous author of "Freers, Freers" traces the evils that friars do to their demonic connections. Friars are not merely wicked, they are said to inherit Lucifer's seven deadly sins when the rebel angels fell from heaven. They have a special mission or ministries to deceive, do violence, trick, and grasp. They are greedy for money but also for sex. Scattergood observes that the circumstances of this poem's preservation - it was "evidently copied out by William Womyndham, Canon of Kyrkeby 'super Algam"' - reveals the "bad feeling which existed between the secular clergy and the friars." 10 The text of this edition is based on an electrostatic reproduction of the manuscript and checked against the editions of Wr (for PPS, reprinted in Reliquiae Antiquae) and RHR. On the model of the manuscript, Wr in Reliquiae Antiquae prints the Latin half-lines as continuous with the English half-lines and not, as in Wr (PPS), RHR, or the present edition, as subjacent.

Samples of Wycliffite or Lollard writings come next: selections from the General Prologue to The Wycliffite Bible; and the Prologue to and chapters 3-5 of The Lanterne of Light. Wycliffites were the followers of John Wyclif (Doctor Evangelicus, died 1384), the Oxford master and controversialist, who formulated influential doctrines on ecclesiastical endowments, on the papacy and church hierarchy, and on theological issues, including transubstantiation. His attacks on clerical abuses found a wide audience in England and on the continent; and until 1382 John of Gaunt protected him from prelates who wished to suppress his more extreme formulations. For most of his career, though, Wyclif was regarded as a first-rank realist philosopher and teacher, with well-known students including Nicholas Hereford, John Aston, Philip Repyngdon, and John Purvey. But he ventured often and trenchantly into polemics after the fashion of Richard FitzRalph, archbishop of Armagh and author of De paupertate Salvatoris (On the Lord's Poverty, 1356: a treatise on lordship and dominion), and of Defensio curatorum (The Defense of Curates, 1357: a sermon attacking friars). 11 His adherents, the so-called Lollards or Wycliffites, were for the most part craftsmen, and they, after Wyclif, "opposed the subjection of the English church to Rome, the temporal rule of the clergy, the doctrine of transubstantiation, clerical celibacy, the consecration of physical objects, masses for the dead, pilgrimages, and the veneration of images." 12 The English term Lollard (Lat. Lollardus) - first recorded use in 1382 - may derive from the Dutch lollaert, mumbler of prayers. Some medieval English writers deliberately confused Lollard with loller, lazy vagabond, idler, loafer, and sometimes with Latin lolia, tares, weeds. The word quickly became a term of abuse signifying a religious zealot; 13 and weeds, probably as a result of the parable of the sower (Matt. 13), became a metaphor for Lollards, as in Chaucer's Man of Law's Epilogue, when the Shipman (or, perhaps, the Wife of Bath) complains that the Parson (a possible "Lollere," according to the Host) "wolde sowen som difficulte, / Or springen cokkel in our clene corne" (II.1183-84).

Sometimes known as bretheren, bible men, or known men, the Lollards developed Wyclif's controversial ideas into a political agenda which denounced the established church as hopelessly flawed and prelates (including the pope) as agents of Satan and Antichrist. Some of Wyclif's ideas about church temporalities found expression in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381; and later chroniclers, such as Thomas Walsingham and Henry Knighton, censured Wyclif as an instigator of the Rising. Whether Wyclif had any connection with the Peasants' Revolt is unclear; but in 1382, at the Blackfriars council in London, Wyclif's opponents at Oxford, induced by William Courtenay, archbishop of Canterbury, condemned ten Wycliffite propositions as heretical and fourteen as erroneous. After 1382 it could be dangerous to be associated with Wyclif's ideas, although Lollard political views enjoyed wide support in certain regions and even in parliament until about 1414-15. After 1401 prelates could seek out and consign heretics to the secular branch for burning according to the edict De haeretico comburendo. In 1409 archbishop Thomas Arundel issued his Constitutions, which enjoined the possession or reading of unauthorized scriptural translations, which prohibited unlicensed preaching in English, and which remained as law until 1529; 14 and in 1411 a book-burning of Wyclif's writings occurred at Carfax while the chancellor of Oxford University looked on. Persecution of the Lollards only intensified after Sir John Oldcastle, a Lollard knight (and prototype for Shakespeare's Falstaff), tried to incite a rebellion against King Henry V in January, 1414. When Oldcastle refused to abjure his heresy in a trial, the king imprisoned him in the Tower. Oldcastle managed to escape, and he called for a general rebellion; but it failed miserably when Henry learned details of the plot (see below, "Lo, He That Can Be Cristes Clerc"). 15 After this revolt, the Lollard movement suffered persecution from the secular arm as well as from the clergy, since the rebellion exposed a threat to the crown. Yet many manuscripts of the Lollard Bible and other Lollard writings survive, attesting to the strength of conviction of these lay craftsmen and women who would be preachers.

The Wycliffite Bible - a translation which influenced the King James version and the only complete Bible in English prior to Miles Coverdale's vernacular Bible of 1535 - is a feat of scholarship and a labor of love carried out under difficult circumstances, since clerical authorities discouraged books in English and especially vernacular Scripture. The translators of this English Bible are anonymous, but it is thought that Wyclif's Oxford disciples and colleagues played a central role - men such as Nicholas Hereford, William Middleworth, John Purvey, and perhaps even John Trevisa. 16 It exists in at least two states, an earlier and a later version. 17 The first version, markedly literal and dependent upon Vulgate diction, was completed about 1390; the later, more idiomatic version was completed about 1395. The Lollards and Wyclif, who may have supervised the earlier version, undertook these translations to make Scripture available to lay persons (including women), a decision with political ramifications (see "Allas, What Schul We Freris Do" and "Lo, He That Can Be Cristes Clerc"). 18 The Prologue author explains that clerics have appropriated Holy Scripture, depriving "simple" (plain) and "lewid" (lay) folk - not terms of opprobrium - of its knowledge and power:
For though covetouse clerkis ben woode by simonie, eresie, and manye othere synnes, and dispisen and stoppen Holi Writ as myche as thei moun, yit the lewid puple crieth aftir Holi Writ, to kunne it, and kepe it, with greet cost and peril of here lif. For these resons and othere, with comune charité to save alle men in oure rewme, whiche God wole have savid, a symple creature hath translatid the Bible out of Latyn into English.
The Prologue, printed from Forshall and Madden's edition of the later version and which dates from 1395-96, has often been attributed to John Purvey, and it demonstrates the care with which Lollards attempted to discriminate between literal and figurative interpretations of Scripture. Laurence Muir has written of the General Prologue:
The connection of the Wyclyfite versions with the Lollard movement is little apparent in the Biblical text, but rather in the General Prologue, appearing in some of the manuscripts. This Prologue constitutes an introduction to the books of the Old Testament, and it includes statements of the Lollard views about the translating and reading of Scripture. In addition it includes an enlightened set of principles for translating, principles it exemplified and justified by the revisions themselves. 19
In a segment from chapter 13 (printed below) the Prologue author complains about proposed curricular changes at Oxford University which would make study of divinity and Scripture even more difficult. "This semith uttirly the develis purpos," he laments, "that fewe men either noon schulen lerne and kunne Goddis lawe." 20 He believes the masters at Oxford foster errors to the detriment of "symple men" and men "of good wille." He is scrupulous about rendering ("resolving") Latin into English "openli," that is, clearly and accurately. He wants to translate as literally and faithfully as he can, but he acknowledges, with well-chosen examples, that literal translations sometimes result in sentences that are "derk and douteful" (unclear and ambiguous). His program is to honor Jerome's inspired Latin but to make the English accessible to "symple" and "lewid" people like himself; and he even hopes (or at least originally "purposid"), "with Goddis helpe," to "make the sentence [meaning] as trewe and open in English as it is in Latyn, either more trewe and more open than it is in Latyn" - a bold if not scandalous claim. Assertions like these brought down the wrath of clerical authority, including statutes forbidding translation of Scripture (1407, 1409) and the destruction of Wycliffite Bibles and Lollard writings. The Statutes of the Realm rebuke Lollard literacy and unauthorized schooling: "They make unlawful conventicles and confederacies, they hold and exercise schools, they make and write books, they do wickedly instruct and inform people." 21

The author of the General Prologue writes in Latinate periods, with Latinate diction and word order, as in this sentence opening: "But it is to wite that Holy Scripture . . . ." This awkward construction (in English) imitates the common Latin construction Est scire. Also noticeable is the author's concern with literal understanding, as he frequently supplies alternate words or phrases to help explain a concept (with either = or and either . . . either = either . . . or). Forshall and Madden, through their punctuation, made every effort to preserve the periodic nature of the prose style; and they relied heavily on semicolons. Although I base the present text on Forshall and Madden, I often alter their punctuation for better sense; and I have compared Forshall and Madden's version with that in The True Copye of a Prolog Wrytten about Two C. Yeres Paste by J. Wycklife (R. Crowley, 1550; STC 25588), and with that of Anne Hudson in Selections from English Wycliffite Writings (chapter 15 only).

The Lanterne of Light, an anonymous treatise which dates from the early fifteenth century (probably between 1409 and 1415), is one of the most important and influential witnesses to Lollard writings. Unlike so many Lollard writings, which cannot be dated with any precision, The Lanterne of Light appears independently in documents of inquisition against a London currier named John Claydon, who was summoned before Henry Chichele, archbishop of Canterbury, on charges of heresy on 17 August 1415. The specific charge was possession of books in English, including a volume "bound in red leather, of parchment, written in a good English hand, called the Lanterne of Light." 22 Claydon, who could not read, had the book copied by John Gryme, scribe; and Claydon's servants acknowledged that they had heard it read aloud in Claydon's house. The Archishop asked four friars to examine the book, and they drew up a list of fifteen errors, including: "That the bishop's license, for a man to preach the word of God, is the true character of the beast, i.e. Antichrist; and therefore simple and faithful priests may preach when they will, against the prohibition of that Antichrist, and without license" (§ 3); and "That the Court of Rome is the chief head of Antichrist, and the bishops be the body; and the new sects (that is, the monks, canons and friars), brought in not by Christ, but damnably by the pope, be the venemous and pestiferous tail of Antichrist" (§ 4). 23 Claydon was burned as a heretic on 10 September 1415 at Smithfield.

The prose style of The Lanterne of Light, especially in its generous quotations from Scripture (sometimes reminiscent of Chaucer's Parson's Tale), is vigorous and engaging not to mention polemical. 24 The author at the outset establishes a crisis atmosphere - an increase in the world's wickedness (a commonplace of the exordium: senium mundi) - and then tackles the important issue of the nature of Antichrist. He divides Antichrist into his general and specific qualities. Among the former the author mentions that Antichrist generally opposes Christ and commits six sins against the Holy Ghost; among the specific qualities, Antichrist consists of those who promulgate laws contrary to Christ. Antichrist has three parts and five conditions or launches five "assaults" on humans. The present text of the selections from The Lanterne of Light is based on an excellent electrostatic print of the Harley manuscript and is checked against Swinburn's edition.

The last work included in this section is an anti-Lollard poem in 152 lines from British Library MS Cotton Vespasian B. xvi. fol. 2v-3r (Index § 1926), which begins, "Lo, he that can be Cristes clerc" and which has as its refrain variants of "For lewde lust of Lollardie." RHR titles this poem Defend Us From All Lollardy and dates it "after mid 1414 and before end of 1417" (p. 331). It focuses on Sir John Oldcastle, a Lollard knight prominent in the failed revolt of 1414 (often called "Oldcastle's rebellion"); and it depicts Sir John as a corrupt knight-turned-cleric who not only betrays the king and parliament but also leads his followers into spiritual perdition through heretical interpretations of Scripture. The author of this lyric portrays Oldcastle as a shameful traitor to his class in trying to pass himself off as an ecclesiastic, "To bable the Bibel day and night" (line 27). The Lollards who took part in the rebellion apparently wanted to separate the clergy from their temporalities but also to kill the king ("the chief of chivalrie," Henry V), his brothers, and high prelates and magnates of the realm. When the rebellion miscarried, Oldcastle went into hiding; and the poem seems to have been written before his execution in 1417. This lyric is notable for its elaborate metaphor comparing Sir John to a castle that has gone to ruin (unabashed wordplay on Sir John's name). Other writers - including John Hardyng in his verse Chronicle, Thomas Hoccleve, and the author of the Liber Metricus of Elmham (Rolls Series 1858) - denounced Oldcastle and his ill-fated rebellion. The text for the present edition is based on a (sometimes illegible) photostatic copy of the manuscript, which is checked against the editions of Wright (PPS) and of RHR. The manuscript's scribe has laid out the text with about eight stresses to the line, in staves of four lines each headed by a paraph (¦).

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Select Bibliography


British Library MS Cotton Cleopatra B. ii fols. 63v-65r (1382)

Cambridge University, St. John's College MS 195 fols. 1v and 1v-2r (1425)

Cambridge University, Trinity College MS 1144 fol. 58v (c. 1490)

British Library MS Harley 2324 fols. 1v-4r, 5v-20v (1409-15)

British Library MS Cotton Vespasian B. xvi. fol. 2v (1450-60)

British Library MS Harley 3362 fol. 47r (1475-1500)

Previous Editions

Preste, Ne Monke, Ne Yit Chanoun (MS Cotton Cleopatra)

Cook, Albert S., ed. A Literary Middle English Reader. Boston: Ginn, 1915. ["Preste, ne monke": pp. 361-64: lines 1-84 only; "Of thes Frer": pp. 364-65. Reprint of Wr.]

Krochalis, Jeanne and Edward Peters, eds. The World of Piers Plowman. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1975. [Pp. 103-08.]

Robbins, Rossell Hope, ed. Historical Poems of the XIVth and XVth Centuries. New York: Columbia University Press, 1959. [Pp. 157-62.]

Of Thes Frer Mynours (MS Cotton Cleopatra)

Heuser, W. "With an O and an I." Anglia 27 (1904), 283-319. [Definitive early study, with textual editions, of Middle English and Anglo-Latin "O and I" refrain poems. "Of Thes Frers" is printed on pp. 302-03.]

Grennen, Joseph E. "The 'O and I' Refrain in Middle English Poems: A Grammatology of Judgment Day," Neophilologus 71 (1987), 614-25. [Text on p. 620.]

Krochalis, Jeanne and Edward Peters, eds. The World of Piers Plowman. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1975. [Pp. 108-10.]

RHR, pp. 163-64.

Wright, Thomas. Political Poems and Songs. Rolls Series 14.1. 2 vols. London: Longman, Green, 1859, 1861. [Poem in volume 1, pp. 268-70.]

Thou That Sellest and Allas, What Schul We Freris Do (St. John's College MS)

Person, Henry A., ed. Cambridge Middle English Lyrics. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1953. [The two poems on pp. 41-43.]

RHR, pp. 166 and 166-68.

Utley, Francis L. "The Layman's Complaint and The Friar's Answer." Harvard Theological Review 38 (1945), 140-47. [Prints the poems with important commentaries.]

Freers, Freers, Wo Ye Be (Trinity College MS)

RHR, pp. 164-65.

Wright, Thomas. Political Poems and Songs. Rolls Series 14.1. 2 vols. London: Longman, Green, 1859, 1861. ["Freers, freers" appears in II, 249-50.]

The Wycliffite Bible: General Prologue

Forshall, Josiah. and Frederic Madden, eds. The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, with the Apocryphal Books, in the Earliest English Versions Made from the Latin Vulgate by John Wycliffe and His Followers. 4 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1850. Rpt. New York: AMS Press, 1982. [Prologue in vol. 1. Outdated in certain ways but still the most accessible edition of the Wycliffite Bible.]

The True Copye of a Prolog Wrytten about Two C. Yeres Paste by J. Wycklife. R. Crowley, 1550. [STC 25588; UMI Reel 10370.]

Hudson, Anne, ed. Selections from English Wycliffite Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978). [Prints chapter 15 on pp. 67-72; valuable notes on pp. 173- 77.]

Pollard, Alfred W., ed. Fifteenth Century Prose and Verse. London: A. Constable, 1903. Rpt. New York: Cooper Square, 1964. [Prints a modernized version of chapter 15, based on Forshall and Madden, on pp. 193-99.]

The Lanterne of Light (Harley MS)

Swinburn, Lilian, ed. The Lanterne of Lit. EETS o.s. 151. London: Kegan Paul, 1917. [Standard edition with Notes and Glossary.]

Lo, He That Can Be Cristes Clerc (MS Cotton Vespasian)

RHR, pp. 152-57.

Wright, Thomas. Political Poems and Songs. Rolls Series 14.1. 2 vols. London: Longman, Green, 1859, 1861. ["Lo, He" in II, 243-47.]

General Studies

Aston, Margaret. England's Iconoclasts. Volume 1: Laws Against Images. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988. [Studies the Lollard opposition to religious images and their use in religious institutions.]

---. "Lollardy and Sedition, 1381-1431." Lollards and Reformers: Images and Literacy in Late Medieval Religion. London: Hambledon, 1984. Pp. 1-47.

Bennett, J. A. W. "Wyclif and the Wycliffite Writers." Middle English Literature. Ed. Douglas Gray. Oxford: Clarendon, 1986. Pp. 335-46. [Good, brief general introduction to the subject.]

Bühler, Curt F. "A Lollard Tract: On Translating the Bible into English." Medium Ævum 7 (1938), 167-83.

Gradon, Pamela. "Langland and the Ideology of Dissent." Proceedings of the British Academy 66 (1980), 179-205. [Concludes that Piers Plowman, while it shares many points with Wycliffite or Lollard writings, should be considered a satiric, visionary poem rather than a theoretical work offering the ideology of dissent. Valuable for demonstrating the commonplace nature of much of late fourteenth-century anticlericalism.]

Greene, Richard L. "A Middle English Poem and the 'O-and-I' Refrain-Phrase." Medium Ævum 30 (1961), 170-75. [Traces the "O and I" to Dante's Inferno 24.97-102.]

Grennen, Joseph E. "The 'O and I' Refrain in Middle English Poems: A Grammatology of Judgment Day." Neophilologus 71 (1987), 614-25. [Argues that the "O" and "I" letters in Of Thes Frer Mynours are "grammatological" and not "idiophonic" and that they may be traced to oculi and ictu in the phrase "twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor. 15:52).]

Hargreaves, Henry. "The Wycliffite Versions." The Cambridge History of the Bible. Ed. G. W. H. Lampe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969. II, 387-415.

Hudson, Anne. Lollards and Their Books. London: Hambledon Press, 1985. [A convenient gathering of her previously published essays on Lollard issues.]

---. The Premature Reformation: Wycliffite Texts and Lollard History. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988. [A major book by the acknowledged expert on Lollardy at the present time. Hudson revises conventional wisdom on the Lollards and their project.]

Lindberg, Conrad. "Reconstructing the Lollard Versions of the Bible." Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 90 (1989), 117-23. [Discusses four versions of the Wycliffite Bible: the original, the interlinear, the earlier, and the later versions. Focuses on Judges to argue the case.]

Mann, Jill. Chaucer and Medieval Estates Satire: The Literature of Social Classes and the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973. [Authoritative study of the tradition of estates satire keyed to Chaucer's pilgrims.]

Osberg, Richard H. "A Note on the Middle English 'O & I' Refrain." Modern Philology 77 (1980), 392-96.

Peter, John. Complaint and Satire in Early English Literature. Oxford: Clarendon, 1956. [The seminal work distinguishing medieval satire from complaint.]

Rouse, Mary A., and Richard H. "The Franciscans and Books: Lollard Accusations and the Franciscan Response." From Ockham to Wyclif. Ed. Anne Hudson and M. Wilks. Studies in Church History: Subsidia 5 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 369-84. Reprinted in Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts. Ed. Mary A. Rouse and Richard H. Rouse (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991), pp. 409-24. [They argue that Lollard accusations that the Franciscans kept books away from laymen reflect actual late fourteenth-century conditions, since even the Franciscan William Woodford acknowledged that regular clergy kept books under lock.]

Scase, Wendy. Piers Plowman and the New Anticlericalism. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. [Argues that there was a new, all-encompassing anticlericalism in the fourteenth century which differed from traditional oppositions to clerical abuses. Contains important treatments of Richard FitzRalph, mendicancy, lordship, and dominion.]

Scattergood, V. J. Politics and Poetry in the Fifteenth Century. London: Blandford, 1971. [See especially chapter 7: "Religion and the Clergy." VJS discusses "Thou that sellest" on pp. 246-47; "Allas, What Schul We Freris Do" on pp. 247-48; "Freers, Freers" on pp. 245-46; and "Lo, He" on pp. 252, 255, 257, and 262.]

Tucker, Samuel Marion. Verse Satire in England Before the Renaissance. New York: Columbia University Press, 1908; rpt. New York: AMS, 1966. [See chapters 2 and 3 for material on the Latin and English traditions of satire and complaint. This study has been largely superseded by Peter's Complaint and Satire in Early English Literature.]


Hargreaves, Henry. "John Wyclif and Wyliffite Writings." The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. Gen. ed. George Watson. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974. Cols. 491-96.

Muir, Laurence. "IV. Translations and Paraphrases of the Bible, and Commentaries." A Manual of the Writings in Middle English 1050-1500. Vol. 2. Gen. ed. J. Burke Severs. (New Haven: The Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1970), 381-409, 534-52. [See especially "Wyclyfite Versions," pp. 402-03, 547-50.]

Robbins, Rossell Hope. "XIII. Poems Dealing with Contemporary Conditions." A Manual of the Writings in Middle English 1050-1500. Vol. 5. Gen. ed. Albert E. Hartung. Vol. 5 (New Haven: The Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1975), 1385-1536, 1631-1725. [Discusses Preste, Ne Monke, Ne Yit Chanoun (§ 100) on pp. 1443-44, bibliography pp. 1672-73; Of Thes Frer Mynours (§ 101) on pp. 1444-45, bibliography p. 1673; Thou That Sellest (§ 102) on p. 1445, bibliography pp. 1673-74; Allas, What Schul We Freris Do (§ 103) on p. 1445, bibliography p. 1674; Freers, Freers, Wo Ye Be (§ 105) on p. 1445, bibliography p. 1674; Lo, He That Can Be Cristes Clerc (§ 120) on pp. 1452-53, bibliography p. 1679.]