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Upland's Rejoinder: Introduction

UR, an anonymous poem in 393 semi-alliterating lines, responds to FDR in much the same way that FDR answers JU. Like FDR, it exists only in Bodleian Library, Oxford MS Digby 41, and is executed as marginal glosses to FDR. UR was written down in two different hands. Hand 1 (= UR), lines 1-393, is mid fifteenth century; hand 2 (= T), lines 394-440, dates from about the same time. N. P. Ker has dated the hand of the UR scribe to shortly after 1450. P. L. Heyworth, who edited the standard edition of JU, FDR, and UR, argues that the UR text is a holograph and that the T hand is an interpolator and not a scribe who had access to a different version of the poem than the UR scribe. Hence he emends very sparingly and only when he believes the T interpolator, or a corrector, has altered UR's text.

UR purports to be written by an outraged countryman, "Jak Uplonde" (line 2), against the evil Friar Daw Topias and on behalf of the secular clergy. Despite the similar narrative persona and name, the author of UR is not the one who wrote JU. By the time UR was written, "Jack Upland" had become a type representing those who opposed fraternal invasions of privileges traditionally enjoyed by secular clerics, especially priests. Both JU and UR score points against the friars with arguments formulated by antifraternal writers such as William of St. Amour and especially Richard FitzRalph (see the Introduction to FDR). In FDR Daw, answering JU's sixty-five questions, had preceded his responses with "Jak," "Thou axist me, Jacke," a rhetorical technique that echoes Upland's "Frere," "Frere, what charite is it" in JU. In UR the author replies to FDR similarly, by preceding his retorts with "Daw," "Dawe, thou blaberest." He says, for example: "Daw, thou fablest of foxes and appliest hem to a puple / Of whom nether thou knowyst kunnyng, ne her conversacion" (lines 14-15). This answers Daw's apocalyptic exemplum: "Foxes frettid in fere wasten the cornes, / And Cristes vine is vanishid to the verray rote" (lines 21-22). UR adheres closely to the text of FDR and could not exist as a separate poem; it is ironically dependent on FDR even as FDR exists only as a response to JU. Whatever other similarities there may be between and among Piers Plowman, on the one hand, and FDR and UR, on the other, the latter works do not stand alone as independent narrative poems. But whereas the author of FDR, through wording and sometimes through quotation, indicates precisely what lines of JU he is replying to, the author of UR is often vaguer, perhaps because the reader can see which lines are intended on the manuscript page.

The Lollard author of UR, like Langland and Daw/Walssingham, supports his polemical arguments with Latin scriptural quotations, sometimes with mere allusions that point toward larger references, such as "12a q 2aGloria episcopi," which is clerical shorthand for a passage in Gratian's Decretum concerning Christ and poverty. More typical of Upland's style is a brief quotation from the Gospel or from a Pauline epistle.

If Daw's specialty is the tu quoque, Upland's is the ad hominem reduction. His rhetoric sometimes approaches cursing, as when he associates Daw with the soil: "Daw dirt, thou claterist meche" (120), or "And so thes similitudes, with thes soluciones, / Ben not worthe the devellis dirt, Dawe" (202-03). He characterizes Daw's exegesis as "arseword," the earliest recorded instance of this word. He has a wealth of insulting appellations for Daw: "Daw, blaberere and blynde leder" (71); "Dawkyn" (156); "Lewde Dawe" (197); "Dawe Dotypolle" (353). He depicts his antagonist as a senile blind dog stupidly baying at the moon (88-91). He calls Daw and friars sodomites (59, 263) and accuses them of being found "alle day with wymmen and wifes" (58). He speaks approvingly of the hanging of friars as "traytoures" (272). None of these countercharges or nicknames is very different from what Daw had said of Jack Upland.

In some lines UR somewhat resembles alliterative verse of the mid- to late fourteenth century, as in line 5, which contains alliteration on ch and something like a caesura: "Chidyng with blasfemie, on chyteryng as chowghes." In other lines there seems to be no attempt at either vocalic or consonantal alliteration, as in line 22: "Til that thai destried the corne alle about hem." More typical of the poet's verse are lines with weak or imperfect alliteration, as in the following lines: "Loke how Sampson bonde the foxes two and two to-gedir" (21). Sometimes lines contain different alliteration in the two halflines, or alliteration on consonants within rather than at the beginning of words; at other times alliteration in one line seems to carry over to another, as in lines 225-26 ("alliteration" on g and b?):
Bot ye youres with beggery, bargenyng, and robberye;
For grounde have thai non bot if it be here.
It is easy to impugn the poet's prosodic skill, but it is more useful, I believe, to describe what he does. After all, no one, in his time or our own, would read the poem solely for its aesthetic qualities. Its interest and appeal resides in its historical and cultural value as a witness to late medieval antifraternal and Lollard verse.

This text is based on P. L. Heyworth's standard edition of 1968 (abbreviated PLH) and is checked against a microfilm version of the unique Digby MS (abbreviated MS). I have also consulted Wright's edition (abbreviated Wr). In the Notes I record only substantive variants from the MS text and not obvious spelling emendations, such as the corrector's addition of the s to holine at line 180.

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Oxford University Bodleian Library MS Digby 41.

Modern Editions

Wright, Thomas, ed. The Reply of Friar Daw Topias, with Jack Upland's Rejoinder. In Political Poems and Songs Relating to English History. Rolls Series 14. Vol. 2. London: Longman, Green, 1861.

Heyworth, P. L., ed. In Jack Upland, Friar Daw's Reply, and Upland's Rejoinder. Oxford: Clarendon, 1968.


Heyworth, P. L. "Jack Upland's Rejoinder, a Lollard Interpolator, and Piers Plowman B.X. 249f." Medium Aevum, 36 (1967), 242-48.


Robbins, Rossell Hope. "XIII. Poems Dealing with Contemporary Conditions" in A Manual of the Writings in Middle English 1050-1500, vol. 5. New Haven, Conn.: The Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1975. Pp. 1450-51, 1679.