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John the Blind Audelay, Meditative Close



1 delytis, pleasures; ascentyng, assenting.

2 suspessions, suspicions; undevocion, impiety.

4 fleschelé afexion, carnal affection; oné, any.

6 reches, wealth; unconabil, excessive; word vanetes, worldly vanities.

7 wordis catel, worldly possession; untholomodnes, intolerance of adversity; deute, doubt.

8 sekyr, decisive; lefe, not do.

9 obstenacion, obstinence; noy, an­noyance; angar, anger; ewol, evil.

10 lust, desire.

11 unstabilnes, instability; pyne, pain; ypocrecé, hypocrisy.

12 synglere, selfish.

13 worchyp, honor; rysere, richer.

14 kynd, na­ture; happe, chance.

15 froyndys, friends; gentyl, noble [kin]; elyche fre, equally free.

16 ouse, us.

18 ofsyth, often; foresweryng, oath-breaking; schawnder, slander.

19 nemne, name; backbytyng, gossiping.

20 glosyng, critiquing; stryvyng, arguing; thretyng, threat­ening; wyttenes, witness.

21 unbuxumnes, disobedience.

22 hold, considered; how, ought; dedys, deeds.

23 exityng, inciting; wrath, anger; reprevyn, reprove.

24 veyn, vain; mochil, much; speke way-wordys, chatter.

25 polyschyng, rhetorical polishing.

26 mowys to make, mockery; paramowrs, illicit lovers.

27 of wordys waneté, for worldy vanity.

29 symoné, simony.

30 wetynglé, knowingly.

31 apostasey, apostasy (i.e., renunciation of faith); neclegens, negligence; Godys servys, mass; ensampyl, example.

32 ravayn, robbery.

33 useuré, usury; dyssayte, deceit; ryghtwysnes, righteousness.

34 to gif hit outrage, to abuse it (i.e., one's body).

35 efft, again; fynyng, feigning.

36 holear, holier; conyngere, more skillful; ofyse, office.

37 karalys, carols.

38 gyse, fashion; soferens, sovereigns (i.e., betters); lasse, less.

40 wyghtis wayus, devilish ways (see explanatory note); syngnys, signs; receyve, accept.

41 stede, place; helde, age.

42 these make on the synne more other lasse, i.e., these determine the severity of the sin; or, before.

45 dysplesen, to be displeased.

47 turne at, turn away from; conferme, conform.

48 rabul, mutter; recheth, care.

49 do neclegens that, neglect what; holdyn, beholden; avowe, oath.
49–50 enjoynde, bidden (to do).

50 draw along, delay.

51 prophete, profit; him houthe, he should; wychestonyng, resisting.

53 yildyng, yielding.

54 amenduth, correct(ing).

55 ene, eyes; peesyng noght strives, appeasing not arguments; unkonyng, ignorant.


1 aray, adorn.

2 wyse, way; ryst hym, rest himself.

3 lytter, resting place.

6 schakeforke, forked instrument for beating out dust.

7 grayns, tines.

8 canves, canvas; straue, straw; enterelé, thorough.

9 terys, tears; ene, eyes.

10 Sautere, Psa­lter; Lacremis . . . rigabo, I will water my couch with my tears. Psalm 6:7.

11 stre, straw; terris, tears.

12 MEDYCACIONCE, Meditation.

16 nether, lower; sekyr, steadfast; BELEVE, faith; oné, any.

17 over, upper.

20 keverlet, coverlet.

21 even, fellow; Quia . . . peccatorem, For charity covereth a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8.

23 peleus, pillows; PACIENS, patience.

24 advarceté, adversity; pylous, pillows; lyne one, lie on.

25 BESENES, busyness; virteuys, virtues; hevenes, heavyness.

27 testur, headboard.

30 ryn, run.

32 thyne enmé, your enemy.

35 ferford, complete.

36 paraventur, per­chance.

37 bot yif, unless.

38 be chefe of, guide; acorde, agree; seloure, canopy.

39 SELENS, silence.

40 othis, oaths; bacbytyng, gossip.

41 teyd, tied; redel, curtain.

42 dowbyl, double; twyne, twine; PARCEVERENS, perseverance.

43 bekynyng, beginning; lyve, life.

44 hokys, hooks; smetyn, fastened.

46 Tho, You; amyr, hammer; schambyr, chamber.

47 parfite, perfect.

49 suffyrde, suffered.

50 naylys, nails.

52 chaft, shaft.

53 hede, heed; smote, struck.

54 ere ellys, or else; thorlet, pierced.
54–55 brayne panne, skull.

55 bordyd, boarded.

56 CARDNALYS VERTUCE, Cardinal Virtues.

58 slyghe ware, slyly aware; wordelé, worldly; sleghtys, sleights; soteltys, subtleties.

59 temperans, temperance.

60 ryghtwyse, righteous; cornelnes, corners.

61 PESE, Peace; TROUTH, Truth; MEKENESS, Humility; REWTH, Com­passion.

62 quyte, white; pouder, sprinkle; rosis, roses.

63 portreyd with, depicting; schid, shed.

64–65 Lectubus . . . est, Our bed is flourishing. Canticles 1:15.

65 CONSIANS, Conscience; schawm­byrlyn, chamberlain.
65–66 aspy defautes, detect faults.

66 se, look.

67 usschere, usher.

68 rayse, arouse.

69 dyssere, disturb.

71–72 Exulta . . . Israel, Rejoice, and praise, habitation [of] Sion, for great is he that is in the midst of thee, the holy one of Israel. Isaias 12:6.


1 Lines 14–15: For every Christian that is here may claim [paradise] for his [own] / While he has in [his] heart the Lord who harrowed hell

2 There lacks never happiness since it was created

3 But to abide by his command, and to his bidding be inclined

4 And let your fiendish sins depart out of your soul

5 Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10.

6 Though you had halls of gold, you were obliged [so to pray]

7 Give us this day our daily bread. Luke 11:3; compare Matthew 6:11.

8 Or else you would be better [off] had you been unborn

9 And forgive us our debst, as we also forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12; compare Luke 11:4.

10 That should hinder us from our agreement to seize heaven

11 Lines 61–63: [Nor should thou] cause [us] to lose that life that shall last so long; / Nor, for lack of that joy, to weep or to wring [our hands in despair] / Where scoundrels wallow in their woe for their great sin

12 And lead us not into temptation. Matthew 6:13, Luke 11:4.

13 So that malice may never mar us more than a mite

14 [May] the Devil be portionless of us howsoever he prepares


1 Lines 7–8: From the time that the noise [of the hunt] began, at midday, until it was nearly night, / The time seemed to me but nothing, passing as briefly as a nap (lit. from noon but a napwhile)

2 They blew their bugles full clearly, to encourage their dogs

3 Lines 19–26: With sounding of the hunting horn and jollity and tales [that] they told, / Each man that was there acted as he wished. / All these woods and these wastes they possessed to command. / They governed at will the use / Of these woods and the wastes there. / Hearken what befell of their adventure — / They liked no guidance in learning (i.e., they were heedless)! — / The man who would [be wisely instructed], listen and learn

4 But such a fog [came] on earth, as I relate to you by mouth

5 Much sadness has befallen us; for all that I can do about it

6 Lines 42–43: Having passed from a grove, three men [came] into view, / Horrible phantoms [that] were fated to appear

7 But drew tight their bridles against their horses [that] did pant

8 For he knew the cross on the gravecloth that covered the bodily chest

9 Lines 81–82: But so frightful a knell (shock) chills his heart, / It was like a knife upon cattle — that blow strikes [one] cold

10 "Nay, we are not fiends," said the first one, "that you find before yourselves"

11 Lines 93–95: We were your living (lit. earthly) fathers, who graciously have nurtured you. / At present you are more fit to live than leaves on the linden / And [you are] lords over every town from Lorne (in Scotland) to London

12 Lo, here the worms in my bowels — they swarm and writhe

13 For while we dwelt in this world, we were [held] in esteem

14 Abandon fleshly desire, and rely not on clay

15 I thought it an excellent thing to oppress farmers

16 But considered myself ever a king of splendid acquaintance (i.e., possessing high regard from others)

17 Lines 135–37: They never [at all] acted oppressively regarding land or servants, / But ever afterwards they had kinder hearts; / And they who were in sin were mindful of that ultimate reward (i.e., the merit awarded on Doomsday)


1 It is not an honor but a burden to receive the name of honor. Compare Ovid, Heroides 9.31, non honor est sed onus (punning on honor and onus), and see Marcolf and Solomon, line 325a.


1 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. 1 Corinthians 3:19. Compare Marcolf and Solomon, line 39a.

2 This man despising the world. The introductory antiphon of the Commemoration of St. Benedict, from his feast in the Roman Breviary (March 21).

3 Whose end is good, is himself entirely good. The book is finished. Praise and glory be to Christ. Compare Marcolf and Solomon, line 987a, and the Finito libro colophon.

4 On whose soul may God be propitious. Compare the Finito libro colophon.


Abbreviations: CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; NHC: Northern Homily Cycle; NIMEV: The New Index of Middle English Verse, ed. Boffey and Edwards; For manuscript abbreviations (ED, A, D, G, L, V), see the Introduction.           

XXXVI. DEVOTIONAL PROSE          [not in W]

INSTRUCTIONS FOR READING 4          [not in W]
These couplets provide a rubric instruction for reading the two prose meditations that come next in the manuscript. They also denote the opening of the last section, which, after the carols, contemplates one's preparation for death. The verses ask a meditative reader to peruse this section frequently and attentively as a way to think upon the spiritual rewards ("fruyte") that may follow one's bodily life. Haberly closes his 1926 illustrated woodcut edition of Jesus Flower of Jesse's Tree with this verse.

[Fol. 32rb. IMEV, Suppl., NIMEV 2795. Hand: Scribe B, in red. Meter: Two tetrameter couplets. Editions: Coxe, p. 51; Whiting, p. x; Fein, "Thirteen-Line Alliterative Stanza," p. 66. Modernized Edition: Haberly, Alia Cantalena de Sancta Maria by John Awdlay, p. 19.]
THE SINS OF THE HEART          [not in W]
The Form of Living was the Yorkshire hermit Richard Rolle's last work, written in 1348–49 for the instruction of Margaret Kirkby, a young recluse. Drawn from this popular treatise's sixth chapter, Audelay's extract catalogues sins according to a threefold scheme of bodily origin: sins of the heart, sins of the mouth, and sins of the hand (i.e., deed). In MS Douce 302 the extract is not attributed to Rolle. For comparison of this text to versions found in other Rolle manuscripts, see Fein, "Thirteen-Line Alliterative Stanza."

[Fol. 32rb–vb. Hands: Scribe A, text in black; Scribe B, incipit (in margin) and explicit in red. Initials: The text opens with a medium T in blue with red filigree (two lines high), and there are three more medium initial Ts in red (two lines high), marking the opening of sections. Other MSS: There are twenty-nine MSS of Richard Rolle's The Form of Living, and fourteen others, excluding MS Douce 302, that preserve extracts. For a list of manuscripts, see Ogilvie-Thomson, Richard Rolle, pp. xvi–xvii, xxxvi–xliv. Edition: Fein, "Thirteen-Line Alliterative Stanza," pp. 61–74.]
37 karalys. Rolle's condemnation of singing carols strikes an incongruous note in the context of MS Douce 302 and its strong collection of carols. See Fein, "Thirteen-Line Alliterative Stanza," p. 74n35.

40 wyghtis. The word means literally "of the devil"; see MED wight, n.1(c). The meaning of the final phrase seems to be: "to accept devilish ways in the form of gifts, signs, beckonings, and writings."

41 The red initial T indicates a new section here, at a point not in agreement with other manuscripts. See Fein, "Thirteen-Line Alliterative Stanza," p. 66.

explicit Quicumque inspexerit. Doyle, "‘Lectulus noster floridus'," p. 182n15, observes that Scribe B writes here in a more formal bastard anglicana, which he employs later for the Latin poem Cur mundus. This script also appears in the Latin biblical passages written in red by Scribe B in An Honest Bed.

Audelay demonstrates here his readiness to appropriate and alter borrowed texts. The word rabul in the Rolle passage (line 49) causes him to digress in verse upon an abuse and spiritual danger — the poor saying of prayers by inattentive priests during mass. On this theme, compare Marcolf and Solomon, lines 196–98 (note); Virtues of the Mass, lines 40–42; and The Vision of Saint Paul, lines 83–88 (note). This matter was also a grave concern for Langland and later Lollard reformers. But Audelay, who speaks from a position of ortho­doxy, denounces the abuse so that churchmen themselves might correct it rather than face God's "maleson." The alliterative stanza — which turns craftily upon a pun (prayer and Fiend's prey) and paints a lively vernacular image of comic devils at work — may be Audelay's own composition (perhaps originally from Marcolf and Solomon), or it could be remembered as a preaching tag from elsewhere. If borrowed, its appearance in Audelay's favorite thirteen-line stanza form argues for his "translation" of it to his own idiom.

[Fol. 32vb. NIMEV 2736.11. Hand: Scribe A, poem in black, with lines 1–8 written as prose; Scribe B, many corrections in black. Meter: One alliterative 13-line stanza, ababbcbc4d3eee4d3 (compare Marcolf and Solomon). Edition: Fein "Thirteen-Line Alliterative Stanza," pp. 61–74.
[1]–[3] This colorful list of epithets for those who commit a variety of verbal infractions against prayer develops out of a longstanding vernacular tradition in sermon exempla (see Jennings, "Tutivillus," pp. 11–20; and Fein, "Thirteen-Line Alliterative Stanza," pp. 64–65). It may be significant that a specimen of the tradition occurs in MS Sloane 1584 appended to the Latin poem Cur mundus, which also appears in MS Douce 302. See note to Cur mundus, line 40.

[5] Rofyn. Compare the occurrence of the same devil-name in Audelay's Virtues of the Mass, line 299, within the amusing story of Saint Augustine, who witnesses the antics of the recording demon and then shocks Saint Gregory by laughing aloud during mass. For variants of this tale, see the note to Virtues of the Mass, lines 265–76, 298–342. For the tradition of the recording devil, see Jennings, "Tutivillus," pp. 1–95, and Lee, "This is no fable," pp. 743–60.

AN HONEST BED          [not in W]
Comparable in manner to the Abbey of the Holy Ghost (Blake, Middle English Religious Prose, pp. 82–102), this prose meditation deserves to be better known. It allegorizes the penitent soul as a bed made ready for Christ. The piece first came to modern light when Doyle edited one of its several copies in 1994. The MS Douce 302 text, one of the earliest, has not previously been printed. The scriptural bases for the allegory are Psalms 6:7 ("I have laboured in my groanings, every night I will wash my bed: I will water my couch with tears"), Canticles 1:15 ("Behold thou art fair, my beloved, and comely. Our bed is flourishing"), and Isaias 12:6 ("Rejoice, and praise, O thou habitation of Sion: for great is he that is in the midst of thee, the holy one of Israel."). Later manuscripts incorporate the allegory into large clerical compendia, and one of them, the Jesus College MS, is tied by an early ownership mark to Syon Abbey. (Compare Audelay's Salutation to Saint Bridget.) Audelay uses the allegory in tandem with the Rolle extract to enact a meditative process of penance and calm devotional readiness for death and union with Christ.

[Fols. 32vb–33va. Hands: Scribe A, text in black; Scribe B, Latin passages in red. Initials: Medium W in red (two lines high). Small Q (Quia) in red (1 line high). Fifteen initial letters are marked in red: T (The matres), T (The nether schete), T (The keverlet), T (The peleus, also marked with a red paraph), T (The testur), T (The curtene), T (The hokys), T (Tho most), T (The hede), T (The chafte), T (The bordys), T (Thou most), O (Our bed), T (Thus be), T (Thoue Syon). Other MSS: Oxford, University College MS 123, fols. 74v–75v (early fifteenth century); Cambridge, Saint John's College MS G.8, fols. 49v–52r (c. 1425–50); Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Laud misc. 19, fols. 22v–30v (early sixteenth century); Oxford, Jesus College MS 39, pp. 560–62 (late fifteenth century; incorporated into Disce mori); Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Laud misc. 99, fols. 123r–124r (c. 1490–1525; incorporated into Disce mori); Oxford, Bodeian Library MS Eng. th. c. 57, fols. 131v–132v (c. 1442–50; incorporated into Ignorancia sacerdotum). Edition: None from MS Douce 302, but see Doyle, "Lectulus noster floridus," pp. 179–90 (edited from Oxf. Univ. Coll. MS 123).]

This verse exposition of The Lord's Prayer in English belongs with a general impetus to instruct the laity in the tenets of faith. Many other poems in MS Douce 302 indisputably by Audelay fall into this pastoral category, for example, the first five carols and True Living. The seven petitions of the Paternoster are mentioned in The Virtues of the Mass, line 124, and the prayer's salvific effect is stated in Marcolf and Solomon, line 927-28. Other examples of the Paternoster in English verse are printed by Patterson, Middle English Penitential Lyric, pp. 108–10. Of related interest are the didactic Paternoster diagram appearing in the Vernon MS, fol. 231v (Henry, "‘The Pater Noster in a table ypeynted',"pp. 89–113) and other treatments in late medieval English culture (Hussey, "Petitions of the Paternoster," pp. 8–16). Although the exposition seems entirely orthodox, it does invite, as a vernacular rendering, comparison with the controversies about biblical translation and about prayer versus preaching (see especially Aston, Lollards and Reformers, pp. 212–13, 216–17; Hudson, The Premature Reformation, pp. 310–11, 424–25). Nonetheless, the alliterative poem belongs with an official movement, originating at least a generation earlier, to disseminate instruction on the Paternoster in English: "Mirk had urged parish clergy to encourage their parishioners to say their prayers in English, for ‘hit ys moch more spedfull and meritabull to you to say your Pater Noster yn Englysche then yn suche Lateyn, as ye doth. For when ye speketh yn Englysche, then ye knowen and understondyn wele what ye sayn'" (Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, p. 80, citing Erbe, Mirk's Festial, p. 262; see also Woolf, English Religious Lyric, p. 377). In this regard, one might also compare the supreme place accorded the Paternoster by Chaucer's Parson (CT X(I)1038–46).

As a specimen of fourteenth-century high alliterative style, this poem bears formal affinities — and almost certainly a shared exemplar — with the next item, Three Dead Kings. Though Audelay's authorship of these two poems remains dubious, he is likely responsible for the creative use made of them here at the end of his MS, where they produce a sobering devotional effect. The much-corrected redactions of these poems show that the scribes found their language and metrical exactitude to be challenging and foreign. Yet the scribes handle both poems with care, indeed reverence. I am indebted to Dr. Ruth Kennedy (Royal Holloway, University of London) for sharing her views of the metrical and lexical features of this intricate piece. Although we have not always agreed, my editorial labor has been much enriched by her comments.

[Fols. 33va–34ra. IMEV, NIMEV 3445. Hands: Scribe A, poem in black; Scribe B, incipit and Latin ninth line of each stanza in red. Initial: Medium T in blue with red filigree (two lines high). Meter: Seven alliterative 11-line stanzas, ababababc4d2d4, with a- and b-lines that alliterate in line-pairs and observe near-exact consonance; caesuras in the long lines; and the ninth line of each stanza in Latin. Edition: Whiting, pp. 214–17, 255–56.]

1 On expanding the abbreviation for ri to ry for visual rhyme, see Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 513n71.

4 This line may lack an original r-word.

5 ther ar sene. The first half-line in the MS lacks an original s-word. One may posit that for MS ther bene in, the poet wrote something like ther ar sene, "For seven points are seen there, set in position." The word bene is probably a corruption of sene, a word consonant with synn in line 6. Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 506, discusses how the occurrences of ar and bene differ between the Paternoster and Three Dead Kings, on one hand, and the other texts of MS Douce 302, on the other. On this difference, see also the note to Three Dead Kings, line 94.

6 There are two scribal readings of this line, both flawed. Scribe A's line reads: The lest salve hyt is to synn as the boke sayse. Scribe B made corrections but failed to delete Scribe's A's is: The lest ys salve is to the synn as the boke sayse. I have retained Scribe B's corrected line (omitting is). Stanley, "Verse Forms," p. 112n38, argues that the MS reading lest is problematic because it implies "that the seven points to be expounded are of differing significance, so that one of them is the least; such a differential evaluation seems unlikely for The Lord's Prayer." Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 513n73, suggests emending lest to surest. I retain lest because the poet's invoking of the phrase "the least of these" would seem to be a normal, idiomatic way to begin enumerating a series of items (as will occur here), and the preceding line has just stated that there are seven points to expound.

7 yse. The MS word thou is unnecessary for sense (the verb is imperative) and extends the line unmetrically. On the spelling yse (in rhyme) for use, see Whiting's note, p. 255. See also Stanley, "Verse Forms," p. 112n38: "probably present subjunctive singular of usen, ‘observe (as a rite)'"; and Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 509n52.

14 herd. "Christian." See MED hired, n.1(c) and 2(c), usually in a collective sense, i.e., "household, familia, disciples, courtiers, etc." Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 518, translates it as "man."

18 thi. The pronoun refers to the reader. It could refer to God (Thi), but in that context the noun covetyse is an odd synonym for will.

24 plane. From the MS reading (playne with y dotted for deletion), one can see that at least one of the scribes rechecked the poem for visual rhymes. The word itself has merely shifted from adjective to adverb (see MED plain(e, adj. and plain(e, adv.).

25 to fulfyl be thou fayne. This half-line combines the work of both scribes, Scribe B correcting Scribe A. Scribe B inserts the a-verse, beginning in the margin and writing over some erased words. The b-verse, "[wil marked for deletion] to fulfyl thou schuldist be ful fayne," is hypermetric and must still contain error. Dropping the words schuldist and ful, as I have done, does not change the meaning. The full line originally written by Scribe A reads "[erasure] wil to fulfyl thou schuldist be ful fayne." It appears that the caesura in Scribe A's line occurred before the word thou.

26 fare. The original f-word missing from this line is obviously fare. The MS reading is be.
wederfane. The simile for falling (foundyng) into sin is the shifting of a weathervane, which follows the changing wind. Sinning is depicted as a passive act of no resistance to worldly, wicked external forces. Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 518, thinks that the adjective fikel may have preceded wederfane.

27 bayne. Scribe B inserts the word be before bayne. Elsewhere in this line, Scribe B also inserts the words & at over an erased to (by Scribe A). Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 518, points out that to his bidyng bayne is better metrically. See MED bain, adj.1.(a), "be inclined, willing, eager."

29 wilt. The line lacks at least one original w-word, which the emendation adopted here provides (schalt to wilt). The line reiterates the English gloss of the Latin, repeating the verb fulfil found in lines 25 and 31. The verb fulfil may thus be a mistake (drawn in because of the Latin) for awayte, which would yield the precise sense that flows from line 28.
29–30 thi soule wayne . . . thi soule wane. Ruth Kennedy (in private correspondence) suggests that the similar endings of these lines are likely to represent dittography on the part of a scribe.

30 warlouys. This word also occurs in Three Dead Kings, line 83, and in Patience, line 258, and Cleanness, line 1560.

36 behode. The emendation of MS behouyd to behode is suggested by Dickins, "The Rhymes," p. 517, and supported by Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 505. The form is Northern; see MED bihoven, v.

38 bed we. Alliteration indicates that aske is a substitution for its synonym bede, "pray, ask for." The emendation restores metrical regularity and consonance with bred and blode. The substitution and word reversal (bed we to MS we aske) appears to have occurred via simple scribal error: a misreading of anglicana bed for wea, and w for sk.
blode. On this spelling instead of MS blood, see Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 501.

41 ochedays. "Daily." See MED ech, pron. 3(b), often in a Paternoster context.

50 wore. Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 525n101, notes that the poet reached outside his dialect in using this predominantly East Midlands form.

54 dett. This word in the MS is followed by the phrase debitoribus nostris (in Scribe B's hand and red ink), which Whiting prints here. As Dickins, "The Rhymes," p. 517, notes, this phrase correctly belongs with line 53, where it completes the citation of Matthew 6:12 from the Vulgate. The full Paternoster "point" was too long to fit into the single MS line left blank by Scribe A. It is surprising that Whiting did not notice how, by misplacing the phrase, she disrupted the poet's meter.

56–66 The negative constructions of this stanza form a stylistic feature inspired by the Latin petition not to be led into temptation.

57 salve. The MS reads helpe, but the alliteration on s indicates the original word, which scribal error (misreading salue in an anglicana hand) might account for.

58 lede. The line may lack an f-word here, but the word lede may also be ruled by the traditional translation "lead us not into temptation." It is interesting to note how the metrically aberrant lede in this line and let in line 59 anticipate the l-alliteration of lines 60–61.

59 fong. Emendation of MS fyng to fong is indicated by the rhyme. See MED fongen, v., "grasp or seize."

61 Mak us. As Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 520, notes, "Makust to is the scribe's auditory impression of make us to. The infinitive make, parallel with let, is dependent on schulde."

62 of that. Scribe B corrects Scribe A's es no, which, if left to stand, alters the meaning to "Nor, for no want is (there) no happiness . . ." Though I retain the correction, A's reading may in fact be better given the poet's stylistic feature here of negative syntax, which runs through the sixth stanza in imitation of this particular Paternoster "point." See my note to lines 56–66, and compare the construction of line 58.

65 This line lacks alliteration because it is ruled by the need to offer a traditional translation of the Latin line, but it does set up the alliteration on l used in lines 66–67.

67 losse. See note to Three Dead Kings, line 143.

72 This line may lack an original b-word.

77 Amen. This word is written in black by Scribe A and completes the last rhyme. In Three Dead Kings the final Amen is also written by Scribe A, but there it does not provide a rhyme.

Three Dead Kings narrates the classic ghost-story motif of the Three Living and Three Dead in a tour de force of densely alliterative stanzas. This popular memento mori theme enacts a moment in which three noblemen (often, kings) come face to face with uncanny mirror-images of themselves as they will be in death (often, their actual dead fathers walking abroad as animated corpses). Images and stories of this iconic encounter seem to have migrated to England from France in the thirteenth century, and expressions of it, more often visual than verbal, are found dispersed throughout the Continent. In medieval England its typical media were pictorial, that is, wall paintings in numerous parish churches (c. 1300 to c. 1550) and just a few manuscript illuminations (c. 1290 to c. 1335). The most interesting illuminations appear in the De Lisle Psalter, the Taymouth Hours, and the Smithfield Decretals. In two of these manuscripts rudimentary, rhyming speeches — in English and in order of age — accompany the six figures:
First (Youngest) Living:
Second (Middle) Living:    
Third (Eldest) Living:
First (Youngest) Dead:
Second (Middle) Dead:
Third (Eldest) Dead:
Ich am afert.
Lo whet ich se.
Methinketh hit beth develes thre.
Ich wes wel fair.
Such sheltou be.
For Godes love, be wer by me.
The most ornate presentation in an English manuscript, the De Lisle Psalter, has these lines inscribed above the six elegantly drawn and painted figures. A formal Anglo-Norman poem is laid out in the space below the image.

As a product of the alliterative verse tradition, Three Dead Kings holds literary distinction and richly rewards close study. Middle English scholars have sometimes compared its dexterous wordplay and consonance to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the other poems of MS Cotton Nero A.x. Like Gawain, Three Dead Kings utilizes the motif of a hunt as foreboding preface to a mortal encounter. In this regard, it also resembles such other alliterative poems as The Parlement of the Thre Ages, The Awntyrs off Arthure, and Somer Soneday (Turville-Petre, "‘Summer Sunday,'" p. 3). At the same time, its metrics seem to relate it to some Harley lyrics and the other verse written in an intricate 13-line alliterative stanza, such as The Pistel of Swete Susan and The Four Leaves of the Truelove (Fein, "Early Thirteen-Line Stanza"; Lawton, "Diversity of Middle English Alliterative Poetry," pp. 162–64). Any effort to locate the place of Three Dead Kings in the Middle English corpus must recall, moreover, that it has an alliterative companion in the same manuscript, that is, Paternoster, a poem that seems certain to derive from the same exemplar and probably the same poet (if not Audelay). In addition, Three Dead Kings must be seen for its survival in the full context of a planned verse anthology, that is, amidst Audelay's own oeuvre and book project, which includes many poems composed in Audelay's signature 13-line stanza. And for two of these, Marcolf and Solomon and Over-Hippers and Skippers, Audelay crafts an alliterative stanza with its own distinctive, and quite different, style.

Paternoster and Three Dead Kings do depart formally from other poetical works found in MS Douce 302. Their precious metrics and arcane vocabularies constitute obvious distinctions. The ever-scrupulous scribes take special care with these works, as they may be seen to do elsewhere when poems possess exceptional styles (see, e.g., the explanatory notes to Gabriel's Salutation to the Virgin and Day of the Lord's Circumcision). Under these circumstances, the scribes tend to produce a greater number of detectible errors than occur when they copy poems voicing Audelay's standard tones of didactic moral warning. Although the question of Audelay's authorship of Three Dead Kings and Paternoster remains unanswered, a chorus of scholarly consensus has echoed E. Whiting's assessment, pp. xxiv–xxviii, that Audelay cannot have been the author of either poem. Putter directly addresses the authorship question in his metrical and linguistic examination of the two works, and he concludes that because they both betray an original Northern dialect, they could not therefore have been composed by John the Blind Audelay.

A vigorous voice of dissent has arisen, however, in a series of three articles. Stanley, "The True Counsel of Conscience," "Verse Forms," and "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," has argued that the astonishing degree of variety in metrical experimentation and genre that occurs in the whole of MS Douce 302, along with a good number of verbal correspondences between Paternoster and Three Dead Kings, on one hand, and the rest of the contents, on the other, suggest that we should not take the separate authorship of these two works to be a settled matter. Stanley demonstrates, moreover, how poets may readily reach outside their dialects for rhymes and special terms, and he thinks it possible that Audelay did so in composing these alliterative poems. While no one goes so far as Stanley in defending Audelay's talents as a versatile poet, there are reasons to be cautious about dismissing his place in the authorship of these poems. First of all, whoever may be responsible for their creation, we can safely credit Audelay for their placement in his book, and in this sense Paternoster and Three Dead Kings join many other compositions in MS Douce 302 that may be traced to earlier sources or are translations from Latin texts (Virtues of the Mass and The Vision of Saint Paul, for example), but yet are transmuted through Audelay's particular vision and thoroughly worked into his compilatio. Such a perspective demands, in the second place, an assessment of why Audelay preserves this poem and places it at the end of his book. It is clear that it is meant to call forth a remembrance of last things as the book ends, becoming a moral mirror for the reader and doing so, intriguingly, just before Audelay holds himself up as such a mirror in Audelay's Conclusion (Fein, "Death and the Colophon").

There are also pivotal, para-authorial questions to be asked about Audelay's engagement with Three Dead Kings. His book, MS Douce 302, demonstrates his close knowledge of alliterative verse styles and motifs belonging to an earlier generation, no doubt experienced when he was a young man. He had absorbed traditions that ranged from the popular Langlandian idiom to the tighter Gawain-type stanzas with bob and wheel. From Marcolf and Solomon to Three Dead Kings, we can confidently perceive the range of his models, and observe how a feel for this range is expressed in poems that are indisputably his. By the early fifteenth century verse fashions had changed, but Audelay gives us much to ponder about how alliterative narrative and moralizing in its late fourteenth-century heyday led a youthful enthusiast to preserve its contours as his own career as a pious writer matured as he aged (Fein, "Thirteen-Line Alliterative Stanza"; Bennett, "John Audelay: Life Records," p. 44; Pickering, "Make-Up," p. 119). Thus one can never know for certain that these two alliterative poems are not works Audelay created when he was younger and working perhaps within a more literary milieu — one prizing invention and ingenuity — for a different sort of audience. Or, by the same token (and more in line with current opinion), whether he took them from some old source, hung onto them as inspirational models, and transplanted them to his book when and where he needed them. Meyer-Lee, "Vatic Penitent," p. 59, notes that Three Dead Kings is unusual in MS Douce 302 because it is such a strongly narrative poem. Other than The Vision of Saint Paul, Audelay rarely delves into narrative, though, like Langland in his Piers Plowman, the chaplain creates an implicit narrative throughout his book: it is of a conscience well counseled and a life reaching its good end. One may note, in this regard, that Paternoster and Three Dead Kings participate wholly in the meta-narrative of Audelay's book.

A final note about the poem's history of commentary and criticism is in order. With its verbal complexity and exacting form, Three Dead Kings has intrigued many readers. There has been a century's worth of philological attempts to use the poet's own constricted rules of alliteration and consonance to restore garbled rhymes and correct scribal errors. Beyond the four editions listed above (Storck and Jordan, "John Awdelays Gedicht"; E. Whiting; Fein, "Middle English Alliterative Tradition"; and Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry), four lexical commentaries have been compiled. These are by Dickins ("Rhymes," 1932); McIntosh ("Some Notes," 1977); Putter ("Language and Metre," 2004); and Stanley ("Alliterative Three Dead Kings," 2009). Sifting through these scholars' cumulative insights and drawing upon the MED, I have found that many old cruxes now have reasonable solutions, often with a fair degree of consensus, though, of course, not all problems are resolvable without some lingering dispute. In addition, the body of criticism, which dates back about forty years, has grown steadily, offering useful explications of Three Dead Kings in its pictorial and literary contexts. For these treatments, see Woolf, English Religious Lyric, p. 346; Turville-Petre, "‘Summer Sunday'," pp. 7–9; Tristram, Figures of Life and Death, pp. 164–66; Pearsall, Old English and Middle English Poetry, pp. 185, 250; Fein, "Early Thirteen-Line Stanza," pp. 115–18, and "Life and Death," pp. 87–92; Chism, Alliterative Revivals, pp. 241–51; and, most recently, Kinch, "Image, Ideology, and Form."

[Fol. 34ra–vb. IMEV, NIMEV 2677. MWME 9:3261 [199]. Hands: Scribe A, poem and final Amen in black; Scribe B, incipit in red. Initial: Medium A in blue with red filigree (two lines high). Meter: Eleven alliterative 13-line stanzas, abababab4cdccd3, with concatenation at the eighth and ninth lines, alliteration in line-pairs, near-exact consonance, and caesuras in the long lines. Alliteration extends over two or more lines, in the pattern aabbccddddeff (except for stanza 1, which has one more alliterating unit: aabbccddeefgg). Middle English Analogue: "Ich am afert," a 6-line poem accompanying pictorial depictions of the Three Dead and Three Living in two manuscripts, the De Lisle Psalter and the Taymouth Hours (see text below, and Fein, "Life and Death," pp. 84–85). Editions: Storck and Jordan, "John Awdelays Gedicht"; E. Whiting, pp. 217–23, 256–59; Fein, "Middle English Alliterative Tradition," pp. 20–36, 147–65; Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry, pp. 148–57.]

1 byrchyn . . . bous. Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 258, compares this alliterative collocation to a similar one in the Scottish poem Golagros and Gawane, line 31.
arne. "Are." This rare form also appears in Audelay's Gabriel's Salutation to the Virgin, line 46. The word is discussed by E. Whiting, p. xxxvii; Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 506; and Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 257.

3 rerde. "Noise, clamor." Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 271, notes that this word is common in the works of the Gawain-poet but does not appear in Piers Plowman.

4 row . . . rest. This collocation occurs also in Audelay's The Vision of Saint Paul, line 300.

7-8 These lines image "a creature's lifetime as a ‘new noyse' lasting till ‘ny3t,' going from its apex to its endpoint in what seems a mere instant (‘bot a napwile'), which the narrator considers ‘bot no3t', two final chilling words in this alliterative string that cast doubt upon life's presumed worth" (Fein, "Early Thirteen-Line Stanza," p. 118). The compressed brilliance of this image — life seen as a symbolic day, and passing as if in a dreamlike flash of noise and excitement — seems somewhat diminished by a recently proposed emendation by Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 521. He suggests that bot a napwile should be unto napwile, with napwile defined as "the time for sleeping, bedtime" rather than as "the length of a nap" (the meaning found in the MED nap, n.(2), and accepted by editors). Putter argues that the emendation would lessen the "clumsy" word order and improve the sense as it flows from line 7; line 8 would then mean: "From noon until bedtime, the time seemed to me but nothing."

10 throbyt and threw. The first of these verbs is rare in Middle English (MED throbben, v., "twist violently, shudder"). The second is common, but not in this sense (MED throuen, v.(1)7, "writhe"). According to Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 273, they appear for sound as much as meaning: "If, as seems likely, phonaesthesis involves these verbs, exactitude of sense is not to be expected: the sound helps to convey the meaning."

16 barsletys. This term, from Anglo-French bercelet, refers to hunting dogs trained to follow wounded game.

19 tonyng. The manuscript reads donyng. On this plausible error, see Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry, p. 151, and MED tonen, v.(a), "producing musical sounds." Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 261, argues, however, that some poets may have considered d and t close enough for alliteration. He defines manuscript donyng as "din, confused noise" (MED dinen, v.[1]) and cites possible examples of d/t alliteration in Marcolf and Solomon, lines 342, 937–38. Turville-Petre emends line 64 in a similar way (not adopted here).

25 lykyd. Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry, p. 152, emends this word to lakyd, a change that Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 266, sensibly refutes as unnecessary. Turville-Petre's change is based on a dubious reading of lare as "earth" (MED leir, n.[2]) rather than its more natural meaning in this context: "teaching, wisdom" (MED lor(e, n.[2]2b[a], "that which is learned, spiritual wisdom"). Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 522, also refutes Turville-Petre's interpretation, but his own rendition of lines 24–26 (taking Ham in line 25 as referring to the poet's audience) is implausible. Line 25 needs to be read as an aside and warning: "They (i.e., the kings) were quite reckless in not heeding wise and spiritual counsel (which is why this dire thing happened to them)." Compare explanatory note to line 112.

28 wanne. The different spellings of the rhyme words of lines 28, 30, 32, and 34 do not affect the rhymes. According to Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 274, emendation is therefore unnecessary "unless to make them look more exactly rhyming. . . . In this text ‹on› has merged with ‹an› in sound, and ‹nne› is pronounced as if written ‹n›."

34 fore kraft that I can. Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 515n76, observes that this phrase is idiomatic: "for all that I can do about it." See also Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," pp. 260–61, and MED craft, n.(1)1, "strength, force, power."

35 no mo. Manuscript mo no may be explained as an erroneous insertion by Scribe B, who interlined no after rather than before the word mo. Counsel and care are also collocated in line 89 and Marcolf and Solomon, line 279.
chist. This emendation of manuscript care, first suggested by McIntosh, "Some Notes," p. 387, is strongly supported by Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," pp. 258–59. The noun chist, "trouble, tribulation, suffering," derives from Old English ceast (see MED chest, n.2). Putter, "Language and Metre," pp. 515–16, offers a speculative emendation of this line based on his sense that the initial alliteration should be on r.

36 cest. The manuscript reads rest, but the word wanted is cest, "plan, scheme, strategem," derived from Old Norse. Compare Old Icelandic kast; kest in Gawain, line 2413, and Cleanness, line 1070; and MED cast, n.1(h). It is possible to explain the confusion between c and r; the two letters are very similar in Scribe A's hand. Compare explanatory note to Three Dead Kings, line 64.

41 fogus ful fow. "Very brightly colored meadows." For good explanations of this phrase, see Dickins, "Rhymes," p. 517; McIntosh, "Some Notes," p. 387; and Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 262. E. Whiting, p. 280, mistakenly glosses the phrase as "very few fogs," but fogge is a rare word meaning "grass" (MED fogge, n.); compare Cleanness, line 1683.

42 at schew. On this emendation and the rhyme words of this stanza, see Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 523n93, and Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 283n34.

43 chapid to chow. Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 523, proposes the translation given here, "were fated to appear," rather than "were shaped to show." The encounter is, he notes, "an appointment with destiny." Compare explanatory notes to Three Dead Kings, lines 69 and 137.

46 nor. Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 520, suggests emending this word to nother so that the b-verse follows metrical rules deduced by Hoyt Duggan (see Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 519n83), but he acknowledges that the "error is commonplace" in Middle English alliterative verse. The a-verse appears to have lost a word beginning with b.
bewe. See Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 258, "bend, change direction," and MED bouen, v.(1)5b.

49 The translation given for this line follows that of Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry, p. 153, "These men (the Dead) summoned them (the Kings)," which Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 257, supports. The verb bede (MS byde) is not likely to mean "took thought," an action assigned to the Living, as proposed by McIntosh, "Some Notes," p. 388.

52 crossyng and karpyng o Crede. With the sign of the cross and frenzied assertions of faith, this moment in the poem marks the point of encounter between Living and Dead. In the traditional visual iconography, the division point for the mirrorlike image is frequently a staked high cross, which this line invokes as a sign of the encounter (Fein, "Life and Death," p. 88).

56-57 The first king, holding a falcon and expressing fear, accords with the visual and verbal tradition of the Three Living and Three Dead; he is the youngest Living (Fein, "Life and Death," pp. 83–88).

57 gre. For the meaning "to shudder," see MED grien, v., and Gawain, line 2370. The word is discussed by McIntosh, "Some Notes," p. 388, and Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 263, and it does not need to be emended.

58 gare me be gryst. Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 259, provides a useful note on this phrase, which in the manuscript is care me be cryst. It was a crux until solved by McIntosh, "Some Notes," p. 388.

59 Fere of. "Far off." Emendation of this phrase is unnecessary. Previous editors have read Fore of and emended to Fore oft.

60 word. Scribe B inserts the word this before word. Its insertion causes the b-verse to deviate from metrical rules for alliterative verse deduced by Hoyt Duggan (see Putter, "Language and Metre," pp. 519n83, 520); it is here omitted.

64 ronnyng. Manuscript ronnyg has been misread as connyg by all editors except Fein, "Middle English Alliterative Tradition," p. 30 (who emended the manuscript reading to romyng). The correct emended reading is, however, ronnyng (MED rennen, v.(1), especially 4, "run away, flee, attempt an escape"), which entirely fits the context (compare lines 72–73). The Living are caught and may not escape. Emendation to connyng is made by Storck and Jordan, "John Awdelays Gedicht," p. 184 ("jagdkunst," sportsmanship), and by E. Whiting, pp. 257–58 ("knowledge, skill"). Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry, p. 154, emends to tounyng, "horn-blowing," in support of the line's alliteration on t (compare line 19). Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 261, disputes Turville-Petre's change and defines connyg as "expertise (of hunting)" (see too Stanley, "Verse Forms," p. 112n37).

65 tytle. See MED title, n.3, "An appellation attaching to an individual or family by virtue of rank, social position, or office." Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 508, suggests that tytle is a form of the adverb titly, "soon," which Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 273, disputes. Stanley forwards the meaning given by Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry, p. 154, "as of right, with due claim." The sense, however, is that the kings find themselves entrapped, dismayingly, despite their high rank; on the motif of paralyzing entrapment in the poem, enacted metrically as well as narratively, see Fein, "Early Thirteen-Line Stanza," pp. 117–18.

66 bespeke. The manuscript reading is besepke, not besopke, as other editors have thought; I have emended it to bespeke, "spoke out" (MED bispeken, v.). Other editions have printed bespoke. The word could well be a scribal substitute for a synonym beginning with m. The likeliest word, meled, was suggested by McIntosh, "Some Notes," p. 388; it would add to the consonance of medil and mekil later in the line.
medil. This word is doubtless the original of manuscript ii., as suggested by McIntosh, p. 388, but not adopted by other editors. Not only does its consonance with mekil prove persuasive; it is also the term commonly applied to the "middle" age of life, which the second Living traditionally represents. See MED middel, adj.2(a), and numerous examples cited there, including The Parlement of the Thre Ages, lines 151 and 649, in which the second of the Three Ages is named "Medill Elde."

68-69 The second Living points out what he sees, and this feature accords with the verbal tradition of the Three Living and the Three Dead (Fein, "Life and Death," pp. 83–88).

69 was saght. This phrase, apparently correct, is difficult to translate. E. Whiting, p. 258, glosses the line: "that ever a man saw and was reconciled to it [so that he could keep his senses]." McIntosh's version, "Some Notes," pp. 388–89, is: that ever a man saw "and accepted, faced up to." Neither interpretation fits well with the normal meaning of saght ("desired, sought after"). Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry, p. 154, defines it as "‘afflicted by' (ppl. of seek); cf. Somer Soneday 109, sout." Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 272, proposes the meaning "felt at peace." Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 518n82, gives the definition "was encountered," citing a line from Awntyrs off Arthure and MED sechen, 9(c). Putter's solution nears the mark. The best definition, "was granted," may be found in an analogous line in Pearl: "So wat3 al samen her answar so3t" (line 518), for which Gordon glosses so3t (see sech) as "found, given" (Pearl, p. 152). This meaning, apparently rare, is not recorded in the OED, but compare MED sechen, v.9(d), ben sought, "to be found, be." On how the apparition of the Dead is to be understood as a granted "gift," compare explanatory notes to lines 43 and 137.

70 layth. This adjective (leyth) appears in Audelay's Marcolf and Solomon, line 536, to describe the beggar Lazarus. See MED loth, adj.2(a) and 2(b). Compare Three Dead Kings, line 118, and The Parlement of the Thre Ages, line 152.

78 raddelé. Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 271, notes that this adverb, meaning "quickly, readily, immediately," appears frequently in the contents of MS Douce 302.
mon. "Must, shall." The appearance of this auxiliary verb in Three Dead Kings and only once elsewhere in MS Douce 302 (see explanatory note to Marcolf and Solomon, line 344) is used by Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 505, to argue for the Northern provenance of the poem. Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," pp. 269–70, refutes Putter's argument: "One swallow does not make a summer, and one use of mon does not make a northern text."

79-80 Putter notes that the b-verse of line 79 is unmetrical according to the rules deduced by Hoyt Duggan ("Language and Metre," p. 519n83), and he suggests emending it to i-hillid he beholdis or in hillyng he beholdis ("hiding his head he looks").
79–91 In expressing his sensations of the chill of death and declaring that the Dead are "dewyls," the third king fits the verbal and visual iconography of the third and oldest Living (Fein, "Life and Death," pp. 83–88). On the spellings of the rhyme words in this stanza and the next one, Dickins, "Rhymes," p. 51, notes that "The variations between -en and -on, -is and -us, in final inflexional syllables are merely scribal and of no significance for the rhyme scheme of the poem."

81-82 My translation of lines 81–82 differs from that of previous commentators (for lexical details, see the next three explanatory notes). The simile here likens the figurative blow to the living king's courage to the literal deathblow of a knife upon a slaughtered animal. The repetition of coldis / kelddus is grimly ironic as its meaning too progresses from figurative to literal. These lines participate in a carefully calibrated animal imagery, which, as I have described previously, denotes a progressive "decline in human dominance (a boar brutally hunted, but then the manned horses rearing and snorting in terror and the pet falcon fainting) leading to a total inversion" of power, which first appears in this simile of slaughtered cattle; "finally there are worms graphically wallowing in the corpses of the Dead" (Fein, "Early Thirteen-Line Stanza," p. 118n44).
81 knyl. The MED (knil, n.) cites only this passage as evidence for the sense "blow, shock," but surely the primary meaning "tolling for the dead" also affects the image. Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry, p. 154, emends with uncertainty: "MS. kynl may be read as either knyl, ‘knell', hence ‘shock', or kyl, ‘blow' (MED cul, n.[2])." See also E. Whiting, p. 258, and McIntosh, "Some Notes," p. 389.

82 ore the kye. A misinterpretation of the phrase ore the kye, "over the kyne (i.e., cattle)," has created confusion among editors and commentators. The spellings ki and kie are well attested for the plural of cou, n., "cattle" (see MED), particularly in Northern texts. Nonetheless, Storck and Jordan, "John Awdelays Gedicht"; E. Whiting; McIntosh, "Some Notes";Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry; and Putter, "Language and Metre," have all taken this phrase to mean "or the key" (MED keie, n.[1]) and render the line (as stated by McIntosh, "Some Notes," p. 389): "and then the kind of grim chill strikes at his heart that the back of the hand feels when a knife or a key freezingly touches it." Compare especially Turville-Petre, p. 154, and Putter, p. 519n85–86.
knoc. Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry, p. 154, emends to the knoc, "the knuckle," to improve sense, and Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 519, approves this change on metrical grounds because it corrects the b-verse, but he also acknowledges that the sense "knuckle" is "insecurely attested" (he translates it "bruise": see his note 86, and compare McIntosh, "Some Notes," p. 389). Attestations are indeed scant (MED knoke, n., and knokel, n.). As for meter, good poets are licensed to alter theirs to achieve special effects, and the sharp break in normal b-verse rhythm — that knoc kelddus! — transfers a portion of the shock to the reader. E. Whiting, p. 258, translates knoc as "shock." The MED (s.v. knok(ke, n.) defines the word here as "figurative blow" and cites analogous usages in Piers Plowman and in Audelay's Gabriel's Salutation to the Virgin, lines 34–36: "Beryng on his chulderis bloo / The holé cros that kene a knok / Unto oure dedly Foo."

83 warlaws. This word also occurs in Paternoster, line 30, and in Patience, line 258, and Cleanness, line 1560.

89 The collocation of cownsel and care also occurs in Three Dead Kings, line 35, and Marcolf and Solomon, line 279.

92 fyndus. Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 504n25, proposes that the poet's word was fenden, "fiends."

93-98 When the first Dead (the one who died most recently) recalls his fairness and points to the worms in his "womb," he adheres to the time-honored iconography of the Three Living and Three Dead (Fein, "Life and Death," pp. 83–88).
93 of fold. Literally "of earth," with fold in its normal Middle English meaning. See Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 270, for a philological discussion. This definition is more likely than the proposed alternative: "of old" (E. Whiting, p. 258: "old is spelled fold for the sake of the alliteration").

94 beth. Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 507, discusses the distribution of bene and ar in the poems of MS Douce 302, finding a distinction between Paternoster and Three Dead Kings, taken together, and the other contents. See also explanatory note to Paternoster, line 5.
lykyr. Lykyr is the comparative adjective "more suited"; see MED lik, adj.1(d), and examples cited. Glossing lykyr as the adjective "more likely," E. Whiting's translation seems overly influenced by the verb liken: "You are more fond of living than leaves on the linden and than lords from Lorne to London" (p. 258). McIntosh, "Some Notes," p. 389, corrected this reading by pointing out that line 94 is parallel in import to line 95, but he too mistranslated the adjective by supplying the verbal sense: "you have more lust for life . . ." The evidence cited in the MED points to the usual meaning for lykyr. By emending lykyr to lytyr, Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry, p. 155, translates line 94 as: "Now you take more delight in living than leaves on the linden tree." Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 267, offers this translation: "now you are more likely to leave." This interpretation would render leve as "leave" rather than "life."
lynden. The rhyme necessitates this emendation of manuscript lynde, the normal Middle English name for the tree. Lynden (or lyndon) was originally an adjectival form, which in modern English has become the noun. The word here represents an early unrecorded use of the adjective as a substantive. According to the OED, the noun linden may have gained currency through translations of German romance, as an adoption of the German plural linden, or as the first element in linden-baum. The first record of the noun is dated 1577. The linden, with its delicate leaves easily set in rapid motion by the wind, symbolized lightheartedness, and also carelessness. See MED lind(e), n.1b. Because the form is not attested in the fifteenth century, Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 267, opposes this emendation, taken by all editors, and finds preferable a removal of all -en and -on endings in the rhyme words of this stanza.

95 Loron. Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," pp. 267–68, provides a note on this place-name: "It seems odd that Lorne in Argyllshire should have been singled out for a comment, unless it were for some topical allusion involving the nobles of the Campbell family in the early fifteenth century."

96-97 Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 257, elucidates the sense of just reward in the wordplay here: "as you beat and bind those who disobey you, so you will be bound in torment unless you atone for that wrong."

98 wyndon. "Writhe, twist." E. Whiting, p. 322, glosses the verb as "wind, go, twist," and for the phrase walwen and winden, see MED winden, v.(1)2(b). Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 274, translates this word as "enshroud" (MED winden, v.[1]4), seeing a hyperbolic nonce-use: "worms so numerous, they enshroud the corpse."

99 wrase. See MED wrase, n.(a), where this line is quoted, and Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 275: "band (for tying a winding-sheet)."

104 mynn. Trentals for the dead would have been among the chantry priest Audelay's professional interests. On the state of the Three Dead, who are doomed without the salvific masses for their souls, see Fein, "Early Thirteen-Line Stanza," pp. 117–18. Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 269, notes that while the collocation mynn . . . mas is not common in Middle English, it does occur in Audelay's Virtues of the Mass, line 198, and (less closely) lines 165–66, 338–39.

108 well fore to ware. "Wealth to spend or dispose of." Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 523, proposes the translation given here, which is more plausible than the usual interpretation: "We had our wife at our will and well to possess (or enjoy)." See MED waren, v.(2), where sense (a) is "spend, expend"; and this line (as well as line 22) is cited under the less-well-attested sense (d), "possess." Compare also Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," pp. 274–75.

109 frayns at me fere. The phrase means "learn fear from me (by my example)." The meaning of frayns is "learn, find out by inquiring" (MED frainen, v.6; compare Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 263). Fere, "fear" (MS ferys emended for rhyme), is incorrectly defined by E. Whiting, p. 279, Dickins, "Rhymes," p. 518, and Stanley, p. 262, as "companionship, group of companions."

110 thus schul ye fare. The second Dead typically issues this kind of warning to the Living about their inevitable future conditions: "as I am now, so shall you be." On the tradition, see Fein, "Life and Death," pp. 83–88.

112 lare. This word may pun on two meanings: "teaching" (MED lor(e, n.[2]) and "earth, filth" (MED leir, n.[2]). For this interpretation, see Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," pp. 265–66, who offers the definition "the teaching of the flesh." Compare explanatory note to line 25.

114 lagmon. This word occurs only here and in Gawain, line 1729, where the construction is the same (leden bi lagmon). Commentators agree on the meaning "lead (one) astray," but the exact derivation and meaning of lagmon is uncertain. For discussion and conjectural etymologies, see Menner, "Middle English ‘Lagmon'"; Matthews, "bi lag mon"; and McIntosh, "Some Notes," pp. 390–92. Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 265, notes that "Nothing has more intensely led to connecting Three Dead Kings with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight than the coincident occurrence of this word in these two poems and nowhere else."
leus. "Falsehoods." See Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 267, who supports the interpretation of E. Whiting, p. 258, which is followed here. Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry, p. 156, offers an alternate but dubious meaning for manuscript lyus, emended to leus for rhyme: "‘over the fields,' hence ‘hither and thither'; MED lie(e, n.(3)? Or possibly a form of MED lie, n.(1), ‘falsehood.'"

115 aldyr-hyghtus and hyus. "Proudest and highest of all." The prefix aldyr- applies to both superlative adjectives, as does over- in the opening words of Audelay's interpolated alliterative stanza Over-Hippers and Skippers. Reading hyghtus and hyus as adjectives accords with previous editors and commentators except for Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," pp. 264–65. He believes that the loss of final -t in the superlative -hyghtus could be scribal and that hyus is the verb meaning "hurry," with the full clause running into the next line: "and you hasten away from this world." Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 507 and n40, argues that the superlative ending without final -t is a feature of the poem's original Northern dialect, an argument that Stanley questions.

116 wryus. "Turn, depart, reject" (MED wrien, v.[2]5[b]). Compare Audelay's similar uses of the verb in Marcolf and Solomon, lines 202, 564, 916, and 995.

117 wreus. "Reveals, makes known" (MED wreien, v.1, and Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," pp. 275–76). The MED cites the word under a rarer meaning (v.3[c], "denounce"), but that definition seems less appropriate in this context.

118 laythe upo last. On laythe, see the explanatory note to line 70; here the adjective serves as a substantive: "loathly one." Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," pp. 273–74, provides a note upon the unusual construction upo last.

120-30 The third (and oldest) Dead's speech reminds the Living to read the Dead as a reflected image of themselves — "Makis your merour be me!" — and, didactically, to "turn youe from tryvyls betyme!" On how this speech accords with the iconography, see Fein, "Life and Death," pp. 83–88. Compare, too, Elde's identical warning in The Parlement of the Thre Ages: "Makes youre mirrours bi me" (Ginsberg, p. 52, line 290).

122 at . . . hene. According to the MED, this is the last occurrence of this verb, derived from OE hynan, "treat with contempt," and its construction with at is not recorded elsewhere (Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 264). McIntosh, "Some Notes," p. 390, suggests plausibly that at is an error for al.

123 with heme and with hyne. This collocation occurs in The Owl and the Nightingale, line 1115; see a discussion by Cartlidge, Owl and the Nightingale, pp. 127–28.

124 Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 260, offers a well-reasoned alternate translation: "but never did a king with his entourage seem to me so faultless (as I am)."

134 kouthyn rade. "Could discern," but it might mean "recognize immediately," if rade is to be understood as an adverb rather than a verb. Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," pp. 260, 271, lays out the competing interpretations and the editors' explanations. See also Putter, "Language and Metre," p. 524. On the meaning of the action, see Fein, "Early Thirteen-Line Stanza," p. 118 ("the figure of life as a symbolic day returns as the three kings ride home against the red rays of dawn"), and Fein, "Life and Death," pp. 88–89.

135 Holde thai never the pres be hew ne be hyde. For the idiom holden presse, see MED presse, n.5(a), "to act oppressively," and compare 6(a), "to keep something subject to pressure." In the b-verse there is a pun upon the alliterating words. The common expression hew and hyde (literally "skin and complexion") meant idiomatically "entirely, in every way"; hence, here it means "not at all" (see MED heu, n.2[b], where this line is cited). But the words can also mean "servant and land." For this second sense the MED cites the line again; see hide, n.(2)1a. A hew is specifically a household servant; a hide is a varying measurement of land, originally the amount needed to support a family with its dependents and servants. Both E. Whiting and McIntosh missed the pun. E. Whiting, p. 259, discovered the appropriate sense "servant and land"; McIntosh, "Some Notes," p. 390, "corrected" her reading in favor of the idiomatic expression. Turville-Petre, Alliterative Poetry, p. 157, follows McIntosh's reading, as have subsequent commentators. Putter, "Language and Metre," pp. 525–26, has recently offered a drastic reinterpretation of the line, taking the idiom to its literal level. He would read manuscript p's as pris not pres and he translates the line as follows: "They never attached pre-eminent value to complexion or skin, / But ever afterwards they had humbler hearts." He comments: "after the encounter with the three decaying corpses, the kings no longer set their store by outer appearances but are cured of their pride." Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 264, finds Putter's interpretation "persuasive," because the phrase holden prise is well-attested, though he prefers that hender be translated "kindlier." It seems more natural, however, that the lesson learned be expressed through improved actions (less tyranny over lands and people and more piety in sponsoring trentals) than through private perceptions.

137 myschip. Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 269, points out that this non-etymological spelling of a word derived from Old French meschief also occurs in Audelay's King Henry VI, line 81.
myde. Previous editors (other than Fein, "Middle English Alliterative Tradition," p. 36) have not emended manuscript tyde, which yields a ready sense ("they amended themselves at that time," taking the verb as menden), but this is not a better sense than the word required by the line's alliteration on m (Dickins, "Rhymes," p. 518). The correct reading continues the idea that even though this wondrous encounter with a ferly has frightened the kings out of their wits, it also brings them a chastening sense of God's grace. See explanatory notes to lines 43 and 69; MED mede, n.(4)2(a), "moral consequences or spiritual reward; requital, retribution, just deserts; the ultimate reward of vice or virtue"; and minden, v., in its usual reflexive construction, "remember, call to mind."

141 woghe. "Wall" (MED wough, n.[1]). On the curious effect of "embalming" the poem as a wall inscription in the very process of its being read, see Fein, "Life and Death," pp. 88–89. On the frequency of the Three Living and Three Dead as a motif painted on English parish church walls, see Storck, "Aspects of Life and Death: I," "Aspects of Life and Death: II"; Williams, "Mural Wall Paintings"; Tristram, Figures of Life and Death, pp. 164–65; Fein, "Early Thirteen-Line Stanza," p. 117 and n43; Fein, "Life and Death," pp. 73–74; and Oosterwijk, "Of Corpses, Constables and Kings."

143 losse. Stanley, "Alliterative Three Dead Kings," p. 268, notes that when this word means "perdition, damnation," as here, it shares more with Wycliffite texts than with Piers Plowman or the Pearl-poet's poems of MS Cotton Nero A.x. This meaning for losse / lost is common, however, in MS Douce 302. Compare especially Paternoster, line 67, "Bot delyver us from losse both erlé and late"; Prayer on Christ's Passion, lines 29–30, "Delyver my soule, Lord, fro losse, / Fro the payns of helle"; Marcolf and Solomon, line 380, "Leve thou me that his love schal not turne to losse"; The Remedy of Nine Virtues, lines 88–89, "Ellus were ye lyke to be lost, / And better unbore"; and the refrain line in Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost, line 5, "Ellis were we lost!"
Amen. See explanatory note to Paternoster, line 77.

The Audelay manuscript version of this well-dispersed Latin moral poem, dating to at least the thirteenth century, has not been previously printed. Earlier editors cite various traditions of authorship: Bernard of Clairvaux, Robert Grosseteste, or Jacopone da Todi (whose works are too late for consideration). Rigg's history of Anglo-Latin literature, p. 303, attests to the extreme popularity of this lyric rumination upon the vanity of worldly attachments. It appears often in English and Continental anthologies. A Middle English translation survives in a dozen manuscripts. A second medieval English rendering (IMEV, NIMEV 3475) is extant; and a Tudor version appeared in 1576 (Raby, History of Christian-Latin Poetry, p. 436). The translation provided here (the only modern one to my knowledge) has been produced by Prof. Radd Ehrman (Kent State University), for whose generosity I am grateful.

Scribe A's hand disappears from the manuscript with the copying of this poem by Scribe B. On how MS Douce 302 ends in three successive phases, see Fein, "Death and the Colophon."

[Fol. 34vb. Hand: Scribe B in red and black. Initials: Opening medium C in red (two lines high), followed by a small red initial (one line high) at the opening of each stanza. Other MSS: The poem appears in numerous manuscripts (see Wright, Latin Poems, p. 147). Editions: Wright, Latin Poems, pp. 147–48; Raby, Oxford Book of Medieval Latin Verse, pp. 433–34, 501 (no. 284), where the stanzas are ordered 1–2–3–7–8–9–10–4–5–6 (see also Raby, History of Christian-Latin Poetry, pp. 435–36). Middle English Translation: Brown, Religious Lyrics of the XIVth Century, pp. 237–39, 287 (no. 134) (IMEV, NIMEV 4160).]
33 Hec. The initial H was originally a red I, which the scribe later altered into an H in black ink.

40 The copy of this poem in MS Sloane 1584, fols. 13v–14r, adds the following, metrically distinct lines after line 40: Sabbata nostra colo, de stercore surgere nolo, / Sabbata nostra quidem, Salomon, celebris ibidem. / Hii sunt psalmos corrumpunt nequiter almos, / Momler, forscypper, stumler, scaterer, overhipper. "I worship on our Sabbaths, [but] I am unwilling to rise from the dung; / You indeed worship on our Sabbaths in the same place, Solomon. / These are [the ones who] villainously corrupt the nurturing psalms: / [Syllable-]mumblers, skippers, stumblers, scatterers, leap-froggers." These lines belong to the same sermon tradition that inspires the list of verbal infractions found in Over-Hippers and Skippers (Fein, "Thirteen-Line Alliterative Stanza," pp. 64–65), and they seem also to be set within a dialogue of Marcolf and Solomon. The lines in the Sloane Manuscript are noted by Wright, Latin Poems, p. 148.

These four concluding stanzas are much like Audelay's Epilogue to The Counsel of Conscience in their autobiographical manner, and the Latin surrounding the final stanza possesses the precise phrasing of the Finito libro colophon. Audelay here closes with a bold flourish of retrospective finality, proclaiming his purpose consummated. He also invokes, by means of the physical manuscript, the heavenly book recording the names of the saved. Following this image comes another vigorous assertion of authorship: the claim that this book displays Audelay's own "wyl" and "wrytyng." Then the poet signs off by making a penitential, pious appeal for prayers for "Jon the Blynde Awdelay," situated visually and spatially in an abbey, placed there to serve as chantry priest for Lord Lestrange but now lying gravely ill upon his deathbed.

[Fol. 34ra–b. IMEV, NIMEV 1210. MWME 9:3020 [272]. Hand: Scribe B, poem in black with Latin stanza headings in red. Initial: Small S (one line high) in red. Ornament: The final line is written as if on a banner, which is drawn under it in red. Audelay Signatures: Lines 39, 48 (both written by Scribe B). Meter: Four 13-line stanzas, ababbcbc4d3eee4d3. Edition: E. Whiting, pp. 223–24, 259]
16-21 These lines are virtually identical to Visiting the Sick and Consoling the Needy, lines 29–34.

27-31 On Audelay's presentation of himself in this passage as an exemplum for the reader, see Fein, "Good Ends," p. 108, and Citrome, Surgeon, p. 110.

39a The Latin heading paraphrases a common proverb: Si finis bonus est, totum bonum erit, or Cuius finis bonus est, ipsum quoque bonus est: "If the end is good, everything will be good," or "All's well that ends well." It may have been coined by Boethius, to whom it is attributed by Peter Lombard (see footnote for Marcolf and Solomon, line 987a). The rest of the Latin heading, as well as the explicit (Cuius anime propicietur Deus), repeats portions of the Finito libro colophon found at the end of The Counsel of Conscience. The phrase Finito libro; sit laus et gloria Christo is a common tag used by scribes (Schaff, Middle Ages, p. 550).

40-43 These lines borrow from the tradition of the book curse, that is, asking readers not to deface the book, of which Chaucer's poem to Adam his scribe is an example. See Olson, "Author, Scribe, and Curse."

46-52 These lines give the last signature of John the Blind Audelay at the manuscript endpoint, a spot designed to be noticed. Recorded here are also the name of the poet's patron (Richard Lestrange of Knockin), as well as Audelay's residence ("this place," that is, Haughmond Abbey), his occupation (chantry priest), and his condition (deaf, sick, and blind). The avowed aims of this passage are to petition for personal prayers for Audelay's soul from future readers and to advertise the pious salvific purpose of the book's contents (Fein, "Good Ends," pp. 109–10). The gesture of petitioning prayers from a reader may be compared to the conclusion of John Mirk's Instructions for Parish Priests: "Now, dere prest, .I. pray þe, / For goddes loue þow pray for me; / More .I. pray þat þow me mynge, / In þy masse when thow dost synge" (Peacock, p. 59, lines 1913–16).


The following notes record readings of the manuscript at those points where other editors have made different assessments of the textual evidence, as well as at points of important physical detail.

In general, Scribe A copied texts, and Scribe B later added incipits and explicits and acted as proofreader. Wherever Scribe B played a significant, uncharacteristic role in the textual copying, the affected lines are noted. Not noted, however, are the many correcting marks made by the scribes. Wherever final readings are determinate, those readings are adopted without comment. On how the scribes divided their work on particular items, see the explanatory notes.

Modernized editions with altered spellings and wordings (Chambers and Sidgwick 1907, Davies, Haberly, Sisam and Sisam, and Sitwell) are not recorded in the textual notes. Hands that date later than those of the two scribes are also not recorded. In MS Douce 302 there are two significant early hands, both probably medieval:
(1) An inexperienced writer who copies stray phrases in the margin (fols. 16rb, 16va, 29ra, 34rb, and 35ra).

(2) A doodler, whose simple drawings and occasional crosses appear most frequently on upper recto pages, b-column, perhaps to record his reading progress (fols. 3rb, 5rb, 6rb, 7rb, 9rb [two marks], 10rb, 11rb, 13rb, 18rb [the climax of The Vision of Saint Paul], 27vb, and 28va). The involvement of this reader is evident in his drawing of a sleeved hand pointing to the word "assencion" in Salutation to Christ's Body, line 26 (fol. 10rb), a line that marks the raising of the host in the Levation.
There are also two modern readers whose hands appear on the pages of MS Douce 302:
(1) A reader who notes the correspondence of True Living, line 78, and Chastity of Wives, line 8, by inserting in fine-line black ink the cross-reference in the margins of fols. 1rb and 30va. This may be the same hand that numbers the folios in the upper right-hand corners. It may also be the hand that "corrects" the reading Hontis in Three Dead Kings, line 11.

(2) A reader who marks texts in pencil, using left-hand marginal crosses and long vertical squiggles to highlight passages of interest. This reader was perhaps an early cataloguer. He is especially interested in political comments and in Audelay's self-identifications in signatures and autobiographical moments. His hand pervades the book, appearing beside the texts of True Living, Marcolf and Solomon, Visiting the Sick and Consoling the Needy, Instructions for Reading 2, Audelay's Prayer Explicit to Pope John's Passion, Our Lord's Epistle on Sunday, The Vision of Saint Paul, Audelay's Epilogue to The Counsel of Conscience, Song of the Magnificat, Salutation to Saint Bridget, Saint Winifred Carol, King Henry VI, Joys of Mary, Virginity of Maids, Chastity of Wives, Dread of Death, Saint Francis, Over-Hippers and Skippers, An Honest Bed, Paternoster, Three Dead Kings, and Audelay's Conclusion.
In addition to these extraneous hands, the book contains a few marks of early ownership. Erased notes on fol. 35rb (visible by ultraviolet light) record that a Coventry minstrel named William Wyatt once possessed the book, and that he passed it on to an Augustinian canon named John Barker in Launde, Leicestershire. These transactions likely took place in the fifteenth century. On fol. 35v, which looks like an original outside cover of the book, the name "John" appears many times amid doodles and verse jottings unrelated to the contents of MS Douce 302. A much later owner was late eighteenth-century bibliophile Richard Farmer, master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, whose handwritten sheet catalogue was bound with the book in 1803 by Francis Douce, its next owner. Douce contributed the woodcut pasted into the back inside cover of the bound book, which makes reference to Three Dead Kings (Fein, "Life and Death," pp. 90–91; Fein, "John Audelay and His Book," pp. 5, 24n13). Later, in 1834, Douce's vast collection of manuscripts, charters, books, and antiquarian holdings transferred to the Bodleian Library, Oxford. A detailed history of ownership and printed descriptions of MS Douce 302 is provided in Fein, "John Audelay and His Book," pp. 4–15.

Abbreviations: C: Cumming; CS1: Chambers and Sidgwick 1910; CS2: Chambers and Sidgwick 1911; Di: Dickins (lexical comments); Do: Doyle; F1: Fein 1985; F2: Fein 1994; G1: Greene 1962; G2: Greene 1977; Ha: Halliwell; Hi: Hirsh 2005; K: Kaiser; M: McIntosh (lexical comments); Mo: R. Morris 1872; MS: Douce 302; P: Priebsch; Pu: Putter; R: Robbins 1959; S: Sandys; Sa: Saupe; Si: Silverstein 1971; SJ: Storck and Jordan; St: Stanley 2009 (lexical comments); T: Turville-Petre 1989; W: Whiting.

THE SINS OF THE HEART          [not in W]

incipit cordis. So F2. MS: cord.

9 angar. So MS. F2: angur.
ewol. So F2. MS: wol.

10 noght. So F2. MS: no...t (letters are obscure).

11 penance. So F2. MS: pena...ce (letters are obscure).

15 froyndys. So MS. F2: fryndys.

18 schawnder. So MS (er abbreviated). F: schawnd.

31 brekyng. So F2. MS: brelyng.

40 bekenyngys. So F2. MS: bekenygys.

44 alle. So MS. F2: all.

51 wychestonyng. So MS (wyche copied in margin). F2: wyche-stondyng.

explicit Quicumque. So F2. MS: uicumque (red initial omitted).

AN HONEST BED          [not in W]

10 prophet. MS: prohet (ro abbreviated).

12 MEDYCACIONCE. MS: medy medycacionce.

13 enclyne. MS: enolyne.

29 The curtyns. MS: Te curtyns.

33 of Jesu. MS: of. Reading supplied by University College, Oxford, MS 123 (see Do, p. 188).

36 choys. MS: ioys.

44 The hokys. MS: Te hokys.

56 The bordys. MS: Te bordys.

70 in this. MS: in þis in þis.


1 pryse. MS: prise (ri abbreviated), W.

5 ther ar sene. MS: ther bene in (in interlined by Scribe B), W.

6 The lest ys salve to the synn. MS has two readings: þe lest salue hyt is to synn (Scribe A); þe lest ys salue is to þe synn (Scribe B). W: Þe lest salue hyt is to þe synn. See explanatory note.

7 yse. MS, W: þou yse.

11 Fader. This word is inserted by Scribe B.

12 The. MS, W: Te.

13 plase. MS: ...ace. W: place.

24 plane. So MS (playne with y dotted for deletion). W: playne.

25 forewart. So MS. W: foreward. Scribe B writes the first half of line 25 partly in the margin and over an erasure, deleting the word wil before to.
to fulfyl be thou fayne. MS, W: to fulfyl þou schuldist be ful fayne. See explana­tory note.

26 fare. MS, W: be.

27 bayne. MS: be bayne (be interlined by Scribe B), W.

29 wilt. MS, W: schalt. See explanatory note.

36 behode. MS, W: behouyd. See explanatory note.

38 bed we. MS, W: we aske. See explanatory note.
blode. MS, W: blood.

52 dettyrs. MS, W: dettys.

54 dett. After this word Scribe B writes debitoribus nostris in red ink. W: dett debitoribus nostris. See explanatory note.

57 salve. MS, W: helpe.

59 fong. MS, W: fyng.

61 Mak us. MS, W: Makust. See explanatory note.

62 of that. Written by Scribe B, who deletes Scribe A's es no.

77 evolus. So MS. W: euelus.


4 roght. So F1, T (suggested by Di, M, supported by St). MS, SJ, W: þo3t.

5 syght. So F1, T (and supported by P). MS, SJ: se3t. W: si3t.

8 bot a. So MS, SJ, W, F1, T. Recommended by P: unto.

10 threw. So SJ, W, F1, T. MS: þrow.

11 Hontis. So MS (a later hand has deleted the i and interlined er), T. SJ, W, F1: Honters.

15 how. So F1 (recommended by M). MS, SJ, W, T: þe.
gart. So MS, F1, T. SJ, W: gar.

17 belde. So W, F1, T (and recommended by Di). MS: bild (squeezed into the margin), SJ.

18 kyngys. MS g interlined by Scribe B.
itolde. So T. MS, SJ, W, F1: I tolde.

19 tonyng. So T. MS, SJ, W, F1: donyng.

21 welde. So W, F1, T (and supported by Di, St). MS, SJ: wylde.

25 Ham. So MS (m abbreviated), W, F1, T. SJ: hem.
lykyd. So MS, SJ, W, F1. T: lakyd.

27 went. So T. MS, SJ, W, F1: gone.
wyn. So SJ, W, F1, T. MS: wyle.

28 wanne. So MS, SJ, F1 (and recommended by St). W: won. T: wane.

29 with mowth as. So MS, SJ, W, T. F1: that mowþ not.
I youe. So T. MS, SJ, W, F1: youe.
myn. So T (and supported by P). MS: men. SJ, W, F1: min.

30 mete. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: mates.
mon. So MS, SJ, W, F1 (and recommended by St). T: man (and supported by P).

31 quod. So MS (abbreviation), T. SJ: þer saide. W, F1: quoþ.
ar. So T (and supported by P). MS, SJ, W, F1: beþ.

32 honor. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: he nor.
on. So MS, SJ, W, F1 (and recommended by St). T: an.

34 that I can. So MS (I interlined by Scribe B and indistinct), F1, T. SJ, W: that can.

35 no mo. Recommended by St. MS no interlined by Scribe B. SJ, W, F1, T: mo no.
bot chist. So F1 (recommended by M, St). MS, SJ, W: bot care. T: be Cryst (recommended by Di). P suggests emending the whole line to Can I no craft til sonne-rist.

36 cest. So F1. MS, SJ, W, T: rest.

39 lest. So W, F1, T (and supported by St). MS, SJ: lost.

40 Where. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: Were.

42 a schawe. MS a interlined, s inserted by Scribe B.
schalkys. So SJ, W, F1, T. MS: schalys.
at schew. So F1 (recommended by Di, M, P). MS: at ens. SJ, W: at ene. T: ischeue. St recommends: at on scheue, "in one showing."

43–48 An erasure has damaged the first letters of these lines; ultraviolet light confirms the readings (M).
43 unshene. So MS, SJ, W, T. F1: unschene.
chapid. So MS, W, T. SJ, F1: shapid.
chow. So W, T. MS: chew. SJ: show. F1: schow.

45 lowe. MS, SJ, W, F1, T: loue.

47 blongis. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: blonkis.
blow. So SJ, W, F1, T. MS: letters cut off by binding after bl.

49 Siche. So MS, T. SJ, W, F1: Seche.
bede. So F1, T (recommended by Di, M). MS, SJ, W: byde.

52 o. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: of.

55 fnyrted. MS n interlined by Scribe B.

56 fyst. So SJ, W, F1, T (and supported by P). MS: fest.

57 gre. So MS, F1. SJ, W: grede. T: grue (recommended by M).

58 gare. So F1, T (recommended by M). MS: care. SJ: chace. W: cace. Di suggests gars.
be gryst. So F1, T (recommended by M). MS, SJ, W: be cryst. Di: to grist.

59 Fere of. So MS, F1. SJ, W, T: Fore oft (reading MS Fore instead of Fere and emending MS of to oft).

60 word. MS: þis word (þis interlined by Scribe B), SJ, W, F1, T. See explanatory note.

64 ronnyng. MS: ronnyg. SJ, W: connyng. F1: romyng. T: tounyng.

66 bespeke. So F1. MS: besepke. SJ, W, T: bespoke (incorrectly reading MS besopke). M suggests that the original word was a synonym beginning with m: meled or melte.
medil. Recommended by M. MS, SJ, W, F1: ij. T: secund.

67 maght. So W, F1, T (and supported by St). MS, SJ: my3t.

68 seris. So MS (er abbreviated), W, F1, T. SJ: this.
selquoth. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: selquoþest.

71 and the lyver. So SJ, W, F1, T. MS: the words & þe are indistinct and partially obscured by a blot; the ampersand is visible by ultraviolet light (M).
his. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: is.

72 we tene. So MS (the word we is indistinct), W, F1, T. SJ: we tende.

73 Ha. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: a.

74–75 These two lines are written as one line in the manuscript.

81 knyl. So SJ, W, F1, T. MS: kynl.

82 kye. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: key.
that. So MS, SJ, W, F1. T: þat þe.

84 weldus. So SJ, W, F1, T (and supported by St). MS: wildus (us abbreviated).

85 fars. So MS, T. SJ, W, F1: fares (incorrectly reading MS fare).
foldus. So SJ, W, F1, T (and supported by St). MS: feldus (us abbreviated).

87 Fers. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: fore.

87–88 These two lines are written as one line in the manuscript.

92 quod. So MS (abbreviation), T. SJ: sayde the. W, F1: quoþ.

93 of fold. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: of old.

94 lykyr. So MS, SJ, W, F1. T: lytyr.
lynden. So W, F1, T. MS: lynde, SJ (and supported by St).

96 byndon. So SJ, W, F1, T (and supported by St). MS: bedon (n abbreviated).

97 burst. So MS, SJ, F1, T. W: brust.

100 Herein was I wondon. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: Herein I was Iwondon.

101 word. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: ward.

102 cysse. So F1 (recommended by Di). MS, SJ, W: cusse. T: kysse.

106 bene. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: ben.

107 wyle we. So F1, T (recommended by M). MS, SJ, W: wyle.

108 Whe. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: we.
and well. MS (& well interlined by Scribe B), T. SJ, W, F1: well.

109 fere. So F1, T (recommended by Di, supported by St). MS, SJ, W: ferys.

111 lere. So F1, T (recommended by Di, supported by St). MS, SJ, W: lerys.

114 leus. So T (supported by St). MS, SJ, W, F1: lyus.

115 aldyr-hyghtus. So MS, F1, T. SJ, W: aldyr hy3tust (recommended by M).
hyus. So F1, T. MS, SJ, W: hyust.

116 wryus. So F1, T. MS, SJ, W: wryust.

118 lyndys. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: lendys.

121 morthis. So MS (preceded by my deleted), SJ, F1, T. W: merthis.

122 at. So MS, SJ, W, T. F1: al (suggested by M).

124 ever. Recommended by T. MS, SJ, W, F1, T: neuer.

125 is ther no. So SJ, W, F1. MS: is þer. T: nis þer. St suggests: nis þer no, or nis þer neuer.
under. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: onder.

127 he. So MS, W, F1, T. SJ: ye.
kyme. So F1, T (recommended by Di, M, St). MS, SJ, W: kymyd.

129 longyr. MS: r interlined.

131 glyde. So F1, T (recommended by Di, St). MS, SJ, W: glydyn.

132 gomys. So F1, T (recommended by M). MS, SJ, W: comys.

133 ryde. So F1, T (recommended by Di, St). MS, SJ, W: rydyn.

136 hendyr. So SJ, W, F1, T. MS: hengyr.

137 myde. So F1. MS, SJ, W, T: tyde.

140 the men. So SJ, W, F1, T. MS: then (with the n abbreviated, and a deleted thorn) men.
mosse. So F1, T (recommended by Di, St). MS, SJ, W: masse.

141 woghe. MS: written over an erasure.

142 will. MS (written over another word), W, F1, T. SJ: we.


11 sompniis. MS: sompnic.

14 invincibilis. MS: ivincibilis.

15 vultu. MS: wltu.

17 imperio. MS: inperio.

27 tamen. MS: tantum (m abbreviated).

29 pulveris. MS: puluerie.

33 magni penditur. MS: magna panditur.

35 leve. MS: leui.

37 potes. MS: potest.


11 comaundement. So MS. W: comanndement.

19 hevun. So MS. W: heuen.

39a finis bonum. MS, W: bonus. Compare Marcolf and Solomon, line 987a.

44 wil. So W. MS: wl.

[not in W]


Rede thys offt, butt rede hit sofft,
And whatt thou redust, forgeete hit noght,
For here the soth thou maght se
What fruyte cometh of thy body.


De peccatis cordis.
[unnumbered in W]


[not in W]

The sins of the heart; (t-note)






N; T  


     These synnys of the hert arne these: evyl thoghtis, evel delytis, ascentyng to syn,
dissire of evel, wykkid wyll, evyl suspessions, undevocion (yif thou let thyn hert ené
tyme be ydil without ocupacion in the worchipyng of thi God); evol love, erroure,
fleschelé afexion to thi fryndis, or to other that thou lovyst, joy in oné mons evel fare
(wether thay bene enmyes ore non); dispite of pore men or of synful, to honore ryche
men fore her reches, unconabil joy of oné word vanetes, sorow fore the losse of
wordis catel, untholomodnes, perplexeté (that is deute what is to do, and wot
noght, fore everé mon outh fore to be sekyr what he schal do, whot he schal lefe),
obstenacion in evyl, noy to do good, angar to Gode, sorow that he did no more ewol,
or that he dud noght that lust or that wyl of his lust-flesche the wyche he myght
have done, unstabilnes of thoght, pyne of penance, ypocrecé, love to plese man,
dred to plese hom, schame of good dede, joy of evyl dede, synglere wit, covetys of
worchyp, of dyngneté, or to be holdyn better then other, ore rysere, or fayrer, or to
be more dred, vayngloré of oné goodys of kynd or of happe ore of grace, schame of
pore froyndys, pride of ryche kyn ore of gentyl (fore al we are elyche fre before
Godys face, bot our dedys makyth ouse better or worse then other), dyspyte of
good cownsel and of good techeng.
     The synys of the mouth aren these: to swere ofsyth, foresweryng, schawnder of
Crist ore of oné of his sayntis, to nemne his name without reverens, backbytyng,
glosyng, stryvyng, thretyng, sowyng of dyscord, tresown, false wyttenes, evyl cownsel,
skornyng, unbuxumnes with worde, to turne good dede to evyl fore to make hom
be hold evel that doth hom good (we how to turne our neghtbore dedys into the
best, nott in the worst), exityng ené mon to wrath, to reprevyn other of that he doth
himselve, veyn speche, mochil speche, to speke way-wordys and ydul or wordys that
were ne nede, bostyng, polyschyng of wordys, defendyng of synne, cryyng in laghtur,
mowys to make on oné mon, to syng seculer songys and love hom of paromowrs
of wordys waneté, to preyse evol dedys, to syng more fore praysyng of men than
fore the worchyp of God.
     The synys of dede ar these: glotony, lechoré, dronkones, symoné, wychecraft,
brekyng of the holé dayse, sacrelege, to resayve Godys body in dedlé synne, wetynglé
brekyng of vowys, apostasey, neclegens in Godys servys, to gif evyl ensampyl of evyl
dede, to hurte oné mon upon his bodé or on his goodis or in his fame, theft, ravayn,
useuré, dyssayte, in sellyng of ryghtwysnes, to herkyn evyl, to gif to harlottis, to
withhold nessessaryes fro the bodé or to gif hit outrage, to begyn a thyng that is
above oure myght, conscent to syn, fallyng efft in synne, fynyng of more good then
we have fore to seme holear or conyngere ore wyser then we are, to holdyn the ofyse
that we fulfyl noght to, ore that may noght be holdyn withoutyn syn, to lede karalys,
to bryng up a new gyse, to be rebel to his soferens, to defoule hom that has lasse,
to synne in syght, in herynge, in smellynge, in towchyng, in handylyng, in giftis,
wyghtis wayus, syngnys, bekenyngys, wrytyngys receyve.
     The circumstans that ar tyme, stede, maner, nombyr, person, dwellyng, helde
(these make on the synne more other lasse), to covet to syn or he be temptid to
constrayne him to synne. And other moné: not thynkyng on Godd, ne dredyng, ne
lovyng, ne thonkyng him of his good dedys, to do noght alle fore Godys love that
he doth, to sorow noght fore his syn as he schuld do, to dysplesen noght to ressayve
grace, yef he have ressayvyd grace, to use hit noght as him ought ne kepe hit noght,
to turne at the inspyracion of God, to conferme not his wyl to Godys wyl, to gif not
his entent to his prayers, bot rabul on and recheth never how thai bene sayd:



OVER-HIPPERS AND SKIPPERS (embedded alliterative stanza)

Over-hippers and skippers, moterers and mumlers —
Tytyvyllis tytild here wordus and takes ham to hys pray;
Japers and janglers, haukeers and hunters —
The holé servys of God thai schend when thay say.
Rofyn wyl rede hom ful redely in his rolle anoder day,
When thay ben called to here cowntis and to here rekenyng —
Hou thay han sayde here servys, the Prince of Heven to pay,
Butt rabulde hit forthe unreverently by caus of hyyng,
           Without dewocion:
      Fore better hit were stil to be,
      Then to say Godys servys undewoutly;
      Thai scornyn God ful sekyrlé,
           And han his maleson.
[not in W]

Abridgers; mutterers; mumblers; (see note)
Titivillus whispered; prey
Jokesters; chatterers; hawkers
holy service (i.e., Mass); destroy
Ruffin; readily; another; (see note)
accounts; reckoning
But [rather] mumbled; hurrying





To do neclegens that he is holdyn to do throgh avowe ore comawndment ore is en-­
joynde in penans, to draw along that is to done sone, havyng no joy of his neghtbore
prophete as him houthe, sorowyng noght of his evol fare, wychestonyng noght
agayns temptaciones, foregifyng noght hom that have done him harme, kepyng
noght trouth to his neghtbors as he wold he dud to him, and yildyng him noght
a good dede fore another yif he may, amenduth not hom that synneth before his
ene, peesyng noght strives, techyng hom noght that are unkonyng, comfford hom
noght that are in sorowe ore in sekenes. These synns and other moo makyn men
foule in the syght of God.

Quicumque inspexerit.     

    Whosoever will have looked; (see note); (t-note)

[not in W]









     Whan the chambur of thi soule is clensid fro al syn, thou schalte aray a bedd
therin on this wyse, in the wheche Lorde Jhesu wol haue lykyng to ryst hym. Bot
furst thou most make thi lytter, that schal be made of MYNDE-OF-AL-THE-SYNNYS-
THAT-EVER-THOU-DIDYST, gederyng togeder as into a lytter of straw. Then loke thou
schake oute of this leter (wyche is in thi mynde) al the dust of AL-SYN and of
FOULE-THOGHTUS there wyth the schakeforke of KYNDNES, wyche schal have two
grayns: that one is WIL to amend thee, that other is to pray God of GRACE that hit
mow so be. The canves nexte the straue most be an enterelé SOROW fore thi syn,
wyche wyl make thee to watyre the lytter of thi bed with terys of thyn ene, as the
prophet sayth Davyth in the Sautere Boke, Lacremis meis stratum meum rigabo, that
is to say, "Y have waterd my byd stre alle with terris of myn ene."
     The matres of this bede schal be holé MEDYCACIONCE, the wyche wyl put out of
thi soule al foule thoghtis that wil defoule thi soule and enclyne hit to syyn. The two
blancketys of thi bed schul be ABSTYNENCE agayns glotoné, and CHASTITÉ agayns
lechoré and lust of fleschelé lykyng.
     The nether schete schal be a sekyr BELEVE with­out oné doute in oné artekil
therof, fore the beleve is growndytt of ale Cristyn mens relygyone. The over schete
schal be a sekyr HOPE to be savyd throgh good werkys of thi beleve in the grete
mercé of our Lord Jhesu Crist.
     The keverlet of this bed schul be CHARITÉ, that is, a trew love to God and to thyn
even Cristyn. Quia caritas operit multitudinem peccatorem, that is to say, "Charité coverth
the multytude of synne."
     The peleus at the hede schul be PETÉ and PACIENS. Have peté of pore pepil
and be paciens in advarceté. The bolstyr that these pylous schul lyne one most be
BESENES-AND-WAKYNG in al good virteuys and werkys, lest hevenes wolde make
thee fal into dyspayre ore slepe long in synne.
     The testur at the hede schal be Lyberum Arbetrium, that is FRE CHOYS, so that
thou chese no thyng that is agayns the comandment of God or helthe of thi soule.
The curtyns on the ryght syde schal be RYGHT-AND-RESOUNE; on the lyfte syde,
UNDERSTONDYNG-AND-WYSDAM. Let thes two curtyns ryn apon the ryngys of THE
TEN COMAWNDEMENTIS. Loke fore no thyng that no ryng be brokyn, fore yif thai
be, the curtyns wil sagge downe and then may thyne enmé the Devol loke one into
the bed of Jesu.
     The curtene at the fete schal be thi WYL. Let hit ren up on the ryngys of THE
SEVEN WERKYS OF MERCÉ so that al thi besenes be evermore alse ferford as thou
may to plese God and help thyn even Cristen. And yif thi fre choys, paraventur,
chese eney thyng at the cownsel of thi wil, loke thou do hit never bot yif resoune
and understondyng be chefe of thi cownsel and acorde wele therto. The seloure
over thi bed schal be SELENS, that is, kepyng of thi tonge, so that thou slawnder not
the nome of God in gret othis sweryng. Kepe thee fro bacbytyng and foule wordys
spekyng. Lat the cordys that the seloure schal be teyd with and that the redel schul
ren upone be made of dowbyl silke or of twyne of Parceverens, that is, wil to last
stil in good levynge fro the bekynyng of thi lyve to the endyng.
     The hokys that schul be smetyn into the wal to hold the cordys and thes curtens
up with, this is a SECUR PURPOS never to turne to thi synne.
     Tho most have an amyr that thay schul be smetyn into the wallys in thi schambyr,
with the wyche wallis are thi FOURE AGYS, that is, childehode, youeth, parfite age,
and the last age whan thou art an old mon ore womon. This hamyr schal be COMPAS-
SION of grete payne that our Lorde Jhesu Crist suffyrde on the rode fore our synys.
     The hede of this hamur schal be made of the hard naylys of yron that the fete
and the handys of our Lorde were naylyd to the crose with.
     The chaft therof schal be made of the cros that our Lorde dyed on.
     Take hede of the chafte with the charpe poynte of the sperehede that smote
Jhesu to the hert, ere ellys with the charp thornes that thorlet the hede, his brayne
panne. Bot yet this bede most be bordyd aboute lest the straw fal oute.
     The bordys of this bede schul be THE CARDNALYS VERTUCE. Thou most be
strong in thi beleve agayns temptacions of the Fynd. Thou most be prudent or ellis
slyghe ware and wilé agayne al wordelé sleghtys and soteltys.
     Thou most have temperans agayns al fleschelé lustis, and loke that thou be
ryghtwyse in al maner levyng, and nayle togeder al tho bordis at the foure cornelnes
with PESE and TROUTH, MEKENES and REWTH. And loke then evermore that al the
clothis of thi bed be quyte, in tokyn of CLANNES, and pouder ham with red rosis,
portreyd with rede blod that our Lord schid in his Passion. This is the bed that our
Lorde speketh of in the Boke of Lawe Canticorum Primo: Lectubus noster iam floridus
est, "our bed is ful of flourys." Make CONSIANS thi schawmbyrlyn, fore he can aspy
defautes. And let him lyght up a lamp of love that he may se aboute. Make DREDE
usschere at the dore of thi chambyr, fore he wil let no thyng in at the dorse ne at
the wyndowys that schulde rayse oure Lord Jhesu fro his rest, ne defoule his
chambyr, ne dyssere his bedde.
     Thus be the bedde that our Lord wil have lykyng to ly in. And when he is in this
bed, angelys wil syng about him this song of prophesé: Exulta et lauda habitacio Syon,
quia magnus in medio tui sanctus Israel, "thoue Syon, mon soule, the dwellyng place
of Jhesu, be joyful and glad for the gret Holé God of Israel is now within thee, the
wyche is Jhesus."
















Pater noster qui es in celis.

The Paternoster to expone, • may no man hit pryse,
That of prayers is pris • and most fore to prayse;
I rede thou rede hit aryght • and out of syn ryse,
That may restyng in heven • unto thi soule rayse,
Fore seven poyntis ther ar sene, • eset in asyse,
The lest ys salve to the synn, • as the Boke sayse.
"Our Fader, the wyche thou hart in heven," • this oresoune yse,
"Ay ehalouyd be thi name," • in angyr and in ayse.
         Sanctificetur nomen tuum.
                   Say whe the same:
"Oure Fader, the wyche thou art in heven, halouyd be thi name."

The secunde princepal poynt • is of paradyse,
How we schuld pyn us to pray • after that plase,
Fore uche a herd that is here • mai hold fore hyse
The Lord that harouyd hel • wil he in hert hase.1
Bot yif thou wyn thee that won, • I hold thee unwyse
Fore wele wantyd ther never • non sethyn hit wroght was;2
Into that courte fore to cum — • be hit thi covetyse —
That the kyngdam of heven, • is callid in this case.
         Adveniat regnum tuum.
                   "Thi kyngdam us come."
This is the secunde poynt, al and some.

The thrid poynt to expownd • that is most playne:
Let penans perce thi syn • out of thi soule plane.
The forewart at the fonston • to fulfyl be thou fayne,
And not in foundyng to fare • as the wederfane,
Bot to abyde at his bone • and at his bidyng bayne,3
Both in bale and in blis • abyde at his bane.
Therfore his wil to fulfil • thou wilt thi soule wayne,
And let thi warlouys werkys • out of thi soule wane.4
         Fiat voluntas tua sicut in celo et in terra.5
                   "Fulfilde be his wil,
Ryght in erth as in heven," with good and with ylle.

The forth poynt is of the flesche • and of the soule fode,
To pray the Fader of Heven • us fore to fede;
Thagh thou hadyst hallis of golde, • hit thee behode,6
And ale we have hit of hym, • that lytyl takyn hede.
Furst bed we the bred • he boght with his blode,
Sethyn the blisse above — • his body can foreblede!
As thou art ryghtful Lord, • rent on the rode,
Reche us our ochedays bred • this day, as we rede.
         Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie.7
                   "Our ochedays bred,
Lord, thou reche us today." Thou art our soulis rede.

When thou hast fraystud the fyrth, • to the fyft fare.
Thou schalt hit fortheron in thi hert • and ful sone ifere,
And cri arde upon Crist • to kever us of care,
As he was crownyd on the croyse, • with a voyse clere,
And beware of that word • that thou hit wele ware,
Ellys unborne that thou wore, • better thee were:8
"And foregef us our det • that doth the soule dare,
As we our dettyrs foregifth, • fore thi deth dere!"
         Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.9
                   "Foregif us our dett,
As we our detturse foregifth." We bid no bet.

The sext poynte of the sevon • that I of syng
Is moste salve to the soule, • in saw and in song,
That God our Fader ouse lede • into no fowndyng
That schulde our forward us let • heven fore to fong,10
Ne fore no lykyng ne no lust, • wyle we schulde here lyng;
Mak us to leve that lyve • that last schal so long;
Ne fore no want of that wele, • to wepe ne to wryng
Where warlawys waltyrne in here wo • fore here mekil wrong.11
         Et ne nos inducas in temptacionem.12
                   "Fore thi Godhede,
Into no fowndyng of synne • that thou us never lede."

Bot delyver us from losse • both erlé and late —
This last poynt fore to lerne • harmus bot lyte —
Fro al maner of mys • that wold us here mate,
That never no males ouse mare • more then a myt.13
The bale that is brewyn here • with blys thou abate,
That never the blase of hel • to our soule byte;
And at the day of our deth • that settis no date,
The Devyl be doles of us • howso he dyte!14
         Set libera nos a malo. Amen.
                   For dowte of that den,
Lord, "tolyver us from alle evolus." Amen.

Our Father who art in heaven [Matthew 6:9]

expound; appraise it[s full value]; (see note); (t-note)
supreme; most [worthy]
counsel [that]; correctly
[a] resting [place]; inspire; (see note)
seen, set in position; (see note); (t-note)
least is remedy for sin; Bible; (see note); (t-note)
use; (see note); (t-note)
Forever hallowed; passion; calm
Hallowed be thy name
[Matthew 6:9, Luke 11:2]

concerns; (t-note)
exert ourselves; in pursuit of; (t-note)
(see note)

Unless; dwelling

should it be thy desire; (see note)
[as it] is called
Thy kingdom come
[Matthew 6:10, Luke 11:2]

all and entire

quite clear
pierce; immediately; (see note); (t-note)
promise; baptismal font; eager; (see note); (t-note)
falling [in sin]; go; weathervane; (see note); (t-note)
(see note); (t-note)
[to] wait for his summons
bring; (see note); (t-note)
(see note)

soul’s nourishment

(see note); (t-note)
[of] which few take heed
we pray for; bread; (see note); (t-note)
did bleed to exhaustion
just; torn
Bring; daily; pray; (see note)

Bring; soul’s counsel

grasped; fourth [point]; go
honor; absorb [it]
hard; shelter; from

[shall] heed it well
(see note)
threatens the soul
debtors; precious death; (t-note)

(see note); (t-note)
We [can] pray no better

of which I sing; (see note)
healing; proverb; (see note); (t-note)
temptation (lit. falling); (see note)
(see note); (t-note)
pleasure; desire; dwell
(see note); (t-note)
(see note); (t-note)

For the sake of; (see note)

(see note)
[is] but little harm to learn
sin; stymie (lit. checkmate)

brewed; [may] thou
blaze; bite; (see note)
[for] which no date is set

But deliver us from evil
[Matthew 6:13]
fear; cave
deliver; evils; (see note); (t-note)






























De tribus regibus mortuis.

An a byrchyn bonke • ther bous arne bryght,
I saw a brymlyche bore • to a bay broght;
Ronke rachis with rerde • thai ronnon aryght;
Of al hore row and hore rest • lytil hom roght.
Methoght hit ful semelé • to se soche a syght
How in a syde of a salghe • a sete him he soght;
Fro the noyse that hit was new • til hit was ne nyght,
Fro the non bot a napwile • methoght hit bot noght.1
         Methoght hit noght bot a throw
         To se how he throbyt and threw.
         Hontis with hornes thai kowth blow;
         Thai halowyd here howndys with "how!"
         In holtis herde I never soche hew!

Soche a hew in a holt • were hele to beholde,
To se how howndis him hent • and gart him to helde!
Ther come barownce to that bay • with barsletys bolde;
Thai blewyn here bewgulys ful breme • hore brachus to belde.2
Thre kyngys ther come, • trewlé itolde.
With tonyng and tryffylyng • and talis thai telde,
Uche a wy that ther was • wroght as thai wold.
These wodis and these wastis • thai waltyn al to welde.
         Thai waltyn at here wil to ware
         These wodis and the wastus that ther were.
         Herkyns what befel of here fare —
         Ham lykyd no lorchip in lare! —
         The lede that wold, lestyn and lere.3

When thai weren of these wodys • went at here wyn,
Thai fondyn wyndys ful wete • and wederys ful wanne.
Bot soche a myst upo molde, • with mowth as I youe myn,4
Of al here men and here mete • thai mystyn uche mon!
"Al our awnters," quod one, • "that we ar now inne,
I hope fore honor of erth • that anguis be ous on.
Thagh we be kyngis ful clene • and comen of ryche kyn,
Moche care us is caght; • fore kraft that I can,5
         Can I no mo cownsel bot chist,
         Bot coverys and cachis sum cest;
         Be morne may mend this myst;
         Our Lord may delyver us with lyst,
         Or lelé our lyvys ar lest."

Where thai not forth gone • fotis bot a fewe,
Thai fondon feldus ful fayre • and fogus ful fow;
Schokyn out of a schawe • thre schalkys at schew,
Schadows unshene • were chapid to chow,6
With lymes long and lene • and leggys ful lew,
Hadyn lost the lyp and the lyver • sethyn thai were layd lowe.
Ther was no beryn that ther was • dorst bec nor bewe,
Bot braydyn here brydilys agayne, • hor blongis can blow.7
         Here blonkis can blow and abyde;
         Siche barns thai can hom bede;
         Thai se no sokur hom besyde,
         Bot oche kyng apon Crist cryde,
         With crossyng and karpyng o Crede.

The furst kyng he had care, • his hert ovrcast,
Fore he knew the cros of the cloth • that coverd the cyst.8
Forth wold not his fole, • bot fnyrtyd ful fast,
His fayre fawkun fore ferd • he fel to his fyst:
"Now al my gladchip is gone! • I gre and am agast
Of thre gostis ful grym • that gare me be gryst.
Fere of have I walkon • be wodys and be wast,
Bot was me never so wo • in word that Y wyst —
         So wo was me never, I wene;
         My wit is away other wane;
         Certis sone hit wil be sene
         Our ronnyng wil turne us to tene;
         Fore tytle, I trow we bene tane!"

Then bespeke the medil kyng, that mekil was of myght,
Was made as a man schuld • of mayn and of maght:
"Methenkys, seris, that I se • the selquoth syght,
That ever segge under sonne • sey and was saght,
Of thre ledys ful layth • that lorne hath the lyght —
Both the lip and the lyver • his fro the lyme laght!
Fore yif we tene to the towne • as we hadyn tyght,
Ha ful teneful way, I trow, • that us is taght.
         Us is taght, as I trow;
         I tel you no talis bot trew.
         What helpis our hontyng with ‘how’?
         Now rayke we to the yonder row,
         Or raddelé our rese mon we rew."

Then speke the henmest kyng — • in the hillis he beholdis;
He lokis under his hondis • and his hed heldis,
Bot soche a carful knyl • to his hert coldis,
So doth the knyf ore the kye — • that knoc kelddus!9
"Hit bene warlaws thre • that walkyn on this woldis —
Oure Lord, wyss us the redé way, • that al the word weldus!
My hert fars fore freght, • as flagge when hit foldus;
Uche fyngyr of my hond • fore ferdchip hit feldus.
         Fers am I ferd of oure fare;
         Fle we ful fast therfore!
         Can Y no cownsel bot care —
         These dewyls wil do us to dare
         Fore drede lest thai duttyn uche a dore!"

"Nay, are we no fyndus," quod furst, • "that ye before you fynden;10
We wer your faders of fold • that fayre youe have fondon.
Now ye beth lykyr to leve • then levys on the lynden,
And lordis of oche towne • fro Loron into Londen.11
Those that bene not at your bone • ye beton and byndon;
Bot yef ye betun that burst, • in bale be ye bondon.
Lo, here the wormus in my wome — • thai wallon and wyndon!12
Lo, here the wrase of the wede • that I was in wondon!
         Herein was I wondon, iwys,
         In word wan that me worthelokyst was.
         My caren was ful cumlé to cysse;
         Bot we have made youe mastyrs amys
         That now nyl not mynn us with a mas."

That other body began • a ful brym bere:
"Lokys on my bonus, • that blake bene and bare!
Fore wyle we wondon in this word, • at worchip we were;13
Whe hadon our wyfe at our wil • and well fore to ware.
Thenkes ye no ferlé, • bot frayns at me fere:
Thagh ye be never so fayre, • thus schul ye fare!
And yif ye leven upon Crist • and on his lore lere,
Levys lykyng of flesche • and leve not that lare.14
         Fore warto schuld ye leve hit? Hit lyus!
         His ledys youe be lagmon be leus,
         When thou art aldyr-hyghtus and hyus;
         Away of this word when that thou wryus,
         Al thi wild werkys hit wreus."

Then speke laythe upo last, • with lyndys ful lene,
With eyther leg as a leke • were lapid in lyne:
"Makis your merour be me! • My myrthus bene mene:
Wyle I was mon apon mold, • morthis thai were myne;
Methoght hit a hede thenke • at husbondus to hene —15
Fore that was I hatyd • with heme and with hyne —
Bot thoght me ever kyng • of coyntons so clene.16
Now is ther no knave under Crist • to me wil enclyne,
         To me wil enclyne, to me come,
         Bot yif he be cappid or kyme.
         Do so ye dred not the dome —
         To tel youe we have no longyr tome —
         Bot turn youe fro tryvyls betyme!"

Now this gostis bene grayth, • to grave thai glyde.
Then began these gomys • graythlé to glade;
Thai redyn on the ryght way • and radlé thai ryde;
The red rowys of the day • the rynkkys kouthyn rade.
Holde thai never the pres • be hew ne be hyde,
Bot ay the hendyr hert • after thai hade;
And thai that weryn at myschip • thai mend ham that myde.17
And throgh the mercé of God • a mynster thai made.
         A mynster thai made with masse,
         Fore metyng the men on the mosse,
         And on the woghe wrytyn this was.
         To lyte will leve this, allas!
         Oure Lord delyver us from losse. Amen.
Concerning three dead kings

birch-covered bank; where boughs are; (see note)
ferocious boar brought to bay
Strong hunting dogs; clamor; speedily; (see note)
their repose; little they cared; (see note); (t-note)
It seemed to me very pleasant; such; (t-note)
beside a willow, he sought a position
(see note)
an instant
quivered; writhed; (see note); (t-note)
Huntsmen; could; (t-note)
halooed; hounds
woods; loud ruckus

seized; caused him to fall; (t-note)
barons; hunting dogs; (see note)
numbered; (t-note)
(see note); (t-note)


(see note); (t-note)

had; gone; pleasure; (t-note)
wet; storms; dark; (see note); (t-note)
fellowship; company; missed; (t-note)
adventures; (t-note)
earthly honor; anguish be upon us; (t-note)
(see note); (t-note)
I predict nothing but trouble; (see note); (t-note)
[let us] take cover and concoct some plan; (see note); (t-note)
amend; fog
truly; lost; (t-note)

Were; footsteps; (t-note)
fields; pastures of diverse hues; (see note)
(see note); (t-note)
(see note); (t-note)
limbs; weak
lip; liver; since; (t-note)
man; dared nod nor turn away; (see note)
horses did pant; halt
These men [the Living] summoned them; (see note); (t-note)
reciting the Creed; (see note); (t-note)


foal; snorted vigorously; (t-note)
falcon; terror; it fell; fist; (see note); (t-note)
gladness; shudder; aghast; (see note); (t-note)
ghosts; cause me to be afraid; (see note); (t-note)
Far off; (see note); (t-note)
woeful; world; know; (see note); (t-note)
Certainly soon
running away; trouble; (see note); (t-note)
Despite our rank; believe; are trapped; (see note)

spoke; middle; great; (see note); (t-note)
should [be]; vigor; prowess; (t-note)
strangest; (see note); (t-note)
man; sun saw; granted; (see note)
creatures; loathly; lost; (see note)
is separated from the limb; (t-note)
go; intended; (t-note)
A; perilous; believe; is pointed out to us; (t-note)
What use is
[let us] go speedily; row [of dead]
quickly; rashness we must regret; (see note)

hindmost; stares; (see note)
holds his head
(see note); (t-note)
(see note); (t-note)
demons; in these woods; (see note)
show; direct; rules; (t-note)
trembles for fright; reed; bends; (t-note)
terror; clenches
Terribly; afraid; adventure; (t-note)
[Let us] flee; (t-note)
(see note)
devils; cause; cower in fear
block every escape

(see note); (t-note)
(see note); (t-note)
(see note); (t-note)
(see note)
who defy your command; (see note); (t-note)
make amends for; injury; bound; (t-note)
(see note)
tie-band; shroud; wrapped in; (see note)
world when I was most esteemed; (t-note)
flesh; comely; kiss; (t-note)
[You] who will not commemorate; mass; (see note)

[in] a booming voice (lit. clamor)
bones; black; (t-note)
We; wealth to expend; (see note); (t-note)
marvel; learn fear from me; (see note); (t-note)
(see note)
If you believe; learn his lore; (t-note)
(see note)
why; believe [in] it; lies
It leads you astray by falsehoods; (see note); (t-note)
proudest and highest of all; (see note); (t-note)
out of; depart; (see note); (t-note)
reveals; (see note)

[the third] loathly one at last; loins; (see note); (t-note)
leek; swathed in linen
pleasures are poor; (see note)
on earth; deadly sins; (t-note)
(see note); (t-note)
by villagers and household servants; (see note)
(see note); (t-note)
there is no peasant; bow; (t-note)

insane or [a] fool; (t-note)
time; (t-note)
trifles soon

ready; (t-note)
men; promptly; cheer up; (t-note)
agree; forthwith; (t-note)
rays; daylight; men could discern; (see note)
(see note)
(see note); (t-note)
minster (i.e., chantry for trentals)
consecrated; a service of mass
moss (i.e., a public place); (t-note)
wall; this [poem, or story]; (see note); (t-note)
few [people]; believe; (t-note)
(see note)

[Not in W]
  Non honor set honus assumere nomen honoris.1








Cur mundus militat sub vana gloria,
Cuius prosperitas est transitoria?
Tam cito labitur eius potencia
Quam vasa figuli que sunt fragilia.

Plus crede literis scriptis in glacie
Quam mundi fragilis vane fallacie.
Fallax in premiis, virtutis specie,
Quis unquam habuit tempus fiducie?

Credendum magis est auris fallacibus
Te mundi miseri prosperitatibus,
Falcis in sompniis ac vanitatibus,
Falcis in studiis et voluptatibus.

Dic ubi Salamon olim tam nobilis,
Vel Sampson ubi est dux invincibilis,
Vel pulcher Absolon vultu mirabilis,
Vel dulcis Jonathas multum amabilis?

Quo Cesar abiit celsus imperio,
Vel Dives splendidus totus in prandio?
Dic ubi Tulius clarus eloquio,
Vel Aristotiles summus ingenio?

Tot clari proceres, tot retro spacia,
Tot ora presulum, tot regum forcia,
Tot mundi principes, tanta potencia,
In ictu oculi clauduntur omnia.

Quam breve spacium hec mundi gloria?   
Ut umbra hominis sunt eius gaudia.
Que tamen subtrahunt eterna premia,
Et ducunt hominem ad rura devia.

O esca vermium, o massa pulveris,
O ros, o vanitas, cur sic extolleris?
Ignoras penitus, utrum cras vixeris,
Fac bonum omnibus quam diu poteris.

Hec carnis gloria, que magni penditur,
Sacris in literis flos feni dicitur,
Vel leve folium, quod vento rapitur;
Sic vita hominis a luce trahitur.

Nil tuum dixeris quod potes perdere,
Quod mundus tribuit intendit rapere,
Superna cogita, cor sit in ethere,
Felix qui poterit mundum contempnere.

Why does the world soldier under vainglory’s banner
Whose prosperity is transitory?
Its power slips away as quickly
As the fragile vessels made by a potter.

Put more trust in letters written on ice
Than in the empty deceit of the fragile world.
Deceitful in rewards, in the appearance of virtue,
Who has ever had time for fidelity?

More trust is to be placed in the deceitful breezes
[Than] the prosperity of the wretched world.
False in dreams and vanities,
False in endeavors and pleasures.

Say where is Solomon, once so noble
Or where is Samson, invincible leader,
Or beautiful Absalom, wondrous in appearance,
Or sweet Jonathan, very lovable?

Where has gone Caesar, lofty in power,
Or Dives, all splendid at his banquet?
Tell me where is Tullius, famous for eloquence,
Or Aristotle, the pinnacle of genius?

So many renowned leaders, so many intervals back,
So many brave faces of officers, so many of kings,
So many princes of the world, such great power
All are closed [off] in the blink of an eye.

For how short a time does this glory of the world [last]?
Its joys are like the shadow of a human being.
They nevertheless take away eternal rewards,
And lead on to the trackless country.

O food for worms, O pile of dust,
O dew, O vanity, why are you so extolled?
You have absolutely no idea whether you will be alive tomorrow,
[And so] do good to all for as long as you are able.

This glory of the flesh, which is highly valued,
In sacred literature is called "the flower of the grass,"
Or a light leaf which is carried off by the wind;
Thus is a person’s life dragged from the light [of day].

Call nothing yours which you can lose,
Whatever the world gives, it intends to snatch away,
Think on heavenly things, may your heart be in heaven,
Happy is the one who will be able to despise the world.







   (see note); (t-note)



(see note)













Sapiencia huius mundi stulticia est apud Deum.1

Here may ye here now hwat ye be.
Here may ye cnow hwat ys this worlde.
Here may ye boothe here and se
Only in God ys all comforde.
For ther nys noon odur Loorde
That can do as he can.
All thyng he made here with a worde,
Hwen he had sayde hit was ydon.
                   Herto we were ybore
         To serve that Lorde Omnipotent,
         And kepe wel his comaundement.
         All thyng here he has us lent
                   To worshyp hym in erthe therfore.

Then loke ye hoolde hym forwarde:
Forsake your pryde, your veynglory!
Sett noght by the joy here of this worlde —
Hyt ys butt vayne and vanyté! —
But for that your namus wreton thay be
In the bok of lyfe in hevun blys,
Ther to have joy perpetualy,
Al erthely joy shal sone vanyshe.
                   Thus may ye se alsoo,
         How men thay dyon sodenly,
         And leson here joy and veynglory
         With the twynkelyng of an ye.
                   Farewel! Thay ben agoo!

Hic vir despiciens mundum.2

Herfore Y have dyspysed this worlde,
And have overcomen alle erthely thyng.
My ryches in heven with dede and worde
I have ypurchest in my levyng,
With good ensampul to odur gefyng.
Loke in this book; here may ye se
Hwatt ys my wyl and my wrytyng.
All odur by me war for to be!
                   Bewarre, brether, Y yow pray,
         Yowre mysdedes that ye amende
         Owte of thys worlde or that ye wende,
         For alle ys good that hath good ende.
                   Thus conseles Jon the Blynde Awdelay.

Cuius finis bonum, ipsum totum bonum. Finito libro. Sit laus et gloria Christo.3

No mon this book he take away,
Ny kutt owte noo leef, Y say forwhy,
For hit ys sacrelege, sirus, Y yow say!
Beth acursed in the dede truly!
Yef ye wil have any copi,
Askus leeve and ye shul have,
To pray for hym specialy
That hyt made your soules to save,
                   Jon the Blynde Awdelay.
         The furst prest to the Lord Strange he was,
         Of thys chauntré, here in this place,
         That made this bok by Goddus grace,
                   Deeff, sick, blynd, as he lay.

Cuius anime propicietur Deus.4


is no other



uphold your promise to Him

no stake in; (see note)

so that your names may be written

[Because] all

twinkling of an eye
are gone

Therefore; despised; (see note)

By giving good example to others

All others beware by my example

before; go

(see note); (t-note)

(see note)
Nor cut out any leaf


(see note)

Richard LeStrange


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