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Art. 41, Of a mon Matheu thohte: Introduction

ABBREVIATIONS: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CCC: Corpus Christi College (Cambridge); CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); IMEV Suppl.: Supplement to the Index of Middle English Verse (Robbins and Cutler); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

The Ludlow scribe inserted this poem, The Laborers in the Vineyard, after adjacent material — Satire on the Consistory Courts (art. 40) — had already been copied. He set this poem parallel to that one, in right-hand columns. Addressing themes of law and literate authority, fairness and judgment, these English works — a comic satire, a biblical homily — create a subtle and fascinating pair. In translating Matthew 20:1–16, the poet follows the scriptural narrative until the last stanza, where he turns the parable to a penitential lesson. The Harley lyric is notable as a precursor to the Pearl poet’s exegetical use of the parable (Pearl, lines 497–600; ed. Gordon, pp. 18–22). Stemmler suggests that the scribe groups this poem with arts. 43, 44, and 45 because of their common stanzas of twelve lines (2000, p. 117), but only arts. 43 and 44 are alike in stanza form. The Laborers in the Vineyard utilizes a taut 3-rhyme tetrameter stanza that is more like the stanzas of variable length found in Maximian (art. 68).

For further commentary, see the bibliography in MWME 11:4331–32; Green 1999, p. 373; Fein 2007, pp. 79–80, 91; and Kerby-Fulton et al.

[Fols. 70vb, 71rb. IMEV, NIMEV 2604. MWME 2:398 [45], 11:4182 [10]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 8. Meter: Five 12-line isometric stanzas with three rhymes, aabaabccbccb3, except for the last stanza, which has four rhymes, aabaabccbddb3. Layout: Written in right columns of double-column pages. Editions: Wright 1842, pp. 41–43 (no. 12); Morris and Skeat, pp. 46–48; Böddeker, pp. 184–86; Brown 1932, pp. 143–45 (no. 80); Brook, pp. 42–43 (no. 10). Other MSS: None.]

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