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Art. 50, Suete Jesu, king of blysse: 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).

Sweet Jesus, King of Bliss, a hymn of praise on the name of Jesus, consists in MS Harley 2253 of fifteen stanzas, each stanza starting with the phrase Suete Jesu. The first three stanzas correspond to a shorter, older poem found in MS Digby 86. The Harley version is, therefore, an expansion of the Digby poem. Later versions of Sweet Jesus, King of Bliss blend its stanzas with those of Jesus, Sweet Is the Love of You (art. 58), an intriguing fact because both poems appear in MS Harley 2253. These lyrics are among the earliest hymns upon the Holy Name, and they bear a relationship to lyrics ascribed to the Yorkshire mystic Richard Rolle (Ogilvie-Thomson, pp. lxxxv–xci; see also MWME 9:3063, 3422 [12]). As expanded versions of earlier renderings, both suggest an active literary background for texts appearing in the Harley manuscript. The lyrics occur fairly near each other, separated by seven items. Sweet Jesus, King of Bliss is set beside Jesus Christ, Heaven’s King (art. 51), another prayer to Jesus in a more penitential mood. For fuller commentary on this lyric, see the manuscript affiliations and bibliography in MWME 11:4339–41, to which may be added Durling, p. 278.

[Fol. 75rb–va. IMEV, NIMEV 3236. MWME 9:3061–63 [12], 11:4189 [15]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 8. Meter: Fifteen monorhymed quatrains, aaaa4, each stanza beginning Suete Jesu. Layout: Double columns. Editions: Wright 1842, pp. 57–59 (no. 18); Böddeker, pp. 191–93; Horstmann 1896, 2:9–11; Brown 1952, pp. 7–9 (no. 7); Brook, pp. 51–52 (no. 15). Other MSS: MS Harley 2253 is one of sixteen manuscripts that preserve this lyric in different forms; its copy is the oldest of the Version B texts. For Versions A–D, see MWME 11:4339–40. Older Version (Version A): Oxford, Bodl. MS Digby 86, fol. 134v (Tschann and Parkes, p. xxvi [item 48]; ed. Brown 1932, pp. 91–92 [no. 50]).]

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