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Art. 56, Quant fu en ma juvente: 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).

This Anglo-Norman poem on mystical friendship exhorts the reader to find his true love and firm security against the devil in the blood of Jesus. It begins with a narrator’s love-longing that cannot find fulfillment. At the end of a five-stanza prologue, the disconsolate, lethargic speaker is comforted by a song (dite) that seems to arrive miraculously without known cause. He will sing it now for the reader. It tells of the loyal, pure friendship of Jesus for the one who would seek him through his heart’s wound. Just as Jesus’ blood issued out of this wound, so is the believer to enter it, cling to Jesus’ heart, and wash his own heart in this holy blood. By meditating on Jesus’ wound in such a latently erotic way, true love is to be found. The wound is like an eye (compare I Sigh When I Sing [art. 62], line 9, where Jesus’ wounds “weep”). Looking outward from within Jesus’ wound, the reader is also urged to envision and feel sorrow with Mary his mother and Saint John his friend, Jesus’ compassionate companions at the Passion. By devotion to God’s blood, the reader will gain true love and be ever shielded from danger. As a poem that dwells on the subject of friendship, this text becomes a mystical counterpart to the Anglo-Norman Lesson for True Lovers (art. 26). For its focus on Christ’s blood, compare The Way of Christ’s Love (art. 92). One of the final items in MS Harley 2253 is a mediation on Christ’s Passion, Seven Hours of the Passion of Jesus Christ (art. 115). For recent commentary on this item, see Durling, pp. 283–84.

[Fols. 76v–77r. ANL 911. Sinclair 1988, no. 6490. Långfors, p. 301. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 8. Meter: Twenty-two 8-line stanzas, in alternating rhyme, abababab, six syllables per line (with some irregularity). Layout: No columns. Edition: Dove 1969, pp. 299–301. Other MSS: None. Translations: None.]

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