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Art. 60, Stond wel, moder, under rode: 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).

Stand Well, Mother, under Rood is a richly moving lyric modeled directly on the 11-stanza Latin sequence Stabat juxta Christi crucem. It survives in six manuscripts, but only Harley and two others preserve the full eleven stanzas. The piece also appears in MS Digby 86, where it lacks the last two stanzas. Two manuscripts preserve the song with music: Cambridge, St. John’s College, MS 111, and London, BL MS Royal 12.E.1. Editors Dobson and Harrison date the lyric no earlier than 1250. A range of dialects shows that the English hymn was widely dispersed.

In form, the first nine stanzas set Christ in dialogue with his mother, three lines allotted to each speaker. Their tender speeches are intensely intimate, elegaic, and suffused harmoniously with suffering and love. Through their exchanges, “extreme emotion . . . is conveyed sharply and tightly” (Gray, p. 136) in a delicate balance of meditation, planctus, and debate. The English poem displays, according to Woolf, “a warmth not characteristic of Latin hymns” (1968, p. 245). The last two stanzas expound for Mary the joyous outcome of the Passion, and the poem ends with the narrator petitioning for mercy. Christ and Mary display in dialogue a symbiotic kind of suffering, constructed by the poet in palpable detail. What Christ experiences as God Mary may feel ever more feelingly as human mother. Her show of natural emotion softens his dogmatic exposition of doctrine. Their joint suffering becomes the true labor pains (prelude to humanity’s rebirth) that the Virgin and Son did not experience at the Nativity (stanza 7). For the rich range of commentary on Stand Well, Mother, under Rode, see the bibliography in MWME 11:4345–47, to which may be added Durling, pp. 287–88.

[Fol. 79rb–vb. IMEV, NIMEV 3211. MWME 3:676–77 [1(r)], 11:4192 [20]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 9. Meter: Eleven 6-line stanzas, aabccb4. In the Harley version, stanza 6 is moved to third position. Layout: Double columns. Speech markers are not in the manuscript and have been added editorially. Editions: Wright 1842, pp. 80–83 (no. 27); Böddeker, pp. 206–8; Brook, pp. 56–57 (no. 20).Other MSS: Oxford, Bodl. MS Digby 86, fol. 127r–v (9 stanzas) (Tschann and Parkes, p. xxvi [item 45]); Cambridge, St. John’s College, MS 111, fol. 106v (4½ stanzas with music); London, BL MS Royal 8.F.2, fol. 180r (1 stanza); London, BL MS Royal 12.E.1, fols. 193r–194v (11 stanzas with music); Dublin, Trinity College MS 201, fol. 194r (11 stanzas). Critical Edition (Manuscripts and Music): Dobson and Harrison, pp. 152–60, 254–55, 301.]

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