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Art. 106, Um doit plus volentiers juner le vendredy: 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); CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); DOML: Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library; FDT: French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages (Sinclair 1979); FDT-1French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages, . . . First Supplement (Sinclair 1982); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); 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 prose item in Anglo-Norman supplies another list for the devout, explaining why they ought to venerate Friday as a day of fasting. It records thirteen events believed to have occurred on Friday, starting with the Israelites coming to the Promised Land (recounted at length in the Ludlow scribe’s Old Testament Stories [art. 71]). After this event come the death of Moses and the victory of David over Goliath. Next the list itemizes two events of importance to the author of Pilgrimages in the Holy Land (art. 38): the beheadings of Elijah and John the Baptist. In almost chronological order, more holy events are named: the Slaughter of the Innocents, cited oddly in advance of the Annunciation, then the Crucifixion and the Assumption of Mary. Tucked in are the martyrdoms of Saints Peter, Stephen, and Paul, with the earliest of these, the stoning of Stephen, set after the death of Peter. The reasons for Friday fasting conclude with the future battle of Enoch and Elijah against Antichrist.

A similar list in Anglo-Norman appears in Cambridge, Emmanuel College MS 106 (I.4.31), where a short preface attributes the text to Pope Clement. R. Dean describes a Continental version as well (ANL 699). The Fridays for Fasting motif derives from an ancient Christian tradition disseminated across many centuries and languages. A Middle English lyric in eleven eight-line stanzas with refrain, Þe fryday þou fonde to fast and pray, recounts the following holy Fridays: God’s creation of Adam, the Fall, Moses receiving the law tablets, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, Mary’s birth, Mary’s presentation at the temple, the Annunciation, pregnant Elizabeth greeting pregnant Mary, Jesus’ baptism, the Crucifixion, the Harrowing of Hell, Mary’s Assumption, John the Baptist’s beheading, the martyrdoms of Saints Peter, Paul, Andrew, Stephen, and Katherine, and, lastly, Saint Helena’s discovery of the true Cross. Regarding the tradition of listing famous Fridays, one might also think of Chaucer’s flamboyant catalogue of tragic Fridays in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale (CT VII 3338–52, even though it follows a different rationale. Its only overlap with these pious lists is the Friday of the Passion.

The paragraphing of the text and translation given here conforms to the scribe’s rubrication.

[Fol. 135r. ANL 699. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 15. Layout: No columns, written as prose. Edition: Hunt and Bliss, pp. 246–49. Anglo-Norman Version: Cambridge, Emmanuel College MS 106 (I.4.31), fol. 12 (ed. Suchier, pp. 580–81). Middle English Version: Þe fryday þou fonde to fast and pray, in London, BL MS Harley 3810, Part I, fol. 14r (IMEV, NIMEV 4275; ed. Jordan, pp. 262–65). Versions in Other Languages: See ANL 699. Translation: Hunt and Bliss, pp. 246–49.]

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