Back to top

Art. 114, Dieu, roy de magesté


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).

23 Le quinzyme dener. The tax of the fifteenth. Scattergood summarizes how successive parliaments imposed taxes to raise funds for Edward’s war with France: “In the autumn parliaments of 1333 and 1334, tenths and fifteenths were granted. In 1336 a grant of a tenth and a fifteenth was passed in the March parliament, and at the great council at Nottingham in the autumn a similar grant was made, as well as two-tenths from the clergy. A year later in September 1337, the great council of Westminster gave a tenth and a fifteenth for three years, and the convocation of Canterbury and York committed the clergy to a similar grant. Hence, the poet’s complaint that the ‘quinzyme’ had been levied year after year” (2000a, p. 164).

25–26 Scase points to these lines as indicating that the injustices complained about extend to classes beyond the poorest: “those who used to sit in comfort are brought low” (2007, p. 31). Aspin cites Luke 1:52: “He hath put down the mighty from their seats” (p. 114).

42 Collectio lanarum. Scattergood defines this specific term: “in the summer of 1337, the king had come to an agreement with the principal wool contractors that, in return for a monopoly that would cut out foreign buyers, they would agree to buy and export 30,000 sacks of wool for the king’s use — half the profits to go to the king. This is the ‘collectio lanarum’ . . . to which the poet objects” (2000a, p. 164–65). See also Wright 1839, p. 377; Aspin, p. 114; and Harriss, p. 251.

50 mea lana. “My wool.” The first-person pronoun registers the poet’s complaint as personally affecting him, while the third person earum earlier in the stanza separates the speaker from the poor on whose behalf he also complains. See Scase 2007, p. 31.

73 maveis consiler. Probably John Stratford, Archbishop of Canterbury. There was a faction hostile to Stratford, Chancellor of England. Aspin proposes that Against the King’s Taxes was written as part of “a campaign of slander directed against him” (p. 115). Lines 7–8 seem also to allude to the evil counselor.

105 le haut juggement. “Last Judgment.” In lines 105–10, the moral warning that God will punish the corrupt, greedy agents of unjust taxation, called thieves in the next stanza, exposes the moral core of a poem that voices a clerical point of view. The religious outlook of Against the King’s Taxes pairs it with All the World’s a Chess Board (art. 109). The scribe’s placement of the poem near the end of quire 15 — and of MS Harley 2253 overall — may be because it reminds one to think of ultimate things.

150 Pro victu solvere lignum. “To pay for food with wood.” Lignum refers to the wooden tallies or notched sticks given as receipts. As Scase comments, “The poet swipes at the practice of paying for prises with tally-sticks which often proved worthless, wittily pointing out that it is better to eat off wooden plates and pay with silver, than to eat off silver plates, and pay with wood” (2007, p. 31). Wright notes that people of the lower classes typically ate from wooden plates and vessels (1839, p. 377).

168 Inter reges. A specific reference, perhaps, to King Edward III of England and King Philip VI of France, and to the unsuccessful peace negotiations of 1337. See Scattergood 2000a, p. 166.


ABBREVIATIONS: As: Aspin; : Böddeker; Br: Brook; BS: Bennett and Smithers; BZ: Brandl and Zippel; B13: Brown 1937; Dea: J. M. Dean; Do: Dove 1969; Fl: Flood; : Förster; Fu: Furnivall; HB: Hunt and Bliss; Kem: Kemble; Ken: Kennedy; Mi: Millett; Mo: Morris and Skeat; MS: MS Harley 2253; Mu1: H. J. R. Murray; Mu2: J. A. H. Murray; NB: Noomen and van den Boogard; Pa: Patterson; Rev: Revard 2005a; Ri: Ritson 1877; Ro: Robbins 1959; SP: Short and Pearcy; Si: Silverstein; St: Stemmler 1970; Tu: Turville-Petre 1989; Ul: Ulrich; W1: Wright 1839; W2: Wright 1841; W3: Wright 1842; WH: Wright and Halliwell.

19 est. So As. MS, W1: eat.

26 scannum. So MS (m abbreviated), As. W1: scamnum.

44 Divicias. So MS, As. W1: divitias.

87 rien. MS, W1, As: ren.

93 deit. So MS. W1, As: doit.

114 Gratia. So MS (abbreviated gra), W1. As: gracia.

145 manger. So W1, As. MS: mager.

149 vicii. So MS, As. W1: vitii.




































¶ Dieu, roy de magesté,
   Ob Personas Trinas,
Nostre roy e sa meyné
   Ne perire sinas!
Grantz mals ly fist aver
   Gravesque ruinas —
Celi qe ly fist passer
   Partes transmarinas.
      Rex ut salvetur,
      Falsis maledictio detur!

Roy ne doit, a feore de gere,
   Extra regnum ire,
For si la commune de sa terre
   Velint consentire.
Par tresoun, voit honme sovent
   Quam plures perire.
A quy en fier seurement
   Nemo potest scire.
      Non est ex regno
      Rex sine consilio.

Ore court en Engletere
   De anno in annum
Le quinzyme dener pur fere,
   Sic commune dampnum.
E fet avaler que soleyent
   Sedere super scannum,
E vendre fet commune gent
   Vaccas, vas, et pannum.
      Non placet ad summum,
      Quindenum, sic, dare nummum.     

Une chose est countre foy
   Unde gens gravatur:
Que la meyté ne vient al roy
   In regno quod levatur!
Pur ce qu’il n’ad tot l’enter
   Prout sibi datur,
La pueple doit le plus doner,
   Et sic sincopatur.
      Nam que taxantur
      Regi non omnia dantur.

Unquore plus greve a simple gent
   Collectio lanarum.
Que vendre fet, communement,
   Divicias earum.
Ne puet estre que tiel consail
   Constat Deo carum,
Issi destrure le poverail
   Pondus per amarum!
      Non est lex sana
      Quod regi sit mea lana!

Uncore est plus outre peis,
   Ut testantur gentes,
En le sac deus per ou treis
   Per vim retinentes.
A quy remeindra cele leyne?
   Quidam respondentes
Que ja n’avera roy ne reygne,
   Set tantum colligentes.
      Pondus lanarum
      Tam falsum constat amarum!

Depus que le roy vodera
   Tam multum cepisse,
Entre les riches si purra
   Satis invenisse.
E plus, a ce que m’est avys,
   Et melius fecisse
Des grantz partie aver pris,
   Et parvis pepercisse.
      Qui capit argentum,
      Sine causa, peccat egentum.

Honme ne doit a roy retter
   Talem pravitatem,
Mes al maveis consiler
   Per ferocitatem.
Le roy est jeovene bachiler,
   Nec habet etatem
Nulle malice compasser,
   Set omnem probitatem.
      Consilium tale
      Dampnum confert generale.

Rien greve les grantz graunter
   Regi sic tributum;
Les simples deyvent tot doner,
   Contra Dei nutum.
Cest consail n’est mye bien,
   Sed viciis pollutum.
Ceux que grauntent ne paient rien
   Est male constitutum.
      Nam concedentes
      Nil dant regi, set egentes.

Coment fra honme bon espleit
   Ex pauperum sudore,
Que les riches esparnyer deit
   Dono vel favore?
Des grantz um le dust lever,
   Dei pro timore,
Le pueple plus esparnyer
   Que vivit in dolore.
      Qui satis es dives,
      Non sic ex paupere vives!

Je voy en siecle qu’ore court
   Gentes superbire,
D’autre biens tenir grant court,
   Quod cito vult transire.
Quant vendra le haut juggement,
   Magna dies ire,
S’il ne facent amendement,
   Tunc debent perire.
      Rex dicit reprobis,
      “Ite.” “Venite,” probis.

Dieu, que fustes coronee
   Cum acuta spina,
De vostre pueple eiez pitee,
   Gratia divina.
Que le siecle soit aleggee
   De tali ruina.
A dire grosse veritee,
   Est quasi rapina.
      Res inopum capita
      Nisi gratis est quasi rapta.

Tel tribut a nul feor
   Diu nequit durare.
De voyde qy puet doner,
   Vel manibus tractare?
Gentz sunt a tiel meschief
   Quod nequeunt plus dare;
Je me doute, s’ils ussent chief,
   Quod vellent levare.
      Sepe facit stultas
      Gentes vacuata facultas.

Yl y a tant escarceté
   Monete inter gentes
Qe honme puet en marché,
   Quam parci sunt ementes
(Tot eyt honme drap ou blee,
   Porcos vel bidentes),
Rien lever, en verité,
   Tam multi sunt engentes.
      Gens non est leta
      Cum sit tam parca moneta.

Si le roy freyt moun consail,
   Tunc vellem laudare:
D’argent prendre le vessel,
   Monetamque parare.
Mieu valdreit de fust manger
   Pro victu nummos dare,
Qe d’argent le cors servyr
   Et lignum pacare.
      Est vicii signum
      Pro victu solvere lignum!

Lur commissiouns sunt tro chiers
   Qui sunt ultra mare;
Ore lur terres n’ount povers
   Eosdem sustentare.
Je ne say coment purrount
   Animas salvare,
Que d’autrui vivre voderount
   Et propria servare.
      Non dubitant penas
      Cupientes res alienas.

Dieu, pur soun seintime noun,
   Confundat errores,
E ceux que pensent fere tresoun,
   Et pacis turbatores!
E vengaunce en facez
   Ad tales vexatores,
E confermez e grantez
   Inter reges amores!
      Perdat solamen
      Qui pacem destruit!
¶ God, king of majesty,
   For the sake of the Triune Persons,
May our king and his household
   Not perish!
He caused him to suffer great harm
   And grievous ruin —
That one who made him travel
   Over the sea.
      That the king prosper,
      May false ones be accursed!

A king should not, in a warlike way,
   Depart from his realm,
Unless the commons of his land
   Wish to consent.
On account of treason, one often sees
   Many perish.
He in whom one can trust securely
   No one can know.
      May the king not leave his realm
      Without good counsel.

Now proceeds in England
   From year to year
The tax of the fifteenth penny,
   Thus inflicting a common harm.
And it brings down those wont
   To sit upon the bench,
And it forces common folk to sell
   Cows, utensils, and clothing.
      Most unpleasant is it,
      Therefore, to pay the entire fifteenth.

There is a thing contrary to faith
   By which people are oppressed:
To the king comes not half
   Of what’s raised in the realm!
Since he doesn’t receive the whole
   As it’s granted to him,
The people must pay more,
   And thus they’re cut short.
      For the taxes that are raised
      Are not all given to the king.

Still more oppressive for simple folk
   Is the wool collection.
Commonly, it forces them to sell
   Their valuables.
It cannot be that such a policy
   Is pleasing to God,
Thus to crush the poor
   Under a bitter burden!
      It is no just law
      That gives my wool to the king!

It is of still greater weight,
   As people bear witness,
That from the sack two or three measures
   Are retained by force.
By whom will this wool be taken?
   Some respond
That neither king nor realm will have it,
   But only the wool collectors.
      Such a false weight of wool
      Constitutes a bitter thing!

Since the king wants
   To take so much,
Among the rich he may thus
   Find enough.
And besides, in my opinion,
   He would do better
To have taken a portion from the great,
   And have spared the lowly.
      He who, without cause, takes money
      From the needy commits sin.

One ought not to the king
   Assign such depravity,
But to an evil counselor
   In his savagery.
The king is a young man,
   And is not of an age
To devise any malice,
   But possesses all honesty.
      Such a policy
      Confers general harm.

It doesn’t oppress the great at all
   To thus yield tribute to the king;
The simple have to give all,
   Contrary to God’s will.
This policy is not good at all,
   But is sullied with vice.
For those tax-makers to pay nothing
   Is wrongly ordained.
      For the policy-makers
      Give nothing to the king, only the needy.

How may one bring forth good
   From the sweat of the poor,
One who’s obliged to spare the rich
   On account of gift or favor?
One ought to levy the tax upon the great,
   In fear of God,
To spare more the people
   Who live in affliction.
      You who are rich enough,
      Live not thus upon the poor!

I see at the present time
   How people grow prideful,
Holding great pomp with others' goods,
   Which will briefly pass away.
When comes the Last Judgment,
   That great day of wrath,
Unless they mend their ways,
   They must then perish.
      The king says to the unrighteous,
      “Go.” “Come,” to the righteous.

God, who was crowned
   With sharp thorns,
Have mercy on your people,
   With heavenly grace.
May the world be spared
   From such calamity.
To tell the plain truth,
   It is just like stealing.
      Taking goods from the poor against their will
      Is the same as if it were stolen.

Such tribute can by no means
   Last for long.
Who can give from emptiness,
   Or touch it with his hands?
People are in such bad straits
   That they cannot give more;
I fear that, had they a leader,
   They would rise in rebellion.
      Often people turn foolish
      From loss of possessions.

There is so much scarcity
   Of money among people
That at market one is able,
   Because buyers are so few
(For all the cloth or corn one might have,
   Pigs or sheep),
To gain nothing, in truth,
   For so many are needy.
      The people are not happy
      When money is so scarce.

Were the king to heed my advice,
   Then I would praise him:
Take the vessels of silver,
   And make money with them.
Better would it be to eat off wood
   And pay in coin for food,
Than to serve the body with silver
   And pay with wood.
      It is a sign of vice
      To pay for food with wood!

The maintenance is too costly
   For those who are across the sea;
Now their lands haven’t the power
   To sustain them.
I don’t know how they’ll be able
   To save their souls,
Those who would live on others
   And preserve what’s their own.
      They fear no penalties
      In coveting others’ things.

May God, for his most holy name,
   Confound errant ones,
And those who plan to do treason,
   And disturbers of the peace!
And may you take vengeance
   On such oppressors,
And confirm and grant
   Love between kings!
      May he lose consolation
      Who destroys the peace!


(see note)

(see note)

(see note)


(see note)

(see note)



(see note)



(see note)

(see note)

Go To Art. 115, Contemplacioun de la passioun Jesu Crist, introduction
Go To Art. 115, Contemplacioun de la passioun Jesu Crist, text