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Art. 115, Contemplacioun de la passioun Jesu Crist: 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 work in Anglo-Norman is unique to MS Harley 2253. It provides instructions for how a devout reader ought to meditate on the events of the Passion at each of the seven canonical hours. In pastoral fashion, the author supplies the penitential prayer to say at each hour, while successive scenes of Christ’s torture are vividly recreated in word and mental image. Designed to stir fervent compassion and inward contrition, this exercise in devotion follows an ancient Christian trope that is standard in Latin Books of Hours and appears in many vernacular texts of the Middle Ages (Duffy 1992, pp. 225, 237–38). The Harley meditation begins at compline rather than matins because, according to the author, Judas betrayed Christ at compline. One must commence the meditation by thinking upon that betrayal, and thus tying it to one’s own guilt and self-examination. For similar works in Anglo-Norman, see ANL 629, 959, 962, 966, 967. One of these, Mirour de Seinte Eglyse, appears in the Ludlow scribe’s book London, BL MS Royal 12.C.12, fols. 17r–30v (ed. Wilshere 1982). On the tradition in Middle English, see Woolf, pp. 234–37; and Brown 1952, pp. 39–44, 50–51, 69–70. Boulton 1996–97, pp. 54–55, offers a brief commentary on this work.

In the context of MS Harley 2253, several other works invoke and visualize the Passion. In the early texts copied by Scribe A, there appear two Passion narratives in French: Herman de Valenciennes’ The Passion of Our Lord and the prose Gospel of Nicodemus (arts. 2, 3). A sizeable number of lyrics also call for a commemoration of the Passion, that is, A Spring Song on the Passion; Song on Jesus’ Precious Blood; Jesus, Sweet Is the Love of You; Stand Well, Mother, under Rood; Jesus, by Your Great Might; I Sigh When I Sing; Maiden, Mother Mild; and The Way of Christ’s Love (arts. 53, 56, 58, 60, 61, 62, 69, 92). This article is the next-to-last of the Ludlow scribe’s items in MS Harley 2253. Analysis of the script indicates that it was inserted between 1338 and 1342 (Revard 2000b, pp. 62–64). Paragraphing in this edition follows the markings of the scribe, except that the paragraphs beginning at lines 62 and 96 are not marked.

[Fols. 138v–140r. ANL 958. FDT 2391–92, 2394–96, 2416, 3498. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 15. Layout: No columns, written as prose. Edition: Hunt and Bliss, pp. 254–61. Other MSS: None. Translation: Hunt and Bliss, pp. 254–61.]

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