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Art. 74, Lustneth, alle, a lutel throwe: 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).

To judge by its preservation in five books and a roll, this homily in English verse enjoyed good readership and circulation in the fourteenth century. The group of important manuscripts that hold it is fascinating: besides MS Harley 2253, they are MS Laud Misc. 108 (containing The South English Legendary, King Horn, and Havelok the Dane), MS Digby 86, the Auchinleck manuscript, and the Vernon manuscript, with the number of stanzas varying from copy to copy. The lesson of the poet falls into three parts: (1) moral sayings on mortal existence attributed to Saint Bernard, which starkly inform a person that he shall be food for worms; (2) a warning about mankind’s three foes: the Flesh, the World, and the Devil; and (3) a classic ubi sunt lament on the passing of former generations who had looked splendid and seemed invincible. The third section is pared down in Harley and given its own heading in Digby. It occupies all of the fragment that remains in Auchinleck (Cross).

In the context of booklet 6, the attribution of sayings to Saint Bernard may be compared to the proverb collection Hending (art. 89) and to other authoritative precepts for proper conduct offered in many French texts, some serious and some less so (e.g., arts. 75, 79, 83, 94). Bernard’s moral warnings complement, too, several texts in booklet 4: Debate between Body and Soul, Earth upon Earth, and The Three Foes of Man (arts. 22, 24b, 27).

[Fols. 106ra–107rb. IMEV, NIMEV 3310. MWME 9:3008 [205]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 12. Layout: Double columns. Meter: Twenty-six 6–line stanzas, aa4b3cc4b3. Editions: Wright 1842, pp. 101–06 (no. 37); Böddeker, pp. 225–30; Furnivall, pp. 511–21. Other MSS: Oxford, Bodl. MS Laud Misc. 108, fols. 198r–199r (ed. Furnivall, pp. 511–22); Oxford, Bodl. MS Digby 86, fols. 125v–127v (Tschann and Parkes, p. xxv [nos. 43–44]; ed. Furnivall, pp. 757–63); Vernon MS (Oxford, Bodl. MS Eng. Poet. A.1), fols. 303 (ed. Furnivall, pp. 511–22); Oxford, Bodl. Addit. MS E.6 (a roll; ed. Monda, pp. 299–307); Auchinleck MS (Edinburgh, NLS MS Advocates 19.2.1), fols. 324ra–325vb (ed. Burnley and Wiggins, online facsimile).]

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