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Art. 78, Nicholas Bozon, Femmes a la pye: 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).

Another copy of this poem appears in the Herebert manuscript (BL Addit. MS 46919), a book dated a bit earlier than the Harley manuscript (Reimer, pp. 8–9). It contains sermons and poems by the Franciscan friar William Herebert of Hereford and later of Oxford (ca. 1270–1333). It also includes many Anglo-Norman poems by another Franciscan, Nicholas Bozon (fl. 1300–1320), a prolific writer about whom little is known (Jeffrey and Levy, pp. 14–15). In Addit. MS 46919, the antifeminist Women and Magpies carries an ascription to Bozon: “Cest tretys fist frere Nich. Boioun del ordre de freres menours.” Bozon’s poetic oeuvre, however, plays both sides of the debate on women: he also composed the pro-feminine De bounté des femmes. A major variant between the Additional and Harley versions of Women and Magpies is the insertion of lines 49–51 in Harley. Extending the length of the stanza, these lines warn against marriage: “Given this behavior [of women], / I advise that one reflect / Before he gets married.” The Ludlow scribe may be the one who adds this advice. Regarding other Harley contents, Bozon has been hypothesized to be the author of Debate between Winter and Summer (art. 9) (Reichl 2000, p. 230). In addition, Bozon’s Pleynte d’amour appears elsewhere in the Ludlow scribe’s library (London, BL MS Harley 273, fols. 199r–203v).

Women and Magpies continues the blame of women heard in art. 77. Here, women’s deplorable traits make them like the magpie bird, in “pride in clothes, their chatter, laziness, quarrelling, jealousy, and hoarding” (Turville-Petre 1996, p. 202). In satirizing the vanity of proud attire, the poem holds a likeness to the English On the Follies of Fashion (art. 25a), where an extreme hairstyle makes girls look like baited pigs. In its scathing comparison of women to animals, however, Femmes a la pye is most like the catalogue of similes in the adjacent Blame of Women (art. 77), lines 38–48. It is also like Richard de Fournival’s Bestiaire d’amour (see Beer), found in the Ludlow scribe’s MS Harley 273, fols. 70v–81r. For discussion of this work, see Jeffrey and Levy, pp. 227–29; Jeffrey 2000, pp. 263, 270 (on identifying Bozon as “Bohun”); and Dove 2000, pp. 339–40, 345.

[Fol. 112ra–b. ANL 205. Långfors, p. 142. Vising §282. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 12. Layout: Triple columns. Meter: Twelve 6-line stanzas (aabaab or aabccb) and one 9-line stanza (aabccbddb), in lines of five or six syllables. Editions: Wright 1842, pp. 107–09 (no. 38); Kennedy, pp. 119–26 (no. 8); Dove 1969, pp. 86–88. Altered Edition: Jubinal, pp. 326–29. Other MS: London, BL Addit. MS 46919, fol. 75r–v. (ed. and trans. Jeffrey and Levy, pp. 223–29 [no. 43]). Translation: Kennedy, pp. 119–26.]

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