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Art. 85, A bok of swevenyng: 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).

A Book of Dreaming is composed in couplets with a twelve-line introduction, a six-line conclusion, and, in its body, 144 dream prognostications. The poet’s usual method of presentation is to provide in a single couplet the dream image matched to its meaning. Occasionally he alters the pattern so that a dream interpretation spans three monorhyming lines or a pair of couplets. This dream-with-meaning structure is highlighted in this edition by italics and layout.

The source text for A Book of Dreaming is the Latin Somniale Danielis. The Ludlow scribe had access to this work in his book London, BL MS Royal 12.C.12, fols. 81vb–86ra, a version that remains unedited. The Royal copy may be the direct source for this version, and the scribe himself may be the English poet. In the Somniale Danielis, each type of dream is listed in alphabetical order for ease of reference. Ironically, when translated to English, this indexing method is utterly invisible; the resultant order, based on Latin words by letter, comes to seem entirely random, even bewildering. Moreover, the attribution of the book to the prophet Daniel, an expert in dreams, is muddled by the Ludlow scribe when he copies Dauid instead of Daniel in line 3 (the translation is emended to Daniel in this edition). A few other dreambooks were made in English, all of them in prose and with fewer interpretations.

The scribe betrays an interest in dream prognostication elsewhere in his telling of the story of Joseph in the Anglo-Norman Old Testament Stories (art. 71) and by allusion to Joseph in the Latin Legend of Saint Etfrid, Priest of Leominster (art. 98) — an allusion he may have inserted. In addition, the plot of the romance King Horn (art. 70) depends on several important dreams, and the Debate between Body and Soul (art. 22) possesses the atmospherics of a dream vision. For further discussion of dream lore in MS Harley 2253, see Phillips, pp. 241–59.

[Fols. 119ra–121ra. IMEV, NIMEV 1196. MWME 10:3625 [125]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 13. Layout: Double columns. Meter: Octosyllabic couplets. Other MSS: None. Editions: Förster, pp. 36–47; Wright and Halliwell, 1:261–68. Latin Source: Somniale Danielis (ed. Martin). Middle English Prose Analogues: See MWME 10:3621, 3625 [86, 126–27])]

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