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The Freiris of Berwik


1 Though she was gorgeous, very elegantly dressed up, and showy

2 Lines 221-22: So that no appearance of a feast be seen here, / But [the appearance is that] we eat soberly

3 Then from the same [trough] wherein he thought he had been a long time


Abbreviations: CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue; H: Henry Huntington Library, San Marino, California, Article 88850, printed at Aberdeen by Edward Raban; MED: Middle English Dictionary; MS B: Bannatyne Manuscript, Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, MS Advocates’ 1.1.6; MS M: Maitland Folio Manuscript, Cambridge, Magdalene College, MS Pepys 2553; OE: Old English; OED: Oxford English Dictionary.

1-27 The poem opens in high rhetorical fashion, with this description of the fortified town of Berwick. But if the opening fits a rhetorical strategy for Latin texts described by Ernst Curtius, the description of the fortifications, R. D. S. Jack points out, belongs to fabliau. Curtius says, “The rules for eulogies of cities were developed in detail by late antique theory. The site had first to be treated, then the other excellencies of the city, and not least its significance in respect to the cultivation of the arts and sciences. In the Middle Ages this last topos is given an ecclesiastical turn” (European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. Willard R. Trask, Bollingen Series, 36 [New York: Pantheon Books, 1953], p. 157). In this poem the description of the site beside the River Tweed and the description of the town are mixed in lines 1–23; the orders of friars living there are listed in lines 24–27. That the lines are a standard topos is made evident by the fact that they have nothing to do with the events of the poem, which take place well outside the town walls. The opening seems to have little relevance, as in his Prologue Chaucer’s Clerk says Petrarch’s description of the valley of the Po does at the beginning of his version of the tale of Griselda. But as Jack points out, “the Scottish author has used the impregnability of the walls and gates of Berwick (historically due to that town’s vulnerable position in border warfare) as an ironic counterpoint for the open walls and gates of Alesone’s house and person” (“Freiris of Berwik and Chaucerian Fabliau,” p. 146). Certainly the defenses are impressive: in lines 9–14, the town is walled and double-ditched; the castle has towers and turrets and battlements; the portcullises are designed so that if an attacking party slips in as far as the opening to the castle, the first attackers will be caught within the gate tower, between the lower portcullises and an inner gate.

1 into. The prepositions into and intill are used throughout with the meaning “in.”

2 the quhilk. The relative pronoun the quhilk is used throughout with the meaning “which” or “that.”

4 mony lordis hes bene. The form hes was used for the plural of have from the fifteenth century in Scotland.

24–26 The four orders of friars were, as the poem implies, the Jacobins or Dominicans, the Carmelites, the Hermit Friars of St. Augustine, and the Franciscans or Friars Minor. Berwick was the only town in Scotland to have all four orders (see Cowan, Medieval Religious Houses), and the fact is a testimony to the importance of the place in the later Middle Ages. See the introduction to The Freiris of Berwik for a discussion of why the poet calls the Jacobins white, and see note to line 126, below.

28 Fair May mornings are the conventional settings for romance, lyric, and allegory alike, a timing used here even though the action proper begins on a cold, wet evening.

34 silly freiris. Silly is used as a recurring epithet, carrying more or less ironic connotations of “holy” from the older form sely, and also meaning “pitiable” or “harmless.”

77 abbay. Friars did not live in abbeys; their dwellings were called cloisters,or simply houses, and later, convents. The poet here shows a lack of familiarity with the mendicant orders.

87 Bot in his absence I abusit his place. The general sense is clear enough, but not whether the goodwife means that Simon would think that she abused his manor by lodging the friars in it in his absence or whether she betrayed his role as husband by lodging friars in his absence.

116 I hecht to walk this nicht. “I vow to walk like a ghost tonight”? More likely, the l of walk simply indicates a long a, and the verb is wake (watch, stay awake) in a Scottish spelling.

126 And ane blak freir he wes. The poet is confused about the orders of friars and the colors normally associated with them. The Black Friars were the Jacobins; but Allane and Robert are Jacobins, and the poet calls them White Friars. Friar Johine is probably meant to be a Franciscan, since Jacobins and Franciscans were archenemies. Franciscans were known as Gray Friars, and it was the Carmelites who were White Friars. But for this poet, Allane and Robert are Jacobins and White Friars, and Johine is a Black Friar. See the introduction to the poem for further discussion of this confusion.

127 He governit alhaill the abbacy. Again, the terminology is wrong: friars were not governed by abbots.

149–50 The burde scho cuverit with clath of costly greyne; / Hir napry aboif wes woundir weill besene. The term burde has caused confusion in MS B and also in H, where it is taken to refer to a table the goodwife is covering in the bedroom. But later (line 187) she covers one in the hall, in preparation for the supper. Here the burde was probably originally meant as an embroidered ornamental strip of cloth that the goodwife is putting on herself; see MED bord(e) and DOST burd(e) n². MS M reads:
and of ane burde of silk richt costlie grein
hir tusche wes with silwer weill besene
But instead of a silk scarf of very costly green material, the tissue well provided with silver, the goodwife is in version B dealing with a table that she covered with cloth of costly green material; her table linen above was very well appointed.

158 Gascone wyne. Gascony was the wine-growing area on the continent that belonged to England until 1453 and had well-established trade with the British Isles.

160 breid of mane. I.e., pandemain, fine bread made of white wheat flour.

184 Scho rownis than ane pistill in his eir. Compare Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale, CT III(D)1021 (“Tho rowned she a pistel in his ere”). But in The Wife of Bath’s Tale, the term pistel has only the sense “narration”; here, in the context of line 183, it also carries suggestions of the epistle as part of the divine service, with the goodwife as reader and Friar Johine as prelate.

185 makand melody. Compare the sexual implications of the term melodie in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale, CT I(A)3652 and 3306.

206 yone troich. The trough is a kneading trough, stored upside down, probably to keep it clean, and kept on the floor in a corner. As described in the lines that follow, it is amply big enough to hide a man if it held a boll of flour when they baked, given that a boll is a measure equivalent to six imperial bushels. The perplexity is, what did they do with all that bread? While the household undoubtedly runs on more than the sporadic income from innkeeping, there is no other indication that they are running a commercial bakery. And there is some indication that they are not: Friar Johine brings a loaf of wheat bread when he comes to supper (line 160). But this is probably not a detail that is thought through, and the point is simply that there is a very big trough tucked away in the shadows, handy for the friar to hide under.

216 Ga cloiss yone burd and tak away the chyre. Literally “Go close yonder board”; probably the table is a board on trestles, and it is to be dismantled and put away. “Chyre” is probably the chair on which John has been sitting, and certainly the spelling in H, chayre, suggests that understanding.

246 and tak thee all thy hyre. “And receive a good recompense”?

278 So God haif part of me. Roughly, “As I hope for God to have an interest in me.”

287 be sweit Sanct Jame. The St. James sworn by here is probably one of the apostles, James the son of Zebedee. But the choice of saints in this instance probably has most to do with the convenience of the rhyme on Jame (a usual medieval form of the name), especially in Scottish and northern dialect where it can rhyme on words like hame (for home).

292 The phrase doun the trop implies a distinctively Scottish meaning of trap: “b. A ladder or stair giving access to a trap-door” (Dictionary of the Scottish Language, trap n.1). But the term applies in this poem more generally to “a ladder or moveable flight of steps leading to a loft or the like” ( OED, trap n.3), if “the like” is understood to include the entry to the house, as at line 535.

297 He is allone in the sense that his wife has refused to sit and eat with him.

330 R. D. S. Jack comments on the “wry depiction of the necromantic art, its practices and vocabulary, although there is no equivalent for this in the French analogue. It is connected with madness in the Scots story (‘he granit and he glowrit as he wer woid’), as was astrology in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale (‘this man is falle, with his astromye, in some woodnesse’).” See “Freiris of Berwik and Chaucerian Fabliau,” p. 149.

345 Get Symon wit. To get wit is a phrase meaning “to obtain information.” See OED wit n. 11c.
deir doing. The general sense is clear enough, though it is not clear whether deir represents the poetic adjective from OE déor, meaning “severe, grievous,” or whether it represents the ordinary adjective dear from OE déore, in some ironic sense.

358 fra hand. A Scottish phrase meaning “at once” (DOST hand n 8.b.).

361 it wes no variance. There is no discrepancy between the food and drink in the cupboard and what Friar Robert is now claiming to have conjured into it. The plovers in line 360 have not been mentioned before, but they are not meant as an exception.

368 sanyt hir. Alesone crosses herself for protection from the magic that must have produced all this food out of nowhere.

369–73 Alesone’s apparent amazement and enthusiastic admiration for Friar Robert’s holiness and truth constitute her acceptance of a tacit deal with him: his story keeps any blame off Alesone, and she is agreeing to go along with his version of events and give him credit for supernatural powers. If he exposes her now, he will expose himself as a fraud at the same time.

394 playit cop-owt. To play cop-out meant to drain the cup. See OED cop, n.1, 1.b. The phrase is attested by DOST from Dunbar’s poems (c. 1500) to Robert Sempill’s (1583).

396 the freir. Presumably freir is singular for the sake of the rhyme.

404 upun this flure. The term floor is used oddly in this poem, as if it were a location within the room rather than underlying the entire area (see also lines 478, 483, 493, and 547). Probably there is a raised wooden floor at one end of the room, a dais on which the table would be set. Later we learn that the room is not at ground level but that there is an external flight of stairs leading to the entry door; so there must be a floor of some kind, not just beaten earth, throughout the room. But the term floor seems to apply only to the dais.

414 That he had witt of all hir purveance, to. Alesone is concerned that Robert knows not only that the food exists but also about her preparations to entertain Friar Johine.

471 habeit blak. The fiend naturally wears black rather than the white of harmless spirits because a black habit shows his evil nature: Robert’s dig at the Black Friars and therefore Johine.

474 To hald yow cloiss and still at my devyiss. The raising of demons was thought to be perilous. If the conjurer stepped out of his charmed circle, or said the wrong thing, he could be seized. Simon is to remain still and silent until ordered to move.

486 maister. The term of respect could imply several things: that Robert is the leader in this enterprise, that Robert is an expert in necromancy, or that Robert has a Master’s degree, probably in Divinity.

500 Hurlybass (MS M Hurlbasie, H Hurls-baigs) is the demon’s name. The only other citation of Hurlbasie in DOST is from William Dunbar, as “a fanciful term of endearment” (“My belly huddrun, my swete hurle bawsy; Dunb. lxxv. 38”). Hurl- is probably from the verb, with the meaning “hurtle”; -basie probably represents bausy, adjective, likely meaning “large and clumsy”; the compound Bausy Broun was used, also by Dunbar, as a fiend’s name. See DOST bausy adj: “Than all the feyndis lewche, . . . Blak Belly and Bawsy . . . Brown; Dunb. xxvi.30”). DOST cites from The Poems of William Dunbar, ed. John Small, Scottish Text Society, first series, 5 vols. (Edinburgh: Blackwood for STS, 1893), but the contemporary reader can more easily find the poems in John Conlee’s edition, William Dunbar: The Complete Works (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2004). “My swete hurle bawsy” is in 72, In a Secret Place [Ye brek my hart, my bony ane], and Bausy Brown in 77, The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins.

508–10 Bot draw thy handis boith into thy sleif, / And pull thy cowll doun owttour thy face. / Thow may thank God that thow gettis sic a grace. Friar Robert pretends to be protecting his companions from the sight of any part of the horrible fiend that is Friar Johine. The cowl was a hooded cloak worn by monks; here it is imagined as being part of the friar’s habit. Friar Johine may well thank God he is getting such a grace from Friar Robert: he has the opportunity to escape from Symon without being recognized.

532–33 “[Simon] was so fierce, he fell over the sack and cracked open his head on the mustard stone.” As elsewhere in the poem, domestic objects are prominent: the stone beside the trough, the sack (of grain waiting to be ground?), and a mustard stone, which may be the same as the stone mentioned above, or more likely is a smaller one, since mustard would be pounded or ground in much smaller quantities than grain.

534–37 Johine goes over some upper stairs and misses the movable steps, or trap, below them, falling into a broad patch of mud. This makes sense if one imagines a landing outside the door, then a few fixed stairs running partway down the side of the building, followed by a ladder that can be drawn up, very roughly like a modern fire escape. As instructed, Johine rushes out through the door and goes “our” the stair, straight out and over the edge rather than turning to maneuver down the ladder. Retractable stairs would be a useful means of discouraging small raiding parties from taking a lonely dwelling on the outskirts of one of the most hotly contested places on the Scots/English border.

541–42 The wall around the house is an outer ring of defense, with the mire serving as a rudimentary moat between the wall and the building. The wall is made of dry stones, that is to say, more or less flat stones fitted on top of each other without mortar. Note that at line 153, after nightfall, Johine has to knock at the gate to gain admittance, and Simon too has to have the gate opened from within to admit him at line 242. Yet the desperate Johine manages to scramble over the wall to escape.


Abbreviations: DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue; H: Henry Huntington Library, San Marino, California, Article 88850, printed at Aberdeen by Edward Raban; MS B: Bannatyne Manuscript, Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, MS Advocates’ 1.1.6; MS M: Maitland Folio Manuscript, Cambridge, Magdalene College, MS Pepys 2553.

title No title appears at the head of the text. The first page reads: Heir begynnis The Freiris of Berwik.

3–4 The lines are in reverse order in MS B.

25 MS B reads: The carmeleitis and the monkis eik. But the context clearly calls for the naming of the other two orders of friars in this line. The wording Augustinianis, and als the Minouris eik is supplied from MS M. Metrically, “Augustinianis” would need to be pronounced as “Austins,” a usual pronunciation.

45 MS B reads: As thay wer cumand towart the tovne in full neir.

50 MS B reads: sume gud g houss.

88 MS B reads: keip fra sic cace. The pronoun and its spelling are supplied from H.

94 MS B reads: ar cols closit.

113 MS B often reads trop, a Scottish spelling for trap. But note the rhyme trap / hap at lines 535–36. See DOST trap n .1

135 MS B reads: cuning.

142 The version in MS M has four additional lines following line 142:
scho said till it and softlie at scho leucht
he did nocht ill that fand yow half aneuche
and or I sleip I think ye salbe pleisit
your appetyt and myn sall both be easit
200 MS B reads: this.

204 MS B reads: allace <...> the.

228 MS B reads: the th udir.

255 MS B original “belyth” corrected to “belyve.”

260 MS B reads: Said the gudwyf devill inthe tim I may I.

276 MS B reads: Curfiw wes yo rung and closit wes thair yait.

305 MS B reads: Freir robert said quhat drinkis wald ye haif craif.

312 MS B reads: ever <..> I.

320 Missing in MS B; supplied from MS M.

321 MS B reads: to mak ane sport and than the freir vpstart. This version provides the missing rhyme for line 319 (on parte), but leaves line 322 without a rhyme for gais.

322 MS B reads: freir.

351 MS B reads: deliuverlie.

353 MS B reads: oppinit it.

384 MS B reads: suddanly maid.

390 MS B reads: ffor I haif riddin ane langsum woundir wilsome way.

413–14 And ay disparit in hart was scho / That he had witt of all hir purveance to. This is a problematic couplet, metrically defective. MS M has no equivalent lines, and H has the following lines instead: And in her heart shee did despare lyke-wyse / That they did eate her Dainties in that guyse. There may well have been damage to a common source manuscript at this point.

472 MS B repeats line 470: Ye sall him se in liknes of a freir. Line supplied from MS M.

496 MS B omits the verb; turnit is supplied from MS M.

500 MS B reads: ha how Hurlybass I now I coniure the.

512 MS B reads: and <.> mak.

555 MS B reads: Yone freir hes maid me thussgait say. The words feynd had maid me in effray supplied from MS M.

556 MS B reads: the wes werst.

561 MS B reads: Bot <..> lat.



















































































































As it befell and happinnit into deid,
Upoun a rever the quhilk is callit Tweid —
At Tweidis mowth thair standis a nobill toun,
Quhair mony lordis hes bene of grit renoune,
Quhair mony a lady bene fair of face,
And mony ane fresche lusty galland wass —
Into this toun, the quhilk is callit Berwik
(Upoun the sey thair standis nane it lyk,
For it is wallit weill abowt with stane,
And dowbill stankis castin, mony ane,
And syne the castell is so strang and wicht,
With strait towris and turattis he on hicht,
The wallis wrocht craftely withall,
The portcules most subtelly to fall
Quhen that thame list to draw tham upoun hicht,
That it micht be of na maner of micht
To win that houss be craft or subteltie;
Quhairfoir it is maist gud all-utirly,
Into my tyme, quhairevir I haif bene,
Moist fair, most gudly, most plesand to be sene:
The toune, the wall, the castell, and the land,
The he wallis upoun the upper hand,
The grit Croce Kirk, and eik the masonedew,
The Jacobene freiris of the quhyt hew,
The Carmeleitis, Augustinianis, and als the Minouris eik —
The four ordouris wer not for to seik,
Thay wer all in this toun dwelling),
So appinnit in a May morning
That twa of the Jacobyne freiris
(As thay wer wont and usit mony yeiris
To pass amang thair brethir upaland),
Wer send of thame best practisit and cunnand:
Freir Allane, and freir Robert the uder.
Thir silly freiris with wyffis weill cowld gluder.
Rycht wondir weill plesit thai all wyffis
And tawld thame tailis of haly sanctis lyffis,
Quhill on a tyme thay purposit to pass hame,
Bot verry tyrit and wett wes freir Allane,
For he wes awld and micht nocht wele travell,
And als he had ane littill spyce of gravell.
Freir Robert wes young and verry hett of blude,
And be the way he bure both clothis and hude
And all thair geir, for he wes strong and wicht.
     Be that it drew neir towart the nicht,
As thay wer cumand towart the toune full neir,
Freir Allane said than, “Gud bruder deir,
It is so lait, I dreid the yet be closit,
And we ar tyrit, and verry evill disposit
To luge owt of the toun bot gif that we
In sume gud houss this nycht mot herbryt be.”
     Swa wynnit thair ane woundir gude hostillar
Without the toun intill a fair manar,
And Symon Lawrear wes his name.
Ane fair blyth wyf he had of ony ane,
Bot scho wes sumthing dynk and dengerous.
The silly freiris quhen thay come to the houss
With fair hailsing and bekking courteslye,
To thame scho answerit agane in hye.
Freir Robert sperit eftir the gudman,
And scho agane answerit thame thane:
“He went fra hame, God wait, on Weddinsday,
In the cuntré for to seik corne and hay,
And uthir thingis quhairof we haif neid.”
     Freir Robert said, “I pray grit God him speid
Him haill and sound into his travell.”
And hir desyrit the stowp to fill of aill
“That we may drink, for I am wondir dry.”
With that the wyfe went furth richt schortly
And fillit the stowp and brocht in breid and cheiss.
Thay eit and drank and satt at thair awin eiss.
     Freir Allane said to the gudwyf in hye,
“Cum hiddir, deme, and sett yow doun me bye;
And fill the cop agane anis to me.”
     Freir Robert said, “Full weill payit sall ye be.”
     The freiris wer blyth, and mirry tailis cowld tell.
And even with that thay hard the prayer bell
Of thair awin abbay, and than thay wer agast
Becauss thay knew the yettis wer closit fast
That thay on na wayiss micht gett entré.
Than the gudwyfe thay prayit for cheritie
To grant thame herbrye that ane nicht.
     Bot scho to thame gaif answer with grit hicht:
“The gudman is fra hame, as I yow tald;
And God it wait, gif I durst be so bald
To herbry freiris in this houss with me,
Quhat wald Symon say — ha, benedicité! —
Bot in his absence I abusit his place?
Our deir lady Mary keip mee fra sic cace
And keip me owt of perrell and of schame.”
     Than auld freir Allane said, “Na, fair dame,
For Godis saik heir me quhat I sall say.
In gud faith, we will both be deid or day.
The way is evill, and I am tyrit and wett.
Our yettis ar closit that we may nocht in gett,
And to our abbay we can nocht win in.
To causs ws peireiss but help ye haif grit syn.
Thairfoir of verry neid we mon byd still,
And ws commit alhaill into your will.”
     The gudwyf lukit unto the freiris tway
And at the last to thame this could scho say:
“Ye byd nocht heir, be Him that ws all coft,
Bot gif ye list to lig up in yone loft
Quhilk is weill wrocht into the hallis end;
Ye sall fynd stray, and clathis I sall yow send;
Quhair, and ye list, pass on baith in feir,
For on no wayiss will I repair haif heir.”
     Hir madin than scho send hir on befoir,
And hir thay followit baith withowttin moir.
     Thay war full blyth, and did as scho thame kend,
And up thay went into the hallis end,
Intill a loft, wes maid for corne and hay.
Scho maid thair bed, syne past doun but delay,
Closit the trop, and thay remanit still
Into the loft. Thay wantit of thair will.
Freir Allane lay doun as he best micht.
     Freir Robert said, “I hecht to walk this nicht.
Quha wait? Perchance sum sport I ma espy.”
     Thuss in the loft latt I thir freiris ly,
And of the gudwyf now I will speik mair.
Scho wes richt blyth that thay wer closit thair,
For scho had maid ane tryst that samyn nicht
Freir Johine hir luvis supper for to dicht.
And scho wald haif none uder cumpany
Becauss freir Johine that nicht with hir sowld ly,
Quha dwelland wes into that samyne toun,
And ane blak freir he wes of grit renown.
He governit alhaill the abbacy.
Silwer and gold he had aboundantly.
He had a prevy posterne of his awin
Quhair he micht ische, quhen that he list, unknawin.
     Now this, into the toun I leif him still,
Bydand his tyme, and turne agane I will
To thiss fair wyfe, how scho the fyre cowld beit,
And thristit on fatt caponis to the speit,
And fatt cunyngis to fyre did scho lay,
Syne bad the madin “in all the haist thow may”
To flawme and turne and rost thame tenderly;
And to hir chalmer so scho went in hy.
Scho pullit hir cunt and gaif hit buffetis tway
Upoun the cheikis, syne till it cowd scho say,
“Ye sowld be blyth and glaid at my requeist:
Thir mullis of youris ar callit to ane feist.”
     Scho cleithis hir in a kirtill of fyne reid;
Ane fair quhyt curch scho puttis upoun hir heid;
Hir kirtill wes of silk and silwer fyne,
Hir uther garmentis as the reid gold did schyne.
On every finger scho werrit ringis two:
Scho was als prowd as ony papingo.
The burde scho cuverit with clath of costly greyne;
Hir napry aboif wes woundir weill besene.
Than but scho went to se gif ony come,
Scho thocht full lang to meit hir lufe freir Johine.
     Syne schortly did this freir knok at the yett.
His knok scho kend and did so him in lett.
Scho welcomit him in all hir best maneir.
     He thankit hir and said, “My awin luve deir,
Haif thair ane pair of bossis gud and fyne —
Thay hald ane gallone full of Gascone wyne —
And als ane pair of pertrikis, richt now slane,
And eik ane creill full of breid of mane.
This haif I brocht to yow, my awin luve deir;
Thairfor, I pray yow, be blyth and mak gud cheir.
Sen it is so that Semon is fra hame,
I wilbe hamely now with yow, gud dame.”
Scho sayis, “Ye ar full hertly welcome heir
At ony tyme quhen that ye list appeir.”
With that scho smylit woundir lustely;
He thristit hir hand againe richt prevely.
Than in hett luve thay talkit uderis till.
Thus at thair sport now will I leif thame still
And tell yow of thir silly freiris two
Wer lokit in the loft amang the stro.
Freir Allane in the loft still can ly;
Freir Robert had ane littill jelosy,
For in his hairt he had ane persaving,
And throw the burdis he maid with his botkin
A littill hoill. On sic a wyiss maid he
All that thay did thair doun he micht weill se,
And every word he herd that thay did say.
Quhen scho wes prowd, richt woundir fresche and gay,1
Scho callit him baith hert, lemmane, and luve.
Lord God, gif than his curage wes aboif!
So prelatlyk sat he into the chyre,
Scho rownis than ane pistill in his eir,
Thuss sportand thame and makand melody.
And quhen scho saw the supper wes reddy,
Scho gois belyfe and cuveris the burde annon,
And syne the pair of bossis hes scho tone,
And sett thame doun upoun the burde hir by.
     And evin with that thay hard the gudman cry,
And knokand at the yett he cryit fast.
Quhen thay him hard they wer than both agast,
And als freir Johine wes in a fellone fray.
He stert up fast and wald haif bene away.
Bot all for nocht: he micht no way win owt.
     The gudwyfe spak than with a visage stowt:
“Yone is Symone that makis all this fray
That I micht thol it full weill had bene away.
I sall him quyt, and I leif half a yeir,
That cummert hes ws thus in sic maneir,
Becauss for him we may nocht byd togidder.
I sar repent, and wo is ye come hidder,
For we wer weill gif that ye wer away.”
     “Quhat sall I do? Allace,” the freir can say.
     “Hyd yow,” scho said, “quhill he be brocht to rest.
Into yone troich, I think it for the best.
It lyis mekle and huge in all yone nwke,
It held a boll of meill quhen that we buke.”
Than undir it scho gart him creip in hy
And bad him lurk thair verry quyetly.
Scho closit him and syne went on hir way,
     “Quhat sall I do, allace!” the freir can say.
     Syne to hir madin spedyly scho spak:
“Go to the fyre and the meitis fra it tak.
Be bissy als and slokkin out the fyre.
Ga cloiss yone burd and tak away the chyre,
And lok up all into yone almery,
Baith meit and drink, with wyne and aill put by.
The mayne breid als, thow hyd it with the wyne.
That being done, thow sowp the houss clene syne,
That na apperance of feist be heir sene,
Bot sobirly our selffis dois sustene.”2
And syne withowttin ony mair delay
Scho castis off haill hir fresch array,
Than went scho to hir bed annone,
And tholit him to knok his fill, Symone.
     Quhen he for knoking tyrit wes and cryid,
Abowt he went unto the udir syd,
And on Alesone fast cold he cry.
     And at the last scho anserit crabitly:
“Ach, quha be this that knawis sa weill my name?
Go henss,” scho sayis, “for Symon is fra hame,
And I will herbry no gaistis heir, parfey.
Thairfoir I pray yow to wend on your way,
For at this tyme ye may nocht lugit be.”
     Than Symone said, “Fair dame, ken ye nocht me?
I am your Symone, and husband of this place.”
     “Ar ye my spous Symone?” scho sayis; “Allace,
Be misknawlege I had almaist misgane.
Quha wenit that ye sa lait wald haif cum hame?”
     Scho stertis up and gettis licht in hy
And oppinit than the yet full haistely.
Scho tuk fra him his geir at all devyiss,
Syne welcomit him on maist hairtly wyiss.
     He bad the madin kindill on the fyre,
“Syne graith me meit, and tak thee all thy hyre.”
     The gudwyf said schortly, “Ye me trow,
Heir is no meit that ganand is for yow.”
     “How sa, fair deme? Ga gait me cheiss and breid.
Ga fill the stowp. Hald me no mair in pleid,
For I am verry tyrit, wett, and cauld.”
     Than up scho raiss and durst nocht mair be bauld,
Cuverit the burde, thairon sett meit in hy,
Ane sowsit nolt fute and scheip heid haistely
And sum cauld meit scho brocht to him belyve,
And fillit the stowp. The gudman than wes blyth.
     Than satt he doun and swoir, “Be all hallow,
I fair richt weill and I had ane gud fallow.
Dame, eit with me and drink, gif that ye may.”
Said the gudwyf, “Devill in the tim may I;
It wer mair meit into your bed to be
Than now to sit desyrand cumpany.”
     Freir Robert said, “Allace, gud bruder deir,
I wald the gudman wist that we wer heir.
Quha wait? Parchance sum bettir wald he fair,
For sickerly my hairt will ay be sair
Gif yone scheipheid with Symon birneist be
Sa mekill gud cheir being in the almerie.”
And with that word he gaif ane hoist anone.
     The gudman hard and speirit, “Quha is yone?”
     The gudwyf said, “Yone ar freiris tway.”
     Symone said, “Tell me, quhat freiris be thay?”
     “Yone is freir Robert and silly freir Allane,
That all this day hes travellit with grit pane.
Be thay come heir it wes so very lait
Curfiw wes rung and closit wes thair yait,
And in yond loft I gaif thame harbrye.”
     The gudman said, “So God haif part of me,
Tha freiris twa ar hairtly welcome hidder.
Ga call thame doun that we ma drink togidder.”
     The gudwyf said, “I reid yow lat thame be;
Thay had levir sleip nor sit in cumpanye.”
     The gudman said unto the maid thone,
“Go pray thame baith to cum till me annone.”
     And sone the trop the madin oppinit than,
And bad thame baith cum doun to the gudman.
     Freir Robert said, “Now be sweit Sanct Jame,
The gudman is verry welcome hame.
And for his weilfair dalie do we pray.
We sall annone cum doun, to him ye say.”
     Than with that word thay start up baith attone,
And doun the trop delyverly thay come,
Halsit Symone als sone as thay him se;
And he agane thame welcomit hairtfullie,
And said, “Cum heir, myne awin bredir deir,
And sett yow doun sone besyd me heir,
For I am now allone, as ye may se.
Thairfoir sitt doun, and beir me cumpanye,
And tak yow part of sic gud as we haif.”
     Freir Allane said, “Ser, I pray God yow saif,
For heir is now annwch of Godis gud.”
     Than Symon anserit, “Now be the rud,
Yit wald I gif ane croun of gold, for me,
For sum gud meit and drink amangis ws thre.”
     Freir Robert said, “Quhat drinkis wald ye craif,
Or quhat meitis desyre ye for to haif?
For I haif mony sindry practikis seir
Beyond the sey in Pareiss did I leir
That I wald preve glaidly for your saik,
And for your demys, that harbry cowd ws maik.
I tak on hand, and ye will counsale keip,
That I sall gar yow se or ever I sleip
Of the best meit that is in this cuntré,
Of Gascone wyne, gif ony in it be,
Or be thair ony within ane hundreth myle,
It salbe heir within a bony quhyle.”
The gudman had grit marvell of this taill
And said, “My hairt neir be haill
Bot gif ye preve that practik or ye parte,
Be quhatkin science, nigromansy, or airt,
To mak ane sport.”
           And than the freir uprais:
He tuk his buk and to the feir he gais.
He turnis it our and reidis it a littill space
And to the eist direct he turnis his face;
Syne to the west he turnit and lukit doun,
And tuk his buk and red ane orisoun.
And ay his eyne wer on the almery
And on the troch quhair that freir Johine did ly.
Than sat he doun and kest abak his hude:
He granit and he glowrit as he wer woid,
And quhylis still he satt in studeing,
And uthir quhylis upoun his buk reding.
And with baith his handis he wald clap,
And uthir quhylis wald he glour and gaip,
Syne in the sowth he turnit him abowt
Weill thryiss and mair, than lawly cowd he lowt
Quhen that he come neir the almery.
Thairat our dame had woundir grit invy,
For in hir hairt scho had ane parsaving
That he had knawin all hir govirning.
Scho saw him gif the almery sic a straik,
Unto hirself scho said, “Full weill I wait
I am bot schent: he knawis full weill my thocht.
Quhat sall I do? Allace that I wes wrocht!
Get Symon wit, it wilbe deir doing.”
     Be that the freir had left his studeing
And on his feit he startis up, full sture,
And come agane and seyit all his cure
“Now is it done, and ye sall haif playntie
Of breid and wyne, the best in this cuntré.
Thairfoir, fair dame, get up deliverlie
And ga belyfe unto yone almerie
And oppin it, and se ye bring ws syne
Ane pair of boissis full of Gascone wyne.
Thay had ane galloun and mair, that wait I weill.
And bring ws als the mayne breid in a creill,
Ane pair of cunyngis fat and het pypand,
The caponis als ye sall ws bring fra hand,
Twa pair of pertrikis — I wait thair is no ma —
And eik of pluveris se that ye bring ws twa.”
     The gudwyf wist it wes no variance.
Scho knew the freir had sene hir govirnance.
Scho saw it wes no bute for to deny.
With that scho went unto the almery
And oppinit it, and than scho fand thair
All that the freir had spokin of befoir.
     Scho stert abak as scho wer in afray
And sanyt hir, and smyland cowd scho say,
“Ha, banadicitie! Quhat may this bene?
Quhaevir afoir hes sic a fairly sene,
Sa grit a marvell as now hes apnit heir?
Quhat sall I say? He is ane haly freir.
He said full swth of all that he did say.”
     Scho brocht all furth, and on the burd cowd lay
Baith breid and wyne, and uthir thingis moir:
Cunyngis and caponis, as ye haif hard befoir.
Pertrikis and pluveris befoir thame hes scho brocht.
The freir knew weill and saw thair wantit nocht,
Bot all wes furth brocht evin at his devyiss.
     And Symone saw it appinnit on this wyiss;
He had grit wondir, and sweris be the mone,
That freir Robert weill his dett had done.
“He may be callit ane man of grit science
Sa suddanly that all this purviance
Hes brocht ws heir, throw his grit subteltie,
And throw his knawlege in filosophie.
In ane gud tyme it wes quhen he come hidder.
Now fill the cop that we ma drink togidder
And mak gud cheir eftir this langsum day,
For I haif riddin ane woundir wilsome way.
Now God be lovit, heir is suffisance
Unto ws all, throw your gud govirnance.”
And than annone thay drank evin round abowt
Of Gascone wyne; the freiris playit cop-owt.
Thay sportit thame and makis mirry cheir
With sangis lowd, baith Symone and the freir.
And on this wyiss the lang nicht thay ourdraif.
Nothing thay want that thay desyrd to haif.
     Than Symon said to the gudwyf in hy,
“Cum heir, fair dame, and sett you doun me by
And tak parte of sic gud as we haif heir,
And hairtly I yow pray to thank this freir
Of his bening grit besines and cure
That he hes done to ws upoun this flure;
And brocht ws meit and drink haboundantlie,
Quhairfoir of richt we aucht mirry to be.”
     Bot all thair sport, quhen thay wer maist at eiss,
Unto our deme it wes bot littill pleiss,
For uther thing thair wes into hir thocht.
Scho wes so red hir hairt wes ay on flocht
That throw the freir scho sowld discoverit be.
To him scho lukit ofttymes effeiritlie,
And ay disparit in hart was scho,
That he had witt of all hir purveance, to.
This satt scho still, and wist no udir wane:
Quhatevir thay say scho lute him all allane.
Bot scho drank with thame into cumpany
With fenyeit cheir, and hert full wo and hevy.
     Bot thay wer blyth annwche, God watt, and sang,
For ay the wyne was rakand thame amang,
Quhill at the last thay woix richt blyth ilkone.
     Than Symone said unto the freir annone,
“I marvell mikill how that this may be,
Intill schort tyme that ye sa suddanlye
Hes brocht to ws sa mony denteis deir.”
     “Thairof haif ye no marvell,” quod the freir,
“I haif ane pege full prevy of my awin,
Quhenevir I list will cum to me unknawin
And bring to me sic thing as I will haif.
Quhatevir I list, it nedis me nocht to craif.
Thairfoir be blyth, and tak in pacience,
And trest ye weill I sall do diligence:
Gif that ye list or thinkis to haif moir,
It salbe had, and I sall stand thairfoir.
Incontinent that samyn sall ye se.
Bot I protest that ye keip it previe.
Latt no man wit that I can do sic thing.”
     Than Symone swoir and said, “Be Hevynnis King,
It salbe kepit prevy as for me.
Bot bruder deir, your serwand wald I se,
Gif it yow pleiss, that we may drynk togidder,
For I wait nocht gif ye ma ay cum hidder,
Quhen that we want our neidis, sic as this.”
     The freir said, “Nay, so mot I haif hevynis bliss,
Yow to haif the sicht of my serwand —
It can nocht be, ye sall weill undirstand,
That ye may se him graithly in his awin kynd,
Bot ye anone sowld go owt of your mynd,
He is so fowll and ugly for to se.
I dar nocht awnter for to tak on me
To bring him hidder, heir into our sicht,
And namely now, so lait into the nicht,
Bot gif it wer on sic a maner wyiss:
Him to translait or ellis dissagyiss
Fra his awin kynd into ane uder stait.”
     Than Symone said, “I mak no moir debait.
As pleisis yow, so likis it to me,
As evir ye list, bot fane wald I him se.”
     “Intill quhat kynd sall I him gar appeir?”
     Than Symone said, “In liknes of a freir,
In quhyt cullour richt as yourself it war,
For quhyt cullour will nabody deir.”
     Freir Robert said that swa it cowld nocht be,
For sic caussis as he may weill foirse,
“That he compeir into our habeit quhyt;
Untill our ordour it wer a grit dispyte
That ony sic unworthy wicht as he
Intill our habeit men sowld behald or se.
Bot sen it pleissis yow that ar heir,
Ye sall him se in liknes of a freir
In habeit blak it was his kynd to weir,
Into sic wyiss that he sall no man deir,
Gif ye so do and rewll yow at all wyiss
To hald yow cloiss and still at my devyiss:
Quhatevir it be ye owdir se or heir,
Ye speik no word, nor mak no kynd of steir,
Bot hald yow cloiss quhill I haif done my cure.”
Than said he, “Semon, ye mone be on the flure
Neirhand besyd, with staff into your hand.
Haif ye no dreid: I sall yow ay warrand.”
Than Symon said, “I assent that it be swa.”
And up he start and gat a libberla
Into his hand, and on the flure he stert,
Sumthing effrayit, thoch stalwart was his hart.
     Than to the freir said Symone verry sone,
“Now tell me, maister, quhat ye will haif done.”
     “Nothing,” he said, “bot hald yow cloiss and still.
Quhatevir I do, tak ye gud tent thairtill,
And neir the dur ye hyd yow prevely.
And quhen I bid yow stryk, strek hardely:
Into the nek se that ye hit him richt.”
     “That sall I warrand,” quod he, “with all my micht.”
     Thuss on the flure I leif him standand still,
Bydand his tyme, and turne agane I will
How that the freir did take his buke in hy
And turnit our the levis full besely
Ane full lang space, and quhen he had done swa,
Towart the troch withowttin wordis ma
He goiss belyfe, and on this wyiss sayis he:
“Ha, how, Hurlybass, now I conjure thee
That thow upryss and sone to me appeir,
In habeit blak, in liknis of a freir.
Owt of this troch quhair that thow dois ly
Thow rax thee sone and mak no dyn nor cry.
Thow tumbill our the troch that we may se,
And unto ws thow schaw thee oppinlie,
And in this place se that thow no man greif,
Bot draw thy handis boith into thy sleif,
And pull thy cowll doun owttour thy face.
Thow may thank God that thow gettis sic a grace.
Thairfoir thow turss thee to thyne awin ressett.
Se this be done, and mak no moir debait.
In thy depairting, se thow mak no deray
Unto no wicht, bot frely pass thy way.
And in this place se that thow cum no moir
Bot I command thee, or ellis thee charge befoir.
And our the stair se that thow ga gud speid;
Gif thow dois nocht, on thy awin perrell beid.”
     With that the freir that under the troch lay,
Raxit him sone, bot he wes in afray.
And up he raiss and wist na bettir wayn,
Bot off the troch he tumlit, our the stane.
Syne fra the samyn quhairin he thocht him lang 3
Unto the dur he preisit him to gang,
With hevy cheir and drery countenance,
For nevir befoir him hapnit sic a chance.
     And quhen freir Robert saw him gangand by,
Unto the gudman full lowdly cowd he cry,
“Stryk, stryk herdely! For now is tyme to thee.”
     With that Symone a felloun flap lait fle:
With his burdoun he hit him on the nek.
He wes sa ferce, he fell outtour the sek
And brak his heid upoun ane mustard stane.
Be this freir Johine attour the stair is gane
In sic wyiss that mist he hes the trap
And in ane myr he fell, sic wes his hap,
Wes fourty futis of breid under the stair;
Yeit gat he up with clething nothing fair.
Full drerelie upoun his feit he stude,
And throw the myre full smertly than he yude,
And our the wall he clam richt haistely
Quhilk round abowt wes laid with stanis dry.
Of his eschaping in hairt he wes full fane.
I trow he salbe laith to cum agane.
     With that freir Robert start abak and saw
Quhair the gudman lay sa woundir law
Upoun the flure, and bleidand wes his heid.
He stert to him and went he had bene deid
And clawcht him up withowttin wordis moir
And to the dur delyverly him bure;
And fra the wind wes blawin twyiss in his face,
Than he ourcome within a lytill space.
And than freir Robert franyt at him fast
Quhat ailit him to be so sair agast.
     He said, “Yone feynd had maid me in effray.”
     “Latt be,” quod he, “the werst is all away;
Mak mirry, man, and se ye morne na mair.
Ye haif him strikin quyt owttour the stair.
I saw him slip, gif I the suth can tell:
Doun our the stair intill a myr he fell.
Bot lat him go — he wes a graceles gaist —
And boun yow to your bed, for it is best.”
     Thuss Symonis heid upoun the stane wes brokin,
And our the stair the freir in myre hes loppin
And tap our taill he fyld wes wounder ill,
And Alesone on na wayiss gat hir will.
This is the story that hapnit of that freir:
No moir thair is, bot Chryst ws help most deir.
in fact; (see note); (t-note)
(see note)
have been; great; (see note)

well-dressed handsome gentleman

sea; none
well walled
double moats dug, many a one
then; strong and well-built
narrow; turrets high above
skillfully fashioned as well
When it pleases them to pull them up
So that it cannot be possible
by; trickery
For which reason; entirely


Cross Church, and also the hospice
Jacobin; white hue; (see note)
also; (t-note)
not hard to find

It so happened; (see note)
accustomed; years
brethren in the country
by those most experienced and able
These; flatter women well; (see note)

holy saints’ lives
Till; go home
tired; wet
old; might not
touch of kidney stones
hot of blood
along the way he carried; hood
gear; robust
By the time that
coming; (t-note)

I fear the gate will be closed
exhausted; ill prepared
lodge; unless
might be sheltered; (t-note)
So there resided; innkeeper
Outside; manor

He had a wife, fairest and merriest of anyone
she; somewhat dressy and haughty
greeting; bowing
in haste
inquired after the host

from home, God knows

[he] asked; tankard; ale

mistress of the household
dame; by me
once again

at the same time as that
(see note)
gates were closed firmly
no way
the love of God
God knows, if I dared; bold

(see note)
such a case; (t-note)

[to] perish without
must stay
looked at; two

abide; redeemed
Unless you please to lie
straw; bedclothes
Where, if you please; both together

without [saying] more

[that] was
trapdoor; (t-note)
They lacked what they wanted

I vow to stay awake; (see note)
Who knows? Perhaps

date; same

Who was living
(see note)
the whole estate of the abbot; (see note)

private gate
this [one]

thrusted; spit
rabbits (conies); (t-note)

room; in haste
two slaps
to it did she
should; request
These lips of yours are invited; (t-note)
clothes; gown of fine red cloth
white kerchief
fine silver thread
board; covered; green; (see note)
table linen; appointed
out she went; if anyone came
thought [it] very long; love

knew; accordingly let him in

leather wine bottles
(see note)
partridges, just now killed
basket; white bread; (see note)

wish to be familiar

you choose
smiled; willingly
squeezed; in response; discreetly
hot; to [each] other

[Who]; straw
lay still
boards; bodkin (dagger)
He made [it] in such a manner

both; lover
boldness; at a higher level
like a prelate; chair
whispers; story; (see note)
enjoying themselves; (see note)

quickly; table soon
leather wine bottles; taken

just then
also; huge fright

get out
furious face
stand it very well [if he]
pay him back, if I live
Who has got in our way thus
sorely; it’s a terrible thing that you
would be well off if
the trough over there; (see note)
big; the whole corner over there
six bushels of (oat?)meal; baked
made him crawl in a hurry


careful; extinguish
Go hide; (see note)
lock; cupboard


entirely her fancy clothing

other side [of the house]; (t-note)
steadily shouted to Alison

guests; truly
farmer of this piece of land

misunderstanding; made a mistake
knew; so late
jumps; gets light in a hurry

took his gear from him completely
most affectionate manner
prepare me food; recompense; (see note)
Believe me
tankard. Don’t keep me arguing
rose; audacious

pickled cow’s foot; sheep's head
food; quickly; (t-note)

By all saint[s]
I’d be doing; if I had a companion

I can’t at this ungodly hour; (t-note)
more suitable
asking for

I wish the goodman knew
he would eat (fare) somewhat better
certainly my heart will always be sore
sheep's head is polished clean by Simon
So much good food; cupboard
asked; over there

By [the time that] they came
Curfew; gate; (t-note)

(see note)

rather sleep than

sweet; (see note)

jumped up both at once
ladder quickly; (see note)
Greeted; saw


(see note)
God save you
by the cross
Nevertheless; gold coin

ask for; (t-note)

many different methods
[That] beyond the sea in Paris; I learned
demonstrate; sake
wife’s, who gave us shelter
I undertake, if you will keep it quiet
shall make; before; (t-note)
[Some] of
if any is in it

in good time

never be whole
Unless; before you leave
whatever learning, witchcraft, or skill; (t-note)
entertainment; (t-note)
rose up; (t-note)
fire he goes
over; little while
east straight
always; eyes; cupboard

threw back
groaned; glowered as if; crazy; (see note)

glower; gape

Fully thrice and more; bowed low


absolutely ruined

Should Simon find out; (see note)
By then
said [that] all his business

quickly; (t-note)

leather wine bottles
white bread; basket
rabbits; piping hot
at once; (see note)
partridges; more
discrepancy; (see note)
no use

jumped back as if; alarmed
crossed herself; (see note)
be; (see note)
before; wonder

complete truth

nothing was missing

what he promised

supply of food; (t-note)

dreary; (t-note)
praised; sufficient supply
equally in turn
(see note)
amused themselves; are very cheerful
(see note)
drove away

benign; diligence; care
(see note)
most at ease

frightened; in a flutter
the whole time despairing; (t-note)
information about her preparations, too; (see note)
Thus; she; alternative
let; alone

feigned enjoyment; miserable
going quickly
Till at last they all got pretty elevated

very much

so many expensive delicacies

servant; confidential
[Who]; without being noticed
want to have
I don’t need to ask
accept [the situation]
trust; exert myself
If you like or have a mind to
and I shall insist on it
Immediately that very thing
demand; secret


lack our necessities, such as this
as I hope to have

properly in his own form
But; would

venture to take the responsibility
Unless; in such a way
transform or else disguise

so it pleases me
Just as you like, but gladly
form; cause to appear

the color white just as if it were you

To our order it would be; outrage


[that] it; nature; (see note)
In such a way; harm; (t-note)
restrain yourself in all ways
hidden and silent; command; (see note)
hidden till; my job
Close at hand
got a cudgel

Somewhat frightened

(see note)

pay close attention to it
tell you to hit, hit boldly

[To tell]
turned over; (t-note)

(see note); (t-note)
rise up

rouse yourself
tumble over
(see note)
cowl down across

be off to your own dwelling
resistance; (t-note)
harmful disturbance

Unless; order
across the flight of stairs; speedily
bide (stay)

Stretched; frightened
tumbled, over the millstone

hurried himself to go


now is your time
let fly a fierce blow
over the sack [of corn]; (see note)

over; (see note)
has missed the ladder
feet in breadth
Again; not at all clean
climbed; (see note)
escaping; glad
believe; loath

from [the time when]; blown twice
asked; earnestly

terrified me; (t-note)
Let it be; the worst is over; (t-note)
worry no more
knocked him right over
wicked; (t-note)
get ready for

top over tail; dirtied

Go To Arthurian Bourdes: Introduction