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Book Of Genesis


ABBREVIATIONS: CA: Gower, Confessio Amantis; CM: Cursor mundi; CT: Chau­cer, Canterbury Tales; DBTEL: A Dic­tionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature, ed. Jeffrey; HS: Peter Comes­tor, Historia Scholastica, cited by book and chapter, followed by Patrologia Latina column in paren­theses; K: Kalén-Ohlander edition; MED: Middle English Dictionary; NOAB: New Oxford Annotated Bible; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; OFP: Old French Paraphrase, British Library, MS Egerton 2710, cited by folio and column; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Pro­verbial Phrases; York: York Plays, ed. Beadle. For other abbreviations, see Textual Notes.

41–48 God . . . with Hys Word hath wroght. . . . On the heght the Holi Gast / abown the waters movyd. Much depends on the editorial act of capitalization. What the poet means by hys word (line 42), for instance, is quite uncertain due to the lack of standardized capitalization practices within the vast majority of medieval manuscripts, including those associated with the Paraphrase. If uncapitalized, the poet’s phrase states only that God spoke Creation into existence — in accordance with the opening verses of Genesis 1. If capitalized, the poet’s phrase states that Christ (as Word) was the acting agent of Creation, a theological revision of Genesis through the lens of John 1:1–3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made.” As editor I have opted for the latter, capitalized reading, influenced by the poet’s observation, in lines 47–48, that the Holy Spirit was likewise in presence: since the Council of Constantinople in 381, the co-eternal and consubstantial nature of the Trinity has been the mainstream doctrine of the Christian Church (see Bell, Cloud of Witnesses, pp. 65–74). It is thus both doctrinally sound and rhetorically expected to find both Word and Holi Gast in united substance and action with God from the very beginning of this mammoth biblical paraphrase.

49–56 Hell He mad . . . the lyghtnes to be Day. According to Genesis 1:1–2, Creation began with Heaven and earth, followed by light and darkness. The poet begins with a heaven, too, as well as an earth (lines 41–46); but the separ­ation of light and darkness is made to correspond to the creation of Hell (where utter darkness lies) and a more properly outfitted Heaven (where now light resides). The creation of Hell has no place in the Bible, and its place here is one we might associate with drama: the setting of the stage. When Lucifer falls, he must have a place to fall to, a Hell (or, as one often gets in the plays and in iconography, a hell-mouth). It stands to reason, then, that the construction of the lower, tertiary stage must occur before the creation of the angels. While its connection to the separation of light and darkness thereby seems a matter of logic, not theology, such a mythology makes Hell an absolute and necessary place — thus speaking to God’s omni­potence and fate.

53–54 The creation of the angels is in neither the Bible nor OFP, but it was well known from numerous sources during the Middle Ages. While ultimately derived from Augustine and Gregorius, the poet’s immediate source here is likely HS. Parallel retellings of the story can be found in CM and York.

110 dyverse fysches to flett with fyn. The first of those lines that clearly illustrate York’s usage of the Paraphrase; compare York 2.65: “And othir fysch to flet with fyne.”

115–16 ther lyfes to lede / and same won withoutyn fynd. This statement is, perhaps, a reference to the belief that most birds are monogamous. Chaucer’s turtledove, for example, is presented as a paragon of marital fidelity in Par­lia­ment of Fowls, lines 582–88 — though the mallard is quick to voice its opinion that promiscuity is fair enough. The opinion that turtle doves in particular are symbols of fidelity is supported by the Middle English Phys­iologus and its Latin tradition; indeed, it goes back at least as far as Aris­totle’s Historia animalium viii.600a 20. On avian love prac­tices, see Bar­tho­lomaeus Anglicus’ De proprietatibus. rerum 12.1: “Among alle bestis that ben in ordre of generacioun, briddes and foules [folwen] most hones­t[ee] of kynde. For by ordre of kynde males seche femalis with bisynesse and loueth hem whanne they beth ifounden . . . And briddes and foules gendrynge kepith covenable tyme” (trans. Trevisa 1.597–98).

124 and wormes on the wome to wende. Compare York 2.78: “And wormis vp-on þaire wombis sall wende.”

138 a crokyd rybe, os clerkes can rede. The idea that Eve was made from one of Adam’s ribs was taken so literally in the West that it was a popular belief that all men had one less rib than women. The first clear refutation of this belief came in 1543, when Andreas Vesalius wrote otherwise in De humani corporis fabrica libri septem 1.19; he was roundly condemned by the Church for taking such a position. That the rib from which Eve was formed was particularly “crooked” and that this thus remarks upon her character is a long tradition that seems to have Islamic origins (see, e.g., the Tafsir Ibn Kathir on Qur’an, Surah 4:1 [An-Nisa]), but one of its clearest forma­tions comes at the end of the Middle Ages in Kramer and Sprenger’s Mal­leus Maleficarum: “There was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is, a rib of the breast, which is bent as it were in a contrary direction to a man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives” (p. 44). For a broad look at this tradition, see Utley’s Crooked Rib.

141 He gafe them power playn. The multiple possible meanings of playn in Middle English produce a range of theologically loaded readings of the line. The power given to Adam and Eve is at once unlimited (playn meaning “full”), finite (“simple”), and restricted (“honest”). How this semantically open loop will close itself off will depend, it turns out, on their own actions: “tyll thei breke Hys bydyng” (line 144).

157–60 In myddes of Paradyse yt stud . . . suld clerly knaw both gud and yll. There are two trees in the Garden according to Genesis 2:9: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The former conveyed eternal life (see Genesis 3:2, Proverbs 3:18, and Apocalypse 22:2, 14, 19), while the lat­ter conveyed wisdom (2 Kings [2 Samuel] 14:17 and Isaias 7:15).

170 fallyn was not fer before. That Satan had fallen from Heaven with a host of rebellious angels is a tradition with roots in the post-exilic period of Jewish history, its primary sources being 1 and 2 Enoch, and the book of Jubilees. And while many medieval theologians endeavored to place Satan into the background — perhaps fearful that such a being might lead to Gnostic and Manichean heresies — the popularity of Satan as a figure of evil is clear enough in literature. In the fourteenth century, the devil plays a key role in Langland’s Piers Plowman (see, for instance, his attack on the Tree of Charity in C.16), in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (e.g., in the Monk’s and Friar’s Tales), and, especially, in the plays. York, N-Town, Towneley, and Chester all devote plays to his fall. For an overview of the English tradition, see “Devil,” DBTEL, pp. 199–202.

180 them both forto gyle. Note that both Adam and Eve are made subject to Satan’s temptations. While this is not a direct reading of the biblical text it is, strangely, in accordance with the Qur’an, Surah 2:36 (Al-Baqarah).

184 with woman face. On the iconography of a woman’s face on the serpent in the garden, see Flores, “‘Effigies amicitiae . . . veritas inimicitiae.’” The tradi­tion, which appears in HS and is prevalent in medieval art, might be trace­able to the notion that Eve and the serpent work together to bring about Adam’s fall. This is the case, for example, in CM, lines 723–30.

190 skyll. In his treachery, the Fiend thus turns God’s ordinance into a deceit — a stratagem or ruse — that God plays on fools. The Fiend’s reading is com­pelling since he, in earnest, mirrors such a skyll in himself. See MED skil n.6b.

224 wyn thou thy foyd with swynke and swett. Compare York 5.161: “In erthe þan shalle ye swete and swynke.”

227 manys kynd com this thyng. The poet has carefully conveyed a complex the­ological concept within this phrase. On the one hand, the thyng is the hard­ships of life, which have been placed upon “mankind.” In addition, how­ever, the story of the Fall is the story of another thyng, original sin, which has entered into “man’s kind” — i.e., human nature.

236 cheke of an ase. Theories about the murder weapon abound in biblical com­mentaries, but it is only in the English tradition that it is said to be the jaw­bone of an ass, a detail that perhaps owes its origin to Judges 15:15–17, where Samson utilizes such a bone to kill one thousand men. Cain is pic­tured with a jawbone in the eleventh-century illustrations to Ælfric’s Anglo-Saxon Hexateuch in Cotton MS Claudius B.iv. Such is also made clear in Queen Mary’s Psalter (fol. 8r), the Holkham Manuscript (fol. 5v), and CM, line 1073, a version of which our poet could well have had at hand. Neither HS nor OFP contain the detail. In the plays, see Towneley 1.324 and N-Town 2.149. Unfortunately, York is defective in this portion. That the “jawbone of an ass” detail has remained in currency is probably the result of its ap­pearance, much later, in Hamlet 5.1.76.

239–40 Caymys went down to Hell / and to God gaf noe lyght. This is quite against Genesis 4:11–16, which depicts Cain as made to dwell “as a fugitive on the earth, at the east side of Eden” (4:16). The land in which he makes his dwel­ling place is Nod, meaning “Wandering.” CM, lines 1223–36, agrees with the Bible here, while adding the detail that Cain and his kin were killed in the Flood. I follow K in viewing noe lyght as a primary reference to the lack of light from Cain’s burnt offering (compare Genesis 4:4–5), a detail that fits well with the choking smoke of dramatic tradition (see, e.g., Towneley 2.277–92, where Cain’s offering refuses to burn and only coughs up thick smoke). Stern has suggested that the line be emended to read no delyght (Review A Middle English Metrical Paraphrase, p. 281), but it is not necessary to emend in order to achieve the mul­tiple levels of mean­ing in the term: Cain gives God no light, no figurative delight (see MED light n.8), and no spiritual enlightenment (n.9). The final meaning is particularly interesting, as Cain fails to gloss his relationship with God properly — in which case we might gloss the line as “demonstrated no spiritual under­standing.”

245–48 Bot aftur that full mony a yer . . . the story says sexty and moe. As Ohlander notes, OFP 3b follows the Bible in giving no exact number of children (“Old French Parallels,” p. 204). The source for this mention of Adam and Eve’s sixty-plus additional children, then, is probably HS Gen. 29 (1080): “Legitur Adam triginta habuisse filios, et totidem filias praeter Cain et Abel.” A parallel can again be found in CM, lines 1215–22.

250 lyfyd be law of kynd. That the initial generations of mankind were apparently incestuous is here acknowledged but also excused as necessary action in keeping with the first rule of nature: to reproduce. CM says simply that Seth, for example, married his sister Delbora because God told him to do so (lines 1449–50).

253–54 Of Caymys kynd come Tubulcan, / of metall mellyd he amang. That Tubal-cain was the first metalworker reflects a long-standing tradition, rooted in Gene­sis 4:22. See, e.g., CA 4.2425–26, where he “Fond ferst the forge and wroghte it wel”; or CM, line 1518, where he is “þe formast smyth.” See also the expla­natory note to lines 257–58, below.

257–58 Hys brothyr Juball he began / musyke, ose mynstralsy and sang. Jubal as the in­ven­tor of music and the harp (line 559) is a detail from Genesis 4:21 (see the par­al­lel in CA 4.2416–18). The listing of the occupations of Lamech’s sons is, as NOAB observes, evidence of hu­man­ity’s “[c]ultural advance” (p. 7). It is interesting, in this regard, to note the inversion of Tubal-cain and Jubal in the Paraphrase (Jabal, ancestor of shepherds, is not listed here). To medi­eval thinking, music is a far more advanced form of culture than black­smithing.

263–64 He wrott what dedes thei dyd / that last aftur the flode. Perhaps a reference to the tradition in which Seth returns to Eden and receives from the archangel Michael seeds from one of the holy trees that he places in Adam’s mouth after he died. In Midrash tradition there are two of these seeds, and wood from the two trees is used in building Noah’s ark and Solomon’s Temple. Christian exegetes added a third seed and thus a third tree (see, e.g., CM, lines 1363–1430), its wood being used to produce the Cross upon which Christ died. Still other Christian writers gave the number of seeds as four.
Or has the poet confused Seth with Enoch, the son of Jareth? According to Genesis 5:24, Enoch “walked with God, and was seen no more: because God took him,” a tantalizing detail that is greatly expanded in later tradi­tions. CM, lines 1467–80, for example, claims that Enoch was the first man to write, and that the first books are attributable to his hand. He then was taken into Eden, where he yet lives. He will supposedly come forth from Par­a­dise on Doomsday, when he will fight for the Christian cause only to be slain, alongside Elijah (the other Old Testament persona reportedly taken into God’s presence without dying), by the Antichrist — but not before they are able to act as the two witnesses referred to in Apocalypse 11:3. This join­ing of Enoch, Elijah, and Doomsday was immensely popular (see, for exam­ple, the Glossa Ordinaria Apoc. 11 [PL 114.730]), taking a prom­inent role in some of the medieval plays, like the Chester Antichrist (23.253–624), where Enoch and Elijah, having not tasted death, ask to be made flesh once more in order to die and thus participate fully in Christ’s gifts.

272 thre thowssand yere for neven by nere. Different versions of the Bible provide different timespans for the Antediluvian Age. A precise reading of the Hebrew (Masoretic) text of the chronogenealogy (I borrow the term from Hasel, “Genesis 5 and 11”) of Genesis 5:1–32, for example, indicates that 1,056 years passed between the creation of Adam and the birth of Noah. Since Noah was said to have been six hundred years old when the Deluge came (Genesis 7:6), the total time span should be something like sixteen hundred years. This is the accounting that we are given in the Vulgate. The Septuagint’s numbering, however, adds 586 years into the lives of the ten pre-Flood patriarchs, giving a Creation-to-Flood dating of roughly twenty-two hundred years. And some Christian commentators have chosen to dis­regard the numbers here in order to place the length of time as six thousand years; this allows a connection between this time span and the six days men­tioned in Mark 9:2, which are also read in terms of the six days of Creation. The Paraphrase’s three thousand years is perhaps indebted to CM, lines 2005–06, which appears to be following a tradition that goes back at least to Josephus who, in Jewish Antiquities 1.3.3–4, gives the time span between Adam and the Flood as 2,656 years, which was then rounded up to three thou­sand. Josephus claims a dating based on the authority of accurate “sac­red books,” and we cannot discount the possibility that he was privy to sour­ces that now elude us. It is also possible that his dating is indebted to both the Masoretic and Septuagint traditions. While the Septuagint adds one hun­dred years to the Masoretic accounting of six of the ten generations between Adam and Noah, Josephus has simply added a century to all ten.

273 No rayn on erth then fell. Compare CM, line 1991: “no reyn on erþe felle” (Trinity Manuscript). That no rain fell on earth prior to the Flood is a tradition that seems to arise from Genesis 9:12–14, in which God places a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his covenant with Noah. Since there had not been, up to this point in time, rainbows, some exegetes concluded that there could not have been rain. Support for this understanding was found in 2:5, where as pre­lude to the description of the creation of Eden it is said that there was not yet any plant life because “the Lord God had not rained upon the earth.”

275–76 faur fludes of a well / that went from Paradyce. See Genesis 2:10–14. The four waters of Paradise — Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates — were well known to medieval geographers and are given some amount of explication in HS Gen. 14 (1068); see, too, OFP 2c.

301 To make an erke. While many Christian exegetes interpret the ark as a figure of Christ (compare 1 Peter 3:20–21), no such opportunity is taken to do so here. As discussed in the introduction, the poet only rarely makes such Chris­tian interpretations.

318 fyfty cubbeyttes. Genesis 7:20 has the water being fifteen cubits over the high­est mountains (so, too, HS and OFP 3c). Somewhere along the line a scribe has either misread (or misheard) his copy-text or has eyeskipped the “fyfty cubbeyttes” from line 304.

321 monethes yt encressyd. Genesis 7:24: “the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days.”

322–24 That Noah’s ark came to rest in Armenia (Armynie, line 322) is a detail repeated both in HS Gen. 34 (1085) and OFP 3c (Ohlander, “Old French Parallels,” p. 205). The same location is given in both CM, line 1869, and York 9.263–64; some translations of Genesis 8:4 give Armenia, while some locate the landing, more specifically, in the mountains of Ararat (which is a region of Armenia).

329 a dowfe he hath commawnd. In the biblical account (Genesis 8:8–12), the dove is actually sent forth twice: the first time it returns with nothing, but a week later it retrieves the olive branch.

342 broyght furth frutt. Though the phrase is referring to the positive results of their newly sown crops, it might also carry a dual reference to God’s com­mand to Noah and his sons upon their leaving the ark: “Increase and mul­tiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1, repeated at 9:7). They are thus doubly fruitful in producing both sustenance and children, the latter expli­citly noted in line 344: “thei multiplyd with mony an heyre.”

356 in god degree. Probably a reference to the detail in Genesis 9:23 that Shem and Japheth, in covering their father with a garment, walked backward and kept their faces turned away so that they would not see Noah’s nakedness, thus acting more properly.

358 he werryd hym forthi. This is the so-called Curse of Canaan, given in Genesis 9:25–27. Canaan was a son of Ham (see Genesis 9:22 and 10:6), and it was his people who settled the land that subsequently carried his name. The curse explicitly points out that Canaan would become slave to his brothers; Canaan is, indeed, subjugated by the Israelites during the conquest.
The cursing of Canaan for what appears in the Bible to be his father’s mis­deeds has often been a point of bewilderment for exegetes. It is ex­plained in Judaic lore with the story that it was Canaan who first saw his grandfather’s nakedness. He told his father, and the two of them made great mirth at Noah’s expense. Therefore Canaan (and not Ham’s other children) earned the curse. Another interpretation is that the text originally read “Ham,” but was later changed in order to excuse Israel’s treatment of the Canaanites. Yet another possibility is that Ham could not be cursed since he had already been blessed (Genesis 9:1), therefore the curse passed to his eldest son and his descendants. See Ross, “Curse of Canaan.”

372 Bablion. That is, Babel. The odd spelling here, as Ohlander has observed, is due to both HS Gen. 38 (1089), which reads “De turre Babylon,” and the need to meet rhyme. Comestor’s confusion is also picked up by OFP 4a, which reads “Babiloine” (“Old French Parallels,” p. 205). Though the spel­ling has changed, the etymology given here still follows Genesis 11:9 in relating the name to Heb. balal, meaning “to confuse,” though Babel ac­tually means “Gate of God.” For his part, the poet probably has in mind an ety­mological connection to babble, which, ironically, derives from Babel as a result of this famous story.

377–79 Yf we suld say hys suns all sere . . . Thatt lesson wer full long to leere. A con­venient way of excusing this abbreviated version of one of the more lengthy “begat” sequences in the Bible: Genesis 10 and 11:10–32.

384 to lere our law. As discussed in the introduction, one of the many intriguing aspects of this work is the way that it shuns anti-Semitism and accepts both Jews and Judaism as legitimate forerunners of faith. Phrases such as our law make clear a unity between the Jews and what is, presumably, the poet’s Chris­tian audience.

406 twa hunderth yer. Genesis 11:32 sets Terah’s age at 205 when he died, as does HS Gen. 41 (1091).

433–35 Sodome . . . / Gommer . . . / And next them was ther other thre. The so-called Pentapolis (Wisdom 10:6) was a region dominated by five cities: Sodom, Gomorrah, Segor (Zoar), Adama, and Seboim. These cities united to resist the invasion of Chodorlahomor, referred to in stanzas 37–39 (for the fuller account, see Genesis 14:1–16).

465–68 He wold not byd ne blyne . . . and broyght hym home agayn. The Paraphrase here greatly reduces the biblical account of Abram’s military prowess against the alliance of four eastern kings. Part of the reason for this might be the desire to portray Israel’s ancestors as a more peaceful people than the Bible reveals them to have been.

471–74 Melchesedeke . . . with bred and wyne. The mysterious Melchizedek, both king of Salem (Jerusalem) and a priest of the Canaanite religion, was later inter­preted to be a harbinger of the messiah. See, for instance, Vulgate Psalm 109:4 (NRSV 110:4), which says that the messiah will be a priest-king “ac­cor­ding to the order of Melchisedech.” See also Hebrews 7:1–17, where the writer “de­duces that the mysterious priest-king Melchizedek, was greater than either Abraham or his descendant, Levi” and thus greater than the levi­ti­cal priest­hood (NOAB, p. 322). The Paraphrase-poet takes no op­por­tunity to intrude these later messianic interpretations onto the text, even when Gen­esis 14:18 provides the detail that Melchizedek brought bread and wine to Abram.

499–500 A nearly identical blessing is given by God in York 10.15–16: “He saide my seede shulde multyplye / Lyke to þe gravell of þe see.”

505–16 K (1:clxxxix–cxc), imagining the priority of the plays to the Paraphrase, notes that this stanza is copied “nearly word by word” from York 10.3, though the reverse is surely the case.

511–12 Hyr servant prevely scho wan / tyl Abraham at hys wyll to weld. That Sarai worked secretly (prevely) to provide Abram with a child is a detail in no way found in the biblical account (Genesis 16:2), which relates the decision for Abram to have sex with her slavegirl as a mutual one between husband and wife. Al­though NOAB notes that, “[a]ccording to ancient custom, a wife could give her maid to her husband and claim the child as her own” (p. 19) — a custom that is also related in Genesis 30:3 and 30:9 — the poet is apparently an­xious about the perceived adultery on Abram’s part. Thus, Sarai is given full respon­sibility for precipitating the act, and Abram is kept in the dark, as it were.

514 beldyd. Here, as elsewhere, the poet appears to take a decided interest in clean­sing his narrative of some of the “naughty” parts. Hagar “comforts” Abram through the night, a neat euphemism for what no doubt led to Ish­mael’s conception. Abram’s marriage to Hagar (Genesis 16:3) is also glossed over.

515 Ysmaell. Meaning “God hears.”

522 ever scho wrogh os woman wyse. The fact that Sarai drives Hagar away, and that Hagar only returns after an angel orders her to do so, is omitted here (Genesis 16:6–14) and instead told at lines 649–60. See explanatory note to those lines.

530 C wynters. Genesis 17:1 gives Abram’s age as 99, as does HS Gen. 50 (1097).

531–35 K notes (1:cxc) the similarity of York 10.44–48.

534 Ysac. Meaning “He laughs.”

543–44 For Abraham it is sayd schortly / that Abraham then he suld be cald. Though the Middle English does not make the distinction quite clear, the Vulgate and Hebrew sources are specific in delineating Abraham’s two names. His given name was Abram, meaning “exalted ancestor,” while his post-Covenant name was Abraham, meaning “ancestor of a multitude” and referring to the peoples whose ancestry was traced to Abraham (notably the Israelites, Edo­mites, and Ishmaelites).

550 ose clerkes declare it can. It is unclear if the poet has in mind any specific authorities here or is simply thinking about the general knowledge that the Jewish faith — and thus, by extension, that of Christianity — began with the Abrahamic Covenant. See the note to lines 551–52, below, on how this notion is passed on to popular materials.

551–52 The trowth and the begynnyng / of our fayth ther begane. K notes (1:cxc–cxci) a similarity to York 10.51–53: “The grounde and þe begynnyng / Of trowthe þat tyme be-ganne.”

554 Abraham was tyllyd under a tre. Genesis 18:1 has Abraham in a tent near the trees (usually read as oaks) of Mamre, which NOAB notes to be “an ancient sacred place, slightly north of Hebron, with which Abraham was associated” (p. 17). Cleanness similarly omits the tent, as Abraham was “schunt to þe scha­dow vnder schyre leues” (line 605). There may also be some distant con­­nection here to the notion, common in folklore, that unusual events tend to happen when one sits beneath a tree (see, e.g., Sir Orfeo, Sir Degaré, and Sir Gowther).
The verb tyllyd is interesting here. MED cites this instance under tillen v.2a, meaning, as I have glossed it here, “to stretch out.” So Abraham is relaxing (see also line 55, “hym to play”). But there may be an underlying play on words here, too, as tyllyd could also derive from tillen v.1, with its var­ious agricultural meanings of plowing, production, and toil. Thus Abraham was toiling under a tree, preparing the land for a new crop. Little does he know that his seed has already been planted: his work, as the visitors will announce, has not been for nought.

557–61 Thre chylder . . . wer fayr to syght. One of the three visitors proclaims them all to be messengers of God (line 566), and that his two companions are sent by God to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, this third figure would seem, in accordance with the indications of Genesis 18:22 and 19:1, to be God; when the other two are gone, Abraham is no longer talking with the third visitor but with God (line 579). Then again, in lines 573–76 the poet associates the three visitors with the Trinity (Compare HS Gen. 51 [1098–99]), a claim that is difficult to interpret literally. On their physical appearances, see note to line 560, below.

560 all semand on eld to be. One might be tempted to gloss the line as all “seeming to be mature in age,” following MED elde, but this does not fit well with their youthful appearance reported in line 557. I have followed Oh­lander’s glos­sary (K 5.30) in glossing this line as all “seeming to be in flames” (see MED eld). This description would certainly fit with a deity accustomed to guiding and talking to man through burning bushes, pillars of fire, and tongues of flame, and it would also make some sense in light of Genesis 18:2, where, on seeing the visitors, Abraham “ran to meet them from the door of his tent, and adored down to the ground.” And while Abraham’s reaction here ap­pears to be muted from what we might expect of a man suddenly faced with three men on fire (he describes them next as only “fayr to syght” — line 561), his hailing of them (“helsyd them os hende” — line 562) carries many meanings of subservience and reverence (see MED halsen v.1).

581–82 God sayd ther was non gud therin / bot Loth and tho that with hym ware. This abbreviated version of the conversation between God and Abraham (com­pare Genesis 18:23–33) cuts to the chase. In the biblical account Abraham “talks down” the deity, from fifty good people as sufficient to keep God from destroying Sodom to ten good people within, to which God agrees. But ten such people are not found. The Paraphrase simply jumps to the conclusion: only Lot and his family are deemed salvageable, and not all of them even make it to safety.

592 bad furth tho chylder two. The Sodomites’ reasons for wanting the two men to come forth is not given here, but at Genesis 19:5 it is said that the towns­folk desire to “know” them. It is a long-standing tradition that this euphe­mism implies sex; and, more specifically, homosexual relations since the speakers are presumably male (thus “sodomy”). The destruction of Sodom is thereby taken to be God’s “hands-on” denouncement of homosexuality (as opposed to the mere statement of law in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13). But the Para­phrase-poet makes no such claims, instead regarding the destruc­tion as sim­ply due to their “syns sere” (line 572).

597–600 God mad them blynd to be / so that thei toke no tent, / Tyll Loth with hys meneye / and tho chylder wer went. The poet makes a significant change to the biblical nar­rative, presumably to heighten the romance characteristics of his nar­rative. In the biblical account, the de­praved people of the town are struck blind so that they cannot find and open the door to the house. The angels urge Lot to leave, but he cannot manage to convince his family to do so. The night passes. The angels repeatedly request evacuation in the mor­ning, but they must eventually forcibly remove Lot and his family to the safety of the plain where, ap­parently, the mortals finally get the message. Here in the Para­phrase, how­ever, no repeated cajoling is necessary. Indeed, we get a sequence of uninterrupted action: the wicked are struck blind, buying Lot and his family enough time to slip past them and out of the city.

608 with sympyll chere. The poet seems to have a measure of pity on Lot’s wife that God does not; she looks back because of her sad realization that all of her friends have just been destroyed. Her pity is not unlike that of Uxor in the York Noah play: “wher are nowe all oure kynne / And companye we knwe before?” (9.269–70). In Genesis 19:26 no reason is given for her decision to look back.

611–12 Scho wurthyd to an ymag / of salt and sall be evere. Lot’s wife, in effect, is turned into an image of remorse, a monument to salt tears over a lost cause.

615 Sogor. Zoar (meaning “little”) was a small town on the southern end of the Dead Sea.

621–22 or ever the fyne / the werld to fulfyll. Once again, the poet seems to have a measure of pity on his characters (see note to line 608, above): Lot’s daugh­ters truly think that no one else remains in the world but the two of them and their father (an understandable conclusion after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah). They take the drastic measure of sleeping with their father in order to propagate the species (an act that would be in accor­dance with God’s command to Noah in 9:1). First the eldest (“the werld to mayn­ten at hyr myght,” line 626) gets him drunk enough to have sex with her, then the youngest manages to “fob” him, too (line 630); neither action is ex­pli­citly condemned. Indeed, the child of the youngest (Ben-ammi, ancestor of the Ammonites) is pointedly given the descriptor “semly” (line 632), a detail not in the Bible.

634 in wastes that wer wyld. Like characters in a medieval romance, Lot and his fam­ily are cast out beyond the margins of civilization into the wilderness where they must learn to survive before being brought once more into society.

635–36 tell of Abraham and Sara and / of Ysaac that was hys chyld. Stanza 53, in a remar­kable transition from one brother to the other, juxtaposes the children of Lot, inseminated through the anxieties of his daughters to repopulate the earth, with Abraham and Sarah’s child, Isaac, who came about through God’s covenant with Abraham, which will populate the earth by the millions in times to come with God’s chosen people.

649–60 The poet conflates the two banishments of Hagar and Ishmael (Genesis 16:6–14 and 21:8–21) into a single account. While this helps Sarah to come off better (see explanatory note to line 522) and helps to smooth and sim­pli­fy the narrative, it does leave Hagar and Ishmael with Abraham and Sarah rather than in the wilderness of Paran, as the Bible would have it (Genesis 21:21). One additional interesting aspect of this change is that Ishmael is no longer free to become the ancestor of the Bedouin tribes of the south; it is from these “Ishmaelites” that Muslims trace their ancestry to Abraham and to the monotheistic God of Judaism. By leaving Ishmael with Abraham rather than in the southern wilderness, the poet has effectively undercut Islam’s claims of authority. If this is intended, it shows a remarkably acute knowledge of Islam on the poet’s part. Isaac is unequivocally God and Abra­ham’s chosen heir (line 360), as God’s subsequent tests will demonstrate.

664 sadnes. There is perhaps dual meaning in the term. First and foremost, God says that he will see (investigate) Abraham’s “steadfastness.” That is, He will test Abraham’s willingness to obey, even at terrible cost. The reader, how­ever, will no doubt sense a second meaning, “sadness,” given the pathos of the story.

673–708 Three straight stanzas are missing a long line. I have followed K in num­ber­ing these lines on the assumption that the original poem had 12-line stanzas throughout and to allow ease of cross-referencing with that earlier edition. It is tempting, however, to view these sequential omis­sions as in­ten­tionally short, helping to press speed into this exciting nar­rative.
673–80 Abraham unto hys son beheld . . . And chargeyd hym with wud and fyre. The poet omits the accompanying two men of the biblical account. Even more inter­esting, however, is the decision to heighten the emotional pull of the scene by allowing Abraham the chance to reflect on what should have been — a far more human reaction than his silent assent to God’s will in the biblical account. One is reminded of the sensibilities of the Brome Abraham and Isaac play.

709–20 That Abraham actually notifies Isaac of his intent, and that Isaac willingly agrees, is not a feature of the biblical account. It is, however, a scene from popular interpretations of the tale. See, e.g., the Brome Abraham and Isaac play, or the N-Town Cycle, where Isaac, bearing the wood on his back (as in line 700 here), accepts his Christological role in the sacrifice.

723 A wedder he saw hym besyd. Often figured as a representation of Christ as the sacrificial lamb that takes the place of man, the ram is treated as nothing more than an unfortunate wandering beast here. The location of the sac­rifice was afterward known as Jehovah Jireh (Heb. “the Lord will provide”).

733–34 Scho was woman wynsom to weld, / non heynder haldyn under Hevyn. Keturah is little more than a name in the Bible (Genesis 25:1), but she is here given high praise for her beauty and goodness in proper romantic fashion.

740–41 a gud wyfe to hym can he nevyn: / Rebecca, a damisell. Here, Abraham sends his servant with the specific task of finding Rebecca. This is quite different from Genesis 24:2–4, where he asks only that the servant look for a legiti­mate match for Isaac.

741–44 As K notes (1:cxci), these lines, a description of Rebecca, can be found in York 10.365–68.

745–56 The discovery of Rebecca at the well, a rather lengthy tale in the Bible (Gen­esis 24:10–61), is much abbreviated here. Likely the slow pacing of the story was not in keeping with the kind of romance narrative the poet chose to produce.

762 sexty. The poem ought to record seventy, in agreement with the Bible, where Abraham lives 175 years rather than 165 (Genesis 25:7).

777–80 God’s pronouncement to Rebecca (Genesis 25:23) is altered somewhat here. In the biblical account, the Lord says to her: “Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be divided out of thy womb, and one people shall overcome the other, and the elder shall serve the younger”; the point being that Rebecca will give birth to twins, who will in turn give rise to two nations, and that the nation of the elder child will serve the nation of the younger child. To this basic pronouncement, our poet has followed a long-standing tradition of understanding a difference in strength between the two chil­dren, in which the elder is also the stronger, so that the more in all thyng / sall serve unto the lesse (lines 779–80). As lines 785–86 show, this difference in strength was largely tied to the fact that Esau was the firstborn, the idea being that he literally fought his way out of her womb first (see the ex­planatory note to lines 781–84, below). Further evidence was seen in Esau’s hairiness — a sign of testosterone long before the chemistry of the matter was known — and in Esau’s reported success as a hunter, which stands in marked contrast to Jacob’s willingness to stay at home in the tents with his mother (see Genesis 25:27–28). The two nations that Rebecca’s twins will give rise to are those of the Edomites (from Esau, who was later called Edom — see note to lines 803–04, below) and the Israelites (from Jacob, who will later be given the name Israel — see note to lines 997–1008, below).

781–84 That Jacob and Esau fought in the womb is a long-told legend, though the poet’s source is surely HS Gen. 66 (1109). A close parallel can also be found in CM, lines 3481–82. As Ohlander notes, there is no parallel in OFP (“Old French Parallels,” p. 206).

787 Jacob. Genesis 25:26 relates that Jacob came out holding onto his brother Esau’s heel. The name Jacob can mean either “He takes by the heel” or, more metaphorically, “He supplants.” The latter meaning is clearly indi­ca­ted in lines 885–86, when Esau laments how Jacob is rightfully named since he has twice supplanted his older brother.

788 ther moyder was all marryd thore. That Rebecca suffered bodily injury as a result of giving birth to such fighting twins is a detail not found in the Bible. For more on the poet’s attempts to create a more “realistic” account of the Old Testament, see the introduction.

803–04 Though not related here, Genesis 25:29–30 explains that it is this moment that gives rise to Esau’s being called Edom, meaning “red”: “And Jacob boiled pottage: to whom Esau, coming faint out of the field, said: Give me of this red pottage, for I am exceeding faint. For which reason his name was called Edom.” Though the connection is here made to the red pottage (or perhaps to his being flushed from hunger), the attribution also connects back to Genesis 25:25, which relates that Esau came out of his mother’s womb all red.

813 The abrupt introduction of the story of Esau’s lost blessing is largely the result of the decision to excise Genesis 26 from the Paraphrase. In this chapter, Isaac goes to Gerara, at which time God twice renews with him the Covenant He made with Abraham, promising: “I will multiply thy seed like the stars of heaven: and I will give to thy prosperity all these countries: and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 26:4). Other key events in this chapter: Isaac tries to trick the Palestines into thinking that Rebecca is his sister (fearing that they will kill him for her if they know she is his wife), digs a somewhat miraculous well at a place he names Shibah (from which the city of Bersabee — meaning “Well of the Oath” — gets its name), and ultimately makes a pact with King Abimelech of the Palestines. In addition, Esau (now forty years old) marries two Hittite wives, both of whom offend the minds of his parents.
A primary motivation for the exclusion of Genesis 26 — aside from the need to construct a more streamlined and exciting biblical account — might be that it places the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob and the story of Esau’s lost blessing by his father next to one another. The resulting jux­taposition presumably helps to alleviate the reader’s concern that Jacob is lying to his father, tricking him into giving him Esau’s blessing. That is, since Esau had just sold his birthright to his younger brother Jacob, the blessing rightfully belongs to him. Rebecca and Jacob, then, are at worst guilty of a venial sin in tricking Isaac; they are preventing what would have been the greater wrong (Esau acquiring what he had so flippantly sold). It is also useful to note here that Augustine (in Contra mendacium 10) began a tradition of reading this sequence as a prefiguring of the movement of God’s blessing from the Jews to the Gentiles (or, even more broadly, from the Jews to the Christians, though that might under­score the “familial” relationship between the two religions more than many Christians would like to admit).

821 veneson. That Isaac specifically requests venison is not related in the Bible, where he only asks for “some thing by hunting” (Genesis 27:3). The detail is picked up from Genesis 27:19, where Jacob asks his father to “arise, sit, and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.”

885 well was he namyd. See note to line 787.

899–900 Thus all this werld was wroght, / evyn os God wold yt wer. That God would will the deceiving of Isaac and the taking of the birthright from Esau has long been troubling to readers of Scripture. Some exegetes answer both objec­tions by regarding Esau as a mere hunter, not one who could properly lead the people. His indifference toward this responsibility, according to this in­ter­pretation, is clearly shown in his willingness to sell the eternal for the temporal satisfaction of food. Their mother, recognizing this in a way that the literally and figuratively blinded father cannot, helps to rectify the situ­ation for the greater good of the people to come, aiding Jacob in ac­quiring his father’s blessing. While such an interpretation makes Jacob the more capable man for the job and perhaps gives a reason for the deception, it does not answer the question about whether the means to the end is morally right. On this point, however, one can point to Jacob’s experience in Haran, where he will have a similar deception foisted upon him (invol­ving a similar issue of older and younger siblings). In particular, note that in Genesis 29:25, when Jacob complains to Laban that he has been de­ceived, he uses the same Hebrew word that Isaac had used in 27:35. In other words, Jacob eventually gets what is coming to him and learns from it, making the ori­ginal deception, if not right, at least atoned for.

913 crown. That the ladder reaches up from the top of Jacob’s head is a detail not found in the biblical account (Genesis 28:10–22), and it may be obliquely con­nected to Bonaventure’s Itinerarium mentis in Deum, which relates the mind’s journey to God as an ascension of Jacob’s ladder. Thus the ladder, quite logically, should rise from Jacob’s head.

930 Goddes awn howse. It is from this pronouncement that the location of Jacob’s dream derives its name: Bethel, meaning “House of God.” The town was formerly called Luz.

935 tokynyng. The word serves a dual function here, especially when read against Genesis 28:22. First, Jacob raises up the stone as a marker of some kind. The Douay translation calls the raised stone a “title,” whereas the NRSV calls it a “pillar.” Second, the Bible records that Jacob promises at this moment that he will give a tithe, one tenth of his wealth, to God. The word tokynyng sub­sumes both meanings — a mark of remembrance and a vow to tithe — under a single term.

942 when Rachell suld have neghyd nere. After serving Laban for the agreed seven years in exchange for Rachel, Jacob asked for her. But Laban tricked Jacob by sending Rachel’s older sister Leah into the tent instead. Only in the mor­ning, after sleeping with her, does Jacob recognize the deceit. See Genesis 29:21–25.

957–72 Laban agrees to give Jacob any of his flocks that were odd colored; that is, those that were not a uniform white. Such colorations are the exception rather than the rule, so Laban would seem to have little to lose in the agree­ment. Jacob’s trickery to reverse this trend, as NOAB points out (p. 39), fits in well with ancient understandings about the origins of the colora­tions: “Ancient cattle-breeders believed that the female, at the time of conception, was influenced by visual impressions which affect the color of the offspring. Jacob produced striped animals by putting striped sticks be­fore the females’ eyes while they were breeding.”

985–96 Though nothing is told here of the rivalry for Jacob’s attention between the two sisters, Leah and Rebecca, that story is significant for explicating the rationale behind both the naming of the children and the fact that two of Jacob’s servants bear him children. First, Leah bears Reuben (1), meaning “look, a son,” and then Simeon (2), whose name refers to God having “heard” her pleas. Next, Leah bears a third son, named Levi (3), meaning “joined” and pointing out (to her sister, apparently) that Leah and Jacob were clearly sharing a special bond. The fourth child is Judah (4), whose name is one meaning “praise.” Rachel, still having been unable to bear Jacob any children, is put in the position of Sarah. And, like Sarah, she chooses to bear him children through the proxy of one of her maids. Thus, she gives Bilhah to Jacob, and this handmaid bears Jacob a son named Dan (5), meaning “He [God] judged,” indicating the change in God’s favor that she hoped she was witnessing. Bilhah then conceived a second time and gave birth to Naphtali (6), whose name refers to the “wrestling” between the two sisters. Not to be outdone, Leah then gives to Jacob her maid, Zil­pah, who gives birth to Gad (7), meaning “fortune,” and Asher (8), mean­ing “happy.” Leah herself then gives birth to Issachar (9), whose name “my hire” refers to an exchange by which Rachel bought some of Leah’s son Reuben’s man­drakes — thought to be an aphrodisiac and fertility drug — in exchange for Leah “hiring” her husband’s services for a night. Leah next gives birth to Zebulun (10), meaning “honor” and marking herself as honored in Jacob’s eyes for having born him six sons. She then gives birth to the first daughter in the family, Dinah (11). At last Rachel herself gives a child, perhaps through the use of Reuben’s mandrakes, though this point is not made explicit in the Bible. This first child she names Joseph (12), whose name means “He [God] adds.” Finally, Genesis 35:16–21 relates that Rachel dies giving birth to Jacob’s twelfth son (13), whose name she pro­nounces with her dying words: Ben-oni, meaning “son of my sorrow.” Jacob, how­ever, calls the child Benjamin, meaning “son of the right hand,” which was a symbol of power and of good fortune. An alternate meaning for Ben­jamin might be “son of the south,” which would refer to Israel’s posi­tion south of Ephraim.

997–1008 Jacob’s wrestling with the angel of God at a place he named Peniel (“the face of God”) is an apparently very ancient tradition, marked as it is with signs of particular antiquity, such as the angel needing to disappear before sunrise (Genesis 32:26) and a concern for the power of names (32:27, 29). But these details are omitted here, where concentration is instead placed upon the angel giving Jacob the new name Israel, meaning “he who strives with God.” This name, which then passed to his descendants as “children of Israel” (line 1007), is one that has particular meaning for Jews, who see in it a root of their human impulse to forever wrestle with the divine. A separate account of the renaming of Jacob is given at Genesis 35:9–15.

1012 on hym jones the genology. To remark that a genealogy hinges (jones) on Judah might have many interpretations. The poet is probably, first and foremost, referring to the genealogy of Jesus, who descends from Jacob through Judah and Tamar (see Matthew 1:1–3 and the explanatory note to lines 1169–74, below). Other meanings available here, however, are an etymology relating to the Jews and (far less likely) a reading of the story of Joseph that will fol­low. In the former case, the word “Jew” derives from “Judah.” It was ori­gin­ally a term applied to only those Israelites from that land, but, in the time of David, for example, Judah dominated the other tribes to such an extent that Jew came to be applied to all Israelites. This is especially true after Judah was the only independent Israelite kingdom remaining in the Holy Land. Judah was thus given, in the Scriptures, a preeminence among the tribes; see, for example, Jacob’s blessing to his sons, especially that given to Judah in Genesis 49:8–12. It is also possible that the poet is taking a par­ticular reading of the story of Joseph, in which it is Judah who persuades his brothers not to kill Joseph (37:26–27) and, later, gives the pleading speech that convinces Joseph to reveal himself to his brothers and thus restore the house of Jacob (44:14–34). There are even some scholars who consider “Reu­ben” in 37:21–22 to be a scribal error for Judah, making Judah alone the sole advocate for his brother Joseph (NOAB, p. 49). This is certainly not the case here, however, as the opposite change occurs: Judah’s role in help­ing to save Joseph is given over com­pletely to Reuben (lines 1221–24).

1037–38 For wekydly then wastyd hee / the sed that suld be multiplyd. In Genesis 38:9 the sin of refusing to inseminate a woman is attributed to the brother Onan and given as the reason for God killing him. The circumstances Er’s wicked­ness entailed are not given in the Bible, which only notes his being “wicked in the sight of the Lord” (Genesis 38:7; see note to line 1043).

1043 The Fend on the fyrst nyght. Genesis 38:7 is quite clear in attributing Er’s death to God: “And Her, the firstborn of Juda, was wicked in the sight of the Lord: and was slain by him.” The NRSV translates even more forcefully: “the Lord put him to death.” It was apparently difficult for the poet to accept the seem­ingly over-sudden and severe punishment of Er, however; here God’s hand has been replaced by the workings of Satan. Both this change of attri­bution and the added detail of the death occurring on the first night very likely have their origins in the independent story of the demon who kills the new hus­bands of the daughter of Raguel on their wed­ding night (Tobias 6:14–8:3).

1048 ose men then in this werld was wun. Compare Deuteronomy 25:5–10, which explains that if a man dies without a son, his brother, the widow’s brother-in-law, must marry her and “raise up seed for his brother,” thus per­pe­tu­ating the dead man’s name and inheritance.

1142 The suth sall non man spare. Proverbial. Not cited by Whiting or Tilley.

1151–52 By this werke now wott I well / that scho is wyser then I. Though adultery was punish­able by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:23–24) or burning (Leviticus 21:9), Tamar is excused because she did what she did to fulfill the more important levirate marriage requirements of continuing her husband’s line.

1159–73 Tamar’s twins are the ancestors to two rival clans of Judah: Perez and Zerah. The elder Perez, whose name means “a breach” (relating to the cir­cum­stan­ces of his birth) is noted in Ruth 4:18–22 and 1 Chronicles 2:4 as an an­ces­tor of David. She is also noted in Matthew 1:3 as being in the gene­alogy of Jesus (see explanatory note to lines 1169–74). The second son’s name means “brightness,” and he is said in Genesis 38:30 to have been born with a “scar­let thread” upon his hand. Here the thread is given a more realistic origin than one of birth: the midwife ties the thread to his hand to tell the bro­thers apart (lines 1161–64).

1169–74 The Holy Writ quoted is Matthew 1:3, part of the genealogy of Jesus: “And Judas begot Phares and Zara of Thamar. And Phares begot Esron.”

1178–80 hys moyder dede herd he tell. / Ysac, his fader, myght no see; / for febylnes son seke he fell. Both of these details — Rebecca’s death and Isaac’s ill health — are un­recorded in the Bible, though they are referred to tangentially: in Genesis 49:31 Jacob relates that Rebecca is buried alongside her husband, Leah, Abraham, and Sarah in a cave in the field at Machpelah (near Mamre in Ca­naan), and Isaac’s death is reported in Genesis 35:27–29. The omis­sion of Isaac’s death is apparently the root of some confusion on the part of a scribe somewhere in the Paraphrase tradition since S, line 1209, gives Isaac as the one who keeps Joseph’s dreams in his mind, though Genesis 37:11 clearly relates that it is Joseph’s father, Jacob, who does this (I have altered the text accordingly). As Ohlander observes, the additional material here may ori­ginate in HS Gen. 85 (1123), “Venit etiam ad Isaac patrem suum in civitate Hebron, et jam mortuam invenit matrem,” or something like OFP 7a: “Jacob trova Rebecca morte, sa mere; / Mes il trova Ysaac vif, sun pere” (“Old French Parallels,” p. 206).

1185–88 This reference to Jacob and his sons building an altar to God is either added material or simply out of place. It is possible that it comes from either Gen­esis 35:14–15, where Jacob sets up a pillar at Bethel, the place where God spoke to him and (in a separate account from the wrestling with the angel at Peniel) renamed him Israel, or 35:20, where Jacob sets up a pillar on Rachel’s grave on the way to Ephrath.

1211–12 And what so suld betyde, / he prayd God to wyrke His wyll. Genesis 37:11 says simply that Jacob kept “the thing with himself,” that is, “kept the matter [of the dream] in mind” (NRSV). Here, however, Jacob seems to give a pres­cient version of part of the Lord’s Prayer, from Matthew 6:9–13, partic­ularly 6:10b: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

1263 Hym toght. Dative of agency, where the oblique case serves as subject which is acted upon or participates in an action: i.e., “a dream came to him.”

1302 As K notes, this same line, a description of Joseph’s brothers, is found in CM, line 6715.

1364 he toght thei twa suld not twyn. In the Bible Joseph is given no rationale for his guile against Benjamin other than, perhaps, a need to continue his tes­ting of them. The poet, however, seems unwilling to leave such a (non)ex­pla­na­tion standing. Instead, he posits that Joseph simply could not bear to be par­ted from the brother with whom he shared full blood relations — Ben­jamin being the only other child born of Rachel.

1380 hyng hegh by the neke. That Benjamin will be executed is a bit of dramatic license on the part of the Paraphrase-poet. Genesis 44:17 says only that he will be made a slave.

1387–88 Lett hym go home, and dwell wyll we / in hold, wherso ye wyll us have. Judah’s offer of them all as ransom for the youngest is a subtle but significant change to Genesis 44:33, where he only offers up himself in a one-for-one exchange.

1409 yle that hyght Jessen. The term yle here means a region, especially one near the coast (MED ile n.2) rather than an island (ile n.1). Goshen is an area of land on the east side of the Nile delta, present–­­­­day Wadi Tumilat. This re­gion is good grazing land, thus ideal for the Israelite settlers. It is pre­sumed that because Joseph wanted to keep his family close to him, Pha­raoh’s cap­ital must have been located in the delta area, probably at Rameses, as it was during the Hyksos period (1720–1550 BCE). This period of Egyptian history is also known to have been somewhat pro-Semitic.

1427–28 Bott folke war full gud one / that com of ther kynred. Possibly a reference to Jacob’s blessing upon his sons (Genesis 49:2–28), a poem that relates the later character of the twelve tribes of Israel as blessings (and curses) upon their namesakes.

1433–34 Thei mad grett mornyng them amell, / for Joseph was so fer them fro. Probably a reference to Joseph’s returning to Egypt after helping to bury his father in Canaan.

1435–36 For afturwerd, os men may tell, / ther welth was turn to wer and wo. Presumably a reference to the slavery of the Israelites, freedom from which will be dra­matically presented in the book of Exodus.


ABBREVIATIONS: L: MS Longleat 257; H: Heuser edition (partial); K: Kalén-Ohlander edition; O: Ohlander’s corrigenda to K; P: Peck edition (partial); S: MS Selden Supra 52 (base text for this edition).

39 cald is. So H. S: cald. K:[is] cald.

40 see. S: second e inserted above the line.
unsoght. S, K: vnsogh.

42 wroght. S, K: wrogh.

49–52 Written as separate lines in S.

52 forever and. S: for. K: for [euer and].

57 Marginalia (top of fol. 2v): de casu lucifer. Genesis.
Of. So K. S: On.

62 sone can. So K. S omits.

67 to. So O. S, K omit.

70 kend. S: clerkes kendes. K’s emendation.

72 the. S: ther. K’s emendation.

74 were. Second e is inserted above the line.

95 forto. K omits.

98 to moyv. So K. S: the moyn.

99 and. K omits.

113 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 3a): Genesis.

116 won. So K. S: wons.

118 no. K marks this as an emendation, though S is clear.

148 in. So K. S omits.

153 tresses. K emends to tress.

158 frut fayr. K emends to frut [so] fayr.

159–60 Written as separate lines in S.
159 fang. S: fand fang.

164 to. K emends to thou.

167 That. S: S That.
bad. S: inserted above the line.

169 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 3v): Genesis.

177 yt. So S. K omits.

183 sen. So K. S: sent.

184 free. So K. S: clere.

187 wold. So K. S: wole.

200 kyne. So S. K: kynd.

214 forbeyd. S: forso forbeyd.

220 erth. S: inserted above the line.

229 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 4r): Genesis.

240 lyght. So S, K. Stern (Review, p. 281) suggests delyght.

251 loke. S: k loke.

259 harpe. So K. S: happe.

264 last. So K. S: lastur.

266 Marginalia in S (at left of fol. 4r): four illegible words.
Marginalia in S (at right of fol. 4r): Mattussile lameth Noe.

272 yere. So K. S omits.
by. S: in by.

281 non aw. S: non na; aw inserted above the line.

284 be. So K. S omits.

290 hath. So S. K emends to have.

294 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 4v): Noye.

298 Marginalia in S (at right of fol. 4v): Arca Noe.

303 Thre. So K. S: thro.

312 of ylka kynd a. So K. S: mony of ylka, with kynd a inserted above the line.

314 wyll. S: inserted above the line.

321 monethes. S: ne inserted above the line.

342 thei. S, K: the.

348 werld. So K. S: welrd.

350 wych. S, K: wyhc.

354 Cham. So O. S: k Caym, followed by K.

357 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 5r): Genesis. Turris babilonis.

When. S: ff When.
370 foyn. S: foynd, with d canceled.

374 bod dy. S: inserted above the line.

379 Thatt. So K. S: latt.

396 worthay. S: worthy, with a inserted above the line.

398 In. S: I, with n inserted above the line.

410 fune. S: sure fune.

419 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 5v): Genesis.

426 thei. S, K: the.

430 hym. S: inserted above the line.

434 nere. S: t nere.

452 full. S: fer full.

460 thei. So K. S: the.

464 of. So K. S omits.

465 wold. So K. S: wole.

470 pyn. S: corrected from payn.

478 lay. S: law lay.

481 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 6r): Genesis. Abram.

489 emong. K calls this a later addition to S, though I can find no evidence of this being the case.

490 I have. K inverts to have I in order to indicate an interrogative statement.

499 gravell. S: ra inserted above the line.

502 hevyn. So K. S: heuenyn.

514 beldyd. So K. S: beldyld.

539 circumscisyd. So S. K: circumcisyd.

543 it. S: inserted above canceled yrtt.

544 he. S: inserted above the line.

545 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 6v): Genesis.

548 circumsysed. S: inserted above canceled cursyd.

555 hy. So K. S: hym.

559 And. So K. S: In.

565 Marginalia in S (at right of fol. 6v): signum trinnitatis.

567 unto. So K. S: forto.

572 down. S: n inserted above the line.

576 one. S: b one.

580 fro. So O. S, K: for.

596 byttur. S: inserted above canceled bett.

603 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 7r): Genesis.

607 wyf. S: inserted above the line.

612 be. S: inserted above the line.

621 fyne. So O. S: syne, followed by K.

633 Marginalia in S (at right of fol. 7r): Abraham Sara Ysac.
wonnand. So S. K omits.

635 and Sara. So S. K omits.

638 thei. S: the, followed by K.

lend. S: inserted above the line.

642 myrth. S: corrected from my3th. Both meanings would, in fact, work. Sara has shown strength in her dealings but also her being comforted in line 640 would give ample cause for her happiness.

654 suld. S: inserted above the line.

656 acord. S: a inserted above the line.

661 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 7v): Genesis.

662 yf. S: he yf.

668 Marginalia in S (at right of fol. 7v): imolacio de Ysac.

669 theron. S: or þer.

670 Me. S: tyll me.

681–82 Incomplete stanza indicates that perhaps lines are missing here. Though I am reluctant to do so, I have opted to number these missing lines in order to maintain number count with the existing edition of K.

692 for to Hys. So K. S: fforto do hys.

694–95 Missing lines. See textual note to lines 681–82, above.

702–03 Missing lines. See textual note to lines 681–82, above.

719 God. S: h God.

721 have. So K. S: hath.

722 noght. So S. K: not.

723 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 8r): Genesis.

725 tyd. S: inserted above the line.

730 Marginalia in S (at right of fol. 8r): de secunda uxore Abree.

740 gud. So K. S: guf.

741 Marginalia in S (at right of fol. 8r): de uxore Ysac.

742 fayrer. So K. S: fader.

763 Then. S: W Þen.

768 be. So K. S omits.

780 the. So K. S omits.

784 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 8v): no heading.

801 hir. S: inserted above canceled hys.

817 He. So K. S: The.

819 wun. So K. S: wunt.

833 feld. So K. S: fold.
fon. So K. S: fynd.

841 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 9r): Genesis. Jacob et Rebecca.

845 hym. S: inserted above the line.

858 be felyn. So S, K. O suggests not be felyn, assuming felyn to mean “feeling.” If the term is parallel with our modern “felon,” however, no emendation is necessary.

872 Then. So K. S: the.

877 then. S: inserted above the line.

882 myn. S: n inserted above the line.

889 yow now. So S. K inverts.

894 howshald. So K. S: howshad.

904 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 9v): Genesis. de dormicione iacob et scala domini.
and grett. So K. S: and with grett.

910 sclepand. So S. K: slepand.

912 hyght. S: inserted above canceled ryght.

915 angels. S: al angels.

927 in. S: inserted above the line.

944 schawyd no chere. So K. S: schawnyd chere.

949 elder. S: ell elder.

955 hym. S: y hym.

959 mad Jacob mony. So K. S: mad full soyn Iacob þerof mony.

961 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 10r): Genesis.

966 or. So O. S, K: of.

979 Jacob. S: Go Jacob.
fro. So O. S, K: for.

980 made. So K. S omits.

985 Lya. So K. S: Lyi.

987 tha. So K. S: thei.

988 war. So S. K inserts trewly before.

994 scho. So S. K omits.
that. S: inserted above the line.

999 bryght. S, K: brygh.

1000 schent. S: inserted above the line.

1003 Israell. So K. S: Iraell.

1010 the. So K. S: ther.

1011 brothyr. So K. S: broythyr.

1013 has. So K. S omits.

1014 Chanaan. So S. K emends to Chanany.

1015 in. So K. S omits.

1021 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 10v): Genesis.

1026 afore. So S. K emends to a fother.

1031 Marginalia in S (at left of fol. 10v): Judas.

1032 name. So K. S: naman.

1035 Marginalia in S (at left of fol. 10v): Thamar.

1059 yt is. So K. S: is yt.

1064 then. So K. S: the.

1071 lever. S: r inserted above the line.

1082 hir. S: his. K emends to gart hir.

1083 And cled. So K. S: bottom corner of the page is missing.

1084 jape. So S. K: rape.

1085 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 11r): no heading.

1093 hyr. S: inserted above the line.

1104 hir. So K. S: his.

1106 scho. S: inserted above canceled k.

1112 and. So S. K omits.
prevely. S: pro prevely.

1119–20 Missing lines. See textual note to lines 681–82, above.

1121 monethyse. So K. S: mothneyse.

1128 hange. S: e inserted above the line. K: hang.

1133–34 Missing lines. See textual note to lines 681–82, above.

1137 was. S: r was.

1139 wroght. S, K: wrogh.

1145 gold. S: god gold.

1146 ther. S: inserted above the line.

1147–48 Missing lines. See textual note to lines 681–82, above.

1151 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 11v): no heading.
By. So K. S: Now by inserted above the line, but now is repetitive within the line.

I well. S: inserted above the line.

1152 that. S: and that.

1174 Marginalia in S (at right of fol. 11v): Reversus est Jacob.

1188 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 11v): de sompnio josephi.

1189 dremyd with. So K. S: dremyd then with, but the second then is unnecessary.

1193 schefe. S: f schefe.

1194 can. S: inserted above the line.

1200 me. So K. S omits.

1203 deme. So O. S, K: dreme.

1205 sall. S: altered from fall.

1209 Jacob. So O. S, K: Isac. The error is certainly scribal, as Isaac is dead; Joseph’s father is Jacob. Compare Genesis 37:11.

1213 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 12r): Genesis.

1214 more. S: inserted above the line.

1228 wyld. So K. S: wyldes.

1230 thei. S: inserted above the line.

1236 Egype. S: inserted above canceled ferr.

1250 namys call. S: mamys call, corrected to namys call. K emends to namys thei call.

1253 And. S: d inserted above the line.

1255 all scathe. So K. S omits.

1264 com fatt. So S. K emends to fatt com.
folde. So S. K emends to flode.

1268 stud. S: inserted above the line.

1269 the clerkes. So K. S omits.

1273 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 12v): Genesis.

1274 bend. So K. S: lend.

1284 hungur. So K. S: hugur.

1290 gret. So S. K: grett.

1297 ther then. So K. S omits ther.

1298 corn yf. So K. S: corn þer þen yf.

1302 ware. So S. K omits.

1310 down. So O. S, K: drownd.

1333 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 13r): Genesis.

1338 have. S: inserted below the line.

1345 thei. S: he þei.

1368 Benjamyn. S: i inserted above the line.

1393 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 13v): no heading.

1399 sayd. So K. S: say.

1414 sevyn. So K. S: xiiii.

1417 weld. So K. S: werld.

1421 when. So K. S: whe.

1422 ten and. So S. K emends to and X.

1430 multyplyd. So S, O. K: myltyplyd.

1432 schonged. So K. S: schonegd.

[STORY OF CREATION (1:1–2:25)]



























In this begynnyng God uus wysch
   well for werke with wyll and toyght.
In this boke that cald is Genesis
   ther may men see the soth unsoght
How God, that beldes in endlese blyse,
   all only with Hys Word hath wroght
Hevyn on heght for Hym and Hys,
   this erth and all that ever is oght.
This erth was wyde and wast
   and no gud on yt grovyd;
On the heght the Holi Gast
   abown the waters movyd.

Hell He mad marke thrugh Hys myght
   so that no medcyn mend yt may;
God bad that in the hevyns on hyght
   suld be mad lyght forever and ay,
And therin mad He angels bryght
   to serve Hymself evermoyr to pay.
The merknes namyd he to be Nyght,
   and the lyghtnes to be Day.
Of angels on was schefe,
   and hys name Lucyfer,
Unto his Lord most lefe,
   in Ynglysch “Lyght-beyrer.”

And for he was so fayr that tyd,
   angels in hest sone can he hent,
And sayd he suld be glorefyd
   lyke to Hym that hys lyfe had lent.
Then in this blyse myght he not byd
   bott hastely to Hell he wentt,
For syn in Hevyn is non to hyde,
   all dyd the same of hys assent.
The tend ordyr of angell
   thurgh prid, os kend our clerkes,
Unto fowle fendes fell.
   Ther wer the fyrst day werkes.

When God that semly syght con see,
   Hym toyght yt well withoutyn were.
A firmament then bad He be
   to part the waters in sonder seyre.
The watur abown than ordand He
   to wend abowt with wyndes clere,
That other byneth in law degré
   To moyst the erth in his manere.
The firmament namyd He Hevyn,
   to lend lastand for ay.
Ther ys no moyr to nevyn.
   So sessyd the secund day.

The waters that wer on erth ordand
   God hath them geddyrd all in a sted,
And the sted that thei suld in stand
   ys callyd the Se by ryghwyse rede;
And the dry erth namyd He the Land,
   He bad that yt suld spryng and sprede
Herbys and treyse with wod and wand
   and sed to saw when thei wer dede,
So that new suld up spryng
   there sted forto restoyre
And flours and frutt forto furth bryng.
   The thryd endyd thore.

God ordand then grett lyghtys two
   to moyv apon the firmament
To parte the days and the nyghtys fro,
   and yer fro yer be sesons sent,
The moyr befor the day to go
   and the lesse to the nyght at attent.
The Sun and the Moyn namyd He them,
   by them on erthe the lyght is lent.
Sternys on hevyn He sett
   with bemys schynand for bryght
By certan mesurs mett.
   Thus was the faurt day dyght.

God bad that in the see suld brede
   dyverse fysches to flett with fyn,
And of themselfe thei sall have sede
   allway to wax waters within;
And fowls He ordand fayr forto fede
   with wynges and wynd ther way to wynd,
By erth and ayer ther lyfes to lede
   and same won withoutyn fynd.
He blessyd thos werkes fayr
   that thei no myrth suld myse,
Bot fyll both watur and ayer.
   The fyft day werke was this.

Then bad God ther suld bestes bee
   on dyverse kynd os thei ar kend
On ylka syd in seyre cuntré,
   and wormes on the wome to wende.
Then sayd He to Hymself: “Make We
   a man that may bestes mys amend,
For have power and pausté
   on bestes and fowls withoutyn end.
And that man wyll We geyse
   aftur Our awn ymage ay
And like to Our awn liknes.”
   So was don the sext day.

God toght the consell was not clere
   a man alon hys lyf to led;
Som other suld be unto hym nere
   hym forto helpe yf he had nede.
Owt of hys syde Hee sonderd seyre
   a crokyd rybe, os clerkes can rede,
And therof formyd He hym a fere,
   a female, frutt furth to bred.
He gafe them power playn
   abuf all erthly thynge,
With all gudes that myght gayn
   tyll thei breke Hys bydyng.

God gaf man fre wyll to be wyse,
   and in certan He sett hys name;
Then plantyd He Erthly Paradyse,
   and in that place He putt Adam.
He fyllyd yt full of all delyce
   and made hym suferan of the same,
Wyls he wold wone withoutyn vyce,
   ther forto byd withoutyn blame.
Ther wer all erbys and tresses
   with flours and frutt gud woyn;
God bad Adam go chese,
   and ette of all bot on.

In myddes of Paradyse yt stud
   with frut fayr to fede and fyll;
Who of that frutt myght fang ther fude
   suld clerly knaw both gud and yll.
Therfor God wernyd hym for hys gud,
   and bad hym lett that frutt be styll,
“Yf thou yt ethe, with wordes wode
   soyn to be wast owt of thy wyll.”
Of all other that ther wer
   He gaf hym largely lefe;
That bad He hym forbeyr
   for dowt of moyr myschefe.

guide us
book that is called; (t-note)
see the truth readily; (t-note)
who dwells; (see note)
created; (t-note)
ever has been
wide and empty
nothing good on it grew
On high; Holy Ghost
above; moved

dark (murky); (see note); (t-note)

forever and always; (t-note)
(see note)

one was chief; (t-note)

fair [in] that time
haste soon; summon; (t-note)

lent (endowed)

Because; not able to be hidden; (t-note)
all who followed him did the same
tenth order of angels
pride; teach; (t-note)
foul fiends
These; (t-note)

did see
thought; doubt; (t-note)

into two parts
beneath in lower degree (i.e., below the firmament)
enduring forever

one place

proper reckoning

spring [forth] and spread
Herbs; trees; wood; branches
seed to sow; dead

their place to restore
flowers; fruit; (t-note)
third [day]

move; (t-note)
divide; (t-note)
year from year by seasons designated
greater [light]
lesser to attend to the night

beams shining
certain proper measures
fourth day ended

float (swim) with fins; (see note)
grow within [the] waters
birds; feed; (t-note)
to go their way
air their lives; (see note)
together dwell; end; (t-note)

joy should miss; (t-note)
fifth day’s work

every place; diverse (all)
snakes; belly to go; (see note)

beasts’ wrongs repair



thought; scheme; perspicacious

sundered apart
crooked rib; (see note)
to breed forth children
unlimited; (see note)
all goods

until they broke His bidding

free will

While he would live
herbs; trees; (t-note)
easily obtained
bade; [to] go choose
eat; one

[the] midst; (see note)
consume; (t-note)
take their food; (t-note)


If you eat it, with furious words
at once [you will] be deprived of your desire; (t-note)

free access
That one commanded; forbear; (t-note)














Bot then the Fend, our fellyst foe,
   that fallyn was not fer before,
For that werkyng he was full wo
   that tho wyghys so worthy were;
Within hymselfe persavyd he soe
   that thei the same sted suld restore
That he and hys felows fell fro;
   that mad hym mornyng mekyll more.
He toyght yt so suld not be;
   therfor in schort qwylle
He soyght up sotelté
   them both forto gyle.

He wyst full well withoutyn wene
   how God had demyd in all degré.
As a serpent soyn was he sen,
   with woman face full fayr and free.
To Eve he sayd, “What may yt meyn
   That ye tent noyght to this tree?”
Scho sayd, “That wold turne us te tene;
   God bad that we suld lett yt be.”
The Fend sayd, “Foyles the more,
   by that skyll scornyd ar ye;
God wold not that ye wer
   alway so wyse os He.

“This frutt may gyf wysdom and wytt;
   als godes so sall ye both begyn.”
Scho saw that frutt so fayr and fytt,
   and eth ther of this welth to wyn.
Scho bad Adam to ette of yt,
   to bytt theron he wold noght blyne.
Hys boldnes and that balfull bytt
   cast hym in care and all hys kyne.
When thei this frutt had takyd,
   qwerfor thei wer both blamyd,
Thei saw then thei wer nakyd;
   full yll thei wer aschamyd.

With lefys ther privates can thei hyd,
   and playnly durst thei not apeyre.
God callyd on Adam in that tyd,
   and he sayd, “Lord, I hyd me heyre.
I hath so doyn, I der not byd.”
   God askyd why and in what manere.
“Lord, yf I wer yll ocupyd
   yt was thrugh fandyng of my fere.”
God askyd why that schoe went
   that forbeyd frutt forto fele.
Scho sayd, “Lord, the serpent
   gart me do ylka deyle.”

God told then unto all thre
   what thei suld feyle for ther forfeytt.
To the worme He sayd, “Waryd thou be,
   wend on thy wome, ay erth forto eytte;
And, woman, frutt that comys on thee
   sall be broyght furth with paynys grett;
And, Adam, for thou trowd not me,
   wyn thou thy foyd with swynke and swett;
So sall all thyn ofspryng
   unto the uttmast ende.”
To manys kynd com this thyng
   thrugh falssyng of the Fend.

Fiend (i.e., Satan); darkest; (t-note)
fallen; long before; (see note)
creation; very angry
those people
place should take

much more angry
thought; (t-note)
a short time
sought out subtleties
to deceive; (see note)

knew quite well without doubt
made determination (discerned)
soon; (t-note)
[a] woman’s face; (see note); (t-note)

attend not
to sorrow; (t-note)

ordinance (ruse) are you scorned; (see note)

forever as wise

gods; become

bite; tarry
baleful bite
into sorrow; kind (humanity); (t-note)


at that time
hide myself here
dare not pray for anything

scheming; spouse
taste; (t-note)

made me to do every bit [of it]

feel (receive)
go; belly, ever earth to eat; (t-note)
fruit (children)

obtain; food; labor; sweat; (see note)
uttermost end [of time]
man’s nature came; (see note)

[CAIN AND ABEL (4:1–17)]



Fro Paradyse thei wer exilyd
   withoutyn grace agayn to passe.
So went thei both os bestes wyld,
   thei cowd no lovyng. Bot, alase,
Soyn Eve consavyd and bare a chyld,
   Cayn, that sythyn so cursyd was
Because of Abell meke and myld
   that he slow with a cheke of an ase;
For the offerand of Abell
   was accepte in Goddes syght.
And Caymys went down to Hell
   and to God gaf noe lyght.

permission to return

[do] nothing praiseworthy
Cain; then
Abel meek
jawbone of an ass
Because the offering
Cain; (see note)
no light









When Adam wyst withoutyn wer
   this wekyd werk, he was full wo;
He morned ever and mad yll cher
   for meke Abell was murtherd so.
Bot aftur that full mony a yer,
   when he tyll Eve agan can go,
Then bare scho suns and doyghters sere,
   the story says sexty and moe;
Then ylke on other toke
   and lyfyd be law of kynd,
Als whoso likes to loke
   may seke and forther fynd.

Of Caymys kynd come Tubulcan,
   of metall mellyd he amang,
And diverse thynges to helpe of man
   ordand he both schort and lang.
Hys brothyr Juball he began
   musyke, ose mynstralsy and sang.
The harpe by hym was ordand then
   and other myrth qwer men suld gang.
Of Adam suns the thryd
   hyght Seth, man myld of mode.
He wrott what dedes thei dyd
   that last aftur the flode.

Of Seth then com Matussile,
   lyfyd he neyn hunderth sexty and neyn yere,
Of hym com Lameth, of hym Noe
   that unto God wer gud and dere.
And Noe had suns fully thre,
   Sem, Cham, Jafeth in fere.
Then was the werld gone in degree
   thre thowssand yere for neven by nere.
No rayn on erth then fell
   to gayr the gresse up ryse,
Bot faur fludes of a well
   that went from Paradyce.

knew without doubt
(see note)
again can have intercourse
she bore many sons and daughters

each one another took [as spouse]
nature; (see note)

Cain’s kind (family) came Tubal-cain; (see note)

Jubal; invented; (see note)
created; (t-note)
wherever men should go

Seth; mood
(see note)

969 years; (t-note)
Lamech; Noah

Shem, Ham, Japheth together

to figure it closely; (see note); (t-note)
(see note)
four rivers from; (see note)
















Then was no lernyng of no law;
   thei lyfyd in lust evyn at ther lyst.
Ther Creatur thei cowde noyght knaw,
   the wenyd that non ther werkes wyst.
Forto greyfe God thei had non aw,
   therfor all myrthes son thei myst.
God spake to Noye and sayd this saw:
   “Thou and thy chylder sall be blest;
All folke so fowll I fynd
   coruppyd and soyllyd with syn;
Me rewthes I made mankynd
   to wond thys werld within.

“And sen I se them so mysegone
   and in hert hath no mynd of me,
I sall dystroy them every ylkon.
   Over all this werld sall wax a see
So that on lyve sall lefe ryght none
   bot thou, thi wyf, thi suns thre,
And thair thre wyfes, ye aght alon
   in land to lyf sall levyd be.
Bestes and fowles in flygh
   non beys for ruth refusyd,
Or all to ded be dyght
   for syn ye folke hath usyd.

“To make an erke of tymber strang
   thou and thi meneye in to abyd,
Thre hunderth cubbettes loke yt be lang,
   and fyfty cubbeyttes it sall be wyd,
And thryty cubbeyttes the heght sall gang;
   and sett a wyndow in the syde,
And cloyse yt well, elles dows thou wrang,
   to turne the watur in ylka tyde.
And stages grett plenty
   bus thee make, mony and fayre,
Wher bestes and fowles may be,
   of ylka kynd a payre.”

When all was wroygh in hys kynd wyse,
   yt raynnyd, als then was Goddes wyll,
Faurty days be full asysse
   and faurty nyghtys to tell thertyll.
The watur over the werld can ryse,
   fyfty cubbeyttes over the heghest hyll;
Yt drownyd the pepyll in all partyse
   bot aght that in the arch wer styll.
Then monethes yt encressyd,
   and in Armynie that tyd,
When the watur sessyd,
   the arch began to abyd.

And therby Noe can understand
   that thei wer sett apon som playn.
A rayven he sent furth to seke the land,
   bot that fowlle com not agayn
Then to a dowfe he hath commawnd
   to seke hym sum thyng for certan.
An olyve branche full soyn he fand
   and broyght to schep — then wer thei fayn.
Soyne thei saw then drye
   apeyr in dyverse place.
To land thei hast in hye
   and lovyd God on Hys grace.

The bestes in ther kyndes knew
   unto what party thei suld repayre
To hold them hole of hyd and hew,
   and fowles flow furth in the ayre.
And Noye suns then satt and sew,
   and soyn thei broyght furth frutt full fayre.
And so the werld then wex all new;
   thei multiplyd with mony an heyre.
God gafe a sygne to Noye
   of the raynbow ryght thore,
That He suld never dystroye
   the werld with watur moyre.

pleasure according to their desire

thought; no one knew their deeds
grieve; fear; (t-note)
happiness soon they lost
Noah; made this declaration

corrupt and soiled
I regret

since; misbehaved (mis-gone)
every one
rise a sea
alive shall live
sons; (t-note)
none should be, for pity, excepted; (t-note)

ark (boat); strong; (see note)
your companions to dwell in
300 cubits; long; (t-note)
thirty; shall go
or else you do wrong
turn [back]; at that time
must you make

each kind a pair; (t-note)

rained; (t-note)
40; count

(see note)
people; parts
except [for the] eight
months; (see note); (t-note)
Armenia; (see note)

dove; (see note)

olive branch
ship; happy
dry [land]


by their natures
area they should go
maintain themselves altogether
sowed [crops]
fruit (offspring); (see note); (t-note)


again; (t-note)




Noye was the fyrst that vynes sett
   wych bare of grapes full grett plenté.
Of them so sadly can he eytt
   that of the wyn dronkyn was he;
He fell on slepe down on hys flett.
   Cham com and scornyd hys prevyty;
His brethyr duly dyde ther dette
   and hyd hym agayn in god degree.
When Noye his werkyng wyst
   he werryd hym forthi;
His brethyr both wer blest
   als ther werke was worthy.

which bore; (t-note)
steadily; eat
in his tent
Ham; nakedness; (t-note)
brothers; duty
covered; (see note)
his (Ham’s) doings knew; (t-note)
cursed him therefore; (see note)

[TOWER OF BABEL (11:1–9)]



The pepyll fast then multiplied
   tho thowssandes moe, or sex, or seven.
Thei fand a feld was lang and wyde,
   and thor in hand thei ordand evyn
And began a grett towr in that tyd
   wych thei sayd suld rech unto Heven.
When God saw them sett so in prid,
   He kast forto dystroy ther steven.
Noyne wyst what other wald,
   bot evyn ose foylles thei foyn.
Wherfor that place is callyd
   this day Bablion.

3,000 more, or 6,000, or 7,000
there by hand; made it level

determined to destroy their communication
None knew; meant
fools they acted; (t-note)

Babel; (see note)

[DESCENDANTS OF NOAH (9:28–10:32, 11:10–32)]








Sythyn Noe persavyd by knawyng clere
   that day was comyn that hym bod dy;
Then had he lyfyd in landes here
   neyn hunderth wynters and als fyfty.
Yf we suld say hys suns all sere
   and then depart ther progenité
Thatt lesson wer full long to leere.
   Therfor we lefe them mor lyghtly
And neven bot that nedes,
   and evyn unto understand,
And that most lely ledes
   to lere our law in land.

Of Seme come Phaloge forther than,
   and of Phaloge come Tharé,
Abraham, Nacor, and Aran;
   thare suns wer all thos thre.
Of Aran com Loth, that lele man,
   that honerd God in gud degree.
Unto this pepyll God began
   to multiplye and make them free.
Then wer ther systers tway,
   Abram toke Saray,
And Nacor toke Melkala:
   thei wer ther wyfes worthay.

Ther was ay wunt to wun
   In Urry, whar Caldeis wonnand were.
Ther dyed Aran yongest son,
   was Loth fader, os we herd here.
And Loth with Abraham furth was fun
   as with hys eme and man most nere.
Then Tharé so with yll was bown,
   to lyf he myght not langer here.
He died when he was old
   twa hunderth yer, men wott.
Then is her no ferthermer told
   bot of Abram and Loth.

Afterwards Noah
the time had; he must die; (t-note)

nine hundred fifty years
assay; separately; (see note)
list their
learn; (t-note)
mention only what is needed
applies to our understanding
faithfully leads
teach; (see note)

Shem; Peleg
Abram, Nahor; Haran
these [latter ones] were sons
Lot; noble


These were ever accustomed to dwell
Ur; Chaldeans dwelling; (t-note)
died Haran [who was the] youngest
[he] was Lot’s father
henceforth was [to be] found
uncle; kinsman
sickness was taken

200 years old, people reckon; (see note)
there no more further




God spake to Abraham for his sped:
   “On this fold may thou not be fune,
Bot take thy wyfe and with thee lede,
   I sall thee wysch wher thou sall wune
To have enogh and never nede,
   with Loth also, thi brothyr sune.
Thor sall I multiplye thi sed
   and helpe thee os I hath begune.”
To the land of Canan
   so sent he furth thos thre.
God sayd to Abraham then,
   “This land gyf I to thee.”

In this place; [adequately] supported; (t-note)

guide; journey

There; your seed


[ABRAHAM AND LOT (13:1–13)]



Abraham and Loth can same dwell
   with mekyll myrth full mony a yere;
Thei wex so rych that ther catell
   coverd the cuntré fer and nere.
Then mad thei covnand them amell
   that thei suld make ther wonnyng sere,
For grett debatt that oft fell
   amang them that ther hyrdmen were.
Abraham wonnyd styll at home
   wher God had byddyn hym come,
And Loth wentt to Sodome,
   a cyté besyd the flume.

did dwell together
much happiness
grew; livestock (i.e., property)

an agreement amongst themselves
dwellings separately; (t-note)

those who were their herdsmen









Sodome was a grett cety,
   Gommer another nere therby,
And next them was ther other thre,
   The wych wer fyllyd with syn fouly.
Thei drede not God in no degré,
   bot lyfyd in lust and lecheré —
And that thei schewyd in syght to see —
   and agaynst kynd most oncumly.
Foule is to declare
   how ther werkyns was.
No syb ne spoussyd thai spare,
   ne nowther lad ne las.

Long aftur that this grett warre con spryng
   amang kynges of that cuntré.
For God sayd thei sall sese for nothyng,
   or tho fyve cytes conquerd be.
Baram was of Sodam kyng,
   and Gomer also governd he.
When he herd tell of this tythyng,
   he semyld pepyll full grett plenté,
Agayns his enmys to go
   with schott, scheld, and spere;
And Loth was on of tho,
   a full wys man of were.

Sone wer thai semyld ylkon
   and bett on fast with burnyscht brandes.
The Sodomites wer soyn sloyn;
   thei myght not flee, thei lefyd ther landes.
And in that batell Loth was tane
   and holdyn in hys enmys handes.
Abraham, hys eme, was wyll of wone
   when he herd tell of thos tythandes.
He wold not byd ne blyne,
   bott went with power playne,
And rescuyd hys cosyn,
   and broyght hym home agayn.

(see note)
Gomorrah; (t-note)

filled; foully
lived; lechery

nature [behaved] most indecently

sibling nor espoused [did] they
nor neither; nor lass

five cities

assembled; (t-note)

missile, shield, and spear
one of those
very good man at war

assembled everyone
beat; burnished swords
soon slain
left; (t-note)
uncle, was distraught
tidings; (t-note)
wait nor tarry; (see note); (t-note)




Thus savyd he all thies folkes in fere
   that presond war and putt to pyn.
Melchesedeke when he can here
   how Abraham had savyd hys cosyn,
Agayns hym wentt he with gud chere,
   and present hym with bred and wyne.
He sayd, “I wott withoutyn were
   God is thy frend full fast and fyne.”
He was both prest and kyng,
   and keper of the lay;
He wyst well that this thyng
   was gretly God to pay.

were made prisoner; (t-note)
Melchizedek; (see note)

To meet him

know without doubt

law; (t-note)
(Lot’s rescue)






The thryd day Abraham was comyn hame
   to se his servandes old and yonge.
God come to hym and callyd by name:
   “Abraham, I thanke thee of this thyng.
Als I desyrre, thou doys the same;
   therfor thi frutt sall spred and spryng.
Thou sall have welth of wyld and tame
   and myght without more mournyng.”
He sayd, “What myrt emong
   I have of tame and wyld,
Forto lyfe her thus lang
   And dye withoutyn chyld?”

God kend hym comforth in that tyd;
   furth of hys hows He can hym lede,
And bad hym see on ylka syde
   over all the land in lengh and brede.
“All sall be thyne and with thee abyd
   and to thyn heyrs ay furth to fede.
Ose gravell in the se is multyplyd,
   so sall I multiplye thi sede.
Whoso may tell be tale
   the stern apon hevyn,
Als essely thei sall
   thi sed nowmer and nevyn.”


Whatever I desire, you do just that

happiness among; (t-note)
here so long

gave him comfort at that time
did lead him
every direction

heirs always
As gravel; (see note); (t-note)
Whoever may number
stars in [the] heavens; (t-note)
As easily
seed number and name







Abraham was all merveld then
   that ever hys sede suld sogattes yelde
Bycause that his wyfe was baran,
   and thei wer both in grett eld.
The wyf wroyght ose a gud woman
   to geyt a barne to be ther beld;
Hyr servant prevely scho wan
   tyl Abraham at hys wyll to weld.
Therfor so yt befell:
   scho beldyd by hym all nyght
And consavyd Ysmaell,
   that afterward was full wyght.

When Agar wyst scho was with chyld,
   hyr hert in pride begane to ryse;
Hyr maystrys that was meke and myld
   in all hyr dedes scho can dyspyse.
Then Sarai wyst scho was begylyd,
   bot ever scho wrogh os woman wyse.
Hyr and hyr barn both can scho bylde,
   and prayd ever God for bettur gyse
To send them sum ryght ayre
   that myght ther welthes weld.
Bot scho was in dyspayr
   any barn to beyre for eld.

amazed; (see note)
his seed should yield so much
worked as
child; comfort
gave; (see note)
to Abram; to use

comforted; (see note); (t-note)
Ishmael; (see note)


mistress who

behaved; (see note)
true heir
who; wield

bear because of age







Aftur, qwen Abraham was old
   a hunderth wynters, then wex he tame,
And in that tyme God to hym told
   wher he wonnyd in his hows at hame,
“To have a son thou sall be bold,
   and Ysac sall be his name;
He sall have frutt full mony fold.”
   Abraham toke tent and trowd that same.
God commaund in that tyd
   that Abraham and all his
Suld all be circumscisyd,
   so to amend ther mys.

So dyd thei sone and hyght in hy
   the law of God hertly to hold.
For Abraham it is sayd schortly
   that Abraham then he suld be cald,
And hys wyf, that hygh Sarai,
   full Sare suld hyr name be tald.
Ther kynredyn and ther cumpany
   wer circumsysed so yong and old.
For Abraham trowd that thyng,
   ose clerkes declare it can;
The trowth and the begynnyng
   of our fayth ther begane.

Later, when
one hundred years; spiritless; (see note)


Isaac; (see note)

took heed; believed

make atonement

promised readily

Abram; (see note); (t-note)
Abraham; (t-note)
kinsfolk; households
Because; believed
(see note)
(see note)







Fell aftur long apon a day
   Abraham was tyllyd under a tre
In hy seson hym to play
   bysyd a hyll that heght Mambré.
Thre chylder com thor in the way
   als comly ose ever men myght see.
And cled in honest wed wer thai,
   all semand on eld to be.
For thei wer fayr to syght,
   he helsyd them os hende,
And herberd them all nyght,
   and askyd whedder thei wende.

Unto hym answerd on of thai
   and sayd, “We ar Goddes messynger.
I am sent unto Sara,
   scho sall have a son this same yere,
And to morn wendes my felows twa
   to do Goddes bedyng, both in fere;
To Sodom and Gomor thei go
   to synke them down for syns sere.”
Tokyn of the Trinité
   to Abraham ther was tone.
All yf he saw ther thre,
   all he honerde os one.

It happened long afterwards
stretched out; (see note)
high (hot); relax; (t-note)
Three young men; (see note)
as far as
simple clothes; (t-note)
in flames; (see note)
welcomed them as [was] proper
where they went



tomorrow go

destroy; many sins; (t-note)






Abraham had care then for hys kyne
   and for hys frendes that ill suld fare.
He prayd God forto abyd and blyn
   and gud folke fro the yll to spare.
God sayd ther was non gud therin
   bot Loth and tho that with hym ware;
And fro that wo well suld thei wyn.
   So was he comforth of his care.
Tway chylder wentt at morn
   to Sodom the gaynyst gate.
Thei fand Loth them beforne
   when thei enterd the gatte.


wait and refrain
(see note)
they escape

[by] the quickest way
before them




Unto hys hows with them he hyed
   and ordand mett for them and mo.
Hys ennemys com on ylka syd
   and bad furth tho chylder two.
Hys doyghturs proferd he that tyd,
   bot thei sayd nay, thei wold non of tho.
Then unto God he cald and cryde
   thos byttur folkes to scheld hym fro.
God mad them blynd to be
   so that thei toke no tent,
Tyll Loth with hys meneye
   and tho chylder wer went.

every side
summoned forth those two young men; (see note)
he offered at that time

wicked people; shield; (t-note)
blind; (see note)
paid no attention
Until; household
got away




When Loth was passyd the cyté playn
   with hys wyfe and two doghturs dere,
God bad thei suld not go agayn,
   ne of that fayr forther inquere.
Thos cytes sanke ther certan,
   and the sownd was herd, a hydwyse bere.
The wyf then wyst hyr frendes wer slayn
   and lokyd agayn with sympyll chere.
For scho dyd that owtrage
   that God bad dame do never,
Scho wurthyd to an ymag
   of salt and sall be evere.

had fully escaped

return [there] again; (t-note)
nor of that affair

hideous noise
knew; (t-note)
sad mood; (see note)
Because; trespass

changed; statue; (see note)
shall; (t-note)







When Loth saw how scho was dyght
   ther styll to stand in a salt stone,
To a hyllsyd, that Sogor hyght,
   hys way full wysly he hath tane.
Thor dwellyd thei fere from all men syght,
   for cyty neyr them was none.
The wemen wenyd no werly wyght
   wer levyd on lyfe bot them allon.
Therfor, or ever the fyne
   the werld to fulfyll,
Thei gafe ther fadyr wyne
   and made hym slepe full styll.

The eldyr systur by hym lay,
   the werld to maynten at hyr myght.
He delt with hyr or yt was day,
   and gatt a son that sythyn Moab hyght.
The yonger systur then wold asay
   to fob hyr fader anoder nyght.
Scho consavyd by ther prevay play
   a man that semly was to syght.
Loth leve we her at home wonnand
   in wastes that wer wyld
And tell of Abraham and Sara and
   of Ysaac that was hys chyld.


hillside, that was called Zoar; (see note)
There; far
knew no worldly man
remained alive
before the end [of]; (see note); (t-note)
might occur


subsequently Moab was called
conceived; private
dwelling; (t-note)
(see note)
(see note); (t-note)

[BIRTH OF ISAAC (21:1–12)]



Thei wentt wher thei had wonnyd beforne,
   and in grett lykkyng can thei lend.
Sara was mery evyn and morne,
   forto be comford well scho kend.
Bott aftur, when hyr sone was borne,
   then was hyr myrth mekyll amend.
For Agar that was wontt hyr to scorn
   than had no fors hyr to defend.
Sara, that worthy wyve,
   when Ysac myght oght mell,
Agar owt can scho dryfe
   with hyr sun Ysmaell.

dwelled before
pleasure; remain; (t-note)
happy evening and morning

mirth much subdued; (t-note)
no strength (privileged position) herself to

anything speak
she did drive out

[HAGAR AND ISHMAEL (16:6–15, 21:14–20)]



To flee then was scho ferly fayn;
   with Saray durst scho not be sene.
In wyldernes scho wonnyd with payn,
   cared from all comforth clene.
An angell gart hyr turn agayn,
   and bad that scho suld bowsom bene.
And Abraham dyd all hys mayn
   and mad acord them two betwene.
Togedder then thei dwell
   in feleschep full fayre;
Grett myrth thei mad them amell
   for Ysaac theyr ayre.

(see note)
did return her
obedient; (t-note)


their heir













Sythyn God Hys servand wold asay
   yf he to Hym bowsom wold be.
Hee spake to Abraham on a day
   and sayd, “Thi sadnes wyll I se;
Take thi sun that thou lufes well ay
   and make hym sacrafyce to Mee.
In wyldernes bysyde the way
   a certan hyll schew sall I thee.
An awter theron thou rays
   and offer hym Me untyll.”
Abraham heyrs how He says
   and grauntt yt with full gud wyll.

Abraham unto hys son beheld,
   a bold man both in bone and lyre.
He wenyd that he suld have beyn hys beld
   when he was old and weke o swyre;
Bot unto God he can hym yeld,
   ay redy to do Hys desyre.
Hys asse he fand furth in the feld
   And chargeyd hym with wud and fyre.
[ . . . ]
   [ . . . ]
So went thei furth in fere,
   qwer God bad thei suld goe.

Ysaac saw in hys fader hand
   a sword and askyd hym what yt ment.
He sayd, “Sun, we sall make offerand
   to God; so hath Hymselfe asent.”
“Fader,” he says, “fyr soyne we fand,
   bott wher ar bestes that suld be brentt?”
He says, “Sun, that God hath ordand,
   for to Hys frendes ay takes He tent.”
So wentt thei furth ther ways;
   [ . . . ]
[ . . . ]
   os God wold deme thei dyd.

When Abbraham was werre of the hyll,
   qwych God to hym had told before,
The wud he tok hys sun untyll
   and bad hym beyre to thei come thore.
Hys fader forwerd to fulfyll
   [ . . . ]
[ . . . ]
   was he wyse, os God wold yt were.
Apon that hyll on heght,
   os God Hymself had sayd,
An auter ther on thei dyght
   and wud and fyre on layd.

When the fyre was brynnand bryght,
   than Abraham unto God con see,
And to hys sun thus sayd he ryght,
   “Sun, I sall make offerand of thee.”
Ysaac sayd with semland lyght,
   “Fader, os God wyll, behoveyse yt to be.
What hest to Hym that ye hath heght
   leffe yt noght for luf of me.”
Hys sword in hand he hent
   so forto make offerand,
Bot God His angell sent
   from Hevyn and held his hand.

make trial (assay); (t-note)
loyal; (t-note)

steadfastness; investigate; (see note)
a sacrifice

altar; make (raise); (t-note)
unto; (t-note)

(see note)
bone and flesh
knew; should; been his comfort
weak of neck
yielded himself




always He takes care; (t-note)



carry [it] until they came there
father’s wishes


burning; (see note)

[an] offering

as God wills, so it should be





Hys sun he suld have sacrifysyd,
   bot then he wyst God wold yt noght.
A wedder he saw hym besyd
   that God had sent hym all unsoght.
Therof he made offerand that tyd,
   and when thei had ther wrschyp wroyght,
Hom agayn hely thei hyed
   and thankes God with wyll and toyght.
Soyne aftur Sara was dede
   and put unto sepulcure.
Abraham toke in hyr sted
   a wyf that heght Sethure.

knew God wanted; (t-note)
ram; (see note); (t-note)

at that time; (t-note)








Scho was woman wynsom to weld,
   non heynder haldyn under Hevyn,
And wyls scho bode under hys beld,
   scho bayr hym sonys sevyn.
Aftur when Ysac wex on eld,
   a stalworthy man of state and stevyn,
Hys fader, for hys sed suld yeld,
   a gud wyfe to hym can he nevyn:
Rebecca, a damisell —
   hyr fayrer is not fon —
The doyghtur of Batuell;
   Nacor is his brothur son.

Full sun he sent his chefe servant
   for this mareyg to make yt clere.
He wentt hym furth, and soyn he fand
   the maydyn at a well thor nere.
Hee told hyr fader of this tythand
   fro Abraham, his eme full dere,
How his son suld be hyr husband.
   therfor thei wer full fayn in fere;
Wyghtly thei wer acord.
   The servand soyn hyr lede
Unto Abraham, hys lord,
   and Ysac with wyne hyr forto wede.

pleasant to possess; (see note)
while she lived; roof
grew in age
seed should yield [fruit]
call; (see note); (t-note)
Rebekah; (see note); (t-note)
[one] fairer [than] her; found; (t-note)

soon; (see note)


happy together
Quickly they were agreed

joy; wed

[DEATH OF ABRAHAM (25:7–11)]



What worthed qwen thei wedded were
   soyn aftur sall be told uus tyll.
Bot of Abraham now lefe we heyre,
   and all his story steke we styll.
When he had lyfyd a hunderth yere
   and sexty and fyve to fulfyll,
Then dyed hee soyn with seknes sere
   and went full well with Goddes wyll.
Ay whyls he lyfyd in lede,
   ever trew was his entent,
And therfor his word and dede
   mun evermoyr be on ment.

happened when

165 years; (see note)
diverse illnesses; (t-note)

Ever while; among his people

must; in remembrance; (t-note)







Ysaac lelly led his lyve
   in the law of God with gud entent.
And Rebecca, his worthy wyfe,
   consavyd two suns so God hir sent.
Betwyx them two began grett stryfe
   within hyr wom, or thei furth went,
Qwerfor hyr care was kene os knyfe.
   Scho askyd of God what yt ment.
He sayd, “Thou sall furth bryng
   two maners of pepyl expresse,
And the more in all thyng
   sall serve unto the lesse.”

And so yt was, os clerkes wott,
   the lesse was mayster of the more:
For at ther byrth was grett debat
   whedder of them suld go furth before.
Bot Esau was mor strang of state,
   and the fyrst sted he cane restore;
And Jacob than wentt aftyr latt;
   ther moyder was all marryd thore.
Esau, the alder chyld,
   was all over hyllyd with here;
And Jacob was mor myld
   and soft on body and bayre.


womb, before they came forth
Wherefore; pain; sharp as knife[wounds]

(see note)

lesser; (t-note)

know; (see note)

their; struggle
which; (t-note)
strong of body
came last; (see note)
injured then; (see note)
covered over with hair

bare (lacking hair)







Isaac had both by est and west
   mo catell then men myght nevyn by name.
His luf on Esaw he kast
   and mad hym hyrd of wyld and tame.
He sett his hert on hym to rest,
   for he suld be heyr of the same.
Bot Rebecca lufyd Jacob best,
   for he wonnyd ay at hame.
Als he satt under hir beld,
   hys dyner was well grayd.
His brothyr com from the feld,
   and of sum part he hym prayd.

Bot Jacob sayd he suld have none,
   oles then he wold to hym sell
Hys heritage and thynges ylkon
   that aftur hys fader unto hym fell.
Then Esau wyst no bettur wone
   but grauntt this connand them amell.
With honger so he was overgone,
   he tent non other tales to tell.
When Ysaac was on eld
   a hunderth yere, we fynd,
Then wex hee all unweld,
   and both his eyne wer blynd.

more; call
love; gave
shepherd both

heir; same (his full estate)
lived always

tent; (t-note)
(see note)
asked him for some part [of the meal]

unless he would
each one

had no better hope
covenant between them

advanced in age; (see note)

he grew all feeble











He callyd Esau, hys elder son,
   and sayd, “I wold thou went in hye
Unto the wud, os thou was wun,
   and take with thee thyn archerye
And fand to geytt me veneson,
   for wyld flesch ette wold I.
Then sall thou have my beneson
   and my blessyng befor I dy.”
“Fader,” he sayd, “full fayn.”
   Therwith he went his way.
The moyder with all hyr mayn
   wyll mar hym and scho may.

For Jacob that was hyr yonger son
   hath scho soght a sotell gyn:
“Thy brothyr is furth for venyson,
   his fader blessyng forto wyn.
Go to the feld; ther sall thou fon
   two fatt kyddes; bryng them or thou blyn,
And in hys wedes thou sall be wonn,
   and so be blessyd or he com in.”
“Moder,” he sayd, “nay mare
   thus to tell in this tyd.
My brothyr is hyllyd with hayre,
   and I am soft of hyd.

“All yf my fader be blynd in bed,
   he wyll feyle that I be noght trew.”
“Deyre son,” scho sayd, “be not adrede;
   myself therfor sall schape and sew.”
In kyddes skyns hys handes scho hym cled
   and mad a broth full gud and new.
“Goe fast at thy fader wer fede
   and say that thou is Esau!”
He dyde als scho hym bad.
   unto Ysaac hee wentt.
“Fader, be ye glad;
   heyr is mett that ye of ment.”

“A, sun,” he sayd, “well hath thou wroyght;
   thi wysdom now hath thou wun.”
Bot by the voce ay well hym toght
   yt was Jacob, his yonger sun.
He gropyd hym fast bot all for noyght,
   be felyn was the falshed fun.
He ette of all that he had broght;
   to blese hym then was he begun.
He mad hym over all other
   lord, both lowd and styll.
Thus begylyd he his brothyr,
   bot all was Goddes wyll.

wood, as you usually do; (t-note)
work; venison;
(see note)
I would eat

at once (full gladly)

stop him (Isaac) if she can

she has crafted a subtle ruse

find; (t-note)
fat lambs; before you cease
clothes; dressed
before he (Esau) comes in
no more
covered with hair

Even if; (t-note)
don’t be afraid

lambskins; clad; (t-note)
broth [of the lambs]; fresh
[now] that; fed

here; meat; requested

voice still he thought surely

gripped; naught
by trickery; falsehood managed; (t-note)

in all circumstances












Esau veneson hath tone
   and broyght his fader for his beld.
“Who is thou?” He askyd on one.
   “Ser, Esau, your eldyst chyld.”
“A, son,” he sayd, “her hath ben on
   and brogh me flesch, full fayr and wyld.
I hath hym blest, and he is gone.”
   Then wyst he well he was begyld.
“Myn heritage he hath
   and power over all oyder.
Now wott I well yt was
   Jacob, thy yonger brothyr.”

Esau then with sore syghyng sayd,
   “That ye ar blynd, I by with wo.
For now is the secund brayd
   that he hath me dyssavyd so.
Fyrst for mett when I hym prayd,
   myn heritage he toke me fro,
And now this tym hath me betrayd,
   wyls ye bad me your arand go.
Well was he namyd for thy
   Jacob, for so he hyght
That wyll geytt with gyllery
   that hee geyttes not with ryght.

“Bot fader,” he sayd, “I pray yow now
   yf any blessyng be laft for me.”
“Son, I hath gyfyn to hys behofe
   wytt, wyn, and oyle, all thre.
And in all maters that may move
   over all my howshald hed is he.
Bot in the dew of Hevyn above
   and in erth sall thi blessyng be.”
The fader fulfyllyd his toyght;
   the son was fayn therfor.
Thus all this werld was wroght,
   evyn os God wold yt wer.

When Esau wyst this wytterly
   how he hys heritag had lorne,
Unto hys brothyr he had envy
   and grett malyce myde day and morn.
Rebecca send Jacob forthy
   into Aran, wher scho was borne,
And als scho wold, hee wentt in hye.
   bot seyre ferlys he fand beforne.
Als he lay on a land,
   sclepand abowtt mydnyght,
A stegh he saw up stand
   from erthe to Hevyn on hyght.


at once

here has been one
brought me meat




(see note)


wheat, wine, and oils

household; (t-note)

(see note)
[that] it were

knew this clearly

between; (t-note)

many wonders he found








That stegh began evuynly at his crown;
   unto his syght yt semyd so
Als angels wentt evyn up and down
   full mony tym both to and fro.
God told to hym in that seson
   how that he suld wede wyfes two,
And how his generacion
   over all the werld suld grathly go.
Hee sayd, “For Abraham sake
   that was thi fader free,
Whedder thou slepe or wake,
   thy beld ay sall I be.”

Than Jacob of ther maters mels
   and says he saw God in gud astate.
And in his tale this furth he tels
   and says, “By this werke well I watt
That in this sted is nothyng els
   bot Goddes awn howse and Hevyn gate
And dredfull to them that heyr dwels,
   bot yf thei flee fro all debate.”
A stone lay at his hede;
   that rayssyd hee up on end,
In a tokynyng yt levyd
   how God hys myrth thore mend.

ladder; the top of his head; (see note)


wed two wives

comfort always shall

these matters speaks

place is nothing less
than; (see note)

beneath his head

As an indication; left; (see note)






So went he furth, and sone he fand
   Laban and his two doghturs dere.
For Rachell was then his connand1
   forto be servand sevyn yere.
And at the end, to understand,
   when Rachell suld have neghyd nere,
Then was Lya by hym ligand:
   no wounder yf he schawyd no chere.
Jacob was full evyll payd,
   for he had noygh his awne.
Bot Laban to hym sayd,
   this custom thor was knawne:

The elder systur to sett before
   in wrschype that to wemen fell.
A new forward the festyd thore:
   oyder sevyn yere that he suld dwell
To be most maystur of ther store,
   and then he suld resave Rachell.
And forto make hym myght more,
   this connand mad thei amell:
To have yf ther fell any
   bestes of colours sere.
Swylke mad Jacob mony.
   How, that ye sall heyre.

come to him [as wife]; (see note)
showed no happiness; (t-note)
ill paid [for his seven years of service]
nothing to call his own

there was established

to wed; (t-note)


further incentive; (t-note)
contract they made between them
[For Jacob] to have; (see note)
livestock of diverse colors (i.e., not unicolor)
much wealth; (t-note)




When bellyng tym of bestes begane,
   os men by course of kynd may nevyn,
Unto the wud he wendes then
   and gat hym wandes mony and evyn.
The barke warly away he wan
   in sonder places, sex or seven,
And sett them wher the bestes rane.
   And so thrugh grace of God of Heven,
On the wandes ose thei lokyd
   and toke to them reward,
Som bar blake and som brokyd,
   sum skellyd and sum garde.

breeding; (t-note)
wood he goes
gathered to himself rods
carefully he peeled

as they looked
took regard to them
Some bore black; variegated
speckled; spotted




By the faurt yere were fully gone,
   Jacob had catell grett plenté.
He toke his wyfes and welth gud on,
   and karyd unto his awn cuntré.
Hys wyfes had servandes, ayther on,
   that servyd them in seyre degree.
Jacob fro spoushed sparyd none,
   bot made them all berand to be,
So that he had hymself,
   to rekyn old and yonge,
Of suns full semly twelfe;
   of them grett sede myght spryng.

By [the time] the fourth year was

in abundance
carried [them]
either one
wedlock; (t-note)

pregnant; (t-note)

twelve fine sons

[JACOB’S CHILDREN (29:31–30:24; 35:23–26)]




Sex of the suns com of Lya:
   Judas, Semeon, and Levi,
Ighachar, Zabulon, Ruben. All tha
   war born of hyr body
With a doghtur that heght Dyna.
   Then this two servandes had in hy
Dan, Neptalyn, Gad, Asser, no ma;
   so wer thei ten to tell schortly
When Rachell can begyn,
   then bayr scho, that worthy wyfe,
Joseph and Bynjamyn;
   with hym scho lyfyd hyr lyfe.

Six; (see note); (t-note)
Judah, Simeon
Issachar, Zebulun, Reuben; those; (t-note)
Naphtali; Asher
ten [sons]

(i.e., she died in childbirth)




Jacob was noyed on a nyght
   in his way os he wentt:
Hee wrestyld with an angell bryght
   that his on schank was all to schent.
That angell com from Hevyn on heght
   and told unto hym Goddes entent.
Israell was his name be ryght,
   and Jacob suld no moyr be ment.
Wherfor thus forther fell:
   all his lyneyg lese and moyre
Wer namyd chylder of Israel
   in werld heyr whyls thei woyre.

troubled; (see note)

one hip was utterly broken; (t-note)


his people all together (most and least)

while they were in this world

[JUDAH AND TAMAR (38:1–30)]



































Now in this processe or we passe,
   is gud the dedes forto dyscrye
Of the eldyst brothyr that hyght Judas;
   for on hym jones the genology.
His brothyr rewll he refusyd has
   and karyd into Chanaan,
And in that land wed he was
   with mekyll welth, os was worthy.
His wyf was fayr and free
   and bayre of hyr body
Thre suns semly to see;
   ther names heyr say sall I.

The fyrst hyght Her, os I herd tell,
   and Onam was the name of an other.
Thei wer both fayr of flesch and fell.
   and Sela men callyd the tother.
Full mekyll myrth was them amell,
   for thei had mobles mony afore.
And forthermer so yt befell
   that wedd was the eldyst brothyr.
He was eldyst and heyre.
   Ther weddyd thei were,
He and a woman full fayr;
   hyr name was Thamar.

Moyr semly woman myght none see,
   yf thei suld sech on yche syde.
Bot he was evyll in his degree;
   therfor he myght no langer abyd.
For wekydly then wastyd hee
   the sed that suld be multiplyd.
Therfor God ordand hym to be
   funden ded in that same tyde.
For he rewllyd hym not ryght,
   als course of kynd wyll tell:
The Fend on the fyrst nyght
   had forse hym forto fell.

Then of this dole had Judas dred
   And sayd unto his secund sun,
“Go thou, rayse up thi brother sed!”
   ose men then in this werld was wun.
Bot hee unethly dyd his dett
   evyn os his brothyr had begun;
Wherfor he servyd the same mede:
   or yt was day, ded was he fun.
Then Judas was full wrath
   when this tene was betyde,
And toght yt was grett wath
   to wed hyr with the thryde.

And he was yong to tell that tyd;
   therfor he hath consell tone:
He send hyr home — yt is nott to hyd —
   to hyr fader, that scho was fro gone,
And bad that scho suld thor abyd
   in wedohede with welth gud one.
And Judas wyfe in thos days dyed;
   then was he wedow levyd alone.
Servandes semly to se
   had his katell forto kepe,
For he had grett plenté
   of asses, nawtt, and schepe.

When Thamar herd thies tyghynges tell
   that Judas wyf was ded hym fra,
With hym then wer scho lever to dwell
   then with hys yongest sun Sela.
Of this mater mevyd scho amell
   and watyd hyr tyme forto ta.
And forthermer yt so befell
   that with his servand suld he ga
In clowes to clype his schepe,
   als custom was then thore.
Than Thamar tuke gud kepe
   and ordand fast therfor.

Hyr wedow wedes scho layd away,
   and hir face to schyn os glasse,
And cled hyr in full rych aray;
   for so scho trows to jape Judas.
Scho sett hyr on a somer day
   in the way wher he suld passe.
When he hyr say, soyn can he say,
   “Fayr woman, all my hert thou hasse.”
His servandes gart he go
   befor furth on ther way,
And allon levyd bot them two
   to make them myrth and play.

Then his entent he hyr told untyll;
   that yt was Thamar trowd he noyght.
“Woman, and thou wyll wyrke my wyll,
   then sall I send thee sone unsoght
A fayr kyd lame to kepe or kyll.”
   The woman answerd ose scho toght,
“Syr, I wyll have, as yt is skyll,
   a wede to byd tyll yt be broght.”
He sayd, “That sall thou have.”
   He toke the be all of his herme
And also his walkyng stafe;
   he kast both in hir berme.

Then was scho bown what he wold byd,
   for scho kepyd to have helpe therby.
And in that tyme so yt betyd:
   tway chylder bred in hyr body.
Then Judas went and deuly dyd
   hys schepe clyppyng withoutyn cry.
And scho wentt home and helyd and hyd,
   and all this processe prevely.
Judas a kyd then sent,
   as he had heght certayn.
Bot the woman was went,
   and the kyd broyght agayn.

Then Judas was grettly agayst
   and wroth, for his wedd was away.
[ . . . ]
   [ . . . ]
When thre monethyse wer playnly past,
   then Thamar feld full fell afray:
Hyr wome so wex that folke full fast
   demyd of dede ylke day.
Sum sayd that scho was gylty
   to God agayns ther law,
And sum sayd scho wer worthy
   therfor to hange and draw.

When Judas herd how all this wentt,
   he was full wroth, we may warrand.
He bad scho suld be aftur sentt,
   for all the dome hang in hys hand.
[ . . . ]
   [ . . . ]
To tell the sothe or take jugment
   aftur the law of the land.
Than Thamar was furth broyght,
   as the law was then usyd,
Bot so wysly scho wroght
   that scho was well excusyd.

Judas then spake with word bold
   and sayd, “The suth sall non man spare.
Thamar, the trewth bus heyr be told.
   who is defawt of all this fare?”
Then schewde scho furth his bee of gold,
   and hys stafe had scho redy ther.
[ . . . ]
   [ . . . ]
Then Judas knew all dele,
   and thus he sayd in hye,
“By this werke now wott I well
   that scho is wyser then I,

“And hyr ow forto beyr no blame.”
   So was scho savyd from scath and scorne.
And with wrschyp scho wund at hame
   tyll tym hyr chylder suld be borne.
The meydwyf wyst and sayd the same
   that scho suld have twa men at morn.
The fyrst scho gafe Phares to name
   bycause that come furth beforne;
The secund son furth yede
   so like unto his brother
At the mydwyfe fest a thred
   to knaw on fro the tother.

When the secund past from his place,
   thei namyd hym Yaram, that thor werre.
The moyder, quen hyr was over past,
   was ferly fayn that thei well farre.
Then Holy Wrytt schews how yt was
   in genology of this charre,
And says thus, “Judas gendyrd has
   Phares and Yamar of Thamar.
Then gatt ther Phares Esrom.”
   Thes processe leve we playne,
And tell how Jacob come
   to his cuntré agayn.

narrative before we pass [on]
who was named Judah; (t-note)
hinges the genealogy [of Jesus]; (see note)
dominion (rule); (t-note)
journeyed into Canaan; (t-note)


Er; (t-note)
skin; complexion
movable goods; (t-note)

(i.e., in Canaan)
Tamar; (t-note)

A more beautiful
seek on each side (i.e., everywhere)
(Er) was wicked; (t-note)
(see note)
seed (i.e., the semen)

the course of nature will guide
(see note)
to die

second son (i.e., Onan)
in this world were accustomed [at that time]; (see note)
scarcely (not properly); duty (had sex)

(the Fiend); reward
before; dead was he found

sadness had occurred
thought; danger

he (i.e., Shelah) was young
he (i.e., Judah) has given advice

in abundance



would she rather live; (t-note)

decision she acted immediately
bided; take

an enclosure to shear his sheep

arranged things securely

widow’s weeds
and [made] her face shine as glass; (t-note)
clad; clothing; (t-note)
thus she intends to trick; (t-note)

saw, immediately

alone left

believed (knew) he not
if you do what I want

baby lamb

a pledge to await

bracelet off his arm

bosom; (t-note)

intended; (t-note)

two children (i.e., twins)
properly (dutifully)
kept quiet and hid

brought [back to Judah]

taken aback


judged her worthy of death then






truth; (see note)
must here
bracelet; (t-note)

I know well; (see note); (t-note)

she ought to bear

Perez; (see note)

That; fastened [on his hand]

Zerah, who there were
when her [childbirth] was finished
very happy
(see note)

These narratives; (t-note)

[DEATH OF ISAAC (35:27–29)]



When Jacob com to his cuntré,
   of hys moyder dede herd he tell.
Ysac, his fader, myght no see;
   for febylnes son seke he fell.
Ten of his suns then ordand hee
   to kepe his catell tham omell,
And Joseph and Bynjamyn to be
   ay styll at hom with hym to dwell.
An auter ther thei rayse
   to make sacrafyce,
And honerd God all ways
   with wrschyp on ther wyse.

death; (see note)

soon he fell sick [and died]
his (i.e., Jacob’s); then he (Jacob) ordered
ever remaining
altar; (see note)








Then Joseph dremyd with Goddes wyll
   and says his brethyr how he beheld,
How thei and he under a hyll
   geyddyrd scheffes fayr in the feld.
He sayd that hys schefe stod up styll,
   and elevyn unto his can held.
His brethyr toke gud entent ther tyll
   and toght that he wold wrschep weld.2
He sayd, “Sone and the mone
   and other sternys elevyn
War bown both morn and noyne
   to honour me full evyn.”

The elevyn had full grett hethyng
   and sayd to hym, “Be lyve, lett se:
What wold thou deme of this dremyng?
   Hoppes thou to guferne grett degree?
Or that thou sall over us be kyng,
   and we all suggettes unto thee?”
Than hatreyd in ther hertes thei hyng
   and toght that bargan suld not be.
Jacob in hert can hyd
   ther stevyns and held them styll.
And what so suld betyde,
   he prayd God to wyrke His wyll.


gathered sheaves
eleven; did bow; (t-note)
brothers paid close attention

Sun; moon
Were bound; afternoon

eleven [brothers]; contempt
Quickly, let [us] see
make of these dreams; (t-note)
Do you hope to govern [in]
thought that that outcome should
did hide in heart; (t-note)
their opinions and kept them quietly
whatever should happen; (see note)







Bott well he trowd in his entent
   that dreme suld men of myghtes more.
Hys brethyr of grett malys ment
   and sayd that suld hym son ryght sore.
Sythyn on a day was Joseph sent
   to se hys brethyr and als ther store.
Thai saw and sayd he suld be schentt
   for talys that he had told before.
Bot his brothir Ruben
   held hym owt of ther handes
And sold hym to strang men,
   and forto led into fer landes.

Then all tho ten hath tane to red
   to feyn a falshed for that fude,
To say he was etyn in a sted
   with wyld bestes, os thei understud.
And this to maynten with holhed
   thei wett his coyte with kyddes blud.
When Jacob herd his sun was ded,
   no wounder was thof he wer wude.
Of hym and all that hepe
   now lett we leve in hand,
And tell furth how Joseph
   was ledd furth into Egype land.

he (i.e., Joseph) believed; (t-note)
should mean more powerful things; (t-note)

also their goods
the stories (i.e., his dreams)
kept him from their hands

those ten [remaining sons] have decided
invent a lie; child
eaten in a place
coat with the blood of a goat; (t-note)

thereby; mad

Egypt’s; (t-note)




Puthefar he can hym lede
   to Pharo, that ther was kyng.
That stewerd wyf for his fayrhed
   can waytte Joseph in bowr to bryng.
And for he wold not do in dede,
   in downgyn depe scho dyd hym thryng.
And to hyr lord scho spake gud sped
   that he suld hast hym for hyng.
Bot when he presond was,
   two felows ther he fand
That wer for ther trespasse
   haldyn full herd in band.

Potiphar; did; lead
did contrive
Because; have intercourse [with her]
dungeon; caused him [to be] thrown
right away
[to] hang

hard in bondage




The kyng was with ther werkes wrath;
   butler and baker ther namys call.
Apon a nyght thei dremyd bath
   and told yt furth to grett and small.
And Joseph rede ther dremys full rath
   and sayd what son suld aftur fall:
The butler forto scape all scathe,
   and the baker to by for all.
So was the butler ryght
   resavyd the kyng beforne;
The bakster, als he heght,
   was hangyd at morne.

their behavior angry
they both dreamed

interpreted their dreams quickly; (t-note)
escape all harm; (t-note)
pay for everything (i.e., to be executed)

brought; before
as he (Joseph) predicted






Sythyn dremyd the kyng another nyght
   that mad hym mervell in his mode.
Hym toght he saw a selcoth syght:
   sevyn bestes com fatt from the folde,
And aftur them saw he ryght
   sevyn bestes leyne for fawt of fude.
Bot the leyn ware moyr of myght
   and stroyd the fatt evyn os thei stud.
His dreme he told the clerkes
   to constru by clergy,
Bott non cowd wytt what werkes
   that syght suld sygnyfye.

The butler spake then for his sped,
   “Lord, in your preson lyges in bend
A lele man of the Ebrew lede;
   of this mater can he make end.”
Then was Joseph tan forto rede
   this consell, ose the butler kend.
He bad the kyng tent and take hede
   how God suld in sevyn wyntur send
Of catell, corne plenté,
   all men to weld at wyll;
And other sevyn, sayd hee,
   men suld for hungur spyll.

what made him wonder in his mind
It seemed to him; marvelous; (see note)
beasts; fattened from the pen; (t-note)

lack of food
killed; (t-note)
by means of [their] wisdom

benefit; (t-note)
lies in bonds; (t-note)
loyal; Hebrew blood
give a solution
taken to give


following seven years
die; (t-note)





And when the kyng can understand
   that swylke defawt suld aftur fall,
He mad hym stewerd of his land,
   all men to come at his call.
Then in fyrst sevyn yere he ordand
   and geydderd corne of gret and small,
Wher with the folke ther fud he fand
   whyls hungur was in werld over all.
Hys kyn in Canaan
   for hungur was nere lorne.
His fader herd tell then
   that in Egyp was corne.

did understand
such famine

gathered; (t-note)
Therewith to; there food he provided
while; (everywhere else)
[Joseph’s] kinsmen
were nearly lost (dead)










Ten of hys suns sent he ther then
   for corn yf thei therby myght wyn.
To wen thei were full mere men,
   non levyd at home bot Byngemyn.
When Joseph saw his brethyr ten,
   he knew all ware comyn of a kyne.
Bot none of them cowd hym kene,
   for hegh a state that he was in.
He askyd them when thai come.
   Ruben and noe nother,
He sayd, “Ser, we have at home
   our fader and our yongest brothyr.

“That we were twelfe cownt we cane,
   bot on was dede, down in a dale,
With wyld bestes in Chanaan;
   for hym our fader hath mekyll bale.”
When Joseph herd, he wyst well than
   how that his fader in hele was hale.
In werld was not a myryer man;
   “Bott ferther,” he toght, “asay I sall.”
He toght to geddyr them, bryng
   Benjamyn hym beforne,
For thai twa was most yong
   and both of Rachell borne.

He sayd, “For soth, I sall you spyll
   bot yf ye be to my bedyng bayn.
Fyrst your sekkes sall I do fyll
   of corne to make your fader fayn.
Bryngys than Benjamyn me untyll;
   that yong boy wyll I se certayn.
And Symeon, he sall heyr byd styll
   in preson tyll ye come agayn.”
Thus sayd he to asay
   yf ther luf war fyne
Unto ther fader all way,
   and to that barne Benjamyn.

grain; buy; (t-note)
go; merry
none remained; Benjamin
one family; (see note); (t-note)

no other

one; killed; (t-note)

has much sadness

was still alive
I shall test [them]
thought to gather

those two (Joseph and Benjamin)

Then bring; unto me

Simeon; here await






Thei wentt furth, os he can them warn;
   ther was no consell forto crave.
Thai told ther fader how thai had farn,
   and Symeon laft, them all to sayve;
And them bad bryng the yongest barne,
   his helpe or hele yf thei wold have.
The fader toght loth hym to tharn;
   for rowth he remyd als he wold rave.3
Ther sylver, that thei noyght wyst,
   was in ther sekkes certayn,
That made hym have moyr trest
   to send them save agayn.

help to beg

to lose

did not know about





Agayn thei wentt full fayr in fere
   hertly to hold os thei had heght.
Then Jacob satt with sympyll chere,
   full drery both day and nyght.
Tyll Egypt son thei neghyd nere,
   and to Joseph thei went full wyght.
Of Benjamyn his brothyr dere
   had he grett hast to have a syght.
Bot that he was ther brothyr
   wold not he lett be herd,
Bot askyd ever on and other
   how ther fader ferd.

together; (t-note)


great eagerness

be known









Ther sekes he dyd to fyll that tyd
   and bad them wend ther way with wyn
With Symeon, that was besyd.
   Bot hastely ther blys can blyn.
A cupe of gold gart he then hyd
   within the seke of Benjamyn
So with that gawd to garre hym byd,
   for he toght thei twa suld not twyn.
In ther way as thei wentt
   and trowd of nokyns trayne,
Sun armyd men war sentt
   and broyght then Benjamyn agayn.

To Joseph fell thei down be dene,
   and he lett os he lufyd them noyght.
Unto them carpyd he wordes kene
   and sayd, “Fals thefes, what was your toght?
Yow forto beld bown have I bene,
   and wekydly heyr have ye wroght,
And of yourselfe yt sall be sene.”
   Als he dyd ther sekkes be soght,
His cowpe was fun with schame
   in the yongest brothir seke.
Joseph sayd he that same
   suld hyng hegh by the neke.

Judas sayd, “Mercy, lord, lett be;
   lett us not lose that lytyll knave.
Our fader toke hym unto me;
   I hyght hym sothly hym forto sayve,
And sertes bott yf he sound hym see,
   full sune sall he be grathyd in grave.
Lett hym go home, and dwell wyll we
   in hold, wherso ye wyll us have.”
When Joseph wyst ther wyll
   and saw them wepe so soyre,
“Brethyr,” he sayd, “be styll
   and mowne ye yow no more.”

go their way with joy
beside [them]
bliss did cease
he caused to be hid

trick to cause him to stay
be separated; (see note)

suspected no trickery
Soon [after them]

pretended that he loved
he uttered sharp words

comfort I have been prepared
wickedly here
shall be repaid
caused their sacks to be searched

same [one]
hang high; (see note)

let [it] be
placed him in my keeping
made him an honest vow to protect him
certainly unless he sees him safe
soon; laid in [his]
(see note)
so sorely





This tokyn to them he told,
   “When my fader to feld me sent,
I am the same man ye sold
   for twenty pennys of payment.”
Then all ther hertes began to cald;
   full well thei hopyd to have ben schent.
Bot Joseph sayd then, “Brethyr, be bold;
   I forgyf yow with gud entent.”
Thei kyssyd and for joy grett
   myrth was them amange.
And thus this meneye mett
   that mekyll spech of sprange.

evidence; he gave; (t-note)

to [grow] cold
they expected; been killed

company reunited
much talking arose





Then Joseph sent his brethir ten
   to foche his fader, wher thei hym fand,
And all ther kyn that thei cowd ken
   gart he bryng into Egyp land.
And in on yle that hyght Jessen,
   thor was ther wunyng well ordand.
His dreme was fayr fulfyllyd then,
   for all thei heldyd to his hand.
When Jacob das war weryd
   unto a hunderth faurty and sevyn,
He dyed and was enterd
   in Chanan, wher he had bene.

fetch; left
he caused [them to be] brought
region; Goshen; (see note)

days were done
147 [years]; (t-note)






Then had Joseph welth in weld
   of gold and sylver and gud store.
His brethyr gudly can hym be held
   with men and wyfes that with them were.
And aftur when he was of eld
   a hunderth yer ten and no more,
His saule to God then can he yeld,
   als all his helders had don before.
His brethyr ylkon
   within schort tym war dede;
Bott folke war full gud one
   that com of ther kynred.

And tho that aftur them can dwell,
   thei multyplyd ay mo and moe,
And wer namyd chylder of Israel,
   for Jacob name was schonged so.
Thei mad grett mornyng them amell,
   for Joseph was so fer them fro,
For afturwerd, os men may tell,
   ther welth was turn to wer and wo.
This buke then ende we thus,
   that is namyd Genesis.
To begyn Exodus
   God with His wyll us wysch.

in hand; (t-note)

well were under his protection

of age; (t-note)
one hundred ten years; (t-note)
soul; did he yield
as; elders
brothers all
[a] short time were dead
very much in abundance; (see note)

those who after
ever more and more; (t-note)
Jacob’s name was changed; (t-note)
mourning among themselves; (see note)
Joseph’s greatness was so far from them
(see note)
war and woe



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