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Book Of Judges


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.

3165–67 The cyté of Salem . . . Sythen cald Jerusalem. Judges 1:21 does not give the earlier name of the town. Nor does Joshua 15:63 or 2 Kings (2 Samuel) 5:6. The Paraphrase is parallel to OFP 26d here (“Tant unt conquis qu’il venent a Salem / Que chrestiens apelent Jerusalem”), which has probably either picked up the old name from Vulgate Psalm 76:2 or HS 2 Reg. 7 (1329), which corresponds to the 2 Kings passage cited above and in which Comestor discusses the etymology and history of the name Jerusalem (Ohlander, “Old French Parallels,” p. 211).

3187–88 Bot in Ebron fast have soyght / unto mowntans wher gyantes dweld. These two lines, K notes (1:clxxxvi), do not correspond precisely with Judges 1:20. The spies sent by Moses to reconnoiter the Promised Land report back, in Numbers 13:33, that giants — the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4 — live in the area, and among those locations that they have specifically visited is, indeed, Hebron. This exchange is perhaps behind HS Jud. 2 (1273): “Ascendit et Caleb in Hebron terram, scilicet gigantum, et percussis hostibus, plenius possedit eam,” which in turn has given the detail to OFP 26d (Ohlander, “Old French Parallels,” p. 212).

3239 Next Salen nere besyde. “Gibeah is identified with Tell el Ful, four miles north of Jerusalem” (NOAB, p. 327).

3241–88 The vengeance upon Benjamin for the rape and murder of the Levite’s con-cubine is out of place here, as it should follow Samson and Delilah rather than precede it. This alteration of events has no parallel in either HS or OFP, though Ohlander points out that the latter does, at least, correspond with the Paraphrase in ending Judges with Samson’s death (“Old French Parallels,” p. 212).

3245–46 An Ebrew com ther in the way / with his wyfe, full fayre and fre. Judges 19:1 specifies that the man is a Levite from near Ephraim, and the woman is his concubine from Bethlehem, rather than his wife.

3247–48 Amang themself then can thei say, / “Yond woman this nyght weld wyll we.” The Paraphrase-poet has omitted some of the less-savory details of this gruesome event. The man and his concubine, foreigners in the area, found shelter in the home of an old man, and the townspeople (all reported to be Benjaminites) surrounded the house and demanded that the foreigner be brought out so that they could “abuse him” (i.e., have intercourse with him, Judges 19:22). In order to prevent his own rape, the man took his concubine — most commentators, like the Paraphrase, have read this as his own wife — and “abandoned her to their wickedness” (Judges 19:25), allowing her to be raped all night. The woman manages to crawl back to the house at dawn but dies with her hand upon the threshold, where her master/husband finds her in the morning.

3257 He sent to cetys lesse and more. Again, the poet has cleaned up his text (see note to lines 3247–48, above), as Judges 19:29–30 reports that he does not just send word to all the parts of Israel that she needs to be avenged: using his sword he hacks her body into twelve pieces to be sent to the twelve parts of Israel.

3263 Ten thowsand sone. Presumably this is the first wave of fighting, led by Judah, in which Judges 20:21 reports Israelite losses as twenty-two thousand.

3267–68 For Fynyes then was not fayn / of the feyghyng, for all ware Jews. Phinehas’ reluctance short-circuits the biblical story, as it should not occur until a second day of the fighting, after several defeats. It is then that he asks God whether or not they should thus fight and kill their kin (Judges 20:28). The Lord answers yes, and He promises to deliver the Benjaminites into their hands on the third day.

3271 Twenty milia sone ware slayn. Judges 20:35 indicates that 25,100 Benjaminites were killed in Phinehas’ decisive attack.

3277–88 The twin stories of the women of Shiloh are here omitted entirely, probably as the picture they paint of Israelite behavior is far too dark for the positive account that the poet wished to create. According to Judges 21:1, the Israelites had sworn an oath not to give any of their daughters to the six hundred surviving men of the Benjaminites. Yet having wiped out all of the remainder of that lineage, they came to realize that they were facing the extinction of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Unable to provide wives from their own peoples due to the oath, the Israelites opted for two different methods of procuring wives for the six hundred. The first (Judges 21:1–14) involved a technical loophole: the town of Jabesh-gilead had sent no one to make the oath, so their daughters were fair game. The rest of the Israelites promptly killed all of the town’s inhabitants aside from four hundred young virgins who were brought to Shiloh where they were given to the surviving Benjaminites. Unfortunately, two hundred men were still without wives. So the Israelites then allowed the Benjaminites to abduct girls from the town of Shiloh when they were dancing in the fields (21:15–24). In other words, to repopulate the nearly extinct tribe the “other tribes resorted to murder, kidnap, and rape,” which “paints a pathetic picture of Israelite society” to close out the book of Judges (NOAB, p. 330). Here, of course, the book does not end, as the story has been moved to set the stage for the coming of Samson, marking him even more as an early “savior” of his people.

3279 Bot sex hunderth that fled on lyve. Judges 20:47 explains that the six hundred survivors fled to the rock of Rimmon, where they remained for four months while the victors pillaged their lands and set their homes to the torch. These survivors were all fighting men. See the note to lines 3277–88.

3313 Cenys. The Paraphrase-poet has misunderstood the name of this early judge. Properly speaking, this hero is not Kenaz, but the son of Kenaz, named Othniel (compare Judges 3:9). This is probably the result of misreading HS Jud. 5 (1274): “Othoniel, fratrem Caleb, quem Josephus Cenem vocat, quasi equivocum patri. Et dicitur Cenem, quasi Cenezaeus a loco.”

3355 aghtene yeres. Judges 3:30 has eighty years, as does HS Jud. 6 (1275).

3368 in batell to hym them betwene. Compare CM Cotton, line 16454.

3376–78 for hungar . . . no fode thei fand. That the Israelites were first stricken with a seven-year famine and then by the power of the Midianite and Amelekite invasions stands somewhat against Judges 6:1–6. In the biblical account, it is the invaders who for seven years cause the famine by destroying Israel’s crops. Perhaps the Paraphrase-poet desires to provide a stronger Israel that could not have been susceptible to attack.

3389 He in His trowth was trew. That is, God is true to His promise to protect Israel against its enemies.

3398 in a prevé stede. Judges 6:11 explains that Gideon did this work in private in order to keep it from the prying eyes of the oppressors, who would have destroyed or looted such things.

3405–08 he suld asay . . . that God His servant had hym sent. The poet skips over Gideon’s specific doubts and the first signs of divine presence, which are accounted in Judges 6:13–35. Instead, the Paraphrase moves quickly to the sign of the fleece.

3434 and fenys not for scheld ne spere. The detail about the men’s treatment of their weaponry is apparently an attempt on the part of the poet to produce a rational explanation for this puzzling biblical story. The Bible says nothing about weapons, explaining only that those who draw the water to their mouths will be better fighters than those who draw their mouths to the water. The former are associated with dogs in the Bible, just as the latter are associated with mules in the Paraphrase. The poet, clearly dissatisfied with such “explanations,” tries to explain that those who draw water to their mouths do so because they do not want to set down their weaponry and thus make better fighters.

3464 sexty fayr suns. Both Judges 8:30 and HS Jud. 9 (1281) agree on the number of sons as seventy.

3478 for gold and grett maystry. Again and again the Paraphrase-poet marks the falling away of the Israelites into idolatry as a result of avarice (compare line 3230), whereas the Bible tends more to view their wanderings from God as simple issues of religion: they are habitual idolaters, not habitual misers. That the Paraphrase alters this perception could be due to any number of factors, but two possibilities stand out most strongly. First, the poet may be altering in accordance with the stereotypical presentation of Jews as rich, greedy, and miserly. While this accords well with many late medieval perceptions of the Jews, it stands somewhat at odds with the otherwise positive portrayal of the Jews in his account. Another possibility, then, is that the poet is altering for the purpose of example, projecting a primary vice of his time back onto the biblical story in order to make a moral point for his audience.

3493 Gepte was a knyght in armys clere. Jephthah’s position as an outcast is unmentioned here. Judges 11:1–3 relates that he was the son of a prostitute who was driven away from his father’s home due to his unsavory mother. Perhaps such details are unworthy of the noble light that the poet seems so keen on casting upon his biblical subjects.

3517–88 In his edition of the story of Jephthah and his daughter, Peck observes that the Paraphrase-poet “alters several details of the Vulgate text by developing Jephthah’s concern for his daughter, his falling from his horse in grief, his daughter’s self-sacrificing responses to his vow; by deleting the daughter’s lament for her virginity; and by adding details of Jephthah’s execution of the vow with beheading and cremation” (Heroic Women from the Old Testament, p. 148). It is interesting to note that the poet does not follow HS Jud. 13 (1284) in his expansion and alteration of the tale. Clearly the drama of the story itself moved him to make such shifts.

3557 graunteys me grace two wekes to wake. Judges 11:37 records that she was given two months in order to mourn her virginity. Here, however, such mourning is done away with and replaced by what Peck calls “a premium on virginity” (Heroic Women from the Old Testament, p. 149). Thus, like the condemned Virginia in Chaucer’s Physician’s Tale, Jephthah’s daughter celebrates rather than mourns her chaste death; indeed, Virginia cites Jephthah’s daughter as an example for her willingness to suffer death at the hand of her father (CT VI[C]235–50).

3573–76 Therfor hyr fader noyght leved . . . and bad scho suld be brent. The detail of the beheading, like so many of the details in this expansion of the biblical story, is from the hand of the poet (see note to lines 3517–88). Both the Bible and HS record the offering as a burnt offering, saying nothing of her execution prior to being put to the flames. The added detail here — in addition to heightening simultaneously the horror and the mercy of the scene — emphasizes Jephthah’s blind obedience and nobility. He is noble in smiting off his daughter’s head with one clean stroke, thus diminishing her suffering, but he is also foolish in admirably not breaking his vow, as the poet protests: he should never have given the vow to begin with, and, having given the vow, he probably should not have kept it (lines 3581–84). The story, no doubt like Jephthah’s blade, is double-edged.

3592 Achyron. As Ohlander has observed, the Paraphrase-poet is in accordance with OFP 30b (“Apres cestui regna Abialon; / Dis anz apres e puis regna abdon”) in mistaking the burial place of the judge Elon for his name. Thus we have here not Elon, but Aijalon, the place where Elon is buried (“Old French Parallels,” p. 212); compare Judges 12:11–12.

3601–4440 It is interesting to compare the story here with other Samson stories in Middle English, such as CM, lines 7083–7262, Chaucer’s Monk’s Tale (CT VII [B2]2015–94), and Lydgate’s Fall of Princes 2.6336–6510. Generally, these fictional retellings emphasize the heroic quality of Samson’s story and his fall at the hands of a woman, rather than any theological characteristics (compare, too, Gower’s CA 8.2703–04, where Samson is with the company of the ill-fated lovers Paris, Troilus, and Hercules [CA 8.2529–60]). The Paraphrase, not surprisingly, follows precisely this line of purpose, treating the story as a romantic narrative. The poetic license that the Paraphrase-poet takes in working to this end is notable and, as Ohlander has observed, often parallels OFP (“Old French Parallels,” pp. 212–13). To record all variances of the Paraphrase from the biblical account would be superfluous, as this story has the feel of a set piece dropped into the otherwise straightforward paraphrasing of the Bible. For an overview of literary treatments of Samson, see DBTEL, pp. 677–79.

3605 Was haldyn chefe of chewalry. The Bible gives little detail about Manoah, but the poet seems to have no difficulty filling in the blanks with an anachron-istic reference to his chivalric qualities. It would make sense, of course, for the great warrior Samson to come from such stock.

3609–12 The mourning of Manoah’s wife over their inability to conceive a child stands in juxtaposition with the mourning over Jephthah’s daughter about her virgin fate.

3670 bare withowtyn blame. The language here, giving details original to the poet, borders on that reserved for Mary and the Immaculate Conception and birth of Christ. The basic features of that story have certainly been put into place here: a couple with no children, an annunciation by God’s angel, the doubts of the husband, a miraculous birth that leaves no blemish on the woman. Such relationships were familiar in the allegorical tradition of Christian biblical exegesis, where Samson was often viewed as a prefiguration of Jesus (see, e.g., Augustine’s Sermo de Samsone [PL 39:1639–45] or Isidore of Seville’s Mysticorum expositiones sacramentorum [PL 83:389–90]). But while the poet has heightened such connections with his various alterations to the story, he stops short of producing definite parallels. That is, though the poet pushes against the envelope of a literal reading of the text here, he does not go so far as to cross the border into allegorical exegesis: in the end the elu-sive parallels remain only allusive hints of deeper significance. On the essentially Victorine quality of such behavior, see the introduction.

3701 Hym toyght her. The poet’s use of dative of agency here is interesting. It is as if her beauty possesses him, making him passive in the face of it — which is, indeed, how most of Samson’s troubles begin.

3713 His moyder morned. The detail is not in the Bible, but the personal touch fits well with the poet’s work to heighten verisimilitude throughout this poem.

3845 Of turnamentes ther. The poet continues to paint his story in contemporary chivalric strokes, here presenting the tournaments that would accompany a fourteenth-century aristocratic wedding. In addition to presenting Samson as a man of knightly excellence, such details would no doubt put the poet’s audience into the romantic mindset, associating Samson more with Guy of Warwick, Bevis of Hampton, and other romance figures than with Gideon, Saul, and other biblical figures. For more on the blurring of the line between romance and Scripture in the Paraphrase, see the introduction.

3849–56 Becawse he was so strang . . . for ferd of fare that myght befall. The Paraphrase neatly explains the cause of the thirty people who follow Samson about the town, an offhand and unexplained detail given in Judges 14:11, by claiming that Samson’s prowess was so great that the people feared to leave him alone in town.

3873–74 Avyse yow . . . the question this es. The poet emphasizes Samson’s skills in rhetoric here and elsewhere. This brand of oratory in dialogue, a mannered rhetoric, heightens the ties to romance in this section of the poem.

3875–76 Owt of the herd come fode, / and of the swalowand swettenes. The need to meet rhyme has apparently taken precedence over the need to present an accurate rendition of the riddle: the terms have here been reversed. Judges 14:14 presents the riddle thus: “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” Strangely, the “revised” version of the riddle is almost more intelligible: “Out of the strong came forth food, and out of the eater came forth sweetness.”

3881 Of sevyn days respeyt thei hym prayd. In Judges 14:12 Samson presents a seven-day window as a part of the initial riddle agreement. The poet alters this, perhaps, to heighten Samson’s magnanimity, as he graciously allows them a full week at their request. Even his reply picks up the language of authority and grace: “I grawntt your askyng, sers” (line 3883).

3889 When thei had soyght faur days or fyve. The detail here, though seemingly insignificant, might tell us a great deal about the biblical text that the poet has at hand, as the Vulgate reads seven days, following the Hebrew (as does HS Jud. 17 [1287]). But the Greek (LXX) and Syriac versions of the text read four (a reading followed in most modern translations, such as NRSV). It is possible, then, that such a small difference provides further evidence of the poet’s reliance on Cassiodorus’ translation (see the introduction).

3985–4020 Samson’s response to the people of Timnah and his subsequent attack on Ashkelon are presented quite differently than they are in the Bible. Here, Samson’s response is to determine that he is at a disadvantage among the Philistines in Timnah, as they have a thirty-brute squad watching his every move. Samson is thus a calculating hero, willing to bide his time for revenge. Ashkelon becomes a way of passing the time, apparently, as he goes to rescue the beleaguered city and hand it over to its rightful owner, the Jews, who not incidentally point out that all of their grief is due to the Philistines (Ashkelon was actually historically a Philistine city, on the southern coast of the Mediterranean). The Bible, on the other hand, presents Samson as a man of immediate action in response to the deceptive Philistines in Timnah: he sets off at once for Ashkelon, and he plunders it for the reward that he gives to the men who “solved” the riddle. Such action, of course, does not well fit the romance hero that the Paraphrase-poet is working to present.

4043–44 Of swylke maner he noyed / Phylysteyns for his wyfe. The fate of Samson’s wife is not here given. Judges 15:6–8 relates that the Philistines, when they learned that Samson had destroyed their crops because of Samson’s wife, took the young woman and her father (who had given her to the second man) and burned them both. Samson, angered at this action, too, makes great slaughter among them to avenge the deaths of those whose actions had set in motion his initial need for vengeance. The tempestuousness of this Samson is here reduced, as the two sides, Philistine and Jew, good and evil, be-liever and pagan, hero and enemy, Samson and all comers, are much more clearly defined.

4097 He fand a cheke bone of an asse. The detail of the killing weapon (given in Judges 15:15–17) might be the ultimate source for the tradition that such an object was also utilized by Cain in killing Abel (see the note to line 236). A jawbone weapon, whether in the hands of Cain or Samson, is not as far-fetched as it might seem at first glance: NOAB notes that jawbones can easily be “worked into a sickle” (p. 322). Samson’s early story thus has vestiges of crops and harvesting throughout (note, for instance, the need for water in Samson’s “seson” in line 4127).

4184 Tabor, that was a heygh hyll. The Paraphrase ought to read Hebron, as does HS Jud. 18 (1289), following Judges 16:3. Tabor is, indeed, a high hill, but it is in the wrong part of the Holy Land, being in the north, near the Sea of Galilee, rather than in the south near the Dead Sea. To be sure, the geography is exaggerated in either case — Gaza to Hebron is almost a fifty mile trek with a vertical ascent of over three thousand feet — but we can hardly suspect that the poet knew enough of the geography (or intended his audience to be familiar enough with it) to make the exaggeration that much more exaggerated by tripling the distance that Samson carries the gates of Gaza. Perhaps, then, the poet has mistakenly transplanted Tabor from elsewhere in Judges: it is the staging ground for Deborah and Barak in 4:6, and it is where Gideon’s brothers are killed in 8:18.

4201 With wemen wold he wun and wend. The moralia of the story are clear, as the indomitable Samson proves Herculean to the core. Such readings of the story were common, especially in the all-too-often misogynist Middle Ages. See, for example, Abelard’s Planctus Israel super Samson, where connections, too, are made to Adam’s fall at the hand of a woman’s wiles.

4225 Dalida, doyghtur dere. The Bible does not actually say that Delilah was a Philistine, the Sorek valley being of mixed population. Nevertheless, her willingness to aid the Philistines has long been taken as indicative of her own ancestry — though this is only assumption. That Delilah is a harlot is not made clear in the Bible, but that tradition, too, has a long history, reaching back at least as far as Josephus (Jewish Antiquities 5.8.11). Pseudo-Philo not only regards her as a harlot but also as Samson’s wife (43.5).

4229 Wold thou qwayntly of hym enquere. It is difficult not to see a pun on qwayntly, which I have glossed as “cunningly.” Delilah will no doubt use her cunning to achieve her ends, but she will also use her cunt to effect her desires. The same pun is famously utilized in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale, when Nicholas, who is “ful subtile and ful queynte,” catches Alisoun by her “queynte” and has sex with her (CT I[A]3275–76).

4233–36 So may thou stynt all stryve, / and gyftes we sall thee gyfe / To lede a ladys lyve, / os lang os thou may lyfe. Though the poet follows so much of the tradition in associating Delilah with dangerous lust and wanton sexual behavior, thus making the story one that follows antifeminist traditions, he is apparently reluctant to allow such generalizations to stand without comment. Thus he problematizes such readings by introducing the possibility that Delilah is acting, if not entirely honorably, at least with ultimately good intentions: she is told that learning Samson’s secrets might lead to peace in the land. Even more, she is given the chance to lead the life of a “lady,” a term that would resonate in the late Middle Ages as the marker of a good woman, far from the life of harlotry that Delilah had previously led. These possible excuses are not paralleled in the Bible, but we must also observe that the poet is ultimately quite condemning of her despite these additional details; see line 4311.

4311 I deme hyr a dewle os I dare. A rare seemingly personal comment from the poet — whose occasional first-person intrusions are generally of simple narrative relation (e.g., “as I told you earlier”) — but an intrusion that fits in perfect consort with the long tradition of antifeminist readings of the Samson and Delilah story. E.g., Abelard, toward the end of his short poem Planctus Israel super Samson, writes:
O semper fortium
Ruinam maximam,
Et in exitium
Creatam feminam! (lines 54–57)

[O woman, always the greatest ruin of the strong,
and created to destroy!]
Even more pertinent for the Paraphrase-poet, of course, is Comestor, HS Jud. 19 (1289–90), who also regards Delilah as a type of the inconstant woman and makes a succinct and devastating attack on women in concluding his tale: “Omnis enim mulier fere naturaliter avara, et levis, unde addam: Quid levius flumine? flamen. Quid flamine? fama. Quid fama? mulier. Quid muliere? nihil.” [Everyone knows woman to be naturally greedy and fickle, to which I will add: What is more fickle than the river? Fire. What more than fire? Fame. What more than fame? Woman. What more than woman? Nothing].

4313–14 Now nedes Sampson forto beware, / les he be wrethed with his awn wand. The poet seems to be pushing a pun upon wand: if Samson might be chastised with a metaphorical rod of his own making it will be because of his inability to control the urging of his physical rod.

4339 Scho dyd hym drynke of dyverse wyn. In Judges 16:19 Samson simply falls asleep in Delilah’s lap. Here she gets him to drink himself into a stupor. This change clearly compounds her duplicity, while it also makes his lack of awareness more plausible. In addition, it allows the poet to make a moral point about the dangers of alcohol as well as the foolish rituals of sexual infatuation.

4341 So yll wemen wyll glose. Glossing, the act of interpreting a text (by commenting that can either clarify or obscure its meaning), has various reverberations in Middle English, ranging from the Summoner’s famous statement that “Glosynge is a glorious thyng, certeyn, / For lettre sleeth, so as we clerkes seyn” (CT III[D]1793–94) to the Wife of Bath’s happy proclamation that her fifth husband could wel “glose” her in bed when he handled her “bele chose” (CT III[D]509–10). The Paraphrase-poet, being a man of the letter, would surely attack the Summoner, but he might well confirm the Wife of Bath’s pride as the mark of a wicked woman’s glossing and its effects. It is interesting to note, in this regard, that the Wife of Bath reports that her husband Jankyn read her a sequence of stories about wicked women in order to convince her to behave more properly, beginning with the biblical examples of Eve and Delilah (CT III[D]721–23). His plan famously failed as she turned the tables (and the book) on him and got more of the marriage bridle in her hand than ever before. Chaucer’s repeated use of Delilah, an exegetical type of the inconstant woman, in the Wife’s Prologue is no mistake.

4343–44 For men sall not suppose / in them none yll entent. The sententious statement here functions like a full stop, tying up what has gone before. This literary device is used with frequency through Samson’s story.

4351 Hys hare scho cutt of ylka dele. In Judges 16:19 she calls a man into the room to shave off his hair, but in most popular imaginings of the tale, as here, she does the deed herself. Compare, for example, Milton’s Samson Agonistes or Albrecht Dürer’s 1493 woodcut.

4368 lady of landes. The legality of this title is noteworthy, as it makes Delilah into a woman of property, of estate and entitlement. See note to lines 4421–22.

4411–12 And on a pyller war thei brayd / that bare up all on ylka syde. Judges 16:29 records the structure as supported by two pillars, but the Paraphrase here parallels OFP in providing only one. Likely such a “centerpole” structure was more easily understood by poet and audience alike.

4419 ther by his bake myght rest. This additional detail (Judges 16:26 says only that he wants to “rest a little”) is a part of Samson’s lie, his use of rhetoric to destroy his enemies.

4421–22 Dame Dalyda on deese was drest / with mony a wyght in worthy wede. The Paraphrase-poet follows both popular tradition and OFP in specifically mentioning Delilah as present in the destruction and thereby killed (Ohlander, “Old French Parallels,” p. 213). The Bible says nothing of her fate.

4427–28 Bot the boy, that he can warne / to wend owt of the wons. That Samson warns the boy who has brought him to the pillar, and thus gives him time to escape the destruction, is a detail not found in the Bible. The Paraphrase is here parallel to OFP (Ohlander, “Old French Parallels,” p. 213).

4431 All for he wold that woman slo. Judges 16:28 gives Samson’s rationale as vengeance for the taking of his eyes, but the majority of medieval accounts, as here, center the vengeance on Delilah’s treachery. In CM, for instance, we find the remarkable detail (apparently original) that Samson pulls down the pagan temple not at a feast in honor of Dagon but at Delilah’s marriage feast (she having become engaged to a fellow Philistine behind Samson’s back); see CM, lines 7247–62. Later Renaissance retellings shifted the purpose of Samson’s final action once more, regarding Samson (in exegetical incarnation as a prefiguration of Christ) as a martyr whose sole desire in destroying the temple is to fulfill God’s bidding against the Philistines and their pagan god, Dagon (thus Milton’s Samson Agonistes or Francis Quarles’ Historie of Sampson). To some degree, this Renaissance view moves the commentary of the tale full circle, as Josephus, one of the first writers to treat Samson in any large way, casts Samson in a very sanctified light (see Jewish Antiquities 5.8.12).

4435–36 So wakynd weyre and mekyll wo / all throw a wekyd woman wyle. Ohlander notes (“Old French Parallels,” p. 213) that the Paraphrase-poet diverges from OFP considerably at this point:
The OFr. poet denounces woman’s cunning most energetically, one might say with great personal engagement. He addresses to Samson an earnest entreaty not to let himself be deceived, he holds up Adam and Joseph as warning examples. Then he exclaims: “Pur nent, seignurs, pur nent les chastiun, / L’engin de femme l’ad pris en mal laçun” (fol.33d). Against the background of this personal approach the ME. poet seems rather tame in his matter-of-fact statement.
4440 more yett men may lere. The more immediately to follow is Ruth, since the poet has altered the order of Judges (see note to lines 3241–88). The result juxtaposes Samson and Delilah with Ruth: Samson was unable to control his sexual impulses and could at times be disloyal to the Jewish cause; Ruth is profoundly loyal to the Jews (even if she is not one herself) and is in complete control of her impulses. Delilah is made the epitome of the worst of women; Ruth is made the best. Delilah is “wyld” while Ruth is “tame” (see line 4441). Though we cannot know whether this juxtaposition was intentional, it is effective. If one of the lessons of the Samson story as told by the poet is that people get what they deserve, it is a lesson that is continued in the story of Ruth. There is, indeed, more that men may lere.


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).

3157, 59 Lines indented to leave space for an initial capital; first letter of line 3157 writ¬ten in the middle of the space.

3171 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 30r): no heading.

3175 layd. S: inserted above the line.

3176 fell. So S, O, Stern (p. 281). L, K: few.

3184 bot. So L, K. S: bo.
unteld. So L, K. S: vntyll.

3191 land. So L, K. S: landes.

3197 thore. S: þer þore.

3207 God. So L, K. S omits.

3210 whyls. So L, K. S: whys.

3219 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 30v): no heading.

3228 kepe to. So L, K. S: to kepe.

3235 Bynjamyns. S: beniam byniamyns.

3239 nere. S: þ nere.

3248 we. S: inserted above the line.

3250 qwat2. So S. L: what. K: qwatt.

3263 thei. S, L, K: the.

3266 rews. S: s inserted below canceled ed.

3273 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 31r): no heading.

3276 syn. So L, K. S: sym.

3278 pyn. So L, K. S: payn.

3281 thryve. So L, K. S: thyrn.

3282 acordyd. So L, K. S: acordyng.

3297–98 So L, K. S omits lines.

3302 maynten. So L, K. S: mayntem.
hym. So L, K. S: he.

3308 them. So L, O. S, K: thei.

3323 come the. So L, O. S, K: come to the.

3327 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 31v): no heading.

3353 then ordand. So L, K. S: ordand þen.

3356 surely. So L, K. S: serely.

3357 regned. So L, K. S: remeued.

3381 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 32r): no heading.

3386 thei. So L, K. S: þat.
Hys. So L, K. S: hy.

3417 the. S: vnto þe cuntre.

3431 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 32v): no heading.

3445 Gedion. So K. S: Gedian. L: Gedeon.
yt. So L, K. S: ys.

3447 panyms. So L, K. S: payms.

3453 and. S: and þ.

3458 folke. So L, K. S omits.

3466 pyn. So L, K. S: payn, with a canceled.

3473 harnys. So L, O. S, K: armys.
owt. So L, O. S, K: of.

3481 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 33r): no heading.

3491 Gepte. So K. L: Iepta. S: Septe.

3493 Gepte. So K. L: Iepta. S: Septe.

3499 os. So L, K. S: of.

3502 to. So L, K. S omits.
myght. So L, K. S omits.

3505 hertly. So L, K. S: herthy.

3520 home. So L, K. S omits.

3521 byd. So L, K. S: hyd.

3523 saw. So L, K. S omits.

3526 not. So L, K. S omits.

3529 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 33v): no heading.

3538 comforth. So L, K. S: comferth.

3546 schent. S: inserted below the line.

3554 gud. S: gy gud.

3555 Leues. S: leys leues.
fader. So L, K. S omits.

3570 fader. So L, K. S omits.

3575 swopped. So K. S, L: swapped.

3577 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 16v): no heading.

3580 heddyd. S: he heddyd.

3581 be. So L, K. S omits.

3582 avysed. So L, O. S, K, P: abayst.

3583 Foyle vow. So L, K. S: ffeyle bow.

3584 sakles. So L, K. S: sakes.

3587 Both of. So S, L. K: of.

3592 Achyron. So S, K. L: Ailaon. The judge’s name is Elon (or Ahialon), as the L reading correctly reads. S’s Achyron appears to be tainted by Aijalon, which is the name of the place where Elon is buried.

3593 aght. Stern: VIII (Review, p. 281). S, K: XX. L: ?????? Compare Judges 12:14.
yere. So S, Stern (Review, p. 281). L, K omit.

3600 ware. S: inserted above canceled whar.

3603 in. So L, K. S: and.

3605 chewalry. S: chyl chewalry.

3606 worthy. So L, K. S: worth.

3612 Marginalia in S (at right of fol. 34v): Sampson.

3625 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 34v): no heading.

3627 of. So L, K. S omits.

3641 ferse. So L, K. S: forse.

3652 bycause. S: u inserted above the line.

3660 process. So L, K. S: processer.

3679 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 35r): no heading.

3694 Tanna. S: tannar.

3706 ther lay. So L, K. S: þat lady.

3720 he hys hert hade. So L, K. S: hys hert to hyre hade.

3724 kyng. So L, K. S: 3yng.

3729 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 35v): no heading.

3745 not. So L, K. S omits.

3763 forto. So L, K. S: fort.

3781 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 36r): no heading.

3816 to. S: inserted above canceled owt of.

3831 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 36v): no heading.
wore. So L, K. S: was borne.

3835 to. So L, K. S omits.

3841 of. S: oser of.

3852 tresty. So S. L: thryfty. K: trefty.

3864 abays. So O. S: abayst. L, K: abavst.

3868 it. So L, K. S omits.

3872 mony. S: inserted above canceled many.
to. S: inserted above the line.

3874 this. So L, K. S: þis þis.

3884 in hy. So L, K. S: a way.

3885 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 37r): no heading.

3890 clene. So L, K. S: clere.

3902 thiselfe. So S, L. K: thi folke.

3924 thryty. So L, K. S: thryrty.

3925 fayre. S: fader fayre.

3939 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 37v): no heading.

3941 How. So K. S, L: And how.

3944 lyon. S: inserted above the line.

3948 dyscrye. S: dr dsycrye.

3951 I not. So L, K. S: not I.

3956 fro. So L, K. S: to.

3957 is. So L, K. S omits.

3958 say. S: see say.

3962 sett. S: inserted above the line.

3968 mett. S: inserted below the line.

3987 if. So L, K. S: of.

3988 tyme. So L, K. S omits.

3990 well to deme. S: inserted below the line.

3991 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 38r): no heading.

3992 fayn. So L, K. S omits.

3997 has. S: corrected from hath.

4000 told. S: inserted above the line.

4010 fayn. S: inserted above the line.

4036 fers foxys. So Stern (Review, p. 281). S: fers wulfes. K: wulfes. L: wolves, corrected to foxes by a later hand.

4043 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 38v): no heading.

4046 was born. S: inserted above the line.

4058 mone. S: inserted above the line.

4062 S: scribe mistakenly copied line 4064 before canceling it and copying the correct line in the interlinear space.

4065 bynd. S: bryng bynd.

4071 lordes. So L, K. S: lord.

4075 he. So L, K. S omits.

4076 that ryot. So L, K. S: yt.

4083 bede. So L, K. S: bode.

4089 thei. So L, K. S: þer.

4090 thei. So L, K. S, Stern (Review, p. 281): þat.

4093 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 39r): no heading.

4094 well he. So L, K. S omits.

4099 panyms. So L, K. S: payms.

4106 them. So L, K. S omits.

4108 in. S: son in.

4117 God. S: w god.

4122 a. So L, K. S omits.

4134 moyght. S: inserted above canceled my3t.

4141 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 39v): no heading.

4165 whatso. S: t inserted above the line.

4179 fro. S: corrected from for.

4180 His. So L, K. S omits.

4182 postes. So L, O. S, K: postrons
tyll. S: inserted below the line.

4185 that. So L, K. S: þen, altered from þem.

4189 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 40r): no heading.

4198 he. So L, K. S omits.

4203 yf. So L, K. S: of.

4205 Soreth. So L, K. S: secrett.

4207 hert all hale to. So L, K. S: hale.

4218 thei. So L, K. S omits.

4222 dyssayve. So S, L. K: dyssauyue.

4230 wyghtnes. S: t inserted above the line.

4238 Marginalia in S (at bottom of fol. 40r): quintus.

4239 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 40v): no heading.

4243 myghtis. So L, O. S, K: myghis.

4251 me. So L, K. S omits.

4288 scho. S: scho sch.

4290 and. So L, K. S: A.

4291 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 41r): no heading.

4300 wast. S: inserted above the line.

4310 hed. So L, K. S: hend.

4314 be. So L, K. S omits.

4330 by. So L, K. S omits.

4333 pyn. So L, K. S: payn.

4337 fyn. So L, K. S: feyn.

4345 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 41v): no heading.

4353 delfull. So L, K. S: defull.

4358 hyd. S: inserted above the line.

4362 byd. S: inserted below the line.

4365 Gaza. So L, K. S: ga all.
ga. So L, K. S omits.

4380 gret. So L, K. S: gre.

4386 hyd. S: inserted below the line.

4388 dyd. So L, K. S: dy3t.

4389 hir. So L, K. S: his.

4399 Marginalia in S (at top of fol. 42r): no heading.

4424 that. S: and that.

4438 he. So L, K. S omits.



















When Josue, that gentyll knyght,
   was hent to Hevyn, ose men may here,
The Ebrews, men of grett myght,
   then leved in myrth full mony a yere.
And forto wyn that was ther ryght
   sadly thei soyght on sydes sere,
And Fynys for them to fyght
   ferd with the folke both farre and nere.
The cyté of Salem
   in the sort of Bynjamyn,
Sythen cald Jerusalem,
   that went thei forto wyn.

The cyté was both lang and wyde,
   warded and walled full well for were.
Thei segede yt on ylka syde
   with men of ermys and other geyre.
The Cananews war bold to byde;
   thei dowtede non to do them dere.
Bot at the last layd was ther pride;
   thei fand full fell folke them to fere.
Had thei lufed God lely,
   no man myght them have noyde.
Thei lyved in mawmentry,
   that dyde them be dystroyde.

The Ebrews enturd as thei toyght,
   and all ther enmys fast thei feld.
Thei spoled and spylt and spared noyght
   bot tresour that thei toke unteld.
And when thei hade ther werkes wroyght,
   at home no langer thei them held,
Bot in Ebron fast have soyght
   unto mowntans wher gyantes dweld.
When Fynyes them fand,
   he stroyde them in a thrawe
And delyverd all ther land
   to clerkes that keped the law.

Thei conqwerd marches, lesse and more,
   and welth enogh so can thei wyne.
Bot Salem, os I sayd before,
   fell in the sort of Byngemyn,
And therfor thus was ordand thore
   that thei and thers suld dwell therin.
That cyté sone can thei restore
   in grett comforth to all ther kyn.
Thei partyde them amang
   thresour by chaunse to chesse,
And so all can thei gang
   unto ther awn cetyse.

Thus ware the Ebrews ylkon
   logyde in the land of Canan.
Thei had no lord bot God allon
   forto do sewtt ne servyce than.
Ne forto noye them fand thei none,
   The commawnmentes kepe whyls thei cane.
Bot hastely thei hath mysgone,
   and Bynjamyns folke fyrst begane.
Both Moyses and Josue
   bad that thei suld them kepe
Fro folke of that cuntré
   and paynems feleschepe.

The lordes of Bynjamyn lynage
   to breke this bedyng hath begune,
When thei sufferd for certan stage
   the hethyn men amang them wun,
And towns lett thei for tripage,
   wherin Philystyyns was fun.
And paynyms, both man and page,
   to be ther servandes hath thei bun.
And evyn os thei began,
   all other soyne assent,
That unethes on man
   toke kepe to the commawndment.

In hertes thei war so sterne and stowt,
   for weltes of gud and grett maystri,
The law them lyst not leve ne lawt,
   bot lyved in lust and lechery.
By cawse thei had no werre withowt,
   amang them wex full grett envy,
And the Bynjamyns was most abowt
   to groche and greve God Allmighty.
That was schewed in schort tyd
   at the cyté of Gabaon,
Next Salen nere besyde,
   how fowle ther thei fon.

Joshua; (t-note)
as men can hear
to win that [land] was their right
many sides
fared; far and near
(see note)

guarded; for war
besieged; each side; (t-note)
arms; gear
feared none; harm
laid [low]; (t-note)
found a very strong people; frighten; (t-note)

untold; (t-note)
Hebron; (see note)
giants lived
destroyed; brief time
their; (t-note)
who maintained

wealth; did they win

holdings of Benjamin

shared among themselves
treasures chosen by lot (chance)
their own cities

every one
alone; (t-note)
homage nor service then
[were] kept; can; (t-note)
soon; misbehaved
began [the trouble]

keep themselves [away]
(i.e., Canaanites)
pagan fellowship (i.e., contact with Gentiles)

a certain time; (t-note)
to live
subjected; tribute
were found
pagans; boy

other [Israelites] soon assented
So that scarcely one

hearts; stout (i.e., hard-hearted)
wealth of goods; mastery [of lands]
pleased; believe; revere

wars without
grew; contention
Benjaminites were most likely; (t-note)
vex and anger
revealed in a short time
Jerusalem; (t-note)






Ther yt befell apon a day
   prowd Benjamyns with ther meneye
Wentt in a place them forto play
   befor the gattes of that ceté.
An Ebrew com ther in the way
   with his wyfe, full fayre and fre.
Amang themself then can thei say,
   “Yond woman this nyght weld wyll we.”
Ther curstnes so the kyd,
   qwat for scath and qwat for scorne,
For dedes thei to hyr dyde,
   scho was fun dede at morn.

Hyr husband then had mekyll care;
   no wonder was thof he were wo.
The body he toke and with hym bare
   to his cuntré, wher he com froo.
He sent to cetys lesse and more
   to Gabaon be lyfe at goo
Thor forto venge that fellows fare.
   And hastely thei hafe done so.
Bott thei that wroght this woghe
   within ware sterne and stowt;
Ten thowsand sone thei sloghe
   of them that ware withowt.

(see note)

(i.e., Gibeah)
An Israelite; (see note)

(see note)
possess; (t-note)
wickedness so they showed
whether; harm; contempt; (t-note)
found dead

much sadness
that because of this he was woeful

(see note)
at once to go
There to avenge that man’s reception

inside [the city] were strong
soon they slew; (see note); (t-note)
were outside [Gibeah]





Then ware the Ebrews put to payn,
   for that asawt full sore them rews.
For Fynyes then was not fayn
   of the feyghyng, for all ware Jews.
His host he sembled sone agayn,
   and to the rebels he remews.
Twenty milia sone ware slayn,
   for with them wold he take no trews.
Both wyf, chyld, and page
   thei byrttynd sone and brent.
So was all that lynage
   for ther syn schamly schent.

they rue; (t-note)
pleased; (see note)
and against; moves
boy; (t-note)
immediately cut to pieces and burned










Bycawse thei toke the trew manys wyfe,
   that progenyté was put to pyn
Bot sex hunderth that fled on lyve.
   Ther lyved no mo of all that lyne,
Qwylke aftur, qwen thei toyght to thryve,
   with other Ebrews acordyd syne.
And stylly so withowtyn stryfe
   thei saved the sort of Benjamyne.
All ther possessions playn
   to them thei con restore
And so ordand agayn
   twelfe, os thei ware before.

In Gabaon thei con them sese
   with other cytes large and lang.
Then leved the Ebrews all at ese;
   wold non with greve agayn them gange.
Als lang os thei wold God plese,
   was non in ward to wyrke them wrang.
And when thei melled other ways,
   sone mengyd myschef them amang.
When they left Moyses Law
   and to maumentres theym mende,
So Cananews couth knaw
   that God was not ther frend.

Then Fynyes dede aftur tytt
   that them to maynten ever hym melled.
Thei folowd all ther flesch delytt,
   and God His helpyng from them held.
Then Cananews withowt respett
   dang them down qwerso thei dweld:
Thus scaped thei not undyscumfeytt;
   Fylysteyns in feldes them felled.
Thus aboyde thei sorows sere,
   and no wrschepe thei wan.
This lastyd twenty yere,
   and thus fell aftur then.

(see note)
Except for 600 who fled alive; (see note)

Which; when; thought; (t-note)
[were] accorded then; (t-note)
quietly thus; battle
people of Benjamin

twelve [tribes], as


lived; ease
grievance against; go

in [their] rule; wrong
But; did otherwise
soon mischief mingled
Moses’ Law; (t-note)
idolatry; turned
Canaanites came to know

Phinehas soon afterward died
to assist them ever busied himself; (t-note)
their fleshly delights
escaped; punishment
Philistines; fields; (t-note)
endured; many
honor; won











A semly man, that Cenys hyght,
   of Judas generacion,
He proferd hym for them to fyght
   and unto batell mad hym bown.
Phylysteyns he putt to the flyght
   and feld ther foys in feld and town.
Sythyn faurty yere he rewled them ryght
   and dyed sone aftur that seson.
Then sone the folke can fon
   and wroyght as wryches unwyse.
So come the kyng Eglon
   with full mony Moabyse.

He conquerde cuntres to and fro
   and greved them with full grett owtrag:
Sum to byrn and sum to slo
   and sum thei sett in sere servage.
He toke the cyté of Jerico
   and putt the pepyll to pay trypage.
Hyt was his ded, for he dyed so;
   his lordschep last bot a lytill stage.
An Ebrew, that hyght Howade,
   that well cowd plese and playn,
Made Kyng Eglon oft glade
   with fals talyes that he cowd feyne.

Fell on a day the kyng and he
   ware in a chamber them alone.
He slogh the kyng in prevyté
   and laft hym ded, styll ose a stone.
And he wentt in the same ceté
   and warned the Ebrews ylkon
And bade thei suld son arayd be;
   ther enmys suld als tytt be tone.
When Moabyse wyst ther kyng
   was so dede, sone thei remeved
And fled both old and yyng,
   and Ebrews fast persewed.

In that persewyng hade thei payn:
   ther wold no cety them socour.
Ten milia of them was slayn,
   so ware thei stound in that stoure.
The Ebrews can then ordand
   Howade to be ther governowre.
To aghtene yeres was past playn,
   full surely saved he ther honour.
Then regned Senagar,
   that sex hunderth ons sloght
Of panyms, that prowd ware,
   with a soke of a ploght.

seemly; was called Kenaz; (see note)
Judah’s tribe

battle; ready

felled their foes in field
Then; ruled

began to behave wrongly
wretches unwise
came [against them]; Eglon; (t-note)

slay; (t-note)

made; tribute
little while

often happy
false stories; feign

It happened
slew; privacy

should immediately be prepared
quickly be taken
knew their
removed [themselves]

staggered in that battle
did; (t-note)
Until 18 years were fully past; (see note)
Shamgar; (t-note)
once killed
pagans; were
plowshare (coulter of a plow)

[DEBORAH AND BARAK (4:1–5:31)]



Sythyn Ebrews assent to syn
   and cowd not kepe ther laws clene,
Then com on them Kyng Jabyn
   with Cananews that ware full kene.
He wold no sesse to slo and byrn,
   bot sone aftur hade he tene.
Two Ebrews, comyn of gentyll kyn,
   in batell to hym them betwene.
Barrett and Debora
   thus ware thei named thore,
And well goverand thei two
   full faurty yere and more.

Then; assented to sin
their laws
cease to slay and burn
noble line
took; (see note)
Barak and Deborah

those two




When faurty yeres was fully past,
   for thei to God ware ever grochand,
In grett dyscumforth war thei cast
   for hungar that fell in that land.
And sevyn wynters, so lang yt last,
   to sympyll folke no fode thei fand.
Then unto God thei cryed full fast
   and prayd his help with hert and hand.
For als thei fayled mett,
   yett had thei mo enmys
That dyde them grevance grett:
   Madyans and Malachys.

famine that occurred; (see note)

food; found

even as they lacked food; (t-note)
more enemies
the Midianites and Amalekites

[CALL OF GIDEON (6:7–12)]






When thei to God ther kayrs knew,
   how thei agayns Hys wyll were went,
On Gedion, a gentyll Jew
   of ther awn lynage, hath He lent.
And for He in His trowth was trew,
   God hath His angell to hym sent,
Like unto a man in hyd and hew,
   and told hym how His maker ment
Forto aray hym ryght,
   both hert, hed, and hend.
And then wend furth to fyght,
   Goddes folke forto dyffend.

Gedeon was that same morne
   purveyd in a prevé stede
To clepe his schepe and thresch his corne
   so forto ordand cloghes and brede.
The angell that com hym beforne
   and broyght bodword os God hym bede,
He wened full well yt had ben scorne.
   Therfor he was full wyll of rede
And toyght he suld asay
   by some experiment
Whedder yt ware trew or nay
   that God His servant had hym sent.

sorrows confessed
against; had gone; (t-note)
One [man named] Gideon
their own people, God gave to them
because; promise was true; (see note)

flesh and appearance
[he] went

private place; (see note)
shear; thresh
make clothes and bread

message; ordered
fully imagined that it was a joke
test; (see note)

true or not

[SIGN OF THE FLEECE (6:36–40)]



A flesse he sprede befor his fette
   on the erthe and all nyght lett yt ly.
He sayd, “Yf this flese be wett
   tomorn at morn and the moldes dry,
Then wyll I trow and hertly hette
   this message is of God Allmighty.”
On the morn full drye was all the strett,
   and the flese wett. That was ferly.
Then the contrary
   he ordand at evyn latte:
At the morne the flese was dry
   and all the ways full waytte.

fleece; feet
lie [there on the ground]

tomorrow; earth is dry
believe and heartily be assured

opposite; (t-note)
bade late that evening







Gedion then trowed with trew entent
   that thies tokyns was trew and ryght.
He told the folke Goddes commawndment
   how he suld them dyffend in fyght.
He samed sone by on assent
   neyn milia to beyre armys bryght.
And God hym wysched, or ever he went,
   forto asay them in His syght.
He sayd, “Wende to the flome
   with all thi folke in fere
And make them all and sum
   to drynke of that water clere.

“All thoo that on ther fette up standes
   and fenys not for scheld ne spere
Bot takes the watur up with ther handes
   to drynke, tho sall do enmys dere.
And tho that lyges low on the sandes
   to drynke os a mule or a mere
Ledde them no ferther to other landes;
   thei ar not worth to wend in were.”
When thei com to the flude,
   ylk on heldyd down his hede.
Of tho that evyn up stude
   ware bot thre hunderth leved.

signs were true

gathered soon by one
9,000 [men] to bear arms
guided him, before
Go; river

those who on their feet stand up
let go; (see note)
do the enemy harm
those who kneel
worthy to go in war
each one bent down





When Gedion saw that yt was so,
   his hert began to hover and hone:
He wyst panyms wer mony moe,
   for of his folke wer left bot fone.
Bot God bad he suld boldly go
   and mell with them both morn and none.
“For sone,” he sayd, “thou sall them slo.”
   And als he demed, so was yt done.
Oreb and Zebe, thei two
   the hethyn folke con lede,
Zebee and Salmana,
   tho faur dyed at that dede.

waver and hesitate
pagans were many more [in number]; (t-note)
only few
intermix with them (the enemy)
Oreb and Zeeb; (t-note)

Zebah and Zalmunna
died at that battle






All ware thei dede and dyscumfeyt,
   the hethyn folke fully in fere.
Bot all this was not done so tytt;
   that batell was full strang to stere.
Gedion to rewle them had respeyt
   in rest and pese full faurty yere.
He leved lyfand withowtyn lyte
   sexty fayr suns of wemen sere.
The eldyst, Abymalech,
   putt his brethyr to pyn;
He wrogh a wofull cheke,
   that slogh fyfty and neyne.

When he had so his brethyr sloyn,
   of Sychym was he soveran syre.
Bot God hath vengiance on hym tane
   that sone he past fro that empyre:
Hys harnys was strekyn owt with a stone;
   he served to have no bettur hyre.
Then ware the Ebrews left alon;
   ylkon myght do ther awn desyre.
Of God thei had non aw
   for gold and grett maystry.
Therfor thei left His law
   and lyved in mawmentry.

dead and discomfited
heathen; all together; (t-note)
very difficult to manage
rule; respite
peace for forty years
left alive without flaw
sixty fair sons from many mothers; (see note)
brothers to pain; (t-note)

brothers slain
Shechem; sovereign sire
at once he disappeared
brain was struck out; (t-note)

no awe (reverence)
(see note)





Thei mad them goddes of gold and brasse
   and sayd tho same ther seyle had sent.
Then God full gretly greved was
   that thei so wrang agayns Hym went.
Enmys He putt on them to passe
   that them slow and ther cetes brynt
To tym thei kneled and cryd “alas”
   and turned to God with gud entent.
When thei ther trespasse knew,
   God send them sone socour:
On Gepte, a gentyll Jew,
   to be ther governowre.

themselves gods; (t-note)
those; their happiness

killed them; cities burned
Until [such] time [as]

trespasses confessed

One Jephthah; (t-note)

[JEPHTHAH (11:1–28)]



Gepte was a knyght in armys clere;
   fro bayle, he sayd, he suld them bryng.
A fayre lady he hade to fere,
   and both thei lyvyd to Goddes lovyng.
He had a doyghtur that was hym dere
   and no mo chyldder, old ne yyng.
To hyr befell, os men may heyre,
   full gret myschefe, a mervel thyng.
He send to cetys and town,
   to all that myght armys beyre
And bad thei suld be bown
   to wend with hym in were.

bright; (see note); (t-note)
to spouse

[to] him dear
no more children, old nor young
her; hear; (t-note)
bear; (t-note)
bade; ready
go; war

[JEPHTHAH’S VOW (11:29–33)]




Then unto God hertly he hett
   and mad a vowe with all his mayne:
That yf he myght the maystry geytt,
   als sone os he com home agayn,
The fyrst qwyke catell that he mett
   of his for Goddes sake suld be slayn,
In sacrafyce so forto sett.
   Thus sayd he suld be done certayn.
To batell then thei went
   withowtyn more respyte.
Ther enmys sone was schent,
   both slayn and dyscumfeytt.

heartily; promised; (t-note)
victory get
as soon as
living creature
God’s sake should
thus to set

enemies soon were destroyed

[JEPHTHAH’S DAUGHTER (11:34–12:7)]















Then past thei home with mekyll pride
   becawse thei wan the vyctory.
His doyghghtur herd, is not to hyde,
   hyr fader suld come home in hy.
Be lyfe scho went, and wold not byd,
   agayns hym with gud mynstralsy.
When he hyr saw, “Alas!” he cryed,
   “My doyghghtur dere, now sall thou dy!”
To his hors fette he fell —
   in sadyll he myght not sytte.
No tong in erth may tell
   what kare his hert had hytt.

So when he myght hymselfe stere,
   he toyght in hert how he had heyght:
To slo the fyrst that suld apeyre
   and sacrafyce yt in Goddes syght.
“Alas,” he sayd, “my doyghghtur dere,
   for my doyng thi dede is dyght.”
Scho prayd hyr fader to mend his chere
   and mad hym myrth all that scho myght.
The more that scho mad glee
   to comforth hym with all,
The more sore hert had he,
   for he wyst how yt suld fall.

“A, doyghtur,” he sayd, “I made a vowe
   to God when I to batell wentt:
Yf I of panyms myght have prow,
   what so com fyrst in my present,
That suld be slone — that same ys thou.
   Alas for my sake now bees thou schent.”
“Fader,” scho sayd, “I beseke yow
   be trew and tornes not your entent.
For bettur is that I dye,
   that may no thyng avayle,
Then so fayr cumpany
   os ye broyght from batelle.

“Sen ye heyght sacrafyce to make
   to God that goverans gud and yll,
Leues it not, fader, for my sake
   bot all your forward fast fulfyll.
Bot graunteys me grace two wekes to wake,
   to speke with lades lowd and styll
And of maydyns leve to take,
   and then do with me what ye wyll.”
He gafe hyre leve to gang
   with grefe and gretyng sore.
All that scho come amang
   ay menyd hyr more and more.

So went scho furth to mony a frend,
   that for hyre syghyng sayd, “Alas!”
All weped for wo os scho can wend,
   when thei wyst how that it was.
And when the tyme drogh nere the end
   that hyr fader assygned has,
Scho went agayn with wordes hend
   and proferd hyr with payn to pas.
Therfor hyr fader noyght leved;
   his sword in hand he hent
And swythly swopped of hyr hede
   and bad scho suld be brent.

Grett sorow yt was this syght to se;
   all weped that wyst of hyr wo.
Bot most sorow in hert had he
   that heddyd hyr and had no mo.
Swylke folys suld men be fayn to flee
   and be avysed or thei vow so.
Foyle vow is bettur to broken be
   then man or woman sakles slo.
Sex yere governd Gepte Ebrews
   and saved them from all angers yll
Both of Phylysteyns and Cananews,
   and then he dyed os was Goddes wyll.

journeyed; much; (see note)
heard, it cannot be hidden
haste; (t-note)
Quickly; wait; (t-note)
toward; singing
shall you die
horse’s feet
saddle; (t-note)
grief; struck

control; (t-note)

death is assured (predestined)
amend his mood

knew; befall

over the pagans; victory
you will be killed; (t-note)

true; turn


Since you promised
who governs; (t-note)
Abandon; (t-note)
promise precisely fulfill
grant; two weeks to mourn; (see note)
ladies publicly and privately

gave her permission to go
weeping sorrow
always grieved for her

woe as she did come [among them]
drew near
get on
delayed not; (see note)
quickly struck off her head; (t-note)
ordered [that] she should be burned


beheaded her; more [children]; (t-note)
Such follies; eager to avoid; (t-note)
considerate before; (t-note)
[A] foolish vow; (t-note)
than; guiltless slain; (t-note)
Six years





Next aftur Gepte regned Abessan,
   os clerkes knawn that con theron.
Grett wrschep in his tym he wan,
   and aftur hym regned Achyron
Ten yere; and aght yere aftur than
   gufernd a gud man, hyght Abdon.
And sythyn thei hade no mayster man:
   that mad them fowly to fone.
Thei forsoke Goddes servyce
   and to mawmentes tham ment.
Therfor with sere enmys
   sone ware thei schamed and schent.

reigned Ibzan
acknowledge who know about it
honor; won
Elon; (see note); (t-note)
eight years afterward; (t-note)
called Abdon
then they (the Israelites)
made; foully to live

idols; returned
many enemies
shamed and killed; (t-note)

[BIRTH OF SAMSON (13:1–24)]















To God thei fast con call and crye
   and dyd grett penance for ther plyght.
And He ordand then helpe in hye.
   An nobyll man, that Many hyght,
Was haldyn chefe of chewalry
   and had to wyfe a worthy wyght.
Bot chylder bare scho non hym by;
   therfor scho drowped day and nyght.
Grett mornyng made that myld
   and prayd in town and feld
That God suld send sum chyld
   that myght ther welthes weld.

So ose scho prayd with hert and hend,
   hyrselfe alone in her selere,
An angell saw scho by hyr lend
   in forme of man with face full clere.
“Woman,” he sayd, “thi mornyng mend;
   God takes entent to thi prayer.
A sone He sall to thee send,
   that sall governe tho folke in fere.
Of myght sall none be more
   on mold amang mankynd.
I warne thee thus before,
   as thou sall forther fynd.

“The Ebrews that in bayle ar brast
   sall he dyffend with forse in fyght.
Cutt not hys hare of for no hast,
   for therin sall be most his myght.
Ne lycour loke he non tast
   to make hym dronkyn day or nyght,
For therwith may his wyttes be wast
   to werke wrang, all yf he be wyght.”
When he had told this tale,
   no ferther of hym scho fand.
Scho toyght hyr hert was hale
   for joy of this tythand.

Unto hyr lord sone can scho tell
   of all this case, os scho can kayre:
How scho was werned with Goddes angell
   to beyr a chyld to be ther ayre,
And how he suld be ferse and fell
   and his forse in his fax suld fayre.
The gud man sayd, “No more thou mell;
   of swylke dedes I am in dyspayre.”
He trowde yt bot a trayn,
   and to hymself he sayd,
“Sum foyle to make hyr fayn
   hath broyght hyr in this brayde.”

Than all thof scho before was glade
   throgh bodword of the angell bryght,
Sone was scho sore and sume dele rade
   bycause hyr lord sett yt so lyght.
Scho prayd to God with semland sade
   to send sume tokyn to his syght
So that he myght have, als scho hade,
   gud hertyng from Hevyn on hyght.
Hymselfe made sacrafyce
   and prayd God of His grace
Forto wytt on what wyse
   this process com in place.

Sone aftur this then fell yt so,
   as thei prayd both with stabyll stevyn,
God send His angell to them two,
   and that same note he can them nevyn.
Manne then toke tent therto
   and loved the Lord of Lyght and Levyn.
For when the angell ferd them fro,
   thei saw how he was hent to Hevyn.
The wyfe sone wex with chyld
   and bare withowtyn blame
A barne to be ther byld.
   Sampson thei cald his name.

(see note)

ordained; haste; (t-note)
Manoah was called
considered supreme in chivalry; (see note); (t-note)
person; (t-note)
children bore she
drooped (moped)
mourning; gentle [woman]; (see note)
field (i.e., everywhere)

their happiness secure; (t-note)

heart and hand (i.e., with all her being)
private room
her standing

those peoples together

captivity are bound; (t-note)
his hair off for any reason; (t-note)

Nor liquor allow; taste
wits be wasted

thought; glad (whole)

her lord (husband)

bear; their heir
fierce and fell; (t-note)
strength; hair
believed; trick

fool; glad

Then although
good news
Now; she annoyed; a bit angry
a grave face
some sign

good hearing
[Manoah] himself

know in what way

it befell

news; mention
Manoah; took heed
went from them
bore without blemish; (see note)
child; their comfort

[SAMSON’S YOUTH (13:25)]






Phylysteyns had then maystry,
   And Ebrews was withowtyn beld.
This chyld was tent full tenderly;
   all wold his hele that hym beheld.
To batell bede he his body,
   as sone ose hee myght wepyns weld.
On mold was no man so myghty;
   The Phylystyens his felnes feld,
Ay whyls he leved Goddes law
   and keped His commawndment.
All men of hym had aw,
   in werld wherever he wentt.

His moder herd the angell say
   how that hys hore suld not be schorne.
Therfor scho dyde yt wex allway;
   so wex his myght mydday and morne.
Phylesteyns oft can he flay
   that was full fers and fell beforne,
Tyll ay at the last he lufed ther lay
   and went with them that wold hym scorne
To ther cyté that heyght
   Tanna, with thourys clene.
Thor saw he sone a syght,
   that sythyn turned hym to tene.

attended [to]
desired his safety
he took his
soon as; weapons wield
earth; (t-note)
fierceness felt
All the while


hair; shorn
allowed it to grow
thus grew his strength
Until; loved their law

their city that was called
Timnah; (t-note)
later; sadness














Evyn os he enturd that ceté,
   a semly madyn sone he mett,
Of fygur fayre and face full free;
   with full grett gladschepe scho hym grett.
Hym toyght her semly on to se;
   hys hert at all on hyr was sett,
And to hyr kynradyn carped he
   that hyr to wed wold he not lett.
Then was the Phylesteyns fayn
   to gare hym luf ther lay,
For thei trowde by sum trayn
   sum tyme hym to betray.

He playd hym thor lang os hym lyst
   with mekyll myrth betwen them twa.
His kynrede of this werke noyght wyst,
   for that cety was farre them fro.
His moyder morned, fro scho hym myst.
   Then toke he his leve in Tanna
And turned agayn unto his trest,
   his frendes that sojornde in Sarra.
He told them tales to the end
   of his dedes day and nyght,
And of that maydyn hende,
   how he hys hert hade heyght.

His moyder mornyd, and mony moe
   qwen thei herd tell of this tythyng.
Bot no of them durst say hym so
   to wreth hym, all yf he was kyng.
His fader sayd betwen them two,
   “Sun, yt is no semly thyng
With Philysteyns us forto go;
   thei hatte us Ebrews, old and yynge.
And Moyses in his law
   amonyst, als us menys,
That we suld ever us withdraw
   fro fals Phylysteyns.

“Us ow to lufe God Allmighty,
   as our forme faders dyd beforne.
Phylesteyns makes them mawmentry
   and honers them both evyn and morn.
Therfor, dere sone, sett not therby.
   We have thee sayved sen thou was borne;
Sayve now thiselfe fro socerry,
   els may thou lyghtly be forlorne.”
His moyder weped allway
   and sayd he suld be schent.
Bot all that thei cowde say
   myght not turne his entent.

And when thei saw yt myght not spede
   more forto lerne hym lowd ne styll,
Sum dele for luf, sum dele for drede,
   thei grawntt hym to have his wyll.
Sone afturward all same thei yode
   this foly forward to fulfyll,
And with fayr wordes tho folke to fede,
   throw spech yf thei myght yt spyll.
So soyght thei fro Sarra
   by wuddes and wastes wyld
And toke the way to Tanna
   with Sampson, ther semly chyld.

as; city
beautiful maiden soon

gladness she greeted him
He thought; look; (see note)

kindred he announced
cause; [to] love their ways; (t-note)
intended by some guile

there [as] long as he desired
much mirth; two
family; knew not

mourned; missed; (see note)
trusty ones

fair maiden
heart had promised; (t-note)

many more [did so, too]
anger; (t-note)


hate; Hebrews
admonished, as we recall

We ought to love
founding fathers did before
for themselves idols

preserved since
sorcery (corruption)


help; (t-note)
teach him publicaly or privately
Somewhat for love, somewhat for fear

all together they went
silly promise
those folk (the Philistines) to feed
through speeches to see if they might undo it
woods and wild wastes
















Then of sum torfurs men may tell,
   qwylke in that tyme to hym betyde.
For os thei wentt, swylke ferles fell,
   his herdenes may not be hyde.
Behynd his frendes os he con dwell,
   under a wud syde what so he dyde,
A lyon come hym forto qwell,
   for he saw none with hym abyde.
And the lyon ther he slogh
   evyn his twa handes betwen
And tyll a dyke hym drogh,
   for he suld not be sene.

When he had doyn this doyghty dede,
   that non wyst of bot only hee,
Aftur his frendes full fast he yede,
   os thei raked to that rych ceté.
Thor fand thei folke full fayre to fede,
   of Phylysteyns full grett plenté.
Bot that thei hethyn lyve can lede,
   more plesand pepyll myght non be.
To Manne and his fere
   full grett myrth can thei make
And gaf them drewres dere
   for Sampson, ther sun, sake.

To loke his lufe he wold nott lett
   for nothyng that myght betyde.
Befor hyr frendes furth was scho sett
   with mynstralcy and mekyll pryde.
Qwen Manne and that meneye mett
   and cause of ther comyng dyscryde,
A certan seson sone was sett,
   and sewrty layd for ayder syde
That Sampson suld hyre wede
   be swylke a certayn day.
His frendes was sore adrede,
   bot thei durst not say nay.

When all was sett so in certayn,
   thei sojournd thor bot schort seson.
Full fast thei hyed them home agayn
   to Sarra, a cety of renown.
Sampson was of this fayre full fayn;
   to batell fast he made hym bown.
He kyd that he was mekyll of mayn;
   Phylesteyns oft fast dang he down.
Thai that ware all abufe
   and leved ay so to last,
He putt them to reprove
   in all place wher he past.

All Ebrews folke he can dyffend
   and made fre that before was thrall.
And when the tym come nere the ende
   that was ordand amang them all,
Hys kynradyn holl that he kend
   bade he to be at his brydall.
And os thei ydderward can wend,
   a farly fare yett can fall:
That place persayved he
   wher he the lyon slogh,
And the bayns forto se
   to the dyke he hym drogh.

Evyn to that corse hys cowrse he kest,
   and sone he fand the bones dry.
Bees in the mowth had mad ther nest;
   a honycame he fand in hy.
He brake yt owt, so toyght hym best,
   and menyd to make some bourd therby.
Then raked he furth withowtyn rest
   tyll he come to his cumpany.
With the fayrest hony he fede
   his fader and moyder also,
And sythyn he brake and beyd
   to other frendes moo.

such marvels happened
[that] his hardiness; hid

wooded area whatever he was doing
lion; kill; (t-note)
he (the lion); waiting
he (Samson) killed
only his two hands
into a ditch he dragged it

brave deed
There found; feed

Except; led [a] heathen’s life
Manoah; company

dowries dear
their son’s sake

certainty; (t-note)
look [on]; cease

songs and much pride
When; company met
was made known
certain date soon
securities laid; either
would her wed

remained there only a short time

knew; great of strength
all above [the ground]
believed ever thus to endure
places; passed

free; enslaved
came near

family whole; honored
as they thitherward
wondrous thing
ditch he drew himself; (t-note)

corpse his course he followed
soon he found
honeycomb he found
intended; jest


then he broke and gave
more [of it]

[SAMSON’S MARRIAGE (14:10–11)]








And sum dele held he styll in store
   forto part with his paramowre,
For of all wemen that then wore
   of fayrnes myght scho beyre the floure.
And hastely when thei come thore,
   thei ware resayved with grett honowur.
And to fulfyll forward before,
   assygned thei certan day and howre.
Sampson wede that free
   with both ther frendes assent,
With all solempnité,
   and myrth that myght be ment.

Thor was solace of servyce sere;
   thei had sene non swylke bot the same.
Both beyrys and bullys and baran dere,
   ther wanted none wyld ne tame.
Of turnamentes ther men myght lere;
   who wold not hurle, hald hym at hame.
Bot to Sampson durst non apeyre:
   all dowt his hand that herd his name,
Becawse he was so strang.
   The Phylysteyns forthi
Ordand them amang
   of tresty men thrytty,

Qwylke thei well wyst was wyse and wyght
   and stalworthest in stede and stall,
Forto be nere hym day and nyght
   for ferd of fare that myght befall.
And when Sampson persayved that syght
   and all ther gawdes, grett and small,
A reson he devysyd and dyght
   forto asay ther wyttes withall.
Of the lyon that he slogh
   and of the came with hony
He made game gud enoght
   forto abays them by.

were [living]; (t-note)
bear the flower (be the best)

covenant; (t-note)

wedded that lovely damsel
their friends' assent

diverse courses; (t-note)
seen nothing like it until this
bears; bulls; fallow deer
there none lacked wild or domesticated meat
tournaments where; (see note)
joust, kept himself
none dared challenge
(see note)

thirty trustworthy men; (t-note)

knew were wise and capable
in every way

fear of events that might happen


test their wits
comb with honey
good enough
abash; (t-note)

[SAMSON’S RIDDLE (14:12–18)]

























“Sers,” he sayd, “I sall yow tell
   a taylle that sall our bowrdyng be,
And yf ye thrytty yow amell
   what it suld sygnyfye can see,
Thrytty cloghes of sylke to sell
   sall I gyfe yow in gud degré,
And yf ye fayle how yt befell,
   so mony sall ye gyf to me.
Avyse yow in your mode;
   the question this es:
Owt of the herd come fode,
   and of the swalowand swettenes.”

To them this reson he arayd
   and bad thei suld that case dyscrye.
Of the purpas thei ware not payd,
   bot his wyll durst thei not denye.
Of sevyn days respeyt thei hym prayd,
   to be avysed therfor fully.
“I grawntt your askyng, sers,” he sayd,
   and with tho wordes thei went in hy.
Thei dyde ther besenes
   this ylke lesson to lere.
Bot what the menyng was
   cowd thei not all cum nere.

When thei had soyght faur days or fyve
   by consell of ther clergy clene
And oft reherssed this lesson ryve,
   thei cowde not say what yt suld mene.
Then ware thei stede to strutt and stryve.
   So sayd on that had mekyll sene:
“We wytt yt never bot yf his wyfe
   may geytt yt told them two betwen.
Sen scho ys of our kyn,
   assay hyr sone we sall.
So may we wrschep wyn.”
   To this assentt thei all.

Two wysest of them to hyre wentt
   and sayd, “Syster, thiselfe to sayve,
Wytt of thi maystur what it ment,
   the mater that he wold us crave.
For and thou tell us his entent,
   grett helpyng of us sall thou have.
And yf thou suffer us to be schent,
   thee ware os gud be grathed in grave:
Sore vengance sall we take
   on thee and all thin.”
Scho sayd, “Sers, for yowr sake
   I sall assay hym syne.”

Sone afturward, when scho myght wyn
   alon with hyr lorde to dele,
Scho kyssed hym kyndly cheke and chyn
   and lett ose hyr luf was full lele.
“A, ser,” scho sayd, “ye sall have syne,
   your hert fro me yf ye oght hele.
I wyll forsake both kyth and kyn
   and wend with yow in wo and wele;
My hert ware comforth clene.
   Wole ye kyndly me kene
What that mater may meyne
   ye told to the thryty mene?”

“Gud leve,” he sayd, “lett be thi fayre
   to tyme that thei have done ther dede.
That mater wyll I not declare
   forto be nevynd for nokyns nede.”
Then sone scho sobed and syghyd sare
   and feyned hyr febyll by falshede.
Scho rent hyr cloghes and ruged hyr hare,
   os scho wold dye withowtyn drede.
When Sampson con hyre see
   so mowrne and make swylke chere,
He sayd, “Lemman, lett be;
   the lesson sall thou lere.”

He lered hyr fyrst of this lyon,
   how that he slogh hym with his hand,
And aftur when that thei come to town
   by the same way os he can wend,
How he in a dyke ther down
   fand the bones clene that he kend,
And how bees then had made them bown
   in the lyon mowth to loge and lend.
“The mowth,” he sayd, “that ette,
   and the bownes war hard and drye,
And the hony was swett;
   this case thei suld dyscrye.

“Bot wyfe,” he sayd, “this that is wroyght
   lett no man wytt be way ne strette.”
“A, ser,” scho sayd, “that wold I not,
   for all this werld heyre I yow hette.”
Bot in all hast that ever scho myght
   scho made hyre with tho men to mette.
A blyth bodword to them scho broyght
   of all this fare fro hed to fette.
Scho sayd, “This is certayn
   and soth, so sall ye say.”
Then ware thei ferly fayn
   and bold to byde that day.

Be this was sex days comyn and gone;
   the sevynt day was ther seson sett.
To Sampson wentt thei ylkon
   and sayd, “We come to do our dett.
What ys more hard then is the bone
   amang all fude that furth is fett,
And swettur thyng then hony is none
   in mowth, when yt is melled and mett.”
When Sampson herd them say
   so evyn unto his merke,
He wyst full well allway
   his wyfe had wroyght that werke.

And then persaved he properly
   qwy scho so stretly can hym enquere
The question forto com by,
   hyr lynage for scho wold yt lere.
Then carped he to that cumpany
   and told before tho folke in fere,
“I knaw all your confyderacy,
   And I answer in this manere:
What may bettur begyle
   A lele man, lowd or styll,
Then weked woman wyle,
   wher yt is turned unto yll.”

garments of silk
shall I give
Consider; mind; (see note)
is this; (t-note)
strong [thing] came food; (see note)
swallowing [thing came] sweetness

task; glad
For; respite; (see note)
take counsel

those; haste; (t-note)
their busyness; (t-note)
same answer to learn

(see note)
counselors; their simple clergy; (t-note)
often; frequently
disposed; strive [in anger]
one; much seen (experienced)

ask her soon

subject; from us seek
if you

are as good [as to] be laid


on cheek and chin
pretended that her love; loyal
have committed transgression
anything conceal
country and family
go; woe and weal
tale might mean [that]
men; (t-note)

Good love; your concern; (t-note)
until the time; their deed

mentioned for any kind of need
sobbed and sighed sorely
feigned herself enfeebled through
tore her clothes; messed up her hair

thus mourning; such moods

told her
as he can go
ditch; (t-note)
found; knew
themselves a home
lodge; (t-note)
bones were
describe; (t-note)

know in any way
here I promise you

those men to meet
glad tidings
from beginning to end; (t-note)
true; (t-note)
wondrously pleased

appointment; (t-note)
each one


mixed; (t-note)

close to his mark

why she so earnestly

those gathered folk

good; aloud or silently
a wicked woman’s wile









He wyst well how thrytty wore
   ordand, for gape men hym to geme.
Forthi, all if his myght was more,
   that tyme wold he not be breme.
Ther falshed schewed he them before
   that the woman wysched them well to deme.
Than langer hym lyst not sojorne thore:
   he wyst thei ware fayn hym to fleme.
He toke his men ylkon,
   all that myght armes beyre,
And went to Askalone,
   A cety walled fore were.

The cety fell, so has he fun,
   to Ebrews, his helders of old,
And then in bondeyg ware thei bown.
   Swylke tales to Sampson sone thei told:
Phylysteyns had the gaudes begun;
   sone ware thei feld os fee in fold.
That cety sone so he wun
   Ebrews to weld yt, as thei wold.
Then fayrd he furth them fro,
   And so his way he wendes
To sojorne in Sarra
   with his fader and his frendes.

Ther wuned he with them mony a weke,
   for of his fayre thei war full fayn.
Of Sersyns syde none he forsoke;
   who wold hym ware, sone ware thei slayn,
Tyll at the last talent hym toke
   to Tanna forto turne agayn
Hys wyfe, that he lufyd, forto loke,
   for whor he lufed he cowd not layn.
All yf scho fawted before,
   yett wold he frayst hyr ferr.
And so when he come thore,
   he fand hyr werkand werre.

thirty [men] were; (see note)
ordered, as bold; guard
fierce; (t-note)
had guided; to make answer; (t-note)
he desired to remain there no longer; (t-note)
anxious to drive him away; (t-note)

for war

found; (t-note)
bondage were they (the Jews) taken
Such; (t-note)
felled as cattle
he went away from them

stayed; many weeks
deeds; glad; (t-note)
He refused to fight against pagans (Saracens)
anger, soon were
where; deny
try her further
found her behaving even worse


















Sampson was forgeyttyn than,
   os unkouth man that is unknawn,
And scho wede with another man,
   that used hyr evynly os his awn.
Then Sampson bytturly can bane
   and sayd scho suld be hanged and drawn.
And bettur consell none he cane
   bot stroye the sede that thei have sawn.
He was so mased and moved,
   full mony he dang to dede,
And cautels he controvyd
   to harme all ther kynred.

In that same tym men suld begyn
   ther cornes into ther howse to kest.
He sembyld be a sutell gyn
   thre hunderth fers foxys from est and west,
And fyrebrandes that well wold byrne
   full fast unto ther taylis he fest;
That made them rasydly forto ryne
   to all was brent; so toyght hym best.
Cornes and wynes he dystroyd
   that suld susteyn ther lyve.
Of swylke maner he noyed
   Phylysteyns for his wyfe.

Yf he was wroth, none myght hym wytt;
   he went and wund wher he was born.
Phylysteyns had full grett dyspytt,
   for he had so dystroyd ther corne.
Thei sayd thei suld yt qwykly qwytt,
   and therto have thei othes sworne.
Full grett ost geydderd thei full tyte
   and sayd all Ebrews suld be lorne
On lese then thei wold send
   Sampson them untyll,
Bonden both his hende,
   to werke with hym ther wyll.

When that this soynd to them was send,
   the Ebrews made full mekyll mone.
Thei had no fors them to dyffend;
   therfor thei ware full wyll of wone.
No consell in that case thei kend,
   bot to Sampson thei wentt ylkon
And told hym all ther tale to end,
   and helpe bot hym how thei had none.
He bad thei suld hym bynd
   be lyve, no langer sese,
Both hys handes hym behynd
   so forto make them pese.

Then ware thei bold when he them bade:
   thei band his hend with cordes new.
Unto the lordes thei have hym lede,
   and in that tyme thei toke a trew.
When he with his enmyse was stede,
   thei wer full bown his bale to brew.
Bot of them was he not adred;
   he toyght thei suld that ryot rew.
So were Ebrews certayn
   that pese suld stably stand,
And Phylysteyns was fayn,
   for thei had hym in hand.

Hys frendes wer yett full wyll of rede,
   for thei wyst not what wold betyde.
His enmys bed no bettur bede
   then umsett hym on ylka syde.
He herd them deme he suld be dede,
   and when thei war most in ther pride,
He stert up sternly in that stede.
   to breke his bandes he wold not byd,
Sone ware thei sonder ylkon:
   thei myght dere hym no dele,
Bot wepyns had he ryght none
   and thei war armed well.

Non armowrs ne no helpe he hath,
   bot well he treste in Goddes grace.
And als God wold, ryght so yt was:
   sone had he comforth in that case.
He fand a cheke bone of an asse
   full sodanly in that same place.
Therwith of panyms gart he passe
   a thowssand lyves in lytyll space;
All that hym batell bede
   ware skomfett sone and slayn.
Thei ware full fayn that flede,
   and he leved alon.

forgotten then
she (his wife) wed to

just as his own

destroyed the crops; sown
beat to death
wiles he contrived

grain; cast
subtle contrivance
fierce foxes; (t-note)
firebrands (torches); burn
tails he fastened
swiftly to run
until; burnt

troubled; (see note); (t-note)

angry; blame
dwelled; (t-note)

their crops
quickly avenge

unto them
Bound; hands

moan; (t-note)
army; defend
were utterly lacking hope
solution; they knew

except for
ordered; bind; (t-note)
quickly; wait


bound his hands
enemies was placed
eager to make trouble for him
afraid; (t-note)
trouble rue; (t-note)

were glad

were at a loss for a plan
knew not what would come about
made; command; (t-note)
deem; dead

stood up strongly
break his bonds; wait
Soon; sundered altogether; (t-note)
could harm him in no way; (t-note)
Even though weapons

No armor; (t-note)
trusted; (t-note)

jawbone of an ass; (see note)

pagans did he take; (t-note)

discomfited soon
glad that fled
left [them] alone









He musterd that he was myghty
   amang them that ware maysters mast.
Then thanked he God full inwardly
   that hym hade helped so in hast.
For feghyng was his flesch so drye
   that bown he was to gyfe the gast.
And watur myght he non come by;
   in byttur bale so was he brast.
Then prayd he God in hy,
   als He at His awn lyst
Had send hym vyctorye,
   vochsave to sleke his threyst.

God was ay bown his bale to bete
   and unto beld hym forto bryng.
The asse bown lay at his fette,
   wherwith he can his enmys dyng.
Therof com watur cold and sweytt,
   os yt ware of a well spryng.
That slekyd hys threyst and slaked his hette.
   He thankyd God ever of all thyng:
Fyrst for the lyon
   He gafe hym grace to slo
And sythyn in this seson
   hath sayved his lyfe also.

Then wex he wygh, os he was are,
   by wonder werke that ther was wroyght.
Unto his frendes fast can he fare,
   that for hym had full mekyll toyght.
All that for hym before had kare,
   he made them myrth all that he moyght,
And all tho that ther enmys ware,
   under ther bondowm hath he broyght.
Whyls he wund in Sarraa,
   all folke he fand his frend,
Bot sythyn to Gasa
   toke hym talent to wend.

most dominant; (t-note)

quickly; (t-note)
fighting his throat was
ready; give up the ghost (i.e., die)

misery; bound
[to] God in haste


ever ready his misery; (t-note)
[jaw]bone; feet

sprung; (t-note)

then at this time

he grew strong, as; before
[the] wondrous work

much concern
might; (t-note)
enemies were
their power
While he dwelled in Zorah
then to Gaza
desire to go

[SAMSON AT GAZA (16:1–3)]












This Gasa was a grett cety;
   to fals Phylesteyns yt fell.
Of panyms wonned ther grett plenté
   that made grett maysterys them amell.
Ydder wentt Sampson oft to see
   a damsell that ther can dwell.
None durst hym warne wher he wold be
   for talys that thei of hym herd tell.
He fand defawtes before
   Phylysteyns forto treyst;
Bot sythyn he mett with more
   that made hym more abayst.

Hys lufe he wold not hele ne hyde,
   for no man sayng sett he by.
And so betyd yt on a tyde
   to Gasa past he prevely.
Bot sone Phylesteyns hym aspyd,
   how he come with no cumpany,
And how he buskyd hym forto abyd
   and all nyght with his leman ly.
By ther consell thei kest
   how that he suld be tone
And raysed owt of his rest
   and so sodanly slone.

Thei wyll not fayle whatso befall;
   therfor ther gattes speyre thei fast,
And sett gud wache apon the wall
   with wepyns that full well wold last.
Thei say no sylver sayve hym sall;
   his pompe and pryd suld sone be past.
Bot Sampson hath persayved all,
   how thei his ded devysed and cast.
When he hopyd no man herd,
   at mydnyght furth he meved
And fand the gattes all sperred;
   that gart hym be yll grevede.

Then wyst he well he was in wath;
   to God he prayd with stevyn full styll
Att helpe hym forto scape fro scath
   sen all hys wele was in His wyll.
Thor schewed he sone that he was wrath:
   both gattes and postes he puld hym tyll,
And on hys bake he bayre them bath
   to Tabor, that was a heygh hyll.
Phylysteyns that hym hattes
   than fand a fowle affray
When thei saw ther gattes
   both brokyn and borne away.

Full mekyll mone thei made that morne,
   and carfull was that cumpany;
That he ascaped them toyght yt scorne,
   for wo thei wyst wold fall therby.
Wher he was sum dele frend beforne,
   then was he foo and full enmy;
Wher he them fand, none was forborne
   that in Phylysteyns wold affy.
Them forto schame and schend
   with hand hade he none aw,
And Ebrews he mayntend
   and govarnd in Goddes law.

pagans (Gentiles) dwelled
warriors; among

dared warn him [off from]; wanted to be

man’s words
he went secretly
soon; espied

was accustomed; stay
lover lie


their gates they bolted shut
good watch

silver (i.e., ransom)

death devised and planned

found; barred

knew; danger
small still voice
That he should; escape from harm; (t-note)
welfare; (t-note)
There; angry
bore; both
Tabor; high; (see note)
hate; (t-note)

great moan; (t-note)
full of sadness
seemed shameful to them
troubles they knew; as a result
in some ways a friend before
foe; enemy
ally [themselves]
no fear; (t-note)








































With wemen wold he wun and wend;
   he ne royght whedder yt ware well or wrang.
All yf Phylysteyns ware noyght his frend,
   of them the fayrest wold he fang.
In Soreth can a lady lend
   that lemans lyfe had leved full lang.
Hys hert all hale to hare he mend;
   full mekyll myrth was them amang.
For scho wold hym begyle,
   with fayre chere scho hym fede.
Bot he wyst of no wyle
   and was nothyng adrede.

Scho was full fayre of hyd and hew,
   bot of hyr luf scho was full lyght.
Of hyr condicions noyght he knew;
   Dalyda that damsell heyght.
Phylysteyns was ever untrew:
   when thei of Sampson saw this syght,
Full prevely thei can persew
   to marre his maystry yf thei myght.
Thei wyst that woman cowde
   dyssayve hym by sum gyn.
Therfor thei melled with mouyth
   to gayre that bourd be gyne.

Thei sayd thus: “Dalida, doyghtur dere,
   Phylysteyns in thi fayth affy.
Sampson, thi felow and thi fere,
   thou wott he is our werst enmy.
Wold thou qwayntly of hym enquere
   wher in his wyghtnes most may ly
And warne us, for we sall be nere.
   Grett wrschep may thou wyn therby.
So may thou stynt all stryve,
   and gyftes we sall thee gyfe
To lede a ladys lyve,
   os lang os thou may lyfe.”

“Syrs,” scho sayd, “I sall asay
   and fand sum of his fors to fell.”
Sone aftur os he by hyr lay,
   full grett myrth made scho them amell.
Scho sayd, “Gud paramowre, I thee pray
   A lytyll tale me forto tell,
Sen thou so mekyll of myghtis may,
   wherin thi strengh is dyght to dwell.
So may I fully fele
   how thi luf to me lys.”
He dowted hyr sum dele
   and answerd on this wyse:

“Yf I ware bown, both hend and fette,
   with cordes that wald ryght well last,
So myght ylk man to be me mette,
   for then ware all my power past.”
That scho hym lufed full well, scho lett,
   tyll he on slepe was faln full fast.
Scho band hym full herd, I yow hette,
   and then a grett cry up scho cast,
For thei that can aspy
   suld wyn hym in ther weld.
He stert up stalworthyly;
   of hyr fayre noyght he feled.

He wyst nothyng how scho had wroght
   for he persaved no perell yett.
And that hyr warke was wast, hyr toyght;
   therfor scho frest another fytt.
Scho sayd, “Ser, and thou luf me oght,
   thou wold not se me soroand sytt
And namly for a thyng of noyght,
   qwylke by thi word that I wold wytt:
Wherin thy strengh is hyde.
   I kepe noyght elles to crave.
Sythyn als thiself wold byde,
   I wyll se yt to save.”

He sayd, “Dame, whoso wold me bynd
   with twanges schorn owt of a hyde,
Both my handes fast me behynd,
   then hastely war past my pryd.”
When he on slepe ware wardly blynd,
   to bynd hym wold scho not abyd.
And for Phylesteyns suld hym fynd
   or he was lawse, on lowd scho cryde.
He waked, os he noght wyst;
   the bandes in sonder brayde.
For scho hyr purpase myst;
   scho was nothyng well payd.

Bot furth yett, for scho wold not fayle,
   scho sayd, “Sen I no ferther found,
Yll may me lyke my long travele
   to be beswyked.” With that scho swound.
He sayd, “Whoso wold take a nale
   and fest yt fast into the grownd,
Yf enmys wold me then asayle,
   I suld have no strengh in that stownd.”
Scho broyght both nale and band
   and fest yt when he sleped
And drof yt with hyr hand
   down into the erth full depe.

Scho wakyn hym then with a cry,
   for his enmyse suld here in hast.
And when he start up stallworthyly,
   then wyst scho that hyr werke was wast.
Full mekyll moyne scho made for thi
   and sayd, “In bayle ever I am brayst,
Sen I se grayth incheson why
   thei lufe not me that I luf mast.”
Scho sayd in yre and angere,
   “Sen I werke so in vayne,
I sall lufe them no langer
   that lyst not luf agayne.”

Sone has scho chosyn another chare:
   scho weped and wrang both hed and hand.
I deme hyr a dewle os I dare;
   scho mad hyr als scho myght not stand.
Now nedes Sampson forto beware,
   les he be wrethed with his awn wand.
Bot for he saw hyr sogaytes fare,
   he wex a foyle, and that he fand.
He sayd, “Leman, be styll,
   no lenger lyst me layn.
Thou sall wytt all thi wyll;
   I say thee in certayn.

“My myght is haly in my hare
   so that yf yt were cutt of clene,
Then suld I be of myght no mare
   then other men before hath bene.
Bot leman, loke thou layn this lare;
   tell yt never bot us two betwene!”
“A, luf,” scho sayd, “well lever me ware
   forto be kylled with cayres kene.
Derly I sall yt dyght
   both by nyght and day
Forto maynten thi myght
   in all that ever I may.”

So sall Sampson be putt to pyn,
   that maysteres mad full mony a myle.
A woman with hyr weked ingyne
   has lorne that led — alas that whyle!
Of hyr falshed scho wold not fyn;
   full freke scho was hym forto fyle.
Scho dyd hym drynke of dyverse wyn
   with grett gladnes hym to begyle.
So yll wemen wyll glose
   them that thei wold have schent,
For men sall not suppose
   in them none yll entent.

Hyre solace was to hys unsele,
   becawse scho kest hym to betray.
When he of wyn was dronkyn wele,
   then was hys wytt all wast away.
He fell on slepe and myght not fele
   what folke to hym wold do or say.
Hys hare scho cutt of ylka dele,
   wherin his strengh and lykyng lay.
This was a delfull dede
   of all that ever was told,
For trest of mekyll mede
   made hyr to be so bold.

When this was done, scho mad a schowtt,
   for enmys suld here, that was hyd.
He wakynd and went withowtyn dowt
   forto have done, os he are dyde.
Bot fals Phylysteyns flokked abowt;
   to bynd hym sore non thurt them byd.
And sone both his eyn putt thei owt,
   because no kyndnes suld be kyd.
To Gaza thei gart hym ga
   both blynd and bun in bandes.
And the dewle Dalyda
   was made lady of landes.

He that myght fell all folke beforn,
   now is he fast with feturs fest.
Phylysteyns fast can hym scorne,
   for he had bene a grevus geyst.
At qwernes thei gart hym grynd ther corn,
   and fylth oft in his face thei kest,
And grett byrdyns that suld be borne
   to gayr hym beyre so toyght them best;
Tho fellows folke ware fayn
   to se hym fowle fare.
Ebrews ware put to payn;
   his kynradyn had gret kare.

In byttur bayle thus can he byde,
   ay bon to beyre what thei wold byde.
All way with hym thei flott and chyde,
   bot in the meyn tyd thus betyde:
His hare was waxin sum dele syde,
   wherin his strengh was holy hyd.
Therfor to venge hym he aspyd
   on dedes that Dalyda hym dyd.
Thrugh hir gyltry was he
   full yll turment and tened.
And venged wold he be,
   yf he hymself suld schend.

women he would dwell and hang out; (see note)
did not care
Even if; (t-note)
Sorek did dwell; (t-note)
a harlot’s life
altogether to her he gave over; (t-note)
much pleasure
knew; deception

beautiful skin and complexion
love; fickle
Delilah; was called


deceive; contrivance; (t-note)
capture that man by trickery

(see note)
cunningly; (see note)
strength; (t-note)

stop all strife; (see note)

lead a lady’s life
as long as you may live

find; strength to quench; (t-note)

Since; great; (t-note)
in this way

were bound; hand and foot

any; my match; (t-note)

until; fallen
bound; assure

overtake their power
her workings (the bindings); felt

peril yet
so her work was wasted, she thought
attempted; wicked stratagem
sit in sorrow
nothing (i.e., not worth a trifle)
which; know

have nothing else
Since you expect to stay
I expect to see it or else

straps cut

would my pride be passed away
asleep was blind to the world

before; loose
nothing knew
broke asunder

not a little angered

Since I’ve nothing better learned
My long labor suits me ill
hoodwinked; swooned; (t-note)

stick; (t-note)

should be here quickly
undertaking; (t-note)
lament; therefore
Since; clear cause
love most

will not love in return

wept and wrung; (t-note)
deem her a devil; (see note)
made as [if] she
(see note)
lest; grieved; own rod; (t-note)
regarded her as exceedingly fair
grew a fool, and that he revealed
does it please me to lie
know all you want

wholly; hair
off cleanly (shaved bare)
strength no more

conceal this information

love; I would prefer
terrible woe
take care of it

pain; (t-note)
who had made masteries for a long time
betrayed that man
stop; (t-note)
eager; defile
wines; (see note)

deceive; (see note)
suspect; (see note)

comforting; misfortune; (t-note)


hair she cut off every bit; (see note)
woeful deed; (t-note)

trust of much reward

enemies to hear, who were hidden; (t-note)
awoke; without fear
he did before
needed; (t-note)
soon; eyes
made him go; (t-note)
bound in bonds
devil Delilah
(see note)

destroy all people before
fetters strong

grievous guest
mills; made
make him bear
Those; happy
fare badly

kindred; trouble; (t-note)

always made to bear
meanwhile thus occurred
wholly concealed; (t-note)

deceit; (t-note)
tormented and aggrieved

[even] if; die











Ylke yere thei used to make a fest,
   qwylk may not fayle, bot yf thei fon,
And sacrafyce full mony a best
   unto ther god that heyght Dagon.
And now thei mad yt more honest,
   for thei had maystry of Sampson.
Ydder thei semled, most and lest,
   and broyght hym to be wonderd on.
As a best that was blynd
   he balturd furth them by;
Both before and behynd
   thei bunsched hym bytterly.

In a palays thei hath purvayd
   ther mangery with mekyll pride.
Full ryally it was arayd
   with wyndows and with wardes wyd.
Bot all on heyght the halles was grayd
   and selers beneth in to abyd,
And on a pyller war thei brayd
   that bare up all on ylka syde.
Sampson befor had seen
   the purpase of that place;
He toyght at turne to tene
   ther sang and ther solace.

He prayd a boy that lufed hym best
   unto the pyler hym forto lede
That he ther by his bake myght rest,
   for of swylk helpe had he grett nede.
Dame Dalyda on deese was drest
   with mony a wyght in worthy wede.
The pyler gart he bow and brest
   that all the halle in sonder yede.
Yt bare down man and barne
   and slew them all at ons
Bot the boy, that he can warne
   to wend owt of the wons.

Ten milia Phylysteyns and mo
   gart he be lorne in lytyll whyle,
All for he wold that woman slo
   that with hyr gaudes can hym begyll.
Sampson hymselfe was ded also;
   he mogh not passe from that perell,
So wakynd weyre and mekyll wo
   all throw a wekyd woman wyle.
The Ebrews all and sum
   governd he twenty yere.
Thus endes Judicum,
   bot more yett men may lere.

Each year; feast
their god who was called Dagon

There they assembled; (t-note)

hobbled along


their banquet; great
were prepared
pillar were they supported; (see note)
every side

thought in turn to harm
their song

back; (see note)
dais; seated
(see note)
man; clothes
into pieces went; (t-note)
It bore (fell) down

Except; (see note)

caused he to be killed
because; slay; (see note)
tricks; beguile
may; peril
Thus arose strife and much woe; (see note)
through a wicked woman’s wiles

learn; (see note)


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