John Mirk, Sermon on St. Katherine
JOHN MIRK, SERMON ON ST. KATHERINE: FOOTNOTES1 suche a day, on such and such a day [to be inserted by the speaker]; the whyche, who.
2 kyngus dowthur, king's daughter.
3-4 sette noghte be, cared nothing for.
5 lerud at the fulle, completely educated.
6 spyton, debate/dispute.
8 bollus, bulls; calveron, calves; dynote of, resounded with.
10 baldely, boldly; dude foule, did evil.
12 send, sent; hele, health.
13 skylle, discernment; bouthe, redeemed (bought).
14 bandam, power; warde, custody.
15 mythe ben a lesur to heron, could have time (be at leisure) to hear.
17 fathe, fetch.
18 spyton, debate.
19 hure, their.
20 hokur, scorn.
21-22 wyl the leste scoler . . . wyse inowh, when the humblest local scholar would have been wise enough.
27 cloth, piece of clothing; no none here, nor any hair; tamyd, injured.
28 os, as [if].
29 tene, anger; made to done Katerine nakyd, had Katherine stripped naked.
30 schoureges, whips (scourges).
32-33 fro thennus, from that place (thence).
35 yodon, [they] went.
38 bene stedefaste in the beleve, to be steadfast in the faith.
40-41 wende scheo hadde ben, thought she would be.
42 colvor, dove; poynte, condition.
44 tweyon whelus, twofold wheels; wondurly makuth, cunningly made.
45 kene, sharp.
46 torasud, sliced.
47 weles, wheels.
48 welys, wheels; pesus, pieces.
49 slow, killed (slew).
51 oponly, clearly (openly).
53 rason, tear; pappes, breasts.
54 so dudon, [they] did so.
55 knythes of hys felowes, fellow knights of his.
56 beheduth uchon, all beheaded.
57 byhatte, promised.
59 sette noghte be, cared nothing for.
63 wrowte, worked (wrought).
66 barrid, protected.
67 rial, royal.
68 fett theder, brought (fetched) there.
74 a knowelege, forewarning.
75 drawith to deethwarde, approaches death; derke, grow dim (darken).
78 aultere, altar.
82 the remanent, the rest; sille, sell.
83 her sustynaunce, their livelihood.
84-85 fast here evyn, fasted [on the] eve of her feast day.
87 Bothe, But; hudde, hid.
88 note, not; the hyndemaste, those coming behind.
90 knowon, recognize/acknowledge.
90-91 for encheson that, because.
91 knalache, recognition/honor; repentut, repented.
JOHN MIRK, SERMON ON ST. KATHERINE: EXPLANATORY NOTESAbbreviations: B = Bodleian Library MS Gough Eccl. Top. 4 (SC 17680), fols. 156v-158r; C = British Library MS Cotton Claudius A.ii, fols. 116r-117r [base text]; D = Durham University Library MS Cosin V.III.5, fols. 152r-154r; E = Theodor Erbe [EETS edition]; H 2371 = British Library MS Harley 2371, fols. 139v-141v; H 2391 = British Library MS Harley 2391, fols. 131r-133r; H 2403 = British Library MS Harley 2403, fols. 173v-175v; U = University College, Oxford MS 102, pp. 251-57 (on deposit in the Bodleian Library, Oxford).
2 kyngus dowthur. Katherine was the daughter of King Costus; see stanzaic Life, lines 49-50.
6 Maxencius. See explanatory note to the stanzaic Life, lines 10-12.
10 to worcheppon fendys. Katherine is speaking of the idols, which were commonly believed to harbor actual demons.
17 scole-maysteres. This term could conceivably mean university-trained experts in rhetoric or philosophy, but it could also mean just teachers in a grammar school. H 2403, which seems to belong to the same branch of the textual tradition as C, refers to them less ambiguously as grete doctours.
25-28 For Biblical parallels to this miracle, see explanatory note to the stanzaic Life, lines 225-28.
31-32 thritti dayes. In most retellings the length of this sentence is twelve days.
36-39 This vision of an angel with two golden crowns, betokening the impending martyrdom of the queen and Porphyrius, is not found in most versions of the Katherine legend. Readers of Chaucer will recall a similar vision in the Second Nun's retelling of the Cecilia legend, although there the crowns are made of roses and lilies, symbolizing both the saints' coming martyrdom and their virginity.
60 Notice that Katherine's final prayer is completely omitted in this version of the legend. See note on the Speculum Sacerdotale version, lines 28-36.
60-61 instede of blode ran oute whyte mylke. See explanatory note to the stanzaic Life, line 754.
62 twenti dayes jurney. This is a long time for the short journey from Alexandria to Mt. Sinai. On Mt. Sinai, see explanatory note to the stanzaic Life, lines 760-62.
69 the busshe whiche that oure Lord aperid inne. That is, the burning bush encountered by Moses (Exodus 3:1-6). The Burning Bush Chapel behind the altar of the monastery's church was a holy site as early as the fourth century. The burning bush is commonly associated with the Virgin Mary, who contained the fire of God without being consumed.
69-71 what tyme . . . the commandmentis. Although this text conflates God's first call to Moses from the burning bush and God's delivery to him of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19-20), they are separated of course by many momentous years in the history of Moses and the Israelites.
72-83 Miracles at the monastery. The great interest in oil from St. Katherine's Monastery ultimately stems from the belief that oil was miraculously exuded from Katherine's tomb which had healing properties. But that tradition, which is briefly described at the end of the stanzaic Life (lines 769-80), is conspicuously missing here, replaced by two miracle stories that would be much less likely to encourage pilgrimages to the monastery; the second one, in fact, can be read as debunking the usual claims for the monastery's oil by providing an alternative explanation of where it came from.
84-92 This exemplum, which underlines the importance of maintaining proper devotion to a patron saint, was told in connection with many saints, including the Virgin Mary, and with many variations in detail. A few MSS of Mirk's collection (including the base text for E's EETS edition) identify the inconstant devotee in this very story as a woman, and others give a fuller version of the story, as follows:
I rede of a man whiche lovid Saint Katerine passing wele, and for the grete devocioun that he hadde to hir, he fastid every yere on hir evyn brede and watir. And so it happid him at the last that he felle into the company of rechlesse peple, and left his fasting by comforte of hem and did as thaie didde. And than, on the night folowing, as he laie in his bed him thought he sawe a grete company of maidens comyng by him, and oon of hem was passing faire above al other. And so eche of hem had a crowne, and the feire maiden had a passing crowne above all other, whiche was Saint Kateryne. And as she come by this man, she hid hir face fro him and wolde not loke upon him. And than he askid oon of the maideny[s] what thaie were. And she answerid and saide, "We be virgins whiche sufferid martirdome for oure Lorde Jhesu Crist. And the chif of us that thoue seest look awaiward fro thee is Saint Kateryne. And bicause that thou leftist thie devocion and fastinge, that is the cause that she wil not loke on thee." And than this man was sorie and repentid him that he hadde so done amisse, and turned ayene to his devocion, and was aftirwarde a ful holy man. [text transcribed from D again; this version also in U and H 2371and H 2391].
JOHN MIRK, SERMON ON ST. KATHERINE: TEXTUAL NOTESAbbreviations: see explanatory notes.
1 Gode men. Some MSS add and women; others omit this whole salutation.
15 goddys. C: goddy.
28 wyth. C: omits.
37-38 the quenes heved and that other on. Words omitted from C, obviously because of an eyeskip, and supplied from other MSS.
41 scheo1.C: omits.
47 helpon. C: helpn.
51 rebukyng. Emendation from H 2403 and E's EETS edition; C has the less grammatical rebukyd.
59 goddys. C has god, but Maxentius worships multiple gods and the other MSS have plural forms.
61 angellys. C: an angellys.
65-83 These paragraphs are omitted from C, H 2403, and E's EETS edition, but found in a number of other MSS, including D (from which the text here has been transcribed), U, H 2371, and H 2391.
68 For here bonys were fett theder for. Words omitted from D; supplied from U.
89 scheo. C has he, but H 2403 and E have forms of she, which the context seems to demand.
92 Conclusion added in H 2371: . . . and went to blisse as God graunte that wee may, Amen.
Gode men, suche a day ye schul have Seynte Katerine day, the whyche was an
holy martir. Than ye schul knowon that Seynte Katerine was a kyngus dowthur.
But thogh scheo were comon of so hygh blode, for Goddys sake scheo sette noghte
be the pompe of the worlde, but sette hur herte alle in oure Lorde Jhesu Criste.
Wherefore whan scheo hadde ben at scole, and was lerud at the fulle and cowde
spyton wyth any clerke that com to scole, whan scheo herde that Maxencius the
Emperoure was comyn to the cyté of Alysaundyr to make a solemp offering to hys
goddys of bollus and calveron and othur bestus, so that alle the cyté dynote of the
noyse of hem, than Katerine blessyd hur and yode into the tempul to the Emperoure
and baldely rebukyd hym, and sayde he dude foule to worcheppon fendys and
leve the worschep that he schulde do to God of Heven, that made alle thing and
send hym lyf and hele and alle thing to hys nede, and prevyd be very reson and
skylle that Criste was God and bouthe mankynde on the Crosse wyth Hys deth
oute of the fendes bandam. Than badde the Emperoure don hure into warde tyl he
mythe ben a lesur to heron hure; for than he was so bysy to pleson hys goddys that
he mythe not tende to hur.
Than this menewhyle he made to fathe fyfty scole-maysteres of the wysest that
weron in any cuntré. And whan thei weron comyn, he badde hem gone and spyton
wyth Katerine and ovrecomen hur, and he wolde rewardon hem heyghly for hure
travayle. Than hadde the maysteres grete hokur that they caried were of so fere
cuntré to spyte wyth a womman, wyl the leste scoler of there hadde ben wyse
inowh to have ovrecomyn hure. But whan Katerine hadde spokyn wyth hem a
lytyl whyle, be helpe of the Holy Goste scheo convertyd hem, so that thei alle
levyd on Cryste and wyth gode wille woldon take deth for Hys love.
Than anone Maxencius commawnded to makon a grete horribul fyre and bren
hem alle therine. But God schewod there Hys miracul for hem, so that there was
no cloth that thei hadde no none here of here heved tamyd wyth the fyre, bot alle
lay dede be othor wyth as fayre chere os thei hadden ben on slepe. Than was the
Emperoure wode for tene, and made to done Katerine nakyd and so to beton hur
fayre body wyth schoureges, that alle hur fayre body was ful of woundes and
rennyng alle on blode, and made to putton hur into preson, to abyde there thritti
dayes wythoute mete or drink til he com ageyne, for nedys he muste gone fro
Bot the quene hadde a grete longyng to speke wyth Katerine and toke wyth
hure on a nyght a knyte that was kallud Porphyrius, and yodon to the preson and
spake wyth Katerine. And than see scheo an angel that hadde in eyther hande a
crowne of schynyng golde, and sette that one on the quenes heved and that other
on Porphyrius heved, and bad hem bene stedefaste in the beleve, for wythine the
thridde day thei schulde bothe com to God be martirdam.
Than come this Emperoure hom and anone sende aftur Katerine and wende
scheo hadde ben nygh dede for hungur, bot scheo was thanne alle thilk dayes
fedde wyth a colvor from Heven, so that scheo was in bettur poynte than scheo
was beforon. Wherefore this Emperoure was nygh wode and commawndyd to
sette Katerine betwene tweyon whelus that weron wondurly makuth, so that too
turnyd upwarde and too dounwarde, ful of kene hokus, so that too schuldon have
alle torasud hyre upwarde and othor too donwarde. But whan Katerine was sette
in these weles, scheo prayed to God to helpon hur. And anone ther com an angel
from Heven and smote alle the welys into pesus, os hit hadde ben a whyrwlewynde;
thei ronnon on the pepul and slow anone foure thowsand of hem.
Than sawe the quene this miracull and anone com doune before hure husbonde
and spak to hym boldely, rebukyng hym for he sagh Goddys myracul so oponly
and yitte wol not levon on God. Than anone this tyrande commawnded to lede
forth the quene and furste rason hur pappes wyth hokus from hur body and than
smyton of hur hed; and so dudon. Then on the morowh, for Porphirius hadde
beried the quene, he was takon and an hundred knythes of hys felowes, and weron
beheduth uchon for Goddys sake.
Than this Emperoure spake fayre to Katerine, and byhatte hure that he wolde
weddon hure and done hur alle the worchep that he cowthe, if scheo wolde forsakyn
Criste and levon on hys goddys. But for scheo sette noghte be hym ny be hys
goddys, he made to smyton of hure hedde. Than whan the hed was off, instede of
blode ran oute whyte mylke. And anone therwyth com angellys and tokon hur
body and bere it up into the eyre, and so forth twenti dayes jurney into the mounte
of Synay, and there byried itte wyth grete worchep where God hath wrowte many
grete miraclus, and yitte doth into this day.
For at the foot of this mount ther is an abbey of monkis whiche lyven in ful
grete abstinens. And so this abbey is ful strong and high wallid and barrid bicause
of wilde bestis. And in this abbey lieth Saint Kateryne in a rial tombe of alabastre.
For here bonys were fett theder for more worship and reverence. And also in this
abbey is the busshe whiche that oure Lord aperid inne what tyme that He spake to
Moises and what tyme that He delyvered to him the tablis of stone and of the
commandmentis. And that busshe unto this daie is as feir and as grene as it was
that same tyme that oure Lorde aperid therinne. Also in that same abbey is a grete
merveile, which is this. Every monk in this abbey hath a lampe brennyng with
oile. And what tyme ony of hem shal die, thaie shal have a knowelege by his
lampe. For evyn as he drawith to deethwarde, so his lampe will derke more and
more. And whan the abbot is deed, thaie shal singe a masse of the Holi Gost and
than bury him solemply. And by the tyme that the masse be done, theie shal finde
a lettre on the aultere and writen who shal be thair abbot.
Also another grete merveile ther is done there on Saint Kateryns daie, which is
this: that alle the birdis of the contrey as that daie comith thidir, and eche of hem
bringith a branche of olyve into the abbey. And pilgrimes sayn that the monkis
make hem oyle therof to serve her lampes all the yere, and the remanent they sille
for her sustynaunce.
[Narracio.] I rede of a man that furste servid Seynte Katerine and fast here
evyn, as many done, but aftyr he lafte of. Than in a vision he sagh a grete com-
pany of fayre maydenes comyng be hym, and among ham was one passing alle
othyr in bewté. Bothe whan sche com by this man, sheo hudde hure face and
wolde note lokyn on hym. Than askud he one of the hyndemaste whatte thei weron.
Than seyde scheo that thei weron alle seyntus of Heven, and that was Seynte
Katerine that hudde hure faas from hym and wolde note knowon hym, for encheson
that he hadde lafte the knalache of hur. Than this man repentut and turnid ageyne
to hys devociones as he hadde done before.