John Mirk, Sermon of the Conception of the Virgin Mary
JOHN MIRK, SERMON ON THE CONCEPTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY: FOOTNOTES1 Suche a day, On such and such a day [to be inserted by the speaker].
2 poyntes, reasons.
3 chesen, blessed.
5 departed his good in thre partyes, divided his property into three parts; on, one.
6 and othur, and others; that othur part, the second part.
8 gudnes, goodness; by, about.
9 weron yfere, [they] were together.
10 gentelnes, graciousness/nobility.
11 thagh, although.
12 were bareyn, [they] were barren; yef, if.
13 that shulden serve, so that it would serve.
15 nexbores, neighbors.
16 byschop, high priest; hette, was called.
17 hyt falluth not, it is not fitting.
18 othur that God hath geve frut, others to whom God has given children; aschomot, ashamed.
19 thus rebuk, this rebuke; schapardes, shepherds.
20 hulles, hills; purposed hym, intended.
21 eft, again.
22-23 that me ys woo, how unhappy I am.
23 fryt, offspring.
24 I wot never wydur, I have no idea where.
25 conford hure, comforted her.
26 a chyld such was never non lyk, such a child that there was never any like it.
27 angel word, angel's message.
28 as heo hadde be ded, as if she were dead.
29 lombe, lamb.
30 so dude, [he] did so.
31 evensong, vespers (the early evening service).
32 morwen, next day; a softe pas, quietly/slowly.
35 Gyldon, Golden.
37 heyly, fervently.
40 so conseyvet, so [she] conceived; boren, born.
41 wenet, weaned.
43 meke, humble/gentle/gracious/full of loving kindness; al hure dowyng, everything she did.
44 yet, even now.
46 peny-reve, manorial official with authority to collect rents.
47 gedred, collected; thefys set for hym, thieves lying in wait for him.
48 most nedus goo thorgh, necessarily had to pass through.
49 bythoght hym, remembered; oure Lady Sauter, our Lady's Psalter (the rosary); woned, accustomed.
50 dount, down.
51 garlon, garland; uch "Ave," each "Hail [Mary]."
52 ros, rose.
52-53 by that he hadde sayde, by the time he had said [it all].
53 schon therof, shone with its light.
54 cussed, kissed.
55 thefus, thieves; mayster, leader; seyen, seen.
60 for, since; adred, afraid.
63 yede hys way, [he] went his way; sokur, help.
64 how thus fest was furst yfonden, how this feast day was first established.
65 abbat, abbot.
66 on messager, as an envoy; in the see, enroute by sea.
68 wende to have be spyllyd anon, expected to be killed at once.
70-71 Yef thou wolt halwe, If you will hold sacred.
72 thus nede, this need.
73 with ful good wyll, and, [I will do it] gladly, if.
74 servyse of this fest, prescribed liturgy for this feast day.
75-76 The same . . . nativité into concepcyon, The same [liturgy] as for her Nativity, but replacing the word nativity with conception.
77 thus, this; sesed, ceased.
78 wedur, weather.
79 spede wel, succeed.
80 mad to prechen hyt alle the reme, had it preached throughout the kingdom; was halwyt, [it] was consecrated.
81 seculer chanon, a clergyman not living under the rule of a religious order; a watur, a [body of] water.
81-82 to have don advowtry, to commit adultery.
82 bot, boat; Matenes of oure Lady, the Matins portion of the Little Office of the Virgin.
82-83 Whyl he sayed Invitaterium, While he was saying the Invitatory (just beginning the service).
84 hadde hym to peyne, took him to be tortured [in hell].
85 in here servyse, in their service; in myn houres, performing the liturgy in my honor.
86 restoret hym to lyve, restored him to life; don avoutri, commit adultery.
87 halwe, hold sacred.
88 wonot, accustomed.
89 fel, happened.
89-90 shulde han a wyf, was about to get married.
90 hadde a mynde, remembered.
93 antyme, antiphon.
94 onest, honorable/virtuous/decorous.
96 And thou wolt, If you will; flesly wyf, earthly/carnal wife.
97 spose, spouse.
JOHN MIRK, SERMON ON THE CONCEPTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY: EXPLANATORY NOTES4-7 Compare Bokenham's Life of St. Anne, lines 251-57. The details Mirk gives here conform with the version of the legend in Pseudo-Matthew, ch. 1, which attributes the division of the property entirely to Joachym himself, beginning at the age of fifteen, rather than to Joachym and Anne together after their marriage (as in the version given by the Legenda aurea and Bokenham).
8-9 Joachym's age at the time of the marriage is another detail from Pseudo-Matthew.
25-33 This part of the story is drastically abbreviated in Mirk's version (by comparison with Pseudo-Matthew, Bokenham, and even the Legenda aurea, which entirely omits Anne's lamentation and the angel's first appearance to her).
37-39 Anne's expression of thanksgiving here is somewhat expanded from the version found in Pseudo-Matthew (ch. 3) and elsewhere. Compare Bokenham's Life of Anne, lines 572-79.
42-45 The Pseudo-Matthew gives a much longer account of the virtues of the young Mary as she grows up in the temple (ch. 6) and has a very different explanation of how she came to be called the queen of virgins (end of ch. 8). Bokenham's Life of Anne has nothing similar to these lines at all.
46 Narracio. Strictly speaking, this Latin term just means "narrative," but in the Mirk MSS it seems to identify self-standing anecdotes that might easily be detached from their present context and used when writing or preaching on other topics.
49 oure Lady Sauter. The MED explains that the series of prayers recited on a rosary acquired the name "our Lady's Psalter" because there were fifteen decades of Ave's, corresponding to the 150 Psalms (see sauter n. 1. [f]).
65 Ramesey. Ramsey Abbey, founded in 969, was one of the largest and best-endowed Benedictine monasteries in medieval England. It was located in Huntingdonshire, about 10 miles southeast of Peterborough.
71-72 the secunde day aftur Seynt Nycholas Day. That is, December 8 (exactly nine months before the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin, which was already well-established on September 8).
73-74 what schal be the servyse of this fest. The question would apply primarily to the Daily Office, which had an elaborate set of special readings, antiphons, responsories, and hymns for each important feast day in the calendar, rather than to the Mass, which was changed relatively little on such occasions. The answer attributed to the heavenly messenger in this story - that the liturgy to be used for the Conception of the Virgin should be exactly the same as that for her Nativity except for the replacement of one word - agrees with the directions given in most English breviaries written after about 1350, but earlier breviaries give several competing versions of the liturgy for the Conception, showing that there was considerable diversity of opinion at the start.
82 Matenes of oure Lady. This was not part of the Daily Office that was required of all clergy, but a much simpler and briefer set of private readings, prayers, and hymns that was added by those members of the clergy who wished to express special devotion to the Virgin Mary and was also used by devout members of the laity. The Little Office of the Virgin (which begins with the hour of Matins) was one of the principal items in books of hours.
85 The joke in this story depends on the two possible meanings of the word service. The devils say the sinful canon was in their service because he was "doing the devil's work," or preparing to, when he set out on his journey with the purpose of committing a grave sin. The Virgin Mary trumps their claim with the clever and truthful reply that he was actually engaged in her service (that is, performing the liturgy of the hours in her honor) at the time of his death.
88-98 There is a slightly different version of this anecdote in the Legenda aurea chapter on the Nativity of the Virgin (Jacobus de Voragine, trans. Ryan, 2.156).
93 "Quam pulcra es et quam decora." The antiphon begins, "How fair you are and how worthy of honor" - that is, with the same adjectives the Virgin Mary will recite back to the clerk when she remonstrates with him for being unfaithful to her. If she has the qualities of a perfect bride, why is he about to marry another woman in her place?
JOHN MIRK, SERMON ON THE CONCEPTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY: TEXTUAL NOTESAbbreviations: C = British Library MS Cotton Claudius A.ii, fols. 11v-13r [base text]; H 2403 = British Library MS Harley 2403, fols. 10r-12r; H 2417 = British Libary MS Harley 2417, fols. 15v-17r; G = Bodleian Library MS Gough Eccl. Top. 4 (SC 17680), fols. 8v-10v; Dd = Cambridge University Library MS Dd.X.50, fols. 9r-11r.
6 that3. Inserted above the line in C.
16 hym. Inserted above the line in C.
18 aschomot. The letter h inserted above the line in C.
19 tok. Inserted above the line in C.
27 syght. C: sygh. The other MSS have either syght or lyght.
32 a softe pas. C omits a, but the other MSS have a or (less frequently) on and the idiom seems to demand it.
41 aftur. Inserted above the line in C.
43 alle. Inserted above the line in C.
45 ys. Inserted above the line in C.
to2. Inserted in margin in C.
46 whech. Inserted above the line in C.
47 thefys. C: there thefys, with there canceled.
set. Preceded in C by the prefix y, erased.
50 dount. Preceded in C by the prefix a, erased.
51 and1. C: a.
54 don. Preceded in C by the prefix y, erased.
58 hed. Followed in C by another letter (d?), erased.
62 now. Inserted above the line in C.
64 heren. C: hren.
73 schal. Inserted above the line in C.
80 so was halwyt in Holy Chyrch. Some MSS add the words for evermore to this sentence and then continue with a claim that the influence of this vision and the men who responded to it have extended far beyond England: and so, out of the reme, hyt ys now cananyset [canonized] yn the courte of Rome, and halowet throgh all Crystyndome (quoted from G; similar wording in Dd and H 2403).
81-98 These two anecdotes are omitted from some MSS, including G, on which the EETS edition is based.
97-98 And also . . . the Concepcyon of me. Not a very conclusive note on which to end, but many MSS stop here. A few add Amen. H 2417 follows this anecdote with a closing formula: Now shull ye knele [adown? (conjectural)] and praye to the blessed mayden owre Lady Seynt Mary that hoe woll be your meene bytwyne here sone Jhesu Crist and yow, that He wol sende yow grace to kepe yow owt of all deedly synne. G (which omits the last two anecdotes) ends with a different closing formula: Now pray we to oure Lady wyth good entent of oure lyvyng to have amendement, and pray for us to hure Sonne that we may [be] wyth Hym yn Heven. Lady, we pray that hit soo be. Amen, amen pur charyté. H 2403 ends with Now, etc., apparently a reference to the same formula just quoted.
Suche a day ye schul have the Concepcyon of oure Lady, the whech day Holy
Chyrch makuth mensyon of the concepcyon of hure for thre specyal poyntes: for
hure fadur holynes, for hure modur goodnes, and for hure oune chesen mekenes.
Heo hadde a fadur that was kallud Joachym, that was of such holynes that, when
he was fyftene yere old, he departed his good in thre partyes: on to wydewes and
faderles chyldren and othur that weren pore and nedful; that othur part to ham that
servet God day and nyght in the temple; the thryd part he kepte to his houshold.
And when he was twenty yere old, for the gret gudnes that he herde and knewe by
Seynt Anne, he weddet hure, and weron yfere twenty yere. The whech tyme, Anne
never dysplesyd hym, by nyght ne by day, for the grete gentelnes that was with
hure. But thagh they were bothe good and holy, God gaf ham no frut of hure
body; but were bareyn bothe. Wherfore they maden a vow to Godde, yef He wold
gev hem a chyld, they wold offren hyt in the temple, that shulden serve God day
Then upon a day as Joachym with hys nexbores yod to the temple to don hys
offryng, the byschop, that hette Ysacar, rebukud hym opunlych and sayde,
"Joachim," quod he, "hyt falluth not to thee, that art bareyn, for to offren in com-
pany with othur that God hath geve frut in Israel." Then was Joachym so aschomot
with thus rebuk that he went hom wepyng, and privyly tok hys schapardes with
his schep, and yod forth in fer contré among hulles, and purposed hym to have
lyved there all his lyf-dayes, and never eft have seyn Anne, hys wyf.
Then was Anne sory, and prayed to God and sayde thus, "Lord, that me ys
woo, for I am bareyn and may have no fryt, and now more: myn hosbond ys gon
fro me, I wot never wydur. Lord, have mercy of me!"
Then, as scho prayed thus, an angel com to hure, and conford hure, and sayde,
"Anne, be of good conford. Thou schal han a chyld such was never non lyk ne
never schal bee." Then was Anne aferd of thys angel word and of the syght of
hym, and lay al daye in hure prayeres, as heo hadde be ded. Then went this same
angel to Joachym, and sayde the same word, and bad hym taken a lombe and
offren hit to God in sacryfyce. And so dude. And when he hadde so ydon, fro
mydday tyl evensong he lay upon the erthe in his preyeres, thonkyng God with al
hys myght. Then, on the morwen, as the angel bad, he yode homward a softe pas
with his schep.
And when he com nygh hom, the angel com to Anne, and bad hure go to the
gate that was kalled the Gyldon Gate, and abydon hure husbond there. Then was
heo glad, and toke hure maydenes wyth hire, and yode thydur, and mette there
with Joachym, hure husbond, and sayde, "Lord, I thonk thee heyly, for I was a
wydewe and now I am a wyf; I was baren and now I schal have a chyld; I was in
woo and wepyng, and now I schal ben in joye and lykyng."
And so conseyvet oure Lady. And when heo was boren, heo was kalled Marya
as the angel bad byfore. Then aftur heo was wenet, they broghton hure to the
temple, and laften hure among othur maydenes to serve God day and nyght. Then
was heo so meke among alle othur vyrgines in al hure dowyng, that othur virgines
kalled hure quene of maydenes, so that yet heo ys the mekest seynt in Heven, and
most redy ys to helpe alle that kalle to hure in nede.
[Narracio.] I rede that ther was a lord that hade a peny-reve, the whech hadde
gedred his lordes rent, and yode to beren hit to hym. Then were thefys set for hym
in a wode that he most nedus goo thorgh. But when he come into the wode, he
bythoght hym that he hadde not sayde oure Lady Sauter that he was woned to say
uche day. Then anon he kneled dount, and bygan to say. Than anon com oure
Lady lyke a fayre mayden, and set a garlon on hys hed; and at uch "Ave," heo
sette a ros in the garlond that schon as bryght as a sterre. So by that he hadde
sayde, the garlon was so bryght, that alle the wode schon therof. Thus when he
hadde don, he cussed the erthe and yode his way.
Thenne weren the thefus redy, and broghton hym to here mayster that had seyen
alle thys doyng. Then sayde the theff to hym, "I wot that thou art soch a lordus
servant, and hast hys money with thee. But telle me what woman that was, that set
this garlon on thy hed."
"For soth," he sayde, "I sagh no woman, ne have no garlond that I know. But
for I hadde forgeton to say oure Lady Sauter and was adred of yow, I kneled
adoun and sayde hit, prayng to hure to helpe me at my nede."
Then sayde the theff, "For hyre love, now go thy way, and pray hure for us."
And so yede hys way saf and sounde by sokur of oure Lady.
[Narracio.] But now schul ye heren how thus fest was furst yfonden. Ther
was in Englon a kyng was kalled Wylyam Conquerour; he sende the abbat of Ramesey
to the kyng of Denmark on messager. But when he was in the see, ther come a
darknes upon hym and suche a tempest with that, he and alle that weren with hym
wende to have be spyllyd anon. Than uch mon prayed bysyly to dyverse seyntes
of Heven, to helpe and sokur ham in hure grete nede. Then as the abbot prayed
devowtly to God, ther come to hym a fayre mon and sayde to hym thus, "Yef thou
wolt halwe the Concepcyon of oure Lady, that ys the secunde day aftur Seynt
Nycholas Day, heo wol sokur thee and alle that ben with thee in thus nede."
"Syre," he sayde, "with ful good wyll, and thou woldest telle me what schal be
the servyse of this fest."
Then sayde he, "The same that ys in hure Nativité, save turne the nativité into
"Ful gladly," sayde he, "schal thus be don." And then anon the tempest sesed,
and the wedur clered. He went forth and dude his message, and cam ageyn to
spede wel in al hys doyng. And when he hadde told the kyng of thus vysyon, the
kyng mad to prechen hyt alle the reme. And so was halwyt in Holy Chyrch.
[Narracio.] Also ther was a seculer chanon that went over a watur to have don
advowtry. As he was in a bot, he bygan to saye Matenes of oure Lady. Whyl he
sayed Invitaterium, "Ave Maria," the devel cast hym doun and drouned hym and
hadde hym to peyne. Than oure Lady cam and sayde, "Why have ye tak this mon?"
They sayde he was in here servyse. Oure Lady sayde, "Nay, he was in myn houres,"
and anon restoret hym to lyve and bed he schulde no more don avoutri and also
halwe hure concepcyon. And so he dede and was a ful good mon aftur.
[Narracio.] Also I rede that ther was a clerk that was wonot every day to say
Matenes and servyse of oure Lady. Hyt fel that by consel of hys frendes he schulde
han a wyf, and when he schulde be weddet he hadde a mynde that he hadde not
sayde the servyse of oure Lady that day, and he made alle that ther were to gon
out of the chyrch. And when they were gon he kneled and sayde hys servyse tyl he
com to the antyme, "Quam pulcra es et quam decora." Then oure Lady appered to
hym and sayde, "Whyl thou sayst that I am fayre and onest, why wyl thou leve me
and taken anothur?" Then anon he sayde, "Lady, what wol thou that I do?" Heo
sayde, "And thou wolt leve thy flesly wyf and serve my Sone and me, I wyl be thy
spose and thou schal have with my Sone a crowne in kyngdom of Heven. And
also that thou wol worschep the Concepcyon of me."