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The Nativity


1 Who released all from suffering who before were lost

2 Who gives [us] the accessible (straight, swift) and certain (stable, secure) way

3 Lines 7-8: The maiden wanted to bring her child to sleep without song



Blissid be that lady bryght. Index no. 998, Goddys Sonne is borne. (The Index lists carols by first line of first verse rather than by refrain.) MS: Bodl. 29734 (Eng. Poet e.1), fols. 52b-53a (mid-fifteenth century). Editions: Wright, Songs (Percy Society), pp. 82-83; CS, no. 73; EEC, no. 44; Rickert, p. 41; Davies, no. 124 (burden and first three stanzas).

This carol uses the events of Christ's birth as occasions for praising his mother, each stanza concluding with an image of Mary. The poet's artistic sense is evident from his love of word-play and his use of a modified bob-and-wheel stanza form.

The burden and first stanza emphasize the doctrine of the virgin birth. In similar fashion the poet notes the powerful lord/humble servant paradox of Christ's incarnation in lines 20 and 29-30. It may be that stanzas 4 and 5 were added later. Stanzas 1-3 are unified in shape, and Davies prints only these. Stanzas 4-5 deviate from the unified metrical pattern of 1-3. Furthermore, Luke is the source for the first three stanzas; the fourth and fifth draw on Matthew instead.

3 Withouten peyne. This reflects a belief in Mary's sinlessness; since pain in childbirth was, according to Genesis 3:16, woman's punishment for Eve's sin, then Mary's sinless state would allow her to give birth without pain. The gradual for the Sarum mass "In honour of the glorious Virgin, on behalf of women labouring with child" begins "Behold a virgin hath conceived, and without pain hath borne to us a son, whose name was called Jesus" (Warren, Part 2, p. 162). The related notion of Mary's immaculate conception was the subject of much debate throughout church history and was widely taught by medieval Franciscans, but was not formally proclaimed as dogma by the Roman Catholic Church until 1854. On the Immaculate Conception, see Warner, ch. 16.

8 prophycy. Isaias 7:14: "Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel."

9 With ay. An exclamation: With wonder, joy, assent, surprise, reverence, O!, Oh!

23 Two sons togyther. Greene: "This figure probably results from the combination in the writer's mind of the 'sol de stella' of the 'Laetabundus' prose and the favourite 'sun through glass' simile for Mary's conception of Jesus" (EEC, p. 353). See notes to §17, especially to lines 18-20.

26 light. See MED lighten, v.2.4.a.(a): "Of Christ: (a) to descend (into the Virgin Mary); ~ in (into, on, upon, within); (b) to be incarnate." There may also be a pun on lighten, "to shine." Some apocryphal accounts associate a bright light with the birth of Jesus: In the Protevangelium, 19:2, a cloud fills the cave until the child is born, "And immediately the cloud disappeared from the cave, and a great light appeared in the cave, so that our eyes could not bear it" (Schneemelcher, p. 434); and in Pseudo-Matthew 13, Mary gives birth in a cave "in which there was never any light, but always darkness, because it could not receive the light of day. And when the blessed Mary had entered it, it began to become all light with brightness, as if it had been the sixth hour of the day [i.e., noon]; divine light so illumined the cave, that light did not fail there by day or night, as long as the blessed Mary was there" (Cowper, pp. 50-51).

30 assis stall. According to Luke (2:7 and 2:16), Mary lays the newborn Jesus in a manger.

32-38 The sheperdes . . . to man is dyte. Luke 2:8-14.

38 dyte. The verb dighten has a number of appropriate meanings here: to prepare, to arrange, to command, to predetermine, to bring about, to give, to perform, to ordain, to proclaim; also diten, to sing, declare, compose; indict.

41-49 Thre kynges . . . to hys modere Mary. Matthew 2:1-12.


Nu this fules singet and maket hure blisse. Index no. 2366. MS: Trinity College Cambridge 323 (B.14.39), fol. 81b (thirteenth century). Editions: W. W. Greg, "I Sing of a Maiden that is Makeless," Modern Philology 7 (see above, §13), 166-67; B13, no. 31; Stevick, no. 10. Selected criticism: Woolf, p. 143; Weber pp. 48-55 (discussing structure and imagery, and defending the poem against Spitzer's and Greg's description of it as "mediocre" and "not very remarkable").

§13 quotes lines 4-5 and 10-20 of this poem (see note to §13).

Initial rubric: Exemplum de beata virgine et gaudiis eius [Exemplum of the blessed virgin and her joys]. The MS is a collection of Dominican sermons.

1 and. MS: hand.

4 king. MS: kind (Brown's emendation).

halle. As in line 1, the scribe has a tendency toward aspiration of words beginning with vowels. See also hut for "out" in line 8.

6 of Gesses more. See §8, note to line 17.

9-11 From the Ave Maria; see notes to §11.

15 Hu. MS: thu (Brown's emendation).

15-16 He saide . . . y nout iuis. Luke 1:34. Compare §2, line 10.

16 A word is erased after ymone.

20 he. MS: the.


Alleluya! Now wel may we merthis make. Index no. 2377. MS: Bodl. 3340 (Arch. Selden B.26), fol. 10a (fifteenth century, southern dialect, with music). Other MSS: Bridgewater Corporation Muniments 123 (written on the back of a parchment indenture dated 1471, though carol may be a later addition); BL Addit. 5665 (Ritson), fols. 36b-37a, with music, burden, and stanzas 1-3 (sixteenth century). Editions of Arch. Selden B.26: Stainer and Stainer, 2:109; Padelford, p. 91; Stevens, Mediaeval Carols, p. 14; Robbins, Early English Christmas Carols, no. 5. Editions of Bridgewater: EEC, no. 14; Greene, Selection, no. 7. Editions of Ritson: Fehr, Archiv 106, 273; Rickert p. 177; Stevens p. 94.

This carol is one of many adaptations of the Laetabundus sequence attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux; for the Latin text and other translations, see EEC, pp. xcviii-civ. See also §20. (On the development of the prose in medieval liturgy and on Bernard's text, see Greene, Selection, pp. 37-38.)

1 Initial A rubricated.

3 manhode. Bridgewater: mankynd.

4 Only for our synnes sake. Bridgewater: Of a mayden withoutyne make.

synnes. MS: synes. So emended by all.

5 Gaudeamus. Bridgewater MS. Selden: Alleluya. Chorus.

6 kynge of kynges. See 1 Timothy 6:15 and Apocalypse 17:14 and 19:16.

11 y seide. Bridgewater: as y sayd; Ritson: as prophesye sayde.

18-20 The light-through-glass simile is common in medieval Latin and vernacular theological writings on the Virgin birth. Compare §15, line 23; §50, line 13; and Index no. 1471 (fifteenth century), "In Bedleem in that fair cete": "As the sunne schynyth thorw the glas / So Jhesu in his modyr was." Arthur S. Napier has compiled several more examples in History of the Holy Rood-tree, EETS o.s. 103 (London: Kegan Paul, 1894), pp. 81-83.

20 withoute wem. The image of Mary as "spotless" comes from her association with the bride in Canticles 4:7: "Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee." See also note to §15, line 3, and compare §16, line 16, and §2, line 10.


Mary so myelde of hert and myende. By James Ryman. Index no. 2122. MS: Cambridge University Ee.1.12, fol. 76a-b (1492). Editions: Zupitza, Archiv 89, 275-76; EEC, no. 54.

1 myelde. The MED suggests several appropriate connotations for the word - merciful, forgiving, kind, gracious, benevolent, friendly, humble, and gentle - and mentions specifically its frequent association with Mary's name (milde, adj.2.c). The poem addresses Mary's mildness rather than her purity, perhaps echoing Bernard of Clairvaux's insistence that Mary's humility, her desire to do God's will, was far more significant than her virginity (Homily 1, p. 9).

7 Here and at the beginning of each successive stanza, Mary's name is written in large, bold letters.

26 heven quere. The choir of heaven could mean "among the elect," or it could refer to the chancel itself.


My Fader above, beholdying thy mekenesse. Possibly by John Lydgate. Index no. 2238. MS: BL Harley 2251, fol. 78a (between 1464 and 1483). Edition: Henry Noble MacCracken, John Lydgate: The Minor Poems, p. 235. On the MS, see E. P. Hammond, "Two British Museum MSS," Anglia 28 (1905), 19, and Derek Pearsall, John Lydgate (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1970), p. 74.

MacCracken attributes this poem, which is apparently an early and incomplete effort, to Lydgate with the note: "A charming ballade to the Virgin, which I admit 'atwixen hope and dred'" (p. xiii).

1 My. Initial M rubricated.

8 who. MS: whan. MacCracken's emendation.

10 Thow. MS: that. MacCracken's emendation.

18 rosis fyve. Lydgate makes a similar association between roses and Christ's five wounds in his poem "As a Mydsomer Rose," contrasting fading midsummer roses and the mortal glories they symbolize with the lasting glory of Christ, "whos five woundys prent in your hert a rose" (John Lydgate: Poems, ed. John Norton-Smith [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966], p. 24). George Ferguson mentions the ancient Roman association of the rose with victory; in Christian symbolism, the rose symbolizes martyrdom as well as heavenly joy (Signs and Symbols, pp. 37-38).


Ther is no rose of swych vertu. Index no. 3536. MS: Trinity College Cambridge 1230 (O.3.58) recto, no. 13, with music. This mid-fifteenth century MS contains thirteen carols; Rickert notes that part of the MS is attributed to John Dunstable of Henry VII's chapel. Editions: J. A. Fuller-Maitland, English Carols of the Fifteenth Century, From a MS. Roll in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge (London: The Leadenhall Press, 1891), pp. 26-27, with music; CS, no. 52; EEC, no. 173; Stevens, pp. 10-11 (rpt. in Tidings True: Carols Selected from Volume 4 of Musica Britannica [New York: Galaxy Music, n.d.], p. 9); Greene, Selection, no. 46; Sisam, Oxford, no. 169; Rickert, p. 8; Segar, p. 65; Robbins, Early English Christmas Carols, no. 23 (with music); Oliver, p. 82; Gray, Themes, pp. 88-90, with commentary; Gray, Selection, no. 12; Terry, p. 56; Stevens, There is No Rose of Such Virtue, Fayrfax Series no. 16 (London: Stainer and Bell, 1951); Manning, p. 155, with music; Oliver, pp. 82-83, with music; Bullett, p. 5, with music; E. Routley, The English Carols (London: H. Jenkins, 1958), p. 29, with music.

This end of the roll is barely readable. Where necessary, I supply readings from Gray's transcription.

The Latin lines concluding the first three stanzas are from the Laetabundus prose attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux (see note to §17).

1 Ther is no rose of swych vertu. I.e., there is no other like Mary. Oliver notes "a sensuous-theological pun on 'vertu' as 'strength or fragrance' [or quality] and 'virtue' in the modern sense [of goodness]" (p. 82).
The image of Mary as the unparalleled rosa sine spina (rose without thorn) derives from Ecclesiasticus 24:18: "I [Wisdom] was exalted like a palm tree in Cades, and as a rose plant in Jericho." In Genesis 3:18, the thorn is associated with sin; thus to be without thorn is to be without sin. The fourth sequence for the Daily Mass of St. Mary (Sarum) begins "Eterni numinis mater et filia diuini luminis lucerna preuia nostrique germinis rosa primaria sine contagio" (Legg, p. 495, line 22): "Hail, holy parent, rose / On which thorn never grows" (Warren, Part 2, p. 87). See also DBT, "Rose Without a Thorn" (James P. Forrest).

Initial T and is no are no longer visible in MS.

3 Ther is no rose of. No longer visible in MS.

6-10 For in this rose . . . personys thre. On the image of Mary as chamber of the Trinity, see §11, line 21 and note, and see Plate C. For the related concept of God contained in the small space of Mary's womb, compare §8, lines 50-52.

10 That he is God. CS reads There be o (i.e., "one") God; Rickert and Fuller-Maitland follow this reading. Robbins and Gray follow Greene. The MS is no longer legible.

11 Pari forma. Fuller-Maitland reads pares forma. The MS is no longer legible.

15 Leve. The L is obliterated by a stain in the MS.


Holy moder, that bere Cryst. Attributed to William Herebert. Index no. 1232. MS: BL Addit. 46919, fol. 207b (Herebert's commonplace book, early fourteenth century, Southwest Mid-lands). Editions: B14, no. 19; LH, no. 186; W. F. Bryan and Germaine Dempster, eds., Sources and Analogues of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (New York: Humanities Press, 1958), p. 469; Reimer, pp. 122-23.

This is a paraphrasing of the Latin antiphon Alma redemptoris mater (Mother of the Redeemer), used especially from Advent through Candlemas (February 2). Herebert includes with this text a marginal note in Latin, briefly summarizing a popular legend, best known today through Chaucer's The Prioress' Tale, in which a child slain by Jews continues to sing this hymn after his death. The Latin hymn is as follows:
Alma redemptoris mater, quae pervia coeli
Porta manes et stella maris, succure cadenti
Surgere qui curat: populo tu quae genuisti
Natura mirante tuum sanctum genitorem
Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.
                                    (Daniel 2:318)
"Alma redemptoris mater, etc" appears above the first line. Herebert's name appears in the margin.

3 gat of hevene blisse. See note to §4, line 9.

5 sterre of se. See §9, note to line 1. The eleventh-century Latin source borrows freely from the older Ave maris stella.

7 holy. Written above the line to replace oune.


Syng we, syng we. Index no. 1230, Holy maydyn blyssid þou be. MS: BL Sloane 2593, fol. 25a (c. 1450). Five stanzas also appear in Bodl. 3340 (Arch. Selden B.26), fol. 10b (c. 1450). Editions of Sloane: Wright, Songs (Warton Club), pp. 71-72; Fehr, Archiv 109 (1902), 64-65; Rickert, p. 18. Editions of Arch. Selden: Stainer and Stainer, 2:110; Stevens, Mediaeval Carols, p. 14. Editions of both: Padelford, Anglia 36, 91-92; EEC, no. 185.

This poem is a tour de force in rhyme - thirty lines in a single rhyme sound.

7-14 These two stanzas are transposed in Arch. Selden.

9 chosyn. Arch. Selden: cosyn.

19 solumnté. MS reads solã te. Fehr expands to solunte, Greene to solumte.

15-26 These stanzas are omitted in Arch. Selden. In their place is a single stanza which reads:
Lo, this curteys kynge of degré
Wole be thy sone with solempnité;
Mylde Mary, this ys thy fee;
Regina celi, letare.
21 rede. Several meanings of reden might apply here: to proclaim, to tell, or to teach; to read (we read of the three Kings); or to counsel (we counsel you to rejoice, queen of heaven).


Lullay, myn lykyng. Index no. 1351. MS: BL Sloane 2593, fol. 32a-b (mid-fifteenth century). Editions: Wright, Songs (Warton Club), p. 94; CS, no. 69; Fehr, Archiv 107 (1901), 49; EEC, no. 143; Bullett, p. 7 (without burden); Greene, Selection, no. 40; Percy Dearmer, R. Vaughan Williams, and Martin Shaw, The Oxford Book of Carols (London: Oxford University Press, 1928), no. 182 (setting by Gustav Holst); Davies, no. 77; Gray, Selection, no. 13; EEC no 143; Rickert, p. 66; H. C. Beeching, ed., A Book of Christmas Verse, second ed. (London: H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1926), p. 10; Segar, p. 66; E. Sayre, ed., A Christmas Book; 50 Carols from the 14th to the 17th Centuries (New York: C. N. Potter, 1966), p. 125.

4 The margin reads lull myn, indicating the repetition of the burden.

6 See note to §17, line 6; see also Deuteronomy 10:17 and Psalm 135:3 (RSV 136:3).

The margin reads lullay.

12 makyn chere. I.e., Grant blessing to those who participate in the carol by dancing and singing.


Ler to loven as I love thee. Index no. 1847. MS: National Library of Scotland Advocates 18.7.21, fol. 126a (Grimestone's commonplace book, 1372). A shorter version appears in BL Harley 7322, fol. 135b (c. 1375). Edition of Advocates: B14, no. 75. Editions of Harley: Furnivall, EETS o.s. 15, p. 255; Sisam, Fourteenth Century, pp. 167-68; Sisam, Oxford, no. 87.

The arrangement of stanzas in the Advocates MS raises questions about whether the first stanza is, in fact, part of this poem: lines 7-30 appear at the top of the left column, followed by another poem; lines 1-6 appear at the top of the right column and are linked to the rest with a line of red dots. Wenzel defends the present order, noting that the poem is quoted in the context of a sermon in Harley 7322 (Preachers, pp. 167-68). See below for notes on the Harley version. See also Edward Wilson, A Descriptive Index of the English Lyrics in John of Grimestone's Preaching Book, Medium Aevum Monographs n.s. 2 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1973), p. 55.

1-6 In Harley, the newborn Jesus addresses Mary in these lines. At the end of the stanza, the Harley scribe inserts a Latin directive: Et Regina mater sua nichil habuit unde posset eum induere; ideo dixit sibi [And the queen his mother had nothing with which to clothe him; therefore she said to him].

3 thei. Harley: ich.

4 michil wo. Harley: much colde and wo.

5 suete. Harley: wel.

8 thu list nou. Harley: list thou.

10 thi credel is als a bere. The image foreshadows Jesus' death and contrasts the painless birth with the suffering he will endure later for the sake of humankind (see lines 20-24).
12 mai I. Harley: ich mai.

14-16 Harley reads as follows: Thou ich nabbe clout ne cloth / The on for to folde / The on to folde ne to wrappe / For ich nabbe clout ne lappe. The second line disrupts the stanzaic pattern and is probably a scribal error.

17 Therfore ley thi fet. Harley: Bote ley thou thi fet.

18 kepe. Harley: wite.


Lullay, lullay, la, lullay. Index no. 352: Als I lay upon a nith. MS: National Library of Scotland Advocates 18.7.21, fols. 3b-4b (Grimestone's commonplace book, 1372). Fragments (early stanzas) of this text appear in three fifteenth-century MSS: St. John's College Cambridge 259, fol. 4a-b (stanzas 1-9, late fifteenth century); BL Harley 2330, fol. 120a (stanzas 1-5 copied onto the end of a fifteenth-century MS); and Cambridge University Addit. 5943, fol. 169a (first stanza only, fifteenth century). Editions of Advocates: B14, no. 56; EEC, no. 149; Davies, no. 38 (some stanzas). Robbins prints the text of Cambridge Addit. 5943, with music, in Early English Christmas Carols, no. 27.

This lyric combines elements of dialogue, carol, dream vision, and lament, as Jesus sings the refrain and teaches Mary the part of the song she does not know. Davies identifies the poem as one of the earliest examples of a lullaby to Jesus (p. 40). Compare §29, which is from the same MS.

9 dede. MS: de. Brown, Davies emend so. Greene gives ded.

11 In margin: iesu.

23 In margin: Maria.

55-58 The sepperdis . . . In time of thi birthe. Luke 2:8-20.

57 ther. MS: tht. So emended by Brown, Greene, and Davies.

63 In margin: Christus loquitur.

67-70 Luke 2:21.

68 In Genesis 17:10-14, Abraham receives the covenant of circumcision from God.

69 Kot sal I ben with a ston. Jesus is circumcised to fulfill Jewish law. Christian commentators observe that in this ritual Jesus sheds his first drop of blood for man-kind, thus anticipating the Crucifixion and Resurrection. On the further significance of this circumcision, see CA, commentary on Luke 2:21, in which Epiphanius notes that the circumcision proved "the reality of His flesh" against the Manichaean heretical belief that Jesus was not truly human.

71-74 Matthew 2:1-12. The Church celebrates the visit of the Magi on Epiphany, twelve days after Christmas.

75-78 Luke 2:22-40.

79-82 Luke 2:41-50.

84 suerve. MS: sterue. Brown's emendation. However, sterve could be the correct reading, as if Jesus is assuring Mary that he will not abandon her.

91-94 Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22.

95-98 I sal ben tempted . . . But I sal betre withstonde. Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13. The reference to Adam comes from Genesis 3.

99-102 Disciples I sal gadere . . . to teche. Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20, 3:13-19, 6:7; Luke 5:1-11, 9:2; John 1:35-51.

105-06 That most partiye . . . Sal wiln maken me king. John 6:15.

107 In margin: Maria.

111 In margin: iesus.

119 The sarpe swerde of Simeon. Luke 2:34-35: "And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother, 'Behold, this child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.'"

123-24 Samfuly for I sal deyye . . . on the rode. Matthew 27:32-56; Mark 15:21-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:17-39.

127 In margin: Maria.

131 In margin: iesu.

132 liven I sal ageyne. Matthew 28 ff; Mark 16 ff; Luke 24 ff; John 20 ff.

133 in thi kinde. I.e., Mary has given him her flesh, and that flesh will be redeemed.

135-36 To my Fader . . . to hevene. Luke 24:50-53; Acts 2.

137 The Holigost I sal thee sende. John 23:21-22.

138 sondes sevene. The Douay translation from the Vulgate identifies the seven gifts as wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, godliness, and the fear of the Lord (Isaias 11:2-3).

139-42 I sal thee taken . . . have I caste. In the absence of any evidence regarding Mary's death or burial, belief in her bodily assumption into heaven developed in the fifth century. See Introduction, pp. 25-26.

149 Yolisday. The setting suggests that the speaker's "longing" is fulfilled by the birth of Jesus.


Modyr, whyt os lyly flowr. Index no. 361. MS: Bodl. 29734 (Eng. Poet e.1), fol. 34a-b (fifteenth century). The first twenty lines also appear in BL Sloane 2593, fols. 16b-17a (fifteenth century). Editions of English Poet: Wright, Songs (Percy Society), pp. 50-51; EEC, no. 145. Edition of Sloane: Wright, Songs (Warton Club), pp. 48-49. Composite text: CS p. 141; Rickert p. 68.

1 lyly flowr. The lily symbolizes Mary's purity.

2 Word canceled before langour in MS.

3 up. Sloane: me.

a. Sloane: on.

5 That. Sloane: che.

6 swet. Sloane: dere.

7 held. Sloane: tok al.

8 hyr lovely. Sloane: that maydyn.

9 And therof swetly he toke a nappe. So emended by Greene. The MS, which Wright follows, reads an appe. Sloane: & tok therof a ryght god nap.

11 gen he. Sloane: than he gan.

12 For this mylke. I.e., for humankind.

13 kynd. The word has several theological implications here. It could mean station, duty, or inheritance; it also implies that it is Jesus' destiny, purpose, or intention to die for humanity's sake.

14 paramowr. Sloane: myn paramour. Rickert reads par amour, glossing the phrase "for love's sake."

15 The maydyn. Sloane: That mayde.

gen. Sloane: be gan.

17 Sloane: That here sone that is oure kynge.

18 shed. Sloane: schred.

blod. MS: b.

19 Modyr, thi wepyng. Sloane: Your wepyng moder.

20 thu haddys be. Sloane: ye wern for.

21 Do awey. Sloane: dowey.

22 Thy. Sloane: Your.

lessyth. MS: lsyth. Greene's emendation.

langowr. MS: lango. Greene's emendation.

26 for. Greene supplies the word from Wright; it is not visible in the present binding.


Lullay, my fader, lullay, my brother. Index no. 4242.5. MS: Stanbrook Abbey 3, fol. 241a (early fifteenth century). Editions: N. R. Ker, "Middle English Verses and a Latin Letter in a Manuscript at Stanbrook Abbey," Medium Aevum 34 (1965), 233; EEC, no. 144.1.

Ker writes that the poem appears in five stanzas, "with a refrain after each stanza set out in the margin. They are written below Morton's note about his purchases and are separated from it by doodles and brief notes in Latin" (pp. 232-33). Greene notes that "the burden appears to have been written at a time different from that of the writing of the stanzas."

11 And. Canceled at beginning of line.

fader. MS: fadrer. Greene's emendation. So also at lines 15 and 19.

13 on. MS: in. Greene's emendation.

18 Myn owyn dyre sone, lullay. MS: Myn owyn &c.

21 myn herte perschyth in tweye. Perhaps an allusion to Simeon's prophecy in Luke 2:34-35.


I passud thoru a garden grene. Attributed to John Hawghton. Index no. 378. MS: National Library of Scotland Advocates 19.3.1 (formerly Jac. V.7.27), fols. 94b-95b (c. 1430). The poem also appears in BL Sloane 2593, fol. 18b (c. 1450). Brown describes the differences between the two MSS in B15, pp. 317-18; the Advocates arrangement of stanzas is the more logical, and the Sloane version sacrifices some alliteration. Editions of Advocates: W. B. D. D. Turnbull, The Visions of Tundale, Together with Metrical Moralizations and Other Fragments of Early Poetry; Hitherto Inedited (Edinburgh: Stevenson, 1843), pp. 157-59; B15, no. 78; Stevick, no. 60. Editions of Sloane: Fehr, Archiv 109, 58; Wright, Songs (Warton Club), pp. 53-55; Rickert, p. 174.

2 a herbere made full newe. The newly-made garden might represent the world, given new life through the birth of a savior.

4 tree. The word is difficult to decipher in the MS; Brown reads treo.

5 Theryn. Brown reads thereyn.

mayden. Turnbull reads maydon.

6 sest. Brown's emendation. MS: sesest.

8 Verbum caro factum est. John 1:14. The CA contains extensive discussion of this concept, focused primarily on answering charges that Jesus was not human. St. Augustine writes: "As our word becomes the bodily voice, by its assumption of that voice, as a means of developing itself externally; so the Word of God was made flesh, by assuming flesh, as a means of manifesting Itself to the world" (De Trinitate, as quoted in CA, John 1:14). A note in MS BL Additional 37049, fol. 26b, indicates that Pope Clement I granted a pardon of three years and forty days to anyone who "devoutly hers or says Sant John Gospell, that ys to say, 'In principio erat verbum;' and then to the end whenne 'Verbum caro factum est' is sayd" (fol. 26b).

The refrain is popular in carols: see EEC nos. 23B, 35B, 38, and 39. Its presence in a secular drinking song (from Bodl. 2240, fol. 25a, printed in Robbins, Secular Lyrics, second ed. [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955], no. 10) suggests its familiarity:
Verbum caro factum est
Et habitavit in nobis.                        dwelt among us
Fetys bel chere,
Drynk to thi fere,
Verse le bavere,                            pass around the drink
And synge nouwell!
18 song. Omitted in this MS; Brown supplies from Sloane.

20 Gloria in excelsis Deo. Luke 2:14. See also DBT, "Gloria," for a discussion of this element of the liturgy.

26 abovun: Turnbull reads aboun.

27 pece. Turnbull reads that.

30 betwene to best. According to Luke 2:7, Mary gives birth to Jesus and places him in a manger. Tradition adds the two beasts, generally supposed to be an ox and an ass, from Isaias 1:3, quoted in the apocryphal Pseudo-Matthew: "Mary went out of the cave and, entering a stable, put the child in the manger, and an ox and an ass adored him. Then was fulfilled that which was said by Isaiah the prophet, 'The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib'" (Elliott, The Apocryphal New Testament, p. 94).

best. Turnbull reads bestes.

31 Sche. Turnbull reads scho.

34 three. Possibly, as Brown reads, threo.

commely. Turnbull reads comely.

crone. Turnbull reads gone.

35 spod. Perhaps sped, as Brown suggests.

speke. Turnbull reads spoke.

37 home. Turnbull reads hom.

con rone. Turnbull reads com rene.

38 We. Turnbull reads Wo.

41 we seo God becomun yn mannus flech. Turnbull reads wose God be comm in mannis flesh. The kings translate the carol's Latin refrain.

42 That bote hasse broght of all oure bale. Compare §14, line 2.

bale. Turnbull reads bele.

43 Awey oure synnus. Turnbull reads Away owre synnis.

45 Sche. Turnbull reads Scho.

45 sothly. Turnbull reads sothty.

47 Foll. Turnbull reads Full.

49 prences. Turnbull reads princes.

55 sange. Turnbull reads sung.


Als I lay upon a nith / I lokede upon a stronde. Index no. 353. MS: Advocates Library 18.7.21, fols. 5b-6a (Grimestone's commonplace book, 1372). A garbled copy of lines 1-44 also survives, with music, in Bodl. 2240 (Arch. Selden B.26), fol. 18a-b. In Selden, the scribe has copied stanzas arranged horizontally as if they were arranged vertically: 1, 2, 7, 3, 8, 4, 9, 5, 10, 6. Editions of Advocates: B14, no. 58; LH, no. 198; Silverstein, no. 41. Editions of Selden: Padelford, pp. 102-04; Stainer and Stainer, vol. 1, plates lxvii and lxviii (facsimiles); vol. 2, pp. 130-31 (transcription, with music); Stevens, p. 112; J. Copley, Seven English Songs and Carols of the Fifteenth Century (Texts and Monographs VI, University of Leeds, 1940), pp. 14-15 (with music). Weber prints Brown's edition and discusses the poem's structure on pp. 61-86, commenting on the transformation of Mary's limited perspective by means of her child.

2 Selden: For soth y sawe a semely s y3 t.

3 mayden. Selden: berde so.

4 hadde in. Selden: bare on.

5 Hire loking. Possibly "To look upon her."

7 sorwe sikerli. Selden: care & sorwe.

8 mithte. Selden: may.

9 Selden: y behelde that swete wyght.

11-12 I.e., if Mary is not a virgin, then a terrible deception has been practiced on the world. Joseph responds to this fear of "misdeed" in lines 37-44. In Matthew 1:19-25 Joseph assumes the worst of Mary and "being a just man, and not wishing to expose her to reproach, was minded to put her away privately" until an angel comes to him in a dream and assures him that all is well. But it is the Protevangelium (chs. 13-14) and the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (chs. 10-11) which provide material for cycle plays, such as the N-Town "Joseph's Doubt" (The N-Town Play, Cotton MS Vespasian D.8, ed. Stephen Spector, vol. 1, EETS s.s. 11 [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991], pp. 123-30).

13 sergant. Selden: seruant.

14 That sadli seide his sawe. Selden: that seide al in his sawe.

seide his sawe. According to the OED, a "saw" is a speech, a story, or a wise saying. The word also might suggest a catechism, prayers, holy wisdom, or the law.

17 on hevede. Selden: al on his hede.

19 He herde wel. Selden: She herde ful wel.

23 An I dede so. Selden: And so y dyde.

25-28 In Selden, these lines follow lines 17-20 of the present text, and read as follows:
and saide she was alone
maide and moder ycore                            chosen
and withoute wem of man                        taint
a childe she hadde ybore.
29-30 Selden reads: They that y unworthy be, / she is mary myn owne wyf.

32 I love. Selden: & yit y love.

33 wiste I. Selden: y wiste.

35 thee. MS: the. The word could be read as a definite article, but see Selden: 3 ow.

36 I not. Advocates: In wot. Silverstein's emendation. Luria and Hoffman emend to I ne wot. In Selden the line reads y note in whoche wyse.

37 to. Selden: unto.

38 wolde no thing misdo. Selden: wolde not mysdoo.

39-40 I wot et wel iwisse / For I have founden et so. Selden: that y wyst ful wel ywys / for ofte y haue yfounde hit soo.

52 Emanuel. The name (from Isaias 7:12 and Matthew 1:23) means "God with us."

61-64 In the Advocates MS, these lines appear at the bottom of the next page, following a separate lullaby in a different rhyme scheme.


Ecce quod natura. By James Ryman. Index no. 488. MS: Cambridge University Ee.1.12., fols. 23a-24a (late fifteenth century). Editions: Zupitza, Archiv 89 (1892), 185-86, notes in Archiv 93 (1894), 383-90; EEC, no. 66, Greene, Selection, no. 14.

The burden is from a cantio or cantilena (a sacred Latin piece; see Greene, EEC, p. cx) which appears in Arch. Selden B. 26 and in Bodl. Ashmole 1393, fol. 69 (printed with music in Stainer and Stainer, 2:63-64). In the Cambridge MS, this carol is followed by a similar one using the same burden and beginning: "Bothe younge and olde, take hede of this" (Index no. 546; EEC, no. 65).

3-4 Compare a line in the lyric which follows this one in the MS: "The cours of nature chaunged is."

3-7 These lines paraphrase the Latin burden.

7-8 See note to §8, line 26.

9-10 Numbers 17:6-11. See the Biblia Pauperum leaf for the Nativity (Plate A in this volume).

11-14 Isaias 7:14.

15-16 Isaias 11:1-2.

19-23 Matthew 1:23.

23-24 to us is borne a chielde; / A sonne is yeven to us. Isaias 9:6.

27 stone cutte of the hille. In Daniel 2:34-35, King Nabuchodonosor dreams of "a stone cut out of a mountain without hands"; after destroying a statue which represents his divided kingdom, the stone becomes a great mountain. Daniel interprets the mountain as the kingdom of God; thus the stone itself represents the Messiah, and its divine creation parallels the miracle of Jesus' birth.

31 Prince of Peas. Isaias 9:6.

35-38 Greene, following R. W. Southern, explains that though this simile is not found in any "acknowledged work" of St. Anselm, it is a common simile in the "School of Anselm" (EEC p. 365; see also R. W. Southern, "St. Anselm and His English Pupils," Medieval and Renaissance Studies 1 [1943], 10).

       Blissid be that lady bryght
       That bare a chyld of great myght,
       Withouten peyne, as it was right,
       Mayd mother Marye.
Goddys Sonne is borne;
His moder is a maid,
Both after and beforne,
As the prophycy said,
   With ay;
A wonder thyng it is to se
How mayden and moder on may be.
Was there never nonne but she,
Maid moder Mary.
The great Lord of heaven
Owr servant is becom
Thorow Gabriels stevyn,
Owre kynd have benom,
   With ay;
A wonder thyng it is to se
How lord and servant on may be.
Was ther never nonne but he,
Born of maid Marye.
Two sons togyther, they
Owght to shyne bryght;
So did that fayer ladye
Whan Jesu in her light,
   With ay;
A wonder thyng is fall:
The Lord that bought fre and thrall
Is found in an assis stall
By his moder Mary.
The sheperdes in her region,
Thei lokyd into heaven;
Thei se an angell commyng doun
That said with myld steven,
   With ay,
Joy be to God almyght,
And pece in therth to man is dyte,
For God was born on Chrismes nyght
Of his moder Marye.
Thre kynges of great noblay,
Whan that child was born,
To hym they tok the redy wa
And kneled hym beforn,
   With ay;
These three kynges cam fro fare
Thorow ledyng of a stare
And offered hym gold, encence, and mure,
And to hys modere Mary.
Nu this fules singet and maket hure blisse,
And that gres up thringet and leved the ris;
Of on ic wille singen that is makeles:
The king of halle kinges to moder he hire ches.
Heo his wituten sunne and wituten hore,
Icumen of kinges cunne of Gesses more;
The Loverd of monkinne of hire was yboren
To bringen us hut of sunne, elles wue weren forlore.
Gabriel hire grette and saide hire, "Ave!
Marie, ful of grace, ure Lover be uit thee;
The frut of thire wombe ibleset mot id be.
Thu sal go with chide, for sout ic suget thee."
And thare gretinke that angle havede ibrout,
He gon to bithenchen and meinde hire thout.
He saide to then angle, "Hu may tiden this?
Of monnes ymone nout y nout iuis."
Mayden heo was uid childe and maiden her biforen
And maiden ar sothent hire chid was iboren;
Maiden and moder nas never non wimon boten he:
Wel mitte he berigge of Godes Sune be.
Iblessed beo that suete chid and the moder ec
And the suete broste that hire sone sec;
Ihered ibe the time that such chid uas iboren,
That lesed al of pine that aree was forlore. : 1
Now wel may we merthis make:
For us Jesus manhode hath take,
Only for our synnes sake,
A kynge of kynges now forth is brought
Of a maide that synned nought
Nother in ded, nother in thought,
   Res miranda.
An angel of cunsel this day is borne
Of a maide y seide beforne,
For to save that was forlorne,
   Sol de stella.
That sunne hath never doun goynge,
Nother his lyght no tyme lesynge;
The sterre is evermore shynynge,
   Semper clara.
Right as the sterre bryngeth forth a bem
Of whom ther cometh a mervelus strem,
So childede the maide withoute wem,
   Pari forma.
       Mary so myelde of hert and myende
       Hath borne a child to save mankyende.
Mary so myelde and good of fame,
   By vertu of the Holy Goost,
Hath borne a chielde, Jhesus by name,
   To save mankyende, the whiche was lost.
Marie so myelde in hert and myende,
   As Gabriell to her behight,
Hath borne a chielde to save mankyende,
   The Son of God and king of myght.
Marie so myelde, that quene of grace,
   Hath borne a chielde — scripture seith soo —
To bringe mankyende out of that place
   Where is bothe peyne and endeles woo.
Mary so myelde in worde and thought
   Hath borne a chielde, Jhesus soo good,
The whiche ayene mankyende hath bought
   On the roode tree with his hert bloode.
Mary so myelde in dede and wille
   Hath borne a chielde that made alle thing,
To whom al thing obeyeth by skille
   As to theire prince, theire lorde and king.
Mary so myelde, so pure and clene,
   Unto hir chielde, that hath no pere,
By hir mekenes she is a meane
   That we shalle come to heven quere.
Mary so myelde, moder and may,
   Hath borne a chielde by hir mekenesse
That shall bringe us at Domes Day
   Fro thraldom, peyn, woo, and distresse.
My Fader above, beholdying thy mekenesse,
As dewe on rosis doth his bawme sprede,
Sent his Gost, most soverayne of clennes,
Into thy brest, a rose of wommanhede,
Whan I for man was borne in my manhede;
For whiche with rosis of hevenly influence
I me rejoyse to pley in thy presence.
Benyng moder, who first dide inclose
The blessed budde that sprang out of Jesse,
Thow of Juda the verray perfite rose,
Chose of my Fader for thyn humylité
Without fadyng most clennest to bere me;
For whiche with roses of chast innocence,
I me rejoyse to pley in thi presence.
O Moder, Moder, of mercy most habounde,
Fayrest moder that ever was alyve:
Though I for man have many a bloody wounde,
Among theym alle there be rosis fyve,
Agayne whos mercy fiendis may nat stryve;
Mankynde to save, best rosis of defence,
Whan they me pray for helpe in thy presence.
       Ther is no rose of swych vertu
       As is the rose that bare Jesu.
Ther is no rose of swych vertu
As is the rose that bar Jesu,
For in this rose conteynyd was
Heven and erthe in lytyl space,
   Res miranda.
Be that rose we may weel see
That he is God in personys thre,
   Pari forma.
The aungelys sungyn the sheperdes to:
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Leve we al this wordly merthe
And folwe we this joyful berthe;
Holy moder, that bere Cryst,
   Buggere of monkunde,
Thou art gat of hevene blisse
   That prest wey gyfst and bunde. 2
Thou sterre of se, rer op the volk
   That rysing haveht in munde.
In thee thou bere thyn holy Vader,
That mayden were after and rather,
   Wharof so wondreth kunde.
Of Gabrieles mouthe
   Thou vonge thylke Ave;
Lesne ous of sunne nouthe,
   So woe bisecheth thee.
       Syng we, syng we,
       Regina celi, letare!
Holy maydyn, blyssid thu be,
Godes Sone is born of thee;
The Fader of hevene worchepe we:
   Regina celi, letare!
Heyl wyf, heyl maydyn, heyl brytgh of ble,
Heyl dowter, heyl suster, heyl ful of peté,
Heyl chosyn to tho personys thre:
   Regina celi, letare!
Thu art empresse of hevene so fre,
Worthi maydyn in magesté;
Now worchepe we the Trenyté.
   Regina celi, letare!
Lady, so lovely, so goodly to se,
So buxsum in thi body to be,
Thu art his moder for humylité,
   Regina celi, letare!
These ben curteys kynges of solumnté;
They worchepyd thi sone with umylité,
Milde Mary, thus rede we:
   Regina celi, letare!
So gracius, so precyows in ryalté,
Thus jentyl, thus good, thus fynd we,
Ther is non swych in non cuntré.
   Regina celi, letare!
And therfore knel we doun on our kne,
This blyssid berthe worchepe we,
This is a song: humylyté!
   Regina celi, letare!
       Lullay, myn lykyng, my dere sone, myn swetyng,
       Lullay, my dere herte, myn owyn dere derlyng.
I saw a fayr maydyn syttyn and synge;
Sche lullyd a lytyl chyld, a swete lordying.
That eche Lord is that that made alle thinge;
Of alle lordis he is Lord, of all kynges Kyng.
Ther was mekyl melody at that chyldes berthe;
Alle tho wern in hevene blys, thei made mekyl merth.
Aungele bryght, thei song that nyght and seydyn to that chyld,
"Blyssid be thou, and so be sche that is bothe mek and myld."
Prey we now to that chyld, and to his moder dere,
Grawnt hem his blyssying that now makyn chere.
"Ler to loven as I love thee;
On al my limes thu mith i-se
Hou sore thei quaken for colde;
For thee I suffre michil wo.
Love me, suete, an no mo;
To thee I take an holde."
Jesu, swete sone dere,
In porful bed thu list nou here,
And that me grevet sore.
For thi credel is als a bere,
Ox and asse ben thi fere;
Wepen mai I ther fore.
Jesu, swete, beo nout wroth;
I have neither clut ne cloth
Thee inne for to folde,
I ne have but a clut of a lappe;
Therfore ley thi fet to my pappe
And kepe thee fro the colde.
Cold thee taket, I may wel se,
For love of man it mot be
Thee to suffren wo;
For bet it is thu suffre this
Than man forbere hevene blis.
Thu most him bighen therto.
Sithen it most nedes that thu be ded
To saven man for the qued,
Thi suete wil be do.
But let me nouth duellen her to longe
After thi det me underfonge
To ben for everemo.
       Lullay, lullay, la, lullay,
       My dere moder, lullay.
Als I lay upon a nith
   Alone in my longging
Me thouthe I sau a wonder sith,
   A maiden child rokking.
The maiden wolde withouten song
   Hire child o slepe bringge; 3
The child thouthte sche dede him wrong
   And bad his moder sengge.
"Sing nou, Moder," seide that child,
   "Wat me sal befalle
Here after wan I cum to eld;
   So don modres alle.
"Ich a moder treuly
   That kan hire credel kepe
Is wone to lullen lovely
   And singgen hire child o slepe.
"Suete moder, fair and fre,
   Sithen that it is so,
I preye thee that thu lulle me
   And sing sumwat therto."
"Suete sone," seyde sche,
   "Weroffe suld I singge?
Wist I nevere yet more of thee
   But Gabrieles gretingge.
"He grette me godli on is kne
   And seide, >Heil Marie,
Ful of grace, God is with thee!
   Beren thu salt Messye.'
"I wondrede michil in my thouth,
   For man wold I rith none.
>Marie,' he seide, >drede thee nouth:
   Lat God of hevene alone.
"'The Holi Gost sal don al this.'
   He seyde withouten wone
That I sulde beren mannis blis,
   Thee, my suete sone.
"He seide, 'Thu salt beren a king
   In King Davitis see
In al Jacobs woniing
   Ther king suld he be.'
"He seyde that Elizabeth,
   That baraine was before,
A child conceyved hath;
   To me leve thu the more.
"I ansuered blethely,
   For his word me paiyede,
'Lo, Godis servant her am I;
   Be et as thu me seyde.'
"Ther, als he seide, I thee bare
   On midwenter nith,
In maydened withouten kare
   Be grace of God almith.
"The sepperdis that wakkeden in the wolde
   Herden a wonder mirthe
Of angles ther, as thei tolde,
   In time of thi birthe.
"Suete sone, sikirly
   No more kan I say
And if I koude fawen wold I
   To don al at thi pay."
"Moder," seide that suete thing,
   "To singen I sal thee lere
Wat me fallet to suffring
   And don wil I am here.
"Wanne the sevene daiyes ben don,
   Rith as Habraham wasce,
Kot sal I ben with a ston
   In a wol tendre place.
"Wanne the tuelve dayyes ben do,
   Be leding of a stere
Thre kingges me sul seke tho
   With gold, ensens, and mirre.
"The fourti day, to fille the lawe,
   We solen to temple ifere
Ther Simeon sal thee sey a sawe
   That changen sal thi chere.
"Wan I am tuelve yer of elde,
   Joseph and thu, murningge,
Solen me finden, Moder milde,
   In the temple techingge.
"Til I be thretti at the leste
   I sal nevere fro thee suerve,
But ay, Moder, ben at thin heste,
   Joseph and thee to serve.
"Wan the thretti yer ben spent,
   I mot beginne to fille
Werfore I am hidre sent,
   Thoru my Fadres wille.
"Jon Baptist of merite most
   Sal baptize me be name;
Than my Fader and the Holi Gost
   Solen witnessen wat I ame.
"I sal ben tempted of Satan,
   That fawen is to fonde,
The same wise that was Adam,
   But I sal betre withstonde.
"Disciples I sal gadere
   And senden hem for to preche
The lawes of my Fader
   In al this werld to teche.
"I sal ben so simple
   And to men so conning
That most partiye of the puple
   Sal wiln maken me king."
"Suete sone," than seyde sche,
   "No sorwe sulde me dere,
Miht I yet that day se
   A king that thu were."
"Do wey, Moder," seide that suete,
   "Therfor kam I nouth,
But for to ben pore and bales bete
   That man was inne brouth.
"Therfore wan to and thretti yer ben don
   And a litel more,
Moder, thu salt maken michil mon
   And seen me deyye sore.
"The sarpe swerde of Simeon
   Perse sal thin herte,
For my care of michil won
   Sore thee sal smerte.
"Samfuly for I sal deyye,
   Hangende on the rode;
For mannis ransoun sal I payye
   Myn owen herte blode."
"Allas, Sone," seyde that may,
   "Sithen that it is so,
Worto sal I biden that day,
   To beren thee to this wo?"
"Moder," he seide, "Tak et lithte,
   For liven I sal ageyne,
And in thi kinde thoru my mith,
   For elles I wrouthte in weyne.
"To my Fader I sal wende
   In myn manhed to hevene;
The Holigost I sal thee sende
   With hise sondes sevene.
"I sal thee taken wan time is
   To me at the laste
To ben with me, Moder, in blis;
   Al this than have I caste.
"Al this werld demin I sal
   At the dom risingge.
Suete moder, here is al
   That I wile nou singge."
Serteynly, this sithte I say
   This song I herde singge
Als I lay this Yolisday
   Alone in my longingge.
       "Modyr, whyt os lyly flowr,
       Yowr lullyng lessyth my langour."
As I up ros in a mornyng,
My thowth was on a mayd yyng
That song aslep with hyr lullyng
Her swet son, owr savowr.
As sche hym held in hyr lape,
He toke hyr lovely by the pape,
And therof swetly he toke a nappe,
And sok hys fyll of the lycowr.
To hys modyr gen he seye,
"For this mylke me must deye;
It ys my kynd therwith to playe,
My swet modyr, paramowr."
The maydyn frely gen to syng,
And in hyr song she mad mornyng,
How he that is owr hevyn kyng
Shuld shed hys blod with gret delowr.
"Modyr, thi wepyng grevyth me sor;
But I wold dey, thu haddys be lor;
Do awey, modyr, and wep no more;
Thy lullyng lessyth my langowr."
Swych mornyng as the maydyn mad,
I can not tell it in this howr,
Therfor be mery and glade,
And make us mery for owr saviowr.
       Lullay, my fader, lullay, my brother,
       Myn owyn dyre sone, lullay.
Ye ben my fader by creacion;
My brother ye ben by nativité;
Of Adam we coome bothe al and summ;
My owyn dyre sone, lullay.
Ye ben my fader that made me of nowght,
And with youre blode us all dyre bowght;
I am youre moder; knowe ye me nowght?
My owyn dyre sone, lullay.
Ye ben my fader and I youre chyld;
I am youre moder undefyld;
Loke on youre moder that ys so myld;
Myn owyn dyre sone, lullay.
Ye ben my fader eternally;
My sone ye ben, so most ye drey
For Adamys gylt — ye know wel why;
Myn owyn dyre sone, lullay.
Ye ben my fader that may nowght dey;
With yow, my sone, thus schal I playe;
Youre payne myn herte perschyth in tweye;
My owyn dyre sone, lullay.
I passud thoru a garden grene;
   I fond a herbere made full newe.
A semelyor syght I haff noght sene:
   O ylke tree sange a tyrtull trew;
   Theryn a mayden bryght of hew,
And ever sche sange, and never sche sest.
   Thies were the notus that sche can schew:
Verbum caro factum est.
I askud that mayden what sche mentt;
   Sche bad me byde and I schuld here.
What sche sayd I toke gude tent;
   Yn hyr songe had sche voice full clere.
   Sche said, "A prynce withouten pere
Ys borne and lyde betwene to best;
   Therefore I synge as ye mey here
Verbum caro factum est."
And thoroght that frythe, as I can wend,
   A blestfull song yit hard I mo,
And that was of three scheperdus hend:
   "Gloria in excelsis Deo."
   I wold noght they had faren me fro,
And efthyr them full fast I prest.
   Then told thei me that thei sange soo
For verbum caro factum est.
They said that songe was this to sey:
   "To God abovun be joy and blysse,
For pece yn erth also we pray,
   Tyll all men that yn goodnesse ys.
   The may that is withouten mysse
Hasse borne a child betwene to best:
   Sche is the cause therof iwysse
That verbum caro factum est."
I fared me furthe yn that frythe;
   I mett three commely kyngis with crone;
I spod me furth to speke them with,
   And on my knees I kneled done.
   The ryalest of home to me con rone
And said, "We farred wele at the fest;
   Fro Bethleem now ar we bone
For verbum caro factum est.
"For we seo God becomun yn mannus flech
   That bote hasse broght of all oure bale,
Awey oure synnus for to wesche.
   A mey hym harburd yn hur hall;
   Sche socourd hym sothly yn hur sale
And hel that hend yn hur arest.
   Foll trewly mey sche tell that tale
That verbum caro factum est."
Untyll that prences wyll we pray,
   Als sche is bothe moder and mayd:
Sche be oure helpe, als sche wele mey,
   To hyme that yn hur lappe was layde.
   To serve hyme we be prest and payd,
And therto make we oure behest;
   For I hard when sche sange and said,
"Verbum caro factum est."
Als I lay upon a nith
   I lokede upon a stronde.
I beheld a mayden brith;
   A child sche hadde in honde.
Hire loking was so loveli,
   Hire semblant was so suete,
Of al my sorwe sikerli
   Sche mithte my bales bete.
I wondrede of that suete with,
   An to myself I sayde
Sche hadde don mankindde unrith
   But yif sche were a mayde.
Be hire sat a sergant
   That sadli seide his sawe;
He sempte be is semblant
   A man of the elde lawe.
His her was hor on hevede,
   His ble began to glide:
He herde wel wat I seyde
   An bad me faire abide.
"Thu wondrest," he seyde, "skilfuli,
   On thing thu hast beholde,
An I dede so treuli
   Til tales weren me told
"Hou a womman sulde ben than
   Moder an maiden thore,
An withouten wem of man
   The child sulde ben bore.
"Althou I unworthi be,
   Sche is Marie, my wif;
God wot sche hadde nevere child be me.
   I love hire as my life.
"But or evere wiste I,
   Hire wombe began to rise —
I telle thee treuthe treuli,
   I not nevere in wat wyse.
"I troste to hire goodnesse
   Sche wolde no thing misdo;
I wot et wel iwisse
   For I have founden et so,
"That rathere a maiden sulde
   Withouten man conceyve
Than Marie mis don wolde
   An so Joseph deceyve.
"The child that lith so poreli
   In cloutes al bewent
An bounden so misesli,
   Fro hevene he is isent;
"His fader is king of hevene
   An so seide Gabriel
To wam that child is evene
   O Emanuel."
But this child that I sau than
   An as Joseph seyde
I wot the child is God an man
   An is moder mayde.
I thankid him of his lore
   With al myn herte mith.
That this sith I say thore
   Als I lay on a nyth.
This child thanne worchipe we
   Bothe day an nith
That we moun his face se
   In joyye that is so lith. Amen.
       Ecce quod natura mutat sua iura:
       Virgo parit pura dei filium.
Beholde and see how that nature
Chaungith here lawe: a mayden pure
Shalle bere a chielde (thus seith scripture),
   Jhesus, oure savyour.
Beholde, the flease of Gedeon
Wexed wete, that no dewe fel on;
Beholde, the yerde of Aaron
   Unmoysted bare a floure.
The prophete Isay seith thus:
"A mayde shall bere a childe to us
Whose name shall be called Jhesus,
   Oure helpe and our socour.
"A yerde shall goo oute of Jesse rote
Wherof a floure shall ascende full soote."
This floure is Crist, oure helth and boote,
   This yerde, Mary, his boure.
Seynt Mathew seith in the gospell,
"A mayde shall bere Emanuell,
That is to sey, God with us to dwell,
   That lovely paramour."
Forsoth, to us is borne a chielde;
A sonne is yeven to us full myelde
Of virgyne Marie undefielde
   To cease oure grete langoure.
This is the stone cutte of the hille,
Criste borne of Marie us untille
Without synne in thought, dede, and wille
   To save us fro dolour.
This chielde shall be the Prince of Peas,
Whose kingdome shall ever encrease,
Wherof the peas shall nevir ceas
   But encreace day and houre.
Seint Anselme seith, "So Criste did pas
Thurgh Marie myelde, as his wille was,
As the sonne beame goth thurgh the glas,
   That mayde full of honoure."
(see note)
Who bore
Without pain; proper; (see note)
(see note)
(see note)
wondrous; see
There was never such a one but she
Through Gabriel's utterance/voice
Our nature has taken
suns; (see note)
When Jesus became incarnate/shone; (see note)
bought (redeemed) free and slave
discovered/made; ass'; (see note)
their; (see note)
They looked
saw; down
Who; mild voice
peace; the earth; ordained; (see note)
Three; nobility; (see note)
took the direct way
knelt before him
came from afar
Through guidance of a star
incense, myrrh
(see note)
Now the birds sing and rejoice; (see note)
the grass grows; branch puts forth leaves
one I; matchless/mateless
all; for his mother he chose; (see note)
She is without sin; corruption
Come; kin of Jesse's root; (see note)
Lord; mankind; her; born
out of sin, or else we were lost
greeted her; said [to] her; (see note)
our Lord be with you
fruit; your; blessed may it
You shall; child; truth I tell you
the greeting that angel
She began to think; mind her thoughts
She; the angel; How may this happen; (see note)
I know nothing of man's company, truly; (see note)
Virgin she; with; here before
is since her child was born
was never any woman but she
might she bearer of God's Son; (see note)
Blessed be; sweet child; also
sweet breast, sucked
Praised be; was born
(see note)
(see note)
human form; (see note)
sins'; (see note)
Let us rejoice; (see note)
(see note)
sinned not
Neither in deed, nor
Wonderful thing
counsel; born
I said before; (see note)
what was lost
The sun from a star
never goes down
Nor ever loses his light
star; shining
Ever bright
brings; beam; (see note)
From; marvelous stream
gave birth; blemish; (see note)
In like manner
(see note)
mild; heart; mind; (see note)
(see note)
child; says so
pain; endless woe
Who has bought humankind back
cross; heart's blood
everything obeys by reason
Whereby; to the chancel of heaven; (see note)
deliver; Judgment Day
slavery, pain, woe
(see note)
meekness; (see note)
roses; its balm spread
Spirit; purity
breast; womanhood
rejoice; play
Gracious; did enclose; (see note)
You; Judea; perfect; (see note)
Chosen by; humility
five; (see note)
Against whose
to me pray for help
(see note)
such virtue; (see note)
(see note)
contained; (see note)
Wonderful thing
By; well
three; (see note)
In like manner; (see note)
sang to the shepherds
Glory to God in the highest
Let us rejoice
worldly mirth; (see note)
Let us go
(see note)
mother; bore
Buyer (redeemer) of mankind
gate of heavenly; (see note)
star; sea, raise up; people; (see note)
have; mind
yourself you bore; Father; (see note)
At which wonders nature
caught (received) that
Release us from sin now
we beseech you
(see note)
Rejoice, queen of heaven
blessed are you
Rejoice, queen of heaven
mother; bright of countenance; (see note)
daughter; sister; pity
chosen of the Trinity; (see note)
see; (see note)
in humility
are courteous; solemnity; (see note)
proclaim; (see note)
precious; royalty
gentle; find
no such; country
kneel; knee
birth worship
(see note)
my delight; dear; beloved
heart; darling
sit and sing
lulled; little; lord; (see note)
eternal; he who; things
lords; (see note)
much; child's birth
who were; heavenly; much
Angels; sang; said
meek; gracious
Grant them; make cheer; (see note)
(see note)
Learn; (see note)
limbs; might see
How sorely; (see note)
great woe; (see note)
and nothing else; (see note)
sweet; dear
poor; lie; (see note)
grieves sorely
your cradle is like a bier; (see note)
are your companions
I weep therefore; (see note)
be not angry
rag nor cloth; (see note)
To wrap you in
patch; rag
(see note)
keep; (see note)
afflicts you
redeem in this way
from evil
not abide here too long
death take me to you
(see note)
As; night
I thought I saw a wondrous sight
rocking her child
she did; (see note)
bade; sing
now; said; (see note)
What will happen to me
when; adulthood
All mothers do so
knows how to; cradle
Is accustomed to
to sleep
Sweet; noble
(see note)
What should I sing about
(i.e., the Annunciation)
greeted; courteously; his knee
You shall bear the Messiah
much; thought
For I would have no man
dread you not
Let God take care of it
should bear man's bliss
David's city
dwelling place
pleased me
Let it be
Then; bore you
midwinter night
maidenhood; pain
By; almighty
shepherds; watched; open country; (see note)
Heard; wondrous celebration
angels; foretold; (see note)
But; fain would I
do; pleasure
(see note)
I shall teach you
What I will suffer
And do while
When; days are done; (see note)
Just as Abraham ordained; (see note)
Cut (circumcised); (see note)
very tender
twelve; (see note)
leading; star
Three kings shall seek me then
fortieth; fulfill; (see note)
We shall go to the temple together
Where; shall speak a saying to you
shall change; mood
twelve years old; (see note)
Shall find me
thirty years old at least
from you swerve; (see note)
be at your command
I must begin to fulfill
By my Father's
(see note)
Shall bear witness to what I am
shall be; (see note)
fain; tempt
In the same manner
shall better withstand
gather; (see note)
them forth
the majority; people; (see note)
want to
Sweet; she; (see note)
sorrow; suffer
Might; see
Stop; sweet [one]; (see note)
That is not why I came
humble; suffering's remedy
into which; born
when thirty-two
much mourning
die painfully
sharp sword; (see note)
Shall pierce your heart
much strife
Sorely shall hurt you
Shamefully shall I die; (see note)
Hanging on the cross
man's ransom; pay
My own heart's blood
maiden; (see note)
Why must I live to see that day
bear you for; woe
Make light of it (take it easy); (see note)
I shall live again; (see note)
(see note)
worked in vain
shall go; (see note)
earthly form
shall [to] you send; (see note)
his seven gifts; (see note)
when it is time; (see note)
doom (Judgment Day)
will now
sight; saw
Christmas Day; (see note)
(see note)
white as lily; (see note)
Your; relieves; (see note)
rose one morning; (see note)
thought; young
sang to sleep; (see note)
savior; (see note)
lap; (see note)
lovingly; breast; (see note)
draught; (see note)
sucked; liquid
he began to say; (see note)
I must die; (see note)
nature/station; (see note)
darling; (see note)
freely (unrestrainedly) began; (see note)
made mourning
(see note)
great dolor; (see note)
weeping grieves; (see note)
Unless I die, you must be lost; (see note)
Stop, mother; weep; (see note)
relieves; (see note)
Such lament; made
merry; glad
(see note)
(see note)
own dear
You are; creation
come; all and some
blood; dearly bought
(see note)
is; (see note)
Adam's guilt
(see note)
not die
shall I play
pain; pierces in two; (see note)
(see note)
passed through
discovered a garden; (see note)
seemlier; I have not seen
On each; turtledove; (see note)
Therein; hue; (see note)
ceased; (see note)
These; notes; did utter
The word is made flesh; (see note)
stay; should hear
paid close attention to
laid between two beasts
so you might hear
forest; did go
blissful; yet heard; more; (see note)
Glory to God in the highest; (see note)
I did not want them to leave me
after; hurried
above; (see note)
peace; (see note)
maid; fault
two beasts; (see note)
surely; (see note)
traveled forth; wood
crown; (see note)
propelled myself forth; (see note)
most royal of them; did speak; (see note)
fared; feast; (see note)
From; bound
saw; (see note)
relief has brought for; suffering; (see note)
sins; wash; (see note)
A maid harbored him in her hall (womb)
sustained; truly; chamber; (see note)
healthy that noble one in her rested
Full; may; (see note)
Unto; princess; (see note)
eager; pleased
heard; (see note)
(see note)
one night
looked; land; (see note)
bright; (see note)
in [her] hands; (see note)
gaze; (see note)
appearance; sweet
sorrow surely; (see note)
might; troubles relieve; (see note)
about; sweet creature; (see note)
done; wrong; (see note)
Unless she; virgin
By; man (attendant); (see note)
solemnly; told his story; (see note)
seemed by his appearance
old law (a Jew)
hair; gray; head; (see note)
face; burn (i.e., he blushed)
what; said; (see note)
And bade me stay
You wonder; reasonably
On what you have seen
And I did likewise; (see note)
How; should be; (see note)
and; there
should; born
(see note)
knows; by
her; (see note)
before; knew(see note)
(see note)
I do not know how; (see note)
trust; (see note)
She would do no wrong; (see note)
know it with certainty; (see note)
sooner; should
would do wrong
lies so poorly (in poverty)
rags; wrapped
bound (dressed) so miserably
From; sent
(see note)
saw then
I know
his; virgin
him (Joseph) for his instruction
my heart's might
sight I saw there
(see note)
might; see
(see note)
Behold that nature changes her laws
A virgin pure gives birth to the Son of God
(see note)
bear; child; says
fleece; (see note)
Grew wet
rod; (see note)
Unwatered; flower
Isaiah; (see note)
branch; (see note)
(see note)
Truly; child; (see note)
(see note)
unto us
Peace; (see note)
(see note)
goes through

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