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Penitential Poems


1 Be our advocate before we die



Hayl Mari, / Hic am sori. Index no. 1066. MS: Bodl. 1603 (Digby 2), fol. 6b (late thirteenth century). Editions: F. J. Furnivall, Archiv 97 (1896), 311; F. J. Furnivall, Minor Poems, p. 755; Patterson, no. 29; B13, no. 65; Sisam, Oxford, no. 19.

9 In worde, in worke, in thoith foli. Compare the lines of confession from the Ordinary of the Mass: "I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed" (Warren, Sarum Missal, Part 1, p. 21).

10-11 her mi bon. / Mi bon thu her. Each stanza of this poem is linked to the next with a repeated phrase (concatenation), a technique common to French secular lyrics, particularly the chanson d'aventure. The speaker's plea for the lady's pity also echoes secular conventions.

14 her. MS: her lefdi der, with lefdi der marked for deletion.

15 fer. Sisam glosses as "in health." It could also mean "fearful."

17 Ne let me noth ler that thu ber. Sisam's gloss is "Do not deny me the countenance you bear."

20 Forto. MS: fort. Furnivall's emendation.

36 Trinité. The idea of God as three persons in one being - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - is central to Christian theology. The Athanasian Creed elaborates on the doctrine.

44 drupe and dar. MED daren, v.2.c.113, cites the Promptorium parvulorum: "Darynn or drowpyn or prively to be hydde," which suggests a common alliterative phrase meaning "to slink or hide or remain motionless." Thus, in lines 46-48, the speaker compares himself at Judgment Day to a hare freezing motionless as the hounds close in. Though he cries out to Mary now in his terror (line 15), at Judgment he would be silent as Christ enduring the fiend's blows.

49 Furnivall emends to read haf ned[e þan &] þare.

50 The MS line concludes with &c, suggesting that the text may be incomplete.


On hire is al mi lif ilong. Index no. 2687. MS: BL Cotton Caligula A.9, fol. 246b (thirteenth century). Also in Jesus College Oxford 29, Part 2, fol. 180b (lines 1-31, thirteenth century); Trinity College Cambridge 323 (B.14.39), fol. 81b, incomplete due to misbinding (thirteenth century); and BL Royal 2.F.8, fol. 1b (late thirteenth century). Editions of Cotton Caligula: Morris, EETS o.s. 49, pp. 158-62; Wright, Religious Songs, Percy Society 11 (London: T. Richards, 1844), pp. 65-66; B13, no. 32B; Patterson, no. 31. Edition of Trinity: CS, p. 94; B13 no. 32A; Stevick, no. 12. Edition of Jesus College: Morris, EETS o.s. 49, p. 159-63. Edition of Royal: B13, no. 32C.

3 ther among. Singling out Mary as the one most praiseworthy among women is commonplace. She is one among ten thousand; compare Chaucer's use of the Marian epithet in praise of the good fair White in The Book of the Duchess, lines 972 and 818-19.

4 Heo. Trinity: Thad. Royal: That.

6 Heo. Trinity, Royal: Ant.

8 Ich . . . mi. Trinity: We . . . ur.

10 Thah we. MS: thah the. Brown's emendation. Trinity: Than we. Royal: Then we. It is conceivable that Thah the is the right reading, however, and the subject (we) understood: "though we have done wrong to you (Mary)." The shift to second person (the) would thus anticipate the next stanza.

11 Thu art. Trinity: Ho is. Trinity gives Ho for Thu at lines 13 and 14 as well. The Trinity scribe evidently wished to maintain an objective tone by employing third person until midway in the stanza, where Mary is juxtaposed with Eve.
11-20 Here the tone shifts to a more personal level as the speaker begins to address Mary directly. The Trinity scribe maintains use of the third person until midway through the stanza. (In Trinity this stanza occurs after line 40 in the present text.)

14 geve. Royal: broht.

weole. The word suggests "satisfaction," "opulence," "worthiness," "status," or "opportunities."
and. Omitted in Royal.

wunne. MS: thunne. Brown's emendation.

16 woht. Jesus College: wo.

18 Bisih to me. Trinity: Thu do us merci.

19 ich. Trinity: we.

21-30 In Royal and Trinity, this stanza follows the first.

22 Omitted in Jesus College.

23 lif we schule forgo. Trinity: blisse ic mot forgon. Royal gives blisse for lif.

we. MS: the. Brown's emendation.

24 Ne of thunche hit us so sore. Trinity: Nofthingit me so sore.

25 This world nis butent ure ifo. Trinity: This worldis blis nis wrd a slo. Royal: Thes worldes blysse nys wrt a slo.

26 thenche hirne at go. Trinity: wille henne gon.

hirne. Jesus College: hire.

26-28 These lines are omitted in Trinity.

27 do bi. Trinity: lernin.

28 This lives blisse nis wurth a slo. See note to line 25. Royal: Thes world nys bote hure yfoh.

lives. Trinity: worldis.

slo. The sloe is the small, sour fruit of a blackthorn tree.

29 Ich bidde, God, thin ore. Royal: Levedy, thyn horee.

34 prude and feire wede. Trinity: hevir [ever] fayre wedin. Royal: Heyte and fayre ywede.

35 dweole. Trinity: nout. The MED provides several applicable meanings for dwele: "a wandering course," "trickery," "false belief; heresy," or "delusion."

36 ich thenche sunne fleo. Trinity: we sulin [should] ur sunnis flen. Royal: yg wlle hem flee.

37 And alle mine sot dede. Trinity: And ure sothede. Royal: And lete my sothede.

38 Ich bidde hire to me biseo. Trinity: We biddirt hire us to seo. Royal: Hy bydde hyre thet ys so fre.

39 And helpe me and rede. Trinity: Thad con wissin and redin. Royal: Helpen hus and rede.

40 That is so freo. Royal: Wel hit may be.

43 Awrec thee nu on me, levedi. Trinity: Thu do me merci, lavedi brit. Royal: Bysy to me, suete levedy. The literal sense in Cotton Caligula is "avenge yourself now on me, lady."

44 fecche. Trinity: wecche. Royal: dregche.

45-46 Do nim thee wreche . . . / Other let me. Trinity: Yif me thi love . . . / Let me. Royal: To nyme bote . . . / And let me.

47 That no feond me ne drecche. Trinity: Thad fendes me ne letten (release). Royal: Here deed me hynne veyge.
49 Of this world. Trinity: Of my lif. Royal: That lyves.


Worsshipful maiden to the world, Marie. By Thomas Hoccleve. Index no. 4233. MS: Hunting-ton HM 744, fol. 33b (1422-26). Edition: Frederick J. Furnivall and I. Gollancz, eds., Hoccleve's Works: The Minor Poems, EETS e.s. 61 and 73 (1892 and 1925; rpt. as one volume, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), pp. 283-85.

26 Thou sparyng and thow preyynge. In the MS, "s. deus" appears above sparyng; "s. domina" appears above preyynge. The s is an abbreviation for scilicet, "that is to say."

35 Satisfaccioun is the reward of penance; see Chaucer's The Parson's Tale with its progress from "Contricioun of herte" to "Confession of Mouthe" to "Satisfaccioun" (CT X[I]107), or the fruit of the tree of charity being defined as satisfaction (CT X[I]113). But humankind's lot is often said to be a state of perpetual anxiety, and here the speaker worries that his penance has been inadequate. See Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy and such lyrics as "In the vale of resteles mynde" (Index no. 1463; Stevick, no. 50).


Hayl, oure patron and lady of erthe. Index no. 1073. MS: BL Addit. 37049, fols. 29b-30a (fifteenth century). Editions: Karl Brunner, "Kirchenlieder aus dem 15.Jahrhundert," Anglia 61 (1937), 140; B15, no. 26; LH, no. 182. MS facsimile: James Hogg, ed. An Illustrated Yorkshire Carthusian Religious Miscellany, British Library London Additional MS. 37049, Vol. 3: The Illustrations, Analecta Cartusiana 95 (Salzburg: Universität Salzburg, 1981), pp. 38-39.

In the MS, the poem is preceded by a picture in which Mary sits holding the infant Christ. She holds a scepter; Jesus holds an orb in one hand and raises the other hand in a gesture of benediction. A monk kneels before them, saying, "O suete lady, mayden mylde, pray for me to Jesu thi childe." Mary says, "I am redy for all to pray, that my son wil luf god verray."

The poem is an expanded translation of the antiphon Salve Regina (Connelly, no. 33; Julian, 2:991). In the MS, the abbreviated Latin words appear in red to the left of the English text.
1 Salve. The Latin words correspond to the first words of each English line.

2 emprys of helle. See note to §56, line 10.

3 ferth. The word may be a derivation of the Scottish firth, estuary, suggesting Mary's function as contributor to mercy; or it may be a form of the Northern frith, preserve, wood, or hunting-ground, presenting an image of Mary as a "place" where mercy may be found.

4 secunde welle. The first is the well of Jacob, where Jesus meets the woman of Samaria and tells her about the "living water" of everlasting life (John 4:1-30).

7 et spes nostra. The MS reads mea, but the English text translates the Latin nostra from the hymn.

16 for. Added above the line.

17 payne. The word rayne is blotted out before payne.

25 Illos tuos misericordes oculos: abbreviated in MS.

34 luf. Brown reads lust.

39 joyful. In margin, to replace canceled gentyl.


Mayden moder milde. Index no. 2039. MS: BL Harley 2253, fol. 83a (West Midlands, early fourteenth century). Editions: Wright, Specimens, pp. 97-98; Böddekker, pp. 220-22; Wülcker, 1:49-50; CS, no. 49; B13, no. 87; Brook, no. 28; LH, no. 191; Silverstein, no. 28.

1-8 Brook calls attention to the similarity of the short prayer which concludes Dan Michel's version of the Ayenbite of Inwit (MS Arundel 57, fol. 96b): "Mayde and moder mylde, uor loue of þine childe, þet is god an man, Me þet am zuo wylde uram zenne þou me ssylde ase ich þe bydde can. Amen."

12 Ly soverein creatour. One of the mysteries of Mary is that she gave birth to her creator, the author of the universe. But creatour might also be translated as "creature" or "created thing," which sometimes is spelled creatur as well as creature in Old French.

25 stou. Possibly ston, as Brown reads; Brook also admits ston (stony ground) as a possible reading.

31 ferede. Brook argues that "the syntax of the line demands the transitive sense 'to cause fear to': 'He caused fear in every living creature.'"
Hayl Mari,
Hic am sori;
Haf pité of me and merci.
Mi levedi,
To thee I cri:
For mi sinnis dred ham hi,
Wen hi thenke that hi sal bi,
That hi haf mis hi-don
In worde, in worke, in thoith foli.
Levedi, her mi bon.
Mi bon thu her,
Levedi der,
That hic aske wit reuful cher;
Thu len me her
Wil hic am fer.
Do penanz in mi praier;
Ne let me noth ler that thu ber
At min endin day.
The warlais, thai wil be her
Forto take thair pray.
To take thar pray,
Alse hi her say,
Thai er redi boyt nite and day.
So strange er thai
That we ne may
Agayneis thaim stond, so waylaway,
But gif thu help us, mitteful may,
Wit thi sunes grace;
Wan thu comes thai flet awai,
Dar thai not se thi face.
Thi face to se,
Thu grant hit me,
Lefdi fulfillid of pité,
That hi may be
In joy wit thee
To se thi sone in Trinité,
That sufferid pine and ded for me
And for al mankyn.
His flesse was sprade on rode tre
To leys us al of sine.
Of sine and kar
He maked us bar
Wan he thollid pines sar.
To drupe and dar
We athe wel mare,
Alse for the hondis doyt the har,
Wan we thenke hu we sal far
Wan he sal dem us alle;
We sal haf ned thare
Apan Mari to calle.
On hire is al mi lif ilong
Of hwam ich wule singe,
And herien hire ther among.
Heo gon us bote bringe
Of helle pine that is strong;
Heo brohte us blisse that is long,
Al thurht hire chilthinge.
Ich bidde hire one mi song,
Heo geove us god endinge
Thah we don wrong.
Thu art hele and lif ond liht,
And helpest al monkunne;
Thu us havest ful wel idight,
Thu geve us weole and wunne.
Thu brohtest dai, and Eve night;
Heo broghte woht, thu broghtest right,
Thu almesse and heo sunne.
Bisih to me, lavedi bright,
Hwenne ich schal wende heonne,
So wel thu miht.
Al this world schal ago
With seorhe and with sore,
And al this lif we schule forgo,
Ne of thunche hit us so sore:
This world nis butent ure ifo.
Tharfore ich thenche hirne at go
And do bi Godes lore;
This lives blisse nis wurth a slo.
Ich bidde, God, thin ore,
Nu and everemo.
To longe ich habbe sot ibeo;
Wel sore ich me adrede;
Iluved ich habbe gomen and gleo
And prude and feire wede.
Al that is dweole, wel i seo;
Tharfore ich thenche sunne fleo
And alle mine sot dede.
Ich bidde hire to me biseo
And helpe me and rede,
That is so freo.
Agult ich habbe, weilawei;
Sunful ich am an wrecche.
Awrec thee nu on me, levedi,
Er deth me honne fecche.
Do nim thee wreche — ich am redi —
Other let me liven and amendi,
That no feond me ne drecche.
For mine sunnes ich am sori;
Of this world ich ne recche.
Levedi, merci. Amen.
Worsshipful maiden to the world, Marie,
Modir moost lovynge unto al mankynde,
Lady to whom al synful peple crie
In hir distresse, have us in thy mynde!
Thurgh thy benigne pitee, us unbynde
Of our giltes, that in thy sones birthe
To al the world broghtest the joie and mirthe.
To whom shal I truste so sikirly,
To axen help in my necessitee
As unto thee, thow modir of mercy?
For to the world mercy cam in by thee:
Thow baar the Lord of mercy, lady free;
Who may so lightly mercy us purchace
Of God thy sone as thow, modir of grace?
Lady, right as it is an impossible
That thow sholdest nat have in remembrance
Why thow baar God, so it is incredible
To any wight of catholyk creaunce,
Thee nat to reewe on our synful grevaunce.
Forthy, lady benigne and merciable,
Unto thy sone make us acceptable.
O God, that maad art sone unto womman,
For mercy, and thow womman which also
By grace art maade modir to God and man,
Outhir reewe on us wrecches ful of wo,
Thou sparyng and thow preyynge,
Or elles wisse us whidir for to flee
To hem that been mercyfullere than yee.
If it so be as wel I woot it is,
That so grevous is myn iniquitee
And that I have wroght so moche amis,
So smal my feith, so slow my charitee,
And, Lord, so unkonnynge is unto thee
And thy modir my lewde orisoun,
So imparfyt my satisfaccioun,
That neithir of my giltes, indulgence,
Ne grace of helthe in no maner wyse
Disserved have I for my greet offense,
Lo, that meene I that is my covetyse,
That whereas my dissert may not souffyse,
The grace and mercy of yow bothe tweye
Ne faille nat: that is it that I preye.
Mercyful Lord, have upon me mercy,
And lady, thy sone unto mercy meeve.
With herte contryt preye I thee meekly,
Lady, thy pitee on me, wrecche, preeve;
Bisyly preye, for I fully leeve
For whom thow preyest, God nat list denye
Thyn axynge, blessid maiden Marie!
Salve                    Hayl, oure patron and lady of erthe,
Regina                  Qwhene of heven and emprys of helle:
mater                    Moder of al blis thu art, the ferth
misericordie         Of mercy and grace the secunde welle.
vita                       Lyfe come of thee as the sownde of a bell
Dulcedo                Swetnes thu art both moder and mayde,
et spes nostra       Oure hope with thee that we may dwelle
Salve                     Hayl, ful of grace, as Gabriel sayd.
Ad te                     To thee oure socour, our helpe, our trust,
clamamus             We crye, we pray, we make oure complaynt.
Exules                   Exylde to pryson fro gostly lust,
filii                         The childer of Adam that so was ataynte,
Eve                        Of Eve our moder here ar we dreynte.
Ad te                      To thee that byndes the fendes whelpe
suspiramus            We sighe, we grone; we wax al faynte,
gementes               Wepyng for sorow, gode lady, now helpe.
Et flentes               Wepyng for syn and for oure payne
In hac                     In this derknes oure tyme we spende;
lacrimarum            Of teres the comforth is a swete rayne,
valle                        In the wayle of grace it will discende.
Eya                         Hafe done, gode lady, grace is thi frende;
Ergo                       Therfore send us sum of thi grace.
advocata                Oure advocate make us afore our ende, 1
nostra                     Oure synnes to wesche whils we hafe space.
Illos tuos miseri-
  cordes oculos        Thi mercyful eene and lufly loke
Ad nos converte      Cast opon us for oure disporte,
Et Ihesum                And Jesu, thi babe, that thi flesche toke,
Benedictum             So blyssed a Lord make us supporte,
Fructum                  That fruyt of lyfe may us comfort.
ventris tui                Of thi wome the fruyt may suffyse
nobis                        To us whorby we may resorte
post hoc                   Aftyr this exyle to paradyse.
exilium                     Exyle is grevos in this derk werre;
ostende                    Schewe us thi luf, the stronger to fyght.
Benignum                 Benygne lady and our se sterre
O clemens                O buxum lanterne, gyf us thi lyght.
O pia                        O meke, o chaste, o blistfull syght
O dulcis                    O swete, o kynde, o gentyll and fre,
maria                       Mary, with Jesu that joyful knyght,
Salve                        Hayle and fare wele and thinke on me.
                     §                                                   Amen
Mayden moder milde,
Oiez cel oreysoun,
From shome thou me shilde
E de ly mal feloun.
For love of thine childe,
Me menez de tresoun:
Ich wes wod ant wilde,
Ore su en prisoun.
Thou art feyr ant fre
E plein de doucour;
Of thee sprong the ble,
Ly soverein creatour;
Mayde, byseche y thee,
Vostre seint socour,
Meoke and mylde be with me,
Pur la sue amour.
Tho Judas Jesum founde,
Donque ly beysa,
He wes bete ant bounde,
Que nus tous fourma.
Wyde were is wounde
Qe le gyw ly dona;
He tholede hard stounde,
Me poi le greva.
On stou ase thou stode,
Pucele, tot pensaunt,
Thou restest thee under rode,
Ton fitz veites pendant;
Thou seghe is sides of blode,
L'alme de ly partaunt.
He ferede uch an fode
En mound que fust vivaunt.
Ys siden were sore,
Le sang de ly cora;
That lond wes forlore,
Mes il le rechata.
Uch bern that wes ybore
En enfern descenda;
He tholede deth ther fore,
En ciel puis mounta.
Tho Pilat herde the tydynge —
Molt fu joyous baroun
He lette byfore him brynge
Jesu Nazaroun.
He was ycrouned kynge
Pur nostre redempcioun;
Whose wol me synge
Avera grant pardoun.
(see note)
I am sorry
fearful am I
When I think about what I shall be
What I have misdone
foolish thought; (see note)
hear my prayer; (see note)
My prayer you hear
Lady dear
What I ask with rueful heart
You support me here; (see note)
While I am far away; (see note)
Cause penance
Deny me not your countenance; (see note)
my final day
devils (warlocks); here
capture their prey; (see note)
As I hear
They are ready both night
strong are they
may not
Against them stand, alas
Unless you; courageous maiden
With your son's
When you come, they flee away
Please grant me
full of pity
with you
(see note)
Who; pain and death
body; stretched; cross
release us all from sin
sin; care
made us bare (stripped us)
When he suffered pains sore
droop; remain still; (see note)
ought all the more
As the hare does for the hounds
When we imagine how we should fare
shall judge
shall have need there; (see note)
Upon; (see note)
(see note)
her; life's longing
whom I will sing
praise her; (see note)
She has brought us remedy; (see note)
From hell's suffering; fierce
She brought; endures; (see note)
through her birth-giving
I pray [to] her in my song; (see note)
[That] she give us good ending
Though we do
health; life and light; (see note)
You have; treated
abundance; joy; (see note)
You brought
She brought woe; you brought; (see note)
You charity; she sin
Look after me, lady; (see note)
When I shall go hence; (see note)
As well you might
shall go; (see note)
sorrow; pain; (see note)
life; shall give up; (see note)
Nor think sorrowfully of it; (see note)
is nothing but our enemy; (see note)
Therefore I think of her always; (see note)
according to God's teaching; (see note)
life's; is not worth a berry; (see note)
I pray; your mercy; (see note)
Now; evermore
Too long I have been a fool
sorely; fear
I have loved games and glee
pride; fine clothing; (see note)
error, well I see; (see note)
I think to flee [from] sin; (see note)
my foolish deeds; (see note)
beg her to look after me; (see note)
counsel; (see note)
Who; noble; (see note)
Guilt I have, alas
I am sinful and wretched
Chastise me now, lady; (see note)
Before death takes me hence; (see note)
Take your vengeance — I am ready; (see note)
Or; live and amend
no fiend torment me; (see note)
sins; sorry
I do not value this world; (see note)
Lady, [have] mercy
(see note)
Mother most loving
people cry
their; mind
Through; kind pity unbind us
sins, who; son's birth
easily; obtain
you, mother
just as; impossibility
should not remember
you bore
person of catholic (universal) belief
not to pity our sinfulness
Therefore; merciful
who is made son of woman
Either pity us wretches; woe
You (God) sparing; you (Mary) praying; (see note)
Or else advise us where to flee
To any who be more merciful than you
grievous; sinfulness
done so much wrong
inadequate my faith
ignorant prayer
imperfect; satisfaction; (see note)
neither for my guilt forgiveness
Nor; salvation in any manner
Deserved; great offense
by which I mean my covetousness
merit; suffice
you both two
Shall not fail
heart contrite pray
prove your pity on me, [a] wretch
Busily; believe
God will not deny
Your request
(see note)
(see note)
Queen; empress; (see note)
bliss; estuary; (see note)
second well; (see note)
comes from; sound
(see note)
you our aide
spiritual desire
children; tainted
binds; fiend's offspring
grow faint
good; (see note)
(see note)
tears; rain
Into; valley
wash [away]; have
eyes; lovely gaze; (see note)
womb; suffice
whereby; return
grievous; dark confusion
show; love; (see note)
Kind; sea
gracious; give
(see note)
(see note)
(see note)
Hear this prayer
shame; shield
And from the evil villain
Lead me from treachery
I was mad and wayward
Now I am in prison
fair and noble
And full of gentleness (sweetness)
The sovereign creator; (see note)
I beseech you
Your holy aid
For love of him
When Judas found Jesus
Then kissed him
beaten and bound
Who made us all
Wide; his wounds
Which the Jews gave him
suffered great pain
But little did he grieve
In [the] place where you stood; (see note)
Maiden, lost in melancholy
You pause (rest yourself) under the cross
See your son hanging
You see his bloody sides
The soul parting from him
caused fear in everyone; (see note)
Who lived in the world
His sides
The blood ran from them
That land (the world) was lost
But he redeemed it
Every child who was born
Descended to hell
suffered death therefore [for them]
Then rose to heaven
When Pilate heard the news
He was a most joyful nobleman
Jesus of Nazareth
For our redemption
Whoever sings [with] me
Will receive great pardon

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