Poems in Celebration of Mary
POEMS IN CELEBRATION OF MARY: FOOTNOTES
2 O mother most illuminate, we might not have done without you
POEMS IN CELEBRATION OF MARY: NOTES
Adam lay ibowndyn. Index no. 117. MS: BL Sloane 2593, fol. 11a (c. 1450). Editions: Wright, Songs (Warton Club), p. 32; Wülcker, 2:8; Fehr, Archiv 109, p. 51; CS, no. 50; B15, no. 83; Davies, no. 71; Stevick, no. 53; LH, no. 164; Rickert, p. 163; Manning, p. 6; Cecil, p. 18; Charles Williams, The New Book of English Verse (1936; rpt. Miami: Granger Books, 1978), p. 23; Auden and Pearson, 1:27; Chambers, p. 91; Kaiser, p. 290; Silverstein, no. 70; Burrow, p. 300. Selected criticism: Speirs, pp. 65-66; Manning, pp. 6-7; Woolf, pp. 290-91; Reiss, pp. 139-42.
1 Adam. The Hebrew name means "man"; Adam's bondage to sin symbolizes that of all humankind.
2 Fowre thowsand wynter. Gray: "A traditional estimate. In Paradiso xxvi Adam tells Dante that he spent 4,302 years in Limbo; in the York play of the Harrowing of Hell (lines 39-40) he says that he has been there for 4,600 years. According to F. Vigouroux, Dictionnaire de la Bible, s.v. 'Chronologie Biblique', there are some two hundred early attempts to date the creation of Adam from the chronological indications in the Hebrew and Septuagint versions of the Old Testament" (Selection, p. 98). See also C. A. Patrides, "Renaissance Estimates of the Year of Creation," Huntington Library Quarterly 26 (1963), 315-22.
3 Gray calls attention to the first stanza of a carol found in MS Sloane 2593:
Adam our fader was in blis5-8 The felix culpa ("happy Fall") idea expressed here echoes these lines from the Praeconium, a hymn for Easter Eve: O certe necessarium Adae peccatum: quod Christi morte deletum est. / O felix culpa: quae talem ac tantum meruit habere redemptorem. ["O truly necessary sin of Adam, which was blotted out by the death of Christ. / O happy guilt, which was meet to have such and so great a redeemer"] (Frederick Brittain, ed. The Penguin Book of Latin Verse [Baltimore: Penguin, 1962], p. 94). On the background of the concept, see Arthur O. Lovejoy, "Milton and the Paradox of the Fortunate Fall," ELH 4 (1937), 161-79. In this poem, the cause for celebration is not humankind's redemption, but Mary's queenship; the contrast is between Adam and Mary rather than Adam and Jesus.
And for an appil of lytil prys
He loste the blysse of Paradys
Pro sua superbia. For his pride
(EEC, no. 68)
Swete and benygne moder and may. By William Huchen. Index no. 3228. MS: New College Oxford 320, fol. 44b (c. 1460). Editions: Furnivall, EETS o.s. 15, pp. 291-92; Patterson, no. 69; Paul Sauerstein, Charles d'Orléans und die Englische Bersetzung seiner Dichtungen, (Halle: E. Karras, 1899), p. 47.
2 Turtill trew. Patterson writes, "This epithet is not found in the English liturgy, nor in English religious lyric poetry before Chaucer. The expression was extremely popular, however, in French poetry" (p. 196). The figure may originate in Canticles (Song of Solomon), where the bride is referred to through dove metaphors.
20 Empres of helle. See note to §56, line 10.
22-23 Stormys . . . do assayle. Patterson calls attention to St. Bernard's second homily on the Virgin Mary: "O you, whoever you are, who feel that in the tidal wave of this world you are nearer to being tossed about among the squalls and gales than treading on dry land, if you do not want to founder in the tempest, do not avert your eyes from the brightness of this star [Mary, the 'sea star']. When the wind of temptation blows up within you, when you strike upon the rock of tribulation, gaze up at this star, call out to Mary" (Homilies, p. 30).
O hie emperice and quene celestiall. Possibly by William Dunbar, but ascribed to Chaucer in this MS. (It is written in an eight-line stanza form that resembles that of The Monk's Tale.) Index no. 2461. MS: Bodl. 3354 (Arch. Selden B.24), fols. 137b-38a (late fifteenth century). Also in National Library of Scotland 16500 (Asloan), fol. 292a (first five stanzas, c. 1515); transcript of Asloan, Edinburgh University 521. Edition of Arch. Selden: B15 no 13. Edition of Asloan: Craigie, pp. 245-46; Laing, Supplement, p. 305.
6 floure. Asloan: barne.
7 spue. Asloan: spyce.
8 clerare than cristall. See note to §50, line 13.
14 path. Asloan: pace.
17 fillit. Asloan: fulfillit.
28 Anournyt. Asloan: Adorned.
33 Leviathan. For a description of this creature, see Job 40:20-41:25 (RSV 41:1-34). See also Isaias 27:1: "In that day the Lord with his hard, and great, and strong sword shall visit leviathan the bar serpent, and leviathan the crooked serpent, and shall slay the whale that is in the sea."
33 serpent. MS: spent. Brown's emendation.
34 parenes. Asloan: paran.
prothoplaust. OED protoplast1 cites another use of this form in Giles Du Wes' 1532 introduction to the French language: "Comyng from God to the firste father or prothoplauste . . . ."
36-37 The penalty for Adam and Eve's sin was death; see Genesis 3:19.
Glade us, maiden, moder milde. Index no. 912. MS: Trinity College Cambridge 323 (B.14.39) fols. 28b-29a (c. 1250). Edition: B13 no. 22.
This is a literal rendering of the Latin hymn Gaude virgo, mater Christi. In the MS the Middle English text alternates stanza by stanza with the Latin. The Latin hymn reads:
F. J. Mone, p. 162, provides a transcription of the Latin; he emends the order of detur nobis in line 17 to nobis detu, and notes that the second stanza in Trinity 323 is a conflation of the last three lines of the second stanza and the first three lines of the third stanza of what appears as the first four stanzas of the Latin hymn he transcribes. The Middle English translation follows the rhyme scheme of the Latin. The hymn in three stanzas appears as Prosa i in Die Martis: Ad Magnificat in Dreves and Blume, 24.57. Dreves and Blume's source reads: Gaude, quod post ipsum scandis in line 13, and, line 11, Et in soelum; otherwise the hymn is identical to that found in Trinity 323. The opening three lines of the hymn occur in about a dozen other Latin hymns, with some running to eleven or twelve stanzas (see the Index to Guido Maria Dreves and Clemens Blume, Analecta hymnica medii aevi, ed. Max Lütolf et al [Bern: Francke, 1978]). Brown notes that another English lyric based on this Latin poem appears in Sloane MS 2593, fol. 10a. See §5, above, for comparisons.
Gaude virgo, mater Christi,
quae per aurem concepisti
gaude, quia deo plena
peperisti sine poena
cum pudoris lilio.
Gaude, quia tui nati,
quem dolebas mortem pati,
gaude Christo ascendente
in coelum, qui te vidente
motu fertur proprio. Gaude, quae post Christum scandis
et est honor tibi grandis
in coeli palatio,
ubi fructus ventris tui
per te detur nobis frui
in perenni gaudio.
1 Glade us. The poem enumerates the five joys of Mary, recalling her gladness at the Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection, Ascension, and Assumption.
2 herre. The Holy Spirit approaches in a beam of light as Gabriel speaks to the Virgin. That she receives the divine insemination through the ear suggests that she is meditating upon the Word, which is as painless as having a bright idea (see lines 5 and 15). For a discussion of Mary's conception through her ear, see DBT, p. 43. Warner mentions this specific poem as her example of the aural divine conception (p. 37).
3 Gabriel he seide it thee. See the first five poems in this volume and Chaucer's ABC, lines 114-15, for further instances in which the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with Gabriel as Mary conceives at the Annunciation.
4 ful of gode thine. The deo plena, like the gratia plena of the Ave, here becomes "full of you [Mary's] goodness/God" The trope of fullness implies that Mary is God's chosen vessel, like the vas electonis St. Paul describes of himself when God fills him with the Holy Spirit in Acts 9:15.
5 thu bere buten pine. See note to §15, line 3.
6 lilie of chasteté. On the lily as sign of chastity, see Ferguson, pp. 33-34.
9-10 up aros refers to the Resurrection; up stey alludes to the Ascension.
12 clos. MED cites this line for its gloss on clos n. 3 as a designation for a dwelling place or apartment; or, with regard to God, the mansion of heaven (Christ's abode).
15 in thi paleis. The poet imagines Mary watching, as Queen of Heaven, from her palace on high, over all who are under her aegis.
17 fonden. This word is rich with resonances germane to its context - the sense being "to encounter"; "to become acquainted with, or involved with"; "to discover or to learn through experience"; "to procure, support, or maintain"; "to ascertain" - all of which heighten the sense of Mary as mediatrix between mankind's ignorance and the endless joy in Christ.
Marye, mayde mylde and fre. Index no. 2107. MS: BL Addit. 17376, fols. 204b-05b (mid-fourteenth century). The poem appears among a group of poems ascribed to William of Shoreham, but a note following this poem suggests that it is a translation of a piece by Robert Grosseteste (see Konrath [below], p. xiii). Editions: Thomas Wright, Poems of William de Shoreham, Percy Society 28 (London: T. Richards, 1851), pp. 131-34; M. Konrath, The Poems of William of Shoreham, EETS e.s. 86 (London: Kegan Paul, 1902), pp. 127-29; B14, no. 32; Davies, no. 34; LH, no. 195.
2 Chambre. See Psalm 19:5 (the sun like a bridegroom leaving his chamber) and compare §56, line 2, and §57, line 5.
5 fet onclene. MS: fet un onclene, with un marked for deletion.
5-6 The Fasciculus morum relates one version of a relevant popular legend: "There is a story about a cleric who was lustful and yet very devout in the worship of God and the Blessed Virgin. The Blessed Virgin appeared to him, carrying a sweet drink in a dirty dish, and offered it to him to drink. As he said that he could not do so because of the stench of the dish, the Blessed Virgin replied: 'Just so do your prayers not please me nor my son as long as the vessel from which they come is tainted'" (p. 35). For other versions of this story, occurring in collections of Miracles of the Virgin, see H. L. D. Ward, Catalogue of Romances in the Department of Manuscripts in the British Museum (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1893), 2:651, 665, 669, 672.
10 Wythoute . . . sore. See note to line 19.
13 colvere of Noe. See Genesis 8:11.
19 bosche of Synay. See Exodus 3:2 ff. Mary is often figured as the burning bush in which God appeared to Moses, e.g., Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale (CT VIII.467) and the Biblia Pauperum Nativity leaf (Plate A), which juxtaposes Moses and the burning bush (left) and Aaron's flowering rod (right), mentioned in lines 27-28. The Biblia Pauperum Nativity plate also cites Exodus 3:2 and Numbers 17:8, and adds a verse at the bottom of the plate which reads "Absque dolore paris Virgo Maria maris" (Labriola and Smeltz translate: "You gave birth, O Virgin, without pain"); compare line 10 of this poem.
20 rytte Sarray. Abraham's true wife; see Genesis 16 for the story of Sarai and her handmaid Agar, who gives birth to Abraham's son.
22 calenge. Konrath rejects the OED definition, "accusation, charge, reproach, objection," preferring "claim": "after the lapse of Adam, the Devil laid his claim upon sinful mankind, from which Mary released us by giving birth to our redeemer" (p. 236).
24 of Davyes kende. On Mary's presumed kinship with David, see note to §1, line 7, and compare §8, lines 41-42.
25 slinge . . . ston. See 1 Kings (RSV 1 Samuel) 17:49.
27-28 yerd . . . spryngynde. See Numbers 17:8.
28 Me dreye isegh spryngynde. I read Me as a dative of agency (as in "methinks"). Luria and Hoffman gloss the line "Which though dry was seen bringing forth a shoot."
31 temple Salomon. See 3 Kings (RSV 1 Kings) 5:1-6:38.
32 Mary is often compared to Gideon's fleece wet with dew; see note to §8, line 26.
33-36 See Luke 2:22-35.
41 lef. Konrath emends to luf.
42 wylle. Perhaps well. Konrath argues that come must rhyme with bynome in line 40, and must therefore be the verb. It follows that wylle is a noun, "well," or fountain (pp. 236-37). He connects this well to the story of Judith (compare line 37), in which Holofernes cuts off the water supply in Bethulia and prevents access to the wells, and Judith opens the wells and saves the city by beheading Holofernes.
43 Hester. Jeffrey writes: "St. Anthony had built on the story of Esther and Assuere a complex of prefiguration for the relationship between Christ and Mary (and between Christ and the Church) in which Esther's finding favor with Assuere (Esther 5:2) foreshadows the way in which God shows favor to Mary. Christ is the Assuere who crowns Esther in Esther 2:15-17, the Blessed Virgin" (DBT, p. 237).
45 Thee. MS: they. Brown's emendation.
46 he. Konrath: "read the?"
49-52 See Ezekiel 44:2. This passage is picked up as a sign of the Virgin Mary in the Annunciation plate of the Biblia Pauperum, where the scroll reads "This gate shall be shut, and it shall not be opened."
52 yschet fram manne. I.e., perpetually a virgin. The verse on the scroll at the bottom of the Biblia Pauperum Annunciation leaf reads "Virgo salutatur innupta manens gravidatur" (Labriola and Smeltz translate: "the Virgin is saluted; she is impregnated remaining a virgin").
55-56 See Daniel 2:34-35, 45.
57 Emaus. The road outside Jerusalem on which Jesus appeared to two of his followers after his Resurrection. See Luke 24:13-35.
60 wan yspeketh. MS: wany speketh. So emended by Konrath and Brown. See Isaias 7:14.
63-66 The unicorn is a symbol often affiliated with the Virgin Mary, interpreted as an allegory of the Annunciation and Christ's incarnation. According to legend, the unicorn could not be captured by force, but would come willingly to lay its head in the lap of a virgin.
65 ytamed. MS: ytamend, with n marked for deletion.
67-70 Ine the Apocalyps. . . . See Apocalypse 12:1. This image is often depicted in Books of Hours; see, for example, Plate B in this volume, "The Assumption of the Virgin - Compline" from The Hours of Catherine of Cleves.
69 mone. MS: mowe. Brown's emendation. Konrath emends to mow[n]e.
71 Swyl. Konrath emends to Swych.
nas nevere non. Compare §13, "I syng of a myden," line 18.
73 ff.On the metaphor of sunlight through glass, see note to §17, lines 18-20.
Ros Mary, most of vertewe virginall. Attributed to William Dunbar. Index no. 2831.8. MS: National Library of Scotland 16500 (Asloan), fol. 301a (c. 1515). Other MSS: Edinburgh University Library 205 (Laing III 149, the Makculloch MS), fol. 183b (early sixteenth century); BL Harley 1703, fol. 79b (late sixteenth century) with eight stanzas (printed by Mackenzie) and several additional stanzas by William Forrest. Lines 1-40 appear inside a bifolium of the binding of Advocates 18.5.14 (a late fifteenth-century MS of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy). Editions of Asloan: Laing, Supplement, pp. 283-84; John Small, The Poems of William Dunbar, STS 4 (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1884), pp. 272-73; Schipper, Poems, pp. 372-74; Schipper, Denkschriften, 69-72; H. B. Baildon, The Poems of William Dunbar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1907), pp. 197-98; Craigie, pp. 271-72. Edition of Makculloch: George Stevenson, Pieces from the Makculloch and the Gray MSS. Together with The Chepman and Myllar Prints, STS 65 (1918), pp. 24-25. Editions of Harley: MacCracken, "New Stanzas by Dunbar," Modern Language Notes 24 (1909), 110-11; Mackenzie, pp. 175-77. Edition of Advocates: Ian C. Cunningham, "Two Poems on the Virgin (National Library of Scotland, Adv. MS 18.5.14)," Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions 5 (1988), 36-38.
4 for. MS: wes. Emended from Makculloch.
5 refute. Harley: truyt.
of. Advocates: and.
of mercy spring and well. A common fifteenth-century image of Mary, the well symbolizes new life. See note to §53, line 5.
6 chois. Harley: cheeif.
7 of paradys. Of omitted in Advocates and Harley.
10 circulyne. Advocates: cristallyn. Harley and Makculloch: chrystallyne.
12 angell ordouris nyne. See note to §51, line 2.
13 Haile. Other MSS: O.
18 but curis criminale. If but is a conjunction, the meaning is "but heals criminals." But compare the syntax in §91, lines 22 and 31, where but means "without."
curis. Harley and Makculloch: crymes.
20 Tartar. The devil is here compared to Genghis Khan and his successors. Harley: terrour.
22 wicht. Omitted in Advocates.
Sampson. See Judges 13:2-16:31. Sampson prefigures Christ; he is shown on the Biblia Pauperum Resurrection leaf (·i·) "having unhinged the gates of Gaza, one of which he carries across his left shoulder; the other gate is under his right arm" (Labriola and Smeltz, p. 172).
22-23 In Harley, these lines read: "Illustrat lyllye, to thee Ladye I saye, / Withe infynyte Aveis, Hayle, floure of women all!"
23 Beliale. Another name for the devil.
25-31 An allusion to the harrowing of hell, a story found in the fourth-century apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus and based on suggestions in Matthew 27:52-53, Luke 23:43, and 1 Peter 3:18-20 that Jesus descended into hell between his death and his resurrection.
26 in to stowr. Advocates: schoir. Makculloch: stowr.
30 Syne. Advocates, Makculloch: he.
31 all. Omitted in Advocates.
34 moder myld. Advocates: myld moder.
37 bled his blude apon a tre. Advocates: lyis bludy bled on ye tre.
All haile, lady, mother, and virgyn immaculate. Index no. 181. MS: BL Addit. 20059, fol. 98b (this poem is a fifteenth-century addition to an earlier MS). Edition: B15, no. 12.
3 clarified cristall. See note to §50, line 13.
5 yssue. The word is difficult to gloss. It clearly refers to birth, or to giving birth, but according to Christian theology, Mary does not give birth to the Holy Spirit, nor does the Holy Spirit give birth to Jesus. This line is nevertheless an allusion to Matthew 1:18 ("she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit") and Luke 1:35 ("The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee").
9 hye. Added above line.
12 solempnysaunte. See MED solempnisen (v.) and solempnising (ger.); the word suggests an occasion of ceremonial dignity and celebration, and the sense here is that the nativity (Mary's rather than Christ's, here - the Feast of the Nativity of Mary is September 8 in the Sanctorale) is an important and joyful Church feast.
14 verum solem. Multiple readings are possible: "the true sun"; "the one truth"; or "the truth alone."
16 I.e., the Annunciation signaled and foretold our redemption.
Hale, sterne superne. By William Dunbar. Index no. 1082.5. MS: National Library of Scotland 16500 (Asloan), fols. 303a-04b (c. 1515). Editions: Laing, 1:239-42; John Small, The Poems of William Dunbar, STS 4, pp. 269-71; J. Schipper, The Poems of William Dunbar (Vienna: Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1891), pp. 369-71; Schipper, Denkschriften, pp. 67-69; G. Gregory Smith, Specimens of Middle Scots (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1902), pp. 14-17; Baildon, The Poems of William Dunbar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1907), pp. 195-97; Craigie, pp. 275-78; Mackenzie, pp. 160-62; James Kinsley, The Poems of William Dunbar (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958), pp. 8-9 (three stanzas); Davies, no. 144 (three stanzas).
11 Yerne us guberne. The syntax is not clear here. Laing glosses "Move us, govern"; Schipper glosses "Earnestly govern us"; and Smith suggests the present reading.
14 Alphais. See Apocalypse 1:8: "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,' says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty.'"
15 dyng. A form of digne, "worthy."
31 plicht but sicht. Plicht suggests a pledge or guarantee; but sicht, "without sight" or "without visible evidence."
34 nychttingale. The Latin Bestiary identifies the nightingale as Lucina, suggesting that she "takes this name because she is accustomed to herald the dawn of a new day with her song, as a lamp does (Lucerna)." She is ever watchful, tempering the "sleepless labour of her long night's work by the sweetness of her song," cherishing her brood "not less by her sweet tones than by the heat of her body" (T. H. White, The Book of Beasts, Being a Translation from a Latin Bestiary of the Twelfth Century [London: Jonathan Cape, 1954], pp. 139-40). As a light in darkness and harbinger of day and as a hard-working mother careful of the spiritual and physical welfare of her brood, she is an apt emblem of Mary, who tirelessly sustains and guides weary mankind (lines 35-36).
41 Haile, clene bedene ay till conteyne. Schipper glosses: "Hail to thee quickly, thou pure one, and to continue forever." Or perhaps conteyne suggests a vessel, as in Acts 9:15, where Saul is described as God's vas electionis; this reading implies that Mary is God's chosen instrument, perpetually in service but perpetually clean, proclaimed (bedene) ever to enclose. See MED conteinen, v.1.a: "c 1390 Psalt. Mariae (1) 1210: Whos wombe is maad wiþ mylde steuene, Conteyning þat is content [L continens contentum]."
43 grene daseyne. Mackenzie writes: "'Green' probably represents a Latin adjective, such as florens. 'Daisy' as 'The emperice and floure of floures all' (Chaucer, Legend of Good Women, l. 184)" (p. 277).
50 swetar be sic sevyne. In biblical imagery, the number seven often suggests perfection or completion.
56 oddis eveyne. See note to line 58. If we are like odd numbers, seven and eleven, our lot is a gamble; but if Mary makes all even, then we are secure.
58 ellevyn. Schipper traces the word to élever, "extolled," but Mackenzie argues that the number eleven is arbitrary, "apparently to serve the rhyme" (p. 277). If it is "eleven," the resonance perhaps derives from the odd/even figure in line 56, and is idiomatic like "seven come eleven." The key to reading the passage is lowde. If it is disyllabic, then Schipper's interpretation pertains; if monosyllabic, then the numerological reading seems inevitable. If rhyme affects sense, the idea of resounding Mary's name forever (line 60) is perhaps best enhanced by ellevyn with Ave Maria loudly extolled.
72 grayne. I.e., Christ. See note to §8, lines 25 ff. Citing John Jamieson, Schipper notes that grayne may refer to "the branch of a tree, the stem of a plant"; such a reading would evoke the "rod of Jesse" image (see note to §8, line 17).
73 Imperiall wall. Mary is a bulwark, a palatial haven. Compare Canticles 8:9-10, where the bride is described as a wall, and Chaucer's The Second Nun's Tale, which describes Mary's "cloistre blisful of thy sydis" (CT VIII[G]43). The architecture here is in terms of the first estate rather than Chaucer's second.
80 Fulfillit of angell fude. According to the apocryphal legend recorded in the Book of James 8:1, the child Mary lives in the Temple and receives her food from angels (Schneemelcher, p. 429). The line might also imply that in pregnancy Mary is full of the food (Christ/the Eucharist) for Angels and humankind.