Back to top

Item 31, The Dietary


1 Do not give credence too soon to every tale

2 Do not abandon your commitments, keep (fulfill) your promises quickly


Abbreviations: CA: Gower, Confessio Amantis; MED: Middle English Diction­ary; R: Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Rawlinson C. 86;

Title The Governans of Man. This title appears in a slightly larger version of Rate’s regu­lar hand. Titles vary among the many manuscripts that preserve this text, and Cax­ton’s early print titles it Medicina stomachi, but it has been consistently referred to by modern scholarship as The Dietary or Lydgate’s Dietary since MacCracken’s edition. The text begins two-thirds down the leaf of fol. 107r, following immedi­ately after the colophon of the preceding item.

3 Drynke holsom drynke. In at least two other manuscripts (R and British Library MS Lans­downe 699), the instruction is to “Drink holsom wyne.” Rate may have altered the line to conform with Ashmole 61’s generally negative view of alcohol. Some of the other texts of The Dietary in­clude a stanza about good wine in moderation, but its absence here does not neces­sarily mean that Rate omitted it, since it is also missing from R.

28 All fals rouners. This has been emended; the reading in the manuscript is “boners.” Though the MED records the word “bonair” (adj.), meaning “kindness, gracious­ness,” the word does not seem to have existed as a noun except as “bonairness.” All other printed editions read “rouners.”

34 kepe thi promys blyve. The reading in the manuscript is “kepe thi penys blyve.” Other manuscripts read “promys,” and since keeping pennies “blyve” (quickly, readily) strains the sense of the adverb, the text has been emended. Rate’s reading may suggest his interest in thrift, apparent elsewhere in the texts of Ashmole 61 (see item 4, How the Good Wife Taught Her Daughter).

37 With thy suget and neyghbors to stryve it were scham. Other manuscripts preserve a different version of the following four lines, though the sense is substantially the same. See lines 125–28 in MacCracken’s edition: “Ageyn thy felaw no quarell do con­tryve, / With thi soget to fihten it were shame, / Wherfor I counsel pursewe al thi lyve, / To live in pes and gete the a good name.”

41 Fyrst at morn. Rate’s faulty reading suggests that attending Mass will protect against pestilence, a promise offered by contemporary treatises on the virtues of the Mass (see the introduction to item 17, A Prayer at the Levation). Other manuscripts advocate fires early in the morning to protect against the damp mists thought to cause pestilence.

42 Ageyn mystys blastys and the aire of pestylens. The other manuscripts warn against “mystys black.” Foul air was widely considered one of the possible causes of fevers; see Lydgate’s “Doctrine for Pestilence,” lines 8 and 16 (in Minor Poems, 2:702).

44 Fyrst at thy rysing to God do reverens. See How the Wise Man Taught His Son (item 3), lines 19–24.

50 rere-sopers. “Late dinners.” See MED, “rere” (adj. 1) d. Nearly all of the MED’s cited references to “rere-sopers” are strongly negative; late-night meals had associations with gluttony, loose living, and bad dreams.

66 walkyng makys gode degestyon. Gower recounts a gruesome experiment sup­posedly performed by Nero that demonstrated the benefits of walking after meals. Nero had the stomachs of three men cut open after a splendid meal; the one who had gone for a walk had best digested the meal (CA 6.1151–1207).

71 thyngys contrary to ther complexcion. This is an allusion to the humoral theory of the human body that saw each person as having a physical makeup dominated by one of the four humors, and with particular vulnerabilities and disorders as a result. See introduction, pp. 528–29.

79 Of mayster Antony. . . master Hew. Neither a Master Anthony nor a Master Hugh can be confidently identified among the many practicing physicians, apothecaries, and writers of medical treatises with those names. A Master Anthony de Romanis (of Naples) was practicing in London in the first decade of the fifteenth century. In the 1270s and 1280s, Master Hugh of Evesham gained a considerable reputation for his medical skill, becoming a medical advis­or to the pope and eventually car­dinal. But these can only be guesses; for these and other possible candidates, see Talbot and Hammond, Medical Practitioners in Medieval England, pp. 18 and 90–94.


Abbreviations: see Explanatory Notes

5 women agyd. MS: agyd added in the right margin.

6 thi. MS: the.

28 rouners. MS: boners.

31 prosperyté. MS: prospery.

34 promys. MS: penys.

42 aire. MS: ure.

47 God. MS: gode.

50 sopers. MS: soperseus.

55 this. MS: thes.

57 make not long. MS: not added in the right margin.

60 mayntayn. MS: mayntym.

69 doth. MS: dothh.

75 helthe. MS: helle.





fol. 107v











fol. 108r   



The Governans of Man
For helth of body cover fro cold thi hede.
Ete non raw mete — take gode hede therto —
Drynke holsom drynke, fede thee on lyght brede,
And with apytyte ryse fro thi mete also.
With women agyd, flesschly have not to do.
Uppon thi sclepe drynke not of the coppe.
Glad towerd bede, at morow also,
And use thou never overlate to sope.

If so be that lechys do thee fayll,
Make this thi governans if that it may be:
Temperat dyet and temperate traveyle,
Not malas for non adversyté,
Meke in trubull, glad in poverté,
Riche with lytell, content with suffyciens,
Mery withouten grugyng to thy degré.
If fysyke lake, make this thy governans.

To every tale to sone gyff thou no credens;1
Be not to hasty, ne to sothanly vengeable,
To pore folke do thou no vyalens.
Curtas of langage, of fedyng meserable,
Of sondry metys not gredy at thy tabull,
In fedyng gentyll, prudent in dalyens,
Close of tunge, not defameabull;
To sey thy best sette ever thy plesans.

Have in dyspyte mothys that be doubull;
Suffer at thy tabull no detrasion,
Not supportyng the werkys that be full of trubull,
All fals rouners and adulacion.
Within thy courte suffer no dyvysion
That within thy hous myght cause gret unes.
Of all welfare, prosperyté, and fuson,
With thy neyghbors lyve in rest and pes.

Be clenly clothyd after thyn astate;
Passe not thi bondys, kepe thi promys blyve.2
With thre maner folke be thou not at bate:
Fyrst with thy better bewere for to stryve.
With thy suget and neyghbors to stryve it were scham;
Werefor I counsyll to pursew all thy lyve
To lyve in pese and gete thee a gode name,
And thus to lyve worschypfuly with man and wyve.

Fyrst at morn and towerd bede at eve,
Ageyn mystys blastys and the aire of pestylens
Be tymly at messe — thou may the better cheve;
Fyrst at thy rysing to God do reverens.
Vysete the pore with intere dyligence,
Upon all nedy have compassyon,
And God schall send thee grace and influence
Thee to increse and thy possessyon.

Suffer no surfytys in thy hous at nyght;
Were of rere-sopers and of grete excese
And be wele ware of candyll lyght,
Of sleuth on morow and of idelnes,
The whych of all vyces is chefe, as I gesse.
And avoyd all lyghers and lechers,
And all unthryftys — exile this excesse —
And mainly dyse pleyers and hasardours.

After mete bewere: make not long slepe;
Hede, fete, and stomoke preserve from colde.
Be not pensyve, of thought take no kepe.
After thi rent mayntayn thi housolde.
Suffer in tyme, and in thi ryght be bolde;
Suere non othys no man to begyle.
In youth be lusty and sade when thou arte old,
For werldly joy lastys bot a whyle.

Drynke not at morow befor thyn apetyte;
Clere ayre and walkyng makys gode degestyon.
Betwyx mele drynke not for no delyte,
Bot thyrst or traveyll gyfe thee occasyon.
Oversalte metys doth grete oppresyon
To febull stomokys that can not refreyn,
For thyngys contrary to ther complexcion
Therof ther stomokys hath grete peyn.

Thus in two thyngys stondys thi welthe
Of saule and of body, who lyst them serve:
Moderate fode gyffes to man hys helthe,
And all surfytys do fro hym remeve.
Charyté to thy saule it is full dewe.
Thys resate is of no potykary,
Of mayster Antony ne of master Hew;
To all deserent it is Dyatary.
(see note)

(see note)
i.e., before you are full
have no carnal relations; (t-note)
Before sleep; (t-note)
[Go] gladly
Never make a habit of dining

[Have] not malice

grudging; rank
If physic (medicine) fails

too suddenly vengeful
[Be] courteous; measurable

Restrained in speech
make it always your desire

mouths; double (deceitful)
gossip and flattery; (see note); (t-note)

harm (unease)
abundance; (t-note)

according to your estate (status)
(see note); (t-note)
do not quarrel
with your betters beware a fight
subject; (see note)

(see note)
damp winds; (see note); (t-note)
(see note)
Visit; sincere


   Beware; late meals; (see note); (t-note)

sloth in the morning

unthrifty (idle) folk; (t-note)


i.e., Be not melancholy
According to your income; (t-note)

Swear no oaths to beguile any man
vigorous; solemn

(see note)

harm; (t-note)
counteract (digest)
(see note)

wishes to serve them

recipe (prescription); apothecary
(see note)
desirous [of instruction]
Here ends

Go To Item 32, Maidstone’s Seven Penitential Psalms, introduction
Go To Item 32, Maidstone’s Seven Penitential Psalms, text