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Item 26, The King and His Four Daughters


1 Lines 214–15: [And] that he never owed allegiance, truly, / To him [Satan] who was our evil beguiling

2 Lines 395–96: Why should I be lost then, / When you began to accept peace for my sake?

3 Lines 401–02: A clear reason for [the existence of] these four sisters / I will correctly explain here


Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Diction­ary; MWME: The Manual of Writings in Middle English; PL: Patrologia Latina;

Title No title or incipit. The title used here was established by Sajavaara and adopted by MWME. The text begins three-quarters down the page of fol. 78v.

9 romance. This nebulous term often refers to any narrative text in the vernacular; see Strohm, “Origin and Meaning of Middle English Romaunce.”

10 Was made in the lond of France. This is almost certainly incorrect, perhaps based on a mistranslation of the original prologue. Though Grosseteste may have spent time studying in France, Le Château d’Amour was most likely written after he had re­turned to England to take up various ecclesiastical appointments.

11–14 Though the text that follows is indeed based on both scripture (lines from Isaiah and the Psalms) and the Latin Rex et Famulus, Grosseteste’s Anglo-Norman ori­ginal is not a direct translation of any surviving Latin text; see introduction to this item.

41 pourtynans. This is a legal term used to describe the properties and rights that accompany a conveyance of land, and it introduces the metaphor of legal/feudal ties between God and humanity.

43–56 Compare Isaiah 8:10 and 30:26; though these passages describe alterations in the brightness of the sun and moon (including a sevenfold increase in the sun’s light), they do not refer to the fall of Adam and Eve. Subsequent commentary on the Bible made this connection; see PL 116.869.

73 In the veyll of Ebron of cley gent. Various traditions locate the creation of Adam in the valley of Hebron, south of Jerusalem, where reddish clay was used in pottery mak­ing. See Seymour, Bodley Version of Mandeville’s Travels, pp. 46–49. See also The Stations of Jerusalem (item 34), line 699 and note.

90–98 As Sajavaara notes, these lines on the establishment of marriage are not present in Le Château d’Amour, the French source (Middle English Translations). They are based on Genesis 2:22–24, and may possibly be Rate’s addition, though the text contains several other divergences from the source.

122 The naturall and the posytyfe. Natural law is the immutable, universal law inherent in the natural world as created by God; positive law is human and historically specific. Thomas Aquinas made the standard distinctions between these two categories; the relevant sections of his Summa Theologica (Questions 90–97) have been translated by McInerny in Aquinas, Treatise on Law.

173 defaute. Sajavaara suggests that the translator has adapted the French legal term defaut (absence) without understanding its sense (Middle English Translations, pp. 378, 406). In Le Château d’Amour Adam is guilty of defaut, the failure to appear in court after being summoned twice. Here, however, the word is used in its Mid­dle English sense of “offense,” “crime.” Though the subtlety of the original legal metaphor is lost, the passage still makes reasonable sense.

188 servys he underfongys. Serfs, unlike free men, were legally bound to perform considerable labor for their lords.

195 He may not pleyn. Serfs had no recourse to law courts other than the manor courts of their lords, whereas free men could take suits to the royal courts.

212 that of the mounte of Synay. The Ten Commandments become a third law that mankind is obliged to follow, after the two laws of Paradise, “natural” and “posi­tive” (see line 122).

223–32 See John 1:1–4.

253–70 The source for these lines is not Le Château d’Amour but may be from the Latin Rex et Famulus, another allegorization of Psalm 84. See introduction to this item and Sajavaara, Middle English Translations, pp. 76–82.

266 dubyng. The MED records one other instance of this word being used in this negative or sarcastic sense, in The Tale of Beryn, line 456.

283 trespas. The legal sense of trespas was considerably broader in medieval English common law than it is in modern usage and encompassed a large category of torts, including the destruction of property and even breach of contract.

294a Misericordia et veritas obviaverunt sibi. See Psalm 84:11. Though in the Bible the idea seems to be that mercy and truth have “met” in the sense of “come together, agreed,” here the verse is used to introduce the meeting as a conflict.

355–60 The story of Noah and the flood appears in Genesis 6:5–8:22. Noah’s three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) were believed to have populated the three known con­tinents (Asia, Africa, and Europe, respectively).

380 noye. The rhyme of this couplet is defective, and it is not clear whether Rate has carelessly revised one line, both lines, or ignored an inherited error.

440a Iusticia et pax osculate sunt. See Psalm 84:11. There is no other explicit; this line is followed by Rate’s usual drawing of a smiling fish, separating this text from Ypotis (item 27).


Abbreviations: see Explanatory Notes

15 Therfor. MS: The for.

22a creationis. MS: craciones.

34 was. MS: we.

45 now. MS: no.

62 may that se wyll. MS: may that wyll. [Horstmann]

86 Clepyd he Adam. MS: Clepyd Adam.

116 That was. MS: Was.

169 and tre. MS: and te tre (te is marked for deletion).

176 Bot for. MS: Bo for.

198 isperd. MS: in sperd.

215 In him who was oure. MS: In whom was se oure.

219 Hereon. MS: He on.

231 kyngdom. MS: kyndom.

271 sey. MS: ley.

292 thi doughter. MS: the doughter.

306 them stond. MS: the stond.

326 yse. MS: unyse.

329 prison. MS: priso.

380 com not. MS: com no.

381 awt. MS: aw.

400 awt. MS: aw.




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fol. 83r      

Jhesu Cryst, hevyn kynge,
Be at my begyninge.
Ther is no man that may yelpe,
Bot he hath nede of Godys helpe.
Fader and Sone and Holy Goste,
One God of myghtys moste,
He helpe us at oure nede;
Withouten hym may we not sped.
I sate and lokyd on a romance
Was made in the lond of France;
Grostyd it made out of dyvine,
All in French out of Latyne.
He saw all men hade not vertu
To know Latyn, Ebrew and Grew;
Therfor in French he mad it ther
That men myght wyte what it were.
Yit may not all men French understond,
And namely men of Ingelond;
Therfor soth, as I thee tolde,
Ryme on Inglych make he wolde
That men myght have therof solace.
Now God therto gyfe us grace.

De principio creationis mundi
Now at the fyrst begyninge
I schall tell of the werld makyng,
And how it was fyrste gyven to Adam
Of whom our fyrst synne came,
And also of paradys, iwys,
That was full of werldys blys,
And of heven that is so hye,
How it was lorne thorow folye,
How it come after to mankynd
As ye may afterwerd fynd.
Within six deys ryght
All the werld was idyght.
Allmyghty God that is the beste,
The seven dey he gan reste;
Therof ye have herd telle —
God kep us fro the peyn of helle.
When God allmyghty of nought
Hevyn and erth all hade wrought,
With all the pourtynans small and grete,
Lord, that was feyr and swete.
Now is the son clere and lyght;
That tyme it was seven so bryght.
The mone that schynes now by nyght,
Than it schone al so bryght
As do the sone now onne deye,
And sey therof no man naye.
I tell yew now sothlye,
It wytnes the prophet Isaye,
And at hym I take wytnesse
That every thyng more and lesse
In erth, in ayer, water and flode,
Seth Adam synned was not so gode
Als it was fyrste beforne,
Or Adam and Eve were forlorne.
Lorne was Adam and all hys kynne
For that ilke foule synne,
And all ther kynne, as I yow telle,
Everychon, thei went to helle.
Wrong was it not, bote skyll —
So every man may that se wyll.
Gode is to thinke theron aryght
For to love God allmyght.

De medio mundi et de fine
When that God the werld had wrought
So that ther ne feyled nought,
Nether of more ne lesse,
Bestys and treys, frute and grasse,
Fowlys in the eyer, fyssches in flode,
Sterrys and mone, sone feyre and gode,
At the laste, after all thys,
Than made he Adam, iwys,
In the veyll of Ebron of cley gent,
Lyke hymselve verament.
After the holy Trinyté
He made hys saule, I telle thee.
In the body he dyde a lyving goste,
Of all bestys power gafe hym moste.
That was love and grete grace
To make hym lyke hys awne face.
He made hym wytty and wyse,
And led hym into paradyse.
Than thought God allmyghty ther
He wold not he alone were.
When that God thus thought and seyd,
Clepyd he Adam ther he was leyd.
Of hys lefte syde he toke a rybe bone;
Therof he made Eve anone.
Eve befor Adam he brought
To wytte how he by hyr thought.
Than seyd Adam and thought it gode:
“Thys is my flesch and my blode.”
In paradys in that stounde
Ther was wedloke fyrst ifonde.
For that skyll every man of lyfe
Is holden to love hys wyfe
After that sche is worthey —
That wyll God allmyghty.
God gaf than Adam wytte and skylle,
Grete power and fre wylle,
Power over all erthely thyng,
And gaff hym lyfe withouten endyng.
Of paradys he made hym fre
Over all thyng save a tre.
He gafe hym tyme to be therine —
If that he had don no synne —
Withouten hete, withouten chele,
Ther to a lyffyd in long wele
Withouten wo and seknes,
With mekyll joy and bryghtnes.
Sevyn so bryght he schuld hafe bene
As is the sone that now is sene.
Syche a blys God had hym lente,
And at the last to hevyn have went.
Now was ther a feyr franches
That was ordenyd to Adam and all hys,
Sych an herytage ever mo
To have wonyd in withouten wo.
In paradys Adam had two lawys,
As we telle in owre sawys:
He schuld have kepyd in hys lyfe
The naturall and the posytyfe.
The naturall law was skyll and ryght:
To be buxsom to God all myght
That dyde hym that grete curtasy,
Of paradys gave hym the masterry.
A commandment onne hym he leyde
And of all hys frute: he seyde,
“Bot a tre I thee forbyde;
Ete thou not therof for non nede.
If thou ete therof, I thee sey,
Sone therafter thou schall dey.
If thou my commandment kepe in pese
Than thou schall have that ilke grace;
Paradyse and bestys, water and londe,
Schall be obedyent to thi honde.”
Of all the blys of paradys
Adam had seseyn iwys.
Alas, sone it was ago,
All the joy that he had tho.
Alas, therfor, may we synge
And sore wepe and handys wryng.
Oure herytage we schuld have
And we hade not don that skathe.
The comandment we dyd nought;
Therfor sore it was bought,
And for that trespas that was done
All we were made thrall full sone.
The naturall and the posytyfe
Adam breke for lufe of hys wyfe.
Buxumer he was for to do
The dede that hys wyfe bad hym do
Than to God that hym hade wrought;
Alas, therfor — what was hys thought?
Than was he oute and had lorne
The sesyn that he had beforne.
Hys herytage was hym benome
And all them that after hym come
Oute of joy into grete care,
Hys selve and hys kyne to fare.
With swynke and suete was he bonde;
Wher schall any hele be fonde?
Alas, that synne it was so stronge:
For among all thing it sprong,
Both the sterres, sone, and mone,
Of that synne thei had to done.
Foulys in the eyer, bestys in lond,
All thei had therof a onde.
Fysschys, erbys, frute and tre,
All the wers for to be.
Every thyng both more and les
For that synne lest ther godnes.
Adam for hys defaute, iwys,
Lost hys herytage and all hys.
For synn is non other thyng
Bot for defaute of wele doyng.
For defaute he lefte the joys suete,
And that was skyll — so do men yete.
For defaute every wyght
Hys herytage may lese ryght
At kyngys courte in every londe,
Yit men have sych lawys fonde.
For defaute Adam les
That he myght have levyd in pes.
Alas, that was grete pyté;
Now be we thrall that are were fre.
Thrall he is, that to hym longys
What servys he underfongys.
He that is so thrall becom,
Hys power is hym benome.
When he servys in servage
He had no franches of herytage;
Than when he is all thrall becom,
His fre herytage is hym benome.
He may not pleyn in non wys
With whom he is in sych servys.
He ne schuld no thyng be herd;
His wordys be all isperd.
His herytage if he wyll wynne,
He behovys to do another thyng.
He muste seke, if he may fynd,
A man that borne is of fre kynd,
And that he be of ryght lynage
For to clame his herytage,
And that he may well and wele cane,
And that he be a gode fre man,
That he not of that appull ete
That Adam thought fyrst so suete.
He behoveth to be withoutyn synne,
And all our law ys hym withine —
The two lawys of paradys, sykerly,
And that of the mounte of Synay
That was gyven to Moyses.
That he held never, withouten les,
In him who was oure wekyd wrynke.1
Of sych a man who myght thinke,
That myght be withouten synne
Hys herytage thus to wynne?
Hereon schall my mater duelle.
For a tale I wyll you telle
That acordys to sych a man.
Now wyll I tell you if I canne.

It was a kyng nobull and riche
That had a sone that was hym lyche.
Of wytte and power lyke hym he was,
Like the fader in all case.
That the fader wyst, the son thought;
All thorow the sone the fader wrought.
What the fader wold have wrought,
The sone it dyde, for he knew his thought.
In his kyngdom all nedys
Were fullfylled thorow hys dedys.
Foure doughteres had the kyng,
And everych of them had some thyng
Of hys wyte and hys powere,
Iche one as thei had myster,
And nevertheles all was the kyngys,
The foure doughtures with all ther thyngys.
For withouten them every dele
Myght he not reule hys kyngdom wele.
Feyre names thei had everychon;
I schall them telle ryght anone.
The fyrst doughter hyght Mersy —
That is a feyre name, sykerly.
The secund douter hyght Sothnes,
And the thyrd Ryghtfullnes.
The fourth doughter hyght Pese —
Feyr names, withouten lese.
Withoute the foure that I named
May nothing ryght be demed.
Thys ryche kyng had a man
Thorow whom mych wrech began,
And hym lovyd wele the kyng,
And made hym mayster of mych thyng.
Bot a comandment he hym toke,
And seyd when he that forsoke
He schuld to turment, understond this,
Oute of hys courte and all hys.
Thys servant yede forth with that;
Hys commandment sone he brake.
Jugement on hym was leyd
After that the kyng had seyd.
To four turmentowres he was take,
Hys jugement on hym to make.
The turmentowres, as bad the kyng,
They schuld hym do an evyll dubyng.
The one schuld hym depriven faste,
The other hym sle whyll hys lyfe laste,
The other hym strangyll ryght also,
The other hym fetyr — so dyde thei tho.
Mersy, the doughter, all this sey and herd
How he was in prison sperd.
To hyr fader sche com anone
And askyd hym what for to done.
“Thy doughter, Fader, thou wote I ame;
Mersy I hyght, of thee I came,
Of thi gifte, I understode,
To have mersy with myld mode.
Therfor, Fader, I pray thee here
That thou herkyn my prayere.
Have mersy of that ilke wyght
That in prison is evyll dyght.
Hys enmyse dyd to hym trespas;
Fader, of hym have mersy and grace.
Hys enmyse for envye
They dyde hym that trecherye.
Do now, Fader, that I crave,
Yiff thou wyll me thi doughter have.
Mersy I ame: yff thou wyll me,
Thou must have mersy and pyté.
With gode skyll he muste be savyd,
For I thi doughter have thee cravyd.
For hym mersy schall be my crye
Whyll that I may fynd mersy.”

Misericordia et veritas obviaverunt sibi
Sothnes, hyr syster, this pleynt herd.
Sone sche com and ansuerd:
“Fader what may this pleynt be
That Mersy my syster makys to thee?
Wold sche for hyr myld herte
Bryng this prisoner owte of smerte?
Sche wold he were fro peyn ibrought,
Bot I, Sothnes, wyll it nought.
A trew thyng, Fader, I tell thee:
Yiff all thyng myght savyd be
For whom my syster wyll praye,
Schall non of them stond aye.
I ame Sothnes — herkens to me —
And that name I hade of thee.
Men callys me kyng in every kythe,
And yiff Sothnes wones thee wyth,
Mersy of hym may thou have none,
Bot I, Sothnes, fro thee gone.
Pyté of hym may non be wroght,
For hymselve wyll it nought.
Kyng of Sothnes, do than ryght
And late avenge thee of that wyght.”

The syster Ryght theder gan gone;
Thys wordys sche herd everychone.
When sche the pleynte onderstode,
Sche ansuerd with myld mode.
“Fader, my name is callyd Ryght;
That name I hade of thy myght.
Seth I ame Ryght and thou hast me,
As Soth it seys, it muste be.
For Ryght wyll in non wyse
That servant wer in yse.
That Soth hath seyd, I, Ryght, it wyll,
For it is reson and skyll.
Late thou hym in prison be
Tyll thou hym juge befor thee.
For Ryght wyll have all onder hond
That he soth do onderstond.
Ryght gyffes iche man be sothe his rede,
Be it to gode, be it to quede.
Whyll that he thyn hest held
We were with hym with spere and scheld,
Both Mersy, Soth, and Ryght,
And Pese, my syster, with all our myght.
Us all four he hath forsake;
Right wyll therfor vengeans take.”

Non god word was ther speke
When that Mersy was oute steke.
Than was that wrech with peynes schent,
Hys god benom, hys clothes rente.
In peyn was he many folde,
As Soth and Ryght bothe it wolde,
And also that of hym com —
All thei had the same dome.
Soth and Ryght, withouten les,
Went without Mersy and Pes,
And be contré as thei wend,
All that wreches kynd thei schent.
So fast thei gan them don dryve
That thei left never one of lyve.
A flode over all dyd go,
Eight that left of lyve and no mo:
That was Noe and his thre sones —
Ther were no mo left in no wonys —
In Noys schype with ther wyves,
Wherin thei savyd ther lyves.
That was than a reufull syght,
And yit it was bote soth and ryght.
The syster Pese myght nowher be;
Sche was sent out contré,
For sche may for nothyng
Be among wreth and werryng.
Than was Pes in mych care
When sche saw the werld thus fare.
To hyr fader hyr wey sche leyd,
And com to hym sone and seyd,
“Fader, I ame thi doughter Pes;
I aught be at thy dese.
Thou arte kynge of pes so dere —
My fader, than must thou here.
My two systeres Soth and Ryght
At Pes and Mersy thei hold fyght.
All without our asente
They don all ther jugement.
I, Pese, and my syster Mersy bothe,
We com not heder consell to noye,
And we foure awt be all at one;
Thys thyng, Fader, may not thus gone.
I, Pes, wyll abyde with thee
Tyll all pese among them be.
All godnes thorow pes to end is brought;
Who so hath pes, he feylys nought.
Withouten pes is wroght nothyng,
Be it never so grete doyng.
Whosoever aboute wyll wend,
Pese schall folow at the ende.
Soth and Ryght, it is ther fe
For to kepe the name of me,
For thei have non other nede
Bot pes to kepe in every lede.
Why schall I than be forsake
When thou pes for me gan take?2
Bot I have Mersy my syster with me,
I may not els savyd be.
Seth thou arte kyng of pes in lond,
My word awt to be understond.
Of thes foure systers a resyn clere
Now ryght wyll I schew here:3
Thorow us foure schall all be wrought
In unyté, is all my thought.
All we foure, verament,
Schall make one jugement;
Therfor, jugement aught be nought
Tyll we foure at one be brought.
All we behovyth togeder take
Ryght jugement for to make.
Thys servant onne non wyse
May be levyd in that unyse.
Withouten my syster Mersy and me,
Jugement may non gyven be.
Mersy, my syster, cryes ever mo,
Mersy for hym that is in wo.
Therfor, I, Pes, at the endes
Schall fond to make them frendys.”
The kyngys son, both wyse and queynt,
Herd the four systeres pleynt.
Withouten hym on non wyse
Acord may not ryght aryse.
“Fader,” he seyd, “thyn I ame;
Of thee, fader, fyrst I com.
Wysdom, fader, my name it is,
For whom was made this werldys blys.
Thou and I, fader, all one we be
In wytte and myght and dygnyté.
Of this contuke that I here
Mersy hath told me reson clere,
Wherof, Fader, I have pyté
That servant in peyn schall so be.
Thy servant clothing take I wyll,
Both with sothnes and with skyll.
That jugement I wyll onderfonge
And all that ever to Ryght wyll longe.
I schall cry pes, withouten mys,
And Ryght and Pese I schall do kys.
All contake leyd schall be;
My wyll it is I schall save thee.”
Iusticia et pax osculate sunt
(see note)


vernacular text; (see note)
(see note)
Grosseteste; theology (scripture); (see note)

Hebrew and Greek
So that men might know

Therefore truly

Of the Beginning of the World’s Creation; (t-note)



was made; (t-note)

appurtances (accompaniments); (see note)

(see note)
seven times as bright

Isaiah witnesses it


Before; condemned

Every one
It is good to consider

Of the Middle and End [Times] of the World

lacking in nothing


valley; noble clay; (see note)

In the manner of

placed a living spirit
[he] gave him the greatest


He called Adam where; (t-note)

(see note)

According to her worth
God Almighty desires that

to have lived in enduring happiness

Seven times

[would] have gone
privilege (freedom)


natural and positive laws; (see note)

[And] of paradise

one tree
for any reason


seisin (legal ownership)


sorely; paid for

captives (slaves)

More willing
commanded him to do

seisin (rights)
taken from him

kin (descendents)
labor and sweat



an injury
plants; (t-note)

(see note)
all his [property, joy]

failure; (t-note)

just — so men do still
failure; person

Men still; established

slaves that formerly were free
[rightfully] belongs
receives (as a duty); (see note)

taken from him

legal right to inherit

deprived him
complain [legally] in any way; (see note)

in no [legal] matter be heard
spurned (ignored); (t-note)

It behooves him

must be

Sinai; (see note)
i.e., the Ten Commandments

Who could imagine such a man

my text dwell; (t-note)

refers (is comparable)

(see note)
like him

What the father knew
By means of the son

his [father’s]

each; some aspect

particular duty

all together

was named

Righteousness (Justice)


the king loved him well; (see note)

gave to him

[fall] to torment
his [bliss]
went; that [command]

According to what
tormentors; committed

as the king ordered
dubbing; (see note)

fetter (chain)

what to do

gift (dispensation)

legal wrong; (see note)


what I request

will [have] me


         Mercy and Truth have met each other; (see note)
Truth; complaint


ever stand (follow the law); (t-note)

dwells with you

avenge yourself on that man

Righteousness (Justice)


Since; begot

wishes in no way
ease (unpunished); (t-note)


in [her] control
So that he will understand the truth (Truth)
judgment according to truth


shut out
taken; torn
many times

(i.e., his descendents)

as they traveled in the land
wretch’s kin they destroyed
strike down

(see note)



wrathful and warring (situations)

dais (throne, high table)

With; make war

disturb; (see note); (t-note)
ought to be in agreement; (t-note)

fee (obligation)
uphold my name
no other task

otherwise saved


in my opinion

be brought to agreement

in no way
left in that unease (harm)


in no way

debate that I hear

truth (justice) and with reason
take on (accept)
belongs to Right (is just)
without fail
make kiss
debate shall be laid aside

Justice and Peace have kissed; (see note)
Go To Item 27, Ypotis, introduction
Go To Item 27, Ypotis, text