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Item 30, The Lament of Mary


Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Diction­ary; PL: Patrologia Latina; R: Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Rawlinson C. 86;

Title Lamentacion Beati Mariae. This title is written in Rate’s regular hand, to the side of the drawing of the shield with the five suns (see introduction). The text begins two-thirds down the leaf of fol. 106r. The poem has not been titled consistently by modern editors or in descriptions of the manuscript. The title used by C. Brown, “An Appeal to All Mothers,” is more descriptive, but is purely his own creation.

2 for to here messe. The reference to the Eucharist hints at the doctrine of transub­stantiation, in which the consecrated host becomes the body of Christ; many medieval miracles involve a participant or spectator who sees the crucified Christ at the climax of a Mass. The connection of the Mass to the vision here is less clear, but perhaps it is to be understood as a similar miracle.

5 Pyté. This is a literal translation of the Italian word for compassion, “pietà.” The Pietà is a frequently depicted image of Mary holding the dead Christ, popular in late medieval and early modern art; see the introduction to this text.

10 To all women: “Behold and se. Compare the reading in R: “To all women in this kyns wyse” (“in this way”). In line 12, R reads: “A fair deth yf he dies.”

24 Why ne had I dyghed. Mary’s desire to have died in place of her son is a standard part of the Quis dabit texts: “Quis michi dabit ut ego moriar pro te?” (“Who will allow that I die for you?”; PL 182.1135).

35 Thou pykys hys erys. “To pick or clean out by picking.” See MED, “piken,” v. 1.3, a.

39 I pyke many a thorn. The rhyme is defective; compare the reading in R: “I pyke thornes many oon.”

59 thynke it is grete harme. The rhyme is defective; compare the reading in R: “thenketh it a grete payne.”

90 Rehers. The verb “rehersen” can mean both “to describe” and “to versify, to write poetry”; both senses seem applicable here.

94 My son is your and lufys you wele. The rhyme is defective; compare the reading in R: “My childe hath ever be kynde to yow here.”

96a AMEN QUOD RATHE. This is the only time Rate spells his name this way; see the General Introduction, pp. 3–6.


Abbreviations: see Explanatory Notes

43 hyr, and grete. MS: hyr grete.

50 Thou. MS: Tho.

63 now. MS: w added above the line.




fol. 106v










fol. 107r   








Lamentacion Beati Mariae
In a chyrch as I gan knelle
Thys endres dey for to here messe,
I saw a syght me lykyd welle;
I schall you tell how that it was.
I saw a Pyté in a place:
Oure Lady and hyr sone in fere;
Wele oft sche syghed and seyd, “Alas,
For now lyes dede my dere son dere.”

Than seyd Oure Lady bothe meke and myld
To all women: “Behold and se,
And make ye no mone for your chyld,
Of Godys sond if it dede be.
For if ye do, ye be not wyse
To se my sone as he lyghet here.
Now he is dede — lo, were he lyes.
For thi sone dyghd my dere son dere.

“All mankynd behold and se:
My sone is nayled throught fote and hond.
With scharpe thornys and grete envye,
Jues put up hys hede with poyntys strong.
Hys herte was persyd with a spere so long
The blod busschyd out as ye may se here.”
Sche seyd, “Alas, I lyfe to long —
Why ne had I dyghed with my der son dere?

“All women that ever be bore
And have bore chylder, behold and se
How my son lyes me before
On my skyrte, take fro the rode tre.
When ye danse your chylder on your kne,
Ye clyppe and kyse with mery chere.
Behold my sone and behold me:
For thy son dyghed my dere son dere.

“O woman, now wele is thee.
Thy chyldys cape thou doyst upon;
Thou pykys hys erys and behold hys ble;
Thow wote not wele when thou hast don.
Bot ever, alas, I make my mone
To se my sone as he lyght here.
Oute of hys hede I pyke many a thorn —
For thi son dyed my dere son dere.

“Woman, a chaplyte ichos thou haste
Thy chyld to were to thy lykyng.
Thou pynyst hyr, and grete joy thou makyst,
And I sytte here full sore wepyng —
My sone hath a chaplyte of thornes prikyng.
I clype hym and kys with carefull chere;
Thou syttys syngyng, and I wepyng.
For thi son dyghed my dere sone dere.

“Woman, when thu lyst to pley,
Thou hast thi chyld on thi kne dansyng.
Thou beholdys hys fase and hys aray
Unto thi eye full wele lykyng.
The longyst fynger of my hond beyng
Throught my sonys fete I may thyrst it here,
And take it oute full sore wepyng.
For thi son dyghed my dere sone dere.

“Woman, loke on me agene.
Thy chyld lyes sowkyng on thi pappys.
Therof me thynke it is grete harme
In my sonys brest to se grete gappys,
And onne hys hede and body so many slapys.
With blody lyppys I kys hym here.
Full herd,” sche seyd, “now be myn happys —
Why ne had I dyghed with my dere sone dere?

“Woman, thy chyld is hole and sownd,
And myn lyeht dede upon my kne.
Thyn is lowse, and myn is bownd,
And thyn hath lyfe, and dede is he.
And all is for the luffe of thee,
For my sone trespassyd never here.
Woman, com and wepe with me;
For thy sone dyghed my dere son dere.

“Wepe with me, both man and wyffe;
My sone is yours and lufys you wele.
And thyn were dede and hade no lyfe,
Thou cowth well wepe at every mele;
For my son thou wepys never a dele.
Thoff thou lufe thyn, myn hath no pere.
Thynke my son gafe thee lyfe and hele;
For thi sone dyghed my dere sone dere.

“Woman, now thou canste thi wyte.
Thou seyst thi chyld whether it be seke or dede.
Wepe thou for myn and not for it,
And thou schall have mych to thy mede.
Thynke my sone wyll agayn bled
Rather than thou dampnyd were.
To this matyr thou take gode hede;
For thy son dyghed my dere son dere.

“Farewele, women, I may no more
Rehers youre chylder and your godnys.
I have wepyd for my son so sore
That I forgete all joy and blys.
I praye you all to thynke on this:
My son is your and lufys you wele.
Thynke on hys passyon and hys blys;
For thy son dyghed my dere sone dere.”
Lament of the Blessed Mary; (see note)
began to kneel
The other day (recently); (see note)

Pietà; (see note)

beloved son at a great cost

(see note)
If it be dead by God’s command




blood gushed
live too long
(see note)


taken from the cross

child’s cap you place upon [him]
clean out his ears; face; (see note)
know not well when you are done

(see note)

garland chosen
For thy child to wear
Thou pin here; (t-note)

clasp; woeful

his face and dress

longest finger that is on my hand

suckling on your breasts
(see note)
gaps (wounds)
slaps (blows)

fortune; (t-note)

loose (free)

never violated the law

yours; loves
could; meal
never in the least
Though; peer (equal)

i.e., know wisdom
see; sick

much for your reward

no longer
   Describe your children; good luck; (see note)

yours; loves; (see note)

(see note)

Go To Item 31, The Dietary, introduction
Go To Item 31, The Dietary, text