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Item 7, Stans Puer ad Mensam


1 I advise you to never to act outrageously (in a high-handed way)

2 Lines 51–52: Direct your young life according to my teaching: / Incline your heart (attention) to good manners

3 Do not forget the towel, neither for hard nor soft (i.e., in all circumstances)


Title No title or incipit. This poem’s traditional title derives from the Latin work attributed to Grosseteste (see Introduction) and the title was adopted by scribes who copied Lydgate’s Middle English adaptation. Though this text varies signif­icantly from Lydgate’s original, no other title has ever been used for it.

11 Seynt Clement. Saint Clement, according to the Golden Legend, was “just in action, mild in speech, mature in his relations with others, and pious in his intentions,” and he is thus a fitting saint to invoke here (Jacobus de Voraigne, 1:324).

57 Gase not aboute. Compare the similar injunction against careless glances in How the Good Wife Taught Her Daughter, lines 57–58 (item 4).

74 Ne syte not unbyden. Places at the table were arranged by rank, and diners in noble households were directed to their proper places by an usher or marshal.

76 aboffe. “Above” here refers to the places at the table, with the head of the table reserved for the highest in rank.

79 thereto veyll thi hode. Hoods, often lined with fur for warmth, were a standard part of medieval dress.

82 pastye. Pastries filled with meat or vegetables.

84 When thou has don with a dysch. Dishes and other kinds of crockery contained servings shared among several diners, either in pairs or in groups of three or four. Individual diners took food from these communal dishes and placed it on their trenchers, slices of firm (often old) bread.

92 Kepe thi spone clen. Diners were expected to bring their own knives to the table and often provided their own spoons as well, though other texts suggest that a good host be prepared to supply both knives and spoons to guests. Forks were not used by individual diners.

103 Grossum Caput. Robert Grosseteste, from the French “gros tête” (large head), hence the Latin Grossum Caput, the name given him by continental writers. For Grosseteste’s interest in courtesy, see the Introduction. In his Rules composed for the countess of Lincoln, Grosseteste does not specifically address this po­tential infraction, but rule 19 states that the marshal of the hall must take responsibility for seeing that the food is served only by appointed officers. Grosseteste adds that the marshal must ensure that these officers do not play favorites in serving the diners (Oschinsky, Walter of Henley, pp. 404–05).

124 Sum wyll drinke. Cups, flagons, horns, and other vessels were used for drinking wine or ale, and were passed among diners. The passing of the cup involves its own rituals of courtesy, discussed below.

127 spylle. The defective rhyme suggests that this should read spytte, but spylle makes reasonable sense.

147 salt saler. Often ornate objects of display, these vessels contained the crucial flavoring agent of medieval cuisine. As the following stanza makes clear, diners were expected to use clean knives to serve themselves salt from the communal salt cellars.

149 Doctour Paler. A Doctor Paler or Palere has not been identified among the extant records of English university graduates and medical practitioners. Richie Girvan, citing J. T. T. Brown, discusses the possibility that this may be an error for “Pal­mere,” perhaps meaning Matteo Palmieri, the fifteenth-century Florentine author of the humanist treatise Della Vita Civile (Ratis Raving, pp. xxxvi–xxxvii). Though Palmieri wrote in the middle of the fifteenth century, Della Vita Civile was not in print before 1529, and this would thus be an improbably early English reference to his work.

154 Iff thou wasche with a better man. Washing took place in the hall before the meal was served, in another ritual that required social inferiors to serve their superiors.

159 Bot stond lawly on thi fete. Though this poem largely concerns the behavior expected of diners, these lines refer to the service expected of young men in the household, including carving their lord’s meat, helping him wash, and waiting on him at the table. Though these activities required strict obedience, they also conferred honor.

208 Doctour Paler. See note to line 149.

215 thou schall lye with any man. Whether in the hall after the tables were cleared, in separate chambers, or in inns while traveling, beds were generally made for two or more; sharing was very common.

233 When thou putys mete in thi mouthe. This stanza forbids using the knife to bring food to the mouth; spoons, pieces of bread, or the hands were used instead.

235 So that the coppe be at his hede. The sense seems to be “If you see your better has the drinking cup, do not ask for it, but wait until it is passed or offered to you.”

249 The oddly abrupt and seemingly arbitrary final point here suggests that the text has broken off incomplete, or that Rate, in his expansion of Lydgate’s poem, never logically arranged the order of the stanzas he added. But the final example of serving one’s sovereyn is entirely in keeping with the rest of the text’s insistence on obedience and service.

249a AMEN QUOD RATE. Rate has drawn a five-petaled flower with a stem underneath this colophon, thus filling up the remaining space at the bottom of fol. 19v.


13 he wold thé. MS: he wold thryves thé.

22 A line is missing from the MS here.

39 trobyled. MS: tro blyes (word scratched out).

48 My. MS: Initial M is larger than usual.
enabulle. MS: unabulle.

52 courage. MS: cuorage.

54 thi eyen. MS: they eyen.

61 theron. MS: therun.

63 noght. MS: wroght.

76 when. MS: whe.

77 thou. MS: thone.

92 clen. MS: cle.

116 bewere. MS: be fore.

133 spylle. MS: splle.

153 MS: If thou wasche written in the margin following this line as a catchphrase.

159 the. MS: thi.

164 if. MS: it.

170 to ryse. MS: ta ryse.

171–72 MS: The order of these lines is switched and marked for emendation.

183 be to. MS: to be.

190 fro. MS: fore.

192 knyfe fro. MS: kynfe fore.

211 feyre. MS: fyre.

217 the. MS: thi.

224 MS: in hye is inserted above the end of the line due to lack of space on the page.

232 knyf. MS: k (word scratched out).

233 is behavour. MS: is thi behavour.

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fol. 18r





















fol. 19r











fol. 19v     









Jhesus Cryste that dyed upon a tree
To bye mans saule that ons was forlorn,
Helpe them wele in all ther degré
That doth ever ryght behynd and beforn.
And gyffe me grace that I may so teche
That som man therfor the better maye be,
And to be to chylder a bodely leche,
And ever more all vyces thei may fere and fle.

To tech chylder curtasy is myn entent,
And thus forth my proces I purpos to begynne.
The Trinyté me sped and gode Seynt Clement,
In what contrey that ever I be inne.

The child that ever thinkys that he wold thé,
My councell in this to hym that he take,
And ever more curtayse luke that he be,
And ever all evyll vices to fle and forsake.

The child that is curtas, be he pore or ryche,
It schall hym avayll — therof have no drede.
And ever to hymselve for to be a lech,
When he is in quarel or any other nede.

And if he be vicious and nothing will lern,
To fader and to modour be statly and stern,
He may never thryffe well for nothing that he canne.

Ne no man of hym rejosyng will have,
In what lond of Crysdom that he commys inne,
Bot oft tymes rebukyd and be callyd knave,
Ne never is abull worschippe to wynn.

Therfor this scryptour, my sone, if thou rede,
And thinke in thiselve that thou wold be a man,
Unto syche poyntes I rede thou take hede,
As thou schall hereafter rede if thou canne.

And labour thiselve while thou arte yong,
For thou schall be more perfyte when thou arte of age,
To helpe thiselve the better with hond and with tonge
Than he that lernes nothing bot to pley and rage.

The sothe treuly thiselve thou may see,
By experience by many in the werld
That are unthrifty ne no tyme will thé,
How thei be trobyled and oft tymes ille-horlde.

Therfor, this doctrine to thee I rede thou take
To ocupy and use bothe by dey and nyght;
Never no maystrys I rede that thou make1
The which be contrary agen reson and ryght.

Now, chyld, take gode hed what that I wyll sey:
My doctryn to thee I purpos to begyn.
Herkyn well therto and go not awey;
Goddys grace be with us now and ever more. Amen.

My dere child, fyrst thiselve thou enabulle
With all thi herte to vertuous disciplyne
Afor thi soveryn standyng at the tabull,
Dispos thi youthe after my doctryne:
To all nurtour thi courage thou enclyne.2
Fyrst, when thou spekys luke thou be not rekles;
Behold to thi sovereyn in the face with thi eyen.
Kepe fete and fyngers and hondys styll in pese.

Be simpyll of cher, cast not thi luke of syde;
Gase not aboute, turnyng thy hede over alle.
Ageyn the post luke not thi bake abyde;
Make not the myrror also of the walle.
Pyke not thi nose allso in especyall;
Be ryght wele were and sett theron thi thought.
Crache not thi fleche for ought that may befall,
Hede and hond, ne other thinge that is upon thee noght.

To the erth thou luke not when any man spekys to thee,
Bot behold unto his face — take gode tent therto.
Go pesably by the wey wereso ever it be,
That no man vex thee in jorney were thou schall gon.

Change not thi colour by no maner wyse,
Les thou be prevyd gylty in all thi mysdede.
Moke not ne scorn not nother man ne wyfe,
Ne no nother person — therto thou take gode hede.

Ete thou not mete with thi unwasche hondys,
For dred of mych hurte that may com therbye,
Ne syte not unbyden weresoever thou stond,
Lesse the pepyll sey thou canne no curtasye.

Take aboffe thee thi better when thou schall sytte,
Els folke wyll sey that thou canne no gode.
Take thou no mete — be welle were of itte —
Unto grace be seyd and therto veyll thi hode.

When thou etys thi mete be not to hasty —
Be well were therof — be it befe or moton,
Or any other metys other pye or pastye,
Leste thou be callyd els both cherle or gloton.

When thou has don with a dysch calle it not ageyn,
For that is no curtassy — therof thou take gode hede.
Whatsoever thou be servyd, loke thou be feyn,
For els thou may want it when thou hast nede.

Revyle thou no metys, whatsoever it be,
If thou purpos afterward of it for to ete.
Fro all sych uncurtasnes I red that thou fle,
And ever to be curtas thi hert therin thou sette.
Kepe thi spone clen from all maner of fylthe;
Longe in thi dysch late it not abyde.
Bewere wele therof that thou nothyng spylleth,
That thei do not moke thee that standys thee besyde.

Luke thi hondys be clen when thou etys thi mete;
Pare clene thi nayles for ought that may be.
Make them chere curtasly that by thee do sytte,
And kepe wele thi countenans, for that is courtasy.

Dele not thi mete awey bot if thou have leve,
If thou sytte with any man that may be thi better,
For els thou may therfor have a grete repreve —
Thus seys Grossum Caput in doctrine of letter.

When thou etys thi mete take gode hede of this:
In the o syde of thi mouthe ete thou thi mete,
That both thou chekys be not fulle at ons;
For that is no curtassy and so thou schall fynd itte.

When mete is in thi moth, laughe thou ryght nought,
Ne speke thou to no man in syche tyme,
For dred that thy mete oute of thi mouth be brought,
And lepe inne thi dyssche with ale or with wyne.

Kytte thou no mete — therof take thou gode tente —
When mete is on thi trencher uneten some dele.
Ne moke thou no man that at the bord is lente,
For drede that mysfforton sone after may thee spylle.
If that thou wyll of nourtyr, my sone, bewere:
Sette thou no dysche never onne thi trencher.

When thou sowpys thi potage be wele were of this:
Make no grete sownd in suppyng of thi dysche,
And wype wele thi mowth when thou drynk schall take.
Ne no thyng hafe therinne that may do amysse,

For if any mete thi mowth be withinne,
When thou schuld drynke ofe coppe or of canne,
Sum wyll drinke, be it thyke or thynne;
Than schall thou be mokyd both of wyff and man.

When thou syttys at the tabull, this is curtasy:
Over thi tabull luke thou not spylle,
Lest it falle one mete that stondys thee by;
For that is a cherles dede whoso doth it.
Pyke not thi tethe — therof be thou were —
Tyll that thow have etyne all that thow wylle.
Ne noy not thi felew — of that loke thou spere;
Drynk, salt, ne potage, therof non thou spylle.

Blow not in thi dyssch, be it mete or drynke,
For that is no curtasy — therof take thou tente.
Ne when thou arte at any mete nother slepe ne wynke,
For mokyng of pepull where that thou arte lente.

Kepe clene thi nose with napkyn and clote,
That no fylthe be sene that schuld thee dyshonour.
Ne swere thou to no man a forsuorne othe,
For that schall be repreve and to thee non honour.

Pley thou not with a dogge ne yit with a cate
Befor thi better at the tabull ne besyde;
For it is no curtasy — be thou sure of that —
In what place of Crystendom that thou dwelle or byde.

When thou etys thi mete, of this thou take hede:
Touche not the salte beyng in thi salt saler,
Ne with flesch ne fyssche, with other mete ne brede,
For that is no curtassy; so seys Doctour Paler.

Ley salt on thi trenchere with knyfe that be clene;
Not to myche — be thou were — for that is not gode.
That all maner of courtassy of thee may be sene,
And ever to thi better luke thou aveyll thi hode.

If thou wasche with a better man than thi selfe arte,
Spytt not on thy hondys — therof take gode hede —
And be thou not to cruell, at no tyme over-perte;
The better thou schall lyke when thou hast nede.

Preys not to hye where thi better is,
Bot stond lawly on thi fete befor the hey tabull;
And loke thou be servysabull at every mese,
And jangell not to moch for makyng of a fabull.
Take hede of one thing that I wyll thee sey,
For it is gret curtasy and schall to thee aveyle:
Out of no mans mouth, forbere it if thou may,
To take any comenyng or yit any tale.

Com not to counsell bot if thou be callyd,
For dred of repreve were as ever thou gos.
Ne never moke non old man thofe he be old,
For sych uncurtasy may cause thee to have foys.
When thou haste dyned be redy to ryse
Somwhat or thi better, for that is curtasy,
And els thi soverand he wyll thee dyspise,
And think that thou arte prowd and bere thiselve to hy.

Crombys aboute thi trencher luke that thou leve non,
Bot clene them awey with thi knyfe that be clene.
Obeysens thou make or thou ferther gone,
That alle that sytys at the tabull thi curtasy may sene.

If thou have a fader that be of lyfe here,
Honour hym with wyrschype — my counsell I thee gyffe —
And also thi modour that is thi faderes fere,
And ever more after the better thou schall fare.

And if thou rebukys them, other in word or dede,
And be to presumptos and set thee not bye,
Thou schall never thryve when that thou hast nede,
Ne yit kepe the statutys of thi curtasye.

Thy elbow and armys have in thi thought,
To fer on thi tabull do them not ley.
To mych mete at ons in thi mouth be not brought,
For than thou art not curtas, thi better wyll seye.

Kepe wele thi slevys fro touchyng of mete,
Ne no long slevys lasyd luke that thou have.
Kepe wele thi knyfe fro castyng under fete;
The more lawde of peple I wote thou schall have.

Ever on thi ryght hond take thou thi bettere
Wher that ever thou go, be wey or by strete,
And if thou se any man be redyng of a letter,
Com not to nyghe hym for dred of rehete.

And if thou go with any man in feld or in towne,
Be wall or by hege, by pales or by pale,
To go withoute hym luke thou be bowne,
And take hym bytwyx thee and that same walle.

And if thou mete hym luke thou be sure
That thou go withoute hym and leve hym nexte the walle.
And if ye schuld enter in at any dore,
Putt befor thee thi better for oughte that may befalle.

Stare not on a strange man to mych — be thou ware —
For that is no curtassy; therto thou take gode hede.
Ne speke not to mych (thus seys Doctour Paler),
Bot if it be in thi Pater Noster, thi Ave, and thi Crede.

And thou passe befor a man weresoever it be,
At feyre or in other place, luke thou aske leve,
And ever thinke on worschype and thy onesté,
And kepe thee ever fro rebuke and all maner repreve.

And if that it forten so by nyght or any tyme,
That thou schall lye with any man that is better than thou,
Spyre hym what syde of the bedd that most best wyll ples hym,
And lye thou on the tother syde, for that is for thi prow.

Ne go thou not to bede befor bot thi better cause thee,
For that is no curtasy — thus seys Doctor Paler.
Hose and schone to powle of, loke thou redy be,
And other gere that to hym langys, for thou may fare the better.

And when thou arte in thi bed this is curtasy:
Stryght downe that thou lye both with fote and hond.
When ye have talkyd what ye wyll, byd hym gode nyght in hye,
For that is gret curtasy — so schall thou understond.

If thou ryse before at morow take god hede of this:
Byd hym gode morow or thou go, thof that he be on slepe,
Ne do no thinge in that hous that schuld be amysse,
Bot ever more all curtasy I rede to thee thou kepe.

Another thing at thi table for soth I wylle thee telle,
That is gret courtasy (thus seys Doctor Paler):
On thi tabull kepe thi knyf — luke thou befelle —
When thou putys mete in thi mouthe, for that is behavour.

And if thou be in any place were thi better is drynkyng,
So that the coppe be at his hede, odour with ale or wyne,
Doctor Paler seys thee thus, and byddys thee sey nothing,
For brekynge of thi curtasy in syche a curtas tyme.
And if thou be in any plas were thi sovrand schall wessche,
Luke thou be redy anon with water in some vessell,
Forgete not the towell, nother for hard ne nessche,3
For that is grete curtasy, the soth I do thee telle.

Of all maner of thingys, one I wylle thee schew:
Never with any rebaudry do not fyle thi mouthe,
For that is no curtasy, thou schall fynd it trew
Wher thou go est or weste, other north or southe.

And if thi sovereyn drinkyng be in the tyme of nyght,
If thou be standing in thi hous or syting in any syde,
Take a candell in thi hond anon and hold hym lyght.
To he have drownkyn what he wyll, styll by hym thou byde.
(see note)
buy; once was lost
social condition
Who always do right in every way

[So] that
children; physician

aid me; (see note)

prosper; (t-note)
He should take my counsel in this


assist; doubt

proud and headstrong; (t-note)
may do

will delight in him

But [he will be] often
to earn praise


busy yourself

live wildly


troubled; assailed; (t-note)

To be busy with

contrary to

instruction; intend


Before your superior


Look your superior(s); eyes; (t-note)

Stare; (see note)
Against; do not rest your back
a mirror of the wall
aware; concentrate on it; (t-note)
Scratch; may happen
[Nor scratch]; at all; (t-note)

[So] that; trouble

Ridicule; neither
no other

food; unwashed

unasked; (see note)
Lest; know

above; (see note); (t-note)
Until; remove your hood; (see note)

foods or pie or pasty; (see note)

(see note)


Refuse; food


spoon; (see note); (t-note)

mock; stand next to you

of all [dirt]
pleasant company

Give (Divide); have permission

reproof (rebuke)
Grosseteste (see note); text




some piece
slow at the table
ruin you
will have good manners; (t-note)

sip your soup
sounds in slurping

from cup or jar
Someone [else] will drink it; (see note)

(see note)

annoy; refrain
stew (soup); (t-note)

take heed
nod off



saltcellar (salt dish); (see note)

(see note)

be careful
[So] that
lower your hood; (t-note)

(see note)

[and] at no time; saucy

Press not too closely (presumptiously)
lowly; high table; (see note); (t-note)
useful (obedient); meal
chatter; story

prevent; (t-note)

shame wheresoever you go

before your better(s); (t-note)

Show reverence before


care not for yourself; (t-note)



from falling; (t-note)

reading [privately]
near; reproof

By; palace or fence
on the outside; ready


(see note)

fair; leave (permission); (t-note)
reputation; sense of decorum

fortune (happen)
share a bed; (see note)
other; to your credit; (t-note)

shoes; pull
belongs to him

directly; (t-note)

see to it that you do this; (t-note)
      [good] manners; (see note); (t-note)

place; either; (see note)

lord; wash
ready promptly

ribaldry; fill

Where[ever]; either

Until; (see note)
(see note)

Go To Item 8, Dame Courtesy, introduction
Go To Item 8, Dame Courtesy, text