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Mumming for the Goldsmiths of London


1 Intentionally delivered this ark into your keeping


ABBREVIATIONS: MED: Middle English Dictionary; MP: Minor Poems of John Lydgate, ed. MacCracken.

According to Shirley, the Mumming for the Goldsmiths of London was performed on Candlemas for Mayor Estfeld; Estfeld was mayor in 1429–30 and again in 1437, but it must be the earlier date that is meant here because the manuscript in which the mumming is copied was completed well before 1437. Since Estfeld was elected on October 13, 1429, the mumming would have been performed on February 2, 1430. Although there is no reference to this mumming in their records, the goldsmiths had a tradition of entertainments on their annual St. Dunstan’s Day feast and in mayoral processions; they owned musical instruments as well as a “summer-castle” that (equipped with “virgins” throwing silver leaves) was used in the entry of Richard II in 1377 and again in 1382, and on occasion they hired minstrels and choristers from St. Paul’s (see A. Lancashire, London Civic Theatre, pp. 45–46; Robertson and Gordon, “Calendar of Dramatic Records,” p. 139; and Osberg, “Goldsmiths’ ‘Chastell’”). The goldsmiths’ pageantry was well enough known for Henry VI to refer to it in a letter of 1444–45, in which he requested a lavish display for Queen Margaret’s entry (see Wardens’ Accounts, pp. 178, 196, and 532–34).

We do not know how the goldsmiths came to commission these verses from Lydgate, but the goldsmiths’ prestige would have brought at least some of them into orbit with Lydgate’s circle. London goldsmiths, who in 1404 numbered 102 men in the livery company (the elite group) plus another eighty out of livery, were substantial citizens, involved in London’s government and with an international reputation as skilled craftsmen (see Reddaway and Walker, Early History of the Goldsmiths’ Company, pp. 79 and 139). As makers of luxury goods, goldsmiths had contacts with the wealthy and powerful: John Orewell, for example, who was the king’s engraver, made a silver-gilt crozier for the abbot of Bury St. Edmunds in 1430 (Barron, London, p. 72), and in 1379–80 Edward III’s daughter Isabella, the mayor, Lord Latimer, the Master of St John of Clerkenwell and others were invited to one of the goldsmiths’ feasts (Wardens’ Accounts, pp. 186–91).

Like the verses Lydgate wrote for the mercers, the Mumming for the Goldsmiths takes the form of a letter in the style of a balade that a herald named Fortune presents to the mayor. No speaker is identified, but Fortune probably read the fourteen rhyme-royal stanzas aloud to introduce the mummers, who are costumed as David and the twelve tribes of Israel and who bring an ark, which in a twist on the biblical Ark of the Covenant contains a writ instructing the mayor in the performance of his duties. The mumming is striking for its mixing of the chivalric (e.g., the herald; “royal gyftes” [line 6] for the mayor), the biblical (with an emphasis on lineage via the Jesse tree, Mary, and Christ, and Samuel’s anointing of David), and the mercantile (stressing good governance). It also deftly combines flattery of the mayor with an assertion for the need for humble and responsible governance, thus demonstrating Lydgate’s ability to craft entertainments for London’s wealthy and politically influential establishment that celebrate London and its values, while also subtly voicing con­cerns about civic government and urban power (see Benson, “Civic Lydgate,” p. 164, and Sponsler, “Alien Nation”).

The Mumming for the Goldsmiths survives in Trinity R.3.20 (1450–75), pp. 175–78, as well as in Stow’s copy of it, Additional MS 29729. Trinity R.3.20 is the base text for this edition (MP, 2:698–701), collated with Additional 29729.

running titles: A desguysing to the mayre by the Goldsmithes / A desgysing to the meyre / By the Goldsmythes. Not noted in MP.

headnote Candlemas was the Feast of the Purification of Mary, and the occasion perhaps suggested to Lydgate the Marian themes of the Ark and lineage that appear in the mumming. The Mumming for the Goldsmiths may have been performed either in the goldsmiths’ hall or in the mayor’s. Welych (line 3) comes from the adjective “welch,” meaning “Welsh,” and by extension “strange,” “foreign,” or “alien” (see MED welch, adj 2a).

2 The Jesse tree was associated with the lineages of Christ and Mary and makes sense for the Feast of Purification.

4 The image of Samuel anointing David comes from 2 Samuel 16. Nolan (John Lydgate, p. 88) notes that the reference to Samuel raises the problem of succession, which in the mumming leads to emphasis on the need for humility on the mayor’s part.

23 of humble wille. David was traditionally taken to represent humility and patience (see Isidore of Seville, De ortu, chap. 33 and Augustine, De civitate Dei, 17.20), and was viewed as a shepherd of the people of God (1 Chronicles 11–29), both of which Lydgate makes relevant to Mayor Estfeld.

24 The Ark was associated with both Mary, as a vessel carrying precious cargo, and Christ, whom David prefigures; Kipling thinks that the ark brought by the “Levites” was probably a chest or coffer richly made by the Goldsmiths (“Poet as Deviser,” pp. 95–96n30).

29 According to 1 Paralipomenon (1 Chronicles) 16:4, Levites were appointed to minister before the Ark.

34 Syngethe. The instruction to the Levites to sing suggests that music accompanied the mumming, but presumably only after the whole letter had been read aloud.

36 Marginalia: Palladyone was a relyk and an ymage sent by the goddes into the cytee of Troye the which kept hem in longe prosperité ageynst alle hir enemys. Shirley’s gloss explaining this reference perhaps reveals his concern with making sure readers understand Lydgate’s references.

37 Ebdomadon. While transporting the Ark to Zion, David temporarily left the Ark in the house of Obededom the Gittite (2 Samuel 6:1–11; 1 Chronicles 13:1–13), whose house was blessed by its presence.

39 Palladyone of Troye. The Palladium was a sacred image kept in the temple of Athena at Troy and was believed to confer protection on the city so long as it remained there. Shirley’s gloss explaining this reference perhaps reveals his concern with making sure readers understand Lydgate’s allusions.

53 For David’s dance before the Ark, see 2 Samuel 6. This passage was taken as a defense of festivity on holidays and feast days (see A Treatise of Miraclis Pleyinge, lines 724–25) and the connection of David’s dancing with performance goes back at least to Bernard of Clairvaux. Nolan (John Lydgate, pp. 91–94) notes that while the dance compliments the mayor it also invites interpretation by any reader who notices the absence in Lydgate’s version of the part of the story in which Saul’s daughter Michal scornfully rebukes David.

55 ephod. For his dance, David girded himself with a linen ephod, a ritual garment worn by the Jewish high priest (2 Samuel 6:14; 1 Chronicles 15:27).

64 ff. Latin marginalia: Surge domine in requiem tuam, tu et archa santificacionis tue. [Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place: thou and the ark, which thou hast sanctified (Psalm 131:8).] This psalm often appeared in primers and books of hours and was linked to Marian devotion.

69 Nuwe Troye. According to legend, Brutus called his capital Trojanova (New Troy), later Trinovantus and eventually London.

78–84 Nolan argues that in this stanza the ark trumps the mayor’s authority and “places him in his proper relation both to God and to the Goldsmiths” thus stressing the need for humility during his term of office (John Lydgate, p. 97).

81 As Clopper notes, the gifts of “konnyng, grace, and might” conveyed by the ark are the attributes of the Trinity, which are here linked to the ideals of proper civic governance: wisdom, peace, and right (Drama, Play, and Game, p. 162).

85 wrytt. The written document is a kind of Ten Commandments, relating who shall be punished and who rewarded. Nolan notes that the gift of a writ is more complex than simple gifts of wine or wheat, and demands “an active and engaged response” (John Lydgate, p. 89).

98 Duryng youre tyme. A reference to Estfeld’s first term as mayor, which ran from October 29, 1429, to October 29, 1430; see A. Lancashire, London Civic Theatre, p. 121.


ABBREVIATIONS: A: Additional 29729 (Stow’s copy of R.3.20); M: MacCracken’s 1934 edition; T: Trinity R.3.20, copy text for all of the disguisings and mummings except Bishopswood, and for Bycorne and Chychevache, the Procession of Corpus Christi, and Of the Sodein Fall of Princes.

headnote In A, the headnote reads: Here folowythe a lettar made by John Lidgat for a momanynge, whiche the goldsmythes of london shewyd before Eestfyld the mayr on candylmas [M: Condylmas] day at nyght. this letar was presentyd by an harold callyd fortune.

3 the bookes. A reads as boks.

10 Fro. M’s emendation; T reads for.

27 eure. A reads ende.

68 citeseyns. A reads shreves; not noted by M.

87 as. A reads at; not noted by M.

96 awey. A reads all ways; not noted by M.
  [And nowe filowethe a lettre made in wyse of (in the style of) balade by Ledegate Daun Johan, of a mommynge, whiche the goldesmythes of the Cité of London mommed in right fresshe and costelé (costly) Welych (Strange) desguysing to theyre Mayre Eestfeld, upon Candelmasse day at nyght, after souper; brought and presented unto the Mayre by an heraude cleped (herald called) Fortune. (see note); (t-note)




















That worthy David, which that sloughe Golye,
The first kyng that sprang oute of Jesse,
Of God echosen, the bookes specefye,
By Samuel sette in his royal see,
With twelve trybus is comen to this citee,
Brought royal gyftes, kyngly him t’aquyte,
The noble Mayre to seen and to vysyte.

The first trybe, the Byble cane well telle,
Is called Juda, the hardy, strong lyoun.
Fro whos kynrede — for hit did excelle —
Cryst lyneally he came adowne,
Which lyche David was the chaumpyoun
That sloughe the tyraunt, to gete himself a prysse,
Man to restore ageyne to Paradys.

This noble David, moost mighty and moost goode,
Is nowe descended in his estate royal,
With alle the trybus of Jacobus blood,
For to presenten in especial
Gyftes that beon bothe hevenly and moral,
Apperteyning unto good gouvernaunce,
Unto the Mayre for to doo pleasaunce.

Frome his cytee of Jherusalem
He is come doune of humble wille and thought;
The arke of God, bright as the sonne beeme,
Into this toune he hathe goodely brought,
Which designethe, if hit be wel sought,
Grace and good eure and long prosperitee
Perpetuelly to byde in this cytee.

O yee Levytes, which bere this lordes arke,
Doothe youre devoyre with hevenly armonye
The gret mysterye devoutly for to marke,
With laude and prys the Lord to magnefye;
Of oon acorde shewethe your melodye,
Syngethe for joye, that the arke is sent
Nowe to the Mayre with hoole and truwe entent.

Whylome this arke, abyding in the hous
Of Ebdomadon, brought in ful gret joye;
For in effect it was more gracyous
Thanne ever was Palladyone of Troye.
Hit did gret gladnesse and hit did accoye
Thinges contrarye and all adversytee.
Th’effect therof, whane David did see,

And fully knewe, howe God list for to blesse,
Thorughe his vertu and his mighty grace,
That of gladdnesse they might nothing mysse
Wher hit aboode any maner spaace,
God of his might halowed so the place.
Wherfore Kyng David, by gret devocion,
Maade of this ark a feyre translacion

Into his hous and his palays royal,
Brought by the Levytes with gret solempnytee.
And he himself in especyal
Daunsed and sang of gret humylyté,
And ful devoutely left his ryaltee,
With ephod gyrt, lyche preestis of the lawe,
To gyf ensaumple howe pryde shoulde be withdrawe

In yche estate, who list the trouth serche,
And to exclude al veyne ambycyoun,
Specyally fro mynistres of the Chirche,
To whome it longethe by devocyoun,
To serve God with hool defeccyoun
And afforne him mynistre in clennesse,
B’ensaumple of David for al his worthynesse.

Nowe ryse up, Lord, into thy resting place,
Aark of thyne hooly halowed mansyoun,
Thou aark of wisdome, of vertu and of grace,
Keepe and defende in thy proteccion
The Meyre, the citeseyns, the comunes of this toune,
Called in cronycles whylome Nuwe Troye,
Graunte hem plenté, vertu, honnour and joye.

And for that meeknesse is a vertu feyre,
Worthy David, with kyngly excellence,
In goodely wyse hath made his repayre,
O noble Mayre, unto youre presence,
And to youre Hyeghnesse with freondly dilygence
This presande brought, oonly for the best,
Perpetuelly this toune to sette at rest,

Of purpoose put this aark to youre depoos,1
With good entent, to make youre hert light;
And thoo three thinges, which therinne beo cloos,
Shal gif to yowe konnyng, grace, and might,
For to gouverne with wisdome, pees, and right
This noble cytee, and lawes suche ordeyne,
That no man shal have cause for to compleyne.

A wrytt withinn shal unto you declare
And in effect pleynly specefye,
Where yee shal punysshe and where as yee shal spare,
And howe that mercy shal rygour modefye.
And youre estate also to magnefye,
This aark of God, to make you gracyous,
Shal stille abyde with you in youre hous.

For whyles it bydethe stille in youre presence,
The hyeghe Lord shal blesse boothe yowe and youres,
Of grace, of fortune sende yowe influence
And of vertue alle the fresshe floures;
And of adversytee voyde awey the shoures,
Sette pees and rest, welfare and unytee
Duryng youre tyme thorougheoute this cytee.
who slew Goliath
(see note)
specify; (t-note)
throne; (see note)
tribes is come
to acquit himself in kingly fashion
Mayor; see and visit

From whose kindred; it; (t-note)

Who like
win himself a prize

present especially
Pertaining to
Mayor; to bring pleasure

(see note)
sun’s beam; (see note)
fortune; (t-note)

Levites, who carry this lord’s; (see note)
Do your duty; harmony

one; show
Sing; (see note)
complete and true

Formerly; (see note)
(see note)

(see note)

was wont to

for any length of time

fair transfer

Danced; (see note)
Girdled with an ephod, like priests; (see note)
give an example of how

each; whoever wishes to; seek out
vain ambition
Especially from ministers
Whose duty it is
complete selflessness
By example

(see note)

commons; town; (t-note)
chronicles; New Troy; (see note)

And since

proper style; journey


(see note)

those; enclosed
knowledge; (see note)

writ; (see note)
plainly specify
strict justice


while it stays

drive away the storms; (t-note)
peace; unity
throughout; (see note)


Go To Mummings for the Mercers of London