1. ZEDECHYE: FOOTNOTES2 seith, says.
3 beleve, belief.
4 aungellis, angels.
6-7 puissaunce, puissance/power.
14 holly, wholly.
15 shamefast, shamefaced; peasible, peaceful.
16 wele attempred, of good temperament.
17 obeissaunt, obedient; magesté, majesty.
18 roialme, realm.
20 tresoure, treasure.
25 tho, those; passinge evreux, exceptionally fortunate.
27 malevreux, unfortunate; fauten, fault.
28 dispreiseth, dispraises, denounces.
30 sekenesse, sickness.
30-31 but yf, unless.
32 aventure, danger.
33 enfourmed, informed.
34 connynge, wisdom.
34-35 rightwose, righteous.
35 haunte, visit.
38 her, their.
39 here, their.
41 hem, them.
46 feire, fair.
49 verrey, true.
51 renomme, renown.
53 alloone, all alone.
54 tecchis, customs.
56 tacchis, habits.
60 weneth, believes, supposes.
61 Creatour, Creator.
64-65 here pleasaunce, their pleasure.
65 diffence, defense.
66 defended, forbidden.
67 her, their.
68 dilectaciouns, delectations.
69 parreye, parry (block).
71 delytes transitories, transitory delights.
72 noye, annoy.
74 th'ende, the end.
78 covenable, appropriate.
82 veyne, vain.
84 covenably, appropriately.
1. ZEDECHYE: EXPLANATORY NOTESABBREVIATIONS: B = Dicts and Sayings of the Philosophers, ed. Bühler (1941); CA = Gower's Confessio Amantis; CT = Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; G = Pierpont Morgan Library MS G.66; MED = Middle English Dictionary; OED = Oxford English Dictionary; S = Scrope, Dicts and Sayings of the Philosophers, ed. Schofield (1936).
These explanatory notes cannot hope to provide a complete accounting for the source of every proverbial statement in Dicts and Sayings. That task would be a separate book in its own right. Instead, I have attempted to contextualize this rather heterogeneous body of lore by identifying the people and places named in the text, as well as noting points that may be of interest to students and general readers. Those interested in tracing the source of particular quotations should begin by consulting Whiting's Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases From English Writings Mainly Before 1500. Readers are also invited to consult the thorough notes to Knust's Bocados de Oro, the Spanish translation of the original Arabic ancestor of Dicts and Sayings.
1 Zedechye. Schofield posits that Zedechye is either the Egyptian deity Set (the evil god of trickery, murderer of his brother Osiris) or Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve after Cain and Abel (S, p. 206n2). Either is possible, given that the text draws on both ancient Egyptian and Judeo-Christian-Islamic mythologies, though Seth's peaceable wisdom seems more in keeping with the ethos of Zedechye's philosophy.
5-7 to obeye to kinges and princes that God hath sette on erthe for to governe and reule and have puissaunce over the people. As I discussed in the Introduction, medieval wisdom literature tends to endorse a conservative political ideology, one that encourages - or often demands - respect for authority and obedience to the laws of God and temporal rulers. For the best studies of this phenomenon, see the work of Louis, especially "Authority in Middle English Proverb Literature," and "Proverbs and the Politics of Language."
16 And seithe. "And [Zedechye] says." This rhetorical formula of dropping the subject (proseopesis) is characteristic throughout Dicts and Sayings. Usually the subject will appear in the first saying (e.g., "the same Hermes seith" [Hermes, lines 22-23]), after which we get the formula"And seith" as a header (lines 24, 32, etc.). Compare "Pyctagoras seide" (Pyctagoras, line 1), then "And seide" (line 12), "and seith" (lines 15, 16, 17 [twice], 20, 21, 22, etc). The "And(e)" is written with a large capital that serves as a marker to help the reader to locate individual sayings.
80-82 A man shulde nat juge anothir by his wordis, but by his deedis, for wordes bene commounly veyne, but the dedis maken knowe the hurtis and the profitis. See also Pythagoras, lines 72-73, Loginon, lines 104-05, and The Last Philosophers, lines 304-05. For other manifestations of this maxim, see Whiting W642.
1. ZEDECHYE: TEXTUAL NOTES1 which. So G. B emends to by which.
26 goode. B: good.
[fol. 1r] Zedechye was the first philisophre, which, by the will of God, lawe was first res
ceived and wisdam undirstanden. And the seide Zedechie seith that every man that
is of good beleve shulde have in himself sixtene vertues. The first is to knowe God
and His aungellis. The secunde is to have discrecioun of good and evel - of the
good for to do it and of the evel for to leve it. The thridde is for to obeye to kinges
and princes that God hath sette on erthe for to governe and reule and have puis
saunce over the people. The fourth is for to honoure fader and moder. The fyveth
is to do every man good aftir his power. The sixte is for to geve almes to the poore
people. The seventh is to kepe and defende straungiers and pilgrymes. The eighth
is to abaundon himself entierly to the service of God. The ninth is for to eschewe
fornycacioun. The tenth is to have pacience. The eleventh is to be true. The twelfth
is to be just. The thriteneth is to be liberall. The fourteneth is to offre God His sac
refices for the grete benefetis that he resceiveth of Him every daye. The fifteneth
is to thanke God and put himself holly unto His keping for the divers fortunes that
contynuelly comen in this worlde. The sixteneth is to be shamefast, peasible, and
wele attempred. And seithe that as it apperteyneth to the people to be subjecte and
obeissaunt to the kinges magesté, in lyke wyse it longeth to a kinge to undirstande
diligently the governaunce of his roialme and mor [fol. 1v] thanne to his owen propre,
for in lyke wyse is the kinge with his peple as the soulle is with the body. And seith
that whanne a kinge enforcethe himself to assemble tresoure by extorcioun or
othirwise unduly, he shuld knowe that it were evel done, for suche tresoure maye
never be assembled but that it be the dispoilling of his roialme. And seith that yf
a kinge be slowe to serche and enquere the deedis of the grete men of his people
and of his enemyes, he shal nat be oon daye ferme in his roialm. And seithe: "O,"
seith he, "tho people bene passinge evreux whan there is a kinge of goode dis
crecioun and of goode counseill and wise in sciencez. And gretly bene the people
malevreux whanne any of thise thingis abovesaide fauten in a kinge." And seithe:
"Whanne a kinge dispreiseth or leveth any of the litil thingis undone that he is or
deyned for to do, gladly he wole leve gretter thingis undone; and it apperith in
lyke wise as a litil sekenesse, with processe growith and distroieth the body, but
yf remedye be founde." And seith: "Yf a kinge beleve flaterers and the swete wordis
of his enemye withoute takinge heede to his werkis, he is in aventure to be soud
eynly taken." And seithe: "It belongeth to a kinge that his sone be enfourmed in
connynge: how he shal governe his people aftir him, and how that he shal be right
wose to his people, and how that he shulde haunte and love his knyghtis; and he
shulde nat lete him use moche huntynge ne ydelnesse, but lerne him and instructe
him for to have eloquence and make him to eschewe alle vanitees." And seith that
it longeth to a prince whanne he wole have any servauntis to knowe first her
maners and her condicions, and how thei bene governed in here houses and with
theire felashippis. And yf he undirstande hem of goode governaunce in all thees
thingis aboveseide, and that thei be paciente in their adversitees, reteigne hem
hardily for servauntis - and othirwise nat. And seith: "Yf thu have a trewe frende
that loveth thee wel, thu shuldeste take him bettir thanne fader, moder, brother,
or any othir kynne, desieringe thi deth for successioun of thi goodes." And seith
that comounly everythinge seketh and wolde have his owen lykenesse. And seith:
"Ho that wol nat be chastised with feire wordis shulde be corrected with sharpe
correccioun." And seith that the grettest richesse of this worlde is helth of body.
And seith that obeisaunce done by love is mor ferme thanne that that is done by
lordshipp or cruelté. And seith that the [fol. 2r] experiences bene the verrey chastisinges
and the forsight of the ende of thingis that shulle come to goode ende. And seith
that goode renomme is right feire and goode in this worlde and it putteth awey the
peyne of the othir. And seith that oon is bettir to holde his peas thanne for to
speke with an ignoraunt, and to be alloone than to be fellashipped with evel folke.
And seith: "Whanne a kinge hath evel tecchis, bettir is to a man that knoweth him
nat thanne it is to him that is a gret maistre in his housholde." And seith that bettir
it is to a womman for to be bareyn than bere a childe that hath evell tacchis. And
seith that the companye of a poure wiseman is bettir than his that is a riche man
and an ignoraunt. And seith that by the wyse bene sought oute humblesse, good
wille, pité, and pryvacioun of synnes. And seith: "He that wole have wisdame, he
muste studie and reede in studieng, and he is full ignoraunte that weneth to have
it by othir abilité." And seith: "Ho that maketh faulte to his Creatour, by grete
reasoun, he muste do it to alle othir." And seith: "Beleve nat him that seith himself
that he knoweth trouth and dothe the contrarye." And seith that ignorauntis wole
nat absteyne hem from their bodily will and love nat their lyfe, but oonly for here
pleasaunce; what diffence that ever thei have in the contrary, in lyke wise as chil
dren enforce hemself specially to eete swete thingis whanne it is defended hem.
Nevertheles, it is in anothir maner with wise men, for thei love nat her lyffe, but
oonly in doynge goode deedis and leevynge alle slouthfull dilectaciouns of the
worlde. And seith: "How maye a man parreye the werkis of he that attenden to the
goode ende of perpetuel perfeccioun with the werkis of hem that wole none othir
but the delytes transitories?" And seith that he maye nat be taken for wise that
laboureth in that that may noye and to leve that that he maye do good inne. And
seith that wise men bere the thingis that bene sharpe and bitter as wele as thei were
sweete as hony, for thei knowe th'ende shal be as swete as hony. And seith: "That
it is good and profitable thinge to do wele to hem that deserve it. And it is grete
evyll to do wele to hem that deserve it nat; and ho that dothe it loseth his laboure
and the thinge that is geven, in lyke wise as the reyne that falleth on the gravelle.
And seith: "Blessed is he that useth his daies and his nyghtis in doynge covenable
thingis, and that taketh nat in this worlde but that that he maye excuse him inne,
and that applieth himself to goode werkis and leveth the evell." And seith: "A man
shulde nat [fol. 2v] juge anothir by his wordis, but by his deedis, for wordes bene com
mounly veyne, but the dedis maken knowe the hurtis and the profitis." And seith
that whanne the almesse is geven to poure folkes, the almes profiteth in lyke wise
as the medicyne that is covenably geven to the seeke folkis; and the almes that is
geven to folkis that have no neede, it is even so as a medicyne that is geven with
oute cause. And seith: "He is right happy that kepith himself from all unclennesse
and that turneth him awey from the heringe and the seynge therof." And seith that
the most covenable dispence that a man maye do in his lyfe is that that is done in
the service of God and in goode werkis. And the lasse dispence is that that a man
spendith in thingis that bene necessarie, whiche that maye nat be excused, as for
to eete, drynke, and slepe, in helinge of sekenesse commyng, and the worste
dispence that is dispended is that that is done in evell werkis.
Go To 2. Hermes