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Homily 13, Purification


1 On [the day of the] Purification of Blessed Mary, according to Luke

2 Latin rubric (Luke 2:22–24): And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: [And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.]

3 Secretly do away with it [literally: do it from daylight]

4 Lines 361–63: For that was openly seen / In this foundling who / Betrayed her lady to the bishop immediately


Abbreviations: AT: Alphabet of Tales, ed. Banks; NEHC: Gerould, North English Homily Collection; NHC: Northern Homily Cycle; NIMEV: The New Index of Middle English Verse, ed. Boffey and Edwards; Tubach: Index Exemplorum, ed. Tubach; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences and Proverbial Phrases from English Writings Mainly Before 1500. For manuscript abbreviations (ED, A, D, G, L, V), see the Introduction.

The date of this feast, forty days after Christmas (February 2) commemorates the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of the infant Jesus at the Temple. The number of lines given over to its description, including a good deal of repetition, suggest something of its importance for the poet. Its origins are ancient, the earliest evidence for its celebration in Jerusalem coming from the late fourth-century diary of the pilgrim Egeria. In 542 the Emperor Justinian ordered its observance at Constantinople and from there it spread throughout the East as “the Meeting of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ with Simeon the Just when the latter took him in his arms” (Martimort, Church at Prayer, pp. 88–89). In the middle of the eighth century, a new name for the feast appeared in the West, the Purifi­cation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A procession with lighted candles, whence the medieval English name “Candlemas,” became the distinctive rite in the West, where the holiday became more Marian than Christological, providing a joyful occasion for a communal procession in which “the virgins, wives, and widows of the parish — as well as men old and young — carried lighted candles in their hands as they walked the sacred precincts of church aisles or parish streets to converge at the altar” (Gibson, “Blessing from Sun,” p. 141).

NIMEV: 1494, 97, 2124. Manuscripts: ED: fols. 34v–36v (ending lost); A: fols. 232r–238r; G: fols. 45v–50v; D: fols. 74r–79r; L: fols. 17v–19r.

27–28 We ber todai thoru this resoun, / Our candel in processioune. Though the NHC-poet expends few words on this procession, and many more on the explication of the festival’s meaning, both historic and allegorical, the procession itself was surely what was most significant and memorable for medieval audiences. An example of the “corporate symbolism of late medieval liturgical . . . theater,” which func­tioned as a “drama of consensus, an affecting visible display of shared conviction and creed,” the procession was further staged, quite literally, in the enactments of the York and N-Town plays of Mary’s Purification (Gibson, “Blessing from Sun,” p. 141).

54 Moyses law. Leviticus 12:6–8:
And when the days of her purification are expired, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of the testimony, a lamb of a year old for a holocaust, and a young pigeon or a turtle for sin, and shall deliver them to the priest: Who shall offer them before the Lord, and shall pray for her, and so she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that beareth a man-child or a maid-child. And if her hand find not sufficiency, and she is not able to offer a lamb, she shall take two turtles, or two young pigeons, one for a holocaust, and another for sin: and the priest shall pray for her, and so she shall be cleansed.
85–87 The nunc dimittis. See Luke 2:25–35, especially verses 29–31, where Simeon, after waiting many years, in old age receives an answer to his prayer that he might witness the advent of Christ.

173–74 A tal of this fest haf I herd, / Hougat it of a widou ferd. Tubach 3218: Mass given privately. Tubach does not seem to have known of the NHC version, which may account for the rather cryptic title he gives it. A late thirteenth-century version, quite close to NHC in its details, can be found in BL Additional 18.929, a collec­tion of thirty Miracles of the Virgin (Ward, Catalogue of Romances, 2.658.20). Ge­rould (NEHC) lists several further analogues including a very brief version in the Legenda Aurea (chapter 37, vol. 1, p. 150), and a slightly longer one in the fifteenth-century collection Miracles de Nostre Dame (Miélot, pp. 8–9, #6).

190 a leuedy. The NHC-poet capitalizes on the mysterious aspects of the dream vision by making the identity of Mary less obvious initially; at line 240, when the widow thanks “Godd and Our Lefdye,” it is evident that she understands the nature of the vision she has been granted.

290 That was abbes of a nunrye. Tubach 2: Abbess delivered by the Virgin. There are numerous analogues, including the version in the fifteenth-century English AT (13), and the two found in another fifteenth-century French collection, Miracles de Nostre Dame. Neither of these (which I have examined), nor, according to Gerould (NEHC, pp. 92–94), any of the others, includes the detail of the wicked foundling which is central to the NHC version.

303 And sa wel order lufed scho. Contextually this line seems to refer either to the nun’s love of her order, or the love of orderly behavior. A has a different line here, “And hir order well yemid scho,” which could be understood to lend support to the first of the two interpretations suggested above.

315 For hir spense knew hir fleyslye. According to Daichman, nuns’ lovers were drawn primarily from the clergy. Sometimes the seducer was attached to the convent as chaplain and even dwelt within the precincts. Others with whom nuns had fre­quent contact included workers, married boarders, or the bailiff of a manor; the figure of the butler joins the ranks of the men who were reported in numerous contemporary historical documents to have seduced nuns (Daichman, Wayward Nuns, p. 8). Daichman reports further that the punishment for these transgres­sions was relatively mild, the most severe punishment being reserved for apos­tasy (Wayward Nuns, pp. 10–11).

317–18 Bot fair scho bar hir nohtforthye, / Als wimmen can that dos folye. This has the ring of a proverbial (and typically misogynist) comment, but Whiting does not list it, though there are numerous examples which express a similar idea regarding women, as for instance W498: “For there thai make semblant fairest, they will bigile the altherformest” (Seven Sages).

357–60 Bot qua sa leses fra hinging . . . nede. Proverbial. See Whiting T67, which lists many forms of this expression, although only NHC includes a foundling along with the ungrateful thief.

395 And on hir wambe scho laide hir hand. This detail is missing from the two analogues which I have examined. The NHC differs further in having Mary confer forgiveness directly on the abbess, whereas the analogues say that she has obtained for­giveness for the abbess from her Son. Finally, it is clerks, not midwives, who examine the abbess in the analogues. Warren, whose discussion is based on the fifteenth-century AT version, suggests that the exemplum’s portrayal of maternity in the miracle might initially seem to provide a metaphor for female economic empowerment. The disappearance of the butler enhances the sense that women are in charge of the productive processes, and Mary’s aid suggests a network of women, while the bishop ends by apologizing to the abbess. Yet the fate of the male child marks a devaluation of female labor: transferred to male hands, he is then adopted by the clerical establishment and later becomes a bishop (Warren, Spiritual Economies, p. 75). While this analysis is possibly valid for the fifteenth century, with its changed economic circumstances, the differences between NHC’s earlier version and that of the AT also suggest a quite different significance for the former, where economic issues are of less importance than actual maternal concerns. The focus on women’s experience and even on women’s bodies, the physical “laying on of hands,” Mary’s absolute power, the women who physically examine the abbess, and the averted threat to the child’s life suggest a concern for the safe delivery of children in an age where both mother and child so often died. The fact that this story is attached to the feast of Candlemas gives it further resonance as a “woman’s story” by calling to mind the ritual churching in which all women took part after childbirth: a month after delivering a child, the new mother, often accompanied by midwives, female relatives and neighbors was brought veiled to the church porch where she presented a lighted candle that was blessed by the priest and that symbolized the woman’s own restored and purified body (Gibson, “Blessing from Sun,” p. 144). “The Virgin Mary’s interces­sion for wives who implored her protection in childbirth . . . was a crucial part . . . of medieval laywomen’s understanding of both the public liturgy of Candle­mas and the salvific private liturgy of churching” (Gibson, “Blessing from Sun,” pp. 146–47). Not so much a proto-feminist story as a story about women (which also includes several wicked ones), the “moral” of this exemplum, with regard to an erring abbess, could also have a wider meaning for the laywomen who might have heard it, for whom it might have been less cautionary than joyful in its celebration of the Virgin’s power of protection over women.


Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Dictionary; OF: Old French; Small: English Metrical Homiles, ed. Small. For manuscript abbreviations (ED, A, D, G, L, V), see the Introduction.

4 cald Cristes meeting. MS: cristes cald meeting, with carets to show need for reposi­tion­ing.

20 in him Goddes miht. MS: goddes in him miht, with carets around goddes to show need for repositioning.

23 Bot. So A. MS: Rob.

24 bitakenesse. The expected spelling for the of this verb would be betaknes or betakenes, as in A and G. Small prints it as two words: bitaken esse, but the scribe has written it as one word, and two words make no sense grammati­cally, since lines 23–24 call for an active verb. The two lines are corrupt in some way, and I have taken what I believe to be the best path in emending them.

67 daie. So A. MS omits.

78 habad. Compare A: bade. The h is unusual but is listed in MED as one of the forms for this word.

103 mankind. MS: makind.

110 With Crist and. MS: crist added at end of line with caret to show point of insertion.

115 thred. MS: trhed.

156 we. So A. MS omits.

158 hastines. So A. MS: hastiwes.
lethe. So A. MS: wrethe. In lines 65–66 of the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, wrethe and brother lethe also occur, making doubly clear that the repetition here of wrethe is an error.

185 hir chapel. MS: chapel hir, with carets to show correct order.

228 steece. The only citations for this word in MED come from the NHC. The suggested derivation is OF estrece. A: strenghe.

229 god. MS: ged. A reads with god whereas D has wiþ good wil. The meaning seems clear but I cannot be certain whether “will” has been mistakenly omitted in ED and A, or instead, that with god is an unusual expression for “willingly” (the MED does not list this meaning under either the noun or adjective forms of the word).

277 wyse. MS: wsse.

278 sysel. A replaces this unusual word with stedfaste.

301 lufid. So A. MS: lifed.

303–04 And sa wel . . . do.MS: The order of these two lines is reversed in the manuscript.

307 lufid. So A. MS: lufd. What looks like a tiny minim between the f and the d of lufd could be meant to stand for an i.

311 For. Although Small has Bot, and the capital does indeed look more like a B than an F, the possibility that For is intended here is supported by the fact that A, G, and D all read For.

314 wrechelye. Small transcribes this as wrethelye, but since A, G and D all have some­thing very close to wrechelye, I believe that the medial consonant is a badly writ­ten c, rather than a t. The MED, which has consulted only Small’s print­ed text, lists wrethelye as an error for wreccheli.

323 a. MS: to.

329 haf. MS: has. The scribe has forgotten to add the bar to indicate an “f.”

336 ne. So A. MS omits.

344 schawe. So A. MS: scwe.

352 Do it of daw. Compare A: Do it awaie and D: Don it to ded.

355 hir. So A. MS: him.

368 forthoght. So G. MS: forsoht.

373 And wit thair letteres prayed thaye. This is the last line of the Edinburgh manu­script. The conclusion of the tale (as well as the rest of this edition) follows MS Ashmole 42 which, unusually, positions Purification near the end of the manu­script.

450 sinfull schamid. MS: sinfull may schamid with may canceled.
In Purificationem Beate Marie, secundum Lucam.1

Postquam impleti sunt dies purgacionis Marie secundum legem Moysy, tulerunt illum in Jerusalem, ut sisterent eum Domino, sicut scriptum est in lege Domini: Quia omne masculinum adaperiens wulvam, sanctum Domino, et cetera.2





























































































   In Hali Boc find we
That this dai hafes names thre;
The first es cald Maries clensing,
The tother es cald Cristes meeting,
The thred es cald Candelmesse day,
Als lawed folc it calles ay.
Candel that we to kirc bring
Bitakenes Jesu Crist our king;
For Crist was offered als todaye,
Als I you sal nou son saye.
And riht als ilke man mai se
In brinnand candel thinges thre,
That es at say, wax, wec and liht,
Sua es in Crist Goddhed and miht;
And tharto sawel and bodie,
That er bisened apertelye
Bi candel, quarin we mai se
Wax, wec, liht, that er thinges thre.
For riht als candel haves liht,
Sua haved Crist in him Goddes miht;
For liht bitakenis his Goddhede,
Als we ful oft in bokes rede.
Bot wec that in wax loken esse,
Cristes sawel bitakenesse,
That was loken and hidde in fleys,
For fleys es brokel als wax, and neys.
We ber todai thoru this resoun,
Our candel in processioune,
And bi this resoun es wel sene
That this nam Candelmes wil mene.
   The tother nam, als ar said I,
Es cald clensing of our Lefdeye,
And thohquethir hafd scho na mister
To be clensed on slic maner,
Bot for scho wald forfille the lawe,
And meknes in hir dedes schawe,
Forthi com scho this day to do
For hir clensing that felle tharto.
For it was comanded in the law
That wif fra kirc hir sold witdraw,
The faurty dayes all bidene,
Sua lang was scho halden unklen,
Efter that scho delivered ware
Of knaf child, and thanne ful yare
Quen faurty dawes wer broht til ende,
Than sold scho to the tempel wende
Wit hir child, and hir hosbande,
To mac thar for this child offerande;
And yef thaie riht riche men ware,
Thai suld offer a lamb riht thare;
Yef thai war pouer, than suld thay
Offer opon this clensing day
Tua turteles, or tua douf briddes,
Als Godd in Moyses law biddes;
And for Crist com noht for to spille
The Alde Lawe, bot it fulfille,
Forthi com his moder today,
To do that fel to Jowes lay,
And thoru resoun of this thing,
Es this day calde Maryes clensing.
   Nou haf we herd quarfor and qui
This fest hatte clensing of Mary.
The first nam es Candelmesse,
The tother Maryes clensing esse,
The thred Cristes meting es cald,
Als our Godspel todai us tald.
It sais hou Crist als this daie mette
Wit tua men, that him comly gret.
The tan was man, the tother wif,
Bot bathe thai ledde ful hali lif:
For he was prest in Jowes laye,
And scho lele widow many daye;
And Simeon hiht the carmanne,
And the womman was cald dam Anne,
Scho wist thoru gast of prophecye,
That Godd suld send his Son in hye,
Mankind nede for to do,
And Cristes com lang habad scho;
And als today mett scho wit Crist,
And spac of him thing that scho wist,
Hou he suld man on rod bye,
For scho wist that thoru prophecye.
And Symeon the prest alsua,
Toc Jesus in his armis tua,
And said, “Lauerd, nou mai I deye,
For I se thee wit fleysly eye;
I se that I ber in my hande
Goddes awen Son and his sand,
That stithe igain the fend sal stand,
And les mankind out of his band.”
Sain Symeon slic wordes sayd,
Quen Crist was in his armes layd,
For wel lang thar bifor he wist,
That him byhoved se Jesu Crist;
The Hali Gast haved warned him
That he suld dey noht ar that tim
That he havid wit his eyen sen
This blized barn of quaim I men.
Forthi he said, “Quen I him seye,
Lauerd, in pes nou may I dey,
For thou haves don that thou me hiht,
And schued theeself to mi siht.
I se that thou mankind haves tan,
And for mankind bicomen man.”
   Nou se ye that thoru resoun
That Crist mett wit Sain Symeoun,
And withe dam Anne of quaim I tald,
This day es Cristes meting cald;
For in the tempel bathe mett thaye,
With Crist and Marye als this daye.
   Nou hop I that ye al se
Hou this fest havis names thre.
The first nam es Candelmesse,
The tother Maryes clensing esse,
The thred nam als ic haf talde,
Es Cristes meting graitheli cald.
In tempele first offered was he,
And sithen on the rod tre,
And ilke day in prestes hand,
May we se Crist be mad offerand.
Thus was Crist offered for our hele,
Forthi bird us be til hym lele,
Of us self bird us offerand mak
Quen we for his luf fast and wak,
For than pin we our bodye,
With torfir and with martyrye.
We offer us selven til Jesus,
That offered himselven for us;
For offered for us al was he,
Quen he for us deyed on tre.
   Yet wil I you on Englis saye,
Quat was offered for Crist todaye.
We find that Josep and Marye
War bathe pouer, and forthie
Offered thai for Crist, Mari son,
Slic thing als pouer men war won.
Tua turteles, als I haf you tald,
Or tua douf briddes yef thai wald
And I wil tel you forthie,
Quat thir foules menes gastelye,
In thir tua fules may we se
Bathe mildenes and charité;
For doufe a ful mec fuel es,
And bitakenes riht mildenes,
And by the turtel douf mai we
Ful riht understand charité;
For yef the turtel tin hir mak,
Never mar wil scho other thac;
Forthi bi hir mai bysend be
Riht clen lif and charité.
   Fand we forthi sua for to lif,
That we may Godd god offerand gif,
Of chastité and mildenes,
That bi thir foules bisend es.
We offer turtel douf gastlye,
Quen we feyht igain lecherye,
And quen we hald our hert fra wreth,
And hastines, and brother lethe,
And loves our brether inwardlye,
We offer doufes gastilye.
   We may als by thir fouls tuinne,
Undirstand sorue for our sinne;
For bathe thir foules haves crowding
Insted of sang, and stille murning;
And bitakenes that sinful man,
That schilwisnes and insyt can,
Suld of thir fules bisenes take,
To murne for his sin and sake.
For better es that man her murne,
Than for his sin til helle turne.
Nou understand ye, I wene
Quat the fest of todaye wil mene.

   A tal of this fest haf I herd,
Hougat it of a widou ferd,
That lufd our lefdi sa welle,
That scho gert mac hir a chapele;
And ilke day devotely,
Herd scho messe of our lefdye.
Fel auntour that hir prest was gan
His erand, and messe haved scho nan;
And com this Candelmesse feste,
And scho wald haf als wif honeste
Hir messe, and for scho moht get nan,
Scho was a ful sorful womman.
In hir chapel scho mad prayer,
And fel on slep bifor the auter,
And als scho lay and slep, hir thout
That scho intil a kyrc was broht,
And saw com gret compaynye
Of fair maidenes wit a leuedy,
And al thai sette on raw ful rathe,
And ald men and yong bathe
Com efter thaim and sette thaim bye,
And a clerc broht cerges in heye,
And everilcan gaf he an,
And an toc this slepand womman;
An tua clerkes scho saw comande
In surplices wit serges berande,
And efter thaim revested, rathe
Com suddeken and deken bathe,
And Crist himselven com thar nest,
Revested als a messe prest.
Thay yod til auter gainli graythede,
And privé prayer thar thai sayde,
And clerkes son bigan the messe,
Als costom in Hali Kirk esse;
And quen thai com til thair offerande,
This leuedy yed with serge in hande,
And ofered first als comly quene,
And efter hir, other bidene.
This wif satte ay stille, als hir thoht,
For offer hir candel wald scho noht.
The prest abade bifor the auter,
Bot scho no wald noht cum him ner.
And word til hir send our Leuedy,
And said that scho did vilanye
To ger the prest bide hir sa lang,
And bad scho suld ris and gang,
And offer hir serge als other had don.
And scho ansuerd and sayd son,
“Wel moht the prest his messe forthe sing —
My candel wil I noht him bring;
Bot ga and say til my lefdye,
That Godd havis send me, hald wil I.”
And igain yod this messager,
And tald his leuedy hir ansuer.
His leuedi bad him suithe ga,
And tac the serge with steece hir fra,
Yef scho wald noht with god it yeld.
Bot quen he com, fast scho it held
For al that he moht pray and say,
Feithely scho hir candel held aye;
And he raht til hir at the laste
And droh the cerge, and scho held fast.
This candel brac bituix thaim tua,
And scho stec of hir slep riht sua,
And fand a tronchoun redy broken,
And fast in bathe hir hendes loken.
Hir thoht tharof ful gret ferlye,
And thanked Godd and our Lefdye,
That wald suilc priveté hir schawe,
And ger men it with taken knaw.
For graithe takening was that tronchoun,
Of hir ferlic avisioun.
This tronchoun for relic scho held
Al hir lif, with worschip and beld,
And it dos yet, als find we tald,
Ful fair mirakeles mani fald.

   Bi this schort tal, als thinc me,
Mai we our Lefdyes confort se,
That wald profe this wifes wille,
And hir langing wit joy fulfille,
And noht allan in heven rike,
Bot her in erthe with fair ferlyc;
For fair ferlic was this tronchoun,
That scho gatte wit devotyoun.
   Yet wil we spec of our Lefdye,
That bar that barn of hir bodye,
That was offered als himselven wald
On thrinne wis, als ic haf tald.
Of his offering today spec we,
For als today offered was he
In tempel, and sithen on rode,
Thar he for our sak sched his blod;
And on the thred wise es he
Offered at messe, als we mai se.
Forthi me thinc that god it es
To spek sumthing of hir godnes,
That bar of hir bodi that birth,
That broht mankind til mensk and mirht.
   Mary mild and maiden clene,
Es Goddes moder of quaim I mene,
And bathe of heven and erthe quen,
And helpes sinful men biden;
Bot namlic helpes scho tha,
That turnes noht thair lof hir fra,
Bot menskes hir on al thair wyse
And er sysel in hir servyse.
Bot scho es moder of mercye,
And til sinful men ay redye.
Scho fayles nevermar in nede,
That mai we se bi many dede
That scho dos oft for sinful man
That haves igain hir Son mistan.
For do man never sa gret sinne,
And he haf wil his sinne to blin,
And ask hir holp riht inwardlye,
He may be siker of mercye.
That may ye se bi a lefdy,
That was abbes of a nunrye;

   Bot als scho for apon a day
About nedes of hir abbay
In cloutes bi the gate scho fande
A yong mayden child suelande.
Scho havid pyté of this funding
And gert it til hir nunry bring,
And gert it be ful gaynli gette,
And sithen til boc scho it sett,
And mad hir nunne in that nunrye,
And lufed hir ful inwardlye;
For scho lufid als god womman
Hir dohteris gastely everilkan,
And sa wel order lufed scho
That na misse moht hir dohteres do,
That scho no chastid thaim in hye,
And gert thaim lef thair folie.
And god wimmen lufid hir forthie,
And foles hated hir dedelye.
And at hir haved the fende envye,
And fanded hir ful ithenlye.
For niht and day he was bysye
To kindel lust in hir bodye,
And at the last in licherye
He gert hir fal ful wrechelye
For hir spense knew hir fleyslye,
And hir wamb wex gret in hye,
Bot fair scho bar hir nohtforthye,
Als wimmen can that dos folye.
Scho umthoht hir niht and daye,
Quaim scho moht best hir consayl say;
And hir thoht wele that best moht scho
Hir dern dede til hir undo
Quaim scho hafd a funding fedde,
And fair in nunne wede cledde;
For scho was halden til hir mast,
To be til hir lele and stedefast.
Scho cald this nunne ful privelye,
And said til hir, “Dohter mercye,
Ic haf a derne priveté
To schew bytuixe me and thee,
Bot dede war me lever to be,
Than thou of my dede melded me,
For yef thou tharof me melde,
Ic haf tinte werdes mensc and belde.”
   This nune ansuerd and said, “Leuedye,
For al this werld gold ne wald I
Do thing that war igaines thee;
Forthi, lefedy, thou telle me
Witouten dout thi priveté,
For than mai thou prof my leuté;
Schew baldely thi wil to me,
For siker may thou of me be.”
   This abbes trowed wele hir sawe,
And hir sinne scho gan hir schawe,
And said, “Lef dohter, me es wa,
For gret with child riht now I ga.”
This nunne ansuerd and said, “Lefdye,
Be thou for this thing noht sarye,
For wel I sal thi consayl hele,
And do wit thee als dohter lele,
For quen the childe es born, sal I
Do it of daw sa prively,3
That na wiht sal the squeling here,
And delf it sithen in our herbere.”
   This abbes troued hir ful wele,
And wend that scho war treu als stele.
Bot qua sa leses fra hinging
Thef, or bringes up funding,
Of nauther getes he mensc ne mede,
No socour quen he havis nede.
For that was sen ful openlye
In this funding, that hir leuedye
Wreyed til the bischop sone,4
And tald him al quat scho havid don.
And qua was wrathe bot that bischop?
For of this abbes haved he hop
That scho havid ben a god womman,
And forthoght that scho havid mistan.
Hir dohteres herd of hir folye,
And sum war gladd and sum sarye;
For fole wimmen war ful fain
That thai haved chesoun hir igain,
And wit thair letteres prayed thaye
[To the bisschope, and he sette daie
For to prove the priores plaie
That scho might noght it agaynesaie.
When daie was sette hir tyme come nye
That this priores hir payne suld drie
And be deliver of hir chylde,
Scho made hir mane to Mary mylde.
That night scho in hir chapell woke
That wyves on the morn suld hir loke,
For the bihsschope againe the morne
Gert somonde wifis him beforne,
That him all the sothe suld saie
Whether this priores ware wife or naie;
And forthi was scho full ferde
When scho this sorowfull tithandes herd.
Scho grette full sare on oure Ladie
And askid hir help and mercie;
When scho was werie of hir praiere
On slepe scho fell before the awtere.
Than sone to hir come oure Ladie
And reprovid hir of hir folie,
And on hir wambe scho laide hir hand,
And this priores was all slepeand
Delyvir of a knave chylde,
That sithen was a gude man and a mylde.
Oure ladie toke this childe all warme
And laide it in ane aungele arme,
And bade him bere the childe tyte
Apon hir halve to ane ermite
That wonid theine ovre myles sevene;
And the childe name gon scho nevene
And saie, “I bid him this childe baptise
And bringe him uppe als gode norise.”
When this was saide scho wynte awaie,
And this prioresse woke thare scho laie.
Than on hir bare knees scho hir sette,
And sweteli scho oure Ladi grette
And saide, “Marie, I thank thee,
Full wele hase thou delivird me.”
Thus in that chapell all that night
Scho looued oure Ladie to daie light.
The bisschope come with his clergie
Apon the morn to that nonnerie,
To give lawfull juggemente
Of the priores that thare was schent.
Bot he gert wives noghtforthi
Luke allthir first hir bare bodie,
And gert thaim swere that thai suld saye
Whether thai fand hire wife or naie.
And when thai had hir bodi sene,
Scho semid mayden als clene,
Als scho never had touchid bene.
And than thir wives all bedene
Come and swore scho was mayden clene;
And than the bisschope was full tene
To the nonne that tolde him the tale,
And bad scho suld be brente in bale,
Als wickid woman that wickidlie
Had lyed on hir awne ladie.
This priores had of hir pité
That scho for hir dampnid suld be,
And talde the bisschope privelie
The sothe and how oure dere Ladie
Delivird hir and made hir qwite,
And sent hir sonne to ane ermite
To kepe him and sette to lare.
And than the bisschope right evene thare
Assoylid hir and louid Marie
That es to sinfull aie redie.
And to the ermete he sente his sande
And thare this childe in credil fande.
And when it was of sevene yere
The bisschope it made a gode scolere.
And when this ilk bisschope was dede
This childe was bisschope in his stede.

   Be this tale may we wele se
That thar na sinfull schamid be,
Have thai done never so mikil folie,
If thai will call on oure Ladie,
Sothelie scho will helpe full yare
To bringe all sorowfull oute of care.
Forthi if we in any synne fall
I rede we fast on Marie call,
That scho purchase us grase to rise
And sithen to dwell in hir servise
Evermare to oure lyves ende.
Than may we siker be to wende
Into that courte thare scho es Qwene
Thidir scho bringe us all bedene. Amen.]

second; the meeting with Christ; (t-note)


symbolized clearly


signifies; (t-note)

brittle; soft
(see note)


although; need


in all
considered [to be] unclean




turtledoves; dove birds
commands; (see note)
because; destroy


is called


greeted; (t-note)



was called; man

knew; spirit

arrival; awaited; (t-note)


(see note)

loose; bondage

he must see


blessed child

taken on a human nature; (t-note)


whom I spoke




ought; loyal
We ought to make an offering of ourselves
keep a vigil
give pain to our bodies
hardship; torture


dove; meek bird

lose; mate

Let us try

hatred; (t-note)

silent mourning

Who possesses reason and intelligence
follow the example


(see note)

had made

It happened; was gone [away on]


she thought

lady; (see note)
sat down in a row; quickly


ceremonially arrayed; at once
subdeacon; deacon

went; suitably prepared

as a group




Well may the priest sing his mass

That which

force; (t-note)
willingly; (t-note)

tugged at




ready sign



heaven’s kingdom

in three manners

honor (love); bliss (salvation)

honors; in every way; (t-note)
occupied; (t-note)

acted against

If; cease

(see note)

Wrapped in rags

suitably cared for


(see note); (t-note)


tempted; busily

miserably; (t-note)
butler had intercourse with her; (see note)
grew; soon
But nevertheless she behaved graciously; (see note)

pondered (reflected)

secret; reveal
Whom she had fed as a foundling; (t-note)
clothing; dressed
obligated; most


hidden secret; (t-note)

informed on

lost worldly honor; happiness

For all the gold in the world I would not; (t-note)

fear; secret

believed; words


no one; squealing
bury; garden

whoever spares; (see note)
honor nor reward

he had thought

was displeased; done amiss; (t-note)

foolish; glad
grounds for making an accusation

prove; wrongdoing


kept a vigil
So that; women; examine
in preparation for

woman [i.e., not a virgin]

cried out to


(see note)

on her behalf
Who lived over seven miles from there
to name


praised; until


First examine





acquitted her

absolved; praised



need; (t-note)


Go To Homily 14, Septuagesima Sunday