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Homily 33, Pentecost


1 The day of Pentecost according to John. In that time

2 Latin rubric (John 14:23–31): Jesus answered, and said to him: If any one love me, he will keep my word, [and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him. He that loveth me not, keepeth not my words. And the word which you have heard, is not mine; but the Father’s who sent me. These things have I spoken to you, abiding with you. But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. You have heard that I said to you: I go away, and I come unto you. If you loved me, you would indeed be glad, because I go to the Father: for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it comes to pass: that when it shall come to pass, you may believe. I will not now speak many things with you. For the prince of this world cometh, and in me he hath not any thing. But that the world may know, that I love the Father: and as the Father hath given me commandment, so do I: Arise, let us go hence.]

3 For where sin is, there it [the Holy Spirit] may not be


Abbreviations: AT: Alphabet of Tales, ed. Banks; MED: Middle English Dictionary; NHC: Northern Homily Cycle; NIMEV: The New Index of Middle English Verse, ed. Boffey and Edwards; OF: Old French; PL: Patrologia Latina, ed. Migne; Tubach: Index Exemplorum, ed. Tubach. For manuscript abbreviations (ED, A, D, G, L, V), see the Introduction.

The feast of Pentecost denotes the fiftieth day after the resurrection of Christ, when the Holy Spirit descended on his disciples: “And when the days of the Pentecost were accom­plished, they were all together in one place: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, accord­ing as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak” (Acts 2:1–4). The English name, “Whitsunday,” is said to derive from the white robes worn by the newly baptized on that day (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church). In listing the gift of tongues which is bestowed on the apostles by the Holy Spirit, the poet places a touchingly anachronistic emphasis on the languages and dialects which are known to him as part of the medieval world.

NIMEV 3592, 289. Manuscripts: A: fols. 130v–133r; G: fols. 88v–90v; D: fols. 132v–134v; L: fols. 40r–40v.

7 Grewe. MED: from OF grieu, greu, griu, “the Greek language.”

8 Sarzenay. What precisely the poet meant by this term is unclear. It could well have included both the Arabic language and anything spoken by Muslims or non-Christians. With respect to all the “languages” named by the poet in lines 7–10, it seems likely that he is thinking, in part, of groups of people rather than specific languages, about which his knowledge was probably very limited.

9 Pikardie. Picardy is a region in northern France and can also refer to the dialect of French spoken there.

10 Gascoyne, Toskayne, and Lombardie. These terms refer to the dialects spoken respectively in Gascony, a region in the southwest coastal area of France, Tuscany (central Italy), and Lombardy (northern Italy).

24 This Gaste will give us sevene giftis. Although the early fathers did not speak clearly of seven special gifts, subsequently Augustine and Gregory, among others, cited the number seven and developed allegorical meanings for them. In particular, Gregory’s Moralia 2 furnished the foundation for the theology of the gifts which was developed in the later Middle Ages. As Aquinas explained it, the tendencies in the soul that result from the action of the Holy Spirit are called his gifts; they are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, piety, fortitude, counsel, and fear of God (New Catholic Encyclopedia 7, pp. 47–49).

33 conandschipe. MED lists under conningshipe, “moral sense, morality?” The only citation is from Cursor Mundi, where the word is also found as part of a discussion of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is unclear why MED appears not to have recognized the context in which the word occurs, and which makes its meaning clear.

37–38 The sext gift . . . poverte. The e at the end of poverte is likely meant to be silent. Pro­nunciation of the word in this manner would retain the couplet’s rhyme, despite there being a lack of an e in hert.

55 For Criste saise, “Whoso lufis me. Lines 1–54 are a part of the homily for this Gos­pel text; the Gospel paraphrase does not actually begin until line 55.

114 And some undoynge aie ymell. The poet here accurately notes the fact that along with his paraphrase of the Gospel, which stays unusually close to the original text, he has mixed in occasional explanatory comments of his own.

140 Duse that youre prelates biddes you. The NHC-poet reiterates this exhortation on several occasions but for different advice; see Second Sunday in Lent (18.161–62n).

147 Ane ermite woned in wildirnes. Tubach 316: Apples borne by dead tree. The exemplum is found twice in the Vitae Patrum: PL 73.823, and PL 73.948. Later English versions include the AT (568), Bromyard’s Summa Predicandium, and Caxton’s Vitas Patrum.


Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Dictionary; Nevanlinna: Nevanlinna, The Northern Homily Cycle; NHC: Northern Homily Cycle; Small: English Metrical Homiles, ed. Small. For manuscript abbreviations (ED, A, D, G, L, V), see the Introduction.

30 skyll. So G. MS: will.

59 no. MS: written above the line between haues and lufe.

80 sight. MS: The ligature between the first two letters of this word could signal either the combination si or fi. Unfortunately, in this case, D and G merely add to the confusion: D: þat he ne drediþ fighten aʒen his faas; G: Þat he ne dredys sight na fase. I have opted for sight as offering the clearest reading.

129 forsakes. Two indistinguishable letters have been crossed out between the s and the a with a line drawn to connect the two letters and inidcate that it is, in fact, one word.

143 we. MS: following this word the beginning of the letter w has been canceled.

155–56 Full ferre the watir focchid he, / And watrid it yeres thre. So G. MS: the scribe of MS A has unintentionally omitted these lines, which should follow line 154. They appear instead following line 180: Thare he to God was unbousome. There are editorial markings in the margins of MS A at both points, indicating the necessary correction.

189–90 Praie we forthi the Hali Gaste / That he oure flehssli willis waste. Following the first five letters of forthi, a small hole in the manuscript hides the last letter, the word that follows, and the end of the word flehssli in line 190. But compare G, which is nearly identical: Pray we forþi þe holy gaste / þat he oure fleschly wylles waste.
In die pentecostes secundum Johannem. In illo tempore:1

Si quis diligit me sermonem meum et cetera.2







































   This daie Wittsondaie es callde,
For witte and wisdome sevenefalde
Was given to the apoostils als todaie;
For wyse in all ledes ware thaie
Thai spak withouten mannes lare
Alkin langage in lande that ware.
Thai spak Latine, Franche, and Grewe,
Sarzenay, Danhsse, and Ebrewe,
Inglihsse, Walhsse, and Pikardie,
Gascoyne, Toskayne, and Lombardie.
And of all othir ware thai wise
To lere the folk Goddes servyse.
Withouten mannes lare thai prechid
Als the Hali Gaste thaim techid.
This Hali Gaste of waym I mene,
Fell on the apostles all bedene
In liknes of tonges glowand,
For clene of synne it thaim all fand.
For thare synne es, may it noght be, 3
And forthi rede I wele that we
With schrift of mouthe clene us make
If we this Hali Gaste will take;
And if we clense us wele with schriftis
This Gaste will give us sevene giftis.
The first gift es wisdome callid
That kennes man him fra synne to halde.
The tother es callid undirstandinge
That gives us of right knawynge.
The thride gift es callid counsaile,
That geres us have skyll in travayle
The ferde gift es callid strenghe
That gives us in gode lastand lenghe.
The fift gift es conandschipe
To hald us fro ylle feleschipe,
That geres oft full gude men
Fouleli fall in gasteli fenne
The sext gift es reuthe of hert,
That geres with almouse lethe poverte.
The sevente gift es Goddes doute
That stekes pride of hert oute.
And geres man think how he sall drede
When he bese demed eftir his deede.
The sevente gift als geres man be
Thinkand on the charité
That Jhesu Criste schewid us when he
Dyed for us apon the rode tre.
Wele aght us to have lufe him till
That for oure lufe his blude walde spill,
And his comaundmente fullfill
That swelt for us at his gude will;
For right lufe we have him till
When we his wordes with dede fullfill,
Als he himselfe todaie us schawes
In oure Gospell with semeli sawes.
For Criste saise, “Whoso lufis me
That I bid, yeme sall he,
And mi Fadir sall lufe him rathe
And with him sall we wone bathe.
And he that haves no lufe to me
To my Worde na yeme takes he;
And this worde that I speke to yow,
That ye herd before or now,
Es noght myne bot his that me gon sende
(That es mi Fadir that all maye mende).
This saye I yow, with yow wonande,
Bot mi Fadir sall sende yow sande
That es the Hali Gaste that sall
Make yow wise of mi Wordes all;
In mi name sal mi Fadir it send,
And in yow sall his wisdome lende.
I leve,” he saide, “Mi pees yow withe;
Mi pees I give you and mi grithe.
I give you noght als this werld gives,
Als so saye, thai that in werld lives
May noght find in this werld pees
Lange lastinge, ne stedfastnes.
For when a man wenes best to be
In pees, in maste wandreth es he.
Bot my pese so siker man mase
That he ne dredes sight of faase.
Forthi,” he saise, “ne doute you noght,
Ne be noght flicchand of youre thoght.
Ye herd me saye what ye suld do;
I go and comes agayne yow to.”
For fro thaim yede he first bodeli,
And to thaim come he gasteli
When he and his Fadir in haste
Sent to thaim the Hali Gaste;
And for the Hali Gaste and Criste
Es with the Fadir in a bewiste,
Forthi es thaire dede anefalde,
And in this trouthe sall we be balde
For that ane duse duse all thre,
Als anefalde God in Trinité
And for Criste spekes here in manhede
That es wele lesse than his Godehede.
Forthi he said, “If ye lufe me,
Forsothe full blithe aght you to be
That I go to mi Fadir in hye
For my Fadir es more than I;
Als so saie, so es my Godhede
Mikel more than my manhede.
This saye I yow, or it done be
That ye it trowe when ye it se.
I speke,” he saide, “with you noght mikil,
For the prince of this world es fals and fikil
That comes to fande me and to spye,
And findes in me nanekin folye;
Bot that this werld witte wele that I
Lufis God, mi Fadir, inwardelye,
And right als he bad, so I do
To schewe the lufe I have him to.”
The wordes er talde of this Gospell,
And some undoynge aie ymell.

   In this gospell may we se
That us behoves bowsome be
To Cristis wordes and his biddinge
And it fullfill in all thinge.
For first saise Criste, “Whoso lufis me
Mi worde forsothe yeme sall he.”
And sithen acordes he thareto
And sais, “Als mi Fadir biddis, I do.”
Criste schewid in this worde that we
Awe to oure ourmen bowsom be
Als he to his Fadir was
When he dyed for oure trespasse.
Forthi to his apostles saide he
“Whosoever heris yow, heris me;
And he that youre biddinges forsakes
Agayne me sothlie he missetakes.”
Forthi if ye will folowe his trase
And be uppe halden with his grase
Right als bowsome behoves us be
Als he was for to dye on tre,
Thare he fullfillid his Fadir will
And us it taght for to fullfill.
Forthi in this Gospell saise he,
“I do als mi Fadir bad me;
And als ye lufe youre saule prowe,
Duse that youre prelates biddes you.
If thai you bid do othir than right
Thai bere thaimself all the plight.
Forthi to thaim be we bowsome,
For so to hevene may we best come.
For bowsomnes es in oure spell
A tale thareof I will you tell:

   Ane ermite woned in wildirnes
That provid his dissipil bowsomnes.
He bad him putte a drye tre
In the erde, and so did he.
He bad him watir it to ger it springe,
And floure and fruyte forthe to bringe.
This gude dissipile saide noght naie
Bot wattrid it everilk a daie.
Full ferre the watir focchid he,
And watrid it yeres thre.
When he had wattrid it thus lange
God than lessid his travaile strange.
He gert this drye tre apples bere,
In the werld was nane fayrere
This mirakil walde his maystir kythe
And he broght of tho appils swithe
Into ane abbaie that was thare nere,
And schewid thare monkes on what manere
A drye tre bare apples grete,
And bad thai suld of that fruyte ete,
“That obediens gerte springe
Of my dissipile obeyinge.
Take ye ensaumpil of this dede
And with bowsomnes gete hevene mede.”
Be this ilk tale may we wele se
That gude es bousome for to be.
Bot mannes hert es kyndeli,
In all dedes self willie;
For Adam synne made man redye
To helde fro wisdome to folye
And to Goddes biddinge to be unbayne,
Tharefore was his ospringe slayne.
Forthi to hevene if we will come,
Thare he to God was unbousome,
Us behoves leve his manere
And aye be bowsome with gude chere.
This forsothe may we noght do
Bot if God give us grace thareto:
The gift of grase a sande is
Of the Hali Gaste, iwisse,
That gave the apostlis als todaie
In prechinge all gude to saie.
Praie we forthi the Hali Gaste
That he oure flehssli willis waste,
And give us grace to be bowsome,
That we to hevene to him maye come. Amen.

human instruction

Greek; (see note)
Saracen, Danish; Hebrew; (see note)
Welsh; Picard; (see note)
Gascon, Roman; Lombard; (see note)


without sin


(see note)

work; (t-note)
good [deeds]; persistence
knowledge; (see note)
spiritual ditch
compassion; (see note)
fear of God

is judged according to


was willing

died; free will

appropriate words
(see note)
That [which] I command; take heed to
at once


who may amend everything
while I am dwelling with you
a gift


those who

thinks most
certain; makes
enemies; (t-note)

will come


one dwelling
what one does

because; [his] human nature

As if to say



explication; mixed; (see note)



Ought; superiors


does wrong
held by
we ought

religious superiors; (see note)


Because obedience; Gospel

(see note)

every single
fetched; (t-note)


wished; to make known
[some] of; quickly

Because of


turn away

Where; disobedient
not to follow


on this day



[Homilies 34–45 not included in this edition. See Explanatory Notes.]

Go To Homily 46, Eleventh Sunday after Trinity