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Homily 52, Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity


1 Seventeenth Sunday [after Trinity] according to Luke

2 Latin rubric (Luke 14:1–11): And it came to pass, when Jesus went into the house of one of the chief of the Pharisees, [on the sabbath day, to eat bread, that they watched him. And behold, there was a certain man before him that had the dropsy. And Jesus answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying: Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day. But they held their peace. But he taking him, healed him, and sent him away. And answering them, he said: Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fall into a pit, and will not immediately draw him out, on the sabbath day? And they could not answer him to these things. And he spoke a parable also to them that were invited, marking how they chose the first seats at the table, saying to them: When thou art invited to a wedding, sit not down in the first place, lest perhaps one more honourable than thou be invited by him: And he that invited thee and him, come and say to thee, Give this man place: and then thou begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when thou art invited, go, sit down in the lowest place; that when he who invited thee, cometh, he may say to thee: Friend, go up higher. Then shalt thou have glory before them that sit at table with thee. Because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.]

3 So eagerly he acquires and holds onto his goods


Abbreviations: AS: Acta Sanctorum, ed. Bolland et al.; AT: Alphabet of Tales, ed. Banks; CA: Catena Aurea, ed. Newman; CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; McIntosh: McIntosh, “Some Words in the Northern Homily Collection”; MED: Middle English Dictionary; NHC: Northern Homily Cycle; NIMEV: The New Index of Middle English Verse, ed. Boffey and Edwards; OE: Old English; OED: Oxford English Dic­tionary; OF: Old French; OI: Old Irish; ON: Old Norse; 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.

This day’s homily expands on Jesus’ healing of the man with dropsy with an extended reflection on the spiritual manifestations of this disease: covetousness, gluttony, and lechery. Once again the NHC-poet takes the opportunity to attack the rich men of his day and in so doing offers the reader a rare and colorful glimpse of their living habits. The exemplum focuses specifically on the sin of lechery with its account of Saint Pelagia, the repentant courtesan.

NIMEV 1648, 1469. Manuscripts: A: fols. 192v–202r; G: fols. 129r–133r (begins line 102); D: fols. 192r–194r (tale omitted); L: fols. 55r–57r.

79 maistir. Probably a reference to Bede’s In Lucae. See below, line 109n.

109 Ydropesi es a sekenes. Dropsy is a condition of swelling caused by water retention, known today as “edema.” The allegorical explanation which here follows probably derives at least in part from Bede, as seen from the following passage ascribed to him in the CA and doubtless drawn from In Lucae: “Mystically, the dropsical man is compared to him who is weighed down by an overflowing stream of carnal pleasures. For the disease of dropsy derives the name from a watery humour” (CA 3.503). The CA also quotes an excerpt from Augustine: “Or we rightly compare the dropsical man to a covetous rich man. For as the former, the more he increases in unnatural moisture the greater his thirst; so also the other, the more abundant his riches, which he does not employ well, the more ardently he desires them” (3.503).

129 Aboute catele he sytes and spares. G and V also have the rare sytes. MED gives the derivation as ON (compare OI syta), “to be concerned or anxious about.” The only citation comes from Cursor Mundi.

132 prinnes. MED suggests a possible derivation from OF prendre, “to take.” The NHC line is the only citation for what is evidently a rare word. McIntosh confirms its rar­ity by pointing out that B, D, L, M, and H all substitute a different word (p. 204).

133 name. This line is difficult to construe, and I suggest a possible though by no means certain meaning. The idea that he is willing to perjure his good name for as little as a penny seems to make the most sense in the context. See textual note.

149 hell es ylle to fill. McIntosh comments that this expression is proverbial, but pro­vides no evidence (p. 199). Whiting offers modest support for McIntosh’s assertion under T12: “Four things are never full.” Two expressions are there quoted which list hell as one of the four things that can never be filled.

162 glotonye. Lines 162–92 offer a fascinating glimpse into the diet of the rich. There was much preaching against gluttony as seen in the following quotation from MS Harley 45, castigating those who “spende more peraventure in deyntee in a day than myghte of comoun mete, as profitable for the sustenaunce, be i-now for an hondred pore men” (Owst, Literature and Pulpit, p. 447). Most memorable perhaps are the words of Chaucer’s Pardoner against gluttony:
O, wiste a man how manye maladyes
Folwen of excesse and of glotonyes,
He wolde been the moore mesurable
Of his diete, sittynge at his table.
Allas, the shorte throte, the tendre mouth,
Maketh that est and west and north and south,
In erthe, in eir, in water, men to swynke
To gete a glotoun deyntee mete and drynke! (CT VI[C]513–520)
163 burgese. MED: “A freeman of a town, usually used of city merchants and master craftsmen in the guilds.”

170–71 wodecokkes and pertrikes, / Snypes, mawlardes and thir telis. As indicated by Rucquoi, birds, rather than meat or fish, were considered to be the food of the rich (“Alimentation des riches,” pp. 297–312).

185 Of venysoune, gose, and grise. According to Pleij, “by the thirteenth century . . . in courtly circles, banqueting had become the preeminent means of social distinc­tion” (Dreaming of Cockaigne, p. 133). Rucquoi notes that ninety-five percent of accounts of banquets mention “graisse” (here grise, “fat”) as an important com­ponent of the meal (“Alimentation des riches,” p. 304–05).

186 Blamanger, dariols, tartes, and rise. Rice pudding was the dessert most frequently served at the end of banquets, as further noted by Rucquoi (“Alimentation des riches,” p. 304).

241 In Antyoche beyonde the se. Not listed by Tubach, presumably because the narrative fits the model of a saint’s life better than that of an exemplum.

243 Dame Pelagie. The legend of Pelagia, a courtesan supposed to have lived in fourth-century Antioch, is told by Jacobus Diaconus in the AS (October, vol. 4, pp. 261–68). Later versions are many and varied, and include those found in the Legenda Aurea (chapter 150, vol. 2, pp. 230–32), Caxton’s Golden Legend, and the Scottish Legendary. Pelagia belongs to a group of repentant prostitute saints which also includes Thais, Afra of Augsburg, and Mary Magdalene, and she is further characterized, along with Marina, Theodora, and Euphrosne, as a woman who disguises herself as a man. According to Delehaye, the popular romance of the repentance of Pelagia is the starting point of a whole group of imaginary saints (Legends of the Saints, p. 203). See also Hotchkiss for a discussion of Pelagia and other cross-dressing saints, as well as the notes on Saint Marina in Sexagesima Sunday (15.135n, 177–178n, 211n, 257-58n, 299n, and 339n).

306 tuffid. According to MED, this is a Northern form of tiffen, “to dress oneself up, to adorn,” from OF tifer, tiffer.

470 Margarite. From OF margarite, “a pearl”; figuratively, “that which is precious.”

479 ripe. MED has no meaning that fits this context, but McIntosh links it to OED ripe, v.2, from OE rypen (sense 4) “to examine thoroughly,” after OE only in Northern and Scottish use (p. 205). The OED also gives a quotation from Cursor Mundi, with a similar meaning of the word: “Cums his freind ripand his state.”

504 uggli. MED cites one example of the adjective ugli used as a noun in the AT: “Þe kepers of þe kurk ran, and saw ii vglie” (702.10). Compare V: Thei herde a gost goule and grete.

506 yamerynge. MED yomering, ger., from OE geomrung, “wailing.” The ya- spelling is Northern.

526 cauenard. MED cainard, cauenard. Probably AF; compare 16th c. French cagnard: A sluggard, a slob. McIntosh, p. 197, notes the NHC spelling cauenard in Havelok, and suggests the meaning "scoundrel" which better fits the NHC context. Compare the Wife of Bath’s famous abuse of her husbands in Chaucer’s Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: “Sire olde kaynard, is this thyn array?” (CT III[D]235).

529 ploghe. The word can stand for a plough animal as well as a plough (MED plough n.2).

546 auerlye. MS. There is no way to be certain whether the word intended here is auerlye or anerlye. I have opted for the first, on the assumption that it is a variant or mistaken spelling of MED arghli (also spelled arwely), meaning “wickedly, cowardly.” V has Lefte his lord trayturli, which gives modest support to this reading.

553–54 In riche purpure and in scarlette, / In blewe of Ypire and in bornette. Colors and colored clothing were perceived as carriers of social meaning in the Middle Ages. Scarlets, in particular, were worn by royalty, and blue was also a marker of wealth and class. Brown (bornette), was the only dark color that was similarly valued. So significant was scarlet as a class marker that sumptuary laws attempted to forbid it to tradesmen and the bourgeoisie in the Savoy Statutes of 1430 (Piponnier, Dress, pp. 71, 84). Colored garments also conveyed a moral meaning, so that Pelagia’s rich attire not only signals her social pretension but also, in the case of scarlet, suggests her status as a prostitute (Koslin, “Value-Added,” p. 236). The value of the blue cloth made in Ypres (blewe of ypire) is underscored in lines describing Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, who in the General Prologue, “passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt” in her cloth-making ability (CT I[A]448).

613 To the Mounte of Olivete. The Mount of Olives is the highest point in the range of hills to the east of Jerusalem, said to be the place from which Jesus ascended to heaven forty days after the resurrection (Acts 1:2–12).

692 putt. MED does not include the meaning “to open” for this word, but McIntosh compares it to OED put v.1 sense 53, “to raise” (p. 204).


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.

58 sall. MS: Two strokes abandoned following sall.

68 Uppermor bidde thee come. So D. MS: Rise ouermare to sette [thonn]e come.

78 Als man . . . tell. Expanded according to previous occurrences.

133 name. MS: mane. G, D, and V read as follows: G: He sweres hys name for o peny; D: forswere his mone for a peny; V: He swereth muchel for a peny / And or while for an half peny.

140 of. MS: on, with n canceled, and f written above.

272 suld. MS: fu canceled, followed by suld.

277 Cled. The scribe apparently forgot to write “cled” at the beginnig of the line and, to correct the error, wrote it adjacent to the line in the left margin.

298 And saide to thaim be him gon sete. MS: following thaim, the scribe has written with wordes swete, canceled, followed by be him gon sete. Eyeskip has led scribe to begin writing line 363 before realizing his mistake. The line is still odd, and G gives a slightly better reading: And sayd tyl many þat þare gan sytte.

330 have. The scribe appears to have first written a d and then attempted to correct his error and change it to an h.

497 callid. MS: followed by þ, canceled.

517 servise. MS: f canceled, following servise.

550 For to my foo thou takes thee. MS: Þou wote þat, written as catchwords following this line in the lower right margin.

567 auerlie. See the explanatory note to line 546. G has omitted much of the preceding passage, including line 546 (auerlye) but here follows A: Scho had hym left so arowly, with arow as an attested variant of argh, “cowardly, wickedly.”

589 Hatid. MS: hwtid.

612 Jesu. MS: e, canceled, before iesu.

626 And Pelagius men hir callde. MS: Now es etc. written directly beneath this line as catch words for the next page.

632 womman. MS: careman, with care canceled and wom written above it.

640 qwik. MS: preceded by w, canceled.

686 To loke what Pelagie wald saie. MS: the line following this one is canceled: He lithid ʒerne if he might raike knawe.
Dominica xvii secundum Lucam.1

Cum intraret Jesus in domum cuiusdam principis Phariseorum et cetera.2



















































































































































   It was apon a Halidaie,
Als Luke in oure Gospel gon saie,
That a riche man praied Jesus
To ete with him in his house;
And Jesus grauntid him his will,
And redi at none come him till.
And mani Jewes toke tent thareto,
And lukid gerne what he wald do.
Before him thare than sawe he lye
A seke man in ydropisye;
And Criste began for to saie
And askid als it ware in plaie
If he might leevefulli on Halidaie
Give thaim hele that seke laie.
And all than stode still and saide noght,
For that againe thaire lawe thaim thoght
That any man of all thaire lede,
On Halidaie suld do ani dede.
Bot Jesu Criste full openlie,
Schewide his might to that ydropie,
For he him helid sone onane,
Thare before thaim everilkane.
When he was made bothe hale and fere,
Criste saide to thaim that stode him nere:
“Whilk es here of yow all,
That sawe youre beste in myre fall,
And in perile on the Halidaie,
Wald lat it ligge and gange awaie?”
Bot nane of thaim might answere thare,
For of witte ware thai full bare.
Criste wald this forbisin schawe,
To ger the fals Jewes knawe
That bettir and more almouse ware,
To louse a seke man oute of care,
Than for to helpe on Halidaie
A beste, that fast in the myre laie.
The Jewes thoght of him hetheli,
For to him thai had envye,
That he suld hele any man
On Halidaie, als he did than.
For God comaundid in thaire laie,
That nane suld wirk on Halidaie,
Forthi thaim thoght that Criste had gilt,
For thaire lawe thaim thoght he spilt,
For he on Halidaie helid men —
Full blynde me think the Jewes ware then.
Bot Criste walde thaire pride schende
With faire ensaumpil and wordes hende.
He gert thaim be ensaumpil knawe,
That thaire thoghtes ware noght worthe a hawe.
Another ensawmpile he saide thare,
To thaim that thidir boden ware,
For he toke hede to thaim that chese
To sitte heyest at the dese.
He saide, “Men, if ye be callde
To feste, be ye noght so balde
To take youreself the heyest sete,
Att the borde whare ye sall ete.
For chaunce mai fall that thare mai come
A riccher man, or bettir gome
Than thou ert and than may he
That callid to mete bothe him and thee,
Bid thee rise and sett him thare;
That ware to thee a schame full sare.
Bot if thou be att any bridale,
In the uttirmast sete sitt thou sale.
Than will sone the bridegome
Uppermor bidde thee come.
Than hase thou mensk before thaim all,
That er gadird in that hall.
For he that makes himselvene lawe,
To hyer mensk men sall him drawe;
And he that makes himselve to hye,
Schame in lawnes sall he drye.
Criste kenned us here full myldeli,
Bothe mekenes and cortaisie.
This is the text of oure Gospell,
Als man in Ynglihsse tonge may tell.

   On this Gospel a maistir spekes
That Criste walde the Jewes teche;
Forthi on him thai lete hetheli,
For that he kythid his maistrie
Als wele on the Halidaye,
Als he did on the werkdaie.
Thai spak ylle behind his bak,
For thaim thoght thaire lawe he brak,
When thai sawe him, als I saide are,
On the Halidaie hele seke and sare.
Thaim aght, if that thai wise ware,
The Halidaie noght for to spare
To do dedes of mercye,
That suld no man think hetheli.
For wele may man do almous dede:
The nakid clethe, the hongri fede,
And hele the seke on Halidaie,
For was it never forbed in laie.
Forthi mai we now all se,
That Criste did mikil charité,
When he helid this seke man
Of the dropisi that he had than.
For be ensawmpil than schewid he,
That man may wele do charité,
To hele man on Halidaie,
For charité duse synne awaie.
Forthirmare now will we se,
What be this man mai taknid be,
That laie seke sorowfullye,
And combird in ydropesye.
Ydropesi es a sekenes,
That es growand in mannes flehsse.
Thir fisicyens sayse forthi,
It makes mannes flehsse wete and hevye,
And his mouthe so drye it makes
That no drink his thrist slakes.
It geres a man thrist swa sare,
That aye him thristis mare and mare.
Forthi betaknes ydropesye,
Covetyse and glotonye;
And the thrid synne tharebye,
That men callis lyccherie.
For none of thir thre mai fill
Mannes likinge, ne lustis ylle.
For aye the more that thai have,
The more forsothe will tai crave;
For gold ne silver may noght fill
A covetouse mannes will.
Als gude he es with fyve schillinge,
Als with a hondrethe ponde in binge.
Aboute catele he sytes and spares;
Ymange the men he droupes and dares.
The more he hase the wers he fares,
So gerne his gude he prinnes and spares.3
He sweres his name for o penye,
And umwhile for a halve penye.
And ilk tyme that he duse so,
He sellis God of Hevene him fro.
Forsothe me think he es unwise,
That makes swilk marchandise,
For more he lates of o penye,
Than of God that es Allmightie.
He loues and sellis his catele,
And lufis it so wondir wele,
That God of Hevene he forsakes,
And werldes aght his God he makes.
He servis him on alkin wise —
That sall yelde him his servise
In hell, that es the fendes rike,
For thareto es his hert made like.
For right als hell es ylle to fill,
So es the covetouse mannes will;
For aye the more that he weldes,
To more and more his herte aie heldes.
Forthi his langynge gastelie
Es likknid to the ydropesie.
For the droppsi, als I saide are,
Geres man thrist aie mare and mare.
Now have I talde you openli
Of a gasteli ydropesye.
And of anothir I will you tell
If ye will listen unto my spell.
The tother gastely yderopesie,
Es callid on Ynglihsse glotonye,
That maste than uses thir burgese,
That lives all in thaire awne ese,
That geres seke all the lande thorghe,
Bathe in bye and in borghe,
Ryche metes for to bye,
For to bake and for to frye.
Thaire foulers sittis in slakkes and sykes,
To take wodecokkes and pertrikes,
Snypes, mawlardes and thir telis,
Wip alkin ginne that man of melis,
To make thir burgese wele at ese
With swilk dayntese and fatt mese.
In lardere have thai redi at hame
Grete flehsse bathe wylde and tame;
And when thir dayntes everilkane,
Er broght forthe before the riche mane,
Unnethis may thai all fullfill
His langinge and his hert will.
On the pureman thinkes he noght,
Ne on Jhesu that him boght.
Many mese before him standes,
And of all somwhat he fandes
Of venysoune, gose, and grise,
Blamanger, dariols, tartes, and rise.
The riche sewes, the gude browete,
In silvir dihsse before thaim sette.
Unnethis may his eyene be fullfilld,
Outher of tame or of wylde.
Of everilkane somethinge he tastis,
And so forsothe his kynde he wastis.
For sere dayntees and many mees
Geres mani men fall in sekenes.
Bot and ilk man wald think,
Ymange all this mete and drink,
That his flehsse suld rote in molde,
Than ware it noght to him so holde.
Nowe have I tolde you a partye,
Of the lust of glotonye,
That hase the kinde of the droppsie,
Als I are schewid yowe openlie.
Now will I schew yow liccherie,
That es the thrid ydropesye.
For flehssli lust es so gredie,
That evermore it es redye
For to ger man fall in synne.
And if the flehsse the maistrie wynne,
Will it noght the saule spare,
It for to bringe to pyne sare.
It es so lustfull and so froghe,
That nevermore haves it ynogyhe
Of the filthe of liccheri,
Bot ever more therto es redie.
Now se ye wele on whatkin wise
Glotonie and covetise,
And the foule lust of liccherie,
Er likknid unto the droppsie.
Now will we se how Criste thaim helis,
That with thir wickid droppsi delis;
For langare ye herd me tell,
How Saynte Luke saise in oure Gospell,
That Criste helid on Halidaie,
A man that in the droppsi laie.
Now will I schew yow als I can,
How Jhesu helis Cristen man.
To man he duse full tendirlie,
When he helis him gastelie,
And gives him grace him for to knawe,
And his synnes in schrift schawe;
And geris him for his synnes have care,
And willen to fall in thaim nemare.
Thus helid Criste Marie Mawdelayne,
That of his helinge was full fayne,
And so he did Saynte Pelagie,
That lived in lust of hir bodie.
Bot God of Hevene noghtforthi,
Had of hir full gode mercye.
Of this womman I will yow tell,
And ye will listen to my spell.

   In Antyoche beyonde the se,
A womman wonede in a cité.
Dame Pelagie was scho calde,
Of hir bodi was scho balde.
Fayre wommane scho was ynoghe,
And mani man to synne scho droghe.
Full comone made scho hir bodie
In foule lust of lyccherye.
Dokes, erles, and barounes,
Come to hir from many tounes;
And othir men of ilk a lede,
To fullfill thaire flehssli dede.
Scho thaim full fayre to innes calld,
And hir bodi gude chepe salde.
Scho was night and daie redie,
To synne with thaim in liccherie.
Of this servis servid Pelagie,
To Criste wald hele hir ydropesye.
Bot I will tell on what manere,
He made hir saule hale and fere
When he gert hir have repentaunce,
And for hir synne do penaunce.
The ersbisschope of that cité,
Thare scho lived in hir jolité,
Gert make a grete assemblé
Of all the bisschopes of that contré.
And when thai all gadird ware,
For thinge that thai had to do thare,
Fell aventere that thai gon mete
At a plase in the hie strete.
And thai spak all of saule nede:
How Cristen men thaire life suld lede.
And als thai satte togider spekeand,
So come Dame Pelagie rydand,
To schewe the folk hir fayrehede,
Hir dubbinge and hir ryche wede.
Cled scho was in riche pall,
With riche stanes in gold frette all.
Mani a man bathe yonge and alde,
Folowid hir full thikfalde,
To have sight of hir bewté,
That thare rade with all manir of gle.
Scho was fayrer of coloure,
Than rose that es kinge of floure.
Thir bisschopes when thai sawe hir ryde,
With thair hodes thair eyen gon hyde,
For thai wald noght behald na pride,
That walkis in this werld so wyde.
Bot one of thaim noghtforthi,
Beheld this womman inwardelie.
And all his felowes thoght ferlie,
For he was halden full hali.
Nomnus was this bisschope name —
Full lathe him was to come in blame.
When he this womman had lange sene,
Pelagie of whaim I mene,
Sare began he for to grete,
And saide to thaim be him gon sete:
“We may here gode ensawmpil take
This werldes honoure to forsake,
And for to graithe us to tha blisse,
That to gode men ordained es.
For this womman that ye sawe ryde,
In mikil werldes welthe and pride,
With mikil bisines and stodie
Has tuffid and dight hir bodie,
To make it faire on all wyse,
For to plees to hir luttebies.
Bot us aght mikil more to graythe
Oure sawles, that synne hase made full laythe,
For to paie God Allmightie,
The whilk es the saule leve luttebie.
And for to make it faire and clene,
That na filthe ware tharein sene,
To paie Criste oure dere lemmane,
That suffird payne for synfull man.”
When he had saide all this and mare,
He went hamward greteand full sare,
Forthi that he so lange had sene
That ilk womman that was so schene.
“Lorde,” he saide, “Thou forgive me,
That I have synnid agayne thee,
For the fayrnes of yone womane
That had well nere mi saule slane.
Scho hase hight the folk to paie,
And so scho did full wele todaie.
And I to paie God have hight,
Bot oft I breke forward with plight.
Lorde I praye thee forthi,
That thou of me have mercie.”
When this bihsschope had saide this,
And grauntid that he had done misse,
To rest he yede, and als he laie,
A selcouthe dreme he dremid or daie.
Him thoght that he atte messe stode,
And als he lokid to the rode,
A fewhle blak als ani crawe,
Fast aboute his hevede flawe.
Blak it was, heved and schank,
And foule him thoght that it stank.
Him thoght that it wald ger him dye,
If he that stink suld lange drye.
Him thoght that it flowe thare full lange,
Bot noghtforthi his messe he sange.
When this messe was done to ende,
Him thoght that hamward gon he wende;
And als he yode him thoght he sawe
That this fewhle to him flawe.
Blak it was and foule stinkand,
And he toke it in his hand,
And kest it in a watir stane,
And uppe it rase him thoght onane,
Als wyte als ever was ani snawe.
And na blak on it might he knawe;
And toward heven it flow him fro,
And he stert of his slepe right so.
Sononday was on the morne;
He callid the clergie him beforne
And talde thaim all his dreme full rathe.
Sithen thai and he yode to the kirk bathe,
And the bisschope at the hye messe,
Prechid als the custome es,
And gert the folc with wordes swete,
For thaire synnes full sare grete.
And als the bisschope prechid thare,
And all the folc grette swa sare,
This woman come, Dame Pelagie,
To the kirk with grete melodie,
More to schewe hir fairehede,
Than for to do thare hir saule mede.
Bot when scho herd the bisschope speke,
For sorow hir thoght hir hert wald breke.
So sore rewid hir hir folye,
That scho had done in liccherie,
That sore began scho for to grete,
That all hir breste scho made full wete.
Than all the folk that ware thare,
Thoght ferli that scho grette sa sare —
And yit scho was a hethen womman,
That never come to the kirk or than.
When the bisschope had all prechid,
And Cristen lawe the folk techid,
This woman had spies sette,
When he to his palaise plette;
And when scho wist whare he wald lende,
Swilk a lettir to him gon scho sende:
“The fendes doghtir, Pelagie,
That ever haves lived in liccherie,
Gretes thee wele, sir bihsschope,
For in thee es all my hope.
Fadir,” scho saide, “I praie thee,
That thou have mercie now of me,
And for his lufe that died on tre,
Cristen womman thou ger me be.
For Cristen men have I herd saie,
(And so herd I thee todaie),
That Criste wald all this paynes drie
For sinfull man and sythen dye;
And that he es aie redie
To have of sinfull mercie,
Als oft als man on him will call
And schrive him wele of his synnes all.
Forthi, lorde, thof it be swa,
That I have lange bene Cristis fa,
Cristen womane wald I be,
And live forward in chastité,
Therfore have mercie now on me,
And lat me come and speke with thee.”
This lettir made this bihsschope fayne,
And he sent hir bodworde agayne,
And saide, “Thou spekes of Goddes nedes,
And witt thou wele Criste wate thi dedes.
And als so witt thou witirlie,
That a sinfull man am I.
Forthi if thou will with me speke,
And the fendes bandes breke,
Before mi felowes come to me,
And than will I speke with thee.
For will I noght bi me all ane,
Forsothe speke with na wommane.”
When Pelagie had herd this,
Hir thoght that scho had mikil blisse.
Scho did hir to the bisschope gate,
And callid and cried to have inlate.
And when this bisschope herd hir call,
He gert feche the bisschopes all,
And before thaim everilkane,
He gert call this ilk woman.
And sone scho fell to the erde platte,
And full sore began to grate.
So oft scho kissid the bisschope fete,
That with hir teres scho made thaim wete.
The bisschope toke hir be the hande,
And unnethis might he ger hir stande
And saide, “Womman, I saie to thee,
That wismen forbedes me
To cristen comone womane, bot if scho finde
Gode borowes that may hir binde,
And take on hande that scho sall blynne
Of synne, and fall nomore tharein.”
When this was saide scho was sorie,
And fell unto the erthe rewfullie,
And saide, “Thou sall all my synne bere,
And for mi saule give answere.
Bot if thou baptise me in haste,
And fill me with the Hali Gaste,
I swere be God in Trinyté,
That for fals sall I chalange thee
Before Jhesu Cristis fase,
Bot if thou ger me have his grase,
And me sone make Cristen wommane,
For I have servid to lange Sathane.”
When scho had saide all this and mare,
Than all the bihsschopes that thare ware
Grette for joye of hir penaunce,
And of hir rewfull repentaunce.
Than to the bisschope of that cité,
That gert thaim come to that semlé,
Thai sent worde of that womane,
How scho to Jhesu had hir tane.
The bisschope sent thaim than agayne,
A priores that hight Romayne,
To be at hir cristnynge thare,
And for to lere hir gasteli lare.
When Pelagie sawe Dame Romayne,
Of hir comynge scho was full fayne.
Sainte Nomnus askid hir what scho hight,
And scho saide, “Pelagie, full right —
Bot here, forsothe, men callis me
Margarite in this cytee.
For thaim thoght mi face so white,
Thai callid me Dame Margarite.
Bot my first name, noghtforthi,
Was callid mayden Pelagye.”
Saynte Nomnus bad scho suld hir schrive
Clennly thareof all hir lyve;
And scho answerd and said than:
“I am so sinful womane,
That if I suld ripe wele
The thrid parte, or the halvendele
The synnes of mi foule bodie,
That I have done in liccherie,
I suld se thaim so mikil amounte,
That I ne might thaim never acounte;
For all the watir in the se,
To my synnes might noght evene be.
Bot schorteli to yow all at saie
Mi synnes and mi sorowful plaie,
So lange I have bene in this toune,
In the fendes bandes and his baundoune,
That I have done more synne myne ane,
Than evir did yit any womane.
Bot gode hope have I, noghtforthi,
That God of me will have mercye.”
Than Nomnus Pelagie baptyste
In the name of Jesu Criste,
And callid hir thare Pelagie,
And howsild hir full joyefullye.
And sithen betaght hir eftir messe
To Dame Romayne, the prioresse.
And that daie ete thai all samen
With mikil ioye and gasteli gammen.
And als thai att the mete gone sete,
Thai herd an uggli grane and grete
So lowde that thai all might it here,
A fendes yamerynge and his bere.
Full loude he gon yell and crie,
And spak and said thus apertelie:
“Nomnus, Nomnus, woo thee be,
For mikil schame thou hase done me.
Of hethin men thritti thousand,
Hase thou lowsid oute of mi band,
And gert thaim all cristnid be —
Full sore tharefore may I ban thee.
For all the mikil folk, iwisse,
That wones in Elyopolis,
Oute of my servise hase thou nommen,
For Cristen men er thai all becommen.
Wo worthe the modir that thee bare,
For thou enpayres all my fare.
Tharefore mi sange es walewaie,
And ban I mai that ilk daie
That thou was of thi modir borne,
For thou drives me aie to scorn.
Fro me thow reves all my menye —
Thou olde cauenard, wo thee be!
And now thou duse me moste spite:
Thou hase me reft Dame Margarite,
That was the best of all my ploghe.
Agaynes me thou hase done woghe,
For in hir was mi moste hope —
To me thou ert ane evyle bisschope.
Maie I na langer suffir thee,
For on thee sall I vengid be.
And thou, my dere Margarite,
Whi haves thou left me so tyte?
With mikil wrange and no resoune
Hase thou done me this grete tresoune.
Sorowfull and sarie maie I be,
When I thee misse in this citee.
Me think thou braides on Judase
That traytoure to his Lorde wasse.
For he was to his Lorde so dere,
That he made him his tresorere.
Bot als Judas noghtforthye
Left his Lorde auerlye,
And did evyle agaynes gode,
When he gert hange him on the rode,
So duse thou, Margarite, to me,
For to my foo thou takes thee.
Thou wote that I have lange bene
Thi lorde, and gert thee trayle in grene,
In riche purpure and in scarlette,
In blewe of Ypire and in bornette
Bot I se now thou art unkynde,
For fals and fikil I thee fynde;
For thou duse evyle agaynes gode;
Of thee I fedde ane evyle fode.”
This was the fendes playnte with crie,
On Saynte Nomnus and Pelagie.
Bot Pelagie sayned hir full wele,
And gert him fle, that foule unsele.
The thrid night, forthi noght,
He come eftsones to Pelagi,
And pleynid him full rewfulli,
And askid hyr wharefore and whi,
Scho had him left so auerlie,
And bad hir have of him mercye.
“Mi dere,” he saide, “thou rewe on me,
And torne againe to jolité.
If thow will of welthe have mare
Of gold, of silvire, of riche fare,
I am redi to ger thee have,
All that evere thou will crave.
Forthi, mi ladie Margarite,
Torne and leve me noght so tite,
For Cristen men that wote thi live,
Maye me to hethinge fouli drive,
When that thai evere speke of thee,
For thou hase thus begilid me.
Forthi, my ladi, torne agayne,
To do thi will I sall be bayne.”
Than answerd Saynte Pelagie,
And saide, “Jesu, thorghe his mircie
Hase tane me oute of thi pousté —
Blissid als Lorde mote he be.
Forthi to him now I me take,
And thee, Sathanas, I forsake.
Hatid be thou ever fro me,
And all that evere servis thee.
And for to do thee the more schame,
I comaunde thee in Goddes name,
That thou never so hardie be
More for to fande me.”
Scho saynid hir and he went awaie,
Fast cryand, “Waylewaye.”
Saynte Pelagie on the morne
Callid hir servaundes hir beforne,
And gert bringe all hir catele,
And betechid it ilk a dele
To Saynte Nomnus, that hali man
That hir had made Cristen womane;
And bad him that he suld it dele
In almouse for hir saule hele.
Bot first ymange hir awne servaundes
Scho delt a thousand gold besaundes,
And sone eftir the same daie,
Hir gude clothis scho delt awaie.
And on a nyght full privelye,
With haire scho cled hir awne bodie.
And did hir forthe that no man wist
Bot scho allone and Jesu Criste,
To the Mounte of Olivete,
Thare hir bones ligges yete;
Thare Jhesu Criste made his praiere,
Als saise Saynte Jone the Gospellere.
Jerusalem es it full nere,
Als saise bothe pilgrime and palmere.
Thare scho made a litil howse,
And saide scho hight Pelagius.
Scho gert thaim all that woned thare
Trow that scho a careman ware.
And thare scho ledde so hali lyve,
That wydewhare hir name was rive
For hali ermite was scho talde,
And Pelagius men hir callde.
Now es dame Pelagie hermite,
That was before so faire and white,
That hir to se was grete delite,
Forthi men callid hir Margarite.
Now will I tell yow als I can,
How men first wist scho was womman.
The bihsschope of whaim I spake are,
Had a clerk that hight Johannes thare;
And sevene wyntir eftir that daie,
That Pelagie was went awaie,
This clerk askid leve to ga
To Jerusalem, for to ma
His pilgrimage into that stede
Thare Jhesus was bothe qwik and dede.
Saynte Nomnus gave him leve in haste,
That wist thorghe the Hali Gaste
That Pelagie somwhidir was gane
To live in penaunce be hir ane.
And than his thoght was on hir,
And bad his clerk that he suld spir
Ymange ermetes that servid Jesus
Eftir Dan Pelagius.
“For hali man,” he saide, “es he,
And he can wele counsaile thee.”
This clerk wist noght of whaim he ment,
Bot on the morne his waie he went.
To Jerusalem he come in hye,
And to that stede thare Jesu gone drie,
And sone than herd he wordes drive,
Of Pelagius hali lyve.
And yerne he spirid and sone he fand
Whare Pelagius was wonand.
And at hir dure he bad undo;
And Saynte Pelagie come him to,
In liknes of ane alde ermite,
That he had sene so faire and white.
Saynte Pelagie knewe him full wele,
Bot he knewe hir never a dele,
For travele, fastinge and wakinge,
Had broght hir oute of all knawinge.
Forthi wende he scho carman ware,
And so wende all that woned thare.
Than sone scho askid what he walde,
And what he was, and he hir talde:
“I am,” he saide, “with Saynte Nomnus.
That gretes thee wele, Pelagius.”
And scho answerd, and saide than:
“Saynte Nomnus es a hali man:
Wele mote him evermore be;
Saie him that he praie for me.”
Wold scho nomore ask how he ferde,
Bot fast on hir the dore scho sperde.
And sone he herd hir singe and saye
The servise that fell for the daie.
This clerk made thare his orisoune,
And sithen he yede unto the toune,
And dwellid in that hali stede
Twa daies in prayere and in bede,
And come upon the thrid daie,
To loke what Pelagie wald saie.
He lithid yerne undir the wawe,
If he might oght hir spekinge knawe.
And lange he stode and herd right noght,
And grete ferli thareof him thoght.
And att the dure he callid fast,
And putt it up atte last,
And come him in and sone he fand
Saynte Pelagie, calde dede liggand.
This clerk fra stede to stede ranne,
And tald thir ermetes ever ilkane,
That Pelagius forsothe was dede,
And thai come rynnand to that stede,
And fand sothe all that he saide;
And wortheli the corse thai laide,
For to wehsse it on a stane,
And sone thai fand scho was wommane.
Than wist that clerk witirlye
That it was Dame Pelagye.
And loude began he for to crie,
And louid oure Lorde God Almightie,
That he might sikir tithandes tell,
What of Saynte Pelagye befell.
This hali corse thai grove right thare,
And sithen home than gon thai fare.
Thaire sekemen had thaire bote
Of sekenes, bothe in hand and fote.
Thare hase all men bote of bale,
For lufe of hir, God mase thaim hale.
Lorde, mikil es thi mercye,
To thaim that will leve thaire folye.
That was wele sene on Pelagie,
That laie in gasteli droppsye:
That es to saye in lyccherye,
That mase a mannes sawle full hevye.
In wannehope thar no man synk,
That on Pelagie will thinke.
Jesu, blissid mote thou be,
For first thou boght us on the rode tre,
And helid sithen of the droppsye
Of synne and sororow we in gon lye.
And if we eftsones fall in scathe,
Thow give us grace to ryse rathe,
And so to live that we all maye
Come to thi joye that lastis aye.
Lorde, lene us grace that it so be.
Amen amen par charité.
Holy Day

paid attention
looked eagerly


in jest


man with dropsy
at once
every one of them
whole and strong

animal fall in the mud

lie; go

empty of sense

were scornful of him



wished; destroy
made them understand by example
not worth a hawthorn berry

heed; chose


table; (t-note)


lowest; shall

higher; ask; (t-note)

too high
humility; suffer


says; (see note)

showed; power

heal the sick
They ought
[On] the Holy Day not fail

Which; scornfully

forbidden by doctrine

banishes sin


afflicted with dropsy
(see note)




desire; wicked lusts

possessions; worries; hesitates; (see note)
is downcast and dispirited

(see note)
perjures his name; (see note); (t-note)

barters away

pays more attention to

worldly possession
him [the devil] in every way
[He] who will reward him for his service
For his heart is made similar thereto [i.e., to hell]
difficult to fill up; (see note)

spiritual malaise


(see note)
That townsmen experience in the greatest number; (see note)
cause to be sought out
village; town

Their bird-catchers sit in hollows and ditches
woodcocks and partridges; (see note)
Snipe; mallard; teal
With all kinds of trap that men speak of

rich food


venison, goose, and fat; (see note)
Pudding, pastries, tarts; rice; (see note)
rich sauces; stew

Scarcely; eyes; satisfied


But if

will rot; earth
would not seem so trustworthy
one part


wins the upper hand


what manner

Who; treats





(see note)
(see note)
With; bold

She made a whore of herself

every land

sold at a bargain rate

In this manner behaved



It happened
soul’s need

finery; clothing
robes; (t-note)
all adorned with gold

in a crowd



so openly

were amazed


I am speaking
who were sitting by him; (t-note)
take a lesson

To which good men are destined

dressed up; adorned; (see note)


the soul’s dear lover

satisfy; lover

looked upon
same; beautiful

On account of
promised; please

agreement; sin


acknowledged; wrong
marvelous; before


head and leg


threw; baptismal font
at once

away from him
the next morning

went; church bath


Than to do what was required for her soul’s reward

she regretted

before then



the cross

desired (could); suffer
For the sake of


from now on


be well aware; knows


made her way

earth flat


baptize [a] prostitute, unless
guarantors; secure
make assurance; cease

take charge of




teach; spiritual lore

was called

(see note)


examine well; (see note)


to speak of
carrying on

on my own


administered the Eucharist

spiritual delight

loathsome [creature] groan; lament; (see note)

wailing; clamor; (see note)

woe be to you



taken; (t-note)

May misery befall
hinder; business

deprive; servants
scoundrel; (see note)

deprived me of
work animals; (see note)



spring from

wickedly; (see note)
evil in return for good

sweep along in a green (gown)
(see note)
Ypres; brown

From thee I have partaken of an evil food

foul wretched [creature]
complained; sorrowfully

in such a cowardly manner; (t-note)

have pity


have contempt for me




dedicate myself

by; (t-note)





a hair shirt

(see note)


wherever; known


living; (t-note)

by herself


in haste

eagerly; asked
he asked that her door be opened

not at all
suffering, keeping vigil

May he ever be well




listened; wall

opened; (see note)


for certain






despair, need

did lie
once again; harm

for the sake of charity

[Homily 53 not included in this edition. See Explanatory Notes.]

Go To Homily 54, Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity