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Homily 6, First Sunday after the Nativity


1 First Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord according to Luke

2 Latin rubric (Luke 2:33–40): And his father and mother were [wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser; she was far advanced in years, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow until fourscore and four years; who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day. Now she, at the same hour, coming in, confessed to the Lord; and spoke of him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel. And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong, full of wisdom; and the grace of God was in him.]

3 Lines 24–25: Was foreordained to be the cause of the rising and falling of many a man


Abbreviations: NHC: Northern Homily Cycle; NIMEV: The New Index of Middle English Verse, ed. Boffey and Edwards; Tubach: Index Exemplorum, ed. Tubach. For manuscript abbreviations (ED, A, D, G, L, V), see the Introduction.

This day’s Gospel text recounts the prophetic words of Simeon when Mary and Joseph, according to Jewish custom, took the child Jesus to be presented at the Temple. Simeon’s prediction of the fall and resurrection of many in Israel, and the sign that will be contra­dicted, is understood as an allusion to those Jews whose refusal to acknowledge Christ dooms them to hell. The NHC-poet goes on to develop the idea of rising and falling in a universal moral sense, which leads to the tale of an archbishop who "falls" through his seduction of a nun, but "rises" through his acts of repentance to become even better than he was before.

NIMEV 3393, 284. Manuscripts: ED: fols. 25r–26v (begins with line 241); A: fols. 23v–30r; G: fols. 30r–32r (2 folios missing, begins at line 306); D: fols. 55v–60v; L: fols. 9r–11v.

Before 1 Dominica infra Octavam Nativitatis. When a Sunday comes after a movable feast (e.g., Easter) or after a feast celebrated on a particular date (here December 25), that Sunday is said to fall "within the octave" (eight-day period) of the feast in question.

1–3 The Jewes made ilka yere / Seven festes on thair manere. / Bot till thre come yonge and alde. The seven feasts of Israel, as named in the Old Testament, are: Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Trumpets, and Atone­ment; Deuteronomy 16:16 specifies further that three times in the year all males shall take part in the first three. The NHC-poet erroneously includes females, perhaps because the occasion here described is not in fact one of the three to which all men were summoned. Rather, it is the requirement that a Jewish wo­man giving birth to a son undergo ritual purification forty days after the birth of a son that brings Mary and Joseph to the Temple in Jerusalem. Jews were fur­ther required to have a firstborn son acknowledged as belonging to the Lord in a special way, hence the presentation to Simeon (Nolland, Word Biblical Commen­tary, p. 124). Elsewhere the narration of these events is often placed at Epiphany, or at the feast of Purification (Candlemas), which occurs forty days after Christ­mas; NHC does in fact include an additional account attached to the later date, using earlier verses from the same chapter of Luke. Neither Gregory nor Robert’s Miroir includes a text for this day or for Purification. Bede, however, does have a homily on Purification which takes in the Presen­tation, though the similarities are too general to prove influence in this case.

36 For Jewis wald noght his risinge knawe. In its paraphrase of Luke’s Gospel, NHC represents Mary and Joseph, along with the larger community, as virtuous law-abiding Jews, perceiving no disparity between this portrayal and the typically medieval condemnation articulated here. The tradition transmitted through the Adversos Judaeos writings of the Church Fathers (e.g., Tertullian, Justin Martyr, John Chrysostom) describes the Jews’ obstinate rejection of God’s action in Christ, and the just punishment inflicted upon them by an angry God (Ruether, "Adversus Judaeos," pp. 27–28). In particular, the NHC-poet would certainly have been familiar with Gregory the Great’s frequent castigation of the Jews, as seen in these words from his Eighth Homily: "we must note the great hardness of heart of some of the Jewish people. They failed to recognize him either by the gift of prophecy or by his miracles. In truth all the elements bore witness that their creator had come . . . and yet the hearts of the Jews remained full of un­belief. . . . Harder than stones, they were unwilling to be broken for repentance" (Forty, Homily 8, pp. 55–56).

79–82 For the Jewes fell all fra gode, / When thai slowe Criste on the rode, / And hethen men fra synne rase, / That before was Criste faase. Bede is more careful in his treatment of this idea, and also closer to the Gospel text itself, when he says: "Many of the Jews and many of the gentiles have often contradicted the sign of the Lord’s cross externally, and, what is more serious, many false brothers [do so] inter­nally" (Homilies, 1.18, p. 184).

87–88 For when we of oure synnes us schryve, / We rise gastely fra dede to lyve. Here the NHC-poet somewhat resembles Bede, who also points to the individual moral sense that can be read into Symeon’s words: "One who falls after having acknowledged the glory of the resurrection is unhappy enough, but worse is one who, having seen the light of truth, is blinded by the oppressive clouds of his sins . . . They follow it superficially in what they profess, but they trample upon it by the reality of their depraved actions, saying that they know God, but denying him in their deeds. Hence we must take the utmost care always to remember to carry out in our works the virtuous good we have recognized" (Homilies, 1.18, p. 183–84).

97 Ane ersbisschope beyonde the se. Tubach 4073: Repentance of archbishop. Gerould could find no source or analogue for this exemplum, and Tubach lists only those versions found in NHC. Though there are many exempla of sinning clergy among the lower orders, this one is unique in its portrayal of a lustful archbishop. Robert Grosseteste, writing in the thirteenth century, brought a new level of rigor to the pastoral requirements of bishops: "When I became a bishop, I believed it to be necessary to be a shepherd of the souls committed to me . . . So I began to perambulate my bishopric . . . requiring the clergy . . . to bring their people . . . together at a fixed place and time in order to . . . hear the Word of God, and to make their confessions" (Southern, Robert Grosseteste, p. 258). Although the NHC-poet advises his audience to obey bishops as a general rule, he expresses outrage with regard to those prelates who do not adequately fulfil their respon­sibilities. Given the apparent rarity of the exemplum itself, and the strength of feeling it expresses, it is hard not to wonder whether the NHC-poet had particular members of the clergy in mind who might have provided the immediate impulse for this tale. Though an archbishop is perhaps unlikely, and this one is safely located "beyond the sea," at least one historical instance is recorded from the mid-fifteenth century, when John Stafford, archbishop of Canterbury, was accused of having had sons and daughters by a nun at a time when he was bishop of Bath and Wells (Power, Medieval English Nunneries, p. 447n6).

126–28 That right him thoght that he suld dye, / Bot he had of hir his will, / And might with hir his lust fullfill. Though outdated in many respects, Power’s Medieval English Nunneries still rings true in its assessment of the difficulty posed by vows of chas­ti­ty: "For many saints it was the first and necessary condition of their salvation; but for the average man it has always been an unnatural state and the monastic orders and the priesthood were full of average men" (p. 436). As Brundage further notes, "the clergy, as well as the laity, commonly fell short, often far short, of observing the rules binding them, rules that theoretically obliged every­one in major orders to renounce marriage . . . [and] to abstain from any and every sort of overt genital sexual activity" ("Playing by the Rules," p. 24). Despite new laws of evidence elaborated at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, designed in large part to cope with sexual misconduct among both clergy and laity, the problem never entirely went away, though evidence suggests that archdeacons (like the one in Chaucer’s Friar’s Tale), were assiduous in their pursuit of lay offenders at least, and were accordingly despised (Brundage, "Playing by the Rules," pp. 24–30).

190 That he hir gert be abbeys thare. The abbess was elected by the members of her convent, but that election had to be licensed by a bishop (Oliva, Convent and the Community, p. 76).

191–92 And forthi thoght hir lathe / In anythinge, to make him wrathe. Although the feelings expressed by the abbess suggest to some degree a relationship between friendly equals, also noted are the archbishop’s threat to withdraw his favor, and the abbess’ fear. In historical terms, the abbess’ shocking readiness to comply with the archbishop’s request should be seen in the context of the relative poverty of women’s houses, as well as the episcopal authority exercised over them: "While nuns exercised some authority over their spiritual properties, the women them­selves answered to higher ecclesiastical powers" (Oliva, Convent and the Community, p. 32). "Bishops and other ecclesiastical officials intervened in nuns’ business practices and financial affairs in ways that were much less common in male com­munities" (Warren, Spiritual Economies, pp. 63–64).

201–02 This ilk yonge nonne was unmightie / To stand agayne this foule folye. The poet does not seek to excuse the nun’s transgression in any way, and the single word unmightie is the only insight we are offered into her character. In the eyes of patristic writers, the allure of women’s bodies was responsible for creating desire in men, and women were also thought to be weak in intellect and emotionally unstable (Minnis, "De impedimento," pp. 123–25).

206 And of hirself scho made a hore. Although a modern reader is unlikely to forget the chain of mitigating circumstances which have propelled the young nun into the archbishop’s arms, the strong condemnation voiced here and in the following lines draws on powerful medieval traditions regarding virginity. The Bible, and particularly Paul, provided the spiritual and theological basis for defining chas­tity: "And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit" (1 Corinthians 7:34). The treatise on virginity, as developed by patristic writers such as Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine, praised it as the state most favorable to spiritual perfection, and Aldhelm (d. 709) continued the tradition in the West with his De Virginitate: "O excellent grace of virginity, which like a rose grown from thorny shoots blushes with a crimson flower and never withers with the defect of dread mortality" (qtd. Wogan-Browne, Saints’ Lives, p. 20). There is of course a specifically gendered aspect to this valuation of female virginity: "while the Church identified monks as producers of valuable spiritual resources whose labors should be facilitated, the value of women religious did not stem so much from their contemplative and intel­lectual labors as from an imagined essential purity," which it was the Church’s responsibility to contain and regulate (Warren, Spiritual Economies, pp. 17–18).

215 Had tane hir als his leeve spouse. Christian commentators early on interpreted both Vulgate Psalm 44 and the Canticle of Canticles as allegorical accounts of the love between Christ and the Church. Origen and Gregory of Nyssa further developed the idea of Christ as bridegroom not only of the Church but of its individual mem­bers, an image which, while it could be applied to both men and women, was seen as particularly appropriate to female virgins (Millett, Hali Meiðhad, pp. xl–xli).

292 Thaim I suld bathe lere and kenne. The words of remorse, spoken here by the archbishop in this tale, express the poet’s own convictions regarding the duty of the clergy (priests as well as bishops) both to teach and act as a moral example to the laity. Their failure to live up to this responsibility provokes angry out­bursts in NHC on numerous occasions.

321–22 He gert graithe him a privé sted, / Thar he moht lif wit water and brede. Penance, properly understood, consists of three necessarily linked concepts: contrition, confession, and satisfaction. The archbishop’s acts of self-punishment, as described in these and the following lines, evidently stem from a deeply felt contrition. However, although in earlier times open confession had been voluntary, in the later Middle Ages it became a necessity when the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 ordered all adult Christians to confess their mortal sins to a priest once a year; as future events will show, the archbishop’s failure to confess renders his behavior problematic, however sincerely motivated.

387–88 That he suld an hey fest day / Sing thaim a messe, gern prayed thai. It is difficult to know whether the people’s eagerness to have the archbishop sing the mass is based on historical reality or the poet’s own urgent conviction that the laity ought to desire this. Contemporary evidence suggests that church services were not filled with seriously attentive audiences. Sleeping, talking, playing chess, and gambling with dice were all frequent occurrences, especially during the preaching of a sermon (Owst, Preaching, p. 178). The elevation of the Host, as indicated in the Introduction (p. 1), was often the only part of the service to which the laity paid attention, or even attended. Nonetheless, even if these lines indicate no more than wishful thinking on the poet’s part, they are expressive of the same pastoral concern that motivates the entire collection.

390–91 That sing mes moht he noht, / Ar he war scrifen of his sinne. The archbishop here indi­cates his awareness that he must be shriven (a word which includes the idea of confession) before he can actually sing the mass. The public acknowledgment of his sins which follows his preaching should be taken as an acceptable, if slightly irregular, form of confession.

467–68 And an angel bi wai he mette, / In mannes fourm, that him grette. It is perhaps not without significance that a (male) angel succeeds here where first the laity, and then a miraculous child held in the arms of a woman have failed to persuade the archbishop that he is truly forgiven.

502 He gif us graz to rise rathe. One of the effects of Fourth Lateran was an increased emphasis on the objective aspects of the confessional process, resulting in the thir­teenth-century outpouring of manuals of instruction, with their elaborate syste­matization of the theology of confession, which actually made it easier for the peni­tent who had confessed fully to receive absolution. At the same time the impor­tance of the penitent’s state of mind — inner contrition, so to speak — was gaining ground (A. Murray, "Counselling in Medieval," p. 65). One of the problems faced by the archbishop is that even after he has confessed, turning to a priest for absolu­tion does not seem to be an option, perhaps because of his own rank. The result is an inner uncertainty as to whether he is truly forgiven, which nothing can allay until the angel, God’s official agent, appears (and even then, he has to be forcibly dragged back to the altar to sing Mass). Without wishing to overemphasize its significance, we are presented here with what seems, on the surface at least, to articulate a rather modern psychological dilemma (and one which ought to have made the pilgrim to Saint James more wary!): how can we trust the truth of what we see, and how can we ever be truly certain that our repen­tance is ade­quate to redeem us from our sins? However we wish to read these events, the most important consequence of this final section for the medieval audience is not to propel them forward into Calvinistic uncertainty, but to lead them gently back to the grace available to them, through confession, in Christ.


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

1–240 So A. These lines are missing from ED. Three folios have been lost from the Edinburgh MS, covering most of the Nativity, and about half of the First Sun­day after the Nativity.

12 toke. MS: nge crossed out following to, with ke written above.

44 So. MS: written above the line.

57 that. MS: þar.

67 sayde Saynt Symeon. MS: saynt sayde symeon.

90 fle. MS: folow, canceled, fle written above.

91 reeuelye. Very odd spelling of this word, but D: ryuely, makes clear what is meant.

160 Bot if thou helpe. MS: Bot help if þou helpe, with first help canceled.

170 Dede mon . . . daye. MS: The scribe skipped this line and inserted it in the margin.

178 that. MS: þi, with i canceled and t added above the line.

199 did his. MS: þ, canceled between.

241 Sa stithelic igain him ras. ED begins with these lines on fol. 25r.

249 he. So A. MS omits.

254 for. So A. MS omits.

289 wele. So A. MS: wer.

331 the. MS: he.

332 penanz. MS: penaz.

338 to filth of sin. MS: to sin of filth of sin.

351 ne might. So A. MS: moht moht.

360 And ger the bisschope come thaim till. So A. MS omits.

367 chaungid. So A. MS: chanded.
ouri. The MED suggests the following derivation for this unusual word: [?ON; cp. OI uriger]. The NHC passage is the only example of it cited in the MED, with the following meanings suggested: "shabby, wretched, poor in appear­ance." These fit the context of the NHC passage well, but A, G, and D all replace ouri with a more familiar word. A: ouere; G: owen; D: sori.

379 gert. So A. MS: gret.

394 wain. Small’s note: "Probably from AS [Anglo-Saxon/Old English] winnan, to strive with” (p. 184). Both A and G have warne, "to refuse.

410 slic. MS: sli.

418 er of me. MS: er written at end of line with caret to mark point of insertion.

430 turn. MS: tur.

435 pray. So A. MS: prayed.

454 kynde. So A. MS: hind.

486 cunnand. MS: cunnad.

499 Prai. MS: pri.
Dominica infra Octavam Nativitatis Domini secundum Lucam.1; (see note)

Erant Joseph et Maria mater Jhesu etc.2






































































































   The Jewes made ilka yere
Seven festes on thair manere.
Bot till thre come yonge and alde,
That was for Jewe and Jewes talde,
Into the tempil for to here
Goddis servyse, on thaire manere,
And forto make thaire offirand thare,
All eftir that thair ees ware.
And fell aventer when Criste was chylde,
That bathe Joseph and Mary mylde,
Come to the tempil ymange thaire kithe,
And toke yonge Jhesu thaim withe.
And bathe Joseph and Marye,
Thoght of Jhesu grete ferlye,
For ferlys herd thai of him tell,
Als saise Saynte Luke in his Gospell.
And in the tempil fand thai than
Saynte Symeon, the haly man,
That had the Hali Gaste in hym,
And wist what Criste suld thole for synne.
He blissid Joseph and Marie,
And childe Jhesu that stude him bie;
And spake of Criste, and saide that he
Was sett to many a man to be,
Bathe in rysinge and in fallinge,3
And in taken of gaynestandinge.
Als wha saye, gode men sall ryse,
When this childe sall be hye Justice
On Domesday, wehen wickid sall
Into the pyne of hell fall.
Bot gode men sall ryse and wende,
Into the blisse withouten ende.
Bot thare he spake of takenynge,
Was ment of Criste upperysinge,
That was takenynge of gaynesawe,
For Jewis wald noght his risinge knawe.
It made thaim sarye and unfayne,
And tharefore spak thai thare agayne.
And forthi sayde Symeone
Of Criste, when he laide handes him one:
“This childe,” he saide, “es sette in taken,
That bese agayne saide and forsaken.”
And to oure Ladi than spake he,
And saide, “So sorowfull sall tow be,
That swerde of sorow sall thorghe stinge
Thi saule, for dule and for murnynge.”
Swa did hir hert for sorow thorghe stange,
When scho sawe hir sonne on rode hange,
And than was sene what Jewes thoght,
When thai thoght to bringe Jhesu to noght.
And als Saynte Symeon spake thus
To Marye, of hir sonne Jesus,
Swa come thare gangand ane alde wife,
That was a widowe of hali life;
And thorw prophecie scho wist,
Ful many thinges that suld fall of Criste.
And to the folc scho talde that tyme,
Thinge that suld fall of him:
How he was sent mannes bote to be,
And bye mankynde on rode tre.
When Marie and Joseph had done
That fell to the lawe thai yede hame sone,
And wele wer Jhesu that childe,
For grace and wisdome him full fillde.
This es the strenghe of oure Gospell,
Als man with Ynglihsse tonge may tell.

   Bot a worde sayde Saynt Symeon,
That is on sere manere undone,
Thare he saide Jhesu, oure kynge,
Was sette in fallinge and in rysinge.
On a manere thir wordis maye
Full wele betaken Domisdaie,
When gude men, als I saide are,
Sall ryse and into blisse fare,
And wickid folk sall fall doune,
Into hell that foule dongeoune.
Bot men may se anothir thinge
In this fallinge and this rysinge,
For the Jewes fell all fra gode,
When thai slowe Criste on the rode,
And hethen men fra synne rase,
That before was Criste faase.
For thai rase gasteli with Criste
Fra synne, when that thai ware baptiste.
And wha swa evere es Cristis lyme,
Him awe to rise gasteli with hyme.
For when we of oure synnes us schryve,
We rise gastely fra dede to lyve,
Fra dede of synne to life of grace,
That geres us fle the fendes trace.
And we may see reeuelye,
That som men fallis in foly,
And risis of synne so wightlye,
That bettir man es he in hye,
Than ever yitt before was he:
That be this tale we maye wele se.

   Ane ersbisschope beyonde the se,
Was wonande in a faire cité.
A hali man and gude he wase,
Bot first he fell, and sithene he rase.
The fende at him had grete envye,
And gert him fall in lyccherye
Apon a full selcouthe manere,
Als ye may be this tale here.
A nonnery was in that contree,
Fyve myle fra the bisschope see,
And in this ilk forsaide nonnrye
Was wonand nonnes full manye,
That servid God and oure Ladye,
And kepid thaim wele fra vilanye.
And aunter fell, that to that howse
Come maydens Jhesu Criste to spouse
Thir maydens ware sent thaire vayles to take
Of that bisschope, of whaim I spake.
This bisschope, als the manere es,
Reveste him to synge his messe.
Thir maydens come bifore the autere,
And toke thaire vayles on gude manere.
And this bisschope his eye uppe kest
To ane of thaim that was fayrest,
And sone on hir his lufe was fest
Swa harde, that he might have na rest,
For Sathanas did his maistrie,
And fandid him with lyccherye.
Swa nere his hert hir lufe gon lye
That right him thoght that he suld dye,
Bot he had of hir his will,
And might with hir his lust fullfill.
Here maye ye se on whatkin wyse,
The fende men fandes with his qwayntise;
For yerne he lokis on ilka syde
To gere us tyne hevenes pride.
Him think full lathe men come tharein,
Forthi geres he men fall in synne.
Thir nonnes when that thai halowid ware,
Thai toke thaire leve hame to fare,
Full faire to thaire nonnrye,
Bot this bisschope left sarye.
So was he fondid inwardelie,
With brinnand lust of liccherie,
That might he nouther ete ne drink,
Ne have night rest, ne slepe no wynk.
For lust him thoght his hert wald brest,
And he umthoght him what was best,
How he might this ilk nonne fange,
To slake his lust that was so strange.
Than lettirs sent he hasteli
Unto the abbeys of that nonnrye,
And bad scho suld come swithe him to,
The nedes of hir house to do.
When this abbeys thir tithandes herd,
To the bisschope full sone scho ferd,
And sone when scho was comen thare,
The bisschope schewid hir all his care.
“So mikil sorowe,” he saide, “I drye,
That for lufe allmoste I dye.
Bot if thou helpe me in this case,
I may saye forever allase.
Helpe of me than sall thou tyne,
Bot if thou helpe me of this pyne.
I have halden thi hous to right,
And helpid thee with all mi might,
Now may thou me my travaile yelde,
If thou will to my langynge helde.
I pray thee, graunte me my will,
And ger that nonne come me untill,
That I had here yistirdaye,
For allgate buse me with hir playe;
Or elles forsothe, as I thee saye,
Dede mon I be or the thridde daye.
To do thee gude I have mynte,
And if thou ne do, thou hase it tynt;
And if thou helpe me in this nede,
Full wele sall I qwite thee thi mede,
For now may I wele se and fynde,
If thou to me will be kynde.
I praie thee, swithe graunte me my bone,
And ger that nonne come to me sone.”
And nevened the nonne be hir name,
For he lettid for na schame.
When this abbes thir wordes herd,
Scho was forwondird and aferde,
For wende scho nevermare to here
The bischope speke of swilk matere;
And scho umthoght hir als sone,
What gude the bisschope had hir done,
And to hir hous, and hir covent,
For bathe he had hir given and lent.
And yitt scho thoght hir forthermare
That he hir gert be abbeys thare,
And forthi thoght hir lathe
In anythinge, to make him wrathe;
And hir had levar Goddes wrethe,
Than for to have hir bisschopes lethe.
Forthi scho grauntid him his bone,
And went hame to hir nonnry sone,
And prively this nonne scho callide,
And talde hir what the bisschope walde,
And saide, bot if scho did his will,
That nonnerie walde he stroye and spill.
This ilk yonge nonne was unmightie
To stand agayne this foule folye,
And saide full swith, “My dere ladie,
To do youre will, I am redye.”
This nonne to the bisschope fore,
And of hirself scho made a hore.
Allas, that scho ne had halden the triste,
That scho made with Jesu Criste.
Forsothe, I saie, and scho had sene
How faire hirself was, and how schene,
When that scho was mayden clene,
Had scho noght synned, als I wene.
Allas, that scho noght undirstude
How Criste, that boght hir on the rude,
Had tane hir als his leeve spouse,
And broght hir to his awne howse.
Methink scho chaungid wricchidlye,
When scho left Criste hir leve luttbye,
And toke hir to a synfull man,
For to be his lemmane.
A, Lorde, sorowfull had scho bene,
If scho hir awne state had sene,
How faire gasteli scho was and bright,
Whiles hir maydenhede was hir tight.
Lathe had hir bene to do that synne,
For any werldes gode to wynne.
Bot for scho was als wommane waike,
Scho heldid sone to synfull layke,
That made hir to God full lathe
In bodie, and in saule bathe.
For thare scho tynt hir maydenhede,
And tharewith all that blissfull mede,
That maydens sall have in that blisse
Thare Criste, thaire lemman, sall thaim kisse.
And all that will this tale here,
Gode ensaumpil may thai lere,
Unsikir of thaimself to be,
If thai will understand and se,
How wyse man this bisschope wasse,
And sithen to foly gon he passe,
Sa stithelic igain him ras
The fend, that him feld in place.
Ful ille birs us lah and kinc,
Quen apon this bischop we think,
For he, that thef that gert him falle,
Es about to sla us alle.
Bot sinful man gers him oft schurne,
And castis him wit his awen turne,
Quen he hem schrifes of his sin,
And kepes no mar falle thar inne.
   Lauerd, mikel es thi mercie,
For ay, Lauerd, es thou redye
For to forgif us our folie,
Als oft als we for mercie thee crye;
Be our sin never sa ugli,
Thou forgifes us sa freli,
That al men mai think ferlye
Of thi peté, and thi mercye.
For thar na man fal in wanhop,
That thinkes wel on this bischop;
For this bischop, of quaim I telle,
Sa dep in filth of sinne he felle,
That he was worthé to brinne in helle,
And thar evermar to duelle,
Yef it no hafd ben thi mercy
That gert him ris of sin in hy.
And forthi suld alle men lof thee
And bowsom to thi wille be.
For thou, that geris the dumbe spek,
Thoru schrift thou gert this bischop brek
The fendes band, and his maistri —
Wel birs us blis thee derworthelye.
   Kep I na langer her to duelle,
Bot forth our tal wille I telle,
How this bischop, wit penanz ras
Out of his sin, thoru Goddes grace.
   Quen this bischop this sin hafd don,
Our Lauerd send him grace ful son,
And gert him think wel of his state,
And son bigan he for to grate,
And said, “Allas, that I was borne,
Schamlic haf I me forlorne.
Bischop I am, and suld wel lif,
And god ensampil til other gif,
And haf swa my sawel schente,
That I war worthé for to be brente.
Allas, thate ever was I clerc;
Qui tok I on me Goddes werc?
Forsothe ic am wele mar to blame,
And for to thol wel mar schame,
Thanne er thir simpel lawed menne;
Thaim I suld bathe lere and kenne,
And now am I wel wer than thaye.
Ic haf plaied a sorful playe,
For ic haf broken Goddes house,
And reft ic haf Jesus his spouse,
Allas, allas, that I was born,
For al folc mai drife me to schorn.
Hou sal I fare on Domes Daye,
Quen I salle be flemid awaye
Fra Goddes faz, tille pin of helle,
Witouten end tharinne to dwelle?”
   Quen he him thoht of helle pin,
And quat thai thol that er tharin,
And of that joy that he hafd tinte,
To slan himself he hafd minte;
Sa forful was this erzbischop,
That almast fel he in wanhop.
Bot Goddes graz was son redye,
And wald noht thol him miscarye,
Bot conforted him wit swetly sware,
And lethed his soru and his kare;
And gert him ful son haf god hop,
That the lestes blodes drop
Of that ilc derworthi blode
That Jesus sched apon the rode
Was of wel mar derworthines,
Than alle men sin of wikednes.
And son he gan to kalle and krye
At the yates of mercye.
He gert graithe him a privé sted,
Thar he moht lif wit water and brede.
   A pouer hous was son purvaide,
And pouer atir tharin was layde,
And thar woned this bischop lange,
In soru of hert and penanz strange.
Quen paroschenis com him to,
Mani nedis wit him to do,
He gert his serganz til thaim saie,
That he in Godes bandes laie.
For he fended the serganz
That thai suld tel man his penanz.
This erzebischop lifd thare,
In strange penanz, and soru, and kare.
Wit hayr ful haird his bodi he cledde,
Wit bred and water was he fedde,
He wroht that bodi wa inohe,
That him to filth of sin drohe.
He yald it that it gert him do,
Wit pin, and reft it rest and ro.
His foul fleis drohn him to sin,
Forthi he mad it pouer and thin.
   The lawed folc was ivel payed,
And for thair bischop gern prayed,
For thai wend alle that he sek ware,
And for him was thair hert ful sare.
Erles, knihtes, and barounes,
Prestes, vikers, and parsounes,
Toht of thair bischop gret ferli,
And pleined thaim, and askid qui,
That thai ne might thair bischop se.
And wel thai wend that ded war he.
Sum mananced his durs to brek,
Bot yef thai moht wit him spek.
Than wald his chamberlain thaim stille,
And fair he graunted thaim thair wille.
He bad thaim in the palays duelle,
And said he suld his lauerd telle,
Alle thair langing and thair wille,
And ger the bisschope come thaim till.
This chamberlain to chamber yode,
And said his lauerd, wit sari mode,
Alle quat the folc said him to,
Bot yef thai moht cum him to.
And quen the bischop herd this,
Ful sorful was his hert iwis.
He chaungid son his ouri wed,
And forth into the halle he yed.
The folc saw wel his pouer state,
And sar for him gan thai grate;
For well thai thoht that he was sek,
For pal and clungen was his chek,
His skin was klungen to the bane,
For fleische apon him was thar nane.
Quen folc wit him thair fille havid spokin,
Igain in chamber was he lokin;
His frendes saw wel bi his faz
That he hafd mister of solaz,
And gert him wel eet and drinc,
And lef his utrageous swinc;
Bot ai he thoht apon his sinne,
That stang his hert ful sar witinne.
And quen the laud folc wel herd,
That thair bischop better ferd,
Ful fain thai war, and com riht son
Til him and askid him a bon;
That he suld an hey fest day
Sing thaim a messe, gern prayed thai.
The bischop son him umthoht,
That sing mes moht he noht,
Ar he war scrifen of his sinne
That bate his hert sa sar within.
Bot nohtforthi, him was ful lathe
To wain thaim or mac thaim wrathe.
He hiht the folk thair messe to sing,
And thai war fain of his hihting.
   Bathe ald and yong, and mar and lesse,
Com for to her the bischop messe
Apon a hey fest day,
For it to her ful fain war thai.
Quen the bischop to sing was graithid,
And riche atir on auter laid,
He stod stille, and bigan to preche,
Als man that cuthe the folc teche.
He preched on sa fair maner,
That it was joi for to her,
And quen his sermoun ended was,
The folc wit mikel joi up ras,
And thankid Jesus in that plaz,
That gaf thair bishop slic graz.
Bot he gert thaim sit doun igain,br> And said, “You bird be unfain
Of me, that sulde be your bischop,
For ic es werr man than ye hop.
Ye wen ful wel nou everilkan,
That I be a ful hali man,
And I sai you, forsothe, that ye
Foullic deceivid er of me.
For meself haf I swa schent,
That I war worthé for to be brent,
For ic am a kaitif lechour,
And ille man, and Goddes traytour.”
Bifor him al the folc he kald,
And tille thaim alle his sin he tald.
   Quen he havid said his sinful ded,
He kest of him that riche wed,
That es at sai, his vestement,
And thoru the folc barfot he went.
This folc bigan to grat and cry,
And bad him turn igain in hey.
Thai said, “Our Lauerd es ful redi
To haf of thee ful god mercy.
We wil,” thai said, “apon us take
Al thi sin, and al thi wrak.
Forthi, fader, we pray thee,
Thou turne igain, and bischop be.”
Bot moht thair praier noht avail,
For wald he noht trow thair consail,
Bot did him forthe, als he wair wode,
Wit soru, and sit, and dreri mode.
Awai he ran, and sar he gret,
And wit a womman son he met,
That bar a child in hir arm,
In swethel cloutes liand warm.
This child was noht an half yer ald,
And spac, thohquethir, wordes bald
Til the bischop, and askid qui
He was sa sorful and sary.
The child spac thoru the Hali Gaste,
And bad him turne igain in haste.
“Ga swithe,” he said, “and sing thi messe,
For al thi sin forgiven esse.”
This child spac graytheli wit mouthe,
Bot thoru kynde, spec it ne kouthe.
Bot thoru mirakel spac he thare,
And bad the bischop lef his kare,
And turn igain, als ic haf said,
Thar it in noriz arm was laid.
   This bischop flekerid in his thoht,
For graitheli no wist he noht,
Hougat this yong child spac him tille,
Quethir with god gast, or wit ille.
Forthi wald he noht turne igain,
No to the childes norz be bain,
And did him forthe als he war madde,
For riht repentanz mad him radde.
And an angel bi wai he mette,
In mannes fourm, that him grette,
And said, “Godd sendes me to thee,
And biddes thee bald and siker be,
That al thi sin forgiven isse,
And biddes thee turn and sing thi messe.”
The bischop for als he war medde,
And the angel to kirc him ledde,
And did his vestement him on,
And gert him sing his messe riht son.
   The bischop wel sang his messe than,
And sithen bicom a hali man,
That bathe lered and lawed said,

To ger him better be manne,
And stither stand igain Satane.
And bi this tale, mai we se alle,
That God tholes god men to falle,
For he wil that thai stither rise,
And be cunnand in his servise.
Als oft als man in sin falles,
Als oft Crist fra sin him calles,
And biddes him turn, wit swetli sware,
Fra sinne, and fal tharin no mare.
And forthi that Crist on slic wis
Bathe lates us falle, and gers us ris,
Symeon in our Godspel said,
That Crist to mani man was laid,
In falling and in rising bathe,
For Crist lates falle and rise bath,
Als we mai bi this bischop se,
For first he felle, and sithen ras he.
Prai we till God of hevin forthi,
That he haf of us mercye,
And yef we fal in any schathe,
He gif us graz to rise rathe,
And cum wit him to that blisse,
Thar nou this bischop wit him isse. Amen.
(see note); (t-note)

Who were; numbered among

in their
according to their circumstances
it happened

with their people


Holy Spirit
knew; suffer

stood by him

as a token of opposition
In other words

Judgment Day


recognize; (see note)
against [it]

as a sign
who will be spoken against

shall you; (t-note)

soul; grief

walking; old woman

happen through Christ

to redeem

What was customary under the law; went
it was well with

one; (t-note)
expounded in many ways

In one sense
said before

(see note)

arose spiritually

a Christian (a limb of the body of Christ)
He ought
(see note)

makes; path; (t-note)
readily; (t-note)

on high

(see note)




It happened

Put on his ceremonial vestments


exercised his power
love of her did lie
(see note)

in what manner
make us lose
It is hateful to him for men to come therein



would burst




maintained; fittingly

effort repay


by all means I must

before; (t-note)

grant you your reward

quickly; request(t-note)
did not hold back out of any shame

amazed; frightened

(see note)
she was reluctant; (see note)

destroy; ruin
not strong [enough]; (see note)

whore; (see note)
kept the agreement

Truly; if

beloved; (see note)

It seems to me
beloved paramour



bent; play




then he turned to folly
strongly; rose; (t-note)
felled him there
Little should we laugh and jeer

Is ready
rejects him [the devil] through his own turning
confesses himself; (t-note)
takes care that he


no man needs; despair


on high
Since you, who make

bonds; power
should we bless; preciously
I will not continue


ruined myself


teach and instruct; (see note)


scorn me



go astray
gracious speech

secret place; (see note)



forbade; (t-note)

a hair shirt; clothed

inflicted enough misery on that body
drew; (t-note)
requited it for what
deprived; peace

lay; ill satisfied

Thought it a great wonder regarding their bishop
complained; why





told; with sorrowful expression


quickly his shabby clothing; (t-note)


sunk in

need of comfort


high feast; (see note)

(see note)
Before he was confessed
beat upon
challenge; (t-note)
glad; promise


such grace; (t-note)

You ought to be displeased

a worse man than you think



cast off

turn; quickly; (t-note)


trust their advice
went away; as if; mad

at once
swaddling cloths lying

by nature; could not; (t-note)

lay aside

In what manner
Whether through; spirit

Nor; obedient
went forth
(see note)

confident and certain

went on as though he were mad

So that
experience was allotted to him

more strongly

wishes; stronger
wise; (t-note)
As often as

sweet words

such a manner
lets; makes



quickly; (see note)


[Homilies 7–10 not included in this edition. See Explanatory Notes.]

Go To Homily 11, Fourth Sunday after Epiphany