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1 This ends the preceding explanation. [Here] begins the Gospel for this Sunday according to Mark


Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Dictionary; NHC: Northern Homily Cycle; NIMEV: The New Index of Middle English Verse, ed. Boffey and Edwards; OI: Old Irish; ON: Old Norse; PL: Patrologia Latina, ed. Migne. For manuscript abbreviations (ED, A, D, G, L, V), see the Introduction.

The Ratio offers a brief explanation as to why the liturgical year begins with Advent: a month before the birth of Christ, Holy Church welcomes him with honor and mirth, and thanks God for sending him to free mankind from eternal damnation. The poet expresses here the Christian view of time which understands the birth of Christ as an eternally recur­ring event and one that is therefore celebrated every year.

NIMEV 323. Manuscripts: ED: fol. 16v; A: fol. 2v–3r; G: fols. 7v–8r; D: fols. 39v–40r; L: fol. 1v.

2 Satenas. After the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind was in the power of the devil, held prisoner in hell until released by Christ. The imagery of the world as a battleground with Christ as the ultimate victor in a war against Satan is vividly portrayed, inter alia, in the influential writings of the sixth-century Gregory the Great: “Daily we stand in the battle line, taking the blows of his temptations” (Moralia 2.18.32, quoted in Russell, Lucifer, p. 100; see PL 70.571). Not sur­pri­singly, the NHC-poet elides the question which perplexed theologians before and after Gregory, regarding the fate of the just who died before the Incarnation.

6 Of mankind hafd sa gret pité. Cp. John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son: that whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.”

10 Moht Crist noht by apon the rode. See note to Prol.30.

16 Gabbid. MED: ON; compare OI gabba, “to lie.” This of course is an allusion to the serpent’s deception of Adam and Eve as recounted in Genesis.

28 aller. A survival of the Old English genitive plural eallra. Old English adjectives were fully inflected, agreeing with nouns in case, number, and gender. These inflections disappeared rapidly from Middle English, but aller in various forms survived until the sixteenth century.


1 Ar. MS: r. This is a rare instance where the scribe has failed to pencil in a tiny letter at the beginning of a line, to mark where a capital letter was to be inserted.

40 murninge. MS: murnige.








Ar the fulthe of tim was comen
Satenas al folk aved nomen,
For mankind in prison he helde,
Wihtouten help, witouten belde,
Ai til God in Trinité
Of mankind hafd sa gret pité,
That he send his Son to take
Fleys and blod for mannes sake.
For witouten fleis and blode,
Moht Crist noht by apon the rode
Mankind, that in fleis and felle,
Was demed to the pin of helle.
Forthi hafd God of man mercie,
That was bigiled thoru envie
Of Satanas, that wiht lesinge
Gabbid Adam and his ospringe;
And gert mankind ga tille helle,
Thar he suld evermar duelle,
Yef it ne havid ben Godd Almihti,
That send his Son thoru his merci,
To yeld for mankind raunceoun,
And lesse us al of prisoun.
Goddes Sun and Goddes sande,
Com to les mankind of bande,
And was born of mayden Marye
Mankind on rode for to bie,
And forthi that Crist com us to,
Our aller nedes for to do.
A monethe bifor his birthe,
Hali Kirc wit menske and mirht,
Welcomes him everilke a yer,
And thankes God on fair maner,
For Cristes com and Goddes sande,
That lesed us of the fendes bande.
And forthi at that blisful tyme,
Quen Hali Kirk welcumes hime,
Wil I bigin to mak my spelle,
And of his com sumthing telle;
For Criste tocome mad endinge
Of al our soru and our murninge.
Before; fullness; (t-note)
had taken; (see note)

Forever until
(see note)

Might; purchase; cross; (see note)
flesh and skin
condemned; pain

Deceived; offspring; (see note)
made; go


yield; ransom
release; bonds


The needs of us all; (see note)

Holy Church with honor; mirth

coming; gift
freed; devil’s bonds


mourning; (t-note)
Explicit istud precedens Argumentum. Incipit Evangelium eiusdem Dominici secundum Marcum.1

Go To Homily 1, First Sunday in Advent