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The Life of Saint Francis in the South English Legendary (c. 1270-80)


1 In his youth he was a merchant and [at the same time] inclined towards virtue

2 Lines 4-6: But in charitable gifts and on poor men he spent (expended) his profits. / When any poor man asked him for charity, certainly he did not refrain, on account of any love of wealth, from giving him something

3 And throughout [the palace] all were inscribed with a fair cross

4 ["]I am too puny for such [a life], unless I equip myself better"

5 He purposed to be knighted by him

6 But he might as well have stayed home, the effort was for nothing

7 Lines 27-28: "Tell me," he said, " which can do the most good, a lord or a servant, a rich man or a poor man?"

8 You misinterpreted your dream: you must be more careful

9 Lines 34-35: . . . you come not yet to such a lofty position (lit., so high). / You shall have knights under you, to bear those arms (i.e., armor)

10 If not Friars Minor and their order, which he was destined to found?

11 He asked him [for] some charity for [the sake of] God's love; Saint Francis dismounted

12 Then he did not know where he had gone, nor did he see him in any place

13 . . . that He should give him some guidance

14 And give [to] them generously from his goods: by custom (habitually) he would do it

15 For in no other human form [than that of a leper] could one see Him so often

16 Thought that our Lord was talking about that one (the church of St. Damian); but it was not about that one at all

17 For its first founding was heralded by many fair signs and portents

18 So much wealth accept from him, unless it were with their consent

19 Saint Francis was anxious about him, he did not remain

20 So that anyone who saw him could hardly recognize him

21 Lines 91-93: And said, "Here comes a madman!" and dragged him quite forcibly, / And smote and pelted [him] here and there and threw dung at him. / Saint Francis kept on walking as if nothing happened

22 Since he could not get any other satisfaction, he tied him up very thoroughly

23 But when he saw finally that he (Francis) did not care about it at all

24 But now it has come so far (i.e., things have changed so much) that I no longer can [call you father]

25 A beggar [he] became and asked for his food, always [feeling] the pangs [of hunger]

26 It always seemed a long time until he got there [i.e., to start work]

27 Lines 148-50: And cried to God night and day that He would grant him his wish / And that He would grant him grace that, in whatever way he could, / He (Francis) best might raise up and adorn His church, which was in decline

28 And that they should never wear shoes

29 Lines 163-64: Without bag and without staff, without anything to spend. / And whoever does any of these things is not observing [the rules of] his order, in my opinion

30 He undid the book completely at random, and the first [page] that he came to

31 And carry his own cross, and take the same road as me

32 Sends us [the] grace [to know] on what sort of conditions we must found this order

33 Lines 194-65: And although this order was established, it was not authorized. / Saint Francis, this holy man, when God gave him the time (opportunity)

34 Resistant to his order, [so] that it would not be approved

35 And nonetheless he took a risk (made an effort) and grasped a branch of it

36 Because of it (the dream) he expected to obtain the pope's grace (goodwill)

37 Lines 211-14: When he came to Rome, he asked the noble pope Innocent to authorize his form of religion (his religious order), in order to reform Christendom, / And [said that] he wished to prove (validate) his order, and his rule also, / In relation to the Gospel of God's word, and to live according to it (the Gospel)

38 Lines 219-20: As a result a discussion was held amongst his cardinals: / Some held against it, and some firmly in favor

39 Everything he says is according to God's word

40 Lines 225-26: Also, by means of a nocturnal vision, the pope became convinced / That [he should] sanction his rule, so as to reform Christendom

41 As a result the pope granted him [permission] to put all his rule into practice

42 And preached the Gospel all around

43 When the [people of the] country first saw him, there was a lot of discussion [about him]

44 So that in many places they were given very little charity

45 That some of the friars had considered leaving the order

46 They did not know where he came from or where he withdrew to

47 For they had no other book, and they did not know how to obtain [any]

48 To bring the order to maturity there where they had first begun it

49 And wherever he was treated most shamefully

50 No matter how little food she may have, she has no less work to do

51 Lines 268-69: And very seldom curried also: she has neither nail nor scourge. / And he treated his own body in the same way and called it "Brother Ass"

52 He dragged himself and trudged barefoot along roads deep in mud

53 Lines 277-78: And as soon as the dish is set down she will be at the edge [of the dish]. / Of work she cares nothing, but only that she should fare (eat) well

54 Lines 279-80: A man who has worked all day, although he might swear [it will be otherwise], / No matter how quickly he sits down to his dinner she (the fly) will be there before him

55 But when people are on their way to dinner all energetic he is for it

56 And once they have eaten and drunk, that is all their work done

57 Lines 293-94: [Such abuse] is very fitting, and perfectly lawful, for the son of Peter Bernardone. / It is right for me to hear tell of [such things]. I ought to be glad and happy

58 Therefore whosoever might wish to please him

59 Lines 299-303: These proud pricasours, wheresoever they travel nowadays, / How well they bob up and down and stretch themselves up on high, for their pride, they don't know how to walk! / They seem not to want to walk, but to fly higher than a kite! / What, whither do they think [to go]? They will all come to nothing (lit., very little will come of it all). / In Apulia Saint Francis was walking across country one time

60 "I do not want," said Saint Francis, "to take and distribute something that belongs to others"

61 Then a snake crept outside, the grisliest (most repulsive) there could be (lit., that could walk)

62 Lines 317-18: But nevertheless I expect, although the Devil were all changed into coins, / I expect these merchants would still accept some of them

63 Lines 335-36: And rotted and stank most foul. No creature that saw it, / Neither raven nor any other fowl, would come near there

64 Lines 341-44: One day Saint Francis told this sheep to go to church at each of the [canonical] Hours, whenever it heard the friars singing, and not to remain behind for anything. / After that particular occasion, whenever it heard the friars in the choir, this sheep would seldom stay away and miss being at each of the Hours

65 A wondrous clerk it was, come to God's sheepfold

66 When Saint Francis came up to them, they still would not once fly away

67 They began to recite their [breviary] Hours among all these birds

68 And afterwards you may [sing yours], each with your mate

69 ["]. . . you need not wait any longer"

70 Lines 375-76: This holy man paused for a moment and thought about teaching them something worthwhile, / And he began to preach to these birds as though to intelligent human beings

71 Lines 378-79: For you of all creatures ought to honor Him / For he endowed you with enough [natural] nobility (splendor)

72 Lines 381-85: ["]And food where you wish to alight, without any kind of work. / He gives you as much dignity and ease as any one can imagine. / You have no need to delve or dig, as many a man must do, / And yet you may have food enough, [while] others may not." / These birds listened very quietly, while his preaching lasted

73 Lines 388-89: . . . not one of them would take off, / Before he bade them be off to where they needed to be

74 There was no other thing on which he meditated so steadfastly

75 Thus on Holy Cross day, which falls just before Michaelmas

76 He meditated with unfathomable profundity on our Lord's wounds

77 Six wings, it seemed to him, he had, which shone bright and wide

78 As is often seen painted in a church, at least by those who go there

79 And the feet stretched straight out, all running with blood

80 And especially [because] of our Lord's wounds that he had wished for day and night

81 In that instant they were pierced through and the nails stuck in there

82 The points were oblong, as [if] they had been hammered back

83 And as [if] around each nail-head it (the flesh) were painfully inflamed

84 Lines 421-22: In this way, we may think about what our Lord's wounds were really like, / For in Saint Francis they were not a mere pictorial image of His wounds

85 But he carefully hid his feet and hands [so] that people could not see his wounds

86 And the wounds often bled, especially from his side

87 He worried a lot as to how he could quietly make it cease

88 Lines 442-44: That [God] not deprive him of all his goods, but that some might be left. / While he was sleeping, it came to him spiritually, as a message from God, / That he should take some of the water with which Saint Francis washed his hands

89 Or his feet, and sprinkle it over his livestock

90 And took of this water secretly, unobtrusively on his own

91 Lines 454-55: In the end there was hardly anything left of him but skin and bone. / He was in considerable pain, and when he was in a bout of extreme agony

92 To make his pain greater, and the earth he kissed also

93 He instructed them who were around him that, at the hour of his death

94 At last, when he saw Death and felt his might

95 That for [the sake of] worldly pride lie (in state) in the body

96 And sang merrily throughout the night

97 When the soul went to Heaven, although it was against their nature

98 "Saint Francis, indeed"


Abbreviations: A = Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 43 (SC 6924), fols. 142v-149r [base text]; L = Bodleian Library MS Laud Misc. 108 (SC 1486), fols. 41v-46v, ed. Horstmann, ESEL, EETS o.s. 87, pp. 53-67; LM = Bonaventure, Legenda major.

1 Frances. This form of the saint's name is used once more in the poem (line 10) but beginning with line 47 it is replaced with the more linguistically correct form, Franceis, which is closer to the forms used in L: Franceys, Fraunceys, Fraunceis (line 1 and passim).

Frere Menour. On the significance of this name for a member of the Franciscan order, see the Introduction to this chapter.

21 Apulé. The Apulian knight, unidentified in LM, was Walter of Brienne (d. 1202), leader of the papal forces in their war against the German princes (see Habig, p. 563n20). Francis as a young man apparently thirsted for military glory, fought in the battle between Assisi and Perugia (1202), and was taken prisoner. See the conflicting accounts of the Apulian affair by Thomas of Celano in his First Life I.4 (Habig, pp. 232-33) and Second Life I.4-6 (Habig, pp. 364-66).

24 Other armes. The poet alludes to the armor of "spiritual warfare," as in Ephesians. 6:10-18, traditionally attributed to monks and popularized in the words of Martin of Tours: Christi ego miles sum, "I am a soldier of Christ" (Life of Saint Martin, ch. 4, trans. Hoare, The Western Fathers, p. 16).

31 This verse is metrically short, containing only four strong beats instead of the usual seven, although the second half-line was originally regular, with three beats, since lord was originally loverd, with two syllables, as in line 29, allowing a heavy stress on thou (see L, line 29). But I can see no way to wring an extra two beats out of the first half-line in either text.

32-34 SEL has omitted Francis' question in LM, "Lord . . . What will you have me do?" but has elaborated on God's reply: "Go back to your own town. The vision which you saw foretold a spiritual achievement which will be accomplished in you by God's will, not man's" (LM I.3, Habig, p. 637). See also below, explanatory note on lines 41-44.

35 lede. See MED leden 6(d), where this use of "lead" to mean "carry," or "bear," especially weapons or armor, is seen to be common in ME secular romances.

37-40 These lines express most of the substance of LM I.4 (Habig, p. 638), in which Francis is compared to the merchant in the gospel parable who sold everything he had to buy a precious pearl, the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:45-46). But the precise nature of his next move eludes him.

41-44 These two couplets, clarifying the symbolism of Francis' earlier vision, are lacking in the earliest version of SEL (for an earlier interpolation by presumably the same reviser, see lines 23-24), and they are not suggested by anything in LM. The reviser is here building on his expanded version of God's words to Francis at lines 32-34 (see the note above), where he implies that the arms in the vision are for the future Franciscan friars ("knyghtes under thee," line 35). Here he makes this more explicit. The vision is about the foundation of the Franciscan order, as well as Francis' heavenly reward as its founder. Bonaventure merely says at this point that through this vision God showed Francis "that the kindness he had done a poor knight for love of the supreme King would be repaid with an incomparable reward" (LM I.3, Habig, p. 637). Much later in LM, however, Bonaventure explains this reward as the Stigmata, the miraculous marking of Francis' body with the "arms" or heraldic symbol of Christ in the form of the bloody wounds in his hands, feet and side. "O valiant knight of Christ! You are armed with the weapons of your invulnerable Leader. They will mark you out and enable you to overcome all your enemies. It is for you to bear aloft the standard of the High King. . . . The very first vision that you saw has now been fulfilled; it was revealed to you then that you were to be a captain in Christ's army and that you should bear arms which were emblazoned with the sign of the cross" (LM XII.9-10, Habig, p. 735). For the poem's account of the stigmatization of Francis, see below, lines 413-20.

46 lolich. A variant spelling of lodlich, loathly (as in L, line 40).

51 ho it was. I.e., Jesus, posing as a leper.

53-56 Compare LM I.6, Habig, p. 639. SEL omits the second part of this chapter of LM, in which, among other things, Francis is said to have gone to Rome and, giving away his clothes to one of the many beggars in front of St. Peter's, put on rags and sat among the beggars himself for a whole day, "filled with an unaccustomed joy of spirit" (Habig, p. 640).

57-60 This passage exhorting rich men to remember that Christ is frequently to be found among the lepers is an interpolation of the A reviser. For a well-known example of Christ's supposed appearance in the form of this, the most abject and loathed of medieval humanity, see the Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaller in ScL, lines 409-72 (in VIII, below). Biblical passages that gave rise to such stories include Isaias 53:4 (et nos putavimus eum quasi leprosum, "we thought of him as a leper"), and Jesus' parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). See Brody, The Disease of the Soul, pp. 101-04. The spirit of Franciscan humility and charity is aptly dramatized in this image of the saint embracing the leper. That the friars did not retain this spirit is suggested in the portrait of Chaucer's Friar, among whose many anti-fraternal traits is his studied avoidance of beggars and lazars or lepers (General Prologue, CT I[A]243-45):
For unto swich a worthy man as he
Acorded nat, as by his facultee,
To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce.
61 Damyan. The church of San Damiano (one of the physician brothers, Cosmas and Damian) was at this time about a half mile outside Assisi.

66 sucst. Dialectal variant of ME sih(e)st. The "h/c" sound derives regularly from the uncontracted forms of OE seon (from *siohan); the -h- of the original stem was retained in the oblique forms until late ME. See also line 402, "such."

struid. Aphetic form of "destroyed."

72 toknynge. The revelation of a future event in symbolic and prophetic terms.

fale. A variant of ME fele (from OE fæle) meaning "good," "fitting," or "proper" (compare line 308, "unvele") especially in secular alliterative poetry. Notice the elaborate alliterative patterning of this line.

78-79 The account in LM II.1 is more extreme in its depiction of Francis' contempt for money: "In his dislike of money in any form, Francis threw it on the windowsill, and had no more interest in it than if it were dust" (Habig, p. 641).

84 In LM Francis hides in a cave, but the ditch certainly makes his misery and deranged appearance more credible.

91 harlede. A: hardlede. ME harlen, "to drag," is of unknown origin.

92 caste. See MED casten, 1(d), for other examples of the meaning "to throw at."

97 non other good. The sense is difficult (but compare MED god: 8[e], have god of, "receive benefit from"), and the line may be corrupt. L has non oþur word, i.e., Francis refused to tell him where the money was (line 83).

103 godemon. Used as a title of respect for a householder or husband (compare Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown), but doubtless somewhat ironic here. L has housebonde (line 89).

109 al then ende. The text may be corrupt, since the usual phrase is at then ende, where then is the remnant of the OE dative singular (compare æt þæm ende) required by the preposition.

112 up it take. See MED taken, 31a(h), "to give (something) up." Taken often means "give" in legal contexts, as here. Compare LM I.2.4 (Habig, p. 642): "Now that he had recovered his money, he arranged to have Francis brought before the bishop of the diocese, where he should renounce all his claims and return everything he had." In the Middle Ages, wills and other legal aspects of inheritance and patrimony were not adjudicated by the secular courts but by the church courts, nominally under the bishop.

115-16 In LM I.2.4 (Habig, p. 643), Francis on taking off his clothes is found to be wearing a hair shirt, traditional undergarment of the ascetic.

117 icluped. The past participle of ME clepen (from OE clipian, geclipod), in which the stem vowel varies according to the dialect.

122-25 The poem drastically abridges LM's account (II.4, Habig, p. 643) of the clothing of Francis. Bonaventure tells how the bishop embraced Francis with delight after his self-dedication to his new Father, and covered him with his own cloak while his servants brought the young man an outfit belonging to one of the bishop's farmhands. SEL retains the farmhand in the uplondisc mon (line 123), but uses him to suppress the bishop's role completely. From this point on, the poem begins to abridge its much lengthier source more frequently and freely, omitting the substance of the next two chapters of LM (II.5-6, Habig, pp. 643-44), in which Francis actually enjoys being beaten up and left in a ditch by bandits, and then, after begging for a night's food and shelter at a monastery, goes to Gubbio, gets a cloak from an old friend and begins to live with and care for the lepers. He also heals a man with an incurable lesion on his lips by kissing him on the mouth.

126 underveng. Compare OE underfeng, regular past tense of the verb underfon.

138-39 Bonaventure (LM II.7, Habig, p. 645) gives the impression that Francis carried out the repairs on San Damiano, and the other churches mentioned later, virtually on his own, whereas the poet, more realistically, makes clear that he simply worked as a laborer for the skilled craftsmen who would be doing the actual renovation.

147 in Desert. The third church Francis rebuilt, in which he was to establish his order, was in the woods just outside Assisi. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and called locally La Portiuncula. The name given here in Desert may be due to the fact that Bonaventure says it was deserta, deserted.

151-52 Compare LM II.8 (Habig, pp. 645-46): "This was the place where St. Francis founded the Order of Friars Minor by divine inspiration."

154 The feast of Saint Matthias, February 23 (1208).

155 me rat. "One reads," especially as the lection from the Gospel at Mass. Rat is a contracted form, from *radet(h), third singular present tense of rade(n), a variant form of rede(n), from OE rædan.

156-59 Matthew 10:9-10.

161 The episode is reminiscent of one from the opening of the Life of St. Antony, where he hears the Gospel being read in church as a divine message to himself: see the translation in Stouck, ed., Medieval Saints: A Reader, p. 58.

164 ich wene. This is not just a rhyming tag. The poet's "in my opinion" is a pointed allusion to the problem of how to interpret the "ordre" or rule of St. Francis: strictly and literally, or with various kinds of compromising "glosses," which were designed to alleviate the more severe aspects of Franciscan asceticism. On this controversy, between the "Spirituals" and "Conventuals," see the Introduction to this chapter.

169 Bernard. Bernard of Quintavalle, from a wealthy Assisi family, is not named as a scholar in LM, although in the Legend of the Three Companions he has the cognomen "Master," and is known to have been a magistrate of the city. For a detailed account of Bernard and Francis, see Moorman, History, pp. 10-11.

174 The sense here is of not picking a place in the book deliberately, but opening it at a random page, as though to let God's providence show Francis which pieces of scripture he needs for guidance. Just as his earlier experience of hearing a crucial piece of scripture echoed that of St. Antony (see explanatory note on line 161), so this act of opening a sacred book at random, looking for divine help, echoes that of St. Augustine, Confessions VIII.12 (trans. and intro. Pine-Coffin, p. 178), who in the same context alludes to the St. Antony episode. The Francis legend thus plays an elaborate game with this hagiographic tradition of textual inspiration, aural and written. On the early Christian and pre-Christian context of bibliomancy, see Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church, pp. 239-40.

175-76 Matthew 19:21. This was the first passage heard by St. Antony in the incident referred to above (see explanatory note on line 161).

177-78 Luke 9:3.

181-82 Matthew 16:24.

183-85 Notice the use of the same rhyme, on -ounde, in two successive couplets, and the clever "rich rhyme," founde/ifounde. It not only links the couplets, but also puns on the providential connection between the finding of the three scriptural passages and the founding of the order. The elaborate poetics of this quatrain testifies again to the poet's emphasis on the history and justification of the order as much as on the sanctity of Francis himself. The lines are suggested partly by Francis' short statement in LM: "This is our life and our rule" (LM III.3, Habig, p. 648), but also by Bonaventure's own statement somewhat later when he mentions the writing of the actual rule (LM III.8, Habig, pp. 650-51): "Francis wrote a short, simple, rule of life for himself and his companions. This was based on an unshakeable foundation, the following of the Gospel." But then Bonaventure is careful to say also that "to this he added a limited number of other prescriptions, such as seemed necessary for their life in common." This casual reference masks the deeply controversial nature of the rule and the complex history of its development. The rule referred to here is the so-called "Primitive Rule," approved by Pope Innocent III in 1209 (see below, lines 195ff.). No trace of it remains, but various attempts have been made to reconstruct it from the later First Rule (1221), Second Rule (1223), and Francis' other writings. See Moorman, Sources, pp. 51-54, and History, pp. 15-16.

188 Perhaps suggested by Francis' words in Bonaventure's LM III.3 (Habig, p. 648): "and everyone who comes to join our company must be prepared to do this." But the poet seems especially concerned with proper observance of the Franciscan rule. Compare also above, line 164.

191 The poet's designation of Brother Giles as a good scoler flatly contradicts all the Latin sources, in which it is implied that he was a simple and unlearned layman, although he earned a reputation for mystical raptures in later life (Moorman, History, pp. 257-58).

192 other thre. Silvester (a priest), Peter Catani, and another left unnamed by Bonaventure (LM III.4-5, Habig, pp. 648-49).

196 SEL omits the substance of LM III.6-7 (Habig, pp. 649-50), recounting one of Francis' mystical ecstasies, and the order's first preaching mission (eight friars including Francis going off in pairs in opposite directions). It was after this, when the order comprised a total of twelve, that Bonaventure says Francis composed his rule (1209), and it was this written rule that he took to Rome to be approved by the pope.

confermy. The -i/y infinitive suffix, a weakened form of earlier -in, is common in early ME Southwestern texts in verbs of the OE Weak Class II (OE -ian), into which class also most loanwords from ON and OF (as here) were attracted. Other, comparable verbs from OF are "granti" (line 212), "prevy" (line 213), etc. One would expect the poet's repeated use of confermi to have been prompted by a similar verb in the Latin of LM, but Bonaventura uses the verb confirmare only once in his account of Francis' trip to Rome, during John of St. Paul's speech reproving the cardinals for doubting the validity of Francis' mission (cum petat confirmari sibi formam evangelicae vitae, "because he is only asking us to approve a form of Gospel life"; LM III.9, Habig, p. 652), but the Latin verb that is invariably the equivalent of the ME poet's confermi is approbari (e.g., LM III.8: approbari quae scripserat; LM III.9: regulam approbari).

198 that he iconfermed nere. The referent of the pronoun he is ordre. The A scribe's use of the masculine form (which is correct, since the Latin ordo and its French derivative are masculine) contrasts with L's heo (line 181). The A scribe switches to the feminine pronoun when referring to the "reule." See below, line 215 and explanatory note.

203 aunter him dude. See MED aventure 3(e).

207-10 In contrast to his earlier misinterpretations of his visionary revelations, Francis is shown here to have become more adept at spiritual understanding: he reads the dream figuratively rather than literally.

215 heo was clene and good. The poet refers to the rule as feminine (heo = she), and virginal (clene and good), in a rare "gendered" usage of grammatical gender (Latin regula is feminine, as was riwle in early ME). According to Bonaventure, however, it is not the rule but Francis' "wonderful purity of heart" and religious zeal that impress Innocent (LM III.9, Habig, p. 652).

218-20 Bonaventure is more specific: "some of the cardinals . . . thought that the rule was too difficult for any human being" (LM III.9, Habig, p. 652).

225-28 The poet typically reduces a complex episode to focus simply on the rule of the Franciscan order. He omits completely Francis' elaborate allegory of the marriage of Christ the King and the beauteous spirit of Poverty, "a story which [Francis] had learned from God," and in asserting that the pope's vision was about granting Francis' rule, he sacrifices one of the most famous episodes in the legend: see LM III.10 (Habig, pp. 652-53), and Giotto's fresco in the nave of the upper church of the Basilica of Saint Francis, Assisi, where Innocent is shown on the right, asleep in bed (wearing his papal tiara!), while opposite him on the left Francis holds up the falling wall of the Lateran basilica on his right shoulder. See the color reproduction on the front cover of Morello and Kanter, eds., The Treasury of Saint Francis of Assisi. Notice how in Bonaventure's scheme of things the pope's vision of Francis holding up the Church balances the earlier one of Francis bending down the papal tree. It is uncertain what significance we should attach to the near suppression of the Lateran episode here in SEL's Life of Francis, while its blatant counterpart in LA's Life of Dominic is retained in detail in the SEL version of the latter, lines 84-95 (ESEL, ed. Horstmann, p. 280), where Pope Innocent dreams of Dominic rushing to prop up the tottering edifice of the Lateran.

228 confermede. Pope Innocent's initial approval of Francis' order was oral and not yet legally binding. Five years later, at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, at Francis' urging, the pope formally announced that the Franciscans, like the new Dominicans, were to be considered one of the officially constituted orders of the Church. Moorman, History, pp. 18-19, 29-30.

229-42 This episode, illustrating what commitment to the order and to poverty means for the Friars, is partly invented by the poet. In LM at this point, Francis decides they should travel from Rome towards Spoleto, "where he determined to preach Christ's Gospel and live according to it" but the episode of the brothers' hunger and the mysterious roadside provider occurs before they reach Spoleto, and there is no mention of preaching, hostile reactions from the people, Anti-Christ, or possible defections (LM IV.1; Habig, pp. 653-54). Bonaventure does say that the apparently miraculous provision of food encourages the brothers "never to go back on the promise which they had made to Holy Poverty," however much they might suffer, whereas the ME poet stresses their renewed fidelity to the order as well as to poverty.

238 war he bicom ne wudeward he drough. Bonaventure says the friars did not know "whence he came or where he went" (LM IV.1, Habig, p. 654), and our footnote gloss takes the ME as a literal rendering of this, but war he bicom could also mean "what became of him," and the two clauses could be simply alternative expressions of the same idea.

241-42 And bihete God . . . poverte vorgo. The scansion of 242 seems particularly awkward. 242a appears "light"(with only three strong beats at best), and 242b appears "heavy," with four strong beats, if poverte is scanned with stress on the first and third syllables. Moving the caesura in 242 so that it follows mighte instead of nolde would produce the standard four beats in 242a (In the ORDre hi NOLde BI hor MIGHTe) and 242b might then be scanned: POVerTE vorGO. Compare L (lines 224-25): And bihieten god þat huy nolden neuere : for miseise ne for wo / In þe ordre bi heore miʒhte : pouerte furgo. But the A scribe elsewhere (e.g., lines 134, 288) seems to favor the alternative ME pronunciation of poverte (often spelled povert), with one strong stress on the second syllable, and this may have prompted his particular version of this line. It is unclear what the original version of 241-42 would have been, since neither L's nor A's version is satisfactory.

251 Seyn Marie in Desert. I.e., Saint Mary in Portiunculla. See above, line 147.

263-72 This rather repetitious passage is expanded from one sentence in LM V.6 (Habig, p. 666): "He used to call his body 'Brother Ass,' as if it were fit for nothing more than hard labor and frequent ill-treatment with a whip, while having only the poorest type of food to live on."

264 his. Except here, where his may be either masculine or neuter, the poet uses the feminine pronoun heo to refer to the ass throughout this passage.

273-86 Again, the ME poet expands at length on a topic that is mentioned only briefly in LM V.6 (Habig, pp. 666-67): "If he saw that a friar was given to standing about idle, waiting to be fed by the labor of others, he called him 'Brother Fly,' because he detracted from the good done by others and did no good to himself." In Thomas of Celanos' Second Life, chapter CXXI, there is a diatribe against idle friars, which shares some general ideas with the SEL-poet (e.g., "working more with their jaws than with their hands . . . Though they do nothing, they consider themselves always occupied. They know the hours of the meals, and if hunger takes hold of them, they complain that the sun has gone to sleep," Habig, p. 492), but the poet's bitter picture of the habits of flies themselves (lines 275-79) seems his own.

293-94 Francis' words here closely follow those in LM VI.1, Habig, p. 671: "God bless you my son. What you say is true. That is the kind of thing the son of Peter Bernardone should have to listen to." But Francis (pointedly invoking his mundane identity as the son of a merchant) says this to one of the friars, whom he has ordered to abuse him verbally, to offset the people's praise. The SEL-poet's version, in which the people abuse Francis spontaneously, is less artificial, but less faithful to hagiographic tradition: compare the fifth-century Sayings of the Father (Verba Seniorum), where similar behavior is attributed to Abbot Macarius the Great (Ward, Sayings of the Desert Fathers, p. 134).

299 These boisterously satirical lines (aimed at friars who ride rather than walk?), comprising a mono-rhyme quatrain, are apparently the interpolation of the A reviser, although according to Görlach (Textual Tradition, p. 194) only two MSS besides A contain the whole quatrain (British Library MSS Cotton Julius A.ix and Egerton 1993; BL Stowe 949 has the first two lines of the quatrain).

303-16 For the source of this episode, see LM VII.5, Habig, pp. 682-83. Most of the substance of Bonaventure's chapters V and VI are omitted. Note the caustic interpolation of the A reviser that follows (lines 317-18).

305 tok no more gome. "Paid no more heed": the expression is parallel to "nom never yeme" (line 259), but using words of Scandinavian origin (ON taka, gaumr). The epithet gawmless, meaning "heedless," "stupid," survives in the Lancashire dialect today.

319-36 For Bonaventure's version of this episode, see LM VIII.6, Habig, pp. 692-93. The poet follows LM in prefacing the story of the killer sow with allusions to the lamb's New Testament symbolism (see explanatory note on line 321), but Bonaventure places the story in the larger context of his virtue of compassion, "which led him to devote himself humbly to his neighbor and enabled him to return to the state of primeval innocence by restoring man's harmony with the whole of creation" (LM VIII.1, Habig, p. 688). The SEL-poet's description of the sow's death is much more graphic than in Bonaventure: "the vicious sow fell sick and after suffering for three days it eventually expiated its crime by death. The carcass was thrown into the monastery moat where it lay for a long time and became as hard as a board, so that even the hungriest animal refused to eat it" (LM VIII.6, Habig, p. 693).

321 Compare John 1:29: "The next day, John [the Baptist] saw Jesus coming to him; and he saith: 'Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who taketh away the sin of the world.'"

328 dest. The form is present tense, as in doest. L has dudest (line 305).

342 eche tyde. In the early days of the Franciscan order, the brothers, who were laymen, had no service books (see above, lines 246-50) or liturgical training, and their simple mode of divine worship was improvised by Francis himself. In time, however, as individual communities of friars came to have the use of churches and more of their members had clerical training, they would devote at least part of their daily routine to singing the canonical hours, or services of the Divine Office, at set times of the day, like monks in monasteries and canons in secular minsters. The OE word tid was regularly used for "hour" in this and other senses. The Englishman Haymo of Faversham, who rose to be Minister General of the whole order, drew up a breviary for the use of the Franciscans that was eventually adopted as the official service book of the Roman Church. See Moorman, History, p. 107.

347 sacred. The sheep attended mass as well as the Hours of the Daily Office. It is ironic that the SEL-poet should allude to one of Francis' intensest religious devotions, to the Eucharist, only in this droll context. On the especially visual quality of Francis' Eucharistic zeal, see Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast, p. 99. See also LM IX.2, Habig, p. 699.

349 Godes flesc. I.e., at the consecration of the Host. L has sacringe (line 326).

350 on. The pronoun form of a, an, here used pleonastically (see OED one, B.VI.22).

folde. Several other MSS, including L (line 327), have bolde ("building"), but folde ("sheepfold") makes for an amusing play on the literal and figurative meanings of the sheep/shepherd imagery in ecclesiastical contexts (compare Chaucer's Parson, "who kepte well his folde" (CT I[A]512), and Milton's Lycidas (line 115). This sheep story, with its moral (line 349), is a modified version of LM VIII.7 (Habig, pp. 693-94).

356 The yut. From OE þa giet ("when yet/while").

357 Beu frere. Francis is addressing his companion, another friar. This episode, which anticipates the more famous one in which Francis actually preaches to the birds (below, lines 371-90), is based on LM VIII.9.

360 tyden. Itinerant clergy, whether monks or friars, were supposed to read or recite the canonical horae at the appropriate times of day and night even when they were not in church, wherever they happened to be (whereas church service books were often very large, many itinerant clerics had portable, compact breviaries). Compare the monk, Daun John, in Chaucer's Shipman's Tale, who has just finished reciting his early morning "thynges . . . curteisly" in the merchant's garden when the wife encounters him (CT VII[B2]91).

364 ivere. From OE gefera, "comrade," "companion," "wife." L has simply fere (line 341). Compare Chaucer's Parlement of Fowles, lines 410 and 416.

368 dorre. This verb in ME frequently means "need" rather than "dare," through confusion in ME of the OE verbs þurfan, "need," and durran, "dare." Another instance is at line 383. See also St. Jerome and the Lion (III[b], above), explanatory note on "thurft," line 23.

371-90 The episode that begins here is the only one selected from Bonaventure's chapter on Francis' powers as a preacher and healer (LM XII), which begins with the crisis of confidence that preceded one of his preaching missions. Bonaventure tells in detail (LM XII.1, Habig, pp. 720-22) how Francis was torn between, on the one hand, the appeal of the contemplative's angelic life of solitary prayer and, on the other hand, the missionary imperative to follow Christ's own model as a preacher and teacher in the world. Francis could not resolve this dilemma himself, but asked for spiritual guidance from (ironically) two contemplatives, Silvester and Clare, who sent word he should devote himself to preaching.

The present episode, the saint's sermon to the birds, is based closely on LM XII.3 (Habig, pp. 722-23), which renders the sermon proper as follows: "My brothers, you have a great obligation to praise your Creator. He clothed you with feathers and gave you wings to fly, appointing the clear air as your home, and he looks after you without any effort on your part." The SEL-poet's somewhat more elaborate version of this speech (lines 377-84) may be intended as a veiled admonition to the nobility to be thankful to God for their life of ease and privilege. His expansion may have been suggested by the more elaborate version in Thomas of Celano's First Life, I.21 (Habig, p. 278), especially this sentence: "God made you noble among his creatures."

391-93 Bonaventure explains that this intense devotion to Christ's Passion was prompted by another session of bibliomancy, in which Francis asked a companion to open the Gospels three times in succession. Each time the book opened, it did so at the Passion narrative (LM XIII.2, Habig, pp. 729-30), indicating to Francis that henceforth until his death he was to imitate Christ's suffering and death just as he has so far imitated his life as a traveling preacher and healer. But the ME poet bypasses the bibliomantic episode and explains Francis' motivation for his La Verna retreat in terms of the familiar late medieval popular devotion to the wounds of Christ (see explanatory note on line 422, below), but using language that notably avoids the imagery of burning love and ecstatic longing that is characteristic of late medieval mysticism in general and of Bonaventure's narrative in particular.

394 Holi Rode tid . . . Mielmasse. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross falls on September 14, that of St. Michael Archangel on September 29. Referring to feasts in this way to indicate the date of an event was as common in the Middle Ages as giving the month and numerical day (see in III, above, the opening lines of Simon Winter's prologue to his Life of Saint Jerome). According to Bonaventure, Francis had gone up on to Mount La Verna for a forty-day fast in honor of Saint Michael"as was his custom" (LM XIII.1, Habig, 729). Bonaventure explains elsewhere (LM IX.3, Habig, p. 699) that Francis would fast in solitude for certain forty-day periods during the year, including the period from the Feast of Mary's Assumption (August 15) to that of Saint Michael (September 29). The SEL-poet indicates his awareness of this again later, line 426, where he says the vision of the Seraph occurred"aboute an month" after Francis began his fast on the mountain. The vision and the subsequent experience of the Stigmata are said to have occurred on or about Holy Cross Day (LM XIII.3, Habig, p. 730). The year was 1224.

395 Averne. Bonaventure and Celano call the mountain Alverna, so oral tradition among the English Franciscans may explain the ME pronunciation. Line 395a has eight syllables (Upe has two) but does not scan properly unless equal stress is placed on the first and second syllables of Averne.

398-406 Bonaventure seems to depict a 6-winged seraph holding a cross on which is the crucified figure: "the image of a Man crucified in the midst of the wings, with his hands and feet stretched out and nailed to a cross. Two of the wings were raised above his head and two were stretched out in flight, while two shielded his body" (LM XIII.3, Habig, p. 730). But the ME poet does not visualize an actual cross. Rather he pictures the winged being himself with his arms and feet stretched out and pierced "as if they were on the cross" (line 403). Certainly one of the earliest representations of the vision, painted in 1235, less than ten years after the saint's death by one Bonaventure Berlingheri (Church of San Francesco, Pescia), corresponds to the poet's account more than to that in LM, showing only the head, and the wounded hands and feet, peeping out from among the elaborately arranged wings (see Morello and Kanter, eds., Treasury of Saint Francis, pp. 30, 56). However, in the manuscript drawing by the contemporary English Benedictine artist and writer, Matthew Paris, the winged seraph is nailed to a large cross behind the wings (A. G. Little, ed., Franciscan History and Legend, Ch. IV, Pl. 8b). Bonaventure gives a somewhat clearer picture of the seraph in his Legenda minor VI.1 (Habig, p. 821), where he states that it was "the seraph that was nailed to the cross although he had wings."

402 As me such ofte in chirch ipeynt. The word such, "sees," may be a contraction, or simply a scribal misspelling, of the Southwestern dialect sucth or suh(e)th (compare Midland sihth, later seeth), the third-person singular of see(n). Compare the second-person singular form above, lines 183, 185. Most of the Saint Francis paintings that the poet says were plentiful in English churches have not survived. See Little, Franciscan History and Legend, pp. 7-11. On the popularity of the scene in medieval art in general, see Frugoni, Francesco e l'invenzione delle stimmate.

406 The wording of this verse seems suggested by Bonaventure's phrasing: "[Francis] was overjoyed at the way Christ regarded him so graciously under the appearance of a Seraph" (LM XIII.3, Habig, p. 730), but the poet suppresses the metaphysical subtleties that follow. Bonaventure goes on to attribute to Francis a typically Scholastic reservation, that "the agony of Christ's passion was not in keeping with the state of a seraphic spirit which is immortal," i.e., an angel is incapable by nature of experiencing the wounds of crucifixion. But, presumably since the Seraph is especially associated with the fire of divine love, the vision is to be taken as an elaborate sign to Francis that "he would resemble Christ crucified perfectly not by physical martyrdom, but by the fervor of his spirit" (LM XIII.3, Habig, p. 731).

411-20 On the late medieval devotion to the wounds of Christ, see below, note on 422. Bonaventure explains that Francis' total love for Jesus involved a desire to imitate him completely, to the point of dying like him as a martyr for the faith: "he longed to offer himself as a living victim to God by the sword of martyrdom; in this way he would repay Christ for his love in dying for us." (LM IX.5; Habig, p. 701) More than once Francis actually set out on missionary journeys to Moslem countries, to preach the gospel and, he hoped, suffer martyrdom, but his expectations were frustrated (LM IX 5-9; Habig, pp. 701-05). Bonaventure explains that the vision on La Verna, and the Stigmata themselves, were God's way of letting Francis "resemble Christ perfectly not by physical martyrdom, but by the fervor of his spirit" (LM XIII.3, Habig, p. 731). See Moorman, History, p. 49.

The ME poet has done his best to convey the gist of Bonaventure's account of the bizarre and much discussed phenomenon of the Stigmata of Saint Francis, differing mainly with respect to the nail-points: "There and then the marks of nails began to appear in his hands and feet, just as he had seen them in his vision of the Man nailed to the Cross. His hands and feet appeared pierced through the center with nails, the heads of which were in the palms of his hands and on the instep of each foot, while the points stuck out on the opposite side. The heads were black and round, but the points were long and bent back, as if they had been struck with a hammer; they rose above the surrounding flesh and stood out from it" (LM XIII.3, Habig, p. 731). The earlier biographer, Thomas of Celano, in his First Life (II.3, Habig, p. 309), does not claim that there were actual nails in Francis' hands and feet, but rather that "some small pieces of flesh took on the appearance of the ends of the nails, bent and driven back and rising above the rest of the flesh."

422 ensample. Cited by MED (ensample 2[b]) as meaning "symbol, sign, token," the word here may be used more in the sense of the Latin word exemplum, "drawing, picture, sketch." Compare L, where ansample is coupled with schewingue, vision, manifestation (line 401: For bote ase a schewinge and Ansaumple : in seint Fraunceyse huy nere). Bonaventure explains that when he came off the mountain Francis "bore a representation of Christ crucified which was not the work of an artist in wood or stone (ferens Crucifixi effigiem, non in tabulis lapideis vel ligneis manu figuratam artificis) but had been reproduced (descriptam) in the members of his body by the hand of the living God" (LM XIII.5, Habig, p. 732; compare Exodus 31:18). Francis' stigmata are not a mere image of Christ's wounds, such as a human artist could depict, but a fresh realization of them by God himself, whose handiwork is fleshly reality. Hence the SEL-poet's remark that through Francis' wounds people knew what Jesus' wounds were really like. This urge to grasp, and to various degrees experience, the physical reality of the Passion is part of what Duffy (The Stripping of the Altars, p. 235) terms "the central devotional activity of all seriously minded Christians" in the later Middle Ages: namely, the devotion to the Passion, and particularly the Five Wounds of Christ, which the poet invokes in lines 422-23. Compare Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, lines 642-43: "And alle his afyaunce vpon folde watz in þe fyue woundez / Þat Cryst kaʒt on þe croys, as þe Crede tellez" (p. 232 -- "all his faith upon earth was in the five wounds / that Christ received on the cross, as the Creed proclaims"). This kind of devotion was common among clerics in the age of Saints Anselm of Canterbury and Bernard of Clairvaux, but gathered popular impetus through the teachings of the Franciscans and others in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. See Duffy, pp. 234-48.

429 Bonaventure does not link Francis to Moses, perhaps because the parallels (each spending forty days on a mountain, having a vision of God and then coming down visibly marked by the experience) would have been so obvious to clerical readers. Since Francis has imitated Christ so faithfully, he inevitably begins to participate in the typology of the Christ figure. Medieval Christianity regarded Moses, giver of the Old Law, in various ways as a figura or type of Christ, giver of the New Law. See, e.g., Daniélou, The Bible and the Liturgy, pp. 93-95.

434-38 The continual bleeding and staining of Francis' garments, and his anxiety about keeping such things a secret, especially the side-wound, are detailed by Bonaventure in LM XIII.3-4 and XIII.8; Habig, pp. 731-32 and 734-35.

439-50 This episode is the first of three miracles (LM XIII.6-7) that occurred in succession after the Stigmata episodes. According to Bonaventure they demonstrate that the Stigmata were God's work, but it is ironic that such a sublime event should be validated by such mundane miracles as these, which provide relief from, respectively, an epidemic among cattle, hail stones damaging crops, and the cold of winter that was preventing a poor man from getting a good night's sleep. For the hagiographical topos of the healing power of water that has come into contact with a saint or his or her relics, see Loomis, White Magic, pp. 104, 212-13 (for the references).

451 Frere Menor in the ordre. Bonaventure says, as he begins the story of Francis' final days, that the saint's death occurred two years after he received the Stigmata, and twenty years "after the beginning of his religious life," which the poet typically renders here in terms of the Franciscan order (LM XIV 3, Habig, p. 738). The SEL-poet's "and almest thre wuke" (line 452) is deduced from the calendar date of Francis' death which Bonaventura gives somewhat later as October 3, 1226 (LM XV.6, Habig, p. 744), roughly three weeks after Holy Cross Day, September 14, on which Francis received the stigmata.

455-58 These lines are based on a specific incident in Bonaventure (LM XIV.2, Habig, p. 738) in which Francis, when a well-meaning but simpleminded friar tells him to ask God "to be easier on you," rebukes the friar for daring to find fault with God. He then hurls his wasted body on the floor. Kissing the earth, he thanks God not for all the good things, as in the SEL version, but for all the pain, begging that it might be a hundred times worse!

460 our Levedi chirche. St. Mary in Portiuncula. See above, lines 147, 251.

464 The emphasis on the body's nakedness in this passage is doubtless intended to recall Job 1:21, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither." In the context of Francis' own life, the nakedness motif recalls certain key moments in his development, especially his formal abjuration of his earthly father (above, lines 114-21). The SEL-poet has bypassed at this point the imagery of martyrdom (as a wrestling contest between naked athletes) evoked by Bonaventure: "so that with all the fervor of his spirit he might struggle naked with his naked enemy in that last hour which is given him to vent his wrath" (LM XIV.3, Habig, pp. 738-39). See, however, line 467, where this imagery is suggested. Bonaventure's account of Francis' death is also complicated by various other themes, including the saint's need to feel himself at the end completely devoid of earthly possessions, as "Christ's beggar" who had "kept his faith with Lady Poverty," and who also was imitating Christ who "hung on the cross, poor and naked and in great pain."

465 his righte. I.e., it is only right that an earthly thing (his body) should come to its end on the bare earth. This comment is the poet's contribution. The motif of earth returning to earth recalls the familiar prayer recited at the grave immediately after the burial of the dead: cinis cinerem . . . terra . . . terram et pulvis convertitur in pulverem (from the Sarum Ordinal, ed. Maskell, in Monumenta Ritualia Ecclesiae Anglicanae, 1.153); compare the modern version in the Book of Common Prayer: "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

466 See LM XIV.5, Habig, p. 740, for the substance of Francis' last sermon to his friars.

468-70 Voce mea. Three psalms in the Latin Vulgate include the verse Voce mea ad dominum clamavi ("I cried to the Lord with my voice"): 3:5, 76:2, and 141:1. In LM XIV.5 it is clear that the psalm Francis sang is 141, because the first and last verses (1 and 8) are also quoted in full (although Habig's translation, p. 740, is misleadingly free). The SEL-poet's information (line 468) that this psalm is sung at evesong (Vespers) is not in LM, and must reflect the poet's own familiarity with the Office. In a thirteenth-century English monastic breviary, Psalm 141 is assigned for singing at Vespers on the Friday after the Octave of Epiphany, as well as at Second Vespers on Holy Thursday (see Monastic Breviary of Hyde Abbey, Winchester, ed. Tolhurst, 1.54 and 96; see also Van Dijk, ed., The Sources of the Roman Liturgy, 2.59 and 85).

Both Bonaventure and SEL lack the dramatic detail supplied by Thomas of Celano in his Second Life of Francis (chapter CLXIII) that after completing the psalm Francis "exhorted all creatures to praise God . . . he exhorted death itself . . . to give praise, and going joyfully to meet it, he invited it to make its lodging with him. 'Welcome,' he said, 'my sister death'" (Habig, p. 536).

474 aliche. From OE on lice, "in the body." Lich in ME often denotes the body after death. See the OED under lich-gate and lyke-wake.

475-82 This account of the larks episode follows closely LM XIV.6, Habig, p. 741, where, however, it is the last of four miraculous signs that accompany Francis' death. The change in narrative order allows the poet to end with the story of Friar Augustine. See next explanatory note.

483-94 The SEL-poet ends his life of Francis with the story of Friar Augustine, who was the provincial minister of the Franciscans in Terra di Lavoro (a region near Naples, quite a distance south of Assisi), which the poet renders literally as "land of labor." This type of story, in which someone not present at a saint's death simultaneously witnesses his soul's heavenward flight, is frequent in hagiographic narrative (compare the ending of The Life of St. Benedict in V, above), but the witness' testimony is here particularly forceful because he himself is on his deathbed. The SEL-poet may have chosen to put this episode last because the two friars' journey to heaven (line 494) merges neatly with the poet's usual closing prayer (line 496) that he and his readers may take the same journey.

490 hem wondred. The verb is here used impersonally.

491 Bote. For another instance of this idiomatic use of but as an adverb introducing a reply to a question, see above, line 29.


Abbreviations: see Explanatory Notes.

2 to trewenesse drough. Compare L (line 2): to eche treuwenesse drovʒ. Only drou is legible in A, the rest being concealed by tight stitching at the inner margin of the leaf.

13 swythe. A: suyþe.

15 knyghtes. A: knyʒte.

84 he. A has me which could be interpreted"me(n)" but L's reading makes better sense in the context.

88 isei. A: was isei.

91 harlede. A: hardlede

101 leng. The historically correct form (also lenge) of the comparative of the adverb longe (OE lange). In A a different, probably later, scribal hand has added an -er suffix to leng, apparently confusing it with the adjective, where the -er comparative suffix was historically correct. Compare L (line 87): he ne bi-lefte no leng þer.

111 worldes. A: wordles.

114 erthliche. L (line 100): eorþelich; A: erliche.

122 worldliche. A: wordlich.

nadde. The reading in L (line 108) is ne bod he nevereft non, "never asked from anyone," but that of A makes better sense.

123 uplondisc. L (line 109): vplondischse. A: vplindist.

127 therwith. Altered in A from ther wis.

130 A beggare bicom. Compare L (line 116): A beggar he cam.

134 prute. A: prte, with superscript u added later.

153 bygynyng. A: bygyng.

163 staf. A: staft.

165 bond. A: bon.

171 worlde. A: wordle.

174 unmundeliche. A: myldeliche. The A reading, "mildly" (also found in BL MS Cotton Julius D.ix), makes no sense in the context. Although our emendation may be drastic, it seems warranted here. Collation of other manuscripts indicates that the reading myldeliche is an attempt to find a suitable way out of a puzzle caused by corrupt textual transmission of an unfamiliar or illegible word. Compare also the unsatisfactory readings of British Library MS Egerton 2891: in vullinge; Lambeth Palace MS 223: grepinge (i.e., "gripping"); the Vernon manuscript (Bodleian Library MS Eng. Poet. a.1 [SC 3938-42]): mundly; BL MS Stowe 949: mundlich. The readings of L, on-mundliche (line 159) and vn-Mundlingue (lines 162, 164), literally "unmindly," "unminding," i.e., "unintentionally," "unawares," most prob-ably preserve the original reading (the word is found also in other Southwestern texts, such as Ancrene Wisse and Sawles Warde: see MED unmindeliche ).

185 thou sucst, that we habbeth. A: he made is ordre : that hi. Since Francis is still speaking, A's pronouns in the third person are obviously inappropriate. Scribal eye-skip between this line and line 187, each of which begins with the phrase "Up this thre Godspell(es)," has caused the confusion whereby a portion of line 187 has been copied into 185, replacing the original reading. We have supplied this from L (line 170), but it is preserved also in several others from different manuscript groups. The corruption seems to have affected the textual tradition on which both A and BL Cotton Julius D.ix depend, rather than being the fault of the A scribe alone, since the Julius scribe has tried to correct the problem by rewriting the line as follows: op this þre gospells þat þu hast ferst ifounde (contradicting Görlach's opinion, Textual Tradition, p. 87, that Julius shows no evidence of "conjectural emendation").

206 tough. A: tou.

228 gef. L (line 211): bi-hiet ("promised").

243-44 These two lines occur in reversed order in L and with slightly different wording: Biside þe toun of Asise : feor fram eche strete / huy wenden alle to one stude : þat was al fur-lete (lines 226-27). Most of the more recent manuscripts follow A's order of lines, but follow L in the stronger wording of the last phrase: e.g., BL Egerton 2891 (fol. 149v): So þat hi wende to astude : þat was al for lete / Biside þe toun of assise : fer fram eche strete.

254-56 We have emended some of the personal pronouns in these lines from plural to singular form. In A it is the disciples as well as Francis who were always staring upwards: Men wende, tho hi seie hem verst : that of another world hi were, Vor hi caped evere upard. But the plural forms (bold) are plainly wrong, since the public's violent response is directed at Francis alone in the immediate sequel (see lines 256-60), and both LM and L refer only to Francis here also: "To those who saw him he seemed like a man from another world as, with his gaze fixed on heaven where his heart always dwelt, he tried to lift their thoughts on high"(LM IV.5, Habig, pp. 656-57). Compare L, lines 237-38: Men wenden, þo huy seiʒe him furst : þat of an oþur worlde he were / For he capede euere upward, etc.

278 Of travail ne kepth heo noght. This half-line may be short a foot. Compare L (line 261): Of trauail ne wo ne kep[t]hþ heo nouʒt.

288 reprevede. A: represede. The word repress is not cited in OED until a century later than this, and not in this sense. L (line 271) has opbraid, "upbraided."

289-90 A shares with BL MS Cotton Julius D.ix what seems to be a local revision of this couplet. Compare L's more colorful version (similar in Lambeth Palace MS 223 and the Vernon manuscript): ʒwane Men cleopeden him hoxtare : oþur cheorl oþur cheorles sone - For port-Men beoth ofte boistouse : and hoxtares [hokerliche?] bi wone (lines 272-73, "When they called him huckster or churl or churl's son - for townsmen are often coarse tongued and [scornful] as a rule").

292 so doth. A: soþ doþ. The thorn in soþ is marked for deletion. Compare L (line 275): so dothþ.

295 And wen me preisede. A: And me preisede. Compare L (line 278): And ʒwane men preiseden.

313 grislokes. L (line 292): fouleste.

380 te. L (line 357) has seo, "see" but the ME verb te(en), from OE teon, is well attested in the sense of "go, travel," which makes better sense here than "see."

387-88 Between these lines A (along with the closely affiliated BL MS Cotton Julius A.ix, and one other manuscript) omits two lines that are well attested in other manuscripts, including L (lines 365-66):
And bi-teiʒte heom ihesu crist : and blessede heom ech-on;
he pleide with heom murie I-nouʒ : ase he among heom gan gon
The omission of the couplet from the common exemplar of A and its affiliates was doubtless caused by eye-skip, since the first line of the missing couplet ends, like A's line 388, with the word on.

408 world. A: wordl.

413 his owe. A: is day owe (day marked for deletion).

416 wounden. A: wouden.

443 Godes sonde. A: sonde. We emend here on the basis of several other manuscripts, in-cluding L (line 422) and BL MS Stowe 949.

448 priveté. The A reviser has substituted this French loanword for the original poet's older native word huydeles (from OE hydels, hiding-place); see L, line 427.

453 feblede. A: feble. Compare L (line 432b): feblischede ful swiþe faste.

464 Hi lete. A: lete. The emendation is adapted from L (line 443), huy leten.
Seyn Frances, the Frere Menour, good mon was inough;
In his yonghede marchaunt he was and to trewenesse drough:1
His marchaundise he made al day in the cité of Assise,
Ac in allmesdede and in povere men he spende his marchaundise.
Vor no love of catel, iwis, he nolde bileve,
Wen eny povere mon him bede good, bote he him somwat geve.2
As he com a day by the wei he mette bi cas
A knyght that hadde riche ibé, and apovered was
and wel uvele iclothed ek, and bed him som good.
Seyn Frances hadde reuthe of him and a wule astod.
He strupte of his clothes of his rug and gaf this povere knyght.
Therafter as he lay aslepe in his bedde anyght,
Him thoghte that a paleis swythe noble he sei.
He escte was that paleis were that so noble was and hei.
Me sede that it was his and his knyghtes also.
Tho this holi mon awok somwat he thoghte do:
Him thoghte he sei ek in the paleis knyghtes armes there,
And myd a vair crois thoru out isigned alle were.3
Thoghte he, "Our Lord it wole that ich knyght be,
And wel feble icham therto bote ich me bet bisé."4
An erl ther was in Apulé that corteis was and hende;
He thoghte be imad knyght of him,5 thuderward he gan wende.
Ac as wel he myghte habbe ibé atom, thulke travail was vor noght.6
Other armes he schulde take wen it were al vorth ibroght.
And as he wende toward this erl vorte ben imad knyght,
Our Lord in avision to him com anyght.
"Sei," he sede, "of the lord and of the hine also,
And of the riche and of the povere, wuch mai the mest good do?"7
"Bote the loverd," quath the other, "and he that is riche."
"Thou haddest almest," quath this other, "ichose uniliche.
Vor trust of the hyne, the lord thou vorsoke;
Thou nome uvele thin avision: thou most thee bet biloke.8
The armure and the paleis that thou noble iseie
Thou schalt fynde ellesware; thou ne comest noght yut so heie.
Thou schalt habbe knyghtes under thee, thulke armes to lede.9
Thervore wend hom agen and bithenche bet thin dede."
This holi mon, tho he awok, agen wende to Assise
And thoghte al on Jhesu Crist and bilevede his marchaundise.
He bad our Lord nyght and day that He scholde him rede,
And His grace him sende and toknynge hou he scholde his lif lede.
Wat were this noble knyghtes that he sei in meting
Bote Freres Menours and hor ordre that he schulde vorth bringe?10
The noble paleis that he isei, that armure was inne,
That was the joie of Hevene that this knyghte scholde wynne.
A day this holi mon withthoute Assise drou.
He mette a lolich mesel that grisliche was inough.
He bad him som god vor Godes love; Seyn Franceis alighte11
And biclupte and custe this mesel as vaire as he mighte.
Of his selver he him tok and bad him habbe good day.
Tho nuste he war he was bicome ne in no stude him ne say.12
Tho thoghte he wel ho it was, and after thulke dede
He wep and cride on Jhesu Crist that He somwat scholde him rede.13
And ofte he wolde bi custume to meseles vare
And seche hem at hor hous, bote he founde hem elleware,
And cusse hor honden and hor vet and hor mouth also,
And geve hem largeliche of his good: bi costume he wolde it do.14
So aghte, me thencth, ech man and nameliche the riche,
Vor our Lord hath so ofte be iseie in hor liche,
Vor in non other fourme of monne me ne may Him so ofte isé.15
Therwith He dude hem gret honor, that He wolde hor brother be.
Bi an chirche of Seyn Damyan Seyn Franceis com gon,
That up the poynte was to valle. In he wende anon
And knelede adoun byvore the Crois, as he dude wel ofte.
A vois ther spek in the Crois wel mildeliche and softe:
"Franceis," he sede, "Go nou vorth and arer up myn hous an hei
That thou sucst falle al to gronde and is al to struid nei."
Seyn Franceis, tho the chirche was dounward so ibroght,
Wende that our Lord sede therbi: ac therbi nas it noght,16
Ac was bi al holi chirche and bi al cristedom,
That his freres scholde upholde wen the ordre vorth com.
Wel aughte thulke ordre be good, and uvele ibroght to gronde,
Vor with vair toknynge and fale it was verst ifounde.17
Seyn Franceis wende and solde his clothes and al his other thinge,
And the panes therof nom and to the chirche he gan bringe.
The prest of the chirche he vond, the panes he wolde him take
To rere up the holi chirche, ac he gan hem vorsake.
He ne dorste noght, vor his fader ne vor his other frend, he sede,
So much tresour nyme of him, bote it were bi hor rede.18
Seyn Franceis nom that tresour, tho the other it vorsok,
And in a fenestre it leide and in our Lordes warde it tok.
Tho the tidynge com to his fader that he hadde iscold his good,
Toward him he wende anon and vor wraththe was nei wod.
Seyn Franceis was iwar of him, he ne levede noght byhynde,19
And wende and hudde him in a diche that he ne mighte him noght fynde
In the diche wel longe he lay in honger and in wrechede,
And evere cride on Jhesu Crist that He him sculde rede.
So longe he was in meseise there that he vorverde nei,
That unnethe him couthe iknowe eny that him isei.20
Ate laste in gret meseise he wende to Assise.
That folc, tho hi seie him come, sore hem gan agrise
And sede, "Her cometh a wod mon!" and harlede him wel vaste,
And smyte and pulte her and ther, and with dynge him caste.
Seyn Franceis eode vorth evere as him nothing nere.21
His fader com also bi cas and imette him there;
He nom and ladde him hom to his hous and bet him sore inou,
And bad him bringe hom that good that he awei drough.
Tho he ne mighte habbe non other good, he bond him swythe stronge,22
So that this holi mon in prison was wel longe.
Ate laste, the wule his fader out of toune gan wende,
His moder hadde reuthe of him and broghte him out of bende.
Tho he was out of bende ibroght he ne levede no leng ther;
He wende to the diche agen from wan he com er.
Tho this godemon com hom, he ne found him noght there.
He bet his wif sore inough and escte wer he were.
To Seyn Damianes chirche thanene he wende so
And founde that tresour al ihol as he it hadde ido,
And seththe he wende to the diche and founde his sone there.
He escte him vor wat thing that tresour awei he bere.
Ac tho he sei al then ende that he lute therof roughte,23
He nom and ladde him vorth with him and bivore the biscep him broghte
And bad him, yif he alles wolde this worldes good vorsake,
That he byvore the biscep therright up it take.
Seyn Franceis myd thulke word glad and joivol stod;
He gef up ther bivore God al erthliche good
And strupte his clothes of his rug al to his bare liche,
And byvore the biscep tok his fader and bad him be riche.
He sede, "Ichabbe icluped thee 'fader' evere to this daye,
Ac nou it is so ver icome that nan more I ne may.24
Segge ich mot my Pater Noster henne vorthward iwis,
And to my Fader holde me that in Hevene is."
Naked he wende from his fader byvore hem echon;
After thulke tyme worldliche good nadde he never non.
A seli uplondisc mon, that naked isei him go,
Gret deol hadde in his horete of his chele and wo.
He gef him an old mantel his bones vorte hele.
This holi mon it underveng to wite him from chele.
His licham he helede therwith and in meseise inou,
Agen as he was ibore, to Assise he drough.
As he hadde ibé er so riche and so wel iknowe,
A beggare bicom and bad his mete, therafter in a throwe.25
From dore to dore he bad his mete and wonede him therto;
Some were wrothe vor his dede and no good nolde him do.
Of the Ordre of Frere Menors he ne made nothing yute.
He bigon the ordre in poverte inou and in wel lute prute.
Men of the contreie were aboute vorte mende
The chirche of Seyn Damian that al adonward wende,
Ther as Seyn Franceis hadde ibé and tresor bilevede there.
Tho he non other mighte do the chirche vorte rere,
He wende thuder and sore swonc and ber morter therto
And seththe he eode and bad is mete wen he hadde ido.
An chirche seththe of Seyn Peter me rerde ellesware.
This holi mon in his meseise wel sone was thare,
And drou morter and ston therto and sore swonc also,
And seththe eode and bad his mete, tho he hadde al ido.
Wen he hurde of eny churche that owar was to rere,
Him thoghte evere longe inough ar he were there.26
To Seyn Marie in Desert ate laste he wende stille
And cride on God nyght and day that He dude bi him his wille,
And that He geve him grace, in wuch manere he mighte,
His chirche that donward was best rere up and dighte,27
So that God gef him grace that he there bigan
The holi Ordre of Frere Menors that saveth mony a man.
In the bygynyng of this ordre, as our Lord gef that cas,
A mass he hurde a day that of the apostles was.
As me rat yut among ous in the Godspel it sede tho
That our Lord het His diciples that hi scholde aboute go,
That hi ne bere with hem gold ne selver wen hi eode over lond,
Ne bagge, ne twei curtles nother, ne staf in hor hond,
Ne that hi werrede nathemo on hem none schon.28
In this manere our Lord het the apostles aboute gon.
Tho Seyn Franceis hurde this, he dude of his scon anon
And porveide that Frere Menors barvot schulde gon
Withthoute bagge and withthoute staf, withthoute ech thing to spene.
And hose deth eny of this, he halt noght his ordre, ich wene.29
In stude of his gurdel ek with a corde he him bond.
In this manere Freres Menors schulde go overlond.
Ther bigan Seyn Franceis to don this holi dede
And made the Ordre of Frere Menors al as the Godspel sede.
Bernard, that was good scoler, verst to him com
And the Ordre of Frere Menors of his honden nom.
He escte at him hou he scholde best the worlde clanliche vorsake.
Hi wende to Seyn Nicholas chirche; an massebok hi gonne take;
The boc was iclosed vaste; Seyn Franceis him bad undo.
He undude the bok al unmundeliche and the verste that he com to,30
That was a Godspel that seith "Yif thou wolt perfit be,
Sul al thi good and gef povere men and com and siwe me."
Al unmundeliche he com efsone to a Godspel that sede
That me ne scholde nothing by the wei nother bere ne lede.
The thridde tyme al unmundeliche the massebok he wende,
Tho he com up this Godspel as our Lord him sende:
"Hose wole come after me he schal himsulve vorsake
And his owe rode bere, and then wei so after me take."31
"Thou sucst," quath Seyn Franceis, "her, hou our Lord in a stounde
Send ous grace up wuch thinge we schulle this ordre founde.32
Up this thre Godspelles, thou sucst, that we habbeth thar verst ifounde,
We schulle founde oure ordre and up an stronge grounde."
Up this thre Godspell he made his ordre and his reule vorsoth,
And Frere Menour breketh his ordre that out theragen doth.
Noble an ordre it aghte be that so nobliche ifounde was,
Verst thoru toknynge of Jhesu Crist and seththe thoru such cas.
Frere Gilis was tho the verste, that good scoler hadde ibe,
That after Frere Bernard that abit nom, and seththe other thre.
So that under hem alle were six freres vorth ibroght.
And thei this ordre were imad, iconfermed nas it noght.
Seyn Franceis, this holi mon, tho God then tyme sende33
To confermy his ordre aright, to Rome he wende.
Ac wel sore he was adrad leste the pope were
Contrerious agen his ordre, that he iconfermed nere.34
Ac vorth he wende to fonde; he nolde noght be byhynde.
Ac evere he bad Jhesu Crist that he moste som grace ifynde.
Tho thoghte him, in a vision, that he sei a gret tre,
So hei that he was adrad toward the toppe to se.
And natheles an aunter him dude and nom therof a bough,35
Above in the hexte stude, and toward him drough.
Hit binde al adoun to him, after his wille inough,
Vor al that he dradde verst that it was hei and tough.
Tho this holi mon awok on his swevene he thoghte longe,
And therthoru he thoghte of the pope som grace avonge:36
Vor that tre, that was so hei, lightliche to gronde he drou:
Also he hopede the heie pope to his wille bringe inou.
To the hei Pope Innocent, tho he to Rome com,
He bad his religion granti, to amende Cristendom,
And he wolde his ordre prevy, and his reule also,
Thoru the Godspel of Godes word, and therafter do.37
Tho the pope his reule isei that heo was clene and good,
And ifounded up the Godspel, al as he wel understod.
In his heorte he granted it, ac noght with mouthe anon,
Vor he moste his cardinals consely everichon.
So that among this cardinals consell ther was inome:
Somme hulde theragen, and vaste therwith some.38
Tho was ther a cardinal, that biscep was also,
Maister Jon of Seyn Poul that vaste huld therto.
"Yif we," he sede, "distourbeth him, agen the Godspel we beth,
Wen he speketh al up Godes word,39 as we wel iseth."
In avision to the pope also anyght it com
That he grantede him his reule to amendi Cristendom.40
So that the pope grantede him al his reule to do,41
And confermede thoru all the court and gef him more therto.
Tho wende vorth this holi mon and his freres with him nom,
And prechede aboute then Godspel42 to amendi Cristendom.
Tho the contrei isei him verst, gret spech ther was there:43
Somme sede that Anticrist other his disciples it were,
So that in vele studes wel lute good hem me sende,44
And hi were ofte afyngred sore as hi aboute wende.
Tho that hi come in a stude, and afyngred were sore,
That some of the freres nadde ithoght in the ordre ibé nanmore,45
Tho com ther a wel vair man and broghte hem mete inough.
Tho nuste hi war he bicom ne wudeward he drough,46
Tho sei this freres wel that an angel it was.
The studevastore hi were in hor ordre vor this holi cas,
And bihete God that nevere vor meseise ne vor wo
In the ordre hi nolde bi hor mighte poverte vorgo.
So that hi wende in a stude that was al vorlete,
Biside the toun of Assise in an olde strete.
In meseise hi were ther inough and ofte hi wepe sore
Vor defaute of sustinaunce and vor defaute of bokes more.
Vor hi nadde nanne boc waron hi mighte loke.
In the Crois hi bihulde al day, in stude of hor boke,
And bede God, yif it were his wille, som good hem teche,
Vor hi nadde non other boc, ne hi nuste warwith areche.47
To Seyn Marie in Desert thenne hi gonne wende,
As hi bigonne verst hor ordre, to bringe ther to ende.48
Seyn Franceis wende bi the lond and prechede aboute there.
Men wende, tho hi seie him verst that of another world he were,
Vor he caped evere upard toward Hevene an hei,
That me wondred and speke therof, ech mon that him isei.
Mony him huld a truaunt, of the Develes lore,
And harled him her and ther and ofte him bete sore.
This gode mon nom never yeme ac cride our Lordes ore
And war me dude him mest scame,49 thuder he drou the more.
Idel nolde he never be, he ne lovede nothing so lute,
Ne hatede so much, as ese and idelnesse and prute.
"Frere Asse" he clupede his owe flesc, vor thou wost wel an asse,
Nabbe heo never so lute mete his travail nys no the lasse,50
Vor heo is iharled her and ther and to vile worke ido,
Ipricked and iscourged ek, and sackes bereth also.
Of wrecchede thing heo is ived, wen heo cometh therto,
And wel selde icoureied ek: heo nath nother nail ne sco.
And servede so his owe flesc and clupede it "Frere Asse,"51
And gef him mete lute inou and to clothinge lasse,
And prikede him and scourged ek, and thorughout the contreie
Harlede him and depe wod barvot in depe weie.52
Wen he sei eny idel man, that lovede glotenye
And ne travailde noght vor his mete, he clupede hem "Frere Flye,"
Vor the fleye doth non other good bote fleth ver and ner
And awaiteth wen men goth to mete other to soper,
And as sone as the dich is iset adoun heo wole be ate brerde.
Of travail ne kepth heo noght, bote that heo wel verde.53
Wen a man hath al day iswonke, thei he hadde iswore,
He ne schal so sone come to his dich that heo nele be byvore.54
So vareth mony idel man that no good nele do,
Bote wen men beth toward the mete al prest he is therto;55
Ate disc hi wolleth as sone be as hi that habbeth iswonke.
And thenne is al hor werk ido, habbe hi iyete and idrounke.56
Then liggeth hi and slepeth other goth doth som folie.
Thervore Seyn Franceis clepeth a such man "Frere Fleie."
Of nothing nas this holi mon so glad as of edwit.
Wen me reprevede his poverte, he was in gret delit;
Wen me clupede him beggar, other churl, other churles sone,
He wolde thonke and be glad: that was ever his wone.
"Leve brother," he wolde segge, "certes thou seist soth.
Iblessed be thou vor thulke word and alle that so doth!
Peres sone Bernard it bicometh bi righte lawe.
To here telle of is righte. Ic aughte be glad and vawe."57
And wen me preisede of his kunde, him ne thoghte no delit.
Thervore hose him wolde paie,58 segge him som edwit.
And bivore al that folc abrod in his prechinge he sede
His meseise and his defaute and ofte his wrechede.
Wel this prute pigasours wer hi vare so yute,
Hi wricketh and streccheth hem an hei, hi nute hou go vor prute!
Hem thencth hi nelleth noght go, ac fle herre then the kute!
Wat, nou wuder thencheth hi? Al it worth wel lute.
In Puylé Seyn Franceis eode some tyme overe lond,59
So that a pors vol of panes bi the wei he vond.
He ne tok no more gome then to so muche ven.
His felawe bad him nyme it up and dele it povere men.
"I nele noght," quath Seyn Franceis, "of other monnes dele."60
"Me thencth," quath this frere tho, "that thou art unvele,
That thou ne lovest noght povere men wen thou nelt hem do good."
This holi mon hurde this and an wule in thoghte stod.
"Thou schalt," he sede, "sone isé wat the panes beth echon."
He wende and nom up then pors and openede him anon.
Tho crep therout an eddre, the grislokes that mighte gon,61
And the pors al empti was and noght a peny theron.
That was the Devel of Helle that in fourme of panes lay,
Vorte bitraie this holi mon wanne he the panes isay.
Ac natheles ich wene, thei the Devel were al to panes bicome,
Yut ich wene this chepmen hem wolde avonge somme.62
This holi mon Seyn Franceis among ech maner best
Mest he lovede yonge lombron, and honoured hem mest,
Vor our Lord evenede Him to a lomb thoru Seyn Jon the Baptist,
And vor lomb is withthoute felonye and mylde as Jhesu Crist.
And ofte wen men hem wolde quelle fram dethe he hem broghte;
With biddyng and faire word ofte he hem boghte.
In the abbei of Seyn Verecunde a yong lomb he vonde:
A souwe astrangelid it a dai and fret in a stounde.
Seyn Franceis stod and bihuld: "Among alle bestes," he sede,
"Acorsed be thou, luther sowe, that dest such luther dede,
That thi lif be schort and strong and thi deth strong also,
That nothing ete of thi flesc, wen thou art of lyve ido."
Tho bigon this sowe, anon as he this word sede,
To be vol of scabbes and of other wrechede,
That heo orn out al quiture, as al that folc isay.
In wrechede and sorwe inou heo deide then thridde day,
And rotede and stonc foule inou. No best that it isei,
Ne revon ne other foul, nolde ene come ther nei.63
Vor Seyn Franceis lovede lomb, as al that folc isai,
On of his frend vor Godes love gef him a lomb a day.
This lomb wolde, yong and old, al day nei him be,
And make with him joie inough wen he him mighte isé.
Seyn Franceis het this scep a day wenne it hurde the freres singe
To churche gon at eche tyde and byleve vor nothinge.
This scep after thulke tyme selde wolde abide,
Wenne it hurde the freres in the quer, that it nas at eche tide.64
Blete it wolde agen hem vor it ne couthe non other song;
Wen it seie the freres sitte akné, kneli it wolde among,
And wen the prest sacred ek kneli it wolde therto,
And inwardliche biholde thuder as it sei the freres do.
Wel aghte we honouri Godes flesc wen a such best wolde:
A wonder bedmon it was on, icome to Godes folde.65
As Seyn Franceis, this holi mon, over lond vaste drough,
Wilde foweles smale and grete honoured him inough.
Vor as he wende in a tyme to prechi over lond,
An hep of foweles gret inough in a stude he vond.
Hi songe and made noise inou, everich in his wise.
The yut Seyn Franceis to hem com, hi nolde enes arise.66
"Beu frere," quath this holi mon, "our sostren that beth here
Honoureth God that hem made ech in his manere.
Right is that we do also, ar we fram hem gon."
Hi bigonne segge hor tyden among this foweles echon;67
Tho made this foweles gret noise that hi ne mighte noght ihere:
"Sostren," quath this holi mon, "changeth youre manere!
Beth nou stille and leteth me segge my tyden and my frere,
And seththe ye mowe after ous, everich with his ivere."68
This foweles anon to his heste stille were also,
And sete and herkenede hor tyden vorte hi hadde ido.
"Nou sostren," quath this holi mon, "nou we habbeth ised oure tyden,
Bigynneth youre wen ye wolleth; ye ne dorre no leng abiden."69
This foweles gonne synge anon, the leste and the meste:
Gret poer he hadde of God to habbe foweles ate his heste.
This holi mon him wende vorth to prechi over lond;
A gret hep efsone of foweles in a stude he vond.
He wende vorth among hem: this foweles gonne echon
Aloute to him mildeliche and honoure him anon.
This holi mon atstod an wule and thoghte hem som god teche,
And as to men of witte this foweles he gan preche.70
"Leve sostren," he sede, "vor Godes love honoureth youre creaturr,
Vor among alle creatours ye aughte don Him honur,
Vor he gef you nobleie inough,71 wyngen vorte fle,
And fetheren to bere you an hei, wide vorte te,
And mete war ye wolleth alighte, withthoute ech manere swenche.
He gefth you gret prute and ese as enymon may thenche.
Ye ne dorre nother delve ne dike, as mony mon mot do,
And yut ye mowe habbe mete inough, other mowe noght so."
This foweles herkened wel stille, the wule his prechinge ilaste,72
And fram wodes and other studes thuderward drowe vaste.
Tho this holi mon hadde ido, he wende vorth anon,
And strokede hem with his longe sleve: hi nolde arise noght on,
Ar he hete hem wende vorth war hi hadde to done.73
So sone so the foweles that ihurde hi wende vorth wel sone.
Seyn Franceis among al other thing, right at his heorte gronde,
Ofte thoghte deope inough in our Lordes wounde.
So studevastlich in his thoght non other thing he nom.74
So that the Holi Rode tid, that agen Mielmasse com,75
Upe the hul of Averne, as it was our Lordes wille,
Alone in his orisouns ther he lay wel stille.
He thoghte on our Lordes wounden so depe that nas non ende.76
An angel he sei an hei, right fram Hevene wende.
Six wyngen, him thoghte, he hadde, that scynde brighte and wide;77
Twei stode up above his heved and twei bi his side,
And right over the wombe acroys twei ther were also,
As me such ofte in chirch ipeynt, hose come therto.78
The armes were along isprad as hi were on the rode,
And the vet istreight along, al urnynde of blode.79
Thoru the right side he was ismyte and thoru vet and honde:
It was, in fourme of an angel, our Lord, ich undurstonde.
So gret joie hadde this holi mon of this noble sighte
That he was as in another world and thonkede Godes mighte.
He nuste wat vor joie do the wule he this fourme isei.
Ate laste it flei agen into Hevene an hei.
Seyn Franceis was in joie inough vor the noble sighte,
And nameliche of our Lordes wounden that he wilnede day and nyghte.80
He bihuld his owe honden and his vet also:
Tho were hi thoru out ismyte and the nailes theron ido,81
And his right side wounded ek, ac wel sore nere hi noght;
The wounden himsulf he hadde tho that so much were in his thoght.
The nailes were blake inough, the heveden rounde and grete,
The poyntes were evelong, as hi were agen ibete.82
Aboute the nailes the flesc stod up, as it were al toswolle,
As it al aboute were vor anguisse al tobolle.83
In this manere we mowe wene that our Lordes wounden were,
Vor bote ensample of his wounden in Seyn Franceis nere.84
So that this holi mon hadde our Lordes wounden vyve
And bilevede on him afterward the wule he was alyve.
The Holi Rode tyd in Septembre he gan verst this sight isé
And up thulke hul he hadde er aboute an month ibé.
Aboute a fourtene nyght he bilevede after there,
So that evene under al fourti dawes ther were.
As Moyses up Sinay was bi olde dawe,
Fourti dawes in priveté to se the Olde Lawe,
Also was this holi mon fourti dawes right
Up the hul of Averne to se this holi sight.
So that aboute Myelmasse verst he wende to gronde
Ac he hudde vaste vet and honde that me ne seie his wounde.85
To yer he livede with the wounden and prechede aboute wide,
And the wounden ourne ofte ablode, nameliche of the side,86
And bibledde his curtel ofte and his brech also.
Thenne carede he hou he mighte stilliche awei it do.87
Seththe com in the lond ther a gret qualm of orve,
That scep and other bestes al day lye and storve.
A good mon that hadde muche orf bed our Loverd vaste,
That he ne bynome noght al his good, ac that som moste ilaste.
Slepynde in a vision him com thoru Godes sonde
That he nom of the water that Seyn Franceis wech his honde88
Other his vet, and therwith among his bestes sprenge,89
And yif ther were to lute, among other water it menge.
This gode mon herafterward awaited his poynt ofte,
And nom of this water stilliche, in priveté wel softe,90
And sprend among his owe orf and among other mony on,
And overal war it was bispreng hi were hol anon.
Seyn Franceis was Frere Menor in the ordre twenti yer
And two yer and almest thre wuke our Lordes woundes he ber.
So that he drough toward the deth and feblede wel vaste.
Him nas unnethe bote vel and bon bileved ate laste.
In torment he was strong inough, and wen he was in worste stounde91
His lene bones he wolde drawe agen the harde gronde,
Vorte make the more his pyne, and the erthe he custe also,92
And thonkede God of alle gode that he him hadde ido.
He lay sik and seththe deide, Seyn Franceis this holi mon,
In our Levedi chirche ther he the ordre bigon.
Tho he was the dethe ney, naked he let him do
And to the harde erthe al bar naked he lay therto.
He het hem that aboute him were that, after his dethes stounde,93
Hi lete him longe ligge so, naked to the gronde,
That erthe mighte on erthe deie, vor that were his righte.
He bigon to preche his bretheren, up his feble mighte.
Ate laste, tho he sei then Deth and felde him wel strong,94
Voce mea he bigan, an saume of evesong.
Al out the saume he sede and huld up his honden heie,
And myd the laste word of the saume he bigan to deie.
He deide twelf hondred yer and six and twenti right
After that God an erthe alighte, in a Setterday at nyght.
Then Soneday he was ibured: he ne verde noght as the riche
That vor bobauns of the world liggeth longe aliche.95
Tho this holi mon was ded, thei it were by nyghte,
A gret hep of loverkes up the chirch alighte
And murie songe allonge nyght96 aboute this bodi there,
Tho the soule to Hevene wende, agé kunde thei it were.97
Vor the larke is a fowel that much loveth light
And hereth the day myd hore songe and ne singeth noght anyght.
Agen kunde hi songe there as thei hi hadde in munde
Hou muche he was honoured er with foweles, agen kunde.
Frere Austyn, that was mynystre under him ido,
Tho this holi mon lay ded at the dethe lay also,
In the lond of Labour that ver was therbiside.
Wel longe he lay specheles, then deth vorte abide,
And right as Seyn Franceis deide ver in another londe,
This frere spac wel mildeliche and huld up his honde:
"Abid, brother, an wule! Ich come with thee anon!"
The freres escte wat it were, vor hem wondred echon.
"Bote Seyn Franceis,"98 he sede, "our fader, hath ibroght his lif to ende
And is toward Hevene nom and ichulle with him wende."
With this word he gan to deie and his soule al in pes
Wende to the joie of Hevene with his maister Seyn Franceis,
And beth ther bothe two in joie withthoute ende.
Nou God vor love of hem ous late thuder wende.
(see note)
transacted every day

one day on the road; by chance
been; impoverished
evilly/wretchedly clothed
stopped for a while
off his back

It seemed to him; very; (t-note)
asked whose
Someone said; (t-note)

knights' suits of armor

wills it (wishes)

Apulia; agreeable; (see note)

(see note)

dream (vision)

The lord, of course
the opposite
(see note)
(see note)

(see note)
think of something better to do
(see note)
gave up
prayed; advise

these; dream; (see note)

was riding
loathsome leper; terrifying; (see note)

embraced and kissed
gave him some of his silver

Then he realized who it was; (see note)

go visit lepers; (see note)
find them in their house

it seems to me; (see note)
in their (the lepers') likeness

(see note)
was on the point of falling down

seest; nearly all destroyed; (see note)

came into being
(see note)
pennies/money; took
rebuild; refused them (coins)

(see note)

window; keeping; entrusted
sold off his property
nearly insane

hid himself; (see note); (t-note)

misery; nearly died

when; were very afraid
(see note); (t-note)
(see note)

by chance
severely enough
property; had made off with
(see note)

freed him
stayed no longer; (t-note)
whence; came before
gentleman/man of the house; (see note)
beat; asked
all intact; just as he (Francis) left it

(see note)

give it up (renounce it) at once; (see note)

body (skin); (see note)
handed [them] to
I have called you "Father"; (see note)

I must say; henceforth
cling to

(see note); (t-note)
pious peasant; (t-note)
sorrow; heart; cold
to cover
accepted; protect; (see note)
body; (t-note)
Back to where he was born

accustomed himself

very little pride; (t-note)
region; starting to repair

There where
Since; build; (see note)
labored hard
afterwards; went; finished
was being built

was being built anywhere

(see note)

[with a result] that; (see note)

brought it to pass; (t-note)
one day; (see note)
as is read still; (see note)
commanded; travel about; (see note)
in such way that
nor two coats either

took off his shoes; (see note)
ordained; barefoot
(see note)
[leather] belt; rope; tied; (t-note)

(see note)
received at his hands
utterly; (t-note)

(see note); (t-note)
(see note)
Sell; give [to]; follow
in turn; (see note)
on a journey
came upon
must deny himself; (see note)

see; moment; (see note)

Upon these; (t-note)
upon a

aught (anything); (see note)
A noble order
such [an] event
Giles; (see note)
(see note)
all in all; created (inducted)

approve (authorize); (see note)

(see note)
try; delay
then it seemed to him; saw
(see note)
highest place; pulled [it]
bent; just as he wished
dream; (see note)

In the same way

it; (see note)

consult with; (see note)


(see note)

(see note); (t-note)
(see note)


terribly hungry

(see note)
more steadfast
promised; (see note)
deliberately forsake poverty
And so they went; abandoned; (t-note)
on an old road


(see note)


heed; mercy

called (named); (see note)
(see note)
made to do

fed with wretched stuff

gave himself; for clothing

(see note)
did not work


many [an]

lie down; or go [and] do
such a man
abuse (reproaches)
reproved/rebuked; (t-note)

(see note)

nature (character); (t-note)

spoke about
distress; moral failings
(see note)

(see note)
purse full of coins by the roadside
heed; than; dung; (see note)
pick; dole it out to


a while
soon see


all kinds of animals; (see note)
likened Himself; (see note)

slaughter; saved
pleading; redeemed

one day; devoured in a moment

wicked; [did] do; (see note)
[So] that; severe; foul (rank)

she was oozing with pus all over
[on] the third

one day

(see note)

in response to them; knew
along with them
consecrated [the Host]; (see note)
(see note)
(see note)
diligently traveled

in one place
each in his own way
(see note)
(see note)

do likewise, before
(see note)

(see note)

(see note)

power; command
(see note)
once again

bow down

to go far and wide; (t-note)

quickly drew near there
finished; (t-note)

bottom of his heart; (see note)
meditated on; wounds

(see note)
upon; (see note)

coming straight from Heaven; (see note)

crossed right over the torso
(see note)
fully extended; as [if]

(see note)


back again
(see note)

own; (t-note)


swollen up

(see note)
Thus [it was] that; five
they remained

on that hill

in ancient times; (see note)

likewise; exactly

(see note)
Two years

stained his habit with blood; trousers

epidemic sickness among livestock; (see note)
every day lay down and died
cattle prayed; earnestly


too little, with; mix it
sprinkled [it]; own
(see note)

(see note)
fling against

for all the good things

our Lady's (i.e., Virgin Mary's); (see note)
near; had himself undressed

They should let him lie; (see note); (t-note)
his due; (see note)
with his failing powers; (see note)

(see note)
All the way through

(see note)
(see note)
flock of larks on the church [roof]

as though; mind
had been honored by birds
provincial minister; (see note)
close to death
far from thereabouts
waiting for death

spoke very cheerfully

each of them was amazed; (see note)
(see note)
being taken; I shall

let us go there


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