Back to top

St. Andrew and the Three Questions: Introduction

1 The miracle is no. 214 in Frederic C. Tubach, Index exemplorum: A Handbook of Medieval Religious Tales, p. 23, and is listed in Stith Thompson, Motif-Index of Folk-Literature, as no. H682. The LA version is retold in some detail in Middle English in the Andrew chapters of the Gilte Legende, NHC, Caxton's Golden Legend, and more briefly in SEL and Mirk's Festial. The classic modern work on the exemplum genre is that of Welter, L'exemplum. For a brief but useful survey in English, see Fleming, An Introduction to the Franciscan Literature of the Middle Ages, pp. 142-56.

2 See LA, ch. CCXXIII, trans. Ryan, 2.113-14. For an adaptation of the Bartholomew story, see the Middle English prose Speculum Sacerdotale, ed. Weatherly, pp. 193-94, where the pilgrim is the devilish imposter.

3 The Scottish poet of the version printed below makes such ideas even more evident than in the LA version (see lines 905-82 and notes). For a delightful lyric exploitation of the theme of divine incest, see the fifteenth-century lyric, "I sing of a maiden," widely anthologized, e.g., The Norton Anthology of English Literature, ed. M. H. Abrams et al., 1.353-54.

4 A notable early example is that embedded by Augustine of Hippo in his Concerning the City of God against the Pagans 22.8, trans. Bettenson, pp. 1033-47. On medieval miracles and miracle collections, see Ward, Miracles and the Medieval Mind; Van Dam, Saints and Their Miracles; Sigal, L'homme et le miracle; Ashley and Sheingorn, Writing Faith.

5 Southern, "The English Origins of the Miracles of the Virgin." Useful for overviews of the genre and bibliographical references are the following: Gripkey, The Blessed Virgin Mary as Mediatrix; Boyd, ed. The Middle English Miracles of the Virgin, pp. 3-10; Ward, Miracles and the Medieval Mind, pp. 132-65 (especially pp. 155-65, although Ward's focus is less on the literary traditions of the Marian miracles than on the productions of specific Marian shrines); and Whiteford, ed., The Myracles of Oure Lady, pp. 8-23, and 96-133 (a catalogue of Middle English miracles of the Virgin). Among the foundational studies of Marian miracle literature are those of Mussafia, "Studien zu dem mittelalterlichen Marienlegenden"; and Poncelet, "Miraculorum B. V. Mariae."

6 The most notorious of these tells how an abbess became pregnant, but avoided discovery and scandal because she was impersonated by the Virgin Mary (to whom she had been devoted), who fulfilled all her duties while she absented herself from the convent during the last months of pregnancy and the requisite period after delivery. A Middle English prose version is in the mid-fifteenth-century translation of the fourteenth-century alphabetical collection of Latin tales, Alphabetum Narrationum: see Arnoldus of Liège, An Alphabet of Tales, ed. Banks, 1.11-12.

7 For some typical examples, see the Marian miracles appended by Jacobus de Voragine to his account of the Assumption of the Virgin in LA (ch. CXXXI, trans. Ryan, 2.154-58), which includes the very early Marian miracle (a precursor of the Faust story) concerning the cleric Theophilus, in which the Virgin regains possession of a charter recording Theophilus' surrender of his soul to the devil. In another collection, Mary intervenes to prevent an anchoress from abandoning her life of solitude owing to the promptings of a devil disguised as a pious woman (The Early English Versions of the Gesta Romanorum, ed. Herrtage, pp. 411-12).

8 For a story of the devil going to confession, see Robert Mannyng of Brunne's fourteenth-century devotional compendium, Handlyng Synne, lines 12507-12626, ed. Sullens, pp. 311-14. For an eastern Christian example, preserved in Coptic, of the devil disguised as a woman, see Amélineau, ed. and trans., Contes et romans de l'Égypte chrétienne, pp. 26-42: here the intended victim is a pious widow, Euphemia, who is devoted not only to the memory of her husband but also to St. Michael, whose icon she keeps in a shrine in her house; the devil visits her first disguised as a nun, who attempts, unsuccessfully, to embarrass Euphemia over various points of religious observance. Later, Michael the archangel materializes to rescue Euphemia when the frustrated devil attacks her physically. A distantly related Latin version, concerning a nun Euphemia, is by the early thirteenth-century Cistercian storyteller, Caesarius of Heisterbach, Dialogus miraculorum, 5.44, trans. Scott and Bland, 1.377-79. Caesarius' Book 5 (1.313-390) is devoted solely to tales involving devils.

9 The tale is numbered H543.1 in Thompson, Motif-Index of Folk-Literature 3.424-425. See also Tubach, Index Exemplorum, nos. 4025-28.

10 Aarne, The Types of the Folktale, pp. 275-76.

11 See Grimm, "The Devil and His Grandmother," pp. 563-66.

12 It is true that Grimm's "Devil and His Grandmother" is a seduction story of sorts, in that the three soldiers' pact with the devil brings them unlimited wealth for seven years, but they have no choice in the matter (either they agree to the compact or he kills them) and the story allows them to go on enjoying their wealth after the Devil has been discomfited. Any notion of temptation or conflict of values has been lost in the oral secular tradition.

13 Russell, trans., The Lives of the Desert Fathers, pp. 56-57. This anecdote was adapted by the authors of several later saints' lives, including Avitus the hermit, Paternianus, and Romanus of Rouen. See the references in Loomis, White Magic, p. 187n140.

14 Most familiar to students of Middle English is the arrival of the axe-wielding Green Knight in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. A closer parallel to the Three Questions story is that of the Middle Welsh romance, Culwch and Olwen, in which the young hero's request for admission to the feast is resisted first by the porter, then by Cei.

15 For further references on the Lamia of Greek myth, see The Oxford Classical Dictionary, ed. Hornblower and Spawforth, p. 812. John Keats' Lamia, the story of which he ostensibly read first in Richard Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, is widely available in standard and selected editions of his works, but Goethe's Die Braut von Korinth seems to be quite rare, as is the English translation by a contemporary of Keats, John Auster, in his Poems, with Some Translations from the German, pp. 179-238.

16 PL 73.415-26 (BHL 5104), especially 422-26, chs. XVIII-XXII. Much of the life, which resembles that of Brendan the Navigator, is taken up with the account of how the supposed authors of the life wandered eastwards in search of the lost Paradise, until they found Macarius and heard his story. For a summary and discussion, with reproductions of the Pisan murals, see Elliott, Roads to Paradise, pp. 63-64, 96-102, 108-16.

17 PL 73.424.

18 For example, see the interesting sixth-century analogue in Gregory the Great's Dialogues 3.7, in which the devil tempts Bishop Andrew of Funda to lust secretly after a nun of his household. A Jew, traveling from Campania to Rome, eavesdrops by chance on a company of devils, learns from them of the bishop's temptation, confronts him with his secret, and prompts him to repent. This may be the ultimate origin of the Andrew motif in our story.

19 LA, ed. Maggioni, 1.33n162-222.

20 LA, ed. Maggioni, 2.836-37 (trans. Ryan, 2.113-14). See Étienne's Tractatus de diversis materiis predicabilibus I.iv, lines 135-66, ed. Berlioz and Eichenlaub, in Stephani de Borbone Tractatus de diversis materiis predicabilibus, pp. 70-71 (1.4, lines 135-66) and note 407.

21 Bonum universale de apibus II, ch. 53, 5: see Vet, Het Biënboec van Thomas van Cantimpré en Zijn Exempelen, pp. 162-65.

22 See the apocryphal Questions of Bartholomew (sometimes referred to as The Gospel of Bartholomew), in Elliott, Apocryphal New Testament, pp. 655-68. Among the questions Bartholomew asks are: "What is the sacrifice which is offered in Paradise?" "How many souls depart out of the world daily?" "What sin is more grievous than all sins?" "What is the sin against the Holy Ghost?" Another early literary context for difficult, riddling questions is that of the so-called Joca monachorum (Jests of the Monks) and the closely related OE verse and prose dialogues between Solomon and Saturn. See The Prose Solomon, and Saturn and Adrian and Ritheus, ed. Cross and Hill; and Shippey, Poems of Wisdom and Learning in Old English, pp. 21-28, 86-103.

23 See Charlotte D'Evelyn's introduction to "The Scottish Legendary" in MWME 2.419-22, 557-58 (bibliography).

24 At 1155 lines, the legend of Andrew is the third longest in ScL, after those of Mary of Egypt (1490) and Paul (1176).

25 ScL De Sancto Andrea, lines 5-8.

26 See, e.g., ScL Prologue, lines 33-36 and 2-3; compare The Canterbury Tales VIII(G)1-2.

27 ScL Prologue, lines 13-14.

28 For a moderate example, see VI, below, John Lydgate's Saint Austin at Compton, and the references in the Introduction, note 33. The most famous "aureate" Scottish poem is William Dunbar's "Ane Ballat of Our Lady"; see The Poems of William Dunbar, ed. Mackenzie, pp. 160-62.

29 See Aitken, "The Language of Older Scots Poetry," pp. 18-49, especially 23, 39-43.

30 ScL, ed. Metcalfe, 1.xix.

31 More literally: "A certain bishop, having a religious life, had blessed Andrew, among the rest of the saints, in veneration, so much so that before each of his tasks he would pronounce this dedication: 'to the honor of God and blessed Andrew.'"

32 See, e.g., Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, pp. 256-65.

33 "Once upon a time a bishop, a holy man, loved Saint Andrew most of all holy saints, as his heart prompted him"; DM 2.546, St Andrew, lines 111-12.

34 "Now [may] sorrow and pain [fall] upon her before I pity her!"

35 Similarly in the version printed by Horstmann, Altenglische Legenden, Neue Folge, pp. 8-10, from one of the manuscripts of NHC, the pilgrim's identity is revealed in advance: "Bot saint Andrew, his faithful frend, / Saw he was ouer-sett with þe fend. / He putted him in a palmer state, / And come vnto þe bisschop 3ate" (lines 413-16).

36 "Saint Andrew, whom he loved, from heaven he alighted down, to protect him from sin."

37 Gerould, Saints' Legends, pp. 182-83. ScL is not discussed in any of the most recent books that deal with Middle English saints' lives. See next note.

38 Wolpers, Die englische Heiligenlegende des Mittelalters, pp. 275-79, 287-88.

39 ScL, ed. Metcalfe, 1.xxvi.

40 See the Life of Mary the Egyptian (Egipciane), line 1471; ScL, ed. Metcalfe, 1.338.

41 In the N. Midland selection from SEL (below, II[b]), the occasional use of the Northern long a is scribal, not authorial.

42 Similarly, the alternating spellings of gaynand (line 942) and ganand (line 1022), and the spelling sad (meaning "said," line 891 and passim) from OE sægde, which appears elsewhere in ME as a diphthong, seide/seyde/sayde. Also the spelling rednes (line 1099) for radnes (from ON hrddr).

43 ScL, ed. Metcalfe, 1.88-96.
St. Andrew and the Three Questions

As we have indicated in the first part of this chapter, the theme of human sexuality prominent in the original Greek Acts of Andrew is much less evident in the Western redactions, including the LA account of the saint's life and martyrdom. Likewise in SEL, all that is left of the elaborate story of Andrew's spiritual friendship with Maxilla is her brief appearance near the end of the story to bury Andrew's body (the Martyrdom of St. Andrew, lines 100-01). The sexual-encratic theme of the ancient Acts, however, is revisited in the late medieval Three Questions story, which apparently became attached to Andrew in the thirteenth century and is appended to the martyrdom legend proper in LA. Widely represented in medieval Latin collections of stories and exempla of the fourteenth century and later, and in other Middle English versions of Andrew's legend,1 this story tells how Andrew, disguised as a pilgrim, saves a bishop of hitherto holy life from committing fornication with a devil-woman. The latter has won the bishop's confidence by posing as a young virgin who aspires to the religious life and is a fugitive from an unwanted marriage. During dinner at the bishop's palace, at the moment when the prelate is about to ask the beautiful seductress to have sex with him, an unnamed pilgrim (later revealed to have been St. Andrew himself) knocks at the gate, asking to be admitted to the feast; the temptress tries to ward off the apostle by asking him three riddling theological questions, but he answers them successfully and in the process unmasks her as a demon. The origins of the story are obscure (see below), and it is also attributed, in somewhat different form, to another apostle, Bartholomew, 2 but it is certainly appropriate to St. Andrew in its emphasis on human sexuality. Whether or not the unknown composer of the tale was aware of the ancient Acts of Andrew, he contrived a virtual reprise of some of the Acts' key motifs, while inverting and undermining others. In the Acts, for example, Maximilla's rebellion against her marital-sexual role is genuine, and she receives help from the itinerant Andrew in pursuing her new celibate vocation, despite the brutal opposition of her worldly, lustful husband; by contrast, in the more typically misogynistic late medieval tale, the chastity that the pilgrim Andrew intervenes to protect is the institutional celibacy of the male cleric, while the female protagonist's rejection of marriage in favor of a spiritual, virginal vocation is completely bogus: fleshly lust is personified here as a diabolical female.

One can see why this story proved popular with late medieval clerical writers and compilers of story collections, given its sympathetic depiction of the devout but fallible male cleric, its thematic focus on the intimacies of the confessional, its central scene of rising sexual tension between the celibate bishop and his newly adopted virgin "daughter," leading into the dramatic intellectual standoff between Andrew and the devil, with the ingeniously integrated questions. The devil-woman in her young aristocratic beauty embodies the lure of earthly life, sexual pleasure, and power, while posing as an ascetic yearning for the corporeal purity which characterizes the official vocation of all medieval clerics, here represented by the bishop. This shared zeal for virginity establishes an immediate, if dubious, rapport between the two. The temptation to lust is all the more subtle and dangerous for being disguised as a militant virginity rebelling against the authority of the fleshly father, yet blatantly and seductively yielding itself to the protection and authority of a new "father," who is the earthly servant and representative of her heavenly spouse. The lust at the heart of the tale is thus not only marked as diabolic but also colored by the dark suggestion of incest that is never wholly absent from the medieval language of divine love.3 The same involved interplay of opposing bodily and spiritual themes is also a feature of the three questions themselves, each of which is posed in terms of diametric oppositions (great and little, highest and lowest, heaven and earth) and the mysterious interactions of divine spirit and earthly flesh.

The Three Questions and Hagiographic Tradition

As far as we can tell, there is no detailed study of the tale and its origins, and we offer here only a few tentative suggestions as a stimulus to further research. As to its hagiographic genre, the story is, of course, a posthumous miraculum, or self-contained miracle tale, not an intrinsic part of the saint's "life" or "acts." Collections of miracle stories relating the posthumous miracles of individual saints, particularly miracles associated with specific shrines and relics, began to be written early in the history of hagiography and became a regular part of a saint's dossier.4 While many posthumous miracles are relatively simple stories of healings and cures performed at or near the saint's cult site, narrated in a few lines of formulaic prose, others are more complex and consciously artful narratives. An important category of miracle story of this more elaborate type is the so-called Marian miracle, a sub-genre that developed during the early Middle Ages but emerged in its developed form in bulky collections in the early twelfth century, notably in England.5 The best-known example in the English vernacular tradition is Chaucer's problematic contribution, The Prioress' Tale, in Fragment VII of The Canterbury Tales. Typically, a Marian miracle depicts the Queen of Heaven mercifully intervening to rescue one of her devotees in a moment of crisis brought on by human frailty.6 Frequently, though not always, the protagonist's attachment to the Virgin is expressed in some regular form of ritual devotion or prayer, no matter how perfunctory, doubtless reflecting the strength of medieval belief in the powerful effects of verbal formulas and incantations. Mary's intervention also tends to involve some element of ingenuity or impersonation in addition to her supernatural power, occasionally in contests with the devil.7 The Andrew miracle has obvious affinities with this class of story in that the bishop, introduced as one who routinely utters a brief formulaic prayer to invoke Andrew's blessing on his daily tasks (see the text below, lines 873-74), proves all too human when the diabolic impersonator attempts to seduce him; the saint arrives, likewise as an impersonator, to rescue the bishop when he is on the point of committing an irrevocable and damnable sin; and the resolution of the problem turns on a duel of wits with the devil and the ingenious solution of metaphysical riddles.8

The Three Questions tale as told in LA is indexed by Stith Thompson as a folktale and classified among tales involving riddles in the general category of "Tests of Cleverness."9 The classification assumes that the tale involves answering riddles to escape from the devil. In another standard manual of folk narrative types, that of Antti Aarne, we find several analogous tales in the sub-group, "Man Promised to the Devil" in the larger category of "Religious Tales."10 The point of reference here is Grimm's fairy tale no. 125, concerning the three soldiers who escape from their Faust-like bargain with the devil by answering his three riddles with the help of a wise old woman.11

The tale of Andrew, the bishop, and the devil-woman, however, unites a variety of narrative types with the motif of the devil's three questions. For example, it is a seduction story12 and, as such, part of a large class of religious tales, including many Marian miracles like those noted above, in which someone's virtue and religious devotion arouse the Devil's resentment and prompt him to assume a disguise in order to try to lead the holy person astray, sometimes successfully. One of the earliest examples of this type in the hagiographic tradition concerns an anonymous desert hermit of Egypt, and is told in the life of John of Lycopolis in the History of the Monks in Egypt, written in Greek at the end of the fourth century and translated shortly afterwards into Latin by Rufinus of Aquileia.13 The Andrew miracle also has affinities with medieval secular literature in that the saint's arrival as a stranger at the palace gate, where he demands admission to the feast and provokes debate and discussion within, shows parallels with Arthurian romance, where a stranger knight or damsel often brings a test or challenge or somehow initiates knightly adventure or quest.14

One of the most striking parallels to the entire story is found in a famous Hellenistic Greek work of the first century, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus. Here conflict between lust and spirituality takes the form of a confrontation between sensual beauty and reason, in which Apollonius unmasks a flesh-eating Lamia. Philostratus tells how a young man is seduced by a rich and beautiful stranger who offers him both herself and her wealth. His tutor, however, the philosopher Apollonius, comes uninvited to the wedding and under his piercing, rationalist gaze the luxurious bride is metamorphosed into her true self, a revolting serpent, while the palatial house dissolves into nothing. The anecdote was revived in the Romantic era, most notably by Goethe and Keats.15

The closest analogue we have found to the seduction story among hagiographic narratives is in the life of Macarius the Roman, depicted in the murals of the Campo Santo, Pisa, and preserved in the late medieval editions of the Vitae patrum ("Lives of the Fathers").16 The story, which is not in the fifth-/sixth-century Vitae patrum collections, was known in the Greek church by the tenth century, and must have been current in the West at least by the thirteenth century. It tells how Macarius, a desert hermit, is tempted by the devil in the guise of the beautiful woman whom Macarius was to have married years earlier but from whom he fled to the wilderness on his wedding day. She comes to his desert retreat (in the Pisan murals she is in pilgrim's garb, with bird's feet protruding below), claiming that she also fled from the world on their nuptial day, desiring like him to lead a life of celibate asceticism. Unlike the bishop in the Andrew tale, however, Macarius has no guardian angel to protect him: the wandering pilgrim and the diabolic seductress, opposing figures in the Andrew miracle, are here merged into one figure. Likewise lacking is the intellectual debate motif, represented by the Three Questions in the Andrew story. But the number three is a factor in the Macarius legend in that the visitor is revealed to the hermit over a three-day period: first he finds a woman's veil outside his cave, next a pair of woman's shoes; having taken both items into his cave without crossing himself, he finds the woman on the third day. After a supper of acorns and conversation, the devil-woman caresses his body, he falls asleep, and during his slumbers they have sex (in somno me peccatum perpetrasse cognovi, "I knew that I had committed the sin in my sleep").17 The morning after, "she" has gone, and he is filled with remorse over his lost virginity. His pet lions help him dig a hole in his cave in which he buries himself up to the neck. Here again the triadic motif is evident, since Macarius exists in this state, living off the grass that grows near his face, for three years, at the end of which the lions dig him up and he feels himself totally healthy and purified. He is rewarded with an ecstatic vision of Christ and His angels in his cave.

Further research is needed to describe better the origins and transmission of the Three Questions episode, as preserved in Jacobus de Voragine's LA and other contemporary narrative compendia of the thirteenth century.18 Jacobus' most recent editor, Giovanni Maggioni, has identified as Jacobus' immediate source Martin of Troppau (1230-78), a Dominican from Bohemia, active in Rome as papal chaplain (1261-78) and author of a chronicle and a collection of exempla, which is unprinted and survives in a manuscript now in Paris.19 Whether Martin actually composed the miracle tale in its present form for inclusion in his collection of exempla, or merely adapted it from an existing source, is unclear. Also unclear is whether the tale was attributed to Andrew first, or to Bartholomew, since according to Maggioni the very similar Bartholomew version, included in LA chapter CXIX, is taken from a collection of exempla for preachers compiled by another Dominican writer, Étienne de Bourbon (also known as Stephen of Bellavilla, c. 1180/90-1261).20 In this version, which is briefer and less detailed than the Andrew story, it is the pilgrim Bartholomew who asks the three questions (which differ slightly from those in the Andrew version) and the devil-woman and her intended victim (a learned clerk) who each offer answers. The Bartholomew version is also narrated by Thomas de Cantimpré (c. 1201-71), another Dominican of the same era as Étienne and Jacobus.21 The similarities and differences between the Andrew and Bartholomew versions of the story imply the existence of a common source that was being passed around and freely adapted in Dominican circles in the middle of the thirteenth century. It is possible that the story was originally told of Bartholomew, since in early Christian apocryphal literature he is depicted specifically as one who asks questions (some of which are similar in scope to those in the miracle tale), of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the devil. 22

The Scottish Legendary

ScL is a late-fourteenth-century collection of hagiographies written in Lowland Scots English, comprising legends of the twelve apostles, plus the evangelists Luke and Mark, to which are added thirty-five legends of other saints, for the most part selected and arranged according to some as yet uncertain design.23 While no specifically English saints are honored (George is included, however), there are two native Scots saints: Ninian and Machor (numbered XXVIII and XL in Metcalfe's edition). Andrew, of course, was, as we have seen, particularly important in Scotland and not surprisingly receives extended treatment in ScL.24 The poet in his preamble disregards his Latin source to describe Andrew as the meekest man who ever lived and accords him a measure of equality with Peter:
& to Petir full brothire was,
as be kynd of manis flesche,
& in passione evine fere;
for one the cors bath ded thai were.25      

in suffering equal companions
on the cross both dead
The work as a whole survives in one fifteenth-century manuscript (Cambridge, University Library MS Gg.2.6), of uncertain provenance and remarkable only for the fact that it is written in single columns on leaves about 280 mm long and barely 100 mm wide. Little can be said about the identity of the author except that by the time he began work on his collection he was, as he explains in his Prologue and elsewhere, avowedly too old and frail to continue his pastoral work as a "mynistere of haly kirke" but is anxious, like Chaucer's Second Nun, to shun idleness, which "giffis novrysingis / to vicis"26 and therefore he has devoted himself to translating, first the Lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary, and her miracles, and now the legends of the apostles, as devotional reading matter for the higher ranking lay folk and clergy, "þo lordis . . . þat steris landis & haly kirke."27 Metcalfe, however, the editor of the standard edition, posits multiple authorship for the collection as a whole, since he cannot believe that the frail author of the apostles' lives had the energy or longevity to accomplish the rest.

Early attempts to attribute the work to the Scottish court-poet John Barbour (c. 1316-95, archdeacon of Aberdeen and royal clerk), are long discredited on grounds of style and language, although the work seems to belong to his time period and is one of the earliest monuments of Middle Scots poetry. The rhyming tetrameter (4-beat) couplets are managed for the most part with fluency, apart from some clumsy inversions of natural word order; the diction, while less dour and prosaic than that of Barbour, is inevitably constrained by its subject matter, lacking the richer variety of their contemporary Chaucer's early poetry or Gower's mature narrative verse. And although the poet sometimes adapts words directly from his Latin source (see below), his language is quite plain in comparison with the "aureate" extravagances and rhetorical exuberance of the fifteenth-century Scottish and English Chaucerians such as Dunbar and Lydgate.28 On the other hand, while ScL's language is certainly Lowland Scots and requires detailed glossing, even for readers familiar with Middle English, there is little in ScL of the Scots colloquialisms and extreme dialectal obscurity of the so-called "low-life verse" cultivated by some later Scots writers.29

The Episode of the Three Questions in ScL

As Metcalfe points out, ScL follows its main source, LA, closely, sometimes word for word, although rarely with the effect of stylistic artificiality that slavish translation often achieves. 30 In the absence of detailed studies of his work, it may be instructive to examine the poet's handling of the beginning of the legend, and to compare ScL briefly with the equivalent portion of the SEL version.

The opening passage displays the poet's habitual combination of fidelity and freedom in the treatment of his source, adopting the concise language and syntax of the Latin where these result in idiomatic vernacular phrasing, but at the same time adding numerous minor touches that clarify the story and help achieve a thoroughly vernacular poetic voice. LA's account begins as follows:
Episcopus quidam, religiosam agens uitam beatum Andream inter ceteros et supra ceteros sanctos in ueneratione habebat, ita quod in cunctis suis operibus hunc semper titulum preponebat: "ad honorem Dei et beati Andree." (ed. Maggioni, 1.33)
The standard modern English translation manages to be even more concise than the Latin:
A certain truly devout bishop venerated Saint Andrew above all other saints and began whatever he was about to do with the invocation, "To the honor of God and Saint Andrew." (trans. Ryan, 1.18) 31
ScL expands the opening sentence into a leisurely eleven verses, omitting nothing of the Latin's substance, and reusing some of its syntax and language, but also adding various details that subtly alter the cumulative effect and meaning of the passage. For example, "Religeouse lyf liffand ay" (line 864) renders the phrase religiosam [agens] vitam word for word; ScL also retains the verbal construction of beatam Andream . . . in veneratione habebat ("had/held Andrew in veneration"), but translates veneratio itself by two different French loanwords: "Sancte Andrew in affecione / Had ay, and in devocione" (lines 865-66), which conveys the quality of the bishop's attachment to the saint in more warmly human terms than the Latin source. Similarly he improves on inter caeteros [et super ceteros] sanctos by omitting the redundant inter caeteros and adding an intensifying temporal phrase, "Oure all hawlouys that evir ware" (line 867), along with the important reservation, "Outane Goddis modir dere" (line 868), i.e., the Virgin Mary, who in late medieval devotion to the saints occupied the highest place of all.32 More than a simple pious reflex linking the bishop sympathetically with the great mass of the Christian faithful, this may also serve as a reminder of the hagiographic narrative tradition of the Marian miracles, closely paralleled (as we have suggested above) in the present tale. Finally, the poet offers a more detailed version of the bishop's habit of invoking his patron saint, expanding the Latin's rather vague cunctis suis operibus ("in all his works"), into the more specific "Quhen he suld eythir do or say / Or spedful or helplyk thinge" (lines 870-71). Further examples of the poet's translation technique are given in the notes on the text below, but it will be evident from this small sample how the act of verse translation is also, for the anonymous Scots poet, an ongoing process of interpretation and subtle nuancing.

Quite different is the approach of the earlier SEL-poet, whose general tendency is to abbreviate the narrative. While ScL's leisurely opening passage occupies twelve verses, the Southern poet conveys the essence of the same passage in only two:
A bischop while an holi man; among holi halewen alle
Mest he louede seint Andreu; so his hurte gan falle.33
The rest of the story is told in a mere 129 lines, well under half the Scottish version's total of 290 lines. At the same time as he abbreviates the story, however, the SEL-poet is much more inclined than the Scot to add personal commentary, apparently to influence the reader's responses. The most persistent example of this is his habit of branding the devil-woman with a derogatory epithet virtually every time he mentions her: e.g., "false maide" (line 131); "liþere þing" (lines 157, 161, "wicked thing"); "þe screwe" ( line 179, "shrew"); "þe devel" (line 194); "þis luþer best" (line 209, "wicked beast"). At one point (lines 143-46) he explodes in vituperation and bitter sarcasm:
Nou liþer þrift vpon hire clannisse; & hire maidenhod also      
Wel felliche heo hire biþoƷte; to make þe gode man misdo
Whanne wolde hit hire bicome; to beo so god & clene
Nou sorewe & sor vpe hire; forte ich hire bymene.34
ill luck
intended; treacherously
befit, suit
By contrast, the ScL-poet refers to the devil-woman almost always as the "lady" except once, when the word fend ("fiend") is used, immediately after the bishop has begun in earnest to lust after the devil-woman, and even here the fend seems to refer to the devil as someone external to the woman, manipulating her appearance and behavior (see lines 993-96). The SEL-poet's more intrusive style is also evident in his comment on the pilgrim who knocks at the gate. Whereas in LA and ScL the identity of the clever visitor is withheld from the reader, as from the participants, until after the unmasking of the devil-woman, in SEL35 the poet informs the reader immediately before the pilgrim arrives (lines 163-64):
Seint Andreu, þat he louede; nolde him noƷht vorƷite
Fram heuene he aliƷt adoun; fram sunne him to wite.36
In comparing ScL to SEL (and NHC) Gordon Hall Gerould concludes that the poet of the former "had his mind fixed . . . less on the public for which he was writing and more on the legends themselves than the makers of the English collections."37 Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the ScL author is more subtle and restrained than his Southern predecessors in adapting his Latin sources for his intended public. Theodor Wolpers suggests that the narrative style of ScL , avoiding the "emotionalism" and dramatic extremes of the more folksy SEL, is better suited for a calmly contemplative response, allowing the upper-class, better educated readers for whom the author purports to be writing to meditate on the life of the saint as on a "merroure" of virtuous living, and as an aid to prayer and devotion.38 Another major difference between the Scottish and English collections, of course, is that the latter apparently had a small circulation and left no evidence of a revised version. Metcalfe considers the core collection of apostles' legends to have been written "with headlong haste" and "want of careful revision."39


While we may refer to the language of ScL as Scots or Middle Scots as well as "Northern," its author calls it simply "ynglis"40 and certainly, with due allowance for the typically Northern differences of pronunciation and morphology, his term is accurate. Most modern readers should find our two selections from ScL easier going than, say, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was written around the same time, but several days' journey southwards.

Vowels. Typical of Northern Middle English in general is the retention of OE long a in words like tha (line 895, ME tho, "those"); allane (line 914, "alone"); nathynge (line 918, "no"); hale (line 923, "whole"); maste (line 1032, "most"),41 all of which are found with o in the Midland and Southern dialects. Long a may already have begun to be pronounced [e:] rather than [o:], as suggested by such spellings as fare (line 884) instead of regular ME fair, and ware rhyming with dere (lines 867-68); or the rhyming of sa (for "so") and fay (OE fa, "foe") in lines 875-76: sa is sometimes spelt say elsewhere in ScL.42 Just as the long a is being raised to [e:], so OE long o was being raised to [u:], e.g., gud (line 904) for ME god ("good"), and spellings elsewhere in ScL such as fwt for foot and fowd for food.

Consonants. The most unusual Northern variation is the cluster quh- instead of wh- or hw-, as in umquhile (line 863, "once") and quhen (line 870, "when"). Note that ch is used instead of Ʒ or gh before -t (nocht/thocht, lines 899-900, for nought and thought); k is common instead of medial and final -ch, as in sik (line 887, "such") and mekil (line 915, ME muchel). While ME sh- usually is spelled sch- as in schou and schryf (line 886, "she," "shrive"), it is reduced to s initially in sal/sall (e.g., line 959, "shall") and suld (e.g., line 870, "should"). Some final and medial voiced consonants are unvoiced: e.g., haf (line 892, "have"); liffand (line 864, "living"); schryf (line 886); wyss (line 955, "wise"). This also affects the dental suffix of the preterite and past participle of many weak verbs, as in liffit (line 876, "lived"); enforcit (line 878, "enforced"); transformyt (line 883, "transformed"), etc.

Pronouns. Medieval Scottish pronouns are already similar to those of Modern English. Third- person plural pronouns (from ON) are: thai, tham, and thar. The familiar second-person singular pronouns are thu, the (which we have rendered thee), and thi. Distinctive is the third-person female nominative pronoun: schow/schou/scho, of which the oblique form is hyr/hyre. The second-person plural forms are ye/you and yore/youre.

Verbs. Typically, Northern verbs have the present participle suffix -and, not -end or -inde/-inge. Present-tense endings are distinctive: e.g., the suffix -is/-s is often (though not invariably) used in present tense second- and third-person singular (wantis, line 1019), and first-, second-, and third-person plural (fyndis, line 1040; has, line 1041), and the plural imperative (sendis, line 1030), where other ME dialects would have -eth or -e(n). There is some wavering as to the ending of the first-person singular present tense: usually the devil-woman avoids the -s (except at line 913: has instead of haf), as does the bishop initially (lines 892-93), but he says hechtis at line 964.

Vocabulary. The poet's diction is largely free of obscure dialect words, freely mingling vocabulary of Old English, Scandinavian, and French origin. The strangeness and difficulty of the work result only partly from its vocabulary, much more so from the peculiarities of Northern/Scottish spelling and pronunciation. Among the words found only in Middle Scots are increly (line 949, "earnestly/eagerly"), possibly of ON origin; grettumly (line 950, "greatly"), from OE greatum (dative plural of great) + -lic (adverbial suffix); forferlyt (line 950, "enchanted"), from OE færlic ("sudden/strange/wondrous") + for (intensifying prefix); and forowtine (line 980, "without"), from OE forutan. Other words occurring generally in the Northern dialect include: but (line 1009, "without"); gaynand (line 942, "suitable"); ger (line 880, "cause"), from ON; till (line 888, "to"), from ON; grathly (line 1087, "properly/well"), from ON; bad (a Scots variant of bode), as in but (a)bad (line 1035, "without delay"); speryt (line 1023, "asked"), from OE spyrian. Others are mentioned in the notes or explained in the glosses, and most can be further researched in the MED and OED.


Our text is based closely on Metcalfe's printed edition of ScL,43 collated with the unique manuscript, Cambridge University Library MS Gg.2.6. In addition to normalizing orthographic variants such as i/j and u/v, we have also normalized the scribe's occasional (and typically Scottish) use of w instead of initial and medial v, a variation originally limited to words of French origin. Metcalfe's frequent hyphens are omitted and not all his emendations have been accepted.

Indexed in

IMEV 2650.


Cambridge University Library MS Gg.2.6, fols. 29r-29v. [For the complete ScL version, see fols. 21r-32v.]

Previous editions

Horstmann. Barbour's des schottischen Nationaldichters Legendensammlung. 1.43-47. [For the complete ScL version, see 1.31-47.]

Legends of the Saints in the Scottish Dialect of the Fourteenth Century. Ed. Metcalfe. 1.88-96. [For the complete ScL version, see 1.63-96.]

Go To St. Andrew and the Three Questions in the Scottish Legendary (c. 1400)