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god-children too many have been slain through- crowd of Christian men from sea to sea through
out this people, besides others all too many, the nations, huddled together, to the shame of
who, without fault, have been destroyed. us all in the sight of the world,-if in earnest
Too many holy places, far and wide, have we knew any shame or even would rightly
perished, because certain men were lodged 5 understand. And all the misery that we
there, as they would not have been, if we had continually suffer we repay with honor to them
wished to know reverence for God's peace. that shame us. We pay geldsS to them con-
Christian folk too many have been sold all the tinually, and they abuse us daily. They harry,
while out of this land. All this is loathsome they burn, they spoil and plunder, and carry
to God, let him believe it who will. . . . Also 10 off to the ships; and lo, what else in these
we know full well whence hath come the evil troubles is clear and manifest but God's wrath
that a father sell his son for a price, and the son towards this people?
his mother, and one brother the other, into the No wonder misfortune is upon us, for we
power of strangers outside this nation. All know full well that now for many years men
these are mickle and terrible deeds, as he may 15 have seldom recked what they wrought in word
understand who will; and there are yet greater or deed; but this nation hath become, as it may
and more manifold that afflict this people. appear, very sinful, through manifold sins and
Many are forsworn and greatly purjured; misdeeds, through murder and evil, through
pledges are broken again and again; and it is greed and covetousness, rapine and robbery,
clear in this land that God's wrath sits heavily 20 treachery and heathen vices, through treason
upon us,- let him who


and deceit, through law-breaking and sedition, Lo, how can greater shame come upon men through attacks on kinsmen, through manthrough God's wrath than cometh upon us, for slaughter and violation of religious vows, our own deserts? Though a thrall escape from through adultery and incest and divers fornihis lord and leave Christendom to become a 25 cations. Also, as we said before, through oathViking, and it come about afterward that breaking and pledge-breaking, and through thane and thrall come together in battle, if divers falsehoods, more than should be are the thrall foully slay the thane, the thane for all ruined and forsworn. Breaches of the peace his relations must lie without wer-geld, and and of fasting are wrought again and again. if the thane foully kill the thrall whom he 30 Also here in the land are reprobate apostates formerly owned, he must pay the wer-geld of a and hostile persecutors of the Church, and thane.6 Full evil laws and shameful tribute cruel tyrants, all too many; despisers of divine are, through God's wrath, common to us, as he law and Christian customs; and everywhere in who can may understand; and many mis- the nation foolish mockers, most often of those fortunes beset this people. This long time 35 things commanded by God's ministers, and nothing hath prospered within or without, but very often of those things that belong of right harrying and hatred have been continual on to God's law. Therefore hath now come about every side. The English have now long been the wide-spread evil custom that men are more without victory, and too greatly dismayed, ashamed of good deeds than of misdeeds, for through God's anger; and the ship-men? have 40 men too often deride good deeds, and all too become so strong, with God's consent, that in much revile the pious, and blame and greet with battle one of them will often put to flight ten of contumely those who love right and have in us, sometimes less, sometimes more, all because any measure the fear of God. Because men of our sins. . . . Often a thrall bindeth fast the despise all that they ought to praise and conthane who was formerly his lord, and maketh of 45 tinually loathe what they should love, all too him a thrall, through God's anger. Alas for many are brought to evil thoughts and deeds, the misery, alas for the shame in the eyes of the so that they are not ashamed though they sin world, that Englishmen now suffer, all by God's greatly and work in all things against God wrath! Often two or three seamen will drive a himself; but because of idle calumnies they are angered God that He very soon let the army of us do as we have need to do, turn to the right the English win their land and entirely de- and in some measure shun and forsake unstroyed the flower of the Britons. This, he righteousness, and eagerly better what we have said, came about because the clergy broke their heretofore broken. Let us seek Christ on our vows, and laymen the law, because of plunder- 5 knees and often call upon Him with trembling ing by the rich, extortion, evil laws of princes, heart and earn His mercy. Let us love God false judgments; because of the sloth and and fulfill God's laws, and perform eagerly ignorance of bishops, and the wicked cowardice what we promised when we received baptism, of God's ministers, who all too often were si- or those promised who at baptism spoke for lent concerning the truth, and mumbled within 10 us. Let us rightly order words and works, and their jaws when they should have called out. willingly cleanse our inner thoughts, carefully Through foul wantonness of the folk, through keep oath and pledge, and without weakness gluttony and manifold sins, they ruined their have some faith amongst us. Let us often land, and themselves perished.

50 ashamed to better their misdeeds, as books 6 The thane was of the higher rank, and the thrall of the lowest rank in old English society. Wer-geld, or teach, like those fools who for their pride will Man-price, was the sum at which a man's life was valued

not save themselves before that time when according to law, the amount varying for the different ranks of society. If one murdered another, the mur- they cannot though they would. derer could atone for his crime by paying wer-geld to An historian there was in the time of the the kinsmen of the one slain. Wulfstan's complaint is that the law pertaining to wer-gelds was no longer ad- 55 Britons, Gildas' by name, who wrote of their ministered with justice, and that in the case described, misdeeds, how by their sins they so greatly the thane who should kill his escaped thrall, or slave, would have to pay the same wer-geld as if he had killed a thane, and this in spite of the fact that the thrall had 8 Payments of money to buy off the Danes. joined the enemy.

9 A Romanized Briton who, about 547, wrote a history 7 The Danes, or Vikings.

of Britain from Roman times to his own day.

consider the great judgment we shall all come But let us do, as is needful for us,-take 15 to, and eagerly save ourselves from the raging warning by such. Sooth is it that I say, worse fire of hell's torment, and earn for us the glory deeds we know have been among the English and the gladness that God hath prepared for than we have heard of anywhere among the those who work His will in the world. May Britons, and therefore have we great need to God help us. Amen. reflect and to reconcile ourselves to God. Let 20


1066-c. 1350








He abided at Arnley, at the great Church there (Before 1200)

Upon Severn's side, (it seemed to him good

there) I am now older than I was, in winters and in Hard by to Radėstone, where he read bookės. 5 lore,

It came in his mind, and he made it his purpose, I wield more power than I did, my wit ought To tell of the English, the triumphs of old; to be more.

What names the men had, what lands they were Too long a child I have been, in word and eke come from; in deed;

What folk English-land first of all owned And though I am in winters old, too young I am After the deluge that down from the Lord

in rede.? My life methinks a useless one, like that I've Which quellėd? all men that quick here it ever led;

foundė, When I bethink me well thereon, full sore I am Except Noah and Shem, Japhet and Ham, adread.

And their four wives who were in the ark with Mere idleness and childishness seems most that them.

I have done; Full late I have bethought myself, unless God's So 'gan Layamon wander wide 'mongst the grace I've won.

people, I've spoken many idle words since I to speak And noble books got he for guides in his knew how,

labours. And many deeds I did in youth that I repent That English book took he, made by Saintme now.

Bæda; All too often have I sinned in work and eke in Another in Latin, left by Saint Albin, word;

And the bless'd Austin, who baptism brought All too much, alas, I've spent, too little laid in us; hoard.

A third he took likewise, and laid it among At most of that I liked of yore I now can only them, grieve;

That a French clerk had made,-Wace was he Who overmuch doth have his will, himself doth called, but deceive.

This goodly writing he gave to the noble I might in truth have better done, had I of joy Eleanor, of Henry, that high King, his Queen. great wealth;

Layamon laid these books down, their leaves he And now I would, and yet cannot, for age and

turned over, for unhealth.

With love he looked on them, the Lord grant Old age on me hath stolen fast, before of it I

him mercy, wist;

Feather took he with fingers, and fair on the Nor can I see before me now for dark smoke and book-skin for mist.

The sooth words then wrote he, and set them Fearful are we to do good, in evil all too bold; together, More in awe of man is man than of the Christ of And these three writings he wrought into one.

old. Who doth not well the while he may, full oft it Now Layamon prayeth for the Lord's love shall him rue,

Almighty, When men at last shall surely reap that which Each wise man who readeth words in this book they ere did strew.

written, And heedeth this teaching, that these holy wordės

30 Layamon

He say all together: HOW LAYAMON WROTE HIS BOOK

For the soul of his father, who forth him

broughté, (From the Brut, c. 1205)

For the soul of his mother, who made him a man, In the land lived a priest, who was Layamon

And for his own soul, so that better befall it.

Amen. called, He was Leovenath's son; Lord to him be the legendary history of Britain, based largely on the

Brut of the Anglo-Norman poet Wace. BrutBrutus, gracious,

who according to the fabulous accounts of Geoffrey of 1 This selection is taken from the opening of the Poema

Monmouth and others was the grandson of Æneas, and

the founder of New Troy or London. Morale, or Moral Ode; a poem of about 400 lines. It may

2 Killed. have been written as early as the reign of Henry I.

3 Austin, i. e. St. Augustine, the first Archbishop of (1100-1135).

2 Counsel, wisdom.

Canterbury. * The Brut is a poem of about 30,000 lines. It is on Pen.





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Thomas of Wales

(Before 1226)
A maid of Christ entreateth me
That I for her a love-rune write
By which most plainly she may see
The way to choose a faithful knight;
One that to her shall loyal be
And guard and keep her by his might.
Never will I deny her plea,
To teach her this be my delight.




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(c. 1215-1220)
Now, brother Walter, brother mine

After the fleshes kind,
And brother mine in Christendom

Through baptism and through truth,
And brother mine eke in God's house,

Once more, in a third way,
Since that we two have taken both

One book of rules to follow.
Under the canons' rank and life
So as Saint Austino set;

10 I now have done even as thou bad'st,

Forwarding to thy will,
I now have turned into English

The Gospel's holy lore,
After that little wit that me

My Lord and God has lent.
Thou thoughtest how that it might well

To mickle profit turn,
If English folk, for love of Christ,

It readily would learn
And follow it, fulfilling it

With thought, with word, with deed, And therefore yearnedst thou that I

This work for thee should work; And I have forwarded it for thee,

25 And all through help of Christ. . And since the holy gospel book

All this goodness shows us,
This sevenfold good that Christ to us
Did grant through His great love,

30 For this 'tis meet all Christian folk

Should follow gospel's lore.
And therefore have I rendered it

Into English speech,
Because I wished most earnestly

35 That all good English folk With ear should hearken unto it,

With heart should truly believe, With tongue should ever tell of it, In deed should follow it,

40 To win through Christ in Christendom

The soul's salvation true.
And God almighty give us might

And wish and wit and will
To follow well this English book

That is all holy lore,
So that we may full worthy be
To know high heaven's bliss.

Amen. Amen. Amen. I that in English this have set,

Englishmen to teach,
At the time when I was christened,

By name of Orm was called.
And I, Orm, full inwardly
With mouth and eke with heart,

55 1 The book of the monk Orm, an unfinished poem of over 10,000 lines, giving the gospels of the ecclesiastical year as arranged in the Mass-book (Cf. “The Gospel's holy lore," line 14), with comments and appropriate religious instruction.

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Paris and Helen, where are they That were so bright and fair of face?

2 Saint Augustine (354 430) one of the greatest of the Early Fathers of the Church

1 A love poem, writing, or counsel.

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They are as though they never were,
Of them are many wonders said,
And it is pity for to hear
How these were slain with tortures dread,
And how alive they suffered here;
Their heat is turned to cold instead,
Thus doth the world but false appear,
The foolish trust it,-lo! 'tis sped.


In peace and love in heavenly light.
Are they not, maid, in a good way,
Who love and serve our Lord aright?
No man may Him ever see
As He is in all His might,
And without pure bliss may be
When he knows the Lord of light.
With Him all is joy and glee,
He is day without a night.
Will he not most happy be
Who may bide with such a knight?
This writing, maiden, that I send,
Open it, break seal and read;
Wide unroll, its words attend,
Learn without book each part with speed.
Then straight to other maidens wend
And teach it them to meet their need;
Whoso shall learn it to the end
In sooth 'twill stand him in good stead.
And when thou sittest sorrowing,
Draw forth the scroll I send thee here,
And with sweet voice its message sing,
And do its bidding with good cheer.
To thee this does His greeting bring;
Almighty God would have thee near;
He bids thee come to His wedding,
There where he sits in Heaven's high sphere.







For though a mighty man he were
As Henry, England's king by birth,
Though he as Absalom were fair,
Whose peer lived not in all the earth,
Yet of his pride he's soon stripped bare,
At last he'll fetch not a herring's worth,
Maid, if thou mak'st true love thy care
I'll show thee a love more true than earth.
Ah! maiden sweet, if thou but knew
All the high virtues of this knight!
He is fair and bright of hue,
Mild, with face of shining light,
Meet to be loved and trusted too,
Gracious, and wise beyond man's sight,
Nor through him wilt thou ever rue,
If thou but trust in his great might.
He is the strongest in the land;
As far as man can tell with mouth,
All men lie beneath his hand,
East, and West, and North, and South;
Henry, King of Engelland,
He holds of him and to him boweth
His messenger, at his command,
His love declares, his truth avow'th.
Speak'st thou of buildings raised of old,
Wrought by the wise king Solomon,
Of jasper, sapphires, and fine gold,
And of many another stone?
His home is fairer by many fold
Than I can tell to any one;
'Tis promised, maid, to thee of old,
If thou wilt take him for thine own.





(c. 1216-1225) Once within a summer's dale, In a very secret vale, Heard I 'gainst each other rail Hoary Owl and Nightingale. That strife was stiff, and stark, and strong, 5 Now 'twas soft, now loud it rung, And each bird would the other flout, And all the evil mood let out; And each said of the other's way The very worst she knew to say;

10 Indeed, about each other's song The strife they waged was very strong.

The Nightingale began the speech
From her corner in a beech:
She sat upon a pleasant bough,

Blossoms about there were enow,
Where in a thick and lonely hedge,
Mingled soft shoots and greenest sedge.
She, gladdened by the bloomy sprays,
Varied her song in many ways.

20 Rather it seemed the joy I heard Of harp or pipe than song of bird. Such strains, methought, must rather float From harp or pipe than feathered throat.

1 This poem and the following are examples of a popular poetic mode in the middle ages, i. e. debates or disputes. In The Owl and the Nightingale, the two birds are represented as disputing over their respective modes of life. The poem has a broad human interest, as the two birds express two opposing ideals of life: the nightingale that of the refined, joyous, pleasure-lover; the owl, that of the ascetic. The birds submit their case at last to the judgment of Nicholas of Guildford, whom some suppose to be the author of the poem.



It stands upon foundations sound,
So built that they shall never fall;
Nor miner sap them underground,
Nor shock e'er shake the eternal wall;
Cure for each wound therein is found,
Bliss, joy and song, fill all that hall.
The joys that do therein abound
Are thine, thou may'st possess them all.
There friend from friend shall never part,
There every man shall have his right;
No hate is there, no angry heart,
Nor any envy, pride or spite;
But all shall with the angels play


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