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Must be the speech that men most need.
Seldom was by any chance
Praised the English tongue in France;
Do we the same to their languáge
Methinks we do them no outráge.
For unlearned Englishman I spell,
That understandeth what I tell,
And specially I those address
That all their lives in idleness
On trifles waste and beggars' lies,
To them I say: "Take care, be wise,
And well unto my words attend,
And all your way with might amend.”
Ill have they who in spending spend,
And find no fruit thereof at end.
Now from this prologue we will blinne,"
And in Christ's name our book begin:
Cursor o'World men ought it call,
For almost it o'er runs it all.
Take we our beginning than
From Him who all the world began.

They either say "a, a,” or “e, e,”
And thus here we find the starting
Of our weeping and life's smarting,
Unto this have sorrows brought us,
Therefore Innocent has taught us:
Omnes nascimur eiulantes, ut nature nostre

miseriam exprimamus.
He says: “We all are born complaining,
We cry, and wail--man's sorrow feigning,
To show the misery, how great
The wretchedness of man's estate."
Thus when the time came of our birth,
All made sorrow and no mirth;
Naked we hither came, and bare,
And just so shall we hither fare.








Richard Kolle of Hampole

died 1349




(From the same) All joys are there in that countrie, There life from death forever free; There youth is, ever without eld, All wealth is there forever held: There is aye rest without travail; There are all goods that never fail; There peace forever, without strife: There every kind of joyous life; There is, free from all darkness, light; There is aye day and never night; There aye is summer bright to see; And never more winter in that countrie; There are true friendships and richesse, More nobleness than man may guess; There is more worship and honour Than ever had king or emperour; There is all might and power secure; And there an endless home made sure; 7830 There too are all delights and ease, And sure tranquility and peace; There peaceful joy forever is, And pleasure there and lasting bliss. ... 7834 There always blissful certainty, And certain dwelling ever free; There is all mirth, each pastime dear; There laughter is, and lovely cheer; There's melody and angel's song, And love and praise from that bright throng: There is all friendship that may be; And perfect love and charitie; There is accord, and its due mede Is given aye to each good deed; There's lowly awe and reverence, And meekness and obedience; There are all virtues and no sin, All dainties and delights therein, All wisdom's there from folly free, And honour without villany. There is brightness and beautie In everything that men shall see; There joys are free and general, But the most sovereign joy of all Is the blest sight of God's bright face, Beyond all joys and all solace.



THE INFANT (From The Pricke of Conscience, c. 1340) (When man) was born to this world's light, He had not either strength or might, 465 Either to walk or yet to stand, Nor to creep with foot and hand. Then has the man less might than beast; When he is born, he seems the least; For a beast, when it is born, may go

470 And run soon after to and fro; But a man has no might thereto, When he is born, such things to do; For then he may not stand nor creep, But only sprawi and cry and weep.

475 For a child is scarcely born before It has begun to cry and roar; And by that cry men tell truly Whether it man or woman be. When it is born it cries such way: For if it be man it says “a, a," So that the letter is the same As the first in Father Adam's name. And if the child a woman be, When it is born it says “e, e,”

485 E is the foremost letter in Eve's name, who brought us death and sin. Hence a clerk made in this manere, This line in metre written here: Dicentes E vel A quotquot nascuntur ab Eva, 490 "All those," he says, "that come of Eve, Means all men that below here live, When they are born, what-so they be, Cease.

8 Then. 1 A Poem of about 10,000 lines is addressed to the unlearned "that can ne Latyne understand," and is intended by its dreadful pictures of death and judgment, to prick the reader's conscience, so that he may “work good works and flee folly."






7860 45

Lawrence Minot

c. 1300-1352

THE BATTLE OF HALIDON HILL Listen, Lordings, if you will Hear of the battle of Halidon Hill.


They said it should full dear be bought,
The land whence they were driven out.
Philip Valois wordės wrought,
And said he should their foeman stay;
But all these words they went for naught,
Words must be meet or weak are they.
More menaces they boasting cry,
In spite of might they have their meed;
And many a night awake they lie
To harm all England by their deed;
But low is now that pride so high
Of those that were so stout on steed;
And some of them all naked lie
Not far from Berwick upon Tweed.



True King that sitteth on thy throne,
Unto thee I tell my tale,
And unto thee I bid a boon,
For thou art balm of all my bale.
As thou hast made the earth and moon,
And beasts and foulės great and smale,
Unto me send thy succour soon
Direct my deedės in this dale.





In this dale I droup and dare
For evil deeds that cost me dear,
For England had my heart great care,
When Edward went at first to were.3
The men of France were bold to fare
Against him with the shield and spere;
They turned again with sidės sair
And all their pomp not worth a pere.
A pear is more of price sometides
Than all the boast of Normandie.
They sent their ships on ilka side
With flesh and wine and wheat and rye;
With heart and hand, 'tis not denied,
For to help Scotland gan they hie,
They fled and durst no deed abide
And all their boast not worth a flye.

A little from that selfsame town,
Halidon Hill that is the name,
There was cracked many a crown
Of the wild Scot and eke of tame.
Then was their banner borne all down,
To make such boasts they were to blame;
But nathéless aye are they boune
To hurt Englánd with sorrow and shame.
Shame they have as I here say;
At Dundee now is done their dance,
And wend they must another way
Even through Flanders into France.
On Philip Valoisto fast cry they,
There for to dwell and him advance.
And nothing list they now to play
Since them befell this sorry chance.








For all their boast they durst not fight,
For dint of death they had such dout,
Of Scotland had they never sight
Although they were of wordės stout.
They would have magnified their might
And troubled were they there about.
Now God help Edward in his right,
Amen-and all his ready rout.
His ready rout may Jesu speed.
And save them both by night and day;
That Lord of Heaven may Edward lead,
And him maintain as well He may.
The Scotchmen now all wide will sprede?
For they have failėd of their prey,
Now are they daunted all for drede
That were before so stout and gay.


This sorry chance hath them o'erthrown,
For they were false and wondrous fell;
For cursed caitiffs are they known
And full of treason, sooth to tell.
Sir John Comyn'l had they struck down,
In holy kirk they did him quell;12
So many a Scottish bride makes moan
With dolour dight13 there must they dwell.
There dwelled our king, the sooth to sayn,
With his meniėl4 a little while;
He gave good comfort on that plain
To all his men about a mile.
Although his men were mickle of main, 15
Ever they doubted them of guile;
They Scottish gauds 16 might nowise gain
For all they stumbled at that stile.
They came not from that strife alive
That were before so proud in prese, 17
Jésu, for thy woundės five,
In England help us to have peace.




Gay they were and well they thought On Earl Morays and others stout;

1 This poem is one of the famous war-songs which celebrate events in the reign of Edward III, between 1333-1352. The battle of Halidon Hill was fought in 1333. The King, who was besieging Berwick, completely routed a Scotch force under Sir Archibald Douglas, which had come to relieve the town. Berwick passed into the hands of the English, and has remained so till today. 2 Pine. 3 War.

4 Pear. Sometimes. 6 Fear.

7 Disperse. 8 John Randolph, 3rd Earl of Moray, d. 1316, was one of the strongest supporters of the young king of Scotland, David II.

• Ready.

10 Philip VI. King of France, 1328-1350, who in the interests of France, became the ally of Scotland against their common enemy England.

11 Comyn, surnamed The Red, one of the rivals of Bruce to the Throne of Scotland after Edward Balliol's renunciation. He was murdered on the altar steps of the Franciscan church at Dunfries by Bruce and his followers, in 1306. 12 Kill.

13 Grief-stricken. 14 Company.

15 Great of might. 16 Trappings, booty.

17 The post of danger.

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Man in this world was never born,
Who, if he Orpheo sat beforn,
And once might of his harping hear,
But he should thinkė that he were
In one of the joys of Paradis,

Such music in his harping is.
Orpheo lived in Crasséns,
A city noble in defence,
He hath a queen full fair of pris,3
That called is Dame Erodys,
The fairest woman for the nonės 4
That might be made of flesh and bonės,
Full of all love and of goodness,
No man may tell of her fairness.
It befel in time of May, -
When is merry and pleasing the summer's day,
Away have gone the winter's showers,
And every field is full of flowers,
Of blossoms springing on the bough,
O'er all the land 'tis merry enow,
That this same Queen, Dame Erodys,
Took with her maidens two of pris,
And walked in the undertide 5
To play within her orchard-side,
To see the flowers spread and spring,
And see and hear the sweet birds sing.
Then down they seated them all three,
Fairly beneath an ympė tree,
And full soon that fairest queen,
Fell fast asleep upon the green,

70 The maidens durst not her awake, But round her they 'gan merry make, And let her sleep till afternoon When the undertide was gone; And as soon as she gan wake

75 She cried, and loathsome 'gan her make, Her hands and eke her feet she tore, And scratched her till she bled full sore; Her clothing rich she all to-rent, All wild out of her wittes went. The maidens two that sat beside, They durst no longer there abide, But straightway sought the castle hall And told both knights and squires all, How that their Queen away would go. The knights went also, and ladies too, And demoiselles fifty and many mo? To fetch her as they fain would do. Into the orchard ran they out And took her in their armis stout, And brought her to her bed at last And therein held her down full fast; But still she cried in angry mood, And rent herself as she were wode. When heard the King this dread tiding, He was never so woe for any thing. The King came with his knightės keen Into the chamber to his Queen, And for her had he great pitíe. “Sweet heart,” he said, “how may this be, That thou who ever wert so still, Shouldst now cry out so loud and shrill? Thy body that was white beforn, Now with thy nails is rent and torn. 3 Price. 4 Nonce. 5 Morning 6 Grafted tree.



(14th Century) We read full oft and find y-writ As clerkės wise make us to wit, Those lays that have for men's harping Been made of many a noble thing: Some are of weal and some of Woe, Some of joy and mirth alsó, Some of jest and ribaldry, And some there are of faerie; Of traitors some, and some of guile, Or some mishap that chanced erstwhile: Of all the things that men may see Most fit to praise forsooth they be. In Brittany these lays were wrought, There first were made, and thence were brought Of áventures that fell in days Whereof the Britons made their lays; So when of old they chanced to hear Of áventures in days that were, They took their harps with glee and game? And made a lay and did it name. Of áventures that did befall I can tell some but nowise all. Harken, lordlings, that be true, And I will tell of Sir Orphew. Orpheo was a richė King,

25 And in his time a great lording; A full fair man both large and tall, And courteous and brave withal. His father was come of King Plutó, And his mother came of Queen Junó, Who in old times as gods were holden For deeds they did and words they tolden. Orpheo most of anything, Loved the music of harping; Certain was every good harpour From him to have most high honour. Right well himself he loved to harp, And gave thereto his wittės sharp; He learned so that there was none, Who could harp better 'neath the sun.








100 105

8 Mad. » Bold.

1 Satisfaction.

1 The romance of Sir Orpheo belongs to that group of poems known as “Breton Songs."

That is to say, it is one of a number of short rhymed narrative poems which are chiefly of Celtic origin. The Classical story of Orpheus is transformed into a medieval fairy story, and the gloomy land of Pluto becomes a beautiful land of


2 Mirth.

7 More.







Alas! thy cheeks which were so red
Are now all wan and grey as lead,
And thy dainty fingers fair,
Pallid now and bloody are.
Alas! thy lovely eyėn too
Look on me as on a foe.
Lady dear, I crave mercie,
Lét be all this rueful cry,
And tell to me what thing, and how,
If any thing, -may help thee now."
Still grows the lady at the last,
While she began to weep full fast,
Saying, while yet the tears would flow,
"Alas! my lord, Sir Orpheo,
Never since we two plighted troth
Was either with the other wroth,
Yet ever hast thou loved me,
With all mine heart so have I thee;
And now we twain shall part in two,
Do thy best, yet I must go.'
“Alas!” he said, “my life is bare,
Unto whom goest thou and where?
Where thou comest thou shalt with me,
Whither thou goest I will with thee.”
"Sir," said she, “it may not be thus,
I'll tell thee how it is with us.
As I lay this undertide
Asleep upon the orchard-side,
Two gallant knights came to me there,
Arrayed in richest garments fair,
And bade me come without letting,
To speak unto their lord the king.
Right boldly then I answered there-
Nor will I come, nor do I dare.'
At the word they did depart,
Then came their King so blithe of heart, 140
With a thousand knights and mo
And fifty fair ladies alsó,
A-riding all on snow-white steeds,
And snow-white also were their weeds, 10
Never, in faith, since I was born

Knights so fair came me beforn.
The King a crown had on his head,
'Twas not of silver, nor gold so red,
All it was of precious stone,
As bright as sun forsooth it shone.
He stayed for naught but straight me sought,
And willy, nilly, me he caught,
And me he made with him to ride
On a white palfrey by his side,
And brought me in to his palýs, 11
Right well bedight it was I wis.
He showed me castles, halls and towers,
Rivers, meadows, fields and flowers,
And his forests every one;
And after, back he brought me home,
Back into our own orchárd,
And said to me this afterward:
'Look tomorrow that thou be
Here beneath this ympė tree;
And if thou makest any let,

165 Where'er thou be thou shalt be fet, 12 And to tear thy limbės all, Shall help thee naught whate'er befall, And although thou be all torn 10 Garments,

Yet away shalt thou be borne.'

170 When the King he heard this case, “Out!” he said, “alace! alace!13 I had rather lose my life Than to lose the Queen my wife!” Counsel he asked of many man

175 But of them all none help him can. The hour came, the morrow's sun, The King hath put his armour on, Two hundred knights he takes with him, Fully armėd, stout and grim:

180 Out then with the Queen went he Into the orchard 'neath the tree; Then did they watch on every side, And planned that there they would abide, Resolved to suffer death and woe,

185 E'er that the Queen should from them go. But shortly then did it befall, As the Queen sat among them all, The fairy took that lady fair And she was gone—no man wist where. 190 Crying and weeping there was alsó, The King gan to his chamber go, He fell adown upon the stone, And made great dole and mickle moan, Well nigh he had himself yschent 14

195 He saw there was no ámendement. He sent for earl and for baróun, And other lords of great renown, And, when they all together were, “Lordės,” he said, “assembled here, 200 I set mine steward of mine hall To keep my landés over all. Now my Queen is left forlorn, The best ladie that e'er was born; No more will I woman see,

205 In wilderness now will I be, And there abide in woodlands hoar And in the wilds forevermore. Then when ye know I have left all, Ye straight a parliament shall call,

210 And ye shall chose you a new King, And do your best in everything.” Great sorrow then was in the hall, Weeping and crying 'mongst them all, And there might neither old nor young 215 For weeping speak a word with tongue. They kneelėd all a-down i-fere, And begged him if his will it were, That he would never from them go, “Away!” he said, “I will not so. Then all his kindred he forsook And unto him a sclaveyn took, He would have no other hood; Hose, nor shoe, nor other good; Only his harp he took, and straight

225 He journeyed barefoot through the gate. No man there must with him go, Alas! there weeping was and woe. He that was King and bare the crown, Went out so poorly from the town, Into the wild he takes his road, Both through the heath and through the wood. Nothing he hath to give him ease, 13 Alas!

11 Palace.

12 Fetched.

** Disgraced. 16 Together.

16 Hair-shirt.






230 235











But ever lives in great malaise. 17
In the rough wood he nights must pass,
And cover him with herb and grass;
He that had a great plentie,
Meat, and drink, and dignitie,
Now must dig and grub full sair,
Ere of roots he gets his fare.
In summer on the haws he lives,
That midst her leaves the hawthorne gives;
In winter, by the root and rind,
For other thing he may not find.
He was all shrunken, shriveled, pale,
With beating rain, and cutting hail;
No man could tell the travail sore
He had endured ten years or more.
He that had castles, halls and towers,
Forests, rivers, fields, and flowers,
Nothing that likes him 18 now had he,
But savage beasts that from him flce.
His matted beard has shaggy grown,
Below his girdle has it gone.
He taketh harp and maketh glee,
And lies all night beneath a tree.
When bright and clear there dawns the day,
He takes his harp and makes no stay,
Amidst the wood he sits him down
And tunes his harp with a merry soun,
And harps all after his own will;
Through all the wood it ringeth shrill.
The savage beasts that there are found,
For joy about him gather round,
And all the little birds that were,
For joy they come about him there
To listen to that harping fine,
So mickle joy there was therein.
His harping when he laid aside,
Nor bird, nor beast would then abide, 270
But all together they are flown,
And leave him there to sit alone.
Often saw he him beside,
In the heat of summer-tide,
The Fairy King with all his rout,

Come a-hunting all about.
With shout and merry din they go
And noise of hound and horn alsó;
And yet forsooth, no beast they slay,
Nor knows he where they take their way. 280
And other whiles he may espye,
A mighty hunt go passing by,
Full two hundred knights of pride
Armėd through the forest ride.
Somewhile he saw other thing,
Knights and ladies come riding
With raiment bright and courtly grace,
Moving all with easy pace;
Tabors and pipes with them there be,
And every kind of minstrelsy.
And ladies too there come riding,
Jolie19 they were in everything,
Gentle and gay they were I wis,
Nor no man there among them is.
Hawk on hand did each one bear,
And hawking went by the rivére,
Of game they found the favorite haunt,
Pheasant, hern, and cormorant.

The birds from out the river flew,
And every hawk his quarry slew.
That Orpheo saw in merry mood,
As underneath the bough he stood;
'Parfay,” he said, “there is good game,
Thither will I, in Goddės name."
Such sport was he wont to see,

So up he rose and there came he
One lady there he came untó,
He searched her face and form alsó,
Right well he knew it was, I wis,
His own ladíe, Dame Erodys.
He saw her plain and she him eke,
Yet ne'er a word did either speak.
For him she did so poor espy
That sometime was so rich and high,
The tears ran down her face, I wis,
And looking on her so did his,
And then away they made her ride,
For there no longer she might bide.
'Alas!” he said, “and woe is me!
Why will not death come suddenly! 320
Wretch that I am! O, that I might
Die now, when I have seen this sight!
Alas! too long lasteth my life,
Since I may speak not with my wife,
Nor she with me a word may speak!
Alas! why will my heart not break!
Parfay!he said, "whate'er betide,
I will see where those ladies ride,
And in that way I too will go -
I care not for my life a sloe.'

330 His sclavyne put he on his back And took his harp right as he spak, And swiftly after them is gone, Over stock and over stone. In at the rock the ladies ride,

335 He went straight after, he would not bide. When he was into the rock y-go20 Full three mile and some deal mo,21 He came unto a fair countráy, It was as bright as any day.

340 Neither hill nor dale was seen, All was lawn full fair and green, Midst it a castle met his eye, Noble and rich, and wondrous high, Over all the topmost wall Shone as doth the clear crystál, And the towers that were there Were gaily set with pearlės fair; The farthest, rising from the ditch, Was all of gold and silver rich; The front, that stood amidst them brade, 22 Was all of divers metals made; Within, a wondrous dwelling wide, With gold and gems all glorified, The pillars fair thereon, were dight With precious stones and sapphires bright. So fair the palace shone by night That all the town was full of light, Those richė stones so fairly shone They were as bright as any sun,

360 No man might tell, nor think in thought, The riches that therein were wrought. The ladies at the castle light, 20 Gone. 21 More.

17 Discomfort. 18 Pleases him. 10 Pretty.

22 Broad.







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