Angelus ad virginem

“Angelus ad virginem” is a Medieval Latin carol celebrating the Annunciation by the angel Gabriel telling the Virgin that she would conceive and bear the Christ child. The Latin lyrics are (here’s a rough translation):

1. Angelus ad virginem
Subintrans in conclave.
Virginis formidinum
Demulcens inquit “Ave.”
Ave regina virginum,
Coeliteraeque dominum
Concipies
Et paries
Intacta,
Salutem hominum.
Tu porta coeli facta
Medella criminum.

2. Quomodo conciperem,
quae virum non cognovi?
Qualiter infringerem,
quae firma mente vovi?
‘Spiritus sancti gratia
Perficiet haec omnia;
Ne timaes,
sed gaudeas,
secura,
quod castimonia
Manebit in te pura
Dei potentia.’

3. Ad haec virgo nobilis
Respondens inquit ei;
Ancilla sum humilis
Omnipotentis Dei.
Tibi coelesti nuntio,
Tanta secreti conscio,
Consentiens
Et cupiens
Videre
factum quod audio,
Parata sum parere
Dei consilio.

4. Angelus disparuit
Etstatim puellaris
Uterus intumuit
Vi partus salutaris.
Qui, circumdatus utero
Novem mensium numero,
Hinc Exiit
Et iniit
Conflictum,
Affigens humero
Crucem, qua dedit ictum
Hosti mortifero.

5. Eia Mater Domini,
Quae pacem reddidisti
Angelis et homini,
Cum Christum genuisti;
Tuem exora filium
Ut se nobis propitium
Exhibeat,
Et deleat
Peccata;
Praestans auxilium
Vita frui beta
Post hoc exsilium.

The carol appears to have been a popular one, preserved in several mss. It was so popular that in c. 1400 or so Chaucer alludes to it in Canterbury Tales, specifically, in “The Miller’s Tale,” where we are told that “hendy” Nicholas sings and accompanies himself on the psaltry:

And over all there lay a psaltery
Whereon he made an evening’s melody,
Playing so sweetly that the chamber rang;
And Angelus ad virginem he sang;
And after that he warbled the King’s Note:
Often in good voice was his merry throat.

The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins created a very loose translation that’s perhaps better read as a poem inspired by the Latin hymn) under the title “Gabriel, from Heaven’s King.”

BL Arundel 248 f. 154v

BL MS Arundel 248 f. 154
see detail

In the British Library’s MS Arundel 248, a collection of various texts in several languages from the early 13th century, the Latin text and tune  for “Angelus ad virginem” is immediately followed with a related song in Middle English. This kind of macaronic preservation of songs in multiple languages, side-by-side, is a not uncommon practice in medieval manuscripts, and given that the Church used Latin and scribes used English and or French, or German or Irish or . .  . multilingual songbooks make a great deal of sense. The way this collection of folios are organized, with a brief crudely drawn staff for the tune, followed by the lyrics is very reminiscent of a modern musician’s cheat book.

Gabriel, fram heven-king
sent to þe maide sweete,
broute hir blisfúl tiding
and fair he gan hir greete:
5 “Heil be þu, ful of grace ari3t!
For Godes son, þis heven-li3t,
for mannes love
wil man bicome
and take
10 fles of þee, maide bri3t,
mankén free for to make
of sen and devles mi3t.”

Mildëlich him gan andswere
þe milde maide þanne:
15 “Wichëwise sold ich bere
[a] child withute manne?”
þangel seid, “Ne dred tee nout:
þurw þoligast sal been iwrout
þis ilch þing
20 warof tiding
ich bringe:
al mánken wurth ibout
þurw þine sweet childínge
and ut of pine ibrout.”

25 Wan þe maiden understood
and þangels wordes herde,
mildëlich with milde mood
to þangel hie andswerde:
“Ure lords þewe maid iwis
30 ich am, þat heer aboven is.
Anentis me
fulfurthed be
þi sawe
þat ich, sith his wil is,
35 [a] maid, withute lawe,
of moder have þe blis.”

Þangel went awei mid þan
al ut of hire si3te;
hire womb arise gan
40 þurw þoligastes mi3te.
In hir wes Crist bilok anon,
sooth God, sooth man in fles and bon,
and of hir fles
ibore wes
45 at time.
Warþurw us kam good won;
he bout us ut of pine
and let him for us slon.

Maiden-moder makëles,1)Makëles or “matchless” is a triple pun; she is without peer, without a mate, also used in the Middle English lyric “I Sing of a Maiden.”
50 of moder ful ibunde,
bid for us him þat tee ches,
at wam þu grace funde,
þat he forgive us sen and wrake
and clene of evri gelt us make
55 and heven-blis
wan ur time is
to sterve,
us give, for þine sake,
him so heer for to serve
60 þat he us to him take.

The Annunciation F. 26r from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry MS 65 in the Musée Condé, Chantilly, France. C. 1412–1416.

The tune for the Middle English version is usually easily recognized as the Latin hymn. The same Latin text of “Angelus ad virginem”  inspired a Basque Christmas carol “Birjina gaztettobat zegoen” collected by Charles Bordes.2)Archives de la tradition basque, 1895 Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) folklorist, novelist, and poet responsible for several hymns (including “Onward Christian Soldiers”) spent some time in the Basque region of Spain as a child, and translated the carol from Basque to English, in the process reducing the original 6 stanzas to 4.

1. The angel Gabriel from heaven came
His wings as drifted snow his eyes as flame
“All hail” said he “thou lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!

2. “For know a blessed mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee,
Thy Son shall be Emanuel, by seers foretold
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!

3. Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head
“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said,
“My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name.”
Most highly favored lady. Gloria!

4. Of her, Emanuel, the Christ was born
In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say:
“Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!

This was one of my favorite childhood carols, familiar from a 1963 Time Life record, an album rich with Medieval carols, under the title “The Angel Gabriel.” It’s also been released as “Gabriel’s Message,” and “The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came.”

These are all available in contemporary recordings. “Angelus ad virginem” has been recorded by The Tallis Scholars on Christmas with the Tallis Scholars and by The Sixteen and Harry Christophers on the album Christus Natus Est. Anonymous 4 have recorded the Middle English version as Song: Gabriel, fram heven-king on their album On Yoolis Night — Medieval Carols & Motets. Sting on the album If On A Winter’s Night recorded the Basque derivative under the title “Gabriel’s Message.” There’s a video of Sting singing “Gabriel’s Message” here. I particularly favor Sting’s rendition because it’s both simple and complex in the way Medieval music often is, and he doesn’t sing in an artsy pseudo operatic tenor.

References   [ + ]

1. Makëles or “matchless” is a triple pun; she is without peer, without a mate, also used in the Middle English lyric “I Sing of a Maiden.”
2. Archives de la tradition basque, 1895

Nowel nayted onewe

60. Wyle Nw Ȝer watz so ȝep þat hit watz nwe cummen,

61. Þat day doubble on þe dece watz þe douþ serued.

62. Fro þe kyng watz cummen wiþ knyȝtes into þe halle,

63. Þe chauntre of þe chapel cheued to an ende,

64. Loude crye watz þer kest of clerkez and oþer,

65. Nowel nayted onewe, neuened ful ofte;

66. And syþen riche forþ runnen to reche hondeselle,

67. Ȝeȝed ȝeres-ȝiftes on hiȝ, ȝelde hem bi hond,

68. Debated busyly aboute þo giftes;

69. Ladies laȝed ful loude, þoȝ þay lost haden,

70. And he þat wan watz not wroþe, þat may ȝe wel trawe.

71. Alle þis mirþe þay maden to þe mete tyme;

This is the New Year’s day passage from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It features a mass, and then knights and others entering the hall, and there’s an exchange of gifts, including hondeselle, which most editors suggest refers to the “Christmas boxes” from lords and knights to their subordinates, and then the ȝeres-ȝiftes, the gifts exchanged between equals. There appears to be some sort of a guessing game, along the lines of “handy-dandy, prickly-prandy” involved, wherein the ladies attempt to guess the nature of the gifts, and pay a forfeit in the form of a kiss, given the “Ladies laȝed ful loude, þoȝ þay lost haden, / And he þat wan watz not wroþe, þat may ȝe wel trawe ” reference.

Happy New Year, one and all; may 2011 be full of warmth and goodness and safety for you and yours.

Þis kyng lay at Camylot vpon Krystmasse

3

37. Þis kyng lay at Camylot vpon Krystmasse
38. Wiþ mony luflych lorde, ledeȝ of þe best,
39. Rekenly of þe Rounde Table alle þo rich breþer,

40. Wiþ rych reuel oryȝt and rechles merþes.
41. Þer tournayed tulkes by tymez ful mony,
42. Justed ful jolile þise gentyle kniȝtes,
43. Syþen kayred to þe court caroles to make.

44. For þer þe fest watz ilyche ful fiften dayes,
45. Wiþ alle þe mete and þe mirþe þat men couþe avyse;
46. Such glaum ande gle glorious to here,
47. Dere dyn vpon day, daunsyng on nyȝtes,

48. Al watz hap vpon heȝe in hallez and chambrez
49. Wiþ lordeȝ and ladies, as leuest him þoȝt.
50. Wiþ all þe wele of þe worlde þay woned þer samen,

51. Þe most kyd knyȝtez vnder Krystes seluen,
52. And þe louelokkest ladies þat euer lif haden,
53. And he þe comlokest kyng þat þe court haldes;
54. For al watz þis fayre folk in her first age,

55. on sille,

56. Þe hapnest vnder heuen,
57. Kyng hyȝest mon of wylle;
58. Hit were now gret nye to neuen
59. So hardy a here on hille.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Luke from Wycliffe

26 But in the sixte moneth the aungel Gabriel was sent fro God in to a citee of Galilee, whos name was Nazareth,

27 to a maidyn, weddid to a man, whos name was Joseph, of the hous of Dauid; and the name of the maidun was Marie.

28 And the aungel entride to hir, and seide, Heil, ful of grace; the Lord be with thee; blessid be thou among wymmen.

29 And whanne sche hadde herd, sche was troublid in his word, and thouyte what maner salutacioun this was.

30 And the aungel seide to hir, Ne drede thou not, Marie, for thou hast foundun grace anentis God.

31 Lo! thou schalt conceyue in wombe, and schalt bere a sone, and thou schalt clepe his name Jhesus.

32 This schal be greet, and he schal be clepid the sone of the Hiyeste; and the Lord God schal yeue to hym the seete of Dauid, his fadir, and he schal regne in the hous of Jacob with outen ende,

33 and of his rewme schal be noon ende.

34 And Marie seide to the aungel, On what maner schal this thing be doon, for Y knowe not man?

35 And the aungel answeride, and seide to hir, The Hooly Goost schal come fro aboue in to thee, and the vertu of the Hiyeste schal ouerschadewe thee; and therfor that hooli thing that schal be borun of thee, schal be clepid the sone of God.

36 And lo! Elizabeth, thi cosyn, and sche also hath conceyued a sone in hir eelde, and this moneth is the sixte to hir that is clepid bareyn;

37 for euery word schal not be inpossible anentis God.

38 And Marie seide, Lo! the handmaydyn of the Lord; be it don to me aftir thi word. And the aungel departide fro hir.

39 And Marie roos vp in tho daies, and wente with haaste in to the mounteyns, in to a citee of Judee.

40 And sche entride in to the hous of Zacarie, and grette Elizabeth.

41 And it was don, as Elizabeth herde the salutacioun of Marie, the yong child in hir wombe gladide. And Elizabeth was fulfillid with the Hooli Goost,

42 and criede with a greet vois, and seide, Blessid be thou among wymmen, and blessid be the fruyt of thi wombe.

43 And whereof is this thing to me, that the modir of my Lord come to me?

44 For lo! as the voice of thi salutacioun was maad in myn eeris, the yong child gladide in ioye in my wombe.

45 And blessid be thou, that hast bileued, for thilke thingis that ben seid of the Lord to thee, schulen be parfitli don.

46 And Marie seide, Mi soule magnyfieth the Lord,

47 and my spirit hath gladid in God, myn helthe.

48 For he hath biholdun the mekenesse of his handmaidun.

49 For lo! of this alle generaciouns schulen seie that Y am blessid. For he that is myyti hath don to me grete thingis, and his name is hooli.

50 And his mercy is fro kynrede in to kynredes, to men that dreden hym.

51 He made myyt in his arme, he scaterede proude men with the thouyte of his herte.

52 He sette doun myyti men fro sete, and enhaunside meke men.

53 He hath fulfillid hungri men with goodis, and he hath left riche men voide.

54 He, hauynge mynde of his mercy, took Israel, his child;

55 as he hath spokun to oure fadris, to Abraham and to his seed, in to worldis.

56 And Marie dwellide with hir, as it were thre monethis, and turnede ayen in to hir hous.

57 But the tyme of beryng child was fulfillid to Elizabeth, and sche bare a sone.

58 And the neiyboris and cosyns of hir herden, that the Lord hadde magnyfied his mercy with hir; and thei thankiden hym.

59 And it was don in the eiyte dai, thei camen to circumcide the child; and thei clepiden hym Zacarie, bi the name of his fadir.

60 And his moder answeride, and seide, Nay, but he schal be clepid Joon.

61 And thei seiden to hir, For no man is in thi kynrede, that is clepid this name.

62 And thei bikeneden to his fadir, what he wolde that he were clepid.

63 And he axynge a poyntil, wroot, seiynge, Joon is his name.

64 And alle men wondriden. And anoon his mouth was openyd, and his tunge, and he spak, and blesside God.

65 And drede was maad on alle her neiyboris, and alle these wordis weren pupplischid on alle the mounteyns of Judee.

66 And alle men that herden puttiden in her herte, and seiden, What maner child schal this be? For the hoond of the Lord was with hym.

67 And Zacarie, his fadir, was fulfillid with the Hooli Goost, and prophesiede,

68 and seide, Blessid be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visitid, and maad redempcioun of his puple.

69 And he hath rerid to vs an horn of heelthe in the hous of Dauid, his child.

70 As he spak bi the mouth of hise hooli prophetis, that weren fro the world.

71 Helthe fro oure enemyes, and fro the hoond of alle men that hatiden vs.

72 To do merci with oure fadris, and to haue mynde of his hooli testament.

73 The greet ooth that he swoor to Abraham, oure fadir, to yyue hym silf to vs.

74 That we with out drede delyuered fro the hoond of oure enemyes,

75 serue to hym, in hoolynesse and riytwisnesse bifor hym in alle oure daies.

76 And thou, child, schalt be clepid the prophete of the Hiyest; for thou schalt go bifor the face of the Lord, to make redi hise weies.

77 To yyue scyence of helthe to his puple, in to remyssioun of her synnes;

78 bi the inwardnesse of the merci of oure God, in the whiche he spryngynge vp fro an hiy hath visitid vs.

79 To yyue liyt to hem that sitten in derknessis and in schadewe of deeth; to dresse oure feet in to the weie of pees.

80 And the child wexide, and was coumfortid in spirit, and was in desert placis `til to the dai of his schewing to Israel.

CAP 2

1 And it was don in tho daies, a maundement wente out fro the emperour August, that al the world schulde be discryued.

2 This firste discryuyng was maad of Cyryn, iustice of Sirie.

3 And alle men wenten to make professioun, ech in to his owne citee.

4 And Joseph wente vp fro Galilee, fro the citee Nazareth, in to Judee, in to a citee of Dauid, that is clepid Bethleem, for that he was of the hous and of the meyne of Dauid,

5 that he schulde knouleche with Marie, his wijf, that was weddid to hym, and was greet with child.

6 And it was don, while thei weren there, the daies weren fulfillid, that sche schulde bere child.

7 And sche bare hir first borun sone, and wlappide hym in clothis, and leide hym in a cratche, for ther was no place to hym in no chaumbir.

8 And scheepherdis weren in the same cuntre, wakynge and kepynge the watchis of the nyyt on her flok.

9 And lo! the aungel of the Lord stood bisidis hem, and the cleernesse of God schinede aboute hem; and thei dredden with greet drede.

10 And the aungel seide to hem, Nyle ye drede; for lo! Y preche to you a greet ioye, that schal be to al puple.

11 For a sauyoure is borun to dai to you, that is Crist the Lord, in the citee of Dauid.

12 And this is a tokene to you; ye schulen fynde a yong child wlappid in clothis, and leid in a cratche.

13 And sudenli ther was maad with the aungel a multitude of heuenli knyythod, heriynge God,

14 and seiynge, Glorie be in the hiyeste thingis to God, and in erthe pees be to men of good wille.

15 And it was don, as the `aungelis passiden awei fro hem in to heuene, the scheephirdis spaken togider, and seiden, Go we ouer to Bethleem, and se we this word that is maad, which the Lord hath `maad, and schewide to vs.

16 And thei hiyynge camen, and founden Marie and Joseph, and the yong child leid in a cratche.

17 And thei seynge, knewen of the word that was seid to hem of this child.

18 And alle men that herden wondriden, and of these thingis that weren seid to hem of the scheephirdis.

19 But Marie kepte alle these wordis, berynge togider in hir herte.

20 And the scheepherdis turneden ayen, glorifyinge and heriynge God in alle thingis that thei hadden h
erd and seyn, as it was seid to hem.

21 And aftir that the eiyte daies weren endid, that the child schulde be circumcided, his name was clepid Jhesus, which was clepid of the aungel, bifor that he was conceyued in the wombe.

22 And aftir that the daies of the purgacioun of Marie weren fulfillid, aftir Moyses lawe, thei token hym into Jerusalem, to offre hym to the Lord, as it is writun in the lawe of the Lord,

23 For euery male kynde openynge the wombe, schal be clepid holi to the Lord; and that thei schulen yyue an offryng,

24 aftir that it is seid in the lawe of the Lord, A peire of turturis, or twei culuer briddis.

Medieval Fairies as Other

MacAllister Stone has been posting a series about the roles of the other in spec fic. You can find Part I Magical Negroes, expendable queers, and other well-worn tropes here, Part II here, and Part III, or, The Magical Other here. Part IV is likely to appear some day in the future, but I wanted to pick up on two observations MacAllister makes that particularly intrigued me because they deal with the role of fairies as the other in medieval literature. It’s something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot.

First, MacAllister defines Other as

a term to describe the phenomenon of the outsider, particularly in fiction, who represents some kind of threat to the community—but often, also serves as the agent for the community’s salvation/redemption.

The best example of medieval fairy other I know of is the c. 1400 Middle English anonymous poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The Green Knight rides into King Arthur’s hall on New Year’s day, while the court is at table. He rides a horse that, while elaborately caprisoned and saddled, is entirely green, as is the equally expensively garbed and very large knight. The knight has green hair, green skin, and green clothes, bears a giant axe in one hand, and a holly bob in the other, and is shockingly uncanny, and other.

Indeed, the courtiers recognize the Green Knight for what he is, immediately:

For wonder of his hwe men hade,
Set in his semblaunt sene
He ferde as freke were fade (ll. 147-49).

[Cawley translates line as 149 “He behaved like an elvish man” (Everyman 1962, 56). Vantuono has “He acted like an elvish knight” (12 l. 149). Tolkien’s translation reads “as a fay-man fell he passed” (1982, 23). Garbáty glosses “were fade” as “were fey”-“He fared as man (that) were fey” (Garbáty 1984, p. 260).]

The courtiers identify the Green Knight, quite correctly, as an otherworld intruder, clued in to his origins in part by his color. Keep in mind that other than being large and very green, the Green Knight is in no way monstrous; he is in fact quite a handsome figure. Having identified the intruder as what Professor Carnicelli called “a big green fairy,” they then begin to contemplate the meaning of his arrival “For vch mon had meruayle quat hit mene myȝt / Þat a haþel and a horse myȝt such a hwe lach, / As growe grene as þe gres” (ll. 233-35).

Al studied þat þer stod, and stalked hym nerre
Wyþ al þe wonder of þe worlde what he worch schulde.
For fele sellyez had þay sen, bot such neuer are;
Forþi for fantoum and fayryȝ e þe folk þere hit demed (SGGK ll. 232-240).

To the courtiers and serving folk, waiting in the hall, the Green Knight is not just clearly other, he’s fairy other. They’re not an unsophisticated audience, either; they’ve seen other sellys, other marvels, but he is very very different, and quite clearly a magical creature; “for fantoum and fayryȝ e þe folk þere hit demed” (SGGK l. 240).

MS. Cotton Nero A. x, fol.90v.

They are cautious and silent, wary of risking the dangers of speech with something so different. Consequently, they’re not terribly surprised when the Green Knight issues his bizarre challenge and invites any of the knights to take the axe he carries and strike off his head, in return for the promise to allow the Green Knight to return the favor a year and a day later. Nonetheless, when Gawain takes him up on the challenge, and the Green Knight picks up his severed head where the courtiers have been kicking it around under the table, and rides off, they’re pretty sure that Gawain is for it when he has his rendezvous to receive the Green Knight’s return blow in a year and a day at the mysterious Green Chapel. The court watches on All Souls Day the following November 1 as Gawain departs in search of the Green Knight and the Green Chapel. They lament that Gawain is to be “Hadet wyþ an aluisch mon, for angardez pryde” (l. 681 ).

The courtiers have good reason to assume the worse; not only because the Green Knight can happily survive decapitation, but because, well, he’s a fairy. Fairies and otherworld folk in general are dangerous in the extreme, prone to kidnap mortals simply because the mortals were in the wrong place at the right time, like Hereudis in Sir Orfeo. She falls asleep under an ympe tree, a grafted fruit tree, in her own orchard around noon, and sees the fairy king and his knights. The king tells her:

“Loke, dame, tomorwe þatow be
Riȝt here vnder þis ympe-tre,
& þan þou schalt wiþ ous go
& liue wiþ ous euermo;
& ȝif þou makest ous ylet,
Whar þou be, þou worst yfet,
& totore þine limes al {f.300vb}
Þat noþing help þe no schal;
& þei þou best so totorn
Ȝete þou worst wiþ ous yborn” (Sir Orfeo ll. 165-74).

Notice that the king explicitly threatens her; if she does not make the assigned rendezvous, and go with the king to the fairy otherworld, she’s to be torn limb from and still be taken by the fairies. Despite the best efforts of Orfeo, and his hundred knights, the next day Heurodis is taken from them by the fairies. Despondent, Orfeo resigns his crown, turning his reign over to his steward, and exiles himself as a wanderer with a harp in the wilderness. In his exile he manages to see the fairies engaged in fairy pursuits, including a group of women hawking, with Heurodis a silent member of the party. He follows them “in at a roche,” into the otherworld. There, in the otherworld, he sees a chamber of horrors, filled with other mortals taken by the fairies.

. . . Of folk þat were þider ybrouȝt
& þouȝt dede, & nare nouȝt.
Sum stode wiþouten hade {f.302ra}
& sum non armes nade
. . .
& sum lay wode, ybounde,
& sum armed on hors sete
& sum astrangled as þai ete
& sum were in water adreynt
. . .
Wiues þer lay on childbedde,
Sum ded, & sum awedde;
& wonder fele þer lay bisides
Riȝt as þai slepe her vndertides.
Eche was þus in þis warld ynome,
Wiþ fairi þider ycome.
(ll. 389-92; 94-97; 99-404).

These are mortals taken in various liminal states. They were not quite dead, nor quite alive, not quite sactified, not quite unfit. These are explicitly, despite the assertions of some, not dead people; they are, the poet tells us, “folk þat were þider ybrouȝt / & þouȝt dede, & nare nouȝt” (ll. 389-90). They are maimed, and wounded, headless, armless, some bound and mad, some armed on horseback, some strangled, some drowned, or burned. There are examples of special liminal cases, too, like wives taken in childbed, as well as those, like Heurodis, taken as they slept in the heat of the day.

Keep in mind that these fairies are the same fairies that, when Heurodis first sees them,

“Al on snowe-white stedes;
As white as milke were her wedes,
Y no seiȝe neuer ȝete bifore
So fair creatours ycore (ll. 145-48).

The fairies who abduct Heurodis are no more monstrous than the Green Knight is, yet they still threaten Heurodis, and take mortals at will. Indeed, their strikingly beautiful appearance marks them as other just as much as the Green Knight’s color does. The actions of the fairies, however motivated, or rule-based they may be, appear arbitrary and unmotivated to the mortals of the communities where the fairies intrude. Fairies are capricious, unknowable, and, given the threats made to Heurodis, and the Green Knight’s ability to suffer decapitation in good cheer, quite possibly malicious in intent. Certainly they are “other,” with all its connotations of dangerous, incomprehensible, and alien. Both the fairies who kidnap Heurodis, and the Green Knight fit MacAllister Stone’s definition of other: they are outsiders, and they represent a threat to the community.

I’m going to skip forward about fifteen hundred years in my next post, to look at a fairy otherworld intrusion in nineteenth century Tipperary, Ireland, in 1895, and the burning of Bridget Cleary. My third post is about Bridget Cleary, too, in the context of fairies, sex, death and the other.

In the meantime, here are some links for the curious:

Luke 2:1 in Gothic

Warth than in dagans jainans. urrann gagrefts fram kaisara
Agustau gameljan allana midjungard. soh than gilstrameleins
frumista warth at wisandin kindina Swriais raginondin Saurim
Kwreinaiau. jah iddjedun allai ei melidai weseina. hwarjizuh in
seinai baurg. urrann than jah Iosef us Galeilaia. us baurg
Nazaraith in Iudaian. in baurg Daweidis sei haitada Bethlaihaim
duthe ei was us garda fadreinais Daweidis. anameljan mith Mariin.
sei in fragiftim was imma qeins. wisandein inkilthon. warth than
miththanei. tho wesun jainar. usfullnodedun dagos du bairan izai
jah gabar sunu seinana thana frumabaur. jah biwand ina jah galagida
ina in uzetin. unte ni was im rumis in stada thamma.

Via Jim Marchand, medievalist extraordinaire.

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Gawain and Gough

In a 1990 seminar Derek Pearsall made a passing reference to the Gough Map, in a discussion of the journey Gawain makes across the realm of Logres, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

The Gough Map is the oldest surviving road map of Great Britain, dating from around 1360. It’s roughly oblong in shape, made of two pieces of vellem, and is half map and half sketch. Not much is known about its provenance; the map was given to the Bodleian library in 1809 by its owner, Richard Gough. The dating is based on the inks and materials used to make the map, and on the place names.

691. Now rideȝ þis renk þurȝ þe ryalme of Logres,
692. Sir Gauan, on Godeȝ halue, þaȝ hym no gomen þoȝt.
693. Oft leudleȝ alone he lengez on nyȝtez
694. Þer he fonde noȝt hym byfore þe fare þat he lyked.
695. Hade he no fere bot his fole bi fryþez and dounez,
696. Ne no gome bot God bi gate wyþ to karp,
697. Til þat he neȝed ful neghe into þe Norþe Walez.
698. Alle þe iles of Anglesay on lyft half he haldez,
699. And farez; ouer þe fordez by þe forlondez,
700. Ouer at þe Holy Hede, til he hade eft bonk
701. In þe wyldrenesse of Wyrale; wonde þer bot lyte
702. Þat auþer God oþer gome wyþ goud hert louied.
703. And ay he frayned, as he ferde, at frekez þat he met,
704. If þay hade herde any karp of a knyȝt grene,
705. In any grounde þeraboute, of þe grene chapel;
706. And al nykked hym wyþ nay, þat neuer in her lyue
707. Þay seȝe neuer no segge þat watz of suche hwez

Thanks to the exceedingly excellent S. Worthen, I know about the exceedingly excellent interactive version of the Gough map.

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New Texts Added to the Corpus of Middle English

The University of Michigan’s Corpus of Middle English Texts is one of the most useful text depositories on the Internet. It’s right up there with CELT, in my book. And it’s now even better; they’ve added another 85 texts to the 65 that were already up there. Now, these texts are all searchable, and many of them are linked to pull page images of the books from which the texts are derived.

The complete list of 145 texts is here. There are gems that you won’t find in a surprising number of academic libraries, like The babees book, Aristotle’s A B C, Urbanitatis, Stans puer ad mensam, The lvtille childrenes lvtil boke, The bokes of nurture of Hugh Rhodes and John Russell, Wynkyn de Worde’s Boke of keruynge, The booke of demeanor, The boke of curtasye, Seager’s Schoole of vertue, &c.; &c;, edited by Frederick J. Furnivall for the EETS. In it you may find “A fest for a franklen” from John Russell’s Boke of Nurture:

“A Franklen may make a feste Improberabille,
brawne with mustard is concordable,
bakon serued with peson,
beef or moton stewed seruysable,
Boyled Chykon or capon agreable,
convenyent for þe seson;
Rosted goose & pygge fulle profitable,
Capon / Bakemete, or Custade Costable,
when eggis & crayme be geson.
Þerfore stuffe of household is behoveable,
Mortrowes or Iusselle ar delectable
for þe second course by reson.
Than veel, lambe, kyd, or cony,
Chykon or pigeon rosted tendurly,
bakemetes or dowcettes with alle.
Þen followynge, frytowrs & a leche lovely;
Suche seruyse in sesoun is fulle semely
To serue with bothe chambur & halle.

I’m pleased to see that the Tolkien, Gordon and Davis 1967 edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is available (even if it is just the text, not the notes or glossary). I’m also very glad to see all eight of the Chaucer Society single mss. (all the main mss.) of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are now available.

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Philological Public Service Announcement

Beowulf is in Old English. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is in Middle English.

Every fall, and then again every spring, as various colleges and universities begin their semesters, I see a dramatic increase in the number of people visiting my site after using search phrases like:

  • canterbury tales in old english
  • general prologue old english
  • chaucer old english
  • chaucer angled saxon
  • chaucer anglo-saxon

Old English requires some special effort to read and understand; it really is a different language. Middle English is much closer to our own Modern English, albeit with funny spelling. You can get a good idea of how different Old and Middle English are by looking at the Lord’s Prayer in Middle and Old English. You can hear some Chaucer read in Middle English here, and some Beowulf in Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) here. If you’re curious about learning Old English, take a look at Michael Drout’s nicely done King Alfred’s Grammar Book, and Catherine Ball’s Old English Pages. For those interested in learning more about Middle English and Chaucer, take a look at Larry Benson’s site.

But remember: Chaucer wrote in Middle English.