Wose wartt wid prute


Group1_toad

Contents

Introduction to the Edition
Footnotes
Works Cited
Wose wartt wid prute abeit a madde
Translation

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Introduction to the Edition

Manuscript and copying

‘Wose wartt wid prute’ (‘Wose wartt’ henceforth) is laid out on the folio in an unadorned manner. The lines—written in a single column—differ in length somewhat; several lines (ll. 4, 5, 10, and 11) overflow the sketched right-hand margin.

There are three lines in Latin above the beginning of ‘Wose wartt’. There is no clear mark that signals the beginning of the Middle English section of the folio. However, the three Latin lines above it are linked by three strokes originating from a dot in the right-hand margin. Since the section that follows is Middle English, the three stokes may have been inserted to demarcate the Latin section of the poem as distinct from the Middle English section.

Group1_a

The scribe seems to have used capital letters arbitrarily. Lines 1-3, 5, and 6 each start with a capital letter, while the other lines do not. The scribe does not consistently capitalise either after a punctus or after a punctus elevatus—the two types of punctuation he uses—either. Nor does he capitalise letters at the beginning of words that start a new poetic line.

Copying: Abbreviations and Insertions

The first mark that commands attention when perusing ‘Wose wartt’ is the insertion in the left-hand margin between lines 10 and 11. This insertion could be interpreted as a paragraph marker, marking the end of one lyric and the start of a new one.

Group1_b

Group1_cOne orthographic convention this scribe often uses is an abbreviation mark indicating an e, as can be found, for instance, in ‘h(e)re’ (l. 3). See lines 4 and 6 for other uses of this superscript.

Group1_dThis same superscript abbreviation mark sometimes functions as an abbreviation for a combination of letters, as can be seen in ‘m(er)ci’ (l. 11). See lines 3 and 5 for other instances of this usage.

Group1_eThe scribe frequently uses a macron over a vowel to indicate that a nasal should follow, as in for instance ‘i(n)’ (l. 10). See lines 3, 5, 8, and 11 for other uses of this macron.

The scribe uses the Tironian ‘et,’ 7, to indicate ‘ant,’ as can be seen in lines 5 and 7. Group1_f

Two further instances in which the scribe has seemingly used an abbreviation are ‘w(i)l’ (l. 2) and ‘Jes(us)’ (l. 11).  In the case of ‘w(i)l,’ however, it is not clear whether the scribe used a deliberate abbreviation or simply forgot to copy the missing letter.

Contents and Genre

Group1_scorpion‘Wose wartt’ describes the decaying of a body after death. The lyric links various types of decay to different types of sinful behaviour. It concludes by stating that these same types of bodily decay will also happen to a soul in hell, then finally asks Christ to have mercy. ‘Wose wartt’ thus urges its reader to live a moral, Christian life by confronting them with the consequences of living in sin.

As such, the poem is clearly a religious text and fits neatly in its manuscript context; Elaine Treharne has described the Middle English texts found within Trinity College B. 14. 39 as predominantly ‘penitential and devotional lyrics and hymns.’ [1]

More specifically, the poem belongs to the category of poetry on death. This is a group of medieval sacred poems that evoke the image of a dying and decaying body in order to inspire fear in their audiences so as to point them towards the path to salvation. [2] Another example of death poetry, also found in Trinity College B. 14. 39, is ‘Nu þu unseli bodi.’ [3]

Audience

Whilst ‘Wose wartt’ itself contains no clues about its intended audience, the poem’s audience can be deduced when taking into consideration the genre of the text and its manuscript context. Religious lyrics composed in English were often used ‘as a way of instructing the illiterate populace in religious belief.’ [4] As such, the intended audience of the lyric is likely to have been the general English population, who would come into contact with the poem through a clerical intermediary. This conclusion is supported by the lyric’s manuscript context. Karl Reichl has identified Trinity College, B. 14. 39 as a friar’s miscellany (a book carried around by a friar to teach lay people from). However, this view has been contested in recent scholarship by Julia Boffrey. [5] Nevertheless, even if the manuscript was not a friar’s miscellany in particular, ‘Wose wartt wid prute’—due to its didactic nature and the fact that it was composed in the vernacular—was still most likely used to teach the English people to live a virtuous life.

Sources and Tradition

One of the texts that ‘Wose wartt’ is similar to is a passage contained in Alanus de Insulis’ Latin Summa de Arte Praedicatoria [The Art of Preaching]. Aside from the similarity in content (both texts deal with the various pests produced by the dead body), the text from Cambridge, Trinity College MS. B 14.39 may well have been based on the Alanus text. [6] An almost verbatim similarity between the three Latin lines preceding the Middle English part of the lyric in the Cambridge manuscript and the text by Alanus seems to Group1_fleabear this out: on f. 47r the Cambridge manuscript reads ‘ex cerebro bufo’ [7] [‘a toad from the brain’], where the corresponding Alanus text has ‘de cerebro, bufo’ [8] [‘a toad from the brain’]. [9] Further examples of similar texts can be found in the manuscript that ‘Wose wartt’ is found in. Cambridge, Trinity College MS. B 14.39 contains two Middle English lyrics that are similar to the one contained on f. 47r: one on folio f.38r, and one on f. 47v. [10] All of these lyrics deal with worms being sent to chastise the dead body–a theme found often in Middle English lyrics. [11]

Versification and Language

‘Wose wartt’ is not consistent in its use of metre. The rhyme scheme is aa/bb/cc, etc., although the metrical line breaks do not correspond to the line breaks employed by the scribe. The lyric employs language typical of Middle English religious verse. An example of this is the final line ‘Jes(us) þat is us alle bouen; lett us alle to m(er)ci come(n)’ [‘Jesus who is above us all; let us all come to mercy’], a phrase also found in other Middle English religious lyrics. [12]

Dialect

There are various features in the language of this manuscript that point towards a central West Midlands origin. Karl Reichl has argued for a West Midlands provenance for this manuscript but does not specify which area of the West Midlands. [13] Margaret Laing is more precise in her localisation of the manuscript and argues for an origin in West Worcestershire. [14] This would place the provenance of the manuscript squarely within the central West Midlands dialect area. [15]
Due to the highly idiosyncratic phonological spelling system employed by the ‘Wose wartt’ scribe, certain forms pose difficulties for those aiming to identify linguistic features in his language. Below, I will briefly outline various central West Midlands dialect elements that occur in this lyric and provide examples from the lyric. [16]
Last: Add after foot 16
– Old English <a> is realised as <o> before nasal sounds: onde (l. 5); scome; sco(n)de (l. 5); vombe (l. 6)
– Old English <æ> is realised as <e>: neddre (l. 4; l. 8)
– <u> for Old English <y>: Old English <pryt> prute (l. 1)[17]

Spelling and orthography

The scribe who copied down this lyric appears to have adhered to a spelling system that was highly phonological in nature, much like the other scribes of MS. B 14.39. [18] The first two words of the poem are an example of this: ‘wose’, for which a much more common spelling is ‘whos’, [19] and ‘wartt’, far more often spelled ‘worth’. [20] Due to the scribe’s idiosyncratic spelling system, this short text contains a fair number of what might either be hapax legomena, or words spelled in such a manner that scholars have not been able to satisfactorily identify their intended meaning. One example of this is the worth ‘giltnaches’ (l. 5). Furthermore, the scribe often doubles consonants, as can be seen in forms like ‘wartt’ (l. 1), ‘wacchet’ (l. 6), ‘lecchore’ (l. 9), ‘lett’ (l. 11).

Morphology

A feature that localises the text in the Midlands dialectal area but not specifically in the West Midlands is the third-person plural verbal ending , [21] as seen in ‘come(n)’ (l. 11). Another notable morphological feature employed by the scribe of this lyric is his use of for third-person singular endings, as can be seen in for instance ‘comit’ (l. 5), and ‘glutit’ (l. 7). As the ending was used to indicate the third-person singular inflection across Middle English dialects, [22] the ending is probably not a dialectal feature, but rather another feature of the scribe’s idiosyncratic spelling system.

Berber Bossenbroek, and Julia Roos

Leiden University
Middle English Literature Seminar
2019

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1 “Lyrics from Cambridge, Trinity College B. 14. 39,” ed. and trans. Elaine Treharne, in Old and Middle English c. 890-c.1450: An Anthology, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 506. [Back]
2 Sigrid King, “Lyric Poetry,” in A Companion to Old and Middle English Literature, ed. Laura C. Lambdin and Robert T. Lambdin (Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002), 306. [Back]
3 “Nu þu unseli bodi,” ed. and trans. Eline den Dunnen and Chiara Marchetti, Dr. Krista A. Murchison (website), accessed February 28, 2019, https://kristamurchison.com/melyrics2018/nu-thu-vnseli-bodi/. [Back]
4 King, “Lyric Poetry,” 305. [Back]
5 For a comprehensive overview of both sides of the argument see Krista A. Murchison, “‘The Effects of the Seven Sins’: A Critical Edition,” Scholarly Editing 38 (2017): http://scholarlyediting.org/2017/editions/sevensins/intro.html#inline39. [Back]
6 The Alanus text occurs before Wose wartt in the manuscript. See James Rhodes Montague, The Western Manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1900), 444. [Back]
7 Cambridge, Trinity College MS. B 14.39, f. 47r. [Back]
8 Alanus de Insulis, Doctoris Universalis Opera Omnia, ed. J.P. Migne (Paris: Petit-Montrouge, 1855), 117. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own. [Back]
9 There exist a number of non-verbatim links between the two texts, which the scope of this assignment sadly does not allow me to discuss. An example of a connection between these two texts that may point towards the Middle English being an adaptation of the Latin is “de spina scorpio” [a scorpion [will come from] the spine], and the Middle English “Þe woriste neddre i(n) þe rugbo(n)” [the worst snake [will come] from the backbone] (l. 8). [Back]
10 The latter lyric has been edited by Elaine Treharne, see “When the Turf is Thy Tower”, ed. Treharne, 509. [Back]
11 Tom Lawrence, “Infectious Fear: The Rhetoric of Pestilence in Middle English Didactic Texts on Death,” English Studies 98 (2017): 867. [Back]
12 Cf. for instance ‘A Iesu Crist that ous is boue’ found in the first line of a lyric in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Digby 86, f. 134v. [Back]
13 Karl Reichl, Religiöse Dichtung im Englischen Hochmittelalter (München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1973), 39. [Back]
14 Margaret Laing, A Catalogue of Sources for a Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993), 37. [Back]
15 James Milroy, “Middle English Dialectology,” in The Cambridge History of the English Language, ed. Norman Blake (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 172. [Back]
16 Unfortunately, an exhaustive analysis of the dialect of this lyric is beyond the scope of this assignment. As such, the following analysis is a sample of the most common elements from the West Midlands dialect to be found in this lyric. [Back]
17 For these and other central West Midlands dialect elements, see Milroy, “Middle English Dialectology,” 175; Serjeantson, “The Dialects of the West Midlands in Middle English,” 65-66. [Back]
18 For a discussion of scribal practice in Cambridge, Trinity College MS. B 14.39, see Margaret Laing and Roger Lass, “Tales of the 1001 Nists: The Phonological Implications of Litteral Substitution Sets in Some Thirteenth-Century South-West Midland texts,” English Language and Linguistics 7 (2003): 257-278. [Back]
19 Middle English Dictionary, s.v. “whōs,” accessed March 4, 2019, https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/middle-english-dictionary/dictionary/MED52652/track?counter=1&search_id=398724. [Back]
20 Ibid., s.v. “worth,” accessed March 4, 2019, https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/middle-english-dictionary/dictionary/MED53471/track?counter=1&search_id=398724. [Back]
21 Milroy, “Middle English Dialectology,” 176. [Back]
22 Olga Fischer et al., The Syntax of Early English (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 69-70. [Back]

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Works Cited

Primary sources

Cambridge, Trinity College MS. B. 14.39.

de Insulis, Alanus. Summa de Arte Praedicatoria. In Patrologiae Latinae, edited by J.P. Migne, 111-198. Paris: Petit-Montrouge, 1855.

Den Dunnen, Eline and Chiara Marchetti, ed. and trans. “Nu þu unseli bodi.” Dr. Krista A. Murchison (website). 2018. https://kristamurchison.com/melyrics2018/nu-thu-vnseli-bodi/.

Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Digby 86.

Secondary sources

Fischer Olga, Ans van Kemenade, Willem Koopman and Wim van der Wurff. The Syntax of Early English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

King, Sigrid. “Lyric Poetry.” In A Companion to Old and Middle English Literature, edited by Laura C. Lambdin and Robert T. Lambdin, 299-314. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.

Laing, Margret. A Catalogue of Sources for a Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Laing, Margaret and Roger Lass. “Tales of the 1001 Nists: The Phonological Implications of Litteral Substitution Sets in Some Thirteenth-Century South-West Midland texts.” English Language and Linguistics 7 (2003): 257-278.

Lawrence, Tom “Infectious Fear: The Rhetoric of Pestilence in Middle English Didactic Texts on Death.” English Studies 98 (2017): 866-880.

Milroy, James. “Middle English Dialectology.” In The Cambridge History of the English Language, edited by Norman Blake, 156-206. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Middle English Dictionary. Edited by Robert E. Lewis, et al. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1952-2001. Online edition in Middle English Compendium. Edited by Frances McSparran, et al. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Library, 2000-2018. . Accessed 04 March 2019.

Montague, James Rhodes. The Western Manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1900.

Murchison, Krista A. “‘The Effects of the Seven Sins’: A Critical Edition.” Scholarly Editing 38 (2017): http://scholarlyediting.org/2017/editions/sevensins/intro.html#inline39.

Reichl, Karl. Religiöse Dichtung im Englischen Hochmittelalter. München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1973.

Serjeantson, Mary S. “The Dialects of the West Midlands in Middle English.” The Review of English Studies 3 (1927): 54-67.

Treharne, Elaine. Old and Middle English c. 890 – c. 1400: An Anthology. 3rd ed. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

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Wose wartt wid prute

Trinity College Cambridge, MS B.14.39, fol.82v

Used with kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Trinity College Cambridge.

Wose wartt wid prute abeit a madde;
Of heore brein w(i)l waccen a cadde.
A worim of h(e)re tu(n)ke. þat maden h(er) lesu(n)ge
on neddre of h(e)re liste; þat liueden vid onriste.
[5] Fli scuiþe niid (ant) onde; þ(er) comit of scome (ant) sco(n)de
Of h(e)re vombe wacchet on giltnaches
þat glutit (ant) liuit bi lacches
þe woriste neddre i(n) þe rugbo(n)
of þe lecchore wacces on
[10][1] asse þis bitit i(n) dede liche; bitit þe soule i(n) helle piche
Jes(us) þat is us alle bouen; lett us alle to m(er)ci come(n).

Notes
1 Marginal insertion: paragraph mark.

Berber Bossenbroek, and Julia Roos

Leiden University
Middle English Literature Seminar
2019

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Whose worth in pride

 

Trinity College Cambridge, MS B.14.39, fol.82v

Used with kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Trinity College Cambridge.

Whose worth in pride is a maggot;
A worm will wake from her brain
A worm from her tongue. That maggots wake from her lungs
Snakes from her cleverness; that live with unrest.
[5] A flea issues with malice and spite; that comes of shame and disgrace
Worms wake from her stomach
That feast on and live by laziness
The worst snake wakes
In the backbone of the fornicator
[10] As this happens in a dead body; it happens to that the soul that is thrust into hell
Jesus who is above us all; let us all come to mercy.

Berber Bossenbroek, and Julia Roos

Leiden University
Middle English Literature Seminar
2019

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Back to The 2019 Middle English Lyrics