Middle English Seminar Edition 2018

An Edition and Translation of Four Middle English Lyrics:
“Whoso seeth on rood,” “Thou that madest all thing,”
“Now thou unseely body,” and “Abel was loosed in trueness”

Introduction, edition, and translation by
Jitse Brouwer, Eline den Dunnen, Charlotte Gerrits,
Caroline Koppelaar, Chiara Marchetti, Francesco Romano,
Robin Schilp, Simone Tousain, Wouter Woltering,
Jurgen van Vlimmeren and Monique van der Wal

With a preface by
K.A. Murchison

Leiden University



Diplomatic Editions and Translations
Whoever may see
You who made all things
Now you miserable body
Abel was loosed in trueness



The medieval lyrics presented here, all transcribed and translated by my third-year Middle English seminar students, cover some striking themes: the lure of earthly delights, the power of love, and the value of self-reflection. They call for compassion toward those in need and warn against idleness. While they were written over 700 years ago, these lyrics contain some literary themes that continue to hold currency.

The enduring importance of these themes motivated, in part, my selection of lyrics for this year’s class project. I also chose these lyrics because, despite their value for the study of Middle English literature and medieval England’s culture, they are not widely known; they have been edited infrequently, and, in some cases, never published in translation. Like the lyrics edited for last year’s project and several famous Middle English lyrics, they are preserved in Cambridge UK, Trinity College B.14.39 (James no. 323), a vast and complex trilingual compendium. The manuscript has been described in detail here.

The process of preparing the edition was largely carried over from last year, but in response to judicious feedback from last year’s group, I set aside a bit more in-class time for the project this year, with two full classes (4 hours in total) dedicated to transcribing, checking over transcriptions, and creating the introduction material. This extra time proved useful since this year’s class encountered some situations that can be particularly tricky, including passages with obvious scribal errors and lines that were obfuscated by the manuscript’s binding. While circulating among students to check over their work during our second class together, I was struck by how well the groups seemed to be working together, and by their overall resourcefulness, with peers helping each other and consulting Clemens and Graham’s Introduction to Manuscript Studies or the Middle English Dictionary for guidance.

The project, like last’s year’s, was aimed in part at familiarizing the class with the features of texts in manuscripts—including those that are often omitted in regularized editions—so the language and punctuation have not been regularized. The punctus elevatus has been transcribed as “;”. Expanded abbreviations have been marked using brackets, line breaks have been introduced, and lines have been numbered to facilitate comparison with the translated text.

Students in the third-year Middle English seminar at Leiden University are usually on the verge of finishing their BAs—perhaps they are weighing their Master’s options, or perhaps they are preparing to bring the research, analysis, and linguistic skills that they have acquired over the past few years to the wider world. At key transitional stages like this, it can be helpful to reflect on those who have come before you, and those who will come after. Our project this year therefore began with a reading of the edition created by last year’s Middle English seminar class, and next year’s project will begin with a reading of the edition created by this year’s class, creating a small but nevertheless valuable point of continuity between each class.

The transcriptions, translations, and introductions to the texts that follow are all authored by the students themselves.

So, well done, class of 2018!  From all your diligent work on this project, it seems that you don’t need the warning in these lyrics against idleness.

Dr. Krista A. Murchison

Lecturer of Medieval English Literature
English Department
Leiden University

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