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Festivity, order, and community in fourteenth-century Ireland: the composition and contexts of BL MS Harley 913.


Interpretations of British Library MS Harley 913 have in the past unduly privileged its Middle English contents, such as the well-known 'Land of Cockaygne', over its texts in medieval Latin and Anglo-Norman. A reconsideration of the contents of the manuscript as a whole tends to confirm that it originated with the Franciscans in Waterford; but it also suggests that the collection should be understood in terms of its thematic and literary coherence, and not as a programme narrowly identified with the interests of the friars or of the English community in Ireland.

Writing as the editor of the monumental new Cambridge History of English Medieval Literature, David Wallace has stated his sense of the importance of the perception that 'medieval literature cannot be understood (does not survive) except as part of transmissive processes--moving through the hands of copyists, owners, readers and institutional authorities--that form part of other and greater histories (social, political, religious, economic)'. (1) At face value, such a statement seems almost incontestable, even tautological (in that texts that did not form part of any transmissive processes, by definition, do not survive to be understood), particularly if Wallace's proposition is interpreted simply as an assertion of the academic value of attempting to read texts in terms of a sympathetic understanding of the circumstances in which they were created. Yet what is implied by this consciously historicist position is a more complex and controversial principle, which might be interpreted as an assertion of the priority of 'external context' over 'internal context' in validating the reading of texts. (2) That is, the physical relationships of texts, both among themselves in manuscripts and with other forms of material evidence in archives, art, and archaeology, are assumed to reflect the social structures of the time in which they were created and, as such, are taken to be a more reliable means of contextualizing medieval texts than the more abstract continuities of theme, image, phrase, form, and style that older generations of critics generally sought to establish. The reaction against the older methodology is signalled most clearly in Derek Pearsall's history of Old and Middle English literature published in 1977, which was deliberately organized 'so as to provide as much information as possible on poetry as a social phenomenon as well as an artistic one' rather than by what was then the 'much more familiar' arrangement 'according to genres'. (3) As Pearsall says, such formal criticism tends to 'distort the realities of medieval poems [...] by imposing on them categories of form derived from post-Renaissance theory' (p. 120). Certainly there is no question now about the timeliness or the effectiveness of his attempt to redress the balance of 'social' as against 'artistic' readings, as Wallace so clearly testifies. Yet, as I hope to show in this essay, there are situations in which the ideological categories currently invoked in order to explain the physical association of medieval texts in manuscript in terms of their 'social, political, religious, economic' affinities, can be almost equally distorting. The problem is that the tendency to see such extra-textual histories as 'greater' than textual ones, as Wallace does, rests on a preference for seeing the body politic in terms of distinct political and economic forces that many of the creators of medieval books often simply would not have shared. Not only do the operative terms of today's historical analysis not necessarily serve us well in our attempts to understand the way in which medieval readers (and medieval scribes, particularly) themselves perceived cohesion in and across collections of texts, but it seems to me that there are many cases in which groups of medieval texts express an imaginative congruity that implicitly refines or even contradicts the historicizable circumstances of their transmission, in this way making our understanding of the 'greater' histories necessarily conditional on our understanding of the interrelationship of texts, and not the other way around. Wallace's formulation of current critical practice perhaps marks a point at which we need to be prepared, at least in certain cases, to adjust the balance once again between social and aesthetic factors in the organization of literary history.

The palm-sized codex now preserved in the British Library as MS Harley 913 is not an immediately obvious case in point, for the scribe who copied (and presumably selected) nearly all its contents seems to have been localizable in a quite clearly defined 'social, political, religious, economic' context. (4) There is a long-established and well-grounded consensus that MS Harley 913 is a 'Franciscan' collection; and that it is a distinctive product of fourteenth-century Anglo-Irish culture (and perhaps, more narrowly, of an urban settlement). (5) Part of the reason why this relatively uncomplicated characterization of the manuscript has never seemed problematic is that the medieval Latin material contained in it (and to a lesser extent the French material too) has consistently been elided from consideration. So, for example, in the title of the valuable codicological analysis of the manuscript by Peter and Angela Lucas, the manuscript is designated a 'medieval Hiberno-English miscellany'; (6) Terry Dolan has described it as 'one of the most important collections of Irish medieval non-Gaelic vernacular material'; (7) while Angela Lucas has separately edited the Middle English poems in MS Harley 913 under the title Anglo-Irish Poems of the Middle Ages. (8) Admittedly, she does acknowledge in a note to the Middle English poem, 'The Land of Cockaygne', that the relationship between it 'and certain of the Latin poems of MS Harley 913 such as The Abbot of Gloucester's Feast, Hore Somnolentium and Missa de Potatoribus remains to be explored' (p. 26, n. 37); but it is the 'thematic coherence' of some of the English poems in the manuscript that she picks out as being particularly striking and which she sees as adequately expressing an identifiably Franciscan mentality lying behind the collection as a whole (p. 24). In other words, it is the characterization of MS Harley 913 as a vernacular manuscript (and particularly a Middle English manuscript) that makes it so easy to appropriate it to a type of anthology to which several late-thirteenth-century and early-fourteenth-century collections were once thought to belong, that is, 'the friar's miscellany', which, it used to be supposed, typically employed the language of the people in order to realize St Francis's declared ambition that his followers be 'joculatores Dei', minstrels of God. (9) The extent of the involvement of the friars in the creation of such miscellanies is now assessed at a considerably lower rate than it was twenty years ago; and in fact MS Harley 913 is probably the earliest candidate for inclusion in any such category, even despite the fact that it is not exclusively, or even predominantly, an anthology of Middle English texts. The disproportionate emphasis on the vernacular material (and especially the English material) also makes it easier to read the collection as a local product of the Anglo-Irish minority in eastern Ireland, and so correspondingly to find it both topical and nationalistic. (10)

A more balanced attention to the various contents of the manuscript does not demand the abandonment of either of these categories of extrinsic contextualization (either as 'Franciscan' book or as a book produced within the Anglo-Irish minority)--indeed, it reinforces them--but it also suggests that they should be used differently, and that our understanding of them needs to be refined, at least as far as they control our reading of the texts. The more thoroughly the collection is looked at as a whole, the clearer it is that the historical context of the manuscript provides no simple key to the significance of the collection or of any of its components. Attempts to define the purpose and principles of its compilation have tended to be unnecessarily reductive in effect, if not also in intent; (11) and in unduly stressing the coherence of its historical identity they have tended to limit the scope of its concerns, even to the point of reading it as an embodiment of religious or political factionalism. (12) There is no reason to think that every text in MS Harley 913 needs to be read explicitly as a component in a Franciscan programme of some kind, or in an Anglo-Irish one, or that the compilation of these texts necessarily represents such an informed or energetic engagement with the historical moment as critics have sometimes assumed. The role of satire in the manuscript, in particular, seems to me to have been understood far too narrowly, even literal-mindedly, as a vehicle for direct aggression between different social groups, a model of the function of satire which is distinctly at odds with its usual place in medieval literature. (13) In short, my quarrel is not with the categories in which MS Harley 913 has been placed, but rather with the rigidity by which those categories have been understood.

At the same time, proper attention to all the texts in the manuscript seems to me to reveal a number of intrinsic continuities among its contents; and while some of these can certainly be mapped onto 'Franciscan' and 'Anglo-Irish' agendas, others work against them, or follow different agendas entirely. In order to facilitate such attention I have provided a list of the Latin texts in MS Harley 913 in an Appendix, since the relative neglect of this material is reflected as much in cursory or inaccurate references to them as it is in their marginalization from critical discussion. (14) It should perhaps also be noted at this point that this manuscript contains a remarkably high proportion of incomplete texts, and that these texts are incomplete not because leaves have subsequently been lost from them but because the scribe chose not to complete them, or else was unable to do so. The Middle English 'Fifteen Signs' and 'Seven Sins' each break off abruptly leaving the rest of the page blank, after (respectively) twelve signs and three sins. (15) In Latin, the reply of 'Dositheus' to 'The Devil's Letter' ends prematurely halfway through its treatment of hermits, while the substantial extract from Bartholi della Rossa's Tractatus de indulgentia stops suddenly before the end of the demon's interrogation (in this case just after an uncharacteristically clumsy error in the copy, which possibly suggests that the scribe was losing interest in it). (16) Moreover, several items have the air of occasional notes or memoranda--such as the calculation of the number of years between Adam and Christ on folio [43.sup.r] or the recipes for pigments 'ad usum scribendi' on folios [52.sup.v]-[53.sup.v]. The casualness implied by these features of the scribe's work is difficult to reconcile with the assumption by Peter and Angela Lucas (and others) that 'some continuity of purpose underlies the compilation of Harley 913' (p. 288). (17) Indeed, their own evidence that in its original arrangement the manuscript consisted of a number of different booklets of different sizes and in various arrangements of quires (p. 299) is also suggestive of a process of accumulation in which chance and circumstance possibly played as large a part as the tastes and occupation of the scribe. (18) The steadiness of his engagement with any coherent intellectual agenda, in other words, is not something that can be taken for granted.

The argument that MS Harley 913 was a Franciscan production is normally constructed from the weakest parts of the available evidence. That it contains a Middle English poem in which authorship is explicitly claimed by 'a frere mynour [...] Frere Michel Kyldare' says nothing necessarily about the origins of the manuscript itself, since vernacular works by friars were clearly transmitted in non-fraternal contexts. (19) That it contains a short poem by the Franciscan Archbishop, John Pecham, is unpersuasive for similar reasons: Pecham's work seems to have been widely circulated in a variety of contexts; and at least some of the attributions to him made by medieval scribes are unreliable. (20) That the subject of one of the poems in MS Harley 913, the notorious Pers de Bermingham, happens to have been buried in the Franciscan friary in Kildare (which was presumably the hometown of Friar Michael) is of slender relevance to the manuscript as a whole, unless firmer evidence can be found for its Kildare provenance. (21) More generally, the argument that MS Harley 913 must represent a Franciscan programme because it contains several Middle English devotional poems of a kind that the Franciscans can be shown to have been interested in is simply a false syllogism. (22) Even the enumeration of Franciscan custodians and houses in itself says as much about the compiler's taste for facts and figures (which is elsewhere expressed, for example, in his choice of excerpts from Orosius and Dares Phrygius) as it does about his institutional affinities.

In fact, the strongest evidence for the engagement of the compiler with any kind of agenda that might be said to be Franciscan 'by purpose' (rather than by association) actually comes from four of the least discussed texts in the manuscript. The shortest of these is a brief anecdote from St Bonaventure's Life of St Francis, which describes Francis's anxiety about the conduct of his followers ('de statu et uita fratrum') and the reassurance he received from God that their salvation ultimately depends not on his endeavours but on divine grace ('non humane industrie sed superne gracie'). Based as it is on a recognition that the Franciscans did not always live up to their founder's ideals, this particular story clearly expresses in a dramatic form what might be called a Franciscan 'conscience'. It is not a self-aggrandizing, party-political account: instead, it simply expresses an anxiety about the moral welfare of the order, and shares in the reassurance that St Francis himself acquired from God. With its implied sense of corporate responsibility the appeal of this text is, as it were, private rather than public, addressing the Order's own concerns about itself, rather than presenting itself as it might have wished to be seen by others; and while it confirms the compiler's interest in the Franciscan cause, it denies the assumption that that interest was wholly self-confident. Equally specialized in their appeal, but in this case much more obviously 'public', are the three texts the compiler culled from the tradition of works written in defence of the so-called Portiuncula Indulgence. This was a papal indulgence granted under extremely generous terms to St Francis's church near Assisi, terms so generous, in fact, that its authenticity was challenged. These three texts are polemical in origin: the letter by Theobaldus is explicitly presented as a refutation of 'the tongues of certain detractors who in the zeal of their envy or perhaps excited by ignorance boldly deny the Indulgence of St Maria de Angelis' ('quorumdam linguas detrahentium qui zelo inuidie uel forsitan ignorantia concitati Indulgentie Sancte Marie de Angelis [...] indurata facie contradicunt'); but it is hard to believe that the Portiuncula Indulgence was really such a prominent causa disputandi in early-fourteenth-century Ireland. Among these so-called detractors, apparently, were some members of the Dominican Order, and the account of the interrogation of a demon which the Harley compiler took from Bartholi della Rossa's Tractatus de indulgentia perhaps reflects this. The demon is asked explicitly whether the Dominicans are inferior to the Franciscans ('Estne maior et melior ordo Minorum quam Predicatorum?'), to which the blunt reply is 'Yes, three times as much' ('Ita est in triplo'), which is as close as any text in the manuscript comes to self-congratulatory sectarianism. (23) Even this is less of a slander on the Dominicans than it might seem, for the context is the garrulous demon's boast that she is capable of vanquishing even the Franciscans (let alone the Dominicans) in scriptural debate, and in any case, the whole anecdote hovers too close to fantasy to be taken entirely seriously. The more important issues that link these three texts to the others in the manuscript are, first, their questioning of the balance between human actions and divine grace in effecting salvation (for this is the real problem underlying the debate about the validity of the Portiuncula Indulgence); (24) and secondly, their dramatic depiction of various kinds of divine revelation, whether St Francis's conversations with God, his dreams or his miraculous vision 'in medio silvae', or the reluctant testimony of a demon to the truth of the saint's teachings.

It is ironic that the question addressed to the demon about the relative merits of the two largest orders of friars should have been ignored by commentators on the manuscript, given that it has been so widely assumed that the manuscript expresses the friars' hostility towards one or other of the monastic orders. This critical tradition goes all the way back to the very beginnings of scholarly work on the manuscript, originating perhaps with Humfrey Wanley's attempt to explain the 'blasphemous' nature of such works as the 'Drinkers' Mass' and the 'Sleepers' Hours' in terms of 'the envy of the Franciscans against the Monks'. (25) There is in fact no reason to think that the texts that Wanley picks out were at all anti-monastic, for they contain nothing that applies with any exclusive satirical force to monks. MS Harley 913 does contain three texts in which monks are explicitly presented as the targets--the story of 'The Adulterous Monk', the verses 'De monachis carnalibus', and the short piece on 'The Hospitality of Monks'--but none of these really amounts to anything that could be described as anti-monastic propaganda. The version of 'The Adulterous Monk' presented here is a very brief one and it omits the discovery of the monk hiding in a laundry-basket with his tonsure showing, which is perhaps the point at which the monks' professional dignity might have been most offended. The tale serves primarily as an opportunity for a certain amount of self-conscious rhetorical play (as, for example, in the deliberate manipulation of the well-known opening topos of the Dissuasio Valer11, which appears in the longer version printed by Lehmann); and also for deliberate biblical pastiche (such as the Harley version's comparison of the monk's lover with the '.C. xliiij. que ex omni nacione est' (see Rev. 7. 4)). (26) Even though this shorter version avoids much of the more wordy word-play, this only makes the wit of what is preserved seem all the more pointed, as when the outraged husband justifies the monk's castration by saying:

'Capud nolo, propter religionis formam. Pedes nolo, quia claustra metiti sunt. Manus nolo, propter sacramentum refectionis. Sed uolo ea que offendunt deum et homines.'

['I don't want the head, for the sake of the mark of vocation. I don't want the feet, for the cloisters have to be walked. I don't want the hands, because of the performance of the sacrament. I want those parts that are an offence to God and men.']

What makes the monk a target for satire is not that he is representative of monks as a particular social group, but that his behaviour is comically at odds with his vocation, as expressed in his tonsure (his 'religionis forma' or 'signum'), in just the same way that the language of the tale is comically at odds with its substance. The 'Metra de monachis carnalibus' are even more directly a vehicle for scriptural pastiche, consisting of eleven hexameters followed in each case by a mischievously misappropriated quotation from the Bible; while the brief and laconic poem on the hospitality of monks is not only frankly comic in its brisk mixture of direct speech and description ('Aue capitale, signum manuale, patens hospitale'), but it also adopts an unashamedly worldly perspective, in its complaints about the monks' bad bread and wine, unsalted oil, dirty table-cloths, and 'rustic' provisioners. None of these three poems makes any claim to the moral high ground; and the first two at least can be found in a variety of scribal contexts, including monastic ones. (27) Moreover, the notion that MS Harley 913 must toe some kind of Franciscan 'party line' has led to some distinctly tendentious reasoning. So, for example, several critics have attempted to suggest that the followers of St Francis get off significantly lightly in the Middle English poem that Thomas Wright labelled 'Satire on the People of Kildare'. Angela M. Lucas, for one, argues that 'the evidence would not conflict with the idea that the author is a Franciscan satirist who is rather careful not to include his own order in his line of fire' (p. 184). This is irrelevant, in fact, since the Franciscans come in for a full share of the satirical abuse in the Devil's Letter, and even more so, in the ironic answer to it by 'Dositheus'. Indeed, they get more of the satirists' attention than any other professional group. What this shows is not that MS Harley 913 could not have been a Franciscan manuscript, but that the Franciscans' use and appreciation of satire did not depend on its being directed away from them. (28)

It is perhaps in the most famous item in the collection, the much anthologized poem 'The Land of Cockaygne', that the evidence for the social contexts of the manuscript has been applied most rigidly. Several critics have attempted to explain some of the details of the poem in terms of the manuscript's association with the Franciscans. Heuser, for example, found it very striking ('ganz auffallig') that the poem should mention 'a mochil grei abbei' (l. 164) as a house 'of white monkes and of grei' (11. 51-52) when the Franciscan foundation at Kildare (where he located the origin of the manuscript) was known as Gray Abbey (p. 142). He interpreted the white and grey monks as Carmelite and Franciscan friars, respectively, but other critics have preferred to see them as monks--most often, as Cistercians. (29) Terry Dolan, for example, describes the poem as 'a parody of the monastic life which would well suit the prejudices of friars against monks' (p. 216). Going much further, Thomas Garbaty reads the poem so literally as to argue that it must refer to a particular town characterized by 'a Cistercian Abbey, a Franciscan house (as a possible site of authorship), the English nationality of the clerics in the area, the Irish influence of the surrounding countryside or population, and the proximity of a lake'--a location he identified as Athlone (p. 146). Henry, similarly, claims that the poem must refer to the Cistercian house of Inislounaght on the grounds that this, apparently, is the only 'clear case on record of an independent nunnery in the vicinity of a Cistercian abbey as required in the context of Cockaygne 147 ff.' (p. 140). It may very well be that the monks mentioned in the poem are indeed monks, and not friars, but it seems to me considerably less likely that any particular order of monks is intended, that the poem was written as the sincere expression of any real professional rivalry between monks and friars, or that the abbey of epicures it imagines actually refers to any particular religious house. The description of the monks is vague, even casual in manner; and, since medieval satirists were very well able to be quite specific about matters of institutional clothing and customs when they chose to be, we can only assume that the concerns of the author of this poem were more general. (30) As an ironic celebration of misrule and disorder, expressed particularly through gluttony, idleness, and incontinence, the satirical edge of 'The Land of Cockaygne' clearly cuts all the regular clergy almost equally deeply; the fantasy of an ideally licentious rule is one that many medieval writers were prepared to indulge, and not necessarily with any serious intent or parti pris. (31) Finally, it seems particularly perverse to seek a real-life identity for the abbey in 'The Land of Cockaygne' when the one occasion in any of the manuscript's satires on which a community is explicitly located--at the beginning of 'Quondam fuit factus festus' where the bibulous abbot and prior are said to belong to Gloucester--has never been taken as anything more than a casual and insignificant detail. (32)

The apparent 'Anglo-Irishness' of the manuscript has also been taken to imply that its constituent texts must therefore express 'racial animosity between English and Irish' (Garbaty, p. 143). So, for example, Henry argues that since 'The Land of Cockaygne' is 'a poem in the English tongue and the French manner [it] is almost certain to aim at an Irish, rather than an Anglo-Norman Cistercian House' (p. 139). This is to take an altogether too narrow view of the poem's purposes and allegiances, once again; indeed, anti-Irish sentiment seems to me almost conspicuous by its absence in the manuscript. (33) The only text in which antagonism between the English and the Irish is explicitly presented is the apparent panegyric for Pers de Bermingham who, we are told, 'to Yrismen [...] was fo, | That wel wide-whare, | Ever he rode aboute | With streinth to hunt ham vte'; but this--to say the least--is a difficult and controversial text. Michael Benskin has persuasively argued that this text is not the 'rough and popular ballad' in celebration of a avenging hero that it at first seems, but rather a sophisticated exercise in mock-heroic--'not a eulogy, but a satirical indictment'. (34) To Benskin, 'the poem is not anti-Irish', but 'a damning epitaph for a man whose victims were prominently Irishmen, and whose reputation was an insult to Christian teaching' (p. 67). There is perhaps a risk of imposing anachronistic values here, for neither the racism nor the elaborate crassness of 'Pers de Bermingham' is unparalleled in the literature of the period. A 'Song on the Scottish Wars', for example, celebrates the slaughter of the Scots at Dunbar and then makes an offensive comparison between the flesh cut from the 'kilted rabble' and refuse meat on sale in the shambles: 'cadavera, velut in macello | Vilia vendentis, tunicato stricta popello.' (35) The 'Song on the Execution of Sir Simon Fraser' in BL MS Harley 2253 ironically recounts how 'Sire Edward oure kyng, that ful ys of piete | The Waleis quarters sende to is oune countre' ('Sir Edward our king, fully of piety/pity, sent Wallace's quartered body back to his own country'), but it seems to savour the irony of Edward's pitiless 'piete' rather than being in any way undermined by it. (36) Benskin is certainly right to point out the uneasy tone of 'Pers de Bermingham', but quite where its sarcasm is directed (at Pers, at the Irish, or at both together) still seems to me a matter of uncertainty. I remain open-minded about the exact purpose and significance of this poem, but I think that it can be taken at least as a warning against assuming that anti-Irish sentiment in this period was simple or unquestioned within the Anglo-Irish community. If this text is our only guide to understanding the colonists' attitudes to the Irish, then we are certainly in no position to read 'racial animosity between English and Irish' as an automatic condition of any other texts in the manuscript. Moreover, it may be that 'Pers de Bermingham' owes its place in the collection less to its subject than to its form. The awkwardly contrived and self-conscious wordplay that Benskin rightly identifies in it, whether or not it is so 'agonizingly laboured' as to suggest mockery, is clearly something for which the Harley compiler had a taste. In the original arrangement of the manuscript, 'Pers de Bermingham' was placed in the same booklet as such numerologically oriented pieces as the extracts from Dares Phrygius and Orosius, the exposition of 11 Corinthians 11. 24, and the calculation of the number of years between Adam and Christ, which were perhaps linked (in the compiler's mind) with the play on the date of Pers's death in the first two stanzas of the poem. As the manuscript currently stands, 'Pers de Bermingham' follows four Latin texts that form a group only in their employment of cryptic wordplay, and it shares this riddling quality with them, as well as with some of the Middle English poems in the manuscript, such as 'Repentance of Love', 'Earth', and 'Nego'. Indeed, the kind of wordplay that 'Pers de Bermingham' enjoys is almost more Latin in spirit than English, depending as it does on the ellipsis and repetition of ideas in a compressed verbal form, while the recurrent wordplay on Pers's penchant for taking heads is macabre enough to recall the rhetorical justification for the adulterous monk's castration that I quoted above. There is even a hint of the playful abuse of scripture that is so recurrent a practice among the Latin texts in the manuscript in the Middle English poem's suggestion that the one man who escaped Pers's murderous feast was (in an ironically fortunate sense) an outcast, as if 'of Caym is kinne'. The poem might even have been linked thematically to some of the other texts in the manuscript, for its concluding reference to a 'god pardon i-boght, | Two hundrid daies and mo' is (at the very least) an oddly casual one in a collection in which indulgences are elsewhere taken so seriously. (37)

If MS Harley 913 has an 'Anglo-Irish' identity, then it seems to me that this identity is less nationalistic than local and, more particularly, municipal. There has always been good evidence for the association of the manuscript with the town of Waterford, despite Heuser's still influential description of its contents as 'die Kildare-Gedichte'. In 1608, a description was prepared for Sir James Ware of 'a smale olde book in parchm[ent] called the Book of Ross or of Waterford' which is usually taken to refer to MS Harley 913; and it may be that Ware had access to some traditional knowledge about the book's history. Alternatively, it could mean that Ware or his scribe recognized the presence in it of two poems about these neighbouring towns, respectively 'The Walling of New Ross' and 'Young Men of Waterford' (a text which is no longer extant). According to the limited sketch of this poem's contents in BL MS Lansdowne 418, and the partial transcription there, 'Young Men of Waterford' was a warning or reminder of the depredation of the city's hinterland by the Le Poer (or Power) family. (38) In MS Harley 913 two poems in French appear on either side of the rubric 'Prouerbie comitis Desmonie', which has been taken as a reference to Maurice Fitz Thomas, who was created Earl of Desmond in 1329 and with whom Arnold Le Poer fought a bitter and destructive feud during the 1320s; (39) but it seems that the antagonism between Waterford and the Le Poers continued throughout the fourteenth century. In 1345, for example, 'the Powers burnt, destroyed and spoiled almost all the countryside around the city', which the Mayor of Waterford avenged by raising an army, defeating the Le Poers and hanging, drawing, and quartering the men he captured. (40) It may be that 'Young Men of Waterford' (with its warning that the Le Poers will behead any of the townsfolk they can find) actually belongs to this period rather than the 1320s, for it is now impossible to say at what point it was written. At the very least, this poem's association with MS Harley 913 suggests that the hostility between city and some parts of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy in this period was more significant for the people who assembled these texts than any opposition between the 'English' and the Irish.

The interest of the Harley collection in and for the concerns of a particular municipality is further demonstrated by some of the other evidence for its early history. The 'Georgius Wyse' who claimed ownership in an inscription on folio 2 has been plausibly identified with the George Wyse who was Mayor of Waterford in 1571-72. (41) The inscription on folio 29, which is not easy to read, does at least say 'Iste liber pertinet ad Johannem Lambard ... Waterfordie ...', which presumably refers to a member of the Lombard family (Lombard, Lambard or Lumbard), which was, like the Wyses, one of Waterford's leading families. (42) William Lombard was Mayor of Waterford in 1371-73, 1377-79 and 1384-85; his son John occupied the same office in 1406-08, having been appointed sheriff Wexford, Kilkenny, Tipperary, andWaterford in 1395 and chief baron of the exchequer in 1397; and no less than four other Lombards served as Waterford mayor before 1640. (43) MS Harley 913 seems to have been firmly associated with the Waterford oligarchy in the sixteenth century at least, and perhaps also before that, so it is perhaps no coincidence that one of the poems in the collection, 'The Walling of New Ross', explicitly depicts a kind of ideal of municipal enterprise, in which every social group in the town contributes its labour to the task of defensive fortification. Indeed, the poem's celebration of the town's team-spirit is so obviously and comically exaggerated that it makes sense to read it as a sardonic mockery of New Ross's pretensions to grandeur. (44) No doubt there would always have been an appreciative audience for such a poem in Waterford, New Ross's inveterate commercial rival across the estuary. (45)

I have so far argued that the interpretation of texts in MS Harley 913 has often been tied far too rigidly to a model of their external context that is itself far too simplistic; and indeed it seems to me that what is known about the 'transmissive process' that brought them together only makes their interpretation more complex and problematic. At the beginning, I suggested that they seem to be more tightly linked together by their intrinsic congruities in theme, form, and style, than by their coherence with any of the agendas that might seem to be implied by the evidence for their extrinsic milieu. Some of these congruities (such as the compiler's recurrent interest in numerology and word-games) have already been mentioned, but in what remains of this essay, I want to suggest a few more of the thematic and formal features that seem to me to link the contents of the manuscript together, not so tightly as to suggest they express any single agenda, but closely enough to reveal something about the compiler's particular concerns. For most readers, perhaps the most surprising preoccupation in a manuscript apparently put together by a Franciscan friar is the preoccupation with food, drink, and feasting. The first substantial text in the collection is the 'Land of Cockaygne' in which food and drink are literally the substance of a Gargantuan fantasy, but grotesque excesses of consumption also play a large part in 'Quondam fuit factus festus', the 'Responsio Dosithei', the parodic Drinkers' Mass, and the 'Metra de monachis carnalibus'. The 'Song on the Venality of the Judges' begins with a quotation from the Sermon on the Mount, 'Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty, and do justice' (Matthew 5. 6) and makes imaginative use of its implied equation of temperance with justice by consistently depicting the corollary, venality as a form of gluttony. Even 'Pers de Bermingham' makes ironic use of the idea of feasting, for Pers's hospitality was only a front for his murderous intent, as the author of the poem so carefully emphasizes. Yet it would be a mistake to read the exuberance and amorality of the feasting imagery in these texts as an index of the compiler's readiness to evade or undermine the serious responsibilities of a friar, as a case of 'the merry, abundant and victorious bodily element oppos[ing] the serious medieval world of fear and oppression with all its intimidating and intimidated ideology', as Bakhtin might have seen it.46 Gluttony and drunkenness weigh heaviest among the charges laid against the Franciscans by the 'Responsio Dosithei', which labels them 'principes cocorum' and describes the abundant and excellent wine at their feasts ('Vinum [...] inter epulas [...] habundans et precipuum'). 'Even though it might be that no one can drive the unwilling to drink', Dositheus goes on, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, 'yet each [Franciscan friar] more willingly obeys the rules and, collecting eighteen or even twenty-seven gallons in a wine-skin, as it were, obliges himself to drink the same measures [as the others] English-fashion, just to show their love' ('omnis [...] uoluntarius in lege, binas uel ternas metretas sicut in utre, ad potus equales Anglico more se obligat ex amore'). The irony of this can be enjoyed only if Dositheus's pretended apology for such behaviour is recognized as wholly absurd. Moreover, the speaker makes the moral significance of the friars' supposed excesses quite clear when he reproaches his antagonist (the Devil) for attacking the 'gulam et regulam' of such so-called Christians ('Nazareorum'). This is a much-loved pun in medieval Latin satire, because it neatly epitomizes the importance of temperance, both as a practice and as a symbol, to the living of a Christian life according to a Rule. (47) Just as the genuineness of a monk's or friar's commitment to Christ can be measured by his continued obedience to the dietary regulations of his Order, so the kind of total excess mentioned in these texts symbolically marks the point of his utter degradation. At the same time, the gluttony and the drunkenness remain funny despite, and indeed because of, the grotesqueness with which they are depicted, for it is precisely the obscenity of this humour that makes its moral point so sharp.

The pun on 'gula' and 'regula' also suggests that greed is, quite literally, a perversion of order; and it seems to me that the compiler of MS Harley 913 was quite strongly drawn to the idea of that particular kind of dramatic falsity that is expressed through rules that are simultaneously misrules, forms that are implicitly deformed. Just as the nature of the Land of Cockaygne is a summary of everything that is the very opposite of natural, so the rule of the Abbey of Cockaygne is obviously a kind of anti-rule, making sense only in so far as it is the complete antithesis of a true monastic rule. (48) Similarly, the monk in the tale of 'The Adulterous Monk' is marked as a kind of non-monk by his behaviour (as is implicit in the cuckolded husband's ironic respect for the 'forma religionis' expressed by his tonsure) in just the same way that his eventual castration makes him into a kind of non-man. Rules are broken just as grotesquely, but at a totally different level of abstraction, in 'Quondam fuit factus festus', which is funny primarily because it is written in a ludicrous dog-Latin that violates all the rules of grammar, 'the Author using poor Priscian most barbarously, on purpose', as Wanley so memorably put it. A dramatic perversion of a different kind of stylistic decorum is the essence of the burlesque 'Drinkers' Mass' and 'Hours of the Seven Sleepers', in which form and substance are comically at odds with each other, as they are also in 'The Devil's Letter'. The reply to this letter by Dositheus is an extended exercise in speaking pervertedly, that is, per antiphrasim, saying the opposite of what is meant. Even the fable of the Fox and the Ass told in the Middle English 'Song of the Times' might be read as a dramatic representation of a law that is paradoxically illegal, by which, absurdly, the lawless triumph and the lawful are punished according to the law. Such expressive deformations of the truth clearly serve well to illustrate the dangerous wickedness of the world, but they would have had a particular resonance for anyone committed to living a life according to a particular form of Christian observance. The compiler's fascination with the dynamics of falsehood might be taken to express an anxiety about the whole question of validating an 'order' of religion, and this would provide a dramatic background to his decision to copy down both St Francis's own question to God 'de statu et uita fratrum' and the quotation from 'Bede' on the question of whether or not the offices of a priest are vitiated if the priest himself is immoral. The Harley scribe's problematization both of festivity and of concepts of order seem to me to coincide with his imaginative commitment to the ideal of community. The Land of Cockaygne is said to be better than heaven because heaven is unfestively lonely: 'There nis halle, bure no benche, | Bot watir man is thursto quenche' (11. 11-12). The Middle English 'Satire' invokes a comprehensive sense of human society by enumerating a whole range of di.erent estates in turn, from the religious orders to the wool-carders, and it finishes with an exhortation to 'drink deep and be glad'. A litany of the di.erent classes cooperating together is also fundamental to 'The Walling of New Ross', whether or not the community they compose is meant to be laughed at. The 'Responsio Dosithei' could also be described as an estates satire; both it and the Devil's Letter on which it depends clearly imagine Christendom as a 'people' that can be addressed as a single entity. 'Quondam fuit factus festus' and the parodic Mass and Hours all imply at least a kind of pseudo-community. Yet it is in the Middle English religious poems that the sense of a community emerges most strongly, for the call to repentance in all these poems is always presented as an appeal, not to one individual, but to a whole group of people, and this group is clearly not a crowd of strangers, but a gathering of friends. The authors of these poems express the hope not just that 'you' or 'I' may enter heaven, but that 'we' do: 'Yif vs grace to wirch workis gode, | To heuen that we mot entir inn' ('Ten Commandments', 11. 3-4, my italics). These three sets of ideas--about eating and feasting, about the validity of forms and symbols, and about the ideal of community (49)--all coincide in John Pecham's meditation on the body of Christ, which celebrates it as 'the whole truth of the substance of the Saviour, sacrament of grace, food of love' ('ueritas substantie | tota saluatoris, | sacramentum gracie, | pabulum amoris', 11. 13-16). This formulation is perhaps echoed in the Middle English 'Sarmun': 'The sight of Him is ure vode, | The sight of him is ure virst' (11. 229-30). Such an interlinking of concepts of festivity, order, and community, as they are expressed in different ways in the the various texts in the manuscript, suggests to me not only that the compiler would have sensed no sharp antithesis between the two different kinds of community represented by his fraternity and by his municipality, but also that he was aware enough of 'associational forms' as an idea, as well as a social reality, to want to question and refine them in all kinds of complex ways. (50) This makes it at least dangerous for modern critics to attempt to subordinate the shape and significance of the collection to any of those social, political, and religious categories that the texts themselves offer to complicate and sometimes even to invalidate. The intellectual dynamism of MS Harley 913's texts seems to me to be expressed less by their compatibility with such 'outward' entities as the Franciscan order, the town of Waterford, or Anglo-Norman Ireland, than by their sustained involvement with such 'inward' constructs, thematic, stylistic, and metaphorical, as those I have suggested. Whatever organicity the manuscript possesses, in short, it is not such as can be fully accounted for by the 'transmissive processes' that brought it into being.


For ease of reference, the item numbers given here correspond to those originally provided by Wanley, which are followed by Peter and Angela Lucas in their essential study of the material structure of the manuscript. Their account fails to note that items 16-19 are actually three texts, not four, and that these have also been disarranged.

1. Symbolism of the Alphabet (fol. [1.sup.v]).

1A. Symbolism of the Alphabet: another version (fol [2.sup.r]).

5. The Abbot of Gloucester's Feast (fols [10.sup.r]-[12.sup.r]): 'Quondam fuit factus festus ...'. Ed. by Wilhelm Meyer, 'Quondam fuit factus festus: ein Gedicht in Spottlatein', in Nachrichten von der koniglichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Gottingen, Philologisch-Historische Klasse (Gottingen, 1908), pp. 406-29.

6. Hours of the Seven Sleepers (fols [12.sup.r]-[13,sup.r]): 'Fratres nolumus uos ignorare de dormientibus ...'. Ed. by Hans Walther, 'Zur lateinischen Parodie des Mittelalters', Zeitschrift fur deutsches Altertum, 84 (1952-53), 265-73.

7. Drinkers' Mass (fols [13.sup.v]-[14.sup.v]): 'Introibo ad altare Bachi ...'. Ed. by Paul Lehmann, Parodie im Mittelalter, 2nd edn (Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1963), pp. 233-41.

8. Quotation attributed to Bede, with brief commentary (fol. [14.sup.v]): 'Sacerdos qui est sine mortali peccato ...'.

9. Metrical proverbs (fol. [15.sup.r]): 'Nunc lege, nunc hora, nunc cum feruore labora ...'. See Hans Walther, Initia Carminum ac Versuum Medii Aevi Posterioris Latinorum (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1959), no. 12451.

12A. Proverb (fol. [15.sup.v]): 'Si quis centiret quo tendit & vnde veniret | Numquam gauderet sed in omni tempore fleret.' Walther, Initia, no. 17947. This proverb is then repeated at the top of folio [16.sup.r] as the 'Thema' of the Middle English poem following it, the so-called 'Sarmun'.

12B. Directions for desalinating drinking water: 'Ad extrahendum salem de potagio' (fol. [15.sup.v]).

17. Theobaldus de Ponte, Bishop of Assisi (1296-1329), Open Letter giving an account of the circumstances of the Portiuncula Indulgence (fols [24.sup.v], [26.sup.r], 26v): 'Frater Theobaldus Dei gratia Episcopus Assisinas, universis Christi fidelibus [...] Propter quorundam linguas detrahentium ...'. Ed. by Sabatier (see items 19, 16 below), pp. lxvii-lxxix; also in Acta Sanctorum, ed. by J. Bollandus and others (Paris: Palme, 1865-): October, 11, 879-81. Written before 1322.

18. Michael Bernardi, Testimony to the Portiuncula Indulgence (fols [26.sup.v]-[27.sup.v], 25r): 'In nomine indiuidue Trinitatis et beate Marie, ego Michael Bernardi olim de Spellonnis nunc habitator Assisi ...'. Ed. by Sabatier (see next item), pp. lxxxii-lxxxvi.

19 and 16. Francesco della Rossa Bartholi (d. 1372), Tractatus de Indulgentia Sanctae Marie de Portiuncula, cap. 37 (fols [25.sup.r]-[25.sup.v], [23.sup.r]-[23.sup.v], breaks off incomplete): 'Anno domini .m[degrees]. Ccc[degrees]. viii[[degrees]]. .xx. die februarii, Frater Jacobus sacerdos & capellanus ...'. Rubric: 'de fratribus peregre perficientibus'. Ed. by Paul Sabatier, Fratris Bartholi de Assisio: Tractatus de Indulgentia S. Mariae de Portiuncula, Collection des etudes et des documents sur l'histoire religieuse et litteraire du moyen age, 11 (Paris, 1900), pp. 70-81, breaking off near the top of p. 77.Written around 1335 (according to Sabatier, p. c).

24. Letter from the Prince of Hell (fols [32.sup.v]-[33.sup.v]): 'Princeps regionis Gehennalis Ecclesiarum prelatis et clericis vniversis salutem quam sibi. Superabundamus gaudio, karissimi, in operibus uestris ...'. Ed. by W. Wattenbach, 'Uber erfundene Briefe in Handschriften des Mittelalters, besonders Teufelsbriefe,' in Sitzungsberichte der Koniglich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin (Berlin, 1892), pp. 104-05.

25. Reply to the Prince of Hell by Pope 'Dositheus' (fols [33.sup.v]-[39.sup.r], breaking off. incomplete): 'Magnus mundi Monarcha christicolarum Calipha, Beelsebub demoniorum principi, confusione sua sicut deploide indui ...'. Rubric: 'Explicit inuectio subsanatoria diaboli contra totam ecclesiam sanctam dei. Incipit Responsio Dosithei summi pontificis ecclesiam sanctam magnifice defendentis et responsionem in lectionibus exprimentis.' (51) Ed. by Wattenbach, ibid., pp. 105-16, breaking off halfway down p. 113.

26. Poem on the Crucifixion (fol. [39.sup.r]): 'Aue capud Christi gradum diuisi spinis coronatum ...'.

27. Extract from Dares Phrygius, De Excidio Trojae Historia, cap. 44 (fol. [40.sup.r]): 'Pugnatum est annis .x. mensibus. vii. die[bu]s. xii. ...'. Ed. by Samuel Artopoeus, Dictys Cretensis et Dares Phrygius de Bello Trojano, 2 vols (London: Valpy, 1825), 1, 295-339 (pp. 338-39).

27A. Lists of Trojan and Greek princes; lists of casualties (fol.[40.sup.r-v]).

28. Enumeration of Franciscan custodians and houses by province (fols [41.sup.r]-[43.sup.r]). Not only does the list begin with 'Hibernia', but it also concludes with the boastful observation that the 'Prouincia Hyberniae excedit .9. prouincias ordinis in conuentuum numero et in numero fratrum multo plures'.

29. Exposition of 11 Corinthians 11. 24 (fol. [43.sup.r]): '[A Iudaeis] quinquies quadragenas una minus accepi ...'.

30. Calculation of the number of years between Adam and Christ (fol. [43.sup.r]).

31. Extract from St Bonaventure, Vita Sancti Francisci, cap. 8: 'Cum autem beatus Fransciscus turbatus esset de statu et uita fratrum ...' (fol. [43.sup.v]). See Acta Sanctorum: October, 11, 763.

32. Notes from Orosius, Historia adversus paganos, 11, cap. 6 (fols [43.sup.v]-[44.sup.r]): 'Ambitus Babilonie circumueniebant stadiis .cccc.lxxxvi. Erat etiam in campi planicie sita ...'. Rubric (misleadingly): 'Historia tripartita'. See Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina, ed. J.-P. Migne, 221 vols (Paris: Garnier Fratres and J.-P. Migne, 1844-64), xxxi, cols 758-59.

35. Lists of biblical figures representing each of the Seven Deadly Sins and each of the Seven Cardinal Virtues, with references (fol. [49.sup.r-v]). 36. Riddle: 'Nota de muliere que peperit puerum, qui fuit filius pater & frater eius ...' (fol. [49.sup.v]).

37A. Riddle: 'Nota de illo qui fuit in pomario & portauit poma que oportebat dare tribus ianitoribus ...' (fol. [49.sup.v]).

37B. Riddling verses: 'Prima trianglia, longa subanglia, curta sequatur ...'. The solution is helpfully supplied: 'Aliz amo te' (fol. [49.sup.v]).

37C. Riddling verses: 'Porta salutis aue per quam fit exitus a ve ...' (fol. [49.sup.v]). Walther, Initia, no. 14276.

40. Recipes for pigments 'ad usum scribendi' (fols [52.sup.v]-[53.sup.v]). The rubric of the first is: 'De temperatura azorii'.

41. Political prophecies (fol. [53.sup.v]): 'Bruti posteritas albanis associata ...'.

44. Metra de monachis carnalibus (fol. [57.sup.r]): 'Quis nescit quam sit monacorum nobilis ordo ...'. Ed. (from other manuscripts) by Lehmann (see item 7 above), pp. 194-95. See also A. G. Rigg, 'Metra de monachis carnalibus: the three versions', Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch, 15 (1980), 134-42.

45. John Pecham (c. 1225-92), Meditation on the Body of Christ (fol. [57.sup.v]): 'Aue uiuens hostia, ueritas & uita'. Rubric: 'Hanc meditacionem de corpore Christi composuit Frater Johannes Pecham de ordine Fratrum Minorum, Archiepiscopus Cantuarensis. In eleuacione corporis Christi dicitur antiphone'. Ed. (from other manuscripts) in Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi, ed. by Clemens Blume and G. M. Dreves, 55 vols (Leipzig, 1886-1922; repr. Frankfurt a. M.: Minerva, 1961), 1, 597.Walther, Initia, no. 2023.

45A. Another hymn on the same subject (fol. [57.sup.v]): 'O Iesu dulcissime, cibus salutaris ...'. Rubric: 'Oratio post eleuacionem'.

48. Song on the Venality of Judges (fol. [59.sup.r-v]): 'Beati qui esuriunt et scitiunt, et faciunt iusticia ...'. Ed. by ThomasWright, in Political Songs of England: From the Reign of John to that of Edward II (London, 1839); repr. with introduction by Peter Coss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 224-30.

49. The Adulterous Monk (fol. [60.sup.r-v]): 'In antiquis temporibus sub aprilis idibus, monachus quidam ...'. Rubric: 'Passio unius Monachi laciuii'. Ed. (from a much longer version in other manuscripts) by Lehmann (see item 7 above), pp. 224-31.

50. On the Hospitality of Monks (fol. [60.sup.v]): 'Aue capitale, signum manuale, patens hospitale ...'. Rubric: 'Hospitalitas Monachorum & salutes in claustro'. Walther, Initia, no. 1894 (the only copy listed).

52. Lullaby (fol. [63.sup.v], breaks off incomplete at the bottom of the page): 'Lolla, lolla paruule, cur fles tam amare? ...'. Ed. by Angela M. Lucas, pp. 201-02. Walther, Initia, no. 10380 (the only copy listed). Compare the Middle English lullaby (item 23), on folio [32.sup.r-v], to which the Latin is closely related.

(1) David Wallace, The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. xxi.

(2) See E. D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1967), p. 87: 'The word "context" embraces and unifies two quite different realms. It signifies, on the one hand, the givens that accompany the text's meaning and, on the other, the constructions that are part of the text's meaning.'

(3) Derek Pearsall, Old and Middle English Poetry, The Routledge History of English Poetry, I (London: Routledge, 1977), pp. xi, 119; see also Wallace, pp. xvi-xvii.

(4) On the number of hands in MS Harley 913, see Michael Benskin, 'The Hands of the Kildare Poems Manuscript', Irish University Review, 20 (1990), 163-93.

(5) See, for example, Alan Bliss and Joseph Long, 'Literature in Norman French and English to 1534', in A New History of Ireland, ed. by F. X. Martin and others, 10 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975-), 11 ed. by Art Cosgrove (1987), 708-30 (pp. 720-21).

(6) 'Reconstructing a Disarranged Manuscript: The Case of MS Harley 913, a Medieval Hiberno-English Miscellany', Scriptorium, 14 (1990), 286-99. I am grateful to the authors for an off print.

(7) Terence Dolan, 'Writing in Ireland', in Wallace, pp. 208-28 (p. 215); my italics.

(8) Anglo-Irish Poems of the Middle Ages, ed. by Angela M. Lucas (Dublin: Columba Press, 1995). There is obviously justification for the selective treatment of the Middle English texts in such multilingual miscellanies in the fact that increasingly few undergraduates in English can command either Latin or French, but the very fact that even the Middle English is served by a facing-page translation implicitly acknowledges that it is hardly more accessible in its original form. There is also precedent for this policy in the classic study of the Middle English texts in the Harley MS by Wilhelm Heuser, Die Kildare-Gedichte: Die altesten mittelenglischen Denkmaler in Anglo-Irischer Uberlieferung, Bonner Beitrage zur Anglistik 14 (Bonn: Hanstein, 1904). However, the marginalization of Latin in Angela Lucas's anthology extends even to the relegation of the Latin parts of a macaronic text (Christ on the Cross) to her footnotes.

(9) See my 'The Composition and Social Context of MSS Jesus College Oxford 29 (11) and BL Cotton Caligula A.ix', Medium AEvum, 66 (1997), 250-69 (p. 265, n. 33). To the references given here might be added the more recent essay by David L. Jeffrey, 'Authors, Anthologists, and Franciscan Spirituality', in Studies in the Harley Manuscript: The Scribes, Contents, and Social Contexts of British Library MS Harley 2253, ed. by Susanna Fein (Kalamazoo: TEAMS, 2000), pp. 261-70.

(10) See, for example, Dolan, pp. 219-20; P. L. Henry, 'The Land of Cokaygne: Cultures in Contact in Medieval Ireland', Studia Hibernica, 12 (1972), 120-41 (pp. 136-41); Thorlac Turville-Petre, England the Nation: Language, Literature and National Identity, 1290-1340 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), p. 158. Turville-Petre, in fact, draws a distinction between the vernacular material, which he reads in local terms, and the Latin material, through which, he suggests, 'the Irish friars share in a wider world of European culture and learning' (p. 173).

(11) See Thomas Wright's Political Songs of England, ed. with introduction by Peter Coss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. lvii: 'Literary scholars have often looked for specific audiences for literary works under consideration. Arguably, however, audiences have been imagined too discretely.' Coss briefly discusses some of the contents of MS Harley 913, pp. xxxix-xl, lviii-lix, n. 94.

(12) This is possibly true even of such formulations as Turville-Petre's: '[the texts in Harley 913] provide a vivid picture of the aspirations and fears of an Anglo-Irish Franciscan' (p. 158), which seems to allow for the possibility of a mixture of motives in the compilation of the collection only by falling into a kind of biographical fallacy.

(13) Paul Lehmann, by contrast, defines medieval parody primarily in terms of form and content, rather than by purpose. As he puts it, 'Ihr Vorhandsein ist das Wichstigste' (Parodie im Mittelalter, 2nd edn (Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1963), p. 4).

(14) For lists of the manuscript's contents, see Heuser, pp. 4-10, who reproduces the earlier catalogues by Wanley and Bernard; E. B. Fitzmaurice and A. G. Little, Materials for the History of the Franciscan Province in Ireland 1230-1450 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1920), pp. 121-26; Peter and Angela Lucas, pp. 289-91; Margaret Laing, Catalogue of Sources for a Linguistic Atlas of Early Medieval English (Cambridge: Brewer, 1993), pp. 90-91.

(15) See the discussion of this 'problem' by Peter and Angela Lucas, pp. 297-98; Angela M. Lucas, pp. 14-15.

(16) Item 52 is also incomplete. The scribe's error near the end of his extract from De indulgentia is his anticipation of the question 'Quare vocas tu beatum Franciscum stomachosum?'.

(17) See also Angela M. Lucas, p. 16.

(18) The detailed scenario for the composition of the manuscript that they suggest to explain this long process of accumulation seems to me to exceed the evidence.

(19) Compare John Frankis's demolition of the argument that Oxford, Jesus College MS 29 must be a Franciscan manuscript because it contains a poem by another Franciscan, Thomas of Hales, in 'The Social Context of Vernacular Writing in Thirteenth-Century England: The Evidence of the Manuscripts', in Thirteenth Century England I (Proceedings of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Conference, 1985), ed. by P. R. Coss and S. D. Lloyd (Woodbridge: Brewer, 1986), p. 180.

(20) A. G. Rigg, A History of Anglo-Latin Literature 1066-1422 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 226.

(21) Michael Benskin has suggested that the Middle English texts in MS Harley 913 were copied at Waterford, but that their original dialect was that of Kildare ('The Style and Authorship of the Kildare Poems--(I) Pers of Bermingham', in In Other Words: Transcultural Studies in Philology, Translation and Lexicography presented to Hans Heinrich Meier on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday, ed. by J. L. MacKenzie and R. Todd (Dordrecht: Foris, 1989), pp. 57-83). The evidence for this lies in the variation between rhymed and non-rhymed spellings, but this is a species of evidence that can hardly be used so precisely (as I have argued in 'The Linguistic Evidence for the Provenance of The Owl and the Nightingale', Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, 99 (1998), 249-68). The need for caution is perhaps particularly acute in the light of the reservations about the evidence for dialectal variation in medieval Hiberno-English that Benskin himself expressed (along with his co-author Angus McIntosh) in 'Prolegomena to a Study of Medival Anglo-Irish', Medium AEvum, 37 (1968), 1-11 (p. 11).

(22) To describe the Middle English lyrics in MS Harley 913 as 'the didactic materials of an organized evangelical movement', as Benskin does ('Style and Authorship', p. 60), is to take an unnecessarily narrow and even anachronistic view of the genre.

(23) There is of course a kind of pun here on Minores/maiores: see Jeffrey, p. 266.

(24) See the quotation attributed to Bede in item 8.

(25) See Heuser, p. 8.

(26) See Rigg, p. 143.

(27) Rigg, pp. 152-53, 237-38, 308.

(28) Contrast this with Garbaty's opinion that 'it does not seem all too likely that a Franciscan would satirize his own order' (p. 142); and Henry's rhetorical question, 'why should Franciscans satirise their own order?' (p. 135); but note also Jeffrey's assertion that 'the friars were not adverse [sic] to including such items, either for sometime admonition of their own faults, or, more likely, for the same sorts of reasons that they collected [...] heretical and blasphemous parodies of the mass and Scripture' (p. 268).

(29) See, for example, J. A. W. Bennett and G. V. Smithers, Early Middle English Verse and Prose, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 341; Garbaty, pp. 140, 142; Henry, p. 135.

(30) See, for example, 'De Clarevallensibus et de Cluniacensibus' and 'De Mauro et Zoilo', in The Latin Poems commonly attributed to Walter Mapes, ed. by Thomas Wright (London, 1841; repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1968), pp. 237-42 and 243-50. The Franciscans are also mocked for their clothes and footwear in MS Harley 913's own 'Responsio Dosithei' (see item 25 in the Appendix below, ed. By Wattenbach, p. 111).

(31) Carmina Burana, no. 219, in Carmina Burana: Die Lieder der Benediktbeurer Handschrift: Zweisprachige Ausgabe, ed. by A. Hilka, O. Schumann, and B. Bischo., trans. by Carl Fischer and Hugo Kuhn, notes and intro. by Gunter Bernt (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch, 1979), pp. 638-43; Speculum Stultorum, trans. by Graydon W. Regenos as The Book of Daun Burnel the Ass (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1959), pp. 116-17; 'The Order of Fair Ease', in Thomas Wright's Political Songs, ed. by Coss, pp. 137-48.

(32) As it happens, one of the other versions prefers Leicester to Gloucester.

(33) Ciaran Parker remarks that, at a general level, 'ethnic antipathy between the Irish and English in Waterford was not as significant as elsewhere' ('The Internal Frontier: The Irish in County Waterford in the Later Middle Ages', in Colony and Frontier in Medieval Ireland: Essays presented to J. F. Lydon, ed. by T. B. Barry, Robin Frame, and Katharine Simms (London and Rio Grande: Hambledon Press, 1995), pp. 139-54 (p. 153)).

(34) 'Style and Authorship', p. 61.

(35) Thomas Wright's Political Songs, ed. by Coss, pp. 160-79, 11. 79-80.

(36) Thomas Wright's Political Songs, pp. 212-23, 11. 25-26.

(37) Benskin reads this as a final twist of the knife: 'the destroyer of Pers' reputation poses as the dutiful guardian of his soul' ('Style and Authorship', p. 66). Indulgences are most obviously at issue in the three texts concerned with the Portiuncula Indulgence, but see also the Middle English Sarmun (ed. by Angela M. Lucas), 11. 237-40.

(38) For example, see the particularly dim view of robbing and raiding taken by the Song of the Times (ed. by Angela M. Lucas), 11. 25-32, which might also be taken to reflect the particular horror of such activities felt by a community dependent on trade.

(39) Bliss and Long, p. 719.

(40) Eamonn McEneaney, A History of Waterford and Its Mayors: From the 12th Century to the 20th Century (Waterford: Waterford Corporation, 1995), p. 60.

(41) Bliss and Long, p. 721.

(42) John Lombard's hand seems to me very similar to and possibly even the same as Benskin's 'Hand C' ('Hands', p. 167), which was responsible for the proverb and directions for desalinating drinking water on folio [15.sup.v], the political prophecies on folio [53.sup.v], as well as most of the page-top rubrics (and not just those on folio [25.sup.r], as Benskin suggests).

(43) McEneaney, pp. 75-76, 228-31.

(44) This is the argument made by K. V. Sinclair, 'The Walling of New Ross: An Anglo-Norman Satirical Dit', Zeitschrift fur franzosische Sprache und Literatur, 105 (1995), 240-80. The poem is edited and translated by Hugh Shields, 'The Walling of New Ross: A Thirteenth-Century Poem in French', Long Room, 12-13 (1975-6), 24-33. It seems rather ironic (though not necessarily deliberately so) that the manuscript should contain a description of the walls of Babylon along with this account of the walls of (the somewhat less legendary) New Ross.

(45) See Eamonn McEneaney, 'Mayors and Merchants in Medieval Waterford', in Waterford: History and Society: Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County, ed. by William Nolan and Thomas P. Power (Dublin: Geography Publications, 1992), pp. 147-76 (pp. 154-55).

(46) Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (1965), trans. by Helene Iswolsky (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1984), p. 226. For Bakhtin's suggestion of a relationship between Franciscan sensibility and 'carnivalism', see p. 57.

(47) Compare, for example, the 'Apocalypsis Goliae Episcopi' (in Wright, Latin Poems, pp. 1-20), 1. 392.

(48) See T. D. Hill, 'Parody and Theme in the Middle English Land of Cockaygne', Notes &Queries, 220 (1975), 55-59.

(49) There is nothing extraordinary about the expression of any of these concerns in a medieval context (and it has been no part of my argument that MS Harley 913 was in any way removed from the mainstream of European culture) nor would I claim that these are the only terms in which the thematic or stylistic coherence of this particular collection could be defined.

(50) For a brilliant study of the way in which 'associational' and other political forms shaped the work of Chaucer in particular, see David Wallace, Chaucerian Polity: Absolutist Lineages and Associational Forms in England and Italy (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997).

(51) 'Dositheus' is perhaps a deliberate inversion of the name 'Theodosius', which never belonged to a pope, but did belong to one of the earliest and most important Christian emperors of Rome (Theodosius I, 'the Great', Emperor 379-95).
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Author:Cartlidge, Neil
Publication:Yearbook of English Studies
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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