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New texts of 'Index of Middle English Verse' 3513.

An intriguing Middle English snatch warns of a grey wolf who, though hooded as priest and set to learn psalms, remained a wolf in his habits. The verse, 3513 in the Index of Middle English Verse,(1) occurs as an English |inset' in fable of Liber Parabolarum, written c. 1219 by Odo of Cheriton (c. 1180-c 1246). IMEV' cites three instances of the verse:

a Thai thu Wlf hore hodi to preste,

tho thu hym sette Saimes to lere

evere beth his geres to the groveward. b Pey pou pe vulf hore hode to preste,

pey pou him to skole sette salmes to lerne,

Heuere bet hise geres to pe grove grene. c If al that the wolf vnto a preest worthe

and be set vnto book psalmes to leere;

yit his eve is euere to the wodeward.(2)

These are from (a) Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 441 (of the late thirteenth century, from Canterbury); (b) London, British Library, MS Add. 11579 (c- 1300-25); and (c) London, British Library, MS Harley 279 (early fifteenth century).

However, seven more examples of the verse in Odo's Liber Parabolarum are listed neither in IMEV nor in its Supplement.(3) d Pah pu pe wolf hore hodi to preste,

Sete him to boke and psalmes him leren,

aure biep his geres to pe wode ward. e Path pu pe wulf hore hodi to preste,

sette him to lep, and salmes lere

evre beth his geres to pe groveward. f Path pu pe uulf hore hodi to preste

sete him to lep and psalmes lere

euere bethe his geres to pe uode uuard g Pey po pan wold hor wwlff hode to prest

euer buth hes wiles att pe wode es enide h Pey meo [sic] e wolf hore hodi to prest,

and him to boke sete salmes to leren,

her beuth is eyen atte vodes hent. i Lat ve deulf hore hodi to preste,

secce to boke an psalmes to leren,

evez lokys hus geres to pe wodewar.(4) j Iff alle pat pe wolf vnto pe prest worthe,

and be sette onto boke salmes to lere,

3it is eure hys oune eve to pe wodeward.

These are from (d) Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 481 (c. 1225-50), p. 489; (e) Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Haus Unter den Linden), MS Phill. 1904 (thirteenth century, from Battle, Sussex); (f) Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 88, pp. 22-1; (g) Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, MS Llanstephan 4 (late fourteenth century), f. 551. [sup.v]; (h) London, British Library, MS Royal 4 (late fouteenth fourteenth-century miscellany from Ramsey, near Huntingdon); (i) Arras, Bibliotheque municipalc, MS 184 (c. 1400, from the Augustinian house of Mont-Saint-Eloi, near Arras); (j) Oxford, Bodlelan Library, MS Douce 169 (fifteenth century), f. 36. [sup.r-v.5] Text g occurs in the course of a translation of the Liber Parabolarum into Welsh, text i in the course of a translation into French.

In all versions, the verse concludes the sad tale of what happened when the wolf Isengrim became a monk:

Isengrim, penitent and lamenting his past sins, wished to become a monk, and this was allowed. He received the tonsure and the cowl, along with the other things pertaining to a monk. He was then placed in the school and taught in the first place to say the Pater Noster, but he repeated, |A lamb or a ram'. The monks taught that he should ever look to the Cross and the sacrifice, but he always turned his eves to the lambs and the rams.

Moral. Many monks are like this. They always repeat, |A lamb or a ram.' That is, they ask for good wine and always have their eyes on a loaded tray or a heaped-up dish. Whence it is often said in English ...

- and the English lines follow to make the point.(6)

Two general points may be made about IMEV 3513 - As the lines fall into |passable alliterative metre', it has been suggested that Odo is quoting from a contemporary English beast fable now lost, the variants of the English lines implying transmission in oral form. Alternatively, the verse may be by Odo himself.(7)

The verse has also been noted as parallel to the lines (Supplement 734.5) quoted in the early thirteenth-century Ancrene Wisse, |euer is pe eie to pe wude leie,/ perinne is pet ich luuie'- perhaps the refrain of a lost love Iyric. Since Liber Parabolarum was written about the same time as Ancrene Wisse, both texts may cite a lyric in vogue about 1219. If mediaeval songs were as ephemeral as modern ones, this would help date Ancrene Wisse. Unfortunately, the epigraph |Euir is min eve i pe wode leie' in the fifteenth-century Dublin, Trinity (College, MS B.3.5, suggests that the first line at least was as perennial as a proverb.(8)

Of the seven instances of IMEV 3513 unrecorded by Brown - Robbins, e in the Berlin MS is of special interest. The verse itself resembles a, also thirteenth-century; while the manuscript itself contains chronicles and historical material with special emphasis on Wales. Though the manuscript belonged to Battle Abbey, it presumably relates to the interests of Brecon Priory, a cell of Battle. If it did form part of the library at Brecon, it would provide further evidence for a Middle English verse circulating outside England. For e, Ifor Williams used a transcript by Julius Pokorny, Professor of Celtic at Berlin Universitv 1920-35.(9)

The two lines in g feature in Chwedlau Odo, a collection of twenty-one Welsh fables translated from Odo's Latin by, an unknown fourteenth-century cleric, perhaps c. 1375. Chwedlau Odo occurs in one early manuscript, MS Llanstephan 4. This, a substantial volume of religious and other tracts, was compiled c. 1400; in the early eighteenth century it formed art of the library at Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire, where the Oxford scholar Edward Lhuyd catalogued its contents for his Archaeologia Britannica of 1707. Its ultimate provenance is uncertain. The translator of Chwedlau Odo is more pessimistic than Odo. For him, the wolves are the monks of the present day (|myneich yr awr honn'); the sheep they hanker after, |fair women and sweet wine and dainty fruits, and such-like vanities' (|y gwraged tec, a'r gwin melys, a'r ffrwytheu per, ac ar y ryw betheu massw hynny'). He concludes the fable of Isengrim with the words |Megys y dywedir yn Saesnec' (|As is said in English') - and verse g follows.

Apart from its interest as a specimen of IMEV 3513, the Chwedlau Odo verse suggests that the Welsh translator of the Latin knew English, as lestyn Daniel has noted. We can go further. The form |wode es enide' may imply that the translation was dictated, and that the secretary's spoken English was better than his written English. It is a pity we cannot identify the anonymous Welsh translator.(10) However, we may eventually learn more on the origins of MS Llanstephan 4 from its palaeographical similarity to the Red Book of Hergest (Oxford, Jesus College, MS III) and the Red Book of Talgarth (Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, MS Llanstephan 27). It has been argued that Chwedlau Odo is a product of a school of translators in Glamorgan c. 1400, while the Red Books, of similar date, have strong associations with lay patrons in the parish of Llangyfelach, near Swansea. The translator may have been a secular priest. His opinions of |myneich yrawr honn' certainly imply he was no monk.(11)

As regards h, Ifor Williams cites the view of Robin Flower that, as this is closer to the Chwedlau Odo verse than a, b or c, it suggests that the Latin original of the Welsh was similar to the MS Royal 7 C.i text. Finally, i appears within a French translation of Odo's fables in a manuscript whose early folios contain sermons and notes for sermons in both Latin and English, with what seem to be opening lines of English lyrics amongst them. The scribe cannot have understood English.(12)

While more examples of IMF 3513 may await discovery, some manuscripts of Odo can be excluded from the search. London, British Library, MS Arundel 275 and Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, MS theol. lat. qu. 10, are not of English provenance; and the verse is not amongst Middle English ones in Lincoln, Dean and Chapter Library, MS 189 (B. 4. 2). But as the Lincoln text of Odo is close to that in MS Royal 7 C.i, it may shed light on the source-text of Chwedlau Odo.(13)

Besides the Chwedlau Odo verse, an islet of Middle English surrounded by Welsh, some Middle English poems were actually translated into Celtic, including (into Irish) the B-text of the |Long Charter of Christ', and (into Welsh) the gnomic verse beginning |Pees maketh plente'. No reference work on English mentions this fact. Other texts await investigation, such as the Welsh Hystoria Adrian ac Ipotis (in Oxford, Jesus College, MS 119), apparently a translation from before 1346 of the popular Middle English didactic poem Ipotis. In short, the subject of Anglo-Celtic literary relations in the Middle Ages is rich in potential discoveries.(14)


(1) Carleton Brown and Rossell Hope Robbins, The Index of Middle English Verse (New York, 1943) (hereafter IMEV). (2) Quoted from Chedlau Odo, ed. by Ifor Williams (Wrexham, 1926; repr. Cardiff, 1957), pp. 38-9. Text a also figures in Leopold Hervieux, Les Fabulistes latins, Vol. IV (Paris, 1896), p. 195; b in J. A. Herberat, Catalogue of Romances in the Department of Manuscripts in the British Museum, Vol. III (London, 1910), p. 39, and in The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, ed. by Kenneth and Celia Sisam (Oxford, 1970), p. 553; c in Hervieux, Les Fabulistes latins, IV, i95 n. 4, in Herbert, Catalogue of Romances, 111, 51, and in R. M. Wilson, |The Lost literature of Medieval England, 2nd edn (London, 1970), p. 125. (3) R. H. Robbins and J. L. Cutler, Supplement to the Index of Middle English Verse (Lexington, Ky, 1965) (hereafter Supplement). (4) Chwedlau Odo, ed. Williams, pp. xlii n. 44, 5, 38; Hervieux, 195 n. 4. The Battle MS is described in Valentin Rose, Verzeichniss der lateinischen Handschriften der Koniglichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, Vol. (Berlin, 1893), pp. 333 8. The MS Roval 7 C.i verse also features in Herbert, Catalogue of Romances, III, 44. (5) For a transcript of the Corpus verse, I thank Rogers; for help with MS Douce 88, Dr Bruce Barker-Benfield. (6) Wilson, Lost Literature, pp. 124-5. The editors of MAE kindly point out that this is exemplum 5338 in F. C. Tubach, Index Exemplorum (Helsinki, 1969), which gives a full but slightly imprecise account (if the diffusion of this fable throughout Europe. (7) Wilson, Lost Literature, p. 125. But the reader for MAE, notes that |the last stave of the third line alliterates, which in unrhymed alliterative verse it should not do: it is thus unlikely to come from a literary work' i.e. it may be Odo's work. (8) Wilson, Lost Literature, p. 162. Peter Dronke, Medieval Latin and the Rise o European Love-Lyric, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1968), pp. 279 n. i, 52. (9) Chwedlau Odo, ed. Williams, p. xlii; Medieval Libraries of Great Britain, ed. by N. R. Ker, 2nd edn (London, 1964), pp. 8, 333. (10) J. E. C. Williams, |Medieval Welsh religious prose', in Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Celtic, Studies (Cardiff, 1966), pp. (65-70); lestyn Daniel, |Golwg Newydd ar Ryddiaith Grefyddol Cymraeg Canol', Llen Cymru, XV (1985-7), 207-48 (p. 229). I thank Dr Daniel for sending thc offprint of his paper and alerting me to the Chwedlau verse, and Dr Daniel Huws of the National Library of Wales for the Llanstephan folio-reference. (11) G. J. Williams, Traddodiad Llenyddol Morgannwg (Cardiff, 1948), pp. 148-9, 174; C. W. Lewis, |The literary, tradition of Morgannwg', in Glamorgan County History, Vol. III, ed. by T. B. Pugh (Cardiff, 1971), pp. 449-554 (p. 548); Drych yr Oesoedd Canol, ed. by Nesta Llovd and Morfydd Owen (Cardiff, 1986), pp. (12) Wilson, Lost Literature, p. 174, sees part of the Marian song |Off alle floures' (IMEV 2607) in MS Arras 184; but cf. Supplement 2289.3 and 2607. (13) Hervieux, Les Fabulistes latins, IV, 51. I thank Dr Nicholas Bennett, Lincoln Cathedral Librarian, for searching MS 189 on my behelf. (14) See Andrew Breeze, |The Charter of Christ', Celtica, XIX (1987), III-20 (on IMEV, 4154), |Tudur Aled and "Pees maketh Plente"', Notes and Queries, CCXXXIV (1989), 308-9 (on IMEV 2742), and |The Three Sorrowful Tidings', Zeitschrift fur celtische Philologie, XLIII (1989), 141-50; Williams, |Medieval Welsh religious prose', pp. 76-7 (on IMEV 220).
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Author:Breeze, Andrew
Publication:Medium Aevum
Date:Sep 22, 1992
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