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Pseudo-Hildegard's anti-mendicant prophecy in Columbia University Plimpton Add. MS 3.

New York, Columbia University Plimpton Additional MS 3 contains in the main an intriguing transitional Early Version of the Wycliffite New Testament, the subject of a recent study (published in this journal) by Matti Peikola. (1) For Peikola, the manuscript's Bible text is textually noteworthy for its shift from the Early Version (EV) to Late Version (LV). Scribe C (in Peikola's reckoning) copied partway through a textually corrupt EV Prologue to Luke, which was then cancelled (f. 55r-v). Scribe D began again at the Prologue to Luke with a new LV exemplar, one written in single rather than double columns (f. 56). The format shifts to double columns again with the Pauline epistles (f. 105), then back to single columns at the top of a leaf in Romans 12 (f. 113v) and so continuing until the end of the epistle of Jude (f. 202). A new exemplar was found for the Apocalypse, taken not from the LV but from the Middle English version translated from an Anglo-Norman glossed apocalypse. (2)

There is one further textual and scribal complication at this juncture in the Plimpton MS not noted by Peikola. The Anglo-Norman based glossed Apocalypse (Va) begins a new gathering with its prologue written on folio 203r-v. (3) The same hand skips to folio 204v, starting partway into the text (in the gloss for verse 16), with the words "vices & of synne," (4) leaving a space of one page (folio 204r), probably to make up for a fault in its exemplar. On folio 204r, Scribe H (in Peikola's reckoning) (5) fills in the gap; the leaf has been ruled quite visibly and with smaller line spacing for about 46 lines rather than 32. The scribe copies the beginning of what should be Va but starts instead with verses 1-8 of the Apocalypse in the LV version. As Fridner notes, those verses are usually omitted from Va (e.g., in his base MS Harley 874) because its prologue "is partly a paraphrase" of the verses (xxiv). A few manuscripts of Va, however, notably MSS R (BL Royal 17.A.xxvi) and Ry (Manchester Rylands Library MS 92), add verses 1-8 from LV, and their first group of text verses (9-11) are also taken from LV. (6) In the Plimpton MS, folio 204r, Apocalypse verses 1.1-11 are first given from LV, followed by their gloss from Va, then verses 12-16 from LV, followed by (about half) the Va gloss for verse 16. The scribe of folio 204r of the Plimpton MS must have turned to a manuscript of the textual type of MS R to fill in the gap left by the scribe of folios 203r-v and 204v-237. MS R is also the only MS known to Fridner to have added the words "seuene si3tis" at the end of its prologue (after "vnderstonden and tellen"). (7) Fridner did not know the Plimpton MS, which also adds "seuene sizztis," in a smaller script below the end of its prologue on folio 203v. (8)

As Peikola notes, (9) Plimpton Add. MS 3 is also noteworthy for its accompanying Wycliffite texts, including on folios 238r-240r a Lollard Chronicle, (10) followed by on folios 240r-241r an apparently unique Middle English translation of a Latin anti-mendicant prophecy attributed (apocryphally) to Hildegard of Bingen. The reception in medieval England of this prophecy (known by its Latin incipit as the "Insurgent gentes") has been outlined by Penn Szittya, with reference to anti-mendicant literature, and by Kathryn Kerby-Fulton as part of "Hildegardiana" more generally. (11) The opening line of "Insurgent gentes" paraphrases the Biblical prophecy in Osee (Hosea) 4:8, which reads "insurgent gentes quae peccata populi mei comedent." In his Vox clamantis, Gower quotes Hosea 4:8 and explains that the friars have fulfilled its prophecy:
   O how the words of the prophet Hosea are now verified!
   Thus did he speak the truth: "A certain tribe will arise on
   earth which will eat up the sins of my people and know much
   evil." We perceive that this prophecy has come about in our
   day, and we give credit for this to the friars.

Since the "Insurgent gentes" makes this same connection, it seems likely that Gower knew the work. The author of Piers the Plowman's Crede (c. 1393), referring to mendicant friars, credits (pseudo-)Hildegard explicitly:
   Herkne opon Hyldegare, hou homliche he telleth
   How her sustenaunce is synne (fines 703-4). (13)

To say that the friars' sustenance is sin somewhat clarifies the figurative language of Osee and the "Insurgent gentes" that certain culprits will "eat the sins of the people," that is, they will "live off them, as the friars did by usurping such pastoral offices as confession and preaching without true care for the cure of souls." (14) Piers Plowman (according to Kerby-Fulton) paraphrases the Latin prophecy, saying "Vos quipeccata hominum comeditis, nisi pro eis lacrimis et orationis ejfuderitis, ea que in deliciis coneditis, in tormentis euometis" (Passus XV, 51a). (15) Reginald Pecock, however, may have known the prophecy in an English version. In his Repressor (c. 1455), he cites and paraphrases a large portion:
   The holi maide and religiose nunne Seint Hildegart, visitid
   with the spirit of prophecie, wroot manie prophecies
   whiche weren examyned and approued in a general counceil
   holdun at Treuer undir Pope Eugeny the [Thridde], at
   which counseil Seint Bernard was present, as it is writun in
   famose cronicles. And among the prophecies and reuelaciouns
   spokun bi the seid holi maide Seint Hildegart sche
   spekith that aftir hir daies schulde rise iiij. ordris of beggers;
   and not oonli of the persoones whiche schulden lyue in tho
   iiij. ordris sche seith yuel; that is to seie, "that thei schulden
   be flaterers, and enviers, and ypocritis, and bacbiters;"
   but also of the ordre sche seith, meenyng it to be yuel. For
   sche seith, "that of wijse and trewe men this ordre schal be
   cursid;" as thouy sche schulde therbi meene, that the ordre
   schulde be worthi be cursid. And ferthirmore sche seith,
   "that for her synful and gileful lyuyng the comoun peplis
   hertis schulden falle awey fro hem, and thei schulden falle
   and ceese and that her ordre schulde be alto broke for her
   bigilingis, and her wickidnessis. (2.483-4) (16)

The Latin "Insurgent gentes" was edited by Fabricius and has recently been edited by Kathryn Kerby-Fulton et al. from insular rather than Continental manuscripts, and with an introduction discussing the origins of this work and its relations to Hildegard's genuine writings. (17) The Middle English translation generally follows the insular Latin tradition and more specifically the sub-group in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 158 (B) and Latin misc. c.75 (L). As Peikola notes, this Middle English version of (pseudo-) Hildegard seems to have eluded the attention of Hildegardians and Lollardists; (18) I trust they and other medievalists will be interested in a transcription of it. As far as I know, Plimpton Add. MS 3 contains the only manuscript copy of this Middle English translation which (whether in the Middle English or Latin version) had a definite vogue in late medieval England. (19)

Saint Louis University

Middle English Text

Abbreviations are expanded in italics; MS corrections, made in a darker ink, are boldfaced to signal their presence in the MS; they can of course be ignored when quoting from this text. (20)

folio 240

(p)e holi mayden Seynt Hildegarde of whom pis prophecie is writun lyuede on erpe heere bifore pe bigynyng of pe ordres of mendinauntis two and fifti yeer, for sche lyuede in erpe pe yere of oure lord a pousand an hundred fourti & sixe & pe ordre of frere prechours bigane in pe yeer of oure lord a [p]ousand an hundred four score & eiyte, as it is founden in pe croniclis of Martynyan. (21) pis is pe prophecie:

Per schal rise a maner of folk pe which schal ete pe synnes of pe peple, holdynge pe ordres of begeres, walkyng wijiouten schame, fyndyng many newe wickidnessese, & of wise & trewe cristen men pe ordre schal be cursid. bei hool & strong shuln cese of trauele, yeuenge hemself to ydelnese, takyng pere porouy raj) ere ensaumple of begyng. & pei schul studie ful mychil how pei mown wickidli wipstonde pe techeris of treupe & how pei mown wip lordschipes distroien innocentis & disceyuen lordis, for per lijf, pere folie & worldli loue. be deuele schalle roten in hem foure manere of vices, pat is to witen: glosynge, envie, bacbitynge [240v] and ipocrisie. Glosyng, pat men yeue hem pe more; envie, whan men yyuen opere & not hem; bacbityng, in dispisyng of olpere men & comendyng of hemself for to haue preisyng of men & to disceyue pe symple puple; ypocrisie, to pleise men wip feyned holines. pi shule preche bisili to seculer princis wipouten deuocioun or ensaumple of martirdom, wij)drawyng pe sacramentis of hoh chirche fro verrei curatis, raueschyng pe almus of pore men, of seek men & myssel men, & puttyng hemself forp into pe multitude of pe peple, drawyng hemself homeli to wymmen, enfourmyng hem hou pei shul bigile her housbondis & pere frendis to yef hem peftli here goodis.

Also pei schul take goodis wipouten noumbre yuele i-goten, seiynge, 'yeue ye v[s] & we schal preie for you,' so to hele opere mennws syne & to foryete here owne. Allas, pei schal also haue wickidli goodis of caitifs, rauenouris, dispoilouris, robbers, niywalkeris, ofte tyme chirch-brekers, vsureris, ofte lecherous men, spouse brekeris, heretikes, debatouris, apostotaes, forsworne marchauntis, false iuges, cursid knyytis & tirauntis of princis pat lyuen ayens pe lawe of God & of many wickid men porouy pe entisyng of pe deuelle, swetnesse of synne & lusti lyf & ping sone passynge. Alle pingis schal falle to hem in plente to here euerlastynge dampnacioun. bei schul be to pe pople fro day to dai more greuouse & wickid. ban whan pere disceites arn aspied, pan schal men cese for to gyue hem, & pei schal go fro hous to hous forhungerid as rauenou[s] hundis, lokyng doun wip here eyen & hangyng pere heuedis doun as murnynge turtulis Ipat pei be fulfellid of bred. Pan schal Joe peple crie on hem, seynge, 'Wo be to you, children of mowrnynge, pe world hap disceyued you.' be deuel hap bridelid youre moupis. your pouyt was vnstedfast, youre eiyen deliteden of erpeli siytis, youre delicat wombes desireden swete morselhs, youre fete weren swifte for to renen into wickidnesse. Bipenke you whan ye semeden blisful & weren enuious, pore and weren riche, symple & weren myyti, deuoute and weren gloseris, holi and weren ypocritis, beggeris & weren proud, techeris of fablis, wipouten schame, vnstable martiris, delitable confessouris. ye semed also meke & debonere and weren proude & wickid, swifte disclaunderes, p[e] sible pursueris, loueres, envious, sellers of indulgencis, araiers of your oune profit, sisoures, gloutouns, desirers of worschipes, marchaundes of matrimonyes, soweris of discordis, bilders on heiye. & whane ye myyten steiye noon heiyer, pan fele ye doun as Symon Magis bi pe preier of pe apostlis [241r] Peter and Poule, whos bones God almyyti al to-brak, (22) [&] hym wip a cruel veniance voundede. So youre ordre schal be distroied for youre disceites & youre wickidnesse; & pan schal pe peple seien to you, 'Goo, ye techeris of wickidnesse, fadres of heresie, false apostlis.' ye feynede you to lyue after pe apostlis, & yit ye fulfillid not pe lest poynt of here lijf. Ye sones of wickidnesse, pe comynge of youre weies we woln not know.

Pe arayement of pis folk schal be wonderful & gisie schal be her tonsure, for pei schal haue clopis wide and side & myschapen as sackes, lijk to noon opere folk. Her tonsure garlondep) pe eire alle aboute porouy which pei schal be knowen to pe peple as criynge al holynesse.

[paragraph] pese sayngis weren approuyd & canonysede of pe pope Eugenye in Joe counseil of Treuerensis, beyng present many bischopis & Saynt Bernard, abbot of Chareualensis, & many opere clerkis. (23)

Textual notes

f. 240 (p)e: the text begins with a red oversized initial b; [p]ousand: MS yousand

f. 240v v[s]: MS vsr; rauenou[s]: MS rauenours; pesible: MS posible (L pacifici)

f. 241 [&]: MS & &

Translation notes and glosses; KKF is the recent Latin edition by Kathryn Kerby-Fulton et al, cited in note 17).

f. 240: lyuede in erpe: L floruit 'flourished'; four score: L nonagegesimo, i.e. 1198 (correctly) rather than 1188; Martynyan: LMartiani (Fabricius), Marcini (KKF); glosynge: 'flattery' (L adulacionem). f. 240v: raueschyng: 'taking' (L rapientes); myssel: 'wretched' (L miserorum; MED mesel, leprous; wretched); homeli: 'intimately' (L familiaritates); peftli: 'furtively' (L furtive); wijjouten noumbre: L infinitas (KKF, vs. Fabricius, iniustas); chirch-brekers: 'church burglars, sacrilegious people' (not recorded in the MED; L sacrilegis KKF, vs. Fabricius om.); spouse-brekeris: 'adulterers'; apostotaes: MED apostata 'apostate' gives as forms apostota, pi. apostataes, so the MS form may not need emending; turtulis: 'turtle-doves' (L turtures KKF, vs. Fabricius vulteres); youre delicat wombes desireden swete morsellis: L in KKF, MSS B(L) only, venter delicates dulcia fercula petivit; blisful ... on heije: in this long list, the translation follows the insular text (KKF, esp. the BL variants) rather than the Continental (Fabricius); pursuer: 'persecutor'; sisour: 'sworn wisdom', mistransl. of L suspiratores 'sighers'; steiye: 'ascend'. f. 241: gisie: 'lavish'; side: 'long'; criynge: 'proclaiming'. (The last two paragraphs are not in the Latin).


(1.) Matti Peikola, "Lollard (?) Production Under the Looking Glass: The Case of Columbia University, Plimpton Add. MS 3 "Journal of the Early Book Society 9 (2006): 1-23.

(2.) Elis Fridner, ed., An English Fourteenth Century Apocalypse Version with a Prose Commentary, Lund Studies in English 29 (Lund: Gleerup, 1961). Ed. from British Library MS Harley 874, termed Va (Version a) to distinguish it from another, unpublished version, Vb (Version b), found in MSS BL Harley 171 and 1203, and Cambridge, Magdalene College MS 5 (F.4.5). See also Index of Printed Middle English Prose, ed. R.E. Lewis, N.F. Blake and A.S.G. Edwards (New York: Garland, 1985) no. 584.

(3.) The text of the prologue ends with "vnderstonden & tellen" as do five MSS in Fridner's apparatus, with the words "seuene siytis" written below, as in MS R (BL Royal 17.A.xxvi); Fridner's base MS (BL Harley 874) adds a final sentence (5/63): "& god al netful be at oure bigynnyng yif it be his wille Amen."

(4.) Fridner, English Fourteenth-Century Apocalypse, 8.12-13.

(5.) Peikola, "Lollard (?) Production," 4, names Scribe H, who writes in a semi-quadrata rather than Anglicana script, as responsible for the added texts on f. 241; he does not mention the same scribe's work on folio 204r.

(6.) Verses 1.1-8 from MS R are printed in Fridner, English Fourteenth-Century Apocalypse, 212-13. MS Ha, BL Harley 3913, also includes verses 1-8 "because its whole Bible text is copied from an LV ms." (Fridner xxiv). MS La, Bodleian MS Laud misc. 33, also includes verses 1-8 but replaces the Va prologue with the LV prologue (printed in Fridner, 207-09). MS Ry omits the prologue altogether (xxiv).

(7.) Fridner, English Fourteenth-Century Apocalypse, 5.

(8.) When Va resumes in the main hand on folio 204v, it no longer follows MS R variants, but instead is closer to MS Harley 3913.

(9.) Peikola, "Lollard(?) Production," 8-9.

(10.) Edited by Dan Embree, The Chronicles of Rome: An Edition of the Middle English Chronicle of Popes and Emperors and The Lollard Chronicle (Cambridge: Boydell, 1999).

(11.) Penn R. Szittya, The Antifraternal Tradition in Medieval Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986) and Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, "Prophecy and Suspicion: Closet Radicalism, Reformist Politics, and the Vogue for Hildegardiana in Ricardian England," Speculum 75 (2000): 318-41, esp. 322,330-32.

(12.) Tr. Eric W. Stockton, The Major Latin Works of John Gower (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1962), 4.17.767-72 (hereafter references to the text will be given by line numbers in parentheses).

(13.) Piers the Plowman's Crede, ed. James Dean (orig. pub. in Six Ecclesiastical Satures, Kalamazoo, MI, Medieval Institute Publications, 1991; now available through TEAMS online, teams/credefrm.htm.)

(14.) Szittya, Antifraternal Tradition, 220.

(15.) Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, Reformist Apocalypticism and Piers Plowman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 157.

(16.) Reginald Pecock, The Repressor of Over Much Blaming of the Clergy, ed. Churchill Babington, Rolls Series 19 (London: Longman, 1860; online, Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse, erne/.)

(17.) J. A. Fabricius, ed., Bibliotheca Latina mediae et infimae aetatis (Florence, 1858), 3.243-44; Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, Magda Hayton and Kenna Olsen, "Pseudo-Hildegardian Prophecy and Antimendicant Propaganda in Late Medieval England: An Edition of the Most Popular Insular Text of 'Insurgent Gentes'," Prophecy, Apocalypse and the Day of Doom, Proceedings of the 2000 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. Nigel Morgan (Donington: Shaun Tyas, 2004), 160-94. A transcription was also published by A. C. Little and R. C. Easterling, The Franciscans and Dominicans of Exeter (Exeter: Wheaton, 1927), 60-61, from Exeter Cathedral Chapter MS. 3625.

(18.) Peikola, "Lollard(?) Production," 16.

(19.) An early modern English translation of the text was made by John Foxe, Actes and Monuments (London: Day, 1563) 1.127-8 (see the variorum edition at The Acts and Monuments Online,

(20.) An facsimile of selected folios from Plimpton Add. MS 3, including the pseudo-Hildegard folios 240-241r, can be found online at the Digital Scriptorium,

(21.) Hildegard of Bingen lived from 1098-1179; the (spurious) date 1146 enables this (apocryphal) text to have been written in time for Pope Eugenius to have approved it at the Synod of Trier; see below. Martinus Polonus (d. 1278) wrote a chronicle of the papacy; the Middle English Lollard Chronicle found in Plimpton Add. MS 3, folios 238-240 (see above) draws upon it but does not mention the founding of the mendicant orders. The original Chronicon does, however; see Martinus Polonus, Martini Oppaviensis Chronicon Pontificum et Imperatorum, ed. Ludwig Weiland, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores 22 (Hanover, 1872) 377-484 at 438, which states that the Dominican order was founded in 1198 and the Franciscan in 1206. Martinus also mentions Hildegard under the year 1146 (p. 436).

(22.) In the apocryphal Acts of Peter and Paul (translation online at New Advent,, Simon Magus levitates or flies but Peter (accompanied by Paul) prays and adjures the demons to let him go, at which point he falls to the ground and breaks into four pieces.

(23.) Encouraged by Bernard of Clairvaux, Hildegard had written to Pope Eugenius seeking approval of her visions (Baird, Letter 2), which he is said to have granted at the Synod of Trier (1147-8). See The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen, tr. Joseph L. Baird and Radd K. Ehrman, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994), 32-3. Kerby-Fulton (Reformist Apocalypticism, 324-5), however, casts doubt upon this tradition.
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Author:Acker, Paul
Publication:The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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