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His othre brethere on and on
Accordingly the poem first illustrates with doctrine and anecdote the Ten Commandments, and the sins against them; then the Seven Deadly SinsPride, Anger, Envy, Sloth, Covetousness, Gluttony, and Lechery—with stories about each; then in like manner the sin of sacrilege. Then follow rhymes and stories on the Seven Sacraments-Baptism, Confirmation, Sacrament of the Altar, Penance, Holy Orders, Marriage, Extreme Unction. Then come illustrations of the twelve requisites and the twelve graces of thrift. Among sins against the first Commandment, Robert of Brunne reckoned many of the superstitions of the people, which put some kind of charm in the place of quiet trust in God.
We now pass out of the thirteenth century with only a reminder that in the year 1300 Dante was in mid-life-thirty-five years old—and that it is the date of the action of his “Divine Comedy.” Petrarch was born in 1304, and Boccaccio in 1313. Not many years later there were born in England, Chaucer, Gower, Langland, and Wiclif.
Robert Mannyng, who was born at Bourn, in Lincolnshire, and is also known, therefore, as Robert of Brunne, was a canon of the Gilbertine order, in which devout persons of both sexes lived together. He turned into English rhyme, for the instruction of the people, a Chronicle of England that had been written by an Englishman, Peter Langtoft. It had been written in French verse for the few; and Robert turned also into English verse a religious book written in French verse by another Englishman, William of Waddington (a Yorkshire town near Clitheroe), and called the “ Manuel des Péchés." The original poem in French has been ascribed also to Grosseteste. Robert of Brunne called his translation “ The Handlynge Synne ;" for he said
[If] aný man gave thee meed For to raise the devil3 indeed For to tell or for to wrey 4 Thingé that was done away; If thou have do any of this Thou hast sinned and do amiss, And thou art worthy to be shent 5 Through this each 6 commandément. If thou in sword or in basín Any child mad'st look therein, Or in thumb, or in crystal, Witchécraft men clepen 7 it all; Believe not in the pie's chattering, It is no truth but false believing ; Many believen in the pie When she cometh low or high Chattering, and hath no rest, Then, say they, we shall have geste; Many are trowen on their wiles And many times the pie them guiles. Also is meeting in the morrow 10 When thou shalt go to buy or to borrow;
i The “Handlyng Synne" and the “Manuel des Péchés," carefully edited by Frederick J. Furnivall, M.A., were first printed in a volume published by the Roxburghe Club in 1862.
2 Trotevale, a trifling thing.
3 Devil. Pronounced as one syllable, “de'il." So "over" is reud "o'er," and "evil" has become will."
- Wrey and urie, bewray, discover. First-English “wrégan." 5 Shent, blamed, shamed. First-English “scændan," to shame. 6 This each ("alc"), this same. 7 Clepen, call. First-English “ clypian." 8 Hare geste, hear news. The French original is
“Si il oient la pie iangler
Quident sanz dute noueles auer." The English saying is, “When the pie chatters we shall are strangers."
9 Trowen, to trust, believe. First-English "treowian." 10 Morrow (“morwe"), morning.
“In Frenshé ther a clerk hyt sees He clepyth it ‘Manuel de Pecches.' • Manuel' ys Handlyng with honde; Pecches ys synne, y understonde : These twey wurdys that beyn atwynne, Do hem togedyr ys ` Handlyng Synne.'”
If then thy errand speed ne set
This oldé man upon a day
Such sensible counsel as this comes under the head of turning aside from God by making to oneself idols of the imagination, and putting trust in them. I add two of Robert of Brunne's illustrative tales. This is in illustration of the fourth Commandment :
Among warnings against the seven sins, under the head of Covetousness comes, in Robert of Brunne's “Handlyng Synne"
THE TALE OF PIERS THE USURER.
Saint John the Almoner 16 Saith Piers was an okerer, 17
THE FOND FATHER. Of a man that some time was I shall you tell a little pas.* Of his son he was jealous 6 And gave him all his land and house, And all his catel 6 in town and field That he should keep him well in his eld. This young man wax fast and was jolife, His counsel was to take a wife ; He wedded one and brought her home With all the mirth that thereto come: He baddé her first loud and still To serve his father well at his 7 will. Soon afterward, this yongé man His heart, his thoughté, change began; Tendrer he was of wife and child Than to his father meek or mild. Of one day he thoughté five, Long him thought his father alive ; And every day, both the tone and the tother, Servéd him well worse than other. I trow this man, when he gan moan For thought that he gave so much his sone, This oldé man, was brought so low That he lay full cold beside a wow.8
1 I can no skill, I know no reason ; for the belief in luck that comes with the first coin taken as hansel. A hansel is that which is given into the hand, from “ hand” and First-English “syllan,” to give. Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood says it does not mean the coin given, but the hand itself given in striking a bargain. This is the root of the name of the Hanse Towns, a confederation bound by agreement for common security of trade.
2 Dele, part; from “ dæ'lan," to divide, deal out. 3 Noy, hurt. French “ nuire," Latin“ nocere."
• Pas, a setting forth; from "pandere," to spread out, as when Æneas “ordine singula pandit." Each division of a long poem, as a spreading forth of a distinct section, was sometimes called a “ Passus."
5 Jealous. The French text bas “geluz.” The word is of the root of " zeal,” and used here in the same sense as in the phrase “ jaloux de lui plaire," anxious to please him.
6 Calel, possessions, chattels. 7 At his, pronounced “at's." So line 6, in his, " in's." & Wow, wall. The spelling in the original is “loghe" and "woghe.”
First-English “wah.” In Piers Plowman, Mede promises that she shall
“ Yowre cloystre do maken,
Wowos do whiten, and windowes glasen." 9 Wrie, cover, clothe. First-English “wrigan," to cover or clotne. Whence the phrase “ to rig out."
10 Father used to be pronounced rapidly, fa'r; so also “other," o'r, whence " or."
11 Yorn, eagerly, anxiously. First-English “georn," desirous, eager, anxious.
12 Ghast (First-English “gást"), spirit.
14 The verse often seems irregular where it is not so. We have to remember the old ways of contraction and running together of iden. tical letters, as here :
“ This half sack shöllie thy fa'r above:
And keep the to'r part-t-thy behove." 15 Payed, “pacatus," pleased.
16 St. John the Almoner, to whom this story is ascribed, was a famous Patriarch of Alexandria. He was born at Amathonte in the island of Cyprus, and was made Patriarch A.D. 610 against his will, after the death of his wife and children. The zeal of his charity and love for the poor obtained for him the title of “The Almoner." Though his revenues were very great he lived poorly, and slept on a small pallet under a wretched blanket. A rich Alexandrian presented him with a good one. The saint slept under it one night, reproached himself for luxury, and sold it the next day. The rich man bought it, and presented it again; the saint sold it again. It was bought and given again, and sold again; the saint saying good-humouredly to his friend, “We shall see which of us first tires." His exertions for the poor during the famine of A.D. 615 and the plague that followed were last famous incidents of the Almoner's life. He died at his birth. place in the year 616.
17 Okerer, usurer; from First-English "eácan," to eke or increase.
Greaté marvel had they all
And was swithécovetous
The thirdé day, thus writ it is,
i Swithé, greatly. First-English "gwith,” strong, great.
10 Bode the qued, waited for the shrewish or ill-disposed person. There was First-English “cwead," filth.
il Hent it up belire, snatched it up quickly. First-English “ hentan," to pursue, seize.
12 Ferly, wonderfully.
13 On the to party, on the one side. In line 77 are the angels * the tother party."
14 Beuraying, accusing. 15 Namely, especially.
16 Chesun, motive. Norman-French 17 Rede, counsel. First-English “ræ'a.”
18 Than, then. 19 Peise, weight, balance. French "peser," to weigh. 20 Thou leres, you learn, take the lesson home.
21 Till, prop up. The root “ til” meaning fit or good in Teutoni languages, the verb from it means to make fit or good. To till the soil is to make it fit or good for fruit-bearing. To till the soul is to make it fit to stand in the day of trial. The same root yields a vincial use of the word “ till" as “ to prop up,” make fit to stand; and that is the sense here.
22 Were, uncertainty, confusion.
24 Fele, many.
And said it was an evil sign
From that time then wex Piers
Lost Souls. From a Fresco of the Day of Judgment, discovered in 1804 over the great arch separating nave and chancel in the Chapel of Holy Crose.
Stratford-on-Avon. Engraved in Thomas Sharp's “ Coventry Musteries."
Piers met upon a day A poor man by the way As naked as he was bore That in the sea had allé lore. He came to Piers where he stood And asked him some of his good, Somewhat of his clothing For the love of Heaven's king. Piers was of rueful heart, He took his kirtle off, as smart, And did it on the man above And bade him wear it for his love. The man it took and was full blithe ; He yede 2 and soldé it as swithe.3 Piers stood and did behold How the man the kirtle sold, And was therewith ferly wroth, That he sold so soon his clothe; He might no longer for sorrow stand, But yede home full sore greetánd,
“ Why weepest thou and art sorrý ?
of 5 Digne, worthy.
6 Nold, would not. 7 Began in some degree to slacken or cease from it. 8 For, because. 9 Suevening (First-English "swefen"), dream.
10 Out abraid, started out. So after Pharaoh's dream in the metrical story of Genesis and Exodus, “ The king abraid and woc in thogt." Icelandic “bregtha," to move swiftly. 11 Sethen, afterwards.
2 Fonde, seek. First-English "fandian," to try to find.
Hastily he took his catél
The Emperor sent his messengers
Now is Piers becomé bryche 16
When that they to the churché come,
1 Take (in the sense of betake), confide, entrust. 2 But, unless.
3 Loth, hateful. * Sickerness make, give your assurance.
5 Yede, went. 6 Sele, time, season. First-English “se'l,” good opportunity. 7 Rede, advise.
8 Ware, lay out in bargaining. From First-English “wær," a cau. tion, agreement, warranty.
9 To pay, to your satisfaction. - Debonere (French “ débonnaire"), of good manners, easy, kind.
10 Peynible (French “ pénible"), taking pains.
11 Frame, profit, advantage. First-English “freme," profit, gain, 12 Foison, abundance.
18 Plenerly, fully. 14 Tollere, farmer of public tolls. The “publican" of the New Testament.
15 To what place he had taken himself. 16 Bryche, a servant. First-English “brýce," useful, serviceable. 17 Wex, grew. First-English “weaxan." 18 Thurt, needed. First-English "theartian," to need. 19 Skill, knowledge.
20 Tholmodness, long-suffering. First-English "tholian," to endure; "mod," mood or temper.
21 Dout, fear. French "douter." 22 Lout, bow. First-English "hlútan." 23 Mixdid him, misbehaved to him. 24 Folted or wood, foolish or mad.