A penitent medieval stanza

Came across this this morning before popping Parsifal into the DVD drive:

Since first I could do harm I sinned my fill;
In deed, with mouth, with all my limbs did ill;
My grief for many sins, which now I spill,
Should earlier have flowed, with Christ’s good will.

This is from a stanza of a poem to the Mother of God in Medieval English Verse, the Penguin Classic translated by Brian Stone, p. 69. My Protestant sensibilities are not much moved by the poem’s appeals to St Mary the Virgin, but this stanza struck me as a potent reminder of the human condition, however much we may try to avoid speaking of it these days.

Wrongdoing runs deep in the human soul, and the mediaeval mind was profoundly aware of this fact, as were the pious men and women of the Early Modern Age.

Have our cries of, ‘Grace, grace!’ deafened our ears to the sounds of sin today? Would it be so wrong to ‘moan and bewail’ our manifold sins and wickedness as the 1662 Book of Common Prayer says? Perhaps some ages were too obsessed with sin. And perhaps a fault of our age is ignoring it and taking it too lightly.

‘Let us gather hand in hand’ – A Mediaeval Poem for Christmas

medieval nativityFrom Medieval English Verse, trans. and ed. Brian Stone (pp. 30-31):

Let us gather hand in hand
And sing of bliss without an end:
The Devil has fled from earthly land,
And Son of God is made our friend.

A Child is born in man’s abode,
And in that Child no blemish showed.
That Child is God, that Child is Man,
And in that Child our life began.
Let us gather, etc.

Be blithe and merry, sinful an,
For your marriage peace began
When Christ was born.
Come to Christ, your peace is ude
Because he shed his blood for you,
Who were forlorn.
So let us gather, etc.

Sinful man, be blithe and bold,
For heaven is both bought and sold,
Through and through.
Come to Christ, and peace foretold:
His life he gave a hundredfold
To succour you.
So let us gather hand in hand
And sing of bliss without an end:
The Devil has fled from earthly land,
And Son of God is made our friend.

Stone writes that this Nativity carol ‘is the earliest in English yet discovered, for it appears in a Franciscan list of sermon outlines written not later than 1350. The words of the refrain clearly convey both the manner of performance and the joy of the occasion.’ (p. 25)

Good Friday: Man and woman, look on me!

IMG_6474
Flemish Gothic Retable, Musée nationale du Moyen Age, Paris

Man and woman, look on me!
How much I suffered for you, see!
Look on my back, laid bare with whips:
Look on my side, from which blood drips.
My feet and hands are nailed upon the Rood;
From pricking thorns my temples run with blood.
From side to side, from head to foot,
Turn and turn by body about,
You there shall find, all over, blood.
Five wounds I suffered for you: see!
So turn your heart, your heart, to me.

-14th century, trans. Brian Stone, Medieval English Verse, p. 38