Page images
[ocr errors]

Now, Johan,' quod Nicholas, ' I wol not lye:

I have i-founde in myn astrologye,

As I have loked in the moone bright,

That now on Monday next, at quarter night,
Schal falle a reyn, and that so wilde and wood,
That half so gret was never Noes flood.
This worlde,' he seyde, ' more than an hour
Schal ben i-dreynt, so hidous is the schour:
Thus schal mankynde drench, and leese his lyf.'
This carpenter answered, Allas, my wyf!
And shal she drenche? allas, myn Alisoun!'
For sorwe of this he fel almost adoun,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

And seyde, Is ther no remedy in this caas?'
Why yis, for Gode,' quod heende Nicholas;
If thou wolt worken aftir lore and reed;

Thou maist nought worke after thin owen heed.
For thus seith Salomon, that was ful trewe,
Werke by counseil, and thou schalt nat rewe.'
And if thou worken wolt by good counsail,
I undertake, withouten mast and sail,
Yet schal I saven hir, and the, and me.
Hastow nat herd how saved was Noe,

Whan that our Lord had warned him biforn,
That al the world with watir schulde be lorn?'
Yis,' quod this carpenter, ful yore ago,'
'Hastow nought herd,' quod Nicholas, also
The sorwe of Noe with his felaschipe,
That he hadde or he gat his wyf" to schipe?

Arthur, on a Sunday, during the time of dinner, he was entertained with a religious drama called Christi descensus ad inferos, or Christ's descent into hell.' Registr. Priorat. S. Swithin. Winton. MS. He also gives, from the Harl. MSS., a poem on the same subject (since printed by Mr. Halliwell), beginning

Alle herkneth to me now;

A strif wolle I tellen ou

Of Jhesu ant of Sathan

Tho Jhesu wes to helle y gan.'

The first edition of the Thirty-nine Articles asserted this doctrine; but it was afterwards thought better to leave the members of the Church of England to their liberty in interpreting a text of Scripture.

1 Prov. ix. 14.

2 This is probably an allusion to a supposed dispute between Noah

Him hadde wel lever, I dar wel undertake,
At thilke tyme, than alle his wetheres blake,
That sche hadde had a schip hirself allone.
And therfore wostow what is best to doone?
This axeth hast, and of an hasty thing
Men may nought preche or make taryyng.
Anon go gete us fast into this in

A knedyng trowh or elles a kemelyn,
For ech of us; but loke that they be large,
In which that we may rowe as in a barge,
And have therin vitaille suffisant
But for o day; fy on the remenant;
The water schal aslake and gon away
Aboute prime upon the nexte day.

But Robyn may not wite of this, thy knave,
Ne ek thy mayde Gille I may not save;
Aske nought why; for though thou aske me,
I wol nat tellen Goddes pryveté.

Sufficeth the, but if that thy witt madde,1
To have as gret a grace as Noe hadde.

and his wife, as represented in the religious plays or mysteries (see ante, p. 188, note 3), of which the following specimen is taken from Mr. Wright's edition of the Chester Whitsun Playes, printed for the Shakspeare Society

Noe. Wife, come in, why standes thou there?
Thou art ever froward, that dare I swere.
Come in on Godes halfe; tyme it were,

For fear lest that we drowne.

Wife. Yea, sir, set up your saile,
And rowe forth with evil haile,
For withouten anie faile,

I wil not oute of this towne;
But I have my gossepes everich one
One foote further I wil not gone:
They shall not drown, by St. John,
And I may save their life.

They loved me full well, by Christ;
But thou will let them into thy chist,
Ellis rowe forth, Noe, when thou list,
And get thee a newe wife.

At last Sem, with the assistance of his brethren, fetches her on board by force; and upon Noah's welcoming her, she gives him a box on 1 Be mad; madde is here a verb.

the ear.

Thy wyf schal I wel saven out of doute.
Go now thy wey, and speed the heer aboute:
And whan thou hast for hir, and the, and me,
I-gotten us this knedyng tubbes thre,

Than schalt thou hange hem in the roof ful hie,
That no man of oure purveaunce aspye;

And whan thou thus hast doon as I have seyd,
And hast our vitaille faire in hem y-leyd,
And eek an ax to smyte the corde a-two
Whan that the water cometh, that we may goo,
And breke an hole an hye upon the gable
Into the gardyn-ward over the stable,
That we may frely passen forth oure way,
Whan that the grete schour is gon away;
Than schaltow swymme as mery, I undertake,
As doth the white doke aftir hir drake;
Than wol I clepe, How Alisoun, how Jon,'
Beoth merye, for the flood passeth anon.
And thou wolt seye, Heyl, maister Nicholay,
Good morn, I see the wel, for it is day.
And than schul we be lordes al oure lyf
Of al the world, as Noe and his wyf.
But of oo thing I warne the ful right,
Be wel avysed of that ilke nyght,
That we ben entred into schippes boord,
That non of us ne speke not a word,
Ne clepe ne crye, but be in his preyere,
For it is Goddes owne heste deere.

Thy wyf and thou most hangen fer a-twynne,
For that bitwixe you schal be no synne,"

1 The familiar appellation for Johan.

2 It was part of the moral theology of that age that matrimony almost necessarily involved the commission of, at least, venial sin.See Dens' Theology. In the Persone's Tale (remedium contra luxuriam) this doctrine is stated. The trewe effect of mariage clensith fornicacioun, and replenischith holy chirche of good lynage; for that is the ende of mariage, and it chaungeth dedly synne into venyal synne betwixe hem that ben wedded.' This almost seems a form of Manicheism, a belief that matter, and therefore the body, is essentially evil, which, while condemned in terms by the Church, yet became deeply-rooted in her

No more in lokyng than ther schal in dede.
This ordynaunce is seyd;' so God me speede.
To morwe at night, whan men ben aslepe,
Into our knedyng tubbes wol we crepe,
And sitte ther, abydyng Goddes grace.
Go now thy way, I have no lenger space
To make of this no lenger sermonyng;
Men seyn thus, send the wyse, and sey no thing;
Thou art so wys, it needeth nat the teche.
Go, save oure lyf, and that I the byseche.
This seely carpenter goth forth his way,
Ful ofte he seyd, Allas, and weylaway!'
And to his wyf he told his pryveté,


And sche was war, and knew it bet than he,
What al this queinte caste was for to seye.
But natheles sche ferd as sche schuld deye,
And seyde, Allas! go forth thy way anoon,
Help us to skape, or we be ded echon.

[ocr errors]

I am thy verray trewe wedded wyf;
Go, deere spouse, and help to save oure lyf.'
Lo, which a gret thing is affeccioun ! 2
A man may dye for ymaginacioun,
So deepe may impressioun be take.
This seely carpenter bygynneth quake;
Him thenketh verrayly that he may se
Noes flood come walking as the see
To drenchen Alisoun, his hony deere.
He weepeth, wayleth, maketh sory cheere;
He siketh, with ful many a sory swough,
And goth, and geteth him a knedyng trough,

theology. Of this doctrine Coleridge observes, in his Table-Talk, Even the best and most enlightened men in Romanist countries attach a notion of impurity to the marriage of a clergyman [he might have carried it farther]; and can such a feeling be without its effect on wedded life in general? Impossible! and the morals of both sexes in Spain, Italy, France, &c., prove it abundantly.' The doctrine was probably founded on Matt. xix. 12, Exod. xix. 15, 1 Sam. xxi. 4, 1 Cor. vii., and forms the key to the eremitic and monastic system.

1 An affectation of the oracular solemnity assumed by fortune-tellers. 2 Fancy.

And after that a tubbe, and a kymelyn,
And pryvely he sent hem to his in,
And heng hem in the roof in pryveté.
His owne hond than made laddres thre,
To clymben by the ronges and the stalkes
Unto the tubbes hangyng in the balkes;
And hem vitayled, bothe trough and tubbe,
With breed and cheese, with good ale in a jubbe,
Suffisyng right ynough as for a day.

But or that he had maad al this array,

He sent his knave and eek his wenche also
Upon his neede to Londone for to go,
And on the Monday, whan it drew to nyght,
He schette his dore, withouten candel light,
And dressed al this thing as it schuld be.
And schortly up they clumben alle thre.
They seten stille wel a forlong way:

"Now, Pater noster, clum,' quod Nicholay,

[ocr errors]


And clum,' quod Jon, and clum,' quod Alisoun. This carpenter seyd his devocioun,


And stille he. sitt, and byddeth his prayere,
Ay waytyng on the reyn, if he it heere.
The deede sleep, for verray busynesse,
Fil on this carpenter, right as I gesse,
Abowten courfew3 tyme, or litel more.
For travail of his goost he groneth sore,

1 Tyrwhitt says this word is derived from the Saxon, clumian, to mutter. Clum, however, seems to have meant merely silence, the sense in which it appears to be used in the text.

2 To bid is to pray, and bead is a prayer (German, bitten), hence the old expression for saying the English prayer before the sermon was, bidding the beads.

3 It is generally supposed that the origin of the curfew was an enactment of William the Conqueror; but if Peshall (Hist. of City of Oxford, p. 177) is to be believed, it is of much earlier date. He says, The custom of ringing the bell at Carfax every night at eight o'clock (called curfew bell, or cover-fire bell) was by order of King Alfred, the restorer of our University,' &c. There are indications in Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, iv. 4), and in the local histories, that there were two bells, one at eight in the evening (properly called the curfew), and another at dawn, to which the name was improperly applied.

« PreviousContinue »