[London, British Museum, Cotton Ms. Vespasian A. 25, ca. 1440]

 

[Prologue]

 

[66r] Regula beati benedicti in1 anglicis verbis translata

 

a All þat wyll lely lyue in land

Als sant Benet has ordand,

Or wyll gyf þair deuocioun

Vn-to þe rewle of religioun,

In þis boke þay may see sett

Þe suthfast rewle of sant Benett

With sere pontes þat partens þar-to,

Nyght & day how þay sall do.

 

b Monkes & als all leryd men

In latyn may it lyghtly ken,

And wytt þarby how þay sall wyrk

To sarue god and haly kyrk.

 

c Bott tyll women to mak it couth,

Þat leris no latyn in þar outh,

In ingles is it ordand here,

So þat þay may it lyghtly lere.

 

d For ilkon þat þar-to er vun

Er haldyn it clerly for to kun

And to fulfyll it att þar myght

In word and dede both day & nyght.

 

e And ryght to gar þis reule up-ryse,

Þe wytty man says on þis wyse:

 

1 Asculta, o filia, disciplina[m] magistre tue--

Doghter, he says, tak tent & lere

Þe techynges of þi maystres here,

[66v] And lat þine eris bowand be

To þe bydynges of þi moder fre,

Whylk moder es cald haly kyrk,

Whas wyll vs aw alway to wyrk.

 

2 Þarfor þou sall fande to fulfyll

All þat þi modir tels þe vntyll,

And be bowsum to þi souerayn;

Þan sall þou turn to god o-gayn,

Fro wham þat þou depayrtyd es

Thruth þine awin vn-bowsumnes.

 

3 And doghter, to my tale tak tent:

For godes sak we sall assent

All fleschly wyll for to for-sak

And gostly armurs vntill vs tak,

Thurth obediens by day and nyght

O-gans þe fend, our fa, to fyght.

 

4 Doghter, when þou dose ony dede,

Pray specially god þe to spede,

And what werk so þou sall to wend,

Pray hym at bryng it tyll gude end,

 

5 So þat, sen he vowches saue

For hys doghters here vs to haue,

Þat we neuer with oure wykkydnes

Wreth hym, þat oure fader es,

 

6 [67r] So for to mak hym turn hys mode

To hald fro vs hys gostly gode,

Or vs deseryd by þat skyll

Fro þe blys þat he boght vs tyll,

 

7 And put vs vn-to pyen for þi,

Als wykkyd saruandes er worthy,

Þe whylk, yf þay dyde wele, myght wend

To blys þat es with-outyn end.

 

8 And þarfor suld we vs a-vyse

Out of our syn sone for to ryse

And our hertes vnto heuyn at rayse,

Als haly wrytt on þis wyse sayse:

"Þe houre es now, if we tak kepe,

In whilk vs aw to ryse from slepe."

 

9 Þat is, we suld ryse out of syn,

And wyrk so þat we heuyn may wyn,

And opyn our eghen to cryst on hyght.

Þat namyd es ailastand lyght,

And opyn our eris, hys vose to here,

 

10 Als bokes vs bydes on þis manere:

"Hodie si vocem eius audieritis,

Nolite obdurare corda uestra-

If þat e here hys vose þis day,

[67v] Turn noght oure hertes fro hym oway"-

 

f Bott tyll hys voce e tak gude hede,

And fandes to fulfill yd in dede,

Sen god hase geuen ow eris & wytt;

 

11 For on þis wyse says haly wrytt:

"Qui habet aures audiendi audiat."

Crist vs kens on þis manere,

And says: "he þat hase eris suld here

Þe law of god, and þan tak hede

To fulfyll yd in word and dede."

For þus þe haly gost wyll ken

Thruth haly kyrk all cristyn men:

 

12 "Venite, filii, audite me-

Cums hider, suns, my wordes to here!

Þe drede of god I sall ow lere."

 

g Haly kyrk, for our be-houe,

Leris how we oure lord sall lufe

And lede oure lyf to hys lykyng

And drede [hym] ouer all oder thyng.

 

13 Ryn we suld, whyls we haue day,

Þat mirknes mare vs noght þe way.

Þat mens, we suld lyf wele ilkane,

Or we with dynt of dede be tayne.

 

h For in oure lyf here may we chese,

Whyder we our-self wyll saue or lese.

 

14 [68r] And oure lord sekes in world all-wase

Who wyll be sauyd, and þusgayt sayse:

 

15 "Quis est homo qui vult vitam-

Whilk man is he þat lyf wyl haue

And se gude days, hys saule to saue?

Als-so say of hym am I fayne."

 

16 And if þou þan answer o-gayne

And says þus: "lord, þat man am I,"

Þan to þe says god almyghty:

 

17 "Man, if þou wyll haue lastand lyf

And won in welth with-outyn stryf,

On þis wyse be-houes þe do,

Als I sall tell þe vn-to:

Proibe linguam tuama malo-

In þe begining, still þi tung,

And spek no uyl of ald na ong,

And spayr þi lipes, & hald þam still,

So þat þay opyn noght with ill!

Turn fro euil, & seke to gude,

And seke to pese with mayn & mode!"

 

18 And þus if we wyll wirk alway,

Þan wyll oure lord þus tyll vs say:

"Myne eghen on ow sall luk ful clere,

And min eris sall our prayers here,

And when e to me call or cry,

[68v] Þan sall I say þus: Here am I."

 

19 What mirth to man myght mor acord

Þan to here þis voce of oure lord?

 

20 Lo, how mekly & how euen

Þat he vs teches þe way to heuen!

 

21 Now, sen our mighty lord Iesus

Vnto hys kyngdom euer cals vs,

Ordand we vs in word & dede

At wend to hym with-outen drede

And with our werk mak vs worthy

In endles blis to beld hym by!

 

22 For of þat blis may we not spede,

Bot if our werks be worthy mede,

And if he ask here in oure steuen:

"Whylk er þo men sall won in heuen?"

 

23 Als dauid in þe sawter boke

Askes of oure lord, who likes to loke:

"Domine, quis habitabit in tabernaculo tuo?"

Þus of our lord he askes & says:

"Lord, who sall won in þi palays

Or ryst a-pon þi haly hyll?"

 

24 And þus oure lord2 answers þer-till:

 

25 "Qui ingreditur sine macula."

[69r] He answers þus by prophet steuen,

Wysand vs þe way to heuen:

"He þat enters þis world within

Clensid clen of all hys syn,

And always wyrkes þat ryghtwis es,

And says no thyng but suthfastnes;

 

26 Þat in hert hase no wykkyd thoght,

Ne with hys tong no uil hase wroght;

 

27 Þat to hys neghburs dose no noy

In stede ne stayll, þare staite to stroy;

 

28 And þay þat standes and dwels til end

Ogans þe fendyng3 of þe fend,

And wyll not doy efter hys rede,

Ne suffer hym in þam hafe no stede,

Bot settes þair hert & þare powere

All vnto crist, þat boght þam dere;

 

29 And for godes sake who will assent

To be bowsum and obidient,

And for his luf lyfes halily,

And es not egh in hert for þi,

Bot knaws þat þaire gude dedes ilkon

Er of þe grace of god allon."

 

i For thurth oure mightes, mor no les,

May we begyn nonekyns gude

Euil dedes er of oure awn entent,

[69v] And all gude dedes fro god er sent.

 

30 Þerfor hym suld we lofe all-ways

With þe prophett, þat þusgayt says:

"Non nobis, domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam-

Lord, vntil vs be no loueyng,

Bot to þi naym ouer alkins thyng!"

 

j For of oure-self we haf bot sin,

And al gude bose in þe bygin,

Namly þat helpes to hele of saule.

 

31 Þare-for on þis wyse says sant paule:

"Gratia dei sum id quod sum-

All þat in erth to me es ton,

Itt is of þe grace of god allon.

 

32 Mine awn power es noght to prayse,

But wirchep be to god always."

And who so makes myrth, mor or min,

In god be-houes his ioy begin;

 

33 For all oure comforth in hym dwels,

Als hym-self in þe godspel tels.

He says: "who to my wordes takes hede

And fandes to fulfill þam in dede,

I sall mak hym wele like to be

A ful wyse man in all degre,

Whylk man, for his hous sal last,

[70r] A-pon a ston hase byggid itt fast

 

34 When it sall windes or flodes fell,

Euer may itt stand stifli & wele,

And harm þair-to may þai do none,

Be-caus itt es biggid on a stone.

 

k Þis stone es crist, þat we on call.

He gifes vs force, þat we not fall,

And ilka day til vs he techis

 

35 Thurth haly wordes, þat his men prechis,

And als thurgh law of hali kyrk,

How we in world sall wisely wirk.

 

36 And al þe days of oure lifyng

Er lent vs allane for þis thyng:

For we suld here oure mis amend

Thurgh hali kirk, os crist hase kend;

Þair-for god lens vs oure lif-days,

 

37 Als þe appostil proues & says.

He says: "kan e not vnder-stand

Þe sufferance of god alweldand?

Vnto penance it suld ow lede

To mak a-mendes for oure misdede."

 

38 Of swilk sufferance god schewes til vs

In his godspel, whaire he says þus:

"Nolo mortem peccatoris sed vt magis-

I wil not þe dede of sinful man,

Bot þat he turn hym & lif þan;

[70v] And if he of me ask mercy,

Ful gladly for-gyf hym wyl I."

 

39 Þus if we þis question craue,

Whilk þai er þat heuyn sal haue

And won with god in blisses clere,

Answer haue we halili here.

And hardeli if we ful-fill

Þe offese þat fals þaim vntill

Þat er ordand in blisses to be,

Þan aires of þat ilk blis er we.

 

40 Þan is it gude þat we here dresse

Our hartes with all oure bisines

For to fulfill, in þat we may,

Godes bidinges both night & day;

 

41 And þat we may nott be oure might,

Pray hym to perfourn it right,

And for to grant vs might & maine,

Thurgh his grace, þat most may gaine,

 

42 Þat we may fle fro paines of hell

And be worthi in blis to dwell.

 

43 Gude councel es to man & wife,

Whils we lend in þis dedely life,

Vn-to swilk warkes for to take hede

 

44 Þat vs to lastand life may lede,

And gif vs fully, all folk in-fere,

 

45 [71r] To iesu skoles his laus to lere,

Þat er þe laus of haly kirk,

 

46 Of whilk vs aw not to be irk.

Al if vs thynk it hard to take,

We sall it suffer for godes sake;

 

47 And if sere enmis vs assayle,

Þaire-for we sall not fayntly faile,

 

48 Bot thynk, if it be heuy & hard,

What mede we sal haue afterward.

For who to wele-lifing sall win,

With greuauns grete þaim bus bigin;

 

49 Bot sethin a swetness haue þai sall

And at þe last swetest of all.

 

50 For who so wil godes lesons lere

May saue þair saules, & hele þaim here,

And mak [þaim] thrugh meknes heueyn

Comuners in þe kyngdom of heuyn.

 

Notes to Prologue

1. P:Title. in: written above the line; not included in the printed edition.

2. P:24. lord: written above the line.

3. P:28. fandying ] fending

 

 

[Chapter 1]

 

De iiii-or4 condicionibus religionis.

 

a In þis ilk rewle of sant Benett

Er sere folk in sere plasses sett

To serue god in sere degre,

Men or wemen whider þai be,

Þat sum er gude & sum not so;

 

1 Four maners mai men fynd of þo.

 

2 Þe first es men here or women

[71v] Þat þair awn kynde wytt clerely ken,

And wilfully alway wil wirke

Efter þe laus of haly kirke,

And euer-mor be bowsum & baine

Vn-to þe sawes of þeir sufferaine,

 

b Als þai may leire in þis boke

Efter-ward, who likes to loke.

 

3 Þe secund maner es ful perfite

Als to be anger or eremete,

 

4 A-gains þe fend thurgh faith to feght

With dedes of penance day & night,

Not ainly bi lereing on buke,

Bot bi þe order þat þai tuke.

 

5 And penance þat þai put þaime to

Sal mak þam myghty so to do.

Anely life all if þai lede,

Of þe deuel haue þai no drede.

For god makes þam so mekli of mayne

And stalworth to stand him a-gayne,

Þat al his dartes may þam not dere,

Ne his faindinges may þam not fere.

 

6 Þe thrid degre es not so gude:

Men or wemen of wilful mode,

Þat order of religion takes,

And al obseruaunce þat syne for-sakes,

[72r] Þat nowder will be obidient

Vntyl sufferayne ne til couent

For no thing þat men telles þam til,

Bot lifes efter þair wordly will

 

7 And serues more to wordly thyng

Þan vnto god, of heuen kyng.

Syngne of religion haue þai non,

Ne takyn, bot tonsure allon.

 

8 Vnto no hird þai wil tak kepe,

Bot raykes forth als raueand schep.

And whar-to so þai turn þair mode,

Þat think þaym law and reson gude.

 

9 And whar-to þai haue no likyng,

Þat think þam es vn-lefful thyng.

Be no rewle wil þai be arrest,

Bot lifes als ane vnskilful best.

 

10 Þe fortt degre it es þair als

Of sum þat er in order fals,

Þat lightli leues al heuy thing

And folous euer þair flessh likyng.

Þai raik o-bout in sere contresse,

For þai þair likyng wil not lese.

In non abbay wil þai dwell,

[72v] Bot wendes a-bout fro cel to cel

 

11 And tels lesynges here & þair

To gar men mak þam mery fare.

Þai lede þair lif in lechori

And in dronkyness & in clotony.

 

12 Þair lifyng es ay war and were;

Þair-for of þam I spek no fare,

 

13 Bot to þe first I wend o-gayn

For to perfourn our processe playn,

 

c To tel what pontes falles þam vnto,

And als what dedes þam aw to do

Þat for godes sake here sett

Vnder þe band of sant Benett.

Whare priores5 es principall,

And what pontes þer-to suld fall,

In þis begynnyng sal be kend.

God help þat it myght haue gude end!

 

Notes to Chapter 1

4. 1:Title. or: written above the line.

5. 1:c. priores ] priours

 


 


Continue with Chapter 2
Table of Contents
Feminist Benedictine Rules

 

See "Bibliography" for manuscript, edition, bibliographies and studies.

 


Rev. 010103 / www.osb.org/aba/rb/feminine/normetric/normet01.html