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


[Chapter 56]


De mensa priorisse.

1 A Priores bord aw forto be

Euer-mor vntil al gestes fre,

Þat es to mene vnto pouer men.


2 And when non cumes, scho sal take þen

Of þe eldest & þe most nedy

Of hir sisters þat wons hir by,

In stede of pouer folk, þam to fede;

So may scho wyn hir mykil mede.



[Chapter 57]

1 If ony woman can oght do


4 Þat ony wining falles vnto,

All þe prophet of þeir wyning

Vnto þeir souerayn sal þai bryng.


2 And if ony hafe pryde þer-by,

It sal be tayn fro þam in hy,


3 And neuer more sal þay negh nere,

Bot þe priores gif þam power.


a [110r] And þat sal not fall, bot scho se

Þat þai be meke & obidient be,

And wil gif al þeir wyning fayn

To þe ordenance of þer souerayn,


9 And wil luf god in ilka place,

Þat gifes to þam swilk giftes of grace.



[Chapter 58]


De probacione suscipiendorum.


1 All if a woman ful eld haue,

And religion wil to hir craue,

And hase non entisment þer-til

Bot oblis hir awn wil,

Fully resauyd sal scho not be,

Or tyme þai hir perseuerans se

And prow hir both be nyghtes & days,


2 Als þe appostil playnly says.

Hir hert & wil er both to proue,


3 If þai be gifin til godes bi-houe,

And mak þam forto vnderstand

Þe hardnes of religioun band.

And if scho bide iiij days or fyue

And schews grete lawnes in hir liue,


4 Vnto hir salbe graunte entre;

Bot als a gest it sal scho be


5 And sine a place forto haue grayde,

[110v] Als vnto nouysces es puruayd,


6 And a mastres her forto lere

Hir obseruandes & seruys sere,


7 And to schew hir both gude & ill

Þat scho salbe obidient til.


8 And if scho be willy always

To suffer what hir mastres sais,


9 Sithen efter ij moneth space,

Þan sal þai bring þis rewle in place


10 And tel vntil hir opinly

Þis law þat hir aw to lif by.

When it es red on right array,

Þe priores sal til hir say:

"Þis rewle if þou may eme & saue,

We grant þe entre here to haue;

And if þou may not þerwith lend,

We grant þe lefe frely to wend."


11 And if scho þan wil langer dwel,

Scho sal bide in þe noues sel

At gud laser to lig & rise,

So þat scho may hir wele awise

In hir hert, if scho be bald

Þe rewle to tak þat scho es tald.


12 When sex moneths er fully gon,

[111r] Þen sall þis rewel eft furth be ton

And red to hir, os mykil os nedes,

How scho sal rewle both wordes & dedes.


13 And if scho it wil lely last,

When xij moneths er playnly past,

Þis sal eft be to hir red,

So þat scho be not lyghtli led,

And þat scho wit be on & on

Þe pontes wher-to scho hase hir tone.


14 And if scho so with a-visement

Hete to fulfil with gude entent

What so þai deme bi day or nyght,

Þen sal scho be resauyd right

Into þe kirk emang þam all;

And þat day þerin dwel scho sall.


15-16 In hir-self þen sal scho knaw

Þat scho sal neuer, for godes aw,

Fro þat rewle reklisly gang,

Sen þat scho es avised so lang.


17 To chapitur sine scho salbe tayn

In-mang þe couent euer-ilkayn,

And vnto god þer sal scho hete,

Falland doun be-for þer fete,

[111v] Þat scho sall fathfuly fulfill

Al þat þei haue told hir till.


18 Vnto mary, cristes moder dere,

And to al halows of heuyn clere

Sal scho hete þer þam emang.

Þan may scho wit: if scho do wrang

Or maynten it not with hir mayine,

Al wil þai witnes hir ogayne.


19 Þan sal scho make blithly hir bown

And puruay hir peticioun.


20 With hir awn hand it salbe wroght,

Or with a-noþer, if scho can noght;

Bot scho sal luke þat it be lele,

And set þerto signet or sele.

On þe awter scho sal it lay,


21 And þer wordes þen sal scho say:

"Suscipe me, domine, secundum eloquium

tuum, et viuam, & non confundar."


22 And þir same [wordes] on þis wise

Sal þai ilkon reherce thrise

With "gloria patri" put þerto

And "Sicut erat" sine also.


23 Þe nouese þan be-for þam all

Al flat vnto þe erth sal fall,

[112r] Besekand þam on ilka side

For to pray for hir þat tide.

Fro þat day sal scho rekynd be

On þe couent in hir degre.


24 And al þe þinges þat scho hase þen,

Ouþer sal scho it þam to pouer men,

Besekand þam for hir to pray,

Or els vnto hir awn abbay.

Vnto hir-self scho sal haue noght

Of al þat scho hase þeder broght.

Vntil oþer scho sal it take,

And hir awn wil scho sal for-sake.


26 Hir awn wedes scho sal lay doun

And take cloths of religioun.


27 Hir cloths sal þan albedene

Be samyn layd & kepid clene,


28 Þat if case fall at þe ere end

Þat scho in-to þe world wil wend,

Þe same wede þat scho can for-sake,

Þat sal scho were & with hir take.


29 Bot hir bil of peticioun

Sall leue stil in religioun.



[Chapter 59]


De nouicijs iuuenibus suscipiendis.


1 [112v] May52 fal þat ouþer man or wife

Wold haue þer child53 haly life,

And offer it vnto haly kirk;

On þis wise þam aw to wirk:

If þer child be so ung,54

Þat it55 can not tel with tung

What es to leue ne what to take,

Þen sal þe frendes peticions make.


2 Tak þai sal þe childes hand

And bil & þer awn offerand

With reuerence, os þe rewle hase kend,

And law al on þe awter end.


a And when þai mak peticioun,

A certayn soume þai sal lay doune,

Or els hete of þer gudes to gif

Whor-of þer child may lere to lif.


3 Til it-self sal þai gif no thing,

Gold ne siluer, broch ne ryng,


4-5 Bot opinly if gif sal þai

Vnto god & to þe abbay,


8 And childer þat frenchep hase none,

For godes sake þai salbe tone.


Notes to Chapter 59

52. 59:1. May ] ay. Space was left for a large capital letter (M) extended over two lines, but this was never inserted.

53. 59:1. A word seems to be omitted.

54. 59:1. This and the following line were written in the reverse order. The letters a, b were then added in the left margin.

55. 59:1. It, not: written above the line.



[Chapter 63]


1 And fro time þai resauyd be,

[113r] Al salbe sarued in o degre,

Rich & pure, & ong & old,

In form os be-for es told.


10 Bot þe ong, whor so þai err,

Sal ordan56 þan þat er elder,

And þe elder in alkins þing

Sal luf & lere þam þat er ing.


12 "Damisel" Þe ongest es,

Þe elder "madaum" & "mastres."


13 Þe Priores als principall

Es "lady" & leder of þam all,

And not al for hir awn bi-houe,

Bot for hir staite & cristes luf.


15 And whor so euer þai gang o-boute,

Þe onger sal þe elder loute

And do þam reuerence, als es right,

In word & dede, be day & nyght.


Note to Chapter 63

56. 63:10. ordan: appears to be an error.



[Chapter 64]


De eleccione priorisse57


1 A Priores aw to be chosen

Þe best in lifyng leli losen,

Be ordinance & bi hali assent

And councel of al þe couent,

Takand non for luf ne mede,

Ne leueand non for aw ne drede;


2 Bot for gude luf & for godes sake

[113v] A worthi souerayn sal þai take,

Whilk þai knaw perfite & stabil,

And als emang þaim most abill

Of wit & cunsel & of cunyng,

And vsand euynhed in al thing.


3 And if it fel, os god forbede,

Þat ony wold for wordly mede

Samyn be þam-self assent,

With-outyn counsel of þe couent,

Forto chese swilk a souerayn.

Als to þer bedynges wold be bayn,

And þair doyng wor fundyn slike,


4 Þen sal þe bisschop of þat rike


5 Swilk a priores sone depose,

And mak on bi þeir aller chose.

And foles þat in þer fath wil fayle,

Þai salbe chastid fro cownsaile,

So þat in godes hows may be

A gude emer of godes mene.


6 For wit þai wele þat þai sal cum

To reknygn on þe day of dome

For þer myschesing þam omang,

Als sche sal for hir warkes wrang.

And if þai chese wele & lely,

[114r] Þan falles a ful grete mede þerby,

So þat þai tak gude rewarde

Þat noder on be spede ne oþer sparde

For no ponte þat men may pruefe,

Bot anely for our lordes lufe.


7 When scho es chosin on þis maner

And confermyd in hir playne power,

Þen aw hir forto luke allayn58

Vnto þat charch þat scho hase tayn

And vnto wham hir aw to eld

Reknyng both in outh in eld,

Ill or wele wheþer scho spend

Þe charch þat scho hase tayn in hend.


8 Al if scho be highest in degre,

In hir-self lawest sal scho be.


9 Hir aw to be gude of forthoght

What thinges es to wirk & what noght,

Chaste & sober, meke & myld,

Of bering bowsum os a child.


11 Sin & vices sal scho hate

And luf hir sisters ayrly & laite.


12 Scho salbe sober in al thyng

And naymly in hir chastying,

To lay on þam þat vnder hir er

[114v] No euyer band þan þay may ber,

Þat whils scho rubes a-way þe rust,

Þe vessel fal not al to dust.


13 Hir maistri euer sal mesurd be,

Thinkand on hir awn frelte

Lik to a rede in a forest,

Þat bows with wind & wil not brest.


a Scho sal so her what ilkon sais,

And be wise in hir wordes alwais.


De condicionibus Priorisse59


14 A Priores hertly sal hast

Al vice & syns away to waist

And ordan for þam gastly bute,

Or tyme þat þai haue takin rute,


15 And ordan alway hir entent

For to be lufid of hir couent,

Þat þai hir honor in word & dede

For luf & not aynly for drede.


16 Scho sal not be contrarius

Ne ouer-lyghtly suspecius.

In al hir bidinges scho salbe

Resonabil & also avise,


17 Wheder it be for gastly thing

Or wordly þat scho makes bidyng.

And when scho comaundes oght to do,

[115r] Swilk rewling sal scho hafe þer-to,

Þat it be mesured on gude maners,


18 Als sant Ion þe apostil leres:

"Si greges meos faciam &c.

If I ger my bestes," he sais,

"Trauel mor be nyghtes or dais

Þan þer power perfourn may,

Þan wil þai fall down in þe way."


19 Þus bi ensaumpil sal scho take

Materly al thinges to make,

And þat al thinges in dede & saw

Be mesured euermor os þam aw,

And ilka thing in þer degre,

Bodely or gastly wheder it be.


20 And þis ilk rewle þus if scho rede

And fulfil it in word & dede,

Þen may scho þer wordes vnderstand,


22 How crist says of a gud seruand:

"Super omnia bona sua constituet eum."


b He þat in life es funden lele

In word & wark alway to wele,

Hym wil þe lord with-outyn lete

Ouer al his gudes assingne60 & sett

And haly put in-til his hand

[115v] Both corn & katel, hows & land,

And chanch hym wil he for no new

Be reson þat he61 findes him trew.

And efterward for his gude dede

Þe lord wil larchly gif him mede.

So sal al þo haue wele, we knaw,

Þat trewly dos euer os Þam aw.


Notes to Chapter 64

57. 64:Title. Title written in the margin at the end of the preceding line.

58. 64:7. allayn ] alleyn

59. 64:Title. Title added; written in the margin at the end of the following line.

60. 64:b. assigne ] assingnes

61. 64:b. he ] I



[Chapter 68]


Si inpossibilia iniungentur.


a A Priores, als I sayd air,

Aw to be mesured euermair

To bind non bot als þai may bere,

And efter þer warkes worthi ere,

And bid non do by nyght & day

Vn-mesurely mor þan þai may.


1 And if scho put any vntil

Mor wark þen þai may fulfil,

Til hir bedynges þai sal be bayn

And noþer gruch ne spek ogayn.


2 Bot forther, if þai se in sight

Þat þe trauel passes þer myght,

Vn-to hir sal þai pray mekely

Forto relese þam sum party,

Telland to hir al þer encheson.


4 And if scho wil not her þer reson,

[116r] it sall þai not þam-self it slake,

Bot suffer it for godes sake,

Thinkand on þair mikil mede;


5 Þan sal god strengh in þer dede.



[CChapter 69]


And on al wise þai sal take tent,

Þat no þing be don in couent,

In word ne wark ne nokins wise,

Whar-of outward myght sclaunder rise.



[Chapter 70]


Vt nulla aliam cedat vel offendat.


2 Tham aw to tent vnto þis þing,

Þat non of þam sal oþer dyng,

Ne none herdy oder to greue,

Bot at þe Priores gifes leue

And power oþer to chasty

Þat funden er in ony foly.


3 And þai þat opinly er blamyd,

Al opinly þai sal be shamyd,

So þat oþer may wernyd be

Fro al slik folis forto fle.


4 Þe nouece þat þis rewle sal lere,

Vntil þai be past xv ere,

Sal be in keping of mastres


5 To chasty þam, when worthi es,

Als it falles þe trispas to.


6 [116v] And oþer-wise if þat scho do,

Scho sal be punyst for þat dede;


7 For it es writyn, os men may rede:

"Vntil a-noþer þou sal not do

Bot os þou wold wor don þe to."

On þe sam wise sall ilk souerayn

Do os þai wil tak o-gayn.



[Chapter 67]


De exeuntibus et redeuntibus.


1 A sister, when scho sal oute wende

To fadir or moder or oþer frend,

Þan sal scho tak with gude entent

Hir leue of all þe hale couent,

Besekand þam for hir to pray

Þat god hir wise in all her way.


2 And al þe couent, small & grete,

Aw no day forto for-gete,

Bot ilkay day to mak þer bone,

When seruys of þe day es done,

For þer sister þat er not þair,

Þat god enforce þam in þer fair.


3 And when on so hase bene to play,

When scho cummes home, al þe first day


4 Prayng sal þai put þam to,

Besekand oder to pray also

[117r] Þat god for-gif with gude entent,

If þai oght wrethid hym, sen þai went,

In sight or in hering of eres,

In word or dede þat þe sawle deres,

Or wantunly if þai haf wroght

Outher in word, or dede, or thoght.

Of god þai sal ask for-gifnes

And make amendes for mor & lese.


5 To þer sisters þai sal not tell,

Whils þai wer furth how it befell

Of thing þat myght oght turn to tene;

For of slik hase harmes bene sene.


a Ne outward sal þai no thing say

Þat es done with-in þeir abbay;


7 Ne oute of close sal þai not pas,

Bot þai leue of þer souerayn ass;

Ne no charge and thing sal þai do,

Bot if þai haue hir lef þerto.


6 And who so dose oght here-ogayn

Efter þe rewle sal suffer payn.



[Chapter 66]


De officio hostiarij62


1 Ane old man sal þe ates eme

Þat witti es & wele wil seme

For to welcum with wordes fre

Euyr-ilk man in þer degre.


2 [117v] His dwelling sal be dyght algayte

In a cel be-side þe ate,

So þat he be redy ay

Til al þat cume be nyght or day.


3 And when so ony knok or call,

Softli answer þam he sall.

To her þer wordes sal he be bayn

And bryng þam grath answer ogayn.


4 And baynly sal he bryng & take

Al þat men sendes for godes sake.

And euer him aw to eme þe ate

For al auenturs arely & layte.


6 In abbais aw to be al thing

Þat nedeful es to þeir lifing,

Als watter for to do al þer dedis,

Miln, kiln, & ouen, & al þat nedis,

Gardins, & al oþer ger


7 With-in þam wroght, þat þai sal wer,

So þat þai sal not outward gang

To say for dred, or wirk, oght wrang.


8 Þus es þis rewle ordand to rede

[Als] Oft-sithes als it es nede,

So þat non sal þam excuse,

[118r] To knaw þeir rewle & right it vse.


Note to Chapter 66

62. 66:Title. Title written in the margin at the end of the preceding line.



[Chapter 71]


De obediencia ad inuicem63


1 Ilk sister sall obedient be

Vnto oþer in þair degre,


2 Witand þat es þe sekir way

Vnto þe lif þat lastes ay.


3 Bot þe Priores os prencipall

Sal be honord ouer þam all;

And oþer, efter þai haue power,

Salbe honord with seruis ser.


4 And sithen sal ilkon bainly bow

To honour order & wil þer prow.


6 And who so euer vnbowsum es


7 Or rebel to þer priores,

Or greues hir in ony degre,

Al if þe trispas litil be,


8 Be-for her fete down sal þai fall,

And so lang þer lig þai sall,


9 And who so gruches her-ogayn,

Þai sal be gert with greuus payn.

And if þai wil not mend þerby,

Þai sal be chaistid fro company.



Note to Chapter 71

63. 71:Title. Title written in the margin at the end of the preceding line.



[Chapter 72]

1 For right os euel luf mor or les,

Þat es fulfilid of bitternes,

Twins fro64 god, os clerkes tell,

[118v] And ledes a man to pyne of hell,


2 Right so gude luf in al degre,

Þat es fulfillid of charite,

Twins a man fro syn & strif

And ledes him vnto lastand lif.


3 And þat ilk luf suld sisters haue

Emang þam-self þer saule to saue,

And ilkon honor oþer alwais,


4 Als þe appostil playnly sais:

"Honore inuecem preuenientes."


5 Sekenes sal þai gladly bere,

Bodily or gastly wheder þai ere.

Þeir awn winyng þai sal not wayt,

Þat oþer win þai sal couayt.


9 God sal þai hertly drede & luf


10 And þer souerayn for his be-houe,


11 So þat þai set non erthly þing

Be-for þe luf of crist, heuyn kyng,


12 For his lofers ledes he euyn

Vntil his kyngdom hegh on heuyn.


a Vnto þat kingdom he vs lede,

Þat sufferd dede for our mysdede.


Note to Chapter 72

64. 72:2. fro ] for



[Chapter 73]


Conclulcio tocius regule65


1 This rewle es ordand þus to rede

To mend our mys & merk vs mede,

[119r] And grath teching til vs at gif,

In cristes law [how] we sal lif,

And to draw fro alkin strife

Onto perfeccion of gude life.

For it teches to les & more


2 Of haly faders Þat war before.

And if we þer-in haue delite,

It ledes vs to lif perfite.


3 For al lessons, als men may luke,

Þat wretyn er in haly buke,

Wheþer þai be of moises law

Of of cristes, whilk we suld knaw,


4-5 And liues of marters & confessours,

And teching of godes dere doctours,

And þat66 haly virgins lede,

And rewles, þat [er] vntil vs rede,

Of basil, Bede, & oþer mo-


6 Al er þai teching vs vnto

And ensaumpil how we sal vse

Gud vertuse, & vices refuse.

To þam þat lifes wele, old or ing,

Er swilk lessons ful grete likyng.


7 And to þam þat lifes synfully

And refuses to be rewlid þerby,

[119v] Þan es it gret confucioun

And hertly schame in ilk sesoun.

For if þeir lifyng be vnlele,

Þam think dedeyn with it to dele.


8 Þerfor al þat þarto hase hight,

Saue þis rewle & eme it ryght,


9 And pray god hertly with gude wil

To gif þam myght & grace þertil.

Þen endles lif sal be þair mede.

Vnto þat lif our lord vs lede! //amen.//

A M E N.




Notes to Chapter 73

65. 73:Title. Title written in the margin at the end of the preceding line.

66. 73:4-5. The word liues may have been omitted following And.



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