NORTHERN PROSE VERSION
OF THE RULE OF ST. BENEDICT
in Middle English
in the series
Feminine Versions of the Rule of St. Benedict
Rev. 991124 / www.osb.org/aba/rb/feminine/norprose/index.html
See "Bibliography" for manuscript, edition, bibliographies and studies.
The Northern Prose Version of the Rule of St. Benedict was translated from the Latin into Middle English in the early fifteenth century. The identity of the translator and the monastery for which it was produced are unknown.
Feminization does not begin until chapter 3, except for Prologue: 19. The impression is given that someone was just beginning to masculinize an originally completely feminized text. Feminization of the language is largely consistent, though some gender-neutral and generic masculine language is used as well. Feminine pronouns are used extensively, and the names of monastics and monastic officers are feminized. Chapters 60 and 62, on priests, are translated. The monastic superior is now the abbess, but masculine language for priests, deacons and clerics is retained. As a result, these chapters do not make literal sense. Chapter 62 follows chapter 60.
The Northern Prose Version presents most of the Latin text of the Rule; a few verses are omitted from a number of chapters, and a few chapters contain expansions of the text. Particularly noteworthy is the omission of seven verses from chapters 55, on clothing. Chapter 13, and the actual content of chapter 18, are omitted; both contain long list of psalms to be used in the office. The brief text given for chapter 18 is actually verses 12 and 13 of chapter 13, on the Lord's Prayer, plus several verses of pious reflection on this prayer.
Chapters begin with large, decorated capital letters, here represented by bold-face, upper-case letters. Chapters are sometimes separated by an extra space as well. Formal titles or chapter numbers are not given. The Prologue and chapters 2 and 7 are divided into sections that are treated rather as independent chapters. Presumbly this reflects the way in which the Rule was divided for daily reading in the monastic chapter. Most chapters begin with the declaration, "Saint Benet says..."; often this includes the subject of the chapter and therefore the chapter title. Most chapters also conclude with a brief prayer. These expansions are not used in the "liturgical chapters," 8-17; the prayer is omitted as well in chapters 37 and 62.
The version presented here was transcribed from a microfilm of the original text. It has been compared with the edition of Ernst A. Koch, Three Middle-English Versions of the Rule of St. Benet and Two Contemporary Rituals for the Ordination of Nuns. Early English Text Society. Ordinary Series 120, 1902, 1987, pp. 1-47. Koch's notes may still be consulted with profit.
Koch's edition uses the character þ, and this is undoubtedly the sound and meaning intended. However, the manuscript reveals that the character actually written is "y"; this is not the "Y-like" character that is a form of þ, but a character that almost always is indistinguishable from that of the "regular y." The text presented here therefore uses "y" and not þ.
The character yogh is used frequently, but cannot be reproduced in this presentation. It is represented by the numeral 3, in 10-point type (3).
See the home page for further information regarding principles of transcription and presentation used here.
Each verse is identified by number and begins on a new line.
Each substantive expansion is identified by letter and also begins on a new line.
Notes are numbered consecutively throughout and are placed at the end of the relevant chapter.
Individual chapters of the Northern Prose Version of the Rule of St. Benedict are linked to the chapters of the following Table of Contents. (These chapter headings are taken from the translation, RB1980.)
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. The Kinds of Monks
Chapter 2. Qualities of the Abbot
Chapter 3.Summoning the Brothers for Counsel
Chapter 4. The Tools for Good Works
Chapter 5. Obedience
Chapter 6. Restraint of Speech
Chapter 7. Humility
Chapter 8. The Divine Office at Night
Chapter 9. The Number of Psalms at the Night Office
Chapter 10. The Arrangement of the Night Office in Summer
Chapter 11. The Celebration of Vigils on Sunday
Chapter 12. The Celebration of the Solemnity of Lauds
Chapter 13. The Celebration of Lauds on Ordinary Days
Chapter 14. The Celebration of Vigils on the Anniversaries of Saints
Chapter 15. The Times for Saying Alleluia
Chapter 16. The Celebration of the Divine Office during the Day
Chapter 17. The Number of Psalms to be Sung at These Hours
Chapter 18. The Order of the Psalmody
Chapter 19. The Discipline of Psalmody
Chapter 20. Reverence in Prayer
Chapter 21. The Deans of the Monastery
Chapter 22. The Sleeping Arrangements of the Monks
Chapter 23. Excommunication for Faults
Chapter 24. Degrees of Excommunication
Chapter 25. Serious Faults
Chapter 26. Unauthorized Association with the Excommunicated
Chapter 27. The Abbot's Concern for the Excommunicated
Chapter 28. Those Who Refuse to Amend after Frequent Reproofs
Chapter 29. Readmission of Brothers Who Leave the Monastery
Chapter 30. The Manner of Reproving Boys
Chapter 31. Qualifications of the Monastery Cellarer
Chapter 32. Monks and Private Ownership
Chapter 33. The Tools and Good of the Monasteru
Chapter 34.Distribution of Goods According to Need
Chapter 35. Kitchen Servers of the Week
Chapter 36. The Sick Brothers
Chapter 37. The Elderly and Children
Chapter 38. The Reader for the Week
Chapter 39. The Proper Amount of Food
Chapter 40. The Proper Amount of Drink
Chapter 41. The Times for the Brothers' Meals
Chapter 42. Silence after Compline
Chapter 43. Tardiness at the Work of God or at Table
Chapter 44. Satisfaction by the Excommunicated
Chapter 45. Mistakes in the Oratory
Chapter 46. Faults Committed in Other Matters
Chapter 47. Announcing the Hours for the Work of God
Chapter 48. The Daily Manual Labor
Chapter 49. The Observance of Lent
Chapter 50. Brothers Working at a Distance or Traveling
Chapter 51. Brothers on a Short Journey
Chapter 52. The Oratory of the Monastery
Chapter 53. The Reception of Guests
Chapter 54.Letters or Gifts for Monks
Chapter 55. The Clothing and Footwear of the Brothers
Chapter 56. The Abbot's Table
Chapter 57.The Artisans of the Monastery
Chapter 58. The Procedure of Receiving Brothers
Chapter 59.The Offering of Sons by Nobles or by the Poor
Chapter 60. The Admission of Priests to the Monastery
Chapter 61. The Reception of Visiting Monks
Chapter 62. The Priests of the Monastery
Chapter 63. Community Rank
Chapter 64. The Election of an Abbot
Chapter 65.The Prior of the Monastery
Chapter 66. The Porter of the Monastery
Chapter 67. Brothers Sent on a Journey
Chapter 68.Assignment of Impossible Tasks to a Brother
Chapter 69. The Presumption of Defending Another in the Monastery
Chapter 70.The Presumption of Striking Another Monk at Will
Chapter 71. Mutual Obedience
Chapter 72. The Good Zeal of Monks
Chapter 73.This Rule Only a Beginning of Perfection