Saturday, 4 October 2014

A Carol for St Francis, 2

St Francis (England, 14th or 15th century; BL Royal 16 E XII f.152)

A few years ago I posted a fifteenth-century carol to St Francis of Assisi by John Audelay, 'Saint Francis, to thee I say, / Save thy brethren both night and day'. I'm always interested in vernacular medieval tributes to saints; non-medievalists are often surprised that such things exist at all, let alone that they survive in such large numbers, so it's good to give them a bit of exposure. In the case of St Francis vernacular songs always seem particularly appropriate, anyway. So here's another carol or song, from the end of the fifteenth century, which comes from the manuscript of the Canterbury Franciscan James Ryman (Cambridge University Library Ee.1.12). The text is printed in Julius Zupitza, 'Die Gedichte des Franziskaners Jacob Ryman', Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen 89 (1892), 167-338 (237-8), which can be read online here (I've altered it slightly). Ryman's manuscript also has another carol to St Francis, and for more on James Ryman, his huge collection of carols, and the first Franciscan base in England at Canterbury, see this post.

Ryman's text is a translation of a Latin sequence for St Francis, 'Laetabundus Francisco', and all the Latin phrases come from that sequence.

Laetabundus Francisco decantet clerus, alleluia.

1. Now gladly shall the clergy singe
To seint Fraunceys, this hevenly thinge,
Alleluia;

2. Whome Criste hath fixte, that lover true,
Hert, hande and foote transfourmed new,
Res miranda.

3. His myende in his flesshe did appere,
And in new wyse he shone full clere,
Sol de stella.

4. This man, the whiche this wyse did floure,
Taught birdes with voice God to honoure
Semper clara.

5. And, as Crist hath taught, poverte
In wille, dede and thought kepe did he
Pari forma.

6. He wolde, nouther in wille nor dede,
That his doughter dere shulde possede
Hec corrupta.

7. Now he joieth above in blisse,
With tokenes newe shynyng he is
Valle nostra.

8. Eyen with light by hym renewed,
A chielde with tunge he hath endewed
Carne sumpta.

9. Sume having speche, sume lyfe agayn,
Heresy by hym is knowen full playne
Esse ceca.

10. Dume, blynde and lame taking comforte
Divers kingdomes knowing reporte
Hec predicta.

11. The sawdons fraude he did despise,
And yet hym hurt hath in no wise
Gens misera.

12. His woundes sheweth gyftes newe
Geven of Criste borne of Marie true,
Puerpera.

Francis preaching to the birds (England, 14th century; BL Yates Thompson 13, f.181v)

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