Sunday, 9 March 2014

Packing for the Next Life

A pilgrim prepares for his journey (BL Harley 4399, f.24v)

This is a poem by the Franciscan friar William Herebert (d.1333), with something of a Lenten tone. It's based on an Anglo-Norman verse sermon by Nicholas Bozon which begins 'Pus ke homme deit morir'. I've posted various poems by Herebert before - all come from the manuscript (British Library, Additional 46919) where he wrote down his own poems and translations alongside his sermons and an assortment of other texts. This poem is headed 'Byseth ȝou in þys ylke lyf / Of lyflode in þat oþer lyf', 'Equip yourself in this present life / With means of living in that other life.'

Sethþe mon shal henne wende
And nede deȝen at þen ende
And wonyen he not whare,
God ys þat he trusse hys pak,
And tymliche pute hys stor in sak,
Þat not when henne vare.

Euch mon þenche uor to spede
Þat he ne lese þe grete mede
Þat God ous dythte ȝare.

Þys lyf nys bote sorewe away,
Ounneþe ys mon gladuol o day
Vor sorewe and tene and kare;
Mon wyth sorewe is uurst ybore,
And eft wyth sorewe rend and tore,
Ȝyf he ryth þencþ of hys ware.

What ys lordshype and heynesse,
What helpth katel and rychesse?
Gold and seluer awey shal uare.
Þy gost shal wonye þou ne wost nout where,
Þy body worth wounde in grete oþer here;
Of oþer þyng þou worst al bare.

Byþench, mon, ȝerne on euche wyse
Er þou be brouht to þylke asyse,
On what þou shalt truste þare.
What god þou hauest, mon, here ydon
Prest þer þou shalt ounderuon
Elles euer þou worst in kare.

Be mon ȝong oþer be he old,
Non so strong ne wel ytold
Þat hennes ne mot fare.
Deth is hud, mon, in þy gloue,
Wyth derne dunt þat shal he proue
And smyte þou nost whare.

Touore þe deth ys betere o dede
Þen after tene, and more of mede
And more quencheth kare.
Be monnes wyttes hym byreued,
Hys eȝen blynd, hys eren deued,
Þe cofres beth al bare.

Be þe gost urom body reued,
Þe bernes sone shulle ben sheued,
Ne shal me noþyng spare.
Be þe body wyth greth byweued,
Þe soule sone shal be leued,
Alas, of frendes bare.

That is:

Since each man shall from hence wend
And must needs die, at the end,
And dwell he knows not where,
Good it is that he truss his pack,
And in good time put his store in sack,
Knowing not when he shall from hence fare.

Let each man think so to speed [act]
That he lose not the great meed [reward]
Which God prepares for us there.

This life is nothing but sorrow alway;
Hardly is man glad one day
For sorrow and pain and care;
Man with sorrow is first born,
And ever with sorrow is rent and torn,
If he thinks truly of his wares.

What is lordship and highness,
What helpeth goods and richness?
Gold and silver away shall fare.
Thy soul shall dwell thou knowest not where,
Thy body be wound in earth or hair [i.e. haircloth, shroud];
Of all other things thou shalt be bare.

Consider, man, earnestly in every way
Before thou be brought to that estate,
To what thou shalt trust there.
What good that thou hast, man, here done
Swiftly there thou shalt receive,
Or else ever thou shalt suffer care.

Be a man young or be he old,
There is none so strong or well ytold [considered]
Who shall not from hence fare.
Death is hid, man, in thy glove,
With secret strike he shall that prove
And smite thou knowest not where.

Before thy death better is one deed
Than ten thereafter, and more of meed
And more quencheth care.
When a man's wits are from him bereft, [taken]
His eyes blind, his ears made deaf,
His coffers are all bare.

When the soul is from the body taken,
The barns shall soon be emptied,
Nor shall anything be spared.
When the body is in earth laid,
The soul soon shall be left,
Alas, of friends bare.

The opening of this poem (and 'Tu rex gloriae') in BL Add. 46919, f. 208v

1 comment:

Heliopause said...

And thank you for this one, too! (I have just left a comment on the Vikings post. :) )

Death lurks in a glove... what an amazing, evocative image! spiders, scorpions - or maybe something more of human agency. And the stark, desolate ending - wow! Thank you very much indeed for opening up all these to us.