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Weping haueth myn wonges wet: notes
London, British Library, Harley MS 2253, f. 66r

4. ase bok byt: it is not clear what the 'book' is: is it a boc . . . of leuedis loue (i.e. a treatise on love), or, as Brook (1968), p. 77, prefers, the Bible? I have followed Brook's punctuation.

13-14. a wyf . . . wo: Eve, the first woman, and the first human being to succumb to the devil's temptation; see Genesis 3.

16. durfte: Brook's emendation of MS durthe.
in reynes ryde:
Probably, as Brook (1968), p. 77, suggests, a reference to the story of Phyllis and Aristotle. Aristotle is said to have reproached his pupil, Alexander the Great, for too much preoccupation with his mistress; she retaliated by offering sexual favours to Aristotle if he would let her ride him like a horse, and saw to it that Alexander witnessed his tutor's humiliation. For an extended account of the medieval uses of this story, which was very popular in both art and literature as an exemplum of the power of women, see Smith (1995); for an illustration (from a medieval tapestry on the power of love, now in the museum at Regensburg, Bavaria), see Introduction.

17. a stythye: the Virgin Mary; here, as elsewhere in this stanza, the poet's style is consciously cryptic and allusive.

22. ase sonne doth thourh the glas:  the image of the sun passing through glass was often used in medieval works to illustrate the way in which Christ entered Mary's womb without impairing her virginity; see Gray (1972), pp. 100-1.

28. hauk: MS hak.
hende ase hauk in chete: for this alliterative collocation, cf. Pearl  line 184, I stod as hende as hawk in halle.

40. Or blisse ha beyen: I do not understand the Middle English here. Literally, it seems to mean 'Or they purchase bliss' (presumably heavenly; see MED s.v. bien v. 2 b))---unless or here means 'before', which might give an easier sense (the author is not prepared to pass judgement on these women).

41. In rude: Brook (1968) , p. 78, rejects the suggestion by Brown (1932) that the word means 'face' (elsewhere rode in this MS), and Malone's speculation that it means tete-a-tete, proposing instead the translation 'Among the violent it would be peace to speak with them'; but this seems unlikely. An alternative possibility is MED ride n. (3), 'room, space' (cf. OE (WS) ryde), which might give the sense 'apart'.


Set up by Bella Millett, enm@soton.ac.uk. Last updated 31 July 2003 .