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would have swelled the bulk of this volume too much : I was obliged to desist from any original purpose, and to reserve a detailed account of the dialectal peculiarities of M.Kt. for a second volume, which is also to contain observations on Shoreham's metre and versification, and a glossarial index.
The metrical structure of the lines has, no doubt, often been sadly deranged by the scribe of the MS. In many cases it would be easy to mend it by transposing or inserting a word, adding a final e, and the like. Tempting though it was to make such slight corrections, I have, as a rule, abstained from altering the MS. text for metrical reasons alone. Only here and there, when the metre or ryme seemed to demand it, I have restored a final e left out by the scribe ; and even this, I am afraid, I have not done quite consistently.
It will be seen that, by the side of a considerable number of regular verses, there occur others which show metrical licences, but are perfectly clear as regards the sense, and do not seem to call for any emendation. How then are we to know how many licences the poet may have allowed himself, when there is only one MS. of his works left, and that one sadly corrupted ? I have, therefore, been content to try and restore the original sense where the blundering copyist of the MS. has perverted it, or even managed to produce downright nonsense. Only such emendations as seemed to me absolutely certain have I adopted into the text; any conjecture that might seem in the least doubtful I have relegated to the notes. More than once I have been driven to mere guessing; and several passages have proved so puzzling, that I have not been able even to guess at the probable sense. I have, therefore, been obliged to leave them as they stand in the MS.
In the notes I have chiefly attempted to clear up and illustrate, as far as possible, from sources which the poet is likely to have known, the meaning of all the passages that seemed to need any explanation.
My principal aim, then, in re-editing the poems has been to make the transmitted text intelligible. I am fully conscious of my shortcomings; yet I hope that fair critics, such as can realise the difficulty of the task, will not be too hard upon me.
I take this opportunity of expressing my sincere thanks to all those from whom I have received kind help. First and foremost of all to Dr. Furnivall, who not only looked through my notes, and wrote the head-lines at the top of the pages, but also took the great trouble to collate the proofs with the MS., and gave me many a valuable hint for the reconstruction of the text. If on some points I did not quite agree with him, and would rather have my own way, it was not in a spirit of dogmatism, but in consideration of facts gathered from a study of Shoreham's language and versification, which led me to adopt a different view.
I am further indebted to Professor Bülbring of Bonn, who kindly ascertained for me the MS. readings of some passages about which I was doubtful.
My grateful acknowledgments are also due to the Reverend Father Clemens Blume, S.J., co-editor of the • Analecta Hymnica,' and the Reverend Dr. Valentin Teuber, for communications most welcome to me in my search after the possible Latin sources of the poems. And last, but not least, I have to thank my friend Mr. W. H. Lovel, whose kind help, whenever asked for, was always given me most readily.
THE MANUSCRIPT. The poems here printed have been transmitted to us in a single MS. : Additional MS. 17,376, in the library of the British Museum, an octavo volume containing 220 leaves of vellum, the first 149 of which are filled
up with a prose version of the Psalms, together with certain Canticles and the Athanasian Creed, in Latin and English. These have been edited by Karl D. Bülbring for the E. E. T. S., Part I, 1891. In the Preface to that edition will be found a description of the MS., and a reprint of Sir Frederic Madden’s notice of its history, written by him on a fly-leaf prefixed to the MS.
Both the Psalter with the Canticles and the Athanasian Creed, and the Poems, are written by the same scribe, which has led to the false opinion that they are the work of one and the same author.
The date of the MS., according to Sir Frederic Madden, is the earlier half of the 14th century. In a colophon at the end of the poem on the seven deadly sins (p. 114 of the present edition) the name of Archbishop Simon of Canterbury is mentioned. This is Simon Mepham, a Kentishman, who held the see from 1327 to 1333. So the MS. cannot have been written before 1327. Mr. Wright attributes it to the beginning of the reign of Edward III. But is it really so early as that? Varnhagen (* Englische Studien,' II. p. 36, footnote), speaking of the portion which contains the poems, thinks that it can scarcely be assigned to an earlier date than the last quarter of the 14th century, and if I were to judge only from internal evidence, especially that of the spelling, I should be strongly inclined to agree with him. Dr. Furnivall, however, assures me that in his opinion the MS. cannot be later than 1350. At any rate, it is not, as Mr. Wright fancied, an autograph of the poet, but a very careless copy made by an ignorant scribe whose dialect was different from that of the author, and who—besides freely substituting the forms of his own speech for the original ones—seems to have only imperfectly understood what he was copying : so full of corruptions is his text, the sense of numerous passages being sadly obscured, or even perverted into nonsense.
In the earlier portions of the MS., chiefly in the poem on the Sacraments, rarely in other parts, we sometimes recognize a later hand, apparently that of a Kentishman, who wrote over the lines or in the margin what he fancied to be corrections of the text. His readings are not, however, based upon any independent MS. authority, but prove to be mere conjectures of little or no use for textual criticism.
CONTENTS OF THE MS. The MS. contains seven poems on religious subjects, in the following order :
I. De septem Sacramentis. De psalmo · Exercitatus sum et defecit spiritus.
The colophon at the end of it runs : Oretis pro anima domini Willelmi de Schorham quondam vicarii de chart iuxta Ledes. Qui composuit istam compilationem de septem sacramentis.
II. The Hours of the Cross, combined with Hours of the Compassion of Our Lady.
III. De decem preceptis.
Colophon at the end of it: Oretis pro anima domini Willelmi de Schorham quondam vicarii de chart iuxta ledes qui composuit istam compilationem de septem mortalibus peccatis. Et omnibus dicentibus oracionem dominicam cum salutacione angelica alta dies uenie a domino Symone Archiepiscopo cantuarie conceduntur.
V. The five Joys of the Virgin, composed at the request of a ! sosteri'
Colophon at the end of it: Oretis pro anima Willelmi de Schorham quondam vicarii de chart iuxta Leiles.
VI. On the Virgin Mary.
Colophon: Oretis pro anima ilomini Roberti Grosseteyte quondum Episcopi Lincolnice.
VII. A didactic poem on the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith : a sort of “Summa Theologiae,' treating of the grounds of our belief in the existence of a Deity, the Trinity, the creation, the revolt of Lucifer in heaven, the origin of evil, and the fall of
Here the MS. breaks off, in the middle of a disquisition on
original sin. But from a passage on p. 156–7 of the present edition we learn that the poet intended to go on with the story of our redemption :
For, ase man was por3 trowe by-couzt,
bat þe fende neste.
Of godes sone,
This portion of the poet's work, if he did finish it at all, is lost.
AUTHORSHIP OF THE POEMS. The question is, Are all the poems contained in the MS. by the same author whose name appears in the colophons at the end of the first, fourth, and fifth poems ?
To this I think we may confidently answer that the weight of internal evidence goes as far as anything to prove the common authorship of all of them, with the possible exception of No. VI, the Hymn to the Virgin. The colophon at the end of it suggests that it is a translation from Robert Grosseteste, but I have not been able to discover the original. The language shows the common characteristics of the Kentish dialect as used by the poet in his undoubtedly genuine productions. In a few cases, however, we meet with forms which are apparently at variance with the ascertained usage of the author of the other poems; as, for instance, on p. 129, 11. 61 ff., chyld (: myll : wylıl : istyld, pa. pple, of stillen). The usual forms are mylie, wylde, presumably with a long 7. Ibid., 11. 64-66, a cheaste (= a chaste one) [: breste]. Cf. p. 60, 1. 1689, chaste [: haste); also the noun chastete, p. 49, 1. 1367 (but chestete occurs in ' Ayenbite,' p. 235).—p. 127, 1. 18, hanne [: manne]; usually hennes [: sennes] p. 41, 1. 1146, [: kennes] p. 60, 1. 1684.
These cases are perhaps not strong enough to prove a different authorship for the Hymn. Poets who write in a special dialect have generally to grapple with the exigencies of ryme; and Shoreham, as we shall see, is not an exact rymer. Besides, it is antecedently not very likely that the scribe of the MS., who did his work rather mechanically, should have given himself the trouble of putting in between the poetry of William of Shoreham, which his copy must have contained, a poem taken from a different source.