Whoso loveth well our lady,
She will well repay his devotion
Either in his life or at his end;
The lady is so free and gentle.
It befell some time in Paris,
As witnesseth in holy writ stories.
In the City befell this case:
A child was poor of income,
That with the beggary what he can win
He provided something for his kin,
His father, his Mother, and also himself;
He begged in City on all sides.
The child none other crafts knew
But win his livelihood with his mouth,
The child's voice was sweet and clear,
Men listened to his song with right good cheer;
With his song that was full sweet
He got meat from street to street.
Men hearkened his song full pleasingly:
Hit was an Anthem of our lady,
He sang that Anthem everywhere,
y-called Alma Redemptoris Mater,
That is forthrightly to mean:
"God's Mother, Mild and Clean,
Heaven's Gate and Star of Sea,
Save thy people from sin and woe."
That song was thought delightful;
The child sang it from house to house.
For he sang it so pleasingly,
The Jews had all to him envy.
Till it fell on a Saturday
The child's way through the Jewry lay:
The Jews had that song in hate,
Therefore they planned the child be slain.
So pleasingly the child sang there,
So lustily sang he never ere.
One of the Jews malicious
Drew the child into his house;
His malice there he began to show:
He cut the child's throat straightaway;
The child he spared not for that wrong,
But never-the-less sang forth his song;
When he had ended, he began again,
His singing could stop no man.
Thereof the Jew was sore annoyed.
Lest his malice might be espied,
The Jew bethought him of a plan:
Into a privy put far within
The child adown therein he thrust.
The child sang ever the same song;
So lustily the child did cry,
That sang he never ere so high:
Men might him hear far and near,
The child's voice was so high and clear.
The child's mother was wont to abide
Every day till the noon-tide,
Then was he wont to bring them meat,
Such as he might with his song get.
But that day was the time a-past.
Therefore his Mother was sore a-ghast;
With sickness and sorrow in every street
She sought where she might with him meet.
But when she came into the Jewry,
She heard his voice so clear of cry.
After that voice his Mother drew:
Where he was in, thereby she knew.
Then of her child she asked a sight.
The Jew denied it straightaway,
And said ther was none such child therein.
The child's mother yet would not be still,
But ever the Mother cried on and on.
The Jew said ever there was such none.
Then said the woman: "Thou sayest wrong,
He is herein, I know his song."
The Jew began to stare and swear
And said there came none such child there.
But never-the-less men might hear
The child sang ever so loud and clear,
And ever the longer, higher and higher,
Men might him hear both far and near.
The Mother knew none other way:
To Mayor and Bailiffs she is gone,
She complains the Jew hath don her wrong
To steal her son so for his song;
She prays they do her law and right,
Her son make come before her sight;
She prays the Mayor par Charité
Of him to have full delivery.
Then she tells the Mayor also
How she lives by her son's song.
The Mayor then has of her pity,
And summons the folk of that City.
He tells them of that woman's speech,
And says he must do her the law,
And commands them with him to wend,
To bring this woman's cause to end.
When they came thither, for all their noise
Anon they heard the child's voice,
Right as an angel's voice it were,
They heard him never sing so clear.
There the Mayor makes entry,
And of the child he asks delivery.
The Jew may nought the Mayor refuse,
Nor of the child him well excuse,
But need he must acknowledge his wrong,
Attainted by the child's song.
The Mayor bid search for him, so long
Till he was found in the privy,
Full deep y-drowned in filth of dung.
The Mayor commanded draw the child up then,
With dung and filth right foul bespattered,
And also the child's throat y-carved.
Straightaway, ere they passed further,
The Jew was judged for that murder.
And ere the people went away,
The Bishop was come to see that wonder.
In presence of Bishop and all together
The child sang ever y-like clear.
The Bishop searched with his hand:
Within the child's throat he found
A lily flour, so bright and clear,
So fair a lily was never seen ere,
With golden letters everywhere:
Alma Redemptoris Mater.
As soon as that lily out was taken,
The child's song began to slake,
That sweet song was heard no more;
But as a dead corpse the child lay there.
The Bishop with greet solemnity
Bade bear the corpse through all the City:
And himself with procession
Came with the corpse through all the town,
With priests and clerks that could sing,
And all the bells he commanded them to ring,
With torches burning and clothes riche,
With worship they led that holy body.
Into the Minster when they came,
Began the Mass of Requiem,
As for the dead man is wont.
But thus soon they were y-stint:
The corpse arose in their presence,
Began then Salve sancta parens.
Men might well know the sooth thereby:
The child had y-served our sweet lady,
That worshipped him so on earth here
And brought his soul to bliss all clear,
Therefore I advise that every man
Serve that lady well as he can,
And love her in his best wise:
She will well quite him his service.
Now, Mary, for Thy much might
Help us to heaven that is so bright!
- Modernized from Minor Poems of the Vernon Manuscript, EETS, 98, London, 1892, pp. 141-45.
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