Sunday, 23 December 2012

Medieval Wisdom: Five Hateful Things


I picked up a copy of a book of medieval Anglo-Irish poetry recently in a charity shop. The Kildare Poems, as the collection is known, show a strong Franciscan influence. Their author is unknown, although there is mention of a Friar Michael of Kildare as the author of one of them. The collection is preserved in the British Library Manuscript, Harley 913, and was written in Ireland in the early fourteenth century. The CELT project have made the original texts available online, although not the translations or the author's introduction. I rather liked this pithy example of medieval wisdom:

Five Hateful Things

A bishop without doctrine,
a king without judgment,
an imprudent young man,
a foolish old man,
a woman without shame -
I swear by the King of heaven,
those are five hateful things.


Here is the original:

[MS fol 6v]

Bissop lorles,
Kyng redeles,
Yung man rechles,
Old man witles,
Womman ssamles—
I swer bi heuen Kyng,
Thos beth fiue lither thing.

A.M. Lucas, ed. Anglo-Irish poems of the Middle Ages, (Dublin, 1995), 56-57.

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