The Vernacular and the Public Sphere in ‘Amorous Carols’

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‘I am a woman, I may be bold’: the Vernacular and the Public Sphere in ‘Amorous Carols’ Use of English and the Public Sphere, c.1300-1550

In the standard account of political culture of late medieval England, the role of the English vernacular is neatly linked with the concept of the public sphere. The rise of the written vernacular is considered to be the necessary condition for the creation of a common discursive space. This ‘emergence’ narrative appeals to a notion of a national community that conducted political arguments in English.[1] There is an irony here. The notion of the public sphere was first applied by Jürgen Habermas to eighteenth century political developments; it has since proved a central discursive framework applied to nearly every historical context, not least in later medieval England – disregarding, or indeed in spite of, Habermas’ own suggestion that the Middle Ages were defined by public representation rather than a public sphere.[2] In what follows, we will suggest that Habermas may have been right to be cautious. The ‘rise of the vernacular’ does not fit tidily into the emergence of an English public sphere. We examine one genre – English ‘Amorous carols’ – where the vernacular was anything but neat, tidy, or well-behaved in public. Mikhail Bakhtin with his concept of ‘heteroglossia’, the multiplicity of tongues within a single language, may be a better muse for this public sphere. The lyrics contain competing discourses that speak to a multiplicity of purposes and audiences.

We take our cue from John Watts’ identification of the troubling assumptions that surround the idea of the formation of a consensus. The public did not speak with one voice, and public status was subject to gradual redefinition by elites that sought to create an increasingly exclusive political community.[3] Public sphere narratives have as such come to recognise to an extent the many discourses at play in the creation of a public voice over the course of the fifteenth century. Studies of vernacularity meanwhile have yet to respond here; they tend to focus narrowly on texts written around 1370-1420. This is partly because the period is seen to be distinctive, the point at which English came to be regarded as a viable high status language. Whether historians foreground the role of the literary generation of Chaucer, Langland, and Gower as largely responsible for a vernacular literary authority, or that of conscious Lancastrian policy in the emergence of a standard through Chancery English, the turn of the century is seen as a crucial period, even if this is no longer expressed in terms of a nationalistic ‘Triumph of English’.[4] This fails to address that, much like the public sphere, the vernacular was still being self-consciously produced and re-designed well into the latter half of the fifteenth century.[5]

There is a tension between the desire of historians to make the public sphere and the vernacular homogeneous, with a commonality that allows us to analyse their impact, and our concern to recognise that both are multi-vocal. This tension is not entirely historiographical: political bills and tracts of the period claimed unified status under the ‘common voice’, against rival claims of rabble-rousing and clamour.[6] In terms of the vernacular, William Caxton’s printed English is representative of attempts to bring uniformity to language, and of the difficulties involved. His prologue to his translation of Eneydos recognised that ‘it is harde to playse euery man by cause of dyuersite and chaunge of langage’.[7] He included an example of how even between London and Kent across the Thames simple language variations hindered comprehension:

And specyally he axyed after eggys. And the good wyf answerde that she coude speke no frenshe. And the marchaunt was angry for he also coude speke no frenshe but wold haue hadde egges and she vnderstode hym not. And thenne at laste a nother sayd that he wolde haue eyren. Then the good wyf sayd that she vnderstood hym wel.[8]

For Caxton, the answer to the dilemma was to attempt to strike a balance, neither too coarse nor too refined, so that his books might be as widely read as possible.[9] Although Caxton’s books contain variations across publications and even within single volumes, his prologues speak to a contemporary awareness of multiplicity that deserves our attention.

John Arnold emphasised the problem facing historians of simultaneously avoiding the silencing or colonisation of the subaltern voice. Taking legal records as his central source, he concluded:

One can (and should) read the constructed subject(s) of the multiple discourses as possessing a degree of agency constructed within these discourses; confession, in particular, depends upon a constructed subject who is self-reflexive and autonomous, confessing ‘spontaneously’ on the subject of his or her own self. So the confession is itself another poesis, a moment of self-making. The heteroglossic nature of the records leads to conflicts, oppositions and ruptures in the text; the subject speaks within competing discourses. So the ethical response of the historian to these sources is surely to provide a critical and effective reading of these ruptures, which will have the source speak against itself, against its own constraints.[10]

Thus my intention is to find moments of contradiction and internal conflict in the sources for the vernacular, not least in asking questions about the politics of gender.

In her study of late medieval household games, Nicola McDonald asserted that even if games were produced within rhetorical formula of misogyny, women don’t necessarily have to be considered as complicit in their own oppression. In erotically charged social card and word games played by both men and women, such as Chaunce of Dice and Have Your Desire, there are opportunities to both mock and manipulate.[11] Indeed, often the aim in games that include innuendo is to provoke inversion of the explicit rhetoric.[12] She concluded that a gendered approach to the pastime ‘invites us to position women…as desiring subjects’, as players were prompted to reveal their desires in a form of confession outside of conventional regulatory practice.[13] Here I am interested in considering ‘Amorous carols’ as a set of texts that could be similarly positioned for different audiences and purposes.[14] I aim to show that current models of transgression and inversion are insufficient fully to explain how these texts were understood by those who wrote, compiled, read, heard, or performed them; to recover the range of competing discourses at work in these texts, and in their social contexts. I will first consider existing debate around the carol as a genre, then examine a series of postures imputed to the carols and demonstrates how they are either absent, undermined, or entirely contradicted by the content of the texts. Rather than being simply irreverent, ‘Amorous carols’ could speak to both conservative and subversive aims. They illustrate that the vernacular and the public sphere were sites of lively, gendered dialogues.

I. GENRE AND PERFORMANCE.

The large corpus of Middle English carols, characterised by Richard Greene as popular in destination if not in origin, have been analysed by historians and musicologists with regards to form, genre, and space. A small but by no means insignificant proportion of some five hundred carols extant in manuscript were categorised by Greene as ‘Amorous carols, refined and gross’.[15] In these, women’s voices are central, but scholars have treated the lyrics predominantly as imitations of oral traditions co-opted within religious or satirical literature, and have otherwise received little critical attention.

The term ‘carol’ is generally utilised without problematisation, due in great part to the influential work of Greene. In Early English Carols, Greene set out a cogent argument for the treatment of songs with a burden, or chorus, as a single genre with a distinctive form and performance tradition. Suggesting a development from the French carole, Greene argued that these were popular tunes, meant to be sung and danced to in groups.[16] The firm chronological narrative established by Greene then follows that this tradition was appropriated by clerics in order to replace it with a church-sanctioned form, with the word carol’ beginning to adhere to its modern meaning by the end of the fifteenth century.[17] Rossell Hope Robbins has conversely argued that they are solely clerical productions based on Latin hymns.[18] In the historiography of carols, the question of authorship thus looms large. The arguments for the carols’ production by either minstrels or churchmen may be due in part to the consideration of these groups as ‘ancient enemies’[19], and gives insufficient consideration to how the dichotomisation of ‘lay’ and ‘clerical’ creates artificial boundaries. The term ‘carol’ will be used here, but with the recognition that the form had alternative functions and meanings that do not necessarily adhere to Greene or Rossell’s formal prescriptions.[20]

The consistency of carol texts is certainly significant, but before we accept Greene’s picture, there are some important questions to consider: does a consistency of form mean a consistency of usage?  Of reception? This is particularly important when approaching the carol as a genre, where the picture is further complicated by the likelihood of many levels of contribution. The author-centred paradigm has the attendant implication that copyists and readers are potential sources of contamination.[21]  It is important to remember that ‘voice’ creates the impression that a first-person narrative offers intimate access to a coherent past perspective, directing our attention away from genre and context of production. The ‘voice’ we are accessing is produced collaboratively: ‘the “I” who speaks is often someone else’.[22] These texts are multi-layered and multivocal, even if they are presented as personal.

The number of lyrics that survive across a variety of manuscript forms suggests that they were popular with a wide range of fifteenth and sixteenth century readers. In Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, MS 383, three ‘Amorous carols’ appear amongst music, several other carols, French and Latin exemplar letters, and grammatical notes. This fifteenth century miscellany is thought to have been compiled by an Oxford student as a workbook or commonplace book. It provides a useful contrast to anthologised manuscripts, demonstrating that carols were not only recorded according to genre principles. However, two of the carols, both ending in pregnancy, are copied on the same page, suggesting that the scribe recognised some commonality between the two compositions.[23]

A further consequence of the author-centred paradigm is that less consideration is given to the effects of performance, and the spaces in which the lyrics were sung and heard. Kathleen Palti has made the case for female participation in the lyric tradition with particular reference to carols, refuting the equation of “anonymous” with “male”.[24] The richest sources of references to female performance are literary. Women are frequently depicted as participating in carolling:

Was nevere noon that luste bet to synge;
Ne lady lustier in carolynge [25]

Damisels carols ledeþ[26]

Til the day dawed thise damyseles carolden[27]

The relation of the songs discussed here to literary representations of female performance is problematic, but Judith Tick has pointed to literary references as evidence of the ubiquitous presence of women in late medieval musical culture, with the lack of female attribution operating as circumstantial evidence that ‘shifts the burden of proof away from assumptions of exclusion towards more sophisticated interpretations’.[28] Although some scholars have suggested it is unlikely that women publicly sang bawdy lyrics, the moral condemnation of carolling reveals something of the perceived link between caroles and public sexual misconduct.[29] The Dominican friar John Bromyard of Hereford recorded a story in his popular manual for preachers, the Summa predicantium, that described a city populace ‘in a state of the greatest dissoluteness, that is to say dancing carols’.[30] An English mid-fifteenth century confessors’ manual records that, concerning lust, the confessor was to ‘[Enquire whether the penitent] will have taken part in caroles much, or in spectacles of this kind’.[31] Such evidence as we have is fragmentary, then, but supports a reading of the carol genre as a form that was heard publicly and performed if not written by women, and further was considered to run counter to moral discourse.

II. PUBLIC PLEASURE: WOMAN ON TOP?

In the carols, lustful women have sex on holy days, and with glee: this tempts the reading that the texts are carnivalesque works of licensed inversion, ultimately reinforcing normative behaviour. However there is a notable emphasis on sexual playfulness and mutuality that complicates this model and stretches it beyond its explanatory power.

In It was a mayde of brenten ars, it is hard to see how the female character’s active sexuality can be interpreted as inversion. The maid and the miller adopt the missionary position, conforming to contemporary moral values and heteronormative practice. But contrary to historiographical assumptions that the sexual act is one performed on rather than with a woman, the lady takes an active role in dictating the time, place, and pace of the sexual act.

Layde she was vpon a sacke;

‘Stryke softe,’ she sayd, ‘hurt not my backe,  strike gently[32]

And spare not; let the myll clacke.’[33]   mill clatter

This provides a useful counterpoint to Judith Bennett’s argument that the frequent clear reference to young women, usually of lower class, fulfils a male fantasy of a figure that is naïve, easily attainable, and always available. Here, it is the miller who is ‘full nyce’ – that is, lusty and attentive. Moreover, his ‘mylstones’ and ‘vyce’, using the tools of his trade to refer to his sexual organs, are ‘walkynge at a tryce’, always amenable to illicit encounters.[34] The final stanza emphasises that it is the maid, and not the miller, who is in control of their interactions and perhaps gains the most from them:

This mayd to myll ofte did resorte

And of her game made no reporte,

But to her it was full great conforte.[35]

It is notable that no mention is made of a holy day, removing this text from the usual context of inversion. Moreover, beyond the humorous innuendo, the miller is not made the object of ridicule: he is virile and in possession of sufficient sexual prowess to give regular ‘great conforte’ to his lover. But ultimately whether he takes pleasure from the encounter is a moot point, and the female character remains in full possession of her reputation as a maid without value judgement or consequence for her supposed transgression.

The speaker in Al this day ic han sought directly compares her excitement about the reprieve from household tasks on a holy day to her anticipation of a sexual encounter:

Yc moste feschun worton in;    I must fetch herbs

Predele my kerchief vndur my khyn;   tie (lit. thread); chin

Leue Jakke, lend me a pyn    dear; pin

To predele me this holiday.[36]

Bennett interprets this as the gift of a decorative pin.[37] Such tokens of courtship were given, but the speaker’s playful invitation that Jack ‘predele’ her is suggestive of a more flirtatious exchange. The meaning of the verb is difficult to ascertain with certainty: Thomas Duncan suggests ‘fasten’, but the innuendo at the end of the stanza makes more sense if ‘predele’ is read with a thorn as ‘thredele’, to thread.[38] The speaker’s relation of chores left undone is juxtaposed with her expectations of her lover:

Sone he wolle take me be the hond,   soon; will; by; hand

And he wolle legge me on the lond,   will lay me on the land

That al my buttockus ben of sond[39]   all; are parted[40]

The reference to ‘al’ of the speakers’ buttocks is also a little unclear. The most likely meaning is ‘totally’, or ‘utterly’ parted or penetrated, but a more literal ‘all’, where the buttocks refer more generally to the area from the vagina through to the anus is also a valid interpretation.

Is this a woman on top? In terms of her physical position, perhaps – but her role is portrayed as passive and potentially non-consensual:

In he pult, and out he drow,    in he thrust, and out he drew

And euer yc lay on hym y-low:   I lay on him low

‘By Godus deth, thou dest me wow’[41]

Duncan deals with this confusion by reading ‘I lay beneath him’, supporting this by reading ‘al my buttockus ben of sond’ as ‘covered with sand’[42], yet the unaltered text offers an insight to a far more sophisticated approach to female sexuality. Despite the speaker’s excitement and encouragement of an encounter, there is a major tension between her apparent physical positioning and her desire, or lack thereof, to fulfil the sexual act. Woman-on-top, then, does not necessarily equate either to Woman-inverted or Woman-empowered, and in these instances the reinforcement of any sexual norm is problematic at best.

III. PUBLIC POLICING.

In her study of gender and social control, Barbara Hanawalt argued that the dichotomy of public and private spheres is particularly unhelpful when applied to women’s spaces. The lack of access and often active barring of women from economic, political, and intellectual opportunities means they are necessarily reduced to a narrative of exclusion when these terms are used.[43] Instead, Hanawalt suggested that women’s boundaries could be more clearly observed by studying physical space.[44] How the Goode Wife Taught Hyr Doughter, an instructive moral work, warns about dangers for women in stepping outside of prescribed spaces. For example, readers are told to refrain from accompanying a lover to private spaces where they might be seduced:

For any thing that may befawle,
Syt not by hym, ne stand thou nought
Yn sych place ther synne mey be wroght.[45]

This establishes public spaces or accompanied spaces as the only acceptable arenas in which to conduct a courtship.[46] However, the idea that physical space demarcates how one might be expected to act is problematized in Ladd I the daunce a mydsommer day, as the seduction clearly begins in a public space. The male figure at first views the speaker as she leads the dance, then enters the ring of dancers to join her.[47] It is only by gradual degrees – ‘Euer he cam ner’ – that the flirtation escalates. Physical connection begins in full view of the company, as he steps on her toe and winks.[48]

As we trundun owre dance in a narw place,

Jak bed me the mouth; a cussynge ther was.[49]  kissing

Here then is a far more complicated view: rules of physical space are not necessarily obeyed. While the female character is encouraged to leave the company with her lover, the use of ‘bed me’ indicates that the expectation of a sexual encounter has already been established, further supported by the act of winking and stepping on the speaker’s toe. It appears this was a recognised signal in illicit semiotics: in another carol the speaker’s pregnancy immediately follows an exchange with a male character that ‘twynkelid, but sayd nowt, and on myn fot he trede’.[50]

How, then, do these texts relate to courtesy manuals and literature ostensibly for the purpose of instructing young servants away from their natal families?[51] For Marjorie McIntosh, the expanding of the genre of didactic texts represents a shift in concern towards policing the public behaviour of young people under the authority of a household from the 1460s onwards.[52] This timeframe appears to be supported by the contemporaneous publishing efforts of Caxton, with such texts as the Book of Good Manners (1487) and the Book of Curtesye (1477/8) placing high emphasis on the responsibility of householders, and in particular patriarchs, in teaching good virtue and discipline.[53] ‘Amorous carols’ with pregnancy narratives, appearing in a variety of late fifteenth century manuscripts are generally considered to further supplement these aims. Debate regarding the role of pregnancy in the carols centres on the extent to which the scenario can be interpreted as a cautionary tale or ‘lament’ to illustrate the consequences of illicit sexual relationships. Bennett argues that they may have been performed by women, but were produced to police women’s behaviour, to warn against licentiousness among single women, a group growing in independence in fifteenth-century England as more adolescents and young people served out apprenticeships away from home.[54] Yet, it is hard to read Ladd y the daunce a Myssomur Day as a lament. The burden protests the innocence of the speaker:

Alas, als, the wyle!     alas; time

Thout Y on no gyle,[55]     thought; no impropriety (lit. guile)

However, this becomes increasingly hollow as the carol progresses, especially when juxtaposed with her narrative of entering the clerk’s chamber.

Forsothe tho Jak and yc wenten to bedde;

He prikede, and he pransede; nolde he neuer lynne;

Yt was the murgest nyt that euer Y cam ynne.[56]

Her appreciation of the clerk’s sexual prowess leaves us with a knowing speaker. She describes the encounter as ‘the merriest night’ in which she ever ‘came’, with the implication that, while claiming ignorance and exonerating herself of any blame for the encounter, the speaker is an enthusiastic participant with an appreciative female gaze.[57] This opens up, however, a problematic space in the lyrics and their contemporary reception, where it appears that description of consensual encounters had to pay lip service to the moral discourse of pre-marital sex by implying regret.

Lori Ann Garner discusses how the burden affects how the rest of the carol is read. In Al this day ic han sought, she suggests the burden expresses regret as the speaker realizes ‘that no longer can she do as she wishes on holidays’ because of her pregnancy.[58] There is little support for this in the burden itself, which expresses such excitement at the approach of the holy day that the speaker is unable to concentrate on her household tasks:

Rybbe ne rele ne spynne ic ne may I cannot clean flax, nor reel thread, nor spin

For joyghe that it is holyday.[59]   joy

Interpreting this as a lament intended to reinforce marriage as the only acceptable conjugal context requires reading solely through a moralising lens. For Garner, then, it is not the burden but historiographical assumptions about the purpose of carols that conditions her interpretation.

Critical discussions of This enther day I mete a clerke have remained similarly confused. The pregnancy of the servant resulting from her encounter has conditioned treatments of the song, with historians such as John Plummer interpreting the burden as an expression of regret.

A, dere God, qwat I am fayn,    glad

For I am madyn now gane.[60]    again

However, the phrase ‘qwat am I fayn’, ‘how glad I am’, cannot be construed to support such a reading. Plummer appears to justify his interpretation of the burden by reading the second line, ‘I am a madyn now gane’, as ‘I have lost my maidenhead’. Neil Cartlidge suggests that the more likely meaning is ‘I am a maiden now again’. The speaker appears to be celebrating the restoration of her social status as a virgin, having successfully kept her pregnancy a secret.[61] This potential for double meaning enables a female audience to read the poem in ways that transcend the ostensible didacticism.[62] Alternatively, the latter definition might be considered the primary one. Indeed, Cartlidge argues that there is little support in the Middle English Dictionary for reading ‘gane’ as ‘gone’, rendering such a reading a very thin, if at all existent, veil for the speaker’s jubilant escape from becoming a social outcast.

Greene titled this carol A Betrayed Maiden, and like Plummer regarded it as a lamentation. He asserted that pregnancy after pilgrimage was a common subject for jest and moralising.

I xall sey to man and page

That I haue bene of pylgrymage [63]

Yet the speaker’s plan to say she has been on pilgrimage is clearly formulated as a response to her pregnancy, and not its cause: ‘qwat xall I say?/ I xall sey to man and page’.[64] The burden then appears as a reflection, the final perspective on successfully having kept the pregnancy a secret. Rather than facing the censure of the community, the speaker has faced no consequences for her encounter.

The text also explores different levels of blame towards men. The cleric seduces her with clever words: ‘And he was wylly in hys werke’, ‘I trow he cowd of gramery’.[65] It further appears she has no male familial authority figure to regulate her behaviour, ‘To warne hys wyll had I no may’.[66] The performance or reading of these lines could potentially result in significantly differing narratives. The reception could be conspiratorial with the clerk, with the gullibility of the young woman becoming the focus of ridicule, or with the young woman’s knowing asides and anticipation of his sexual advances.[67] The ambiguity of the text is perhaps best demonstrated in the closing lines of the final stanza:

Now wyll I not lete for no [r]age   will; let/stop; desire[68]

With me a clerk for to pley.[69]    play

‘Lete’ could, as in line ten, mean ‘let’ or ‘allow’, as in ‘I won’t allow any clerk to play with me – not for any wantonness’. However, Cartlidge suggests that ‘lete’ could take as its root the Old English ‘gelettan’, ‘prevent’: ‘I won’t stop a clerk playing with me’.[70] As such, the carol can be taken to warn of the dangers of fraternising with clerks. But assuming the burden celebrates a positive resolution for the speaker, a second more mischievous message emerges: having escaped censure once, the speaker is likely to seek further illicit encounters. The text, then, can speak to different purposes. The clerical hierarchy could exploit an existing lyrical tradition to support the ideal of marriage and licit sex, but this is far from the only, perhaps not even the primary, meaning to be taken. The categorisation of this narrative as a ‘lament’ appears to be based on a rather earnest reading of the text, itself full of playful innuendo and double entendre that undermines any potential moral message.

IV. PUBLIC RESPONSIBILITY.

It is worth briefly considering here the prevalent theories of later medieval Europe regarding conception. Competing seminal ideas produced a debate in medieval medical thought and natural philosophy that centred on the matter of rape.[71] One widely circulated theory, based on the ideas of Galen, held that women as well as men emitted seed, and only when an emission was made, through orgasm, could conception occur. For pregnancy to occur as a result of rape was therefore impossible, and conception proved that the woman had taken pleasure in the sexual act.[72] This was not without nuance: some suggested that the body was capable of experiencing pleasure even if the mind did not, so conception in non-consensual relations was possible.[73] There was a range of contesting and contrasting theories, but the Galenic theory of conception seems to have been favoured in legal discourse.[74] The late thirteenth century Mirror of Justices states:

In appeal of rape he may defend the felony and say that he did not corrupt her against her will, but with her assent, as fully appeared from this that she conceived a child by him at the same hour.[75]

In the case of Lady Isobel Butler, the question of how she could have conceived without assenting was resolved thus:

To which she answered, that although her flesh was in a way accordant to her ravisher, nevertheless in her innermost will and in her soul she always bore a grudge against him and in her soul never assented.[76]

The belief that conception could not take place unless both parties experienced pleasure on some level had much contemporary currency, and cases like Lady Isobel’s were likely considered to have greater chances of success if framed in these terms. Yet in The last tyme the well-ey woke, questions of guilt and blame for non-consensual sexual encounters are discussed with greater depth and complexity than legal discourse perhaps suggests.

I go with childe, wel I wot;

I schrew the fadur that hit gate,   curse

Withouten he fynde hit mylke and pap

A long while-ey.[77]

Louise McInnes suggests that the carols lack in sympathetic tone towards unmarried women who become pregnant, as the fact indicates a woman had been more than happy to engage in illicit sex.[78] However, the speaker here places sole responsibility for the pregnancy on the male character, contrary to the more shared or indeed female responsibility for pregnancy discussed above. This can be taken to demonstrate that theories of conception were not uniform, but may also point to a more practical approach taken by the speaker regarding the ordeal: by clearly stating that the male character is to blame, an obligation to provide for the child is asserted. As such, incongruity around female agency is reflected in the carol, where a passive role in procreation is stressed to actively seek recompense. As such, the reading of these lyrics as a ‘Woman’s Lament’ expressing regret at the speaker’s complicity does not sufficiently consider the internal dynamics of responsibility.

The last tyme the well-ey woke contains the most explicit case of sexual violence in a carol, throwing these issues into the sharpest contrast. The speaker is approached by ‘Ser John’, a priest, who threatens her with excommunication, forcing her to take an oath of silence.[79] The following encounter is unequivocally rape:

Yet he did me a wel wors turne:

He leyde my hed agayn the burne;   well

He gafe my maydenhed a spurne

And rofe my bell [-ey.][80] tore my pudenda[81]/ stole my prize[82]

The violent tone is clear, yet as with other examples of sexual acts we have considered there is room for interpretation of the final line. Greene’s reading is ‘stole my prize’, taking the most euphemistic interpretation to point to the speaker’s loss of her virginity. This provides a veil for the alternative, far more explicit meaning: that he tore her pudenda. Duncan reads ‘tore my pretty (thing)’, bell being short for the Old French bele chose. This euphemism is used by Chaucer’s Wife of Bath: ‘For if I wolde selle my bele chose/ I koude walke as fressh as is a rose’.[83]

The priest then further appears to abuse his clerical privileges and the trust of the community by gaining access to the speaker in her home to facilitate further encounters that are presented as pleasurable.

Fro euensong tyme til light of the day;

We made as mery as flowres in May;

I was begyled-ay.[84]

Here, the picture is complicated by the change in the speaker’s tone towards the priest. Her “beguilement” plays into the trope of the conquered woman, at first resistant to advances but then accepting or indeed enthusiastic. For men, the subsequent pregnancy of the speaker could be confirmation of male sexual prowess. For women, there may be potential for humour in the idea that an encounter was so pleasurable it was bound to result in pregnancy. However, there is real ambivalence in the manner in which the sexual encounters are described; the received female wisdom that the perceived link between pleasure and pregnancy isn’t necessarily reflective haunts the edges of the text. We afford such sophistication of meaning to male constructions of sexuality. Indeed, ‘regardless of the sex of the fictional speaker, the ironic perspective of the carols is taken to reinforce misogynistic views’.[85] There is the implicit assumption that because misogyny was a dominant discourse in late medieval England, the carols have to be read from within that discourse to be correctly understood. Beyond reading for misogynistic tropes and satire, there is potential to consider how carols present attempts in the vernacular to articulate concepts of non-consent, and withdrawal of desire.

V. VERNACULAR POSSIBILITIES.

Commentary on the Song of Songs developed as a lively medieval genre. For Latinate monastic authors, its images could serve as tropes, with short quotes serving as signals for exegesis.  The Song of Songs also became the subject of vernacular literature, at first in comparable, very conservative commentary form, but it gradually appearing in more secular forms.[86] Ann Matter’s discussion of vernacular adaptations focuses on courtly literature traditions, and how the Song of Songs influenced poetry ‘not primarily…oriented towards sing the love between Christ and the Church, Christ and the soul, or God and the Virgin Mary’.[87] She gives the example of the minnesinger poem that begins, ‘du bist mîn, ich bin dîn[88], echoing Song of Songs 2:16, ‘dilectus meus mihi et ego illi[89] but rendering it as an expression of human love[90]. Other critics have considered this convention, such as Giovanni Pozzi identifying verses from the Song of Songs that are used as stock literary phrases in Provencal, French, and Italian poetry to describe beauty. Matter’s comments are preliminary: she emphasises that there is far more work to be done on vernacular variations on the themes of the Song of Songs.[91] In Summe men sayen that y am blac, the transformation of the Song of Songs is even more dramatic:

Summe men sayen that y am blac;[92]

Yt ys a colour for my prow.    to my advantage

Ther y love ther ys no lac,

Y may not be so whyte as thou.[93]

The lyrics appear to take their theme from Song of Songs 1:4, ‘nigra sum sed formosa filiae Hierusalem’, but change the trajectory to discuss the sexual prowess of ‘ale hem that buth broune’, in contrast to traditional exegesis where beauty comes from penitence and faith.[94]

In amorous lyrics, there are possibilities in the English vernacular that cannot be explored in any other language. This can be most clearly demonstrated in cases where confusion of sexual signifiers is central to the lyrics’ meaning. In Latin, constructions tend to give a well-defined sense of who is doing what, and to (or with) whom. In Middle English, there is much more room to play with both subject and object. In My wanton ware shall walk for me, the repeated use of ‘he’, which had not yet taken on a specific reference to male singular, could variously be taken to mean any number of people of any gender.[95]

I wyll nott spare

To play with yow

He tygh he tygh     his/he/their[96]; thing[97]

He hyght he[98]      he/she/they;hit[99]; her/him/them

The later reference to marriage, ‘I were wedded I wold bi glade’, perhaps suggests the speaker is talking of a heteronormative encounter.[100] The musing that she may at some point ‘fforbeare sum may [authoritative man, usually head of household] to find’ could be taken as indicative of same-sex practice, but equally there is the implication that the speaker simply isn’t ready to settle for one partner just yet.[101] The ambiguity of the pronouns does leave this open to interpretation, inclusive of any number or gender of participants in any combination. Most often, ‘he’ refers to ‘they’:  any ‘tygh’ will do.[102] The stanza include further adjectival obfuscation:

I am a woman I may be bold

though I be lyttyll yett am I old[103] young (lit. little); experienced (lit. old)[104]

While the second line here denotes that the speaker’s experience is greater than is usual for her years, there is nothing in the first line to suggest that her boldness is unusual for a woman. Further, if the speaker is to settle for a male partner, he must be ‘of gentyll nature’[105] – a description which she then uses for herself in the next stanza, ‘I will be gentyll come when ye wyll’.[106] The ungendered use of adjectives supports the pronominal play and undermining of gender norms in a sexual context. The vernacular, then, allowed for new possibilities in language play, rather than simply being the common world’s speech.  We see now how this ludic impulse might set up new encounters between the vernacular and Latin.

VI. GENRE AND IRREVERENCE.

John Anthony Cuddon’s Dictionary of Literary Terms echoes the common critical assumption that ‘the intention in macaronics is nearly always comical and/or nonsensical’.[107] Elizabeth Archibald argues that this holds only when ‘macaronic’ is used in its stricter sense, that is, adding Latin endings to vernacular words. Intrasentential switches, or the use of two languages within a sentence are not, she suggests, predominantly irreverent.[108]

Indeed, by the mid-fifteenth century in England macaronic verse was an established literary tradition. In most macaronic carols, a tail-rhyme form is used. The narrative is given in English, with Latin in the cauda or tail line to provide scriptural authority, as with short quotations used in macaronic sermon literature.[109] Ad Putter uses the example of Gabryell, that angel bright to illustrate this:

Gabryell that angel bright,    Gabriel

Bryghtter than the son light,    brighter; sun

From hevy to erth he toke his flight;   heaven; earth; took

Regina celi, letare.[110]     Queen of heaven, rejoice

The conflation of forms thus masks the ways in which different kinds of macaronics are used. As Tim Machan emphasises, code-switching can occur in a variety of dialogues and is therefore subject to generic conventions, all of which produce their own connotations.

When a code-switch in a carol is comical, it therefore seems likely that the humour is derived from the inversion of the usually authoritative nature of the switch within the genre. The Inducas carols offer an important example of two carols, appearing in two entirely separate manuscripts, that use the same burden for different narratives of illicit relations between friars and nuns.[111] The satirical burden is a corruption of a phrase from the Pater Noster: ‘lead us not into temptation’ becomes ‘lead us in temptations’ by omitting the crucial negative.[112]

The undermining of the Latin code-switch is also explored in the stanzas of Ther was a friar of order gray. A misquotation of Matt. 12:18, ‘ponam spiritum meum super eum[113] becomes a reference to penetrative sex, ‘Et ponam tollum meum ad te’ – ‘and I shall put my weapon to you’.[114] The friar gives the nun singing lessons:

The nunne was taught to syng ‘Sepe’,   often

Inducas,

Lapides expungnaverunt me’    the stones have overcome me

In temptationibus.[115]

The reference to Psalm 129:1, ‘saepe expugnaverunt me a juventute mea’[116] is identified by Duncan, but he does not consider the verses in their wider context, as Ann Matter suggests Latin extracts were interpreted.[117] Psalm 129 was recited at Compline in the Office of the Blessed Virgin. It therefore seems likely that the friar is teaching the nun to sing in sequence. The psalm continues, ‘supra dorsum meum fabricaverunt peccatores; prolongaverunt iniquitatem suam’: the code-switch is not only profane in its twisting of the wording of scriptural authority, but it subverts the meaning of the remainder of the Psalm.[118]

These examples demonstrate interactions between Latin and the vernacular where the authority of the former is undermined, either through translation out of context or utilisation of the common trope of quoting short passages to indicate the wider context, then changing the connotations.

VII. CODE SWITCHING.

Scholars have until recently focussed on code-switching as an oral phenomenon, but increasingly historians such as Machan have demonstrated the potential in analysing code-switches in late medieval English literary practices. The intelligibility of literature, he argues, depends on a ‘degree of verisimilitude’: the lack of comment or emphasis on code-switching in literature marks it as an unremarkable and uncontroversial sociolinguistic practice.[119] More recent developments include viewing code-switching as being not just between two languages but between versions of the same language.[120]

In literary studies, short term code-switches are sometimes interpreted as demonstrative of limited proficiency in acquired languages. This can be applied to both author and characters, often depending on knowledge of the author. In the case of the Wife of Bath and Lady Mede in Mary Davidson’s study, the lack of ability to sustain a code-switch betrays characters as ‘under-lettered, limited monolinguals’.[121] This notion is predicated on our knowledge that both Chaucer and Langland’s own multilingual skills surpassed that of their literary constructions. Susan Crane makes a similar point regarding the Wife of Bath – that she speaks ‘through and against’ misogynistic clerical literature. The literary antecedents represent the group she is excluded from.[122]

In Growing Up Bilingual, Ana Celia Zentella found that Puerto Rican children living in New York would code-switch into their native language for taboo topics. Zentella interpreted this as the identification of vulgar words with the vulgar tongue.[123] It is interesting to consider the last stanza of Ther was a frier of order gray in this context:

Thus the fryer lyke a pretty man,

Inducas,

Ofte rokked the nunnës quoniam burnished (lit. rocked); pudenda (lit. whereas)

In temptationibus.[124]

Quoniam, literally ‘whereas’ in Latin, considered to be a pun on the Old French conin, rabbit, was used to refer to the female pudenda. In contrast to the idea that a superposed language is the more formal[125], here the affectation in Latin clearly occupies the same position within the code-switch as Spanish in Zentella’s study. It can be argued that the code-switch has an obscuring function, though it seems reasonable to suggest that quoniam was a widely-understood euphemism among literate circles at least, since the Wife of Bath uses it in the same sense.

And trewely, as myne housbondes tolde me,

I hadde the best quoniam myghte be.[126]

In the context of the earlier Latin lyrics of the carol, it can be argued that this is more than simply a case of a loan word, imported into the English vernacular with other borrowings such as ‘Gramercy’.[127] Greater insight is afforded if we consider code-switching  as one form of many footing strategies, a means of negotiating position in relation to others and to subject matter.[128] As Davidson has discussed, by means of language choice a ‘speaker establishes whether membership is shared with an interlocuter’, marking status within or without a group, whether social, cultural, political, or otherwise. [129] Footing describes a change of alignment: it provides an explanatory framework for two forms of code-switching previously seen as distinct: situational (response to social situation, relationships and group membership) and metaphorical (response to change in subject matter, relation to own words).[130] Boundaries are not necessarily formed by physical space but the languages used within spaces.[131] Moving away from Marxist and structuralist models of class formation, this sociolinguistic approach allows us to consider how language constituted borders and boundaries in society. These insights can shed light not only on the oral, but also on the written context of the carols.

VIII. MANUSCRIPT CONTEXT

Intertextuality, from a broadly structuralist or semiotic perspective, has at its core the assumption that all communication is dependent on mutual understanding of codes and conventions between communicants.[132] In S/Z, Roland Barthes outlined five lost codes of implicit knowledge, where it is precisely the relation to other texts that renders literature intelligible. He means lost in the sense that their origin is unknown, their use therefore to some extent neutral or naïve.  Ann Jefferson offers the critique that by viewing texts in these terms, the reader is solely a passive consumer.[133]

The issue with this becomes apparent when we consider the manuscript context for ‘Amorous carols’. There was a friar of order gray, referring to the grey habit worn by the Fransican order, in MS is preceded by two carols by the Franciscan James Ryman, with pious subject matter and burdens drawn from the Latin liturgy. It seems reasonable to suggest that the positioning of this text was intended as a satirical comment on Ryman’s carols.[134] In this configuration, it is the pious carols that become profane, rather than the co-option of lyrics into sacred tradition suggested elsewhere.

St John’s College, Cambridge, MS S.54 frames the so-called ‘lament’ of a woman seduced and left pregnant, This enther day I mete a clerke, between two songs on praise of virgins. St John’s has been shown to likely be the work of two scribes, both anonymous. Palti has tentatively suggested that scribe B, in whose uncertain hand these songs are written, could be a woman. Less speculatively, this anthology attests to how songs could be manipulated by context: these lyrics were meant to be viewed or heard as a cycle, providing aspirational and warning examples for women.[135] Where we are so often lacking in contextual information for texts without author or attribution, manuscript setting acts as a corrective to modern anthologising.[136]

Other historians have instead been informed by Bakhtin’s theory of the function of intertextuality, in which the discourse of fiction is not continuous or uniform. Intertextuality does not come from relation to other texts, but explicit or implicit quoting of other discourses within the text. The novel, or indeed the historical text, then, is an active site for probing discourses and as such cannot be analysed as a single language.[137] He concludes:

Any novel is to a greater or less extent a dialogized system of images of “languages”, styles, and of consciousnesses that are concrete and inseparable from language. Language in the novel not only represents, but itself serves as an object of representation. The word in the novel is always self-critical.[138]

One way in which competing discourses are realised within the novel is through quotation of direct speech. For Christopher Baswell, sudden or contextually unexpected appearances of different codes are examples of ‘languages of authenticity’, distinct from code-switching and uses of authenticating languages of prestige.[139] In other words, by identifying competing discourses, in some cases it is possible to identify realistic speech. This depends on reading texts in the same, genre-specific, way that Bakhtin reads novels, as having a ‘commitment to realism and representation’.[140]

The ‘reality’ here is not unmediated. We must bear in mind that ‘speech within speech becomes also speech about speech’.[141] Code-switches are one way of identifying these. For example, switches into French in Langland are argued by Machan to associate the reported speech with noble discourse: ‘the French imports the flavour of the aristocratic court’[142], creating opportunities to critique rather than being simply in the pursuit of reflecting reality.

The problem for ‘Amorous carols’ is that the ‘authentic’ speaker behind the character invoked in the lyrics is presumed to be male.[143] The texts cannot be read as earnest, but Plummer’s discounting of female authorship on the grounds that the female persona is ‘rather too well evoked’ is rather too unsophisticated.[144] Certainly we need not accept that the gender of persona and author are the same, but the overwhelming assumption by historians that a well-developed, ironic voice must reinforce misogyny short circuits a gendered exploration.

IX. CONCLUSION

This exploration of ‘Amorous carols’ reveals the limits of the current received wisdom on the rise of the vernacular and the public sphere in late medieval England. These two phenomena only appear to fit together because they have been narrowly defined, with reference almost entirely to canonical authors and to high political culture. The anonymity of the carols has conferred on them a peripheral status – but the vernacular is an overwhelmingly anonymous language. The weight of the evidence should redirect our attention: the sheer range of manuscript type, perhaps most particularly their potential for “mainstream” commercial value as attested by Richard Kele’s 1550 printed edition, suggestive of a wider audience for carols.[145]

The carols also expose the limits of our assumptions about gender in the public sphere. Because the ideas explored in them do not support our understanding of moral discourse, their public and flirtatious nature is read ultimately as a reinforcement of gendered social control. Bennett has highlighted how female voices might simultaneously ‘repeat and not repeat’ misogynistic literary conventions.[146] Here, I have suggested that we can go further. Although carols can be read to analyse how the masculine world perceived female sexuality, the combinatory, participatory practices of carol production, performance, and reception are not sufficiently explained by male religious or satirical co-option, or inversion. ‘Amorous carols’ tell us about attitudes to pre-marital sex, responses to resulting pregnancy, and anxieties regarding women out-of-bounds. There is still plenty more to be done: the role of violence within the texts, the tensions between women within a household, and the role of the seductive cleric require sustained attention. For now, we may conclude that medieval culture had room for a more capacious and more nuanced sense of sexual pleasure than we habitually assume. ‘Amorous carols’ navigate misogyny, switch gender and discursive codes with bewildering fluency and confidence. They sing of sexuality in ways that are broad, in every sense – and they are public.

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[1] D. Rollison, ‘Conceit and Capacities of the Vulgar Sort: the Social History of English as a Language of Politics’, Journal of Social and Cultural History 2:2 (2005), 141-64, at 141.

[2] J. Habermas et al, ‘The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article’, New German Critque 3 (1974), 49-55, at 50.

[3] J. Watts, ‘The Pressure of the Public on Later Medieval Politics’, in Political Culture in Late Medieval Britain eds. L. Clark and C. Carpenter (Woodbridge, 2004), 159-180, at 174.

[4] J. Catto, ‘Written English: The Making of a Language 1370-1400’, Past & Present 179 (2003), 24-59, at 25; J. Fisher, ‘A Language Policy for Lancastrian England’, Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 107:5 (1992), 1168-1180, at 1170. See R.F. Jones, The Triumph of the English Language: A Survey of Opinions Concerning the Vernacular from the Introduction of Printing to the Restoration (Stanford, 1953) for ‘triumph’ narrative.

[5] S. Lerer, Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language (New York, 2007).

[6] E. Steiner, ‘Commonalty and Literary Form in the 1370s and 1380s’, New Medieval Literatures 6 (2003), 199-221.

[7] W. Caxton, ‘Eneydos’, Caxton’s Eneydos, 1490: Englisht from the French Liure de Eneydes, 1483, eds. M.T. Culley & F.J. Furnivall (London, 1890), 3.

[8] Caxton, ‘Eneydos’, 2.

[9] Caxton, ‘Eneydos’, 3.

[10] J. Arnold, ‘The Historian as Inquisitor: The Ethics of Interrogating Subaltern Voices’, Rethinking History 2:3 (1998), 379-386, 384.

[11] N. McDonald, ‘Fragments of (Have Your) Desire: Brome Women at Play’, Medieval Domesticity: Home, Housing and Household in Medieval England, ed. P.J.P. Goldberg and M. Kowaleski (Cambridge, 2008), 232-58, at 233.

[12] McDonald, ‘Fragments of (Have Your) Desire’, 243-4.

[13] Ibid., 258.

[14] I use as my base-editions for the carols R.L. Greene, The Early English Carols, 1st ed. (Oxford, 1935), hereafter EEC, and T.G. Duncan, Medieval English Lyrics and Carols (Cambridge, 2013), hereafter MELC. Line references are for these editions.  Translations are my own: different interpretations are discussed.

[15] EEC, ix.

[16] EEC, xvii.

[17] Ibid., xxiii.

[18] R.H. Robbins, ‘The Earliest Carols and the Franciscans’, Modern Language Notes 53:4 (1938), 239-45.

[19] C. Page, The Owl and the Nightingale (London, 1989), 110.

[20] K. Palti, ‘Synge we now alle and sum’: A study of British Library, Sloane MS 2593; Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Poet e.1; and St John’s College, Cambridge, MS S.54’, DPhil Thesis, University College London (2008), 44.

[21] L. Finke, Women’s Writing in English: Medieval England (London, 1999), 72.

[22] F.E. Dolan, True Relations: Reading, Literature and Evidence in Seventeenth Century England (Philadelphia, 2013), 117.

[23] ‘Al this day ic han sought’ and ‘Ladd Y the daunce a Myssomur Day’, Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, MS. 383. P.41.

[24] Palti, ‘Synge we now alle and sum’, 250-1.

[25] G. Chaucer, ‘Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale’, The Riverside Chaucer, ed. L.D. Benson, 3rd edn (Oxford, 1988), 280, l.1344-5.

[26] Of Arthour and of Merlin, ed. O. D. Macrae-Gibson (2 vols, London, 1973), i, 127, l.1714.

[27] W. Langland, The Vision of Piers Plowman, ed. A.V.C. Schmidt (London, 1978), 325, Bk.XVIII, l.427.

[28] J. Tick, ‘Women in Music’, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie, 2nd ed. (29 vols, London, 2001), xxvii, 519-542, at 524.

[29] C. Page, The Owl and the Nightingale (London, 1989), 111.

[30] Ibid., 113.

[31] From MS Bodley 801, f.205r-v, trans. from ibid., 120.

[32] Medieval English Dictionary, https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med/, (22 April 2017), hereafter MED, soft(e) (adj.) 3a. Gentle, not rough; also 8a. Slow, unhurried.

[33] ‘It was a mayde of brenten ars’, MELC, 289, l.6-8

[34] Ibid., l.10-2.

[35] Ibid., l.13-5.

[36] ‘Al this day ic han sought’, EEC, 306-7, l.11-14

[37] J. Bennett, ‘Ventriloquisms: When Maidens Speak in English Songs, c. 1300-1550’, Medieval Woman’s Song: Cross-Cultural Approaches, eds. A. Klinck & A. Rasmussen (Philadelphia, 2002), 187-204, at 195.

[38] MELC, 280; Greene reads ‘adorn’, from MED priden (v.); N. Cartlidge, ‘‘Alas, I go with chylde’: Representations of Extra‐Marital Pregnancy in the Middle English Lyric’, English Studies 79:5, (1998), 395-414, at 403, corrects to [Th]redele. See J. Wright, The English Dialect Dictionary (6 vols, Oxford, 1981), vi, 107 for usage of threadle (v).

[39] ‘Al this day ic han sought’, l.15-7.

[40] MED, sonderen (v.) 1a. to separate; or perhaps more graphically MED sounden(v.(1)) 1a. to penetrate; MELC, 281, reads ‘are covered with sand’ to match corrections of the other rhymes of the stanza. This does not take into account the positioning of the couple, discussed below. It seems more likely that ‘hand’ and ‘land’ are variated to place emphasis on the final line of the stanza.

[41] ‘Al this day ic han sought’, l.35-7.

[42] Ibid, l.17.

[43] B. Hanawalt, Of Good and Ill Repute: Gender and Social Control in Medieval England (Oxford 1998), 71.

[44] Ibid.

[45] ‘How the Goode Wife Taught Hyr Doughter’, The Trials and Joys of Marriage, ed. E. Salisbury (Kalamazoo, 2002), 219-224, at 219, l.30-2.

[46] Hanawalt, Of Good and Ill Repute, 74.

[47] ‘Ladd y the daunce a Myssomur Day’, EEC, 307-8, l.9-12.

[48] Ibid., l.13-14.

[49] Ibid., l.18-19.

[50] ‘As I went on Yol Day in owre prosessyon’, EEC, 308-9, l.20.

[51] M. Bailey, ‘In Service and at Home: Didactic Texts for Children and Young People’, Parergon 24:2 (2007), 23-46, at 25.

[52] M. McIntosh, Controlling Misbehaviour in England, 1370-1600 (Cambridge, 1998), 191-200.

[53] Bailey, ‘In Service and at Home’, 38-40.

[54] Bennett, ‘Ventriloquisms’, 187-204.

[55] ‘Ladd y the daunce a Myssomur Day’, l.1-2.

[56] Ibid., l.31-3.

[57] The Oxford English Dictionary does not support ‘come’ in relation to orgasm until 1650. The MED also contains no examples of this sense, however, given the database’s reliance on canonical texts to establish usage, I concur with Putter that it is ‘risky to rely too much on MED evidence when one is seeking to recover the connotations of words’. See A. Putter, ‘Code-switching in Langland, Chaucer, and the Gawain poet: Diglossia and footing’, Code-Switching in Early English, eds. H. Schendl & L. Wright (Berlin, 2012), 281-301, at 289. Masten has further specifically argued for an earlier usage of ‘come’ as sexual slang in Christopher Marlowe’s Edward The Second, 1594, in his forthcoming critical edition. J. Masten, ‘Edward II’ (unpublished paper, delivered 9 March 2017, Body Language Bawdy Talk Conference, University of Michigan).  I am grateful to Prof. Masten for his comments on this section.

[58] L. Garner, ‘Contexts of Interpretation in the Burdens of Middle English Carols’, Neophilologus 84:3 (2000), 467-482, at 475.

[59] ‘Al this day ic han sought’, l.1-2.

[60] ‘This enther day I mete a clerke’, EEC, 308, l.1-2.

[61] Cartlidge, ‘‘Alas, I go with chylde’: Representations of Extra‐Marital Pregnancy’, 396.

[62] S.A. McLoughlin, ‘Gender and Transgression in the Late Medieval English Household’, PhD Thesis, University of York (2011), 89.

[63] ‘This enther day I mete a clerke’, l.15-6.

[64] Ibid., l.14-15.

[65] Ibid., l.4, 7.

[66] Ibid., l.10.

[67] McLoughlin, ‘Gender and Transgression in the Late Medieval English Household’, 87-8.

[68] MED, rage(n.) 6. amorous longing or desire. Greene reads [qw]age, reward.

[69] ‘This enther day I mete a clerke’,l.17-8.

[70] Cartlidge, ‘‘Alas, I go with chylde’: Representations of Extra‐Marital Pregnancy’, 397.

[71] E. Bennett Histed, ‘Medieval Rape: A Conceivable Defence?’, The Cambridge Law Journal 63:3 (2004), 743-69, at 746.

[72] J. Cadden, Meanings of Sex Difference in the Middle Ages: Medicine, Science, and Culture (Cambridge, 1993), 118-9.

[73] R. Mazo Karras, Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing Unto Others (London, 2012), 113.

[74] See C.J. Saunders, Rape and Ravishment in the Literature of Medieval England (Cambridge, 2001).

[75] The Mirror of Justices, ed. W.J. Whittaker, Selden Society Publications, Vol. 7 (London, 1893), 103, Bk. III, Ch.21.

[76] Bennett Histed, ‘Medieval Rape: A conceivable Defence?’, 755.

[77] ‘The last tyme I the wel woke’,EEC, 309, l.19-22.

[78] L. McInnes, The Social, Political and Religious Contexts of the Late Medieval Carol, PhD Thesis, University of Huddersfield (2013), 146.

[79] ‘The last tyme I the wel woke’, l.3-6.

[80] Ibid., l.7-10.

[81] MED, riven (v.(2)) 1a. to tear; bell(n.), short for bele chose, female sex organ.

[82] EEC, 449, n.456.

[83] Chaucer, ‘The Wife of Bath’s Prologue’, The Riverside Chaucer, 111, l.447-8.

[84] ‘The last tyme I the wel woke’, l.12-4.

[85] K. Boklund-Lagopoulou, ‘I have a yong suster’: Popular Song and the Middle English Lyric (Dublin, 2002), 221.

[86] E.A. Matter, The Voice of My Beloved: The Song of Songs in Western Medieval Christianity (Philadelphia, 1992), 178-9.

[87] Ibid., 192.

[88] ‘You are mine, I am yours’.

[89] ‘My beloved is mine and I am his’.

[90] Matter, The Voice of My Beloved, 192.

[91] Ibid., REF.

[92] MELC, 229, reads ‘dark’.

[93] ‘Summe men sayen that y am blac’, MELC, 279-80, l.1-4.

[94] ‘I am black but beautiful daughters of Jerusalem’, Song of Songs 1:4; ‘Summe men sayen that y am blac’, l.21; M.H. Pope, The Song of Songs: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (London, 1977), 309.

[95] ‘My wanton ware shall walk for me’, B. Fehr, ‘Weitere Beiträge zur englischen Lyric des 15 und 16 Jahrhunderts’, Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen 107 (1901), 48-61, at 58; MED, he (pron. (1)) 1a. male, he; (pron.(2)) 1a. female, she; (pron. (3)) 1a. of persons, they.

[96] A. Bergs, Social Networks and Historical Sociolinguistics: Studies in Morphosyntactic Variation in the Paston Letters, 1421-1503 (New York, 2005), 94.

[97] MED, thing (n.) 13a.(b) as a euphemism: a genital part.

[98] ‘My wanton ware shall walk for me’, l.7-10

[99] MED, hitten (v.) 1g. to thrust.

[100] ‘My wanton ware shall walk for me’, l.15

[101] ‘My wanton ware shall walk for me’, l.19

[102] For geographical analysis of the development of personal pronouns, see Bergs, Social Networks and Historical Sociolinguistics, Ch.4.

[103] ‘My wanton ware shall walk for me’, l.11-12

[104] MED, old(e)(adj.) 1c. a) Mature, experienced.

[105] ‘My wanton ware’, l.16

[106] Ibid., l.17

[107] J.A. Cuddon, Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory,4th edn, (Oxford, 1998), 485.

[108] E. Archibald, ‘Macaronic Poetry’, A Companion to Medieval Poetry, ed. C. Saunders (Chichester, 2010), 277-288, at 278.

[109] S. Wenzel, Macaronic Sermons: Bilingualism and Preaching in Late Medieval England (Ann Arbor, 1994), 6.

[110] A. Putter, ‘The French of English Letters: Two Trilingual Verse Epistles in Context’, Language and Culture in Medieval Britain: The French of England, c.1100-1500, ed. J. Wogan-Browne (Woodbridge, 2009), 397-408, at 399-400.

[111] ‘The nunne walked on her prayer’, Huntington Library, Christmas Carolles newely Inprynted, P.19; and ‘There was a friar of order gray’, Cambridge University Library Add. 7350, Box 2.

[112] ‘There was a friar of order gray’, MELC, 304, l.1-2.

[113] ‘I will put my spirit upon him’, Matt. 12:18.

[114] ‘There was a friar of order gray’, l.26; Greene identifies ‘tollum’ as a variation on the Latin telum, EEC, 497; Duncan suggests the Middle English thole, MELC, 447.

[115] There was a friar of order gray’, l.33-6.

[116] ‘They have greatly oppressed me from my youth’, Psalm 129:1.

[117] Matter, The Voice of My Beloved, 178.

[118] ‘Plowmen have plowed my back and made their furrows long’, Psalm 129:3.

[119] T.W. Machan, ‘The visual pragmatics of code switching in late Middle English literature’, Code-Switching in Early English, eds. H. Schendl & L. Wright (Berlin, 2012), 303-34, at 303-5.

[120] Putter, ‘Code-switching in Langland, Chaucer, and the Gawain poet’, 281.

[121] M. Davidson, ‘Code-Switching and Authority in Late Medieval England’, Neophilologus 87:3 (2003) 473-86, at 478.

[122] S. Crane, ‘The Writing Lesson of 1381’, Chaucer’s England: Literature in Historical Context, ed. B. Hanawalt (Minneapolis, 1992), 201-21, at 215.

[123] A.C. Zentella, Growing up Bilingual: Puerto Rican Children in New York (Oxford, 1997), 97.

[124] ‘There was a friar of order gray’, l.38-41.

[125] R. Fasold, Introduction to Sociolinguistics Volume 1: The Sociolinguistics of Society (Oxford, 1984), 53.

[126] Chaucer, ‘The Wife of Bath’s Prologue’, 113, l.608.

[127] ‘Thank you’, for example see Ladd y the daunce a Myssomur Day, l.39.

[128] Putter, ‘Code-switching in Langland, Chaucer, and the Gawain poet’, 281.

[130] E. Goffman, ‘Footing’, Semiotica, 25:1-2 (1979), 48-58, at 55.

[131] Hanawalt, Of Good and Ill Repute, 18.

[132] A. Jefferson, ‘Intertextuality and the Poetics of Fiction’, Comparative Criticism, ed. E. Shaffer (Cambridge, 1980), ii, 235-50, at 235.

[133] Ibid., 236.

[134] MELC, 447.

[135] Palti, ‘Synge we now alle and sum’, 180.

[136] S. McNamer, ‘Female Authors, Provincial Settings: The Re-Versing of Courtly Love in the Findern Manuscript’, Viator 22 (1991), 279-310, at 279.

[137] Jefferson, ‘Intertextuality and the Poetics of Fiction’, 237.

[138] M. Bakhtin, ‘The Word in the Novel’, trans. A. Shukman, Comparative Criticism, ed. E. Shaffer (Cambridge, 1980), ii, 213-20, at 219.

[139] C. Baswell, ‘Multilingualism on the Page’, Middle English, ed. P. Strohm (Oxford, 2007), 40.

[140] Jefferson, ‘Intertextuality and the Poetics of Fiction’, 238.

[141] Ibid., 239; Arnold, ‘The Historian as Inquisitor’, 382.

[142] Putter, ‘Code-switching in Langland, Chaucer, and the Gawain poet’, 288.

[143] McNamer, ‘Female Authors, Provincial Settings’, 286.

[144] J. Plummer, ‘The Woman’s Song in Middle English and its European backgrounds’, Vox Feminae: Studies in Medieval Women’s Songs, ed. J. Plummer (Kalamazoo, 1981), 135-54, at 150.

[145] Christmas Carols Printed in the Sixteenth Century, ed. E.B. Reed (Cambridge, 1932) 36-8.

[146] Bennett, ‘Ventriloquisms’, 190.

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