The Prioress (HUM303)

I didn’t eat lunch before class today so forgive me if I wandered a bit. I also mistook “The Prioress’s Tale” for “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.” It is the Prioress who tells a story about a beautiful, innocent Christian boy who is murdered by Jews. That narrative is one iteration of the Blood Libel (see ).

Here is an extract with standard Modern English interspersing the original Middle English:

551        As I have seyd, thurghout the Juerie
                  As I have said, throughout the Ghetto
552        This litel child, as he cam to and fro,
                  This little child, as he came to and fro,
553        Ful murily than wolde he synge and crie
                  Very merrily then would he sing and cry
554        O Alma redemptoris everemo.
                   Always `O Gracious (mother) of the Redeemer’
555        The swetnesse his herte perced so
                  So pierced his heart the sweetness
556        Of Cristes mooder that, to hire to preye,
                  Of Christ’s mother that, to pray to her,
557        He kan nat stynte of syngyng by the weye.
                  He can not stop singing by the way.

558        Oure firste foo, the serpent Sathanas,
                  Our first foe, the serpent Satan,
559        That hath in Jues herte his waspes nest,
                  That has his wasp’s nest in Jews’ hearts,
560        Up swal, and seide, “O Hebrayk peple, allas!
                  Swelled up, and said, “Oh Hebraic people, alas!
561        Is this to yow a thyng that is honest,
                  Is this a thing that is honorable to you,
562        That swich a boy shal walken as hym lest
                  That such a boy shall walk as he pleases
563        In youre despit, and synge of swich sentence,
                  In scorn of you, and sing of such a subject,
564        Which is agayn youre lawes reverence?”
                  Which is against your law’s (due) reverence?”


565        Fro thennes forth the Jues han conspired
                  From thenceforth the Jews have conspired
566        This innocent out of this world to chace.
                  To drive this innocent out of this world.
567        An homycide therto han they hyred,
                  For this they have hired a murderer,
568        That in an aleye hadde a privee place;
                  Who in an alley had a secret place;
569        And as the child gan forby for to pace,
                  And as the child began to pass by,
570        This cursed Jew hym hente, and heeld hym faste,
                  This cursed Jew seized him, and held him tightly,
571        And kitte his throte, and in a pit hym caste.
                  And cut his throat, and cast him in a pit.

572        I seye that in a wardrobe they hym threwe
                  I say that they threw him in a privy
573        Where as thise Jewes purgen hire entraille.
                  Where these Jews purge their entrails.
574        O cursed folk of Herodes al newe,
                  Oh cursed folk of new Herods,
575        What may youre yvel entente yow availle?
                  What may your evil intent avail you?
576        Mordre wol out, certeyn, it wol nat faille,
                  Murder will come out, certainly, it will not fail,
577        And namely ther th’onour of God shal sprede;
                  And especially where the honor of God shall spread;
578        The blood out crieth on youre cursed dede.
                  The blood cries out on your cursed deed.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s