The Digby Poems

BookThe Digby Poems

The Digby Poems

A New Edition of the Lyrics

Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies


July 10th, 2009



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In Helen Barr’s new edition, the 24 short lyrics of Oxford Bodleian MS Digby 102 are freshly transcribed and edited. The critical apparatus includes a full introduction, extensive annotation to each poem, and a new glossary. New evidence shows that this sequence of poems was written in the early years of Henry V’s reign (c.1413–14), and most probably by a Benedictine monk eager to add his support for the Henrician new dawn. There is strong support for war against France and for the proper conduct of parliamentary business. The poems are rigorous in their call for orthodox reform from within the Church. Throughout, the concerns of Church and State are inseparable from a fierce call for penitence, both collective and individual. The sequence contains some harrowing devotional writing; the poet makes especially agile use of demanding stanza forms to ensure that human beings are left in no doubt as to their failings. Barr’s extensive annotation brings out not just the political significance of the poems but also their place in the tradition of devotional writing.

Helen Barr demonstrates that the Digby poems are worthy of serious study and offers a model of how to read unhistorical writing historically.

Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Vol. 110, No. 1

... this is very much an edition to be welcomed.

Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Vol. 110, No. 1

Barr is to be commended for her production of a fine edition of fascinating, layered, and subtle verse collection, and this new volume will greatly aid teaching and encourage new research.

Years Work in English

Author Information

Helen Barr is Fellow and Tutor in English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She has edited and written on the Piers Plowman tradition, is author of Socioliterary Practice in Late Medieval England (2001), and co-edited Text and Controversy from Wyclif to Bale (2005) with Ann M. Hutchison.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
1. The manuscript10
2. Previous editions of the Digby lyrics11
3. Critical reception13
4. Date15
5. Religious sensibilities28
6. Social temper51
7. Poetics69
8. Provenance76
Appendix: Parallels between the Digby lyrics and the Macaronic sermons in MS Bodley 64985
Abbreviations and select bibliography88
The lyrics from MS Digby 10296
1. Loue God and drede97
2. Mede and muche thank108
3. Treuth, reste and pes115
4. Lerne say wele, say litel, or say no3t124
5. Wyt and Wille137
6. To lyf bodyly is perylous143
7. Man, knowe thy self, and lerne to dye148
8. A good makynge of iour delaye156
9. With God of loue and pes 3e trete164
10. A good steryng to heuenward178
11. God & man ben made atte on191
12. God kepe oure kyng and saue the croune200
13. Dede is worchyng211
14. Man be warre er the be woo224
15. The descryuyng of mannes membres232
16. A remembraunce of Lij folyes241
17. Loue that God loueth250
18. The declaryng of religioun261
19. Untitled273
20. Untitled279
21. A lernyng to good leuynge291
22. Knowe thy self and thy God299
23. Of the sacrament of the altere304
24. The Lessouns of the Dirige313
Index of proper names369