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A new Latin source for the Old English ‘Three Utterances’ exemplum

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2008

Mary F. Wack
Stanford University
Charles D. Wright
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


The so-called ‘Three Utterances’ exemplum, which tells of the exclamations of a good and a bad soul to the angels or demons who lead them to heaven or hell at the moment of death, was adapted independently by three Anglo-Saxon homilists. Versions of this legend survive in an Old English Rogationtide homily in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Hatton 114, 102v–105v, in a homily Be heofonwarum and be helwarum in London, British Library, Cotton Faustina A. ix, 21v–23v, and Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 302, pp. 71–3, and in a Lenten homily in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Junius 85/86, fos. 25–40. In 1935 Rudolf Willard published a study of the exemplum, with a detailed comparison between the three Old English versions, an Irish version, and a single Latin version in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, lat. 2628 (s. xi). Two years later Willard published a second Latin version from Oxford, University College 61 (s. xiv). Other texts of the Latin sermon have subsequently come to light.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1991

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1 See Ker, N.R., Catalogue of Manuscripts containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, 1957)Google Scholar, no. 331, item 53. The manuscript is assigned the siglum ‘O (Hatton)’ by Scragg, D. G., ‘The Corpus of Vernacular Homilies and Prose Saints‘ Lives before ælfric’, ASE 8 (1979), 223–77, at 253–5Google Scholar. The homily was first ed. Willard, R., Two Apocrypha in Old English Homilies, Beiträge zur englischen Philologie 30 (Leipzig, 1935), 3854Google Scholar (Willard's Text H), and has been re-edited by Bazire, J. and Cross, J. E., Eleven Old English Rogationtide Homilies (Toronto, 1982), pp. 115–24.Google Scholar

2 Ker, Catalogue, nos. 153, item 4 and 56, item 10. The manuscripts are Scragg's J and K (‘Corpus’, pp. 245–7). This homily has not been fully edited, but the ‘Three Utterances’ portion was ptd from the Cotton Faustina manuscript by Willard, , Two Apocrypha, pp. 3856 (Willard's Text C)Google Scholar. Willard also printed the introductory section of the homily (p. 68), as well as another part (pp. 24–5) in connection with the Seven Heavens apocryphon.

3 Ker, Catalogue, no. 336, item 6 (Scragg's C, ‘Corpus’, pp. 235–6). The homily was partially ed. Willard, , Two Apocrypha, pp. 3957 (Willard's Text J)Google Scholar; the complete text is ed. Luiselli Fadda, A.M., Nuove omelie anglosassoni della rinascenza benedettina, Filologia germanica, Testi e studi 1 (Florence, 1977), 821.Google Scholar

4 Two Apocrypha, pp. 31–149. The Paris text was first published by Dudley, L., The Egyptian Elements in the Legend of the Body and Soul (Baltimore, MD, 1911), pp. 164–5.Google Scholar

5 ‘The Latin Texts of The Three Utterances of the Soul’, Speculum 12 (1937), 147–66Google Scholar. In their edition of the Rogationtide homily, Bazire and Cross designate the Paris text as D, the Oxford text as K.

6 Les Homéliaires du moyen âge, Rerum ecclesiasticarum documenta, Series maior: Fontes 6 (Rome, 1966), 224–5Google Scholar; for the additional manuscripts identified by Grégoire, see p. 177. See also Grégoire's Homéliaires liturgiques médiéaux (Spoleto, 1980), pp. 310–11Google Scholar. Courcelle, P. printed variants from another text in Orléans, Bibliothèque municipale, 149 (126), pp. 155–8Google Scholar: ‘Fragments non identifiés de Fleury-sur-Loire (III)’, Revue des études Augustiniennes 2 (1956), 541–2.Google Scholar

7 McNally, R.E., ‘“In Nomine Dei Summi”: Seven Hiberno-Latin Sermons’, Traditio 35 (1979), 121–43Google Scholar, at 134–6 (McNally's Document I). McNally's two manuscripts are Vatican, Bibliotheca Apostolica, Pal. lat. 212 (s. viiiex), on which see Lowe, E. A., Codices Latini Antiquiores, 11 vols. and suppl. (Oxford, 19341971; 2nd ed. of vol. II, 1972) (hereafter abbreviated CLA) I, no. 85Google Scholar; and Pal. lat. 220 (s. ixin).

8 See Wright, C. D., ‘Apocryphal Lore and Insular Tradition in St Gall, Stiftsbibliothek MS 908’, in Irland und die Christenheit: Bibelstudien und Mission, ed. Ní Chatháin, P. and Richter, M. (Stuttgart, 1987), pp. 124–45Google Scholar, at 134–7. Rose, V., Verzeichnis der lateinischen Handschriften der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin I (Berlin, 1893), p. 72Google Scholar, dates the manuscript s. viii/ix, but it is not included in CLA.

9 See, in addition to Willard, Bazire and Cross's comparisons of the homily in O (Hatton) with the published Latin versions (Rogationtide Homilies, pp. 116–19).

10 On the manuscript, see Bischoff, B., Die südostdeutschen Schreibschulen und Bibliotheken in der Karolingerzeit I: Die Bayrischen Diöesen (Wiesbaden, 1960), p. 93Google Scholar. The contents are described by Werminghoff, A., ‘zu den bayrischen Synoden am Ausgang des achten Jahrhunderts’, Festschrift Heinrich Brunner (Weimar, 1910), pp. 3955Google Scholar; for addenda to Werminghoff's description, see Morin, G., ‘Un nouveau feuillet de l'ltala de Freising’, RB 28 (1911), 221–3.Google Scholar

11 In the Latin text we have supplied punctuation and expanded abbreviations silently. The Old English text is from Fadda's edition (Nuove omelie, pp. 19.169–21.198), but we do not follow her emendation in line 195, as explained below, n. 30. In the Old English homily the speech of the angels to the blessed soul continues with praise of God and the Trinity (Nuove omelie, ed. Fadda, pp. 21.198–23.209).

12 Two Apocrypha, pp. 118–21. Willard's sigla for the manuscripts do not correspond to Scragg's (Willard's C = Scragg's J and K; his J = Scragg's C). To avoid confusion we here follow Willard's designation of the homily in Junius 85/86 as J.

13 ibid. p. 78.

14 For these three episodes, see Two Apocrypha, pp. 82–94, 95–7 and 98–105. The Irish version, however, lacks some of the same episodes, while the homily Be heofonwarum and be helwarum lacks the entire portion of the exemplum dealing with the just soul.

15 On the colour of the souls, see Two Apocrypha, pp. 77–81. That the sinful soul is blacker than a raven and the just soul whiter than snow is a commonplace of medieval question-and-answer dialogues. See Daly, L.W. and Suchier, W., Altercatio Hadriani Augusti et Epicteti Philosophi, Illinois Stud, in Lang, and Lit. 24 (Urbana, IL, 1939), 124Google Scholar. For an example in Irish, see Stokes, Whitley, ‘Irish Riddles’, The Celtic Review 1 (1904), 132CrossRefGoogle Scholar. In two Old English texts, Blickling Homily XIII and the Martyrology, souls are described as seven times brighter than snow. For the passage in the Blickling homily (referring to the soul of the Virgin), see Willard, , Two Apocrypha, p. 80Google Scholar; for the Martyrology, see An Old English Martyrology, ed. Herzfeld, G., EETS os 116 (London, 1900), 96, lines 9–11Google Scholar. (We are grateful to Thomas Hall of the University of Illinois for drawing our attention to the latter reference, and for the reference to the article by J.E. Cross cited in the following note.)

16 The Irish version is ed. and trans. Marstrander, C., ‘The Two Deaths’, Eriu 5 (1911), 120–5Google Scholar. The Rogationtide homily also states that the just soul will be as bright as the sun. The idea that the just soul is seven times brighter than the sun may have been suggested by a theme, based on Is. XXX.26 and common in Irish and Anglo-Saxon writers, that the sun was seven times brighter before the Fall and will regain its original brightness after the Judgment. For a discussion of this theme in the Irish tract De ordine creaturarum and in two Old English texts, see Cross, J. E., ‘De Ordine Creaturarum Liber in Old English Prose’, Anglia 90 (1972), 132–40, at 135–6 and 139–40Google Scholar. In the De ordine, as also in a late Old English homily (Belfour XI), the theme is linked with the transfiguration of the just with reference to Mt. XIII.43, although neither text states explicitly that the just will shine seven times as brightly as the sun. In the Apocalypse of Peter, Christ says that he will come to Judgment ‘shining seven times as bright as the sun’; see Hennecke, E. and Schneemelcher, W., New Testament Apocrypha, trans. R. McL. Wilson, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1965) II, 668.Google Scholar

17. See Willard, , Two Apocrypha, p. 113.Google Scholar

19 ibid. pp. 118–20. In the Rogationtide homily the third utterance of the damned soul is ‘asperum est iter’. In the homily Be heofonwarum and be helwarum the narrow or arduous ‘way’ (iter or via) has been replaced by a reference to a gimlic hus, by attraction to the habitatio or tabernacula to which the road leads (ibid. pp. 114–17).

20 ibid. pp. 119–20.

21 ibid. p. 120.

22 ibid. p. 124.

23 On the escort and chant, see Willard, , Two Apocrypha, pp. 106–12.Google Scholar

24 The Irish text states merely that the just soul ‘was borne to heaven with a choir of angels’ (see Two Apocrypha, p. 107).

25 ibid. p. 106.

26 ibid. pp. 99–100.

27 ibid. p. 110.

28 ibid. p. 111.

29 According to Willard (ibid. pp. 66–7), the commendation in J is based ultimately on the Visio S. Pauli, in which the angels greet the righteous soul in similar terms.

30 ibid. p. 110. The Old English translation of this verse is obscure, however, and. may be read, with Willard, ‘thy temple is holy’ (taking his as is), or, with Fadda, ‘we fill… thy temple with his saints’ (emending halig to balig<re>). Willard's rendering seems preferable, as conforming more closely to the sense of the psalm verse. Fadda's objection to the dative wundorlicre ðrymnesse may be met by emending to wundorlic in ðrymnesse, corresponding to the Latin mirabile in aequitate (ps. LXIV.6).

31 The praise of God and the Trinity which concludes the angels' speech to the just soul in the Old English (Fadda, Nuove omelie, pp. 21.198–23.209) may well be the homilist's elaboration.

32 Presumably ducunt earn ad is the intended construction in both cases, but the preposition ad is omitted in the description of the damned soul.

33 Ed. Teresa, G. Di S., ‘Ramenta patristica 1: II florilegio pseudoagostiniano palatino’, Ephemerides Carmeliticae 14 (1963), 195241Google Scholar; for the date, see p. 199. The editor, following Wilmart, considers the manuscript's place of origin to be Fulda (see pp. 196–7, n. 7), but notes that Paul Lehmann assigned it to Lorsch (p. 200, n. 23a). Bischoff, B. gives the Schriftheimat as ‘deutsch-angelsächsisches Gebiet’ see his ‘Lorsch im Spiegel seiner Handschriften’, in Die Reichsabtei Lorsch, 2 vols. (Darmstadt, 1977) II; 7128, at p. 112Google Scholar. Professor J. E. Cross points out to us that another piece in Pal. lat. 556 has a close parallel for an image in the introduction of the Rogationtide ‘Three Utterances’ homily (for details, see the preface to the forthcoming reprint of Bazire and Cross, Eleven Old English Rogationtide Homilies).

34 Di Teresa, S., ‘Ramenta patristica’, pp. 219–20Google Scholar. We have incorporated in brackets the emendations suggested in the editor's apparatus. Immediately following the triads is a variation of the ‘thought, word and deed’ triad so favoured by Irish and Anglo-Saxon authors; see Sims-Williams, P., ‘Thought, Word and Deed: an Irish Triad’, Eriu 29 (1978), 78111.Google Scholar

35 The editor's apparatus here reads ‘leg. dicitur’, obviously a misprint for ‘leg. ducitur’, as is confirmed by the apparatus for the corresponding phrase in the following triad, which reads, ‘leg. ducitur (cf. l. 11)’.

36 PL 99, 253–4. This text confirms most of the emendations proposed for Pal. lat. 556; significant variants will be noted below.

37 Ed. McNally, R. E., Scriptores Hiberniae Minores Pars I, CCSL 108B (Turnhout, 1973), 164Google Scholar. On the Irish character of this text, see McNally's preface, ibid. pp. 129–32.

38 This formula recurs later in the homilies (Di S. Teresa, ‘Ramenta patristica’, p. 222, lines 39– 40).

39 The version in Paulinus of Aquileia, however, lacks the phrase in septimo.

40 Paulinus has qui earn rapiunt and qui earn suscipiunt.

41 Paulinus adds the concluding part of the verse, ‘sanctum est templum tuum, mirabile in aequitate’, as in Clm. 28135.

42 Paulinus's text does not have this phrase.

43 Willard, , ‘The Latin Texts’, p. 160Google Scholar; cf. Two Apocrypha, p. 145. Willard believed, on linguistic grounds we do not consider conclusive, that the sermon was translated from a Greek apocryphon (see ‘The Latin Texts’, pp. 158–61). It seems clear, however, that the ultimate origins of the legend are to be sought in Eastern apocrypha, whether Coptic, Syriac or Greek.

44 See McNally, , ‘Seven Hiberno-Latin Sermons’, pp. 121–32Google Scholar, for discussion of the Irish background of the sermons. Lapidge, M. and Sharpe, R., A Bibliography of Celtic-Latin Literature 400–1200 (Dublin, 1986)Google Scholar, accept McNally's identification of the sermons, which they include under the section ‘Celtic Peregrini on the Continent’ (no. 803). See further Wright, ‘Apocryphal Lore’, pp. 134–5.

45 One of McNally's manuscripts, Vatican, Pal. lat. 220, from the Rhineland, was written in Anglo-Saxon script, and in McNally's view may be descended from an Irish exemplar. This manuscript contains other apocryphal material which circulated in Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England, including the interpolated version of the Apocalypse of Thomas and a Celtic-La tin text De die dominico, in addition to a unique Redaction of the Visio S. Pauli recently ptd Dwyer, M.E., ‘An Unstudied Redaction of the Visio Pauli’, Manuscripta 32 (1988), 121–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See now Wright, C.D., ‘Some Evidence for an Irish Origin of Redaction XI of the Visio Pauli’, Manuscripta 34 (1990), 3444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

46 For details, see Wright, ‘Apocryphal Lore’.

47 On the Irish connections of the Apocrypha Priscillianistica, see Wright, , ‘Apocryphal Lore’, pp. 135–6Google Scholar, and the references cited there. The collection includes the Seven Heavens apocryphon, versions of which occur in Old Irish and Old English. See Willard, , Two Apocrypha, pp. 130Google Scholar, and Dumville, D., ‘Towards an Interpretation of Fís Adamnán’, Studia Celtica 12/13 (19771978), 6277.Google Scholar

48 See Wright, , ‘Apocryphal Lore’, p. 135, n. 58Google Scholar. The Florilegium Frisingense has now been ed. Lehner, A., Florilegia, CCSL 108D (Turnhout, 1987)Google Scholar; for the Irish character of the florilegium, see pp. xiii-xxxviii. On the manuscript, see CLA IX, no. 1283. On the Anglo-Saxon scribe Peregrinus, see also Bischoff, Schreibschulen, pp. 61–3 and 73–5.

49 See above, pp. 188–9.

50 On 51v-54r, corresponding to McNally's Document IV, p. 140. According to Bischoff (Schreibschulen, p. 93), this part of the manuscript (fos. 51–80) is a nearly contemporary addition to the original codex.

51 See McNally, R. E., Der irische Liber de numeris: Eine Quellenanalyse des pseudo-Isidorischen Liber de numeris (Munich, 1957), pp. 41–2Google Scholar. McNally considered the passage in Clm. 28135 to be an extract from the Liber de numeris.

52 For these parallels, see McNally's index, ibid. p. 206.

53 This list is based on the Hiberno-Latin treatise De duodecim abusivis saeculi, ed. Hellmann, S., Texte und Untersuchungen 34 (Leipzig, 1909), 3260Google Scholar. For bibliography, see Lapidge and Sharpe, Bibliography of Celtic-Latin Literature, no. 339.

54 On 63v-65r, corresponding to pseudo-Augustine, Sermo App. ccli (PI 39, 2210), inc.: ‘O fratres karissimi, quam timendus est …’.

55 On the Doomsday sermon, see Wright, , ‘Apocryphal Lore’, pp. 136–7Google Scholar, who lists several early manuscripts in which the two sermons occur in sequence.

56 Cross, J.E., ‘A Doomsday Passage in an Old English Sermon for Lent’, Anglia 100 (1982), 103–8Google Scholar. The Old English passage is Fadda, Nuove omelie, pp. 27.262–29.303.

57 Fadda, , Nuove omelie, pp. 23Google Scholar (the Lenten sermon is there mistakenly identified as from Hatton 114). The Old English passage (ibid. p. 17.127–33,143–51) corresponds in several significant phrases to two passages in the Apocrypha Priscillianistica, but must derive through an intermediary, with some expansion and alteration of wording. One of the two passages in the Apocrypha Priscillianistica occurs in McNally's Document VI, p. 142. See Wright, C. D., ‘Docet Deus, Docet Diabolus: A Hiberno-Latin Theme in an Old English Body-and-Soul Homily,’ N&Q 232 (1987), 451–3, at 453, n. 14.Google Scholar

58 The sermon is ed. Fadda, , Nuove omelie, pp. 163–73Google Scholar. The passage on the teachings of God and of the devil (ibid. pp. 169.72–171.83) corresponds to McNally's Document V, p. 141, lines 5–22. This passage was in turn borrowed by the composite homily Assman XIV (see Wright, ‘Docet Deus’, p. 452, n. 10).

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