Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Inter Diabolus et Virgo

Wol ye here a wonder thynge
Betwyxt a mayd and the fovle fende?

Thys spake the fend to the mayd:
Beleue on me, mayd, to day.

Mayd, mote y thi leman be,
Wyssedom y wolle teche the:

All the wyssedom off the world,
Hyf thou wolt be true and forward holde

What ys hyer than ys tre?
What ys dypper than ys the see?

What ys scharpper than ys the thorne?
What ys loder than ys the horne?

What longger than ys the way?
What is rader than ys the day?

What bether than is the bred?
What ys scharpper than ys the dede?

What ys grenner than ys the wode?
What ys sweetter than ys the note?

What ys swifter than ys the wynd?
What ys recher than ys the kynge?

What ys yeluer than ys the wex?
What softer than ys he flex?

But thou now answery me,
Thu schalt for sothe my leman be.

Ihesu, for thy myld mygth,
As thu art kynge and knygt,

Lene me wisdome to answere here rygth,
And schylde me fram the fovle wygth!

Wewene ys heyer than ys the tre,
Helle ys dypper than ys the see.

Hongyr ys scharpper than the thorne,
Thonder ys lodder than ys the horne.

Loukynge us longer than ys the way,
Syn is rader than ys the day.

Godys flesse ys betur than ys the brede,
Payne ys strenger than ys the dede.

Grass ys grenner than ys the wode.
Loue ys swetter than ys the notte.

Thowt ys swifter than ys the wynde,
Ihesus ys recher than ys the kynge.

Safer is yeluer than ys the wexs,
Selke ys softer than ys the flex.

Now, thu fende, style thu be;
Nelle ich speke no more with the!

 - Anonymous ballad, early 15th c. The oldest known copy of this text (with the Latin title and Middle English text) is in a manuscript from 1444, and it is reprinted in Child as #1A. Obviously, it's a direct precursor to "The Devil's Nine Questions," and we can see that a few of the questions and their answers are unchanged to the modern day. Music for ballads of this family is from prior to the 18th century remains unknown.

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