Felon Sewe of Rokeby and the Feeres of Richmond, The
DESCRIPTION: Ralph of Rokeby is unable to contend with the "Felon Sewe" (sow) and turns it over to Richmond ABbey. A priest fails to exorcise it; it ignores his Latin. Other priests try to deal with the animal, but it has much the better of the contest
EARLIEST DATE: 1654 (transcript by Sir Thomas Rokeby)
KEYWORDS: animal fight humorous clergy
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Bell-Combined, pp. 347-357, "The Felon Sewe of Rokeby and the Freeres of Richmond" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Digital Index of Middle English Verse, #6828
ST BeCo347 (Partial)
NOTES [210 words]: Bell admits that this is not truly a ballad but a "very curious" metrical romance. It does give signs of being traditional, however, being preserved in multiple copies. Certainly the sow itself is traditional; Arnold Kellett, The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition, and Folklore, revised edition, Smith Settle, 2002, p. 59, reports that "The Felon Sow of Rokeby, [known in the] N[orth] R[iding of Yorkshire], was notorious in the sixteenth century for killing swinehers, until it was eventually destroyed on the order of the Greyriars of Richmond." On this basis, I am, very hesitantly, including this piece.
The effect, it should be noted, is one of parody and satire -- parody of the hunting-the-great-boar sort of romances, and satire of the clergy (e.g. Friar Middleton is unable to subdue it because it "wolde not Latyne heare"). Bell on this basis thought it a Lollard piece, but this seems to be a lot of weight to hang on a single line....
The Digital Index of Middle English Verse reports that the only manuscript copy of this has been lost or destroyed; our knowledge of it derives entirely from the 1654 transcript by Rokeby and other, later, transcripts; most of these have also been lost. It's almost as if it *wants* to be forgotten. - RBW
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