Now Mercy, Lord, and Gramercy (As I Wanderede Her Bi Weste)

DESCRIPTION: "As I (walked/wandered) here by west, (far/fast) under a forest side, I saw a wight, went him to rest, Under a bow he (be)gan [to] (a)bide." The man reports and laments all his sins, begging, "Now mercy, Lord, and gramercy"
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: c. 1400 (Vernon and Simeon manuscripts)
KEYWORDS: religious nonballad
FOUND IN: Britain(England)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
ADDITIONAL: Roman Dyboski, _Songs, Carols, and Other Miscellaneous Poems from the Balliol Ms. 354, Richard Hill's Commonplace Book_, Kegan Paul, 1907 (there are now multiple print-on-demand reprints), #30, pp. 54-57, "[Now mercy, Lord, and gamercy]" (1 text)
Maxwell S. Luria & Richard Hoffman, _Middle English Lyrics_, a Norton Critical Edition, Norton, 1974 pp, 105-107, #104 (no title) (1 text) [based on the Vernon text]
Brown/Robbins, _Index of Middle English Verse_, #374
Digital Index of Middle English Verse #631

NOTES: It may seem strange to include a song in the index which exists only in medieval manuscripts, but there are hints that it existed in oral tradition. For starters, there is the fact that it exists in four medieval manuscripts:
-- Oxford, Bodleian Library Eng. poet. a.1 (SC 3938) (the famous Vernon manuscript, c. 1400, from the west midlands)
-- London, British Library Addit. 22283 (the Simeon manuscript, c. 1400, from the west midlands)
-- Oxford, Balliol College 354 (the great Richard Hill manuscript, from London, late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries)
-- Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates 19.3.1 (the Heege manuscript, late fifteenth century, thought to be from Nottinghamshire or thereabouts, containing only the first twelve lines)
This is really only three witnesses, since Vernon and Simeon were almost certainly part of the same project and copied from the same source. But still, three witnesses of a medieval poem is a high number. What's more, one of the three is Richard Hill's manuscript, which contains many folk songs. And the copies are from diverse parts of Britain (west midlands, Nottinghamshire, and probably London, although Richard Hill was apparently born in Hertfordshite). And they are separated by at least a century, perhaps as much as a century and a half. And there are substantial verbal differences between the Vernon/Simeon form and the Hill form, and the Heege form is said to be jumbled as well as short -- arguing for oral transmission.
Individually, none of these points is sufficient to argue for folk song status. Collectively, I consider them enough evidence that I include the piece, although I admit it's a marginal case. - RBW
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File: MsNMLaG

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