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allegorical personages, which likewise played a part in some of them, as e. g. in the Coventry Mysteries, it seems to show indeed the influence of those early beginnings of the English Drama. It may not seem to be out of place, first briefly to give here the contents of this lengthy poem.
It is preceded by a Prologue, the first stanzas of which contain a glorification of Christ, whereas in the following stanzas the poet expatiates on the beneficial influence of our communion with Christ, of having his Passion always in mind, on the welfare of our souls, wherefore the poet resolves, for the benefit of the ignorant ones, as he says in the last three stanzas, to show in plain terms, how the Son of God suffered death for the sin of mankind. Invoking his assistance in the composition of his poem, he then turns to his subject.
The contents of the poem itself are as follows: St. 1, 2. The Creation of man and the fall of Adam and Eve through the seduction of Lucifer. St. 3, 4. Their punishment. St. 5, 6. Contention of Mercy and Pity on the one hand and of Justice and Verity on the other, the former being in favour of granting grace to mankind, the latter of consigning them to everlasting pain and punishment. St. 7. God's decision that his Son should settle the debate by offering himself as a sacrifice for the sins of men. St. 8. Annunciation of the birth of Christ to the Virgin Mary. St. 9. Immaculate Conception of Christ. St. 10. Mary's Visit to her Cousin. St. 11. Birth of Jesus. St. 12. The Circumcision. St. 13. Visit of the Holy Three Kings. St. 14. Presentation in the Temple. St. 15–17. The Massacre of the Innocent Children, Flight of the Holy Family to, and Return from, Egypt. St. 18—20. Life in Nazareth. Disputation of the child Jesus in the Temple. St. 21–27. Brief Reference to the Life of Christ from his thirtieth year. Christ in the Desert. Conversation with Moses and Elias. St. 28, 29. The treachery of Judas. St. 30—34. Preparations for the Lord's Supper. Feetwashing. Christ's announcement of his Betrayal to his disciples. St. 35, 36. The Lord's Supper. Exhortation to the disciples. St. 37. The poet's Complaint on the imminent Passion of Christ. St. 38–40. Christ with his disciples in Gethsemane. St. 41–43. Christ delivered up by Judas. St. 44. Peter and Malchus. St. 45, 46. Christ fettered. Flight of the disciples. Sufferings of Christ. St. 47. Reflections of the Poet on the sufferings of Christ: For Matins. St. 48, 49. Christ before Annas. Examined by him. Christ's answer. St. 50. Reflections of the poet thereon. St. 51. Peter's denial of Christ. St. 52, 53. Christ before Caiphas. Christ condemned to death. St. 54, 55. Christ illtreated. St. 56, 57. Reflections of the poet thereon. St. 58, 59. Narrative of the sufferings and examination of Christ continued. St. 60, 61. Christ led in fetters to Pilate. St. 62. Accusation of Christ before Pilate. St. 63. Repentance and suicide of Judas. St. 64. Spending of Judas' money by the priests. St. 65–67. Examination of Christ before Pilate continued; Pilate declares Christ to be innocent. St. 68. Christ before Herod. Led back to Pilate. St. 69. Reflections of the poet thereon. St. 70. Narrative continued. Pilate again finds no fault with Christ. St. 71. Barrabas set at liberty by the choice of the Jews. St. 72. Christ scourged. St. 73–78. Detailed description of the sufferings of Christ. The crown of thorns. St. 79. Christ led forth with sceptre and crown, Pilate declaring himself unable to find any fault in him. St. 80, 81. Examination before Pilate continued. St. 82. Pilate wants to liberate Christ, but, threatened by the Jews, he is afraid to do
St. 83. Reflections of the poet on Christ's sufferings. St. 84. Pilate’s wife advising him to set Christ free. St. 85, 86. Impatience of the Jews. Jesus delivered up to them.
St. 87. Reflections of the poet on the blindness of the Jews. St. 88, 89. Sufferings of
Saturday, prepares to raise his body to Heaven, thus rebuilding the temple of Solomon pulled down by the Jews on Good Friday. St. 194. Christ rises from the dead on Passoverday. St. 195. Appears first to his mother St. 196. Her joy described St. 197. Their conversation, he showing her his hands and his feet, his body and his face all whole again. St. 198. Christ refers to Mary Magdalene having tried to see him in the grave; he intends to comfort her. St. 199–201. His apparition to her. St. 202, 203. His third apparition to the three Marys. St. 204. His fourth apparition to St. Peter. St. 205. His fifth apparition to St. James. St. 206—211. His sixth apparition to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. St. 212. The seventh apparition to the disciples locked in in a closed
St. 213. Thomas unbelieving. St. 214–216. The eighth apparition of Christ to Thomas. St. 217—221. His ninth apparition to St. Peter and the other disciples at the lake of Genezareth. St. 223. His tenth apparition to five hundred and more of his disciples. St. 224-226. The Ascension of Christ. St. 227. The poet's reflections thereon. St. 228—230. Descent of the Holy Ghost on the disciples in Jerusalem. St. 231—235. Conclusion. Influence of the Holy Ghost. Intercession of our Saviour for repenting sinners. The poet's prayer to our Lord for the salvation of mankind.
From this table of contents of the poem it is evident that the poet, with regard to the principal events in the life of Jesus, chiefly those connected with his birth and younger years and those connected with his passion and death, follows the description given in the Gospels. On the other hand it is clear that none of the Gospels was the direct source of his narrative, as otherwise he probably would not have omitted entirely the chief events in the life of Christ during his manhood, viz. his teaching and the miraculous deeds reported as done by him during that time. Probably the poet had before him a narrative of the life of Christ compiled by some priest from the contents of the Gospels, chiefly from St. Matthew, St. Luke, St. John and the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. This is also evident from the fact that in that part of the poem which treats of the Lord's Supper, the poet only, according to the usage of the Roman-Catholic church, refers to the breaking of the bread, but in no way to the wine as a symbol of the blood shed by Christ for the salvation of mankind.
Our own opinion regarding the poetical merits of the poem is that it is not only the longest and most elaborate, but also the best of the few religious poems of Kennedy that have come down to us. At all events it is to be considered as his magnum opus. Nor is it to be denied that he has endeavoured earnestly to do full justice to the lofty subject he has chosen. From the standpoint of his contemporaries at least it must be admitted that the plan he followed in composing his poem was well designed and equally well executed. The Prologue and Introduction to the poem as well as the Conclusion of it are, regarding their contents and leading idea, in perfect harmony with the poem itself, by which he intends not only to instruct, but also morally to improve his readers. In order to do this the more effectually, he frequently intersperses his own reflections on the chief events of his narrative, and he also endeavours to make these the more touching and effective by dwelling upon them in lyrical effusions of a higher tone and a more elaborate metrical form.
Thus in his reflections on the crucifixion of Christ he makes use of sectional rhyme (st. 104, 105); in two other lyrical passages, on the sufferings and death of Christ on the cross, consisting of 13 stanzas (st. 130—142) and on his Descent from the Cross, con
sisting of 6 stanzas (st. 168–173), the poet makes use of the refrain, and he gives his own reflections on the sufferings of Christ and the necessity of his death for the salvation of mankind in the then popular form of a dialogue between Mary and the Cross. On the other hand it is not to be denied that some parts of the poem are rather dull. But this is owing, to a certain extent, to the corrupt form in which it has come down to us. Those parts of the poem which have been tolerably well preserved, especially towards the end of it, are not badly written as regards their diction, nor with respect to rhythm and rhyme, which, however, in some passages, owing partly to the corrupt state of the MS., partly also, it is true, to the carelessness of the poet himself, are faulty and halting (cf. rhymes like paradice : glaidles or glaidnes st. 3, cumin : fundin st. 19, gan : ham st. 20, sla :pray: ta st. 99, twyn : dyme : ryme st. 100, lang : dang : ran st. 103, hym : sin : wyn st. 110, bund : ourerun st. 138, lymbe : syn st. 154 and many others). The form in which the
is written throughout, is, also in the lyrical passages, as has already been said, that of the popular rhyme-royal-stanza.
THE PASSIOUN OF CHRIST.
[Preserved only in MS. A, fol. 6a — 47 a; extracts of it formerly edited by D. Laing in his edition of the Poems
of William Dunbar, Edinburgh 1831, vol. II, pp. 97–112]
Haill, Riall King, in trone celistiall!
In Hevin empire Prince perpetuall!
Haill, in distres Protectour principall!
Haill, boist of balme, spilit within my splene!
Haill, in my Hert with Lufe wippit Intern!
Haill, spice of taist, to heir sueit sympheony !
Various Readings: Fol. 5b of MS. A contains on the upper part a woodcut, which has been coloured and pasted on the leof, about 612 cm. broad and 81/2 cm. high, showing how Christ, fastened by cords to a column, is scourged by two men. Under this picture there is the following inscription in red letters filling up the rest of the page: Heir begynnis the proloug of þe passioun of Crist compilit be m. Walter Kennedy. The poem itself begins on fol. 6 a without a heading. The first line is formed by the first 6 letters written in capitals, the first of them being a red one, as also in the other stanzas of the prologue and in the first 9 stanzas of the poem itself. The prologue has been printed already by Laing.
I. 1 knycht Asrundel MS.). Confortour L(aing). 2 king A. celestiall L. 3 lampe of licht L. saluitour A, salvatour L. 4 prince A. 5 protectour A. 6 god and man A. Virgin L. 7 bbalme A. II. 1 Intern A.
Notes: V.1. Cristin knycht, christian knight, seems to be a rather strange appellation for Christ himself, from whom the adjective christian is derived. But not much logic is to be expected in poems of this kind.
V. 7. Boist has here undoubtedly the meaning 'box or chesť, quoted by Jamieson. It is, of course, the Old French boiste, Mod. French boîte. But what is the meaning of Spilit within my splene? In conformity with the whole train of thought in this stanza it probably signifies: poured out within my mind
over my troubled mind.
V. 8. Hail in my hert etc. Hail (oh Christ) who art enwrapped with love internally within my heart.
V. 9. Spice of taist, etc. = spice of taste, sweet symphony to the ear. Denkschriften der phil.-hist. Classo. XLVIII. Bd. I. Abh.
Various Readings: 3 brycht lycht in dern L. rycht lycht odour A. 4 fute rode A, L. guide L. 5 berne closit L, dern closit A. very A, wery L. 7 deid L. vnbrakill A, umbrakill L. III. 2 viser A, wiser L.
3 Throw L. protettour A, protectour L.
4 hectour Judas or sampson A. 5 ffarar A. absolon A, Absalon L. 6 alexander þegret A. 7 ech for L. IV. 2 fermilus or fernulus A, Fermulus L. 4 Lazar A, lazar L. 5 structioun or possibly struttioun A.
Notes: V. 10. Silk to graipe, soft as silk to the sense of feeling. The reading in dern = in darkness, inserted by Laing for odour, which neither fits the rhyme nor the sense, is in all probability the right one. The emendation brycht for rycht, however, was not absolutely necessary, although it may possibly also be the right reading.
V. 11. The reading fute rode in the MS., although retained by Laing, seems to be suspicious. We have inserted futebrode, a footstool (Jamieson), instead.
V. 12. Dern closit etc. = secret or quiet chamber for the wounded and weary. Why Laing should have changed the reading dern into berne we cannot understand.
V. 14. To skaill v. a. To disperse, to scatter. Umbrakill s. Shadow.
V. 18. Judas comes in very awkwardly here between Hectour and Sampson. Or does it mean that Christ foiled the treachery of Judas by rising from the dead?
V. 21. Waldin, adj. Able, powerful, from to wald v. a., to wield, manage, govern; eth for to tret easily to be treated, as the MS. reads, is certainly better than Laing's emendation ech for to tret, which hardly gives a sense.
V. 22. Fra pou disluge. From the time that thou didst go away because of our iniquity.
V. 23. Fermilus or Fernulus. This is unintelligible to us, as is likewise the reading Nabel Carnales or tarnales in v. 28.
V. 26. Struttioun is, of course, the Latin struthio, ostrich; but what this strange comparison means, it is difficult to say. Possibly it signifies 'as stiff or helpless as an ostrich'. But then the following comparison as tigar tiranus, as tyrannous or cruell as a tiger, is the more singular in connection with it.