The early South-English legendary ; or, Lives of saints. I. Ms. Laud, 108, in the Bodleian library. Edited by Carl Horstmann.
Horstmann, Carl, b. 1851.
40 Vita sancti Cristofori.
SEint Cristofre was a saracen : in þe londe of canaan.
In none stude bi is daie : nas so gret a man :
Foure-and-twenti fet he was long : and þicke and brod i-nouȝ :
A scwuch bote he were strong : me þinchez it were wouȝ!
Al a contreie þare he were : for him wolde fleo.
Þare-fore him þouȝte þat noman : aȝen him scholde beo :
He seide, he nolde with no man bi-leue : bote with on þat were
hext louerd ouer alle men : and onder non oþur nere.
Swuch a Man he wente to seche. : and so þat men him tolde
Of þe hexte manne þat on eorþe was : and of mest power i-holde.
Seint Cristofre souȝte feor : and atþe laste he cam him to.
Þe king axede him a-non ȝwat he were : and ȝwat he souȝte also.
Cristofre him seide ȝwat he was : and þat he serui wolde
Þene hexte Man þat ouȝwere were : and þat non oþur abouwie ne scholde,
Ȝif he miȝte ani scwych*. [orig. scwuch] finde. : þis king to him sede
Þat he ne heold of no man : ne a-bouwie he nolde ne drede.
Eiþur was of oþur glad. : Cristofre him seruede longue.
Þe kyng louede muche Melodie : of fieþle*. [r. fiþele] and of songue :
So þat is Iugelour a day : bi-fore him pleide faste,
And nemde in is ryme and in is song : þene deuel atþe laste.
Anon so þe kyng þat i-heorde : he blessede him a-non.
Seint Cristofre nam wel guode ȝeme : and nolde ane fot feor gon
Are he wuste ȝwi it were. : þe king was ful loth to telle.
Cristofre seide, "bote þou me segge : no leng serui þe I-nelle."
Þo þe kyng ne i-saiȝ non oþur : "leoue Cristofre," he sede,
"Ich blessede me þo ich heorde him nemme : for ich habbe of him gret drede."
"Þanne he is," quath Cristofre : "herre Maister þane þou?"
"Þat ne may ich," quath þe kyng : "for-soþe for-sake nov."
"Haue guod day," quat Cristofre þo : "Inelle neuereft with þe beo.
Ichulle seche þane deuel*. [MS. feond; deuel on the margin.] and serui him : ȝif ich him owere iseo." Page 272
Þe kyng was sori, and alle his : þat huy ne miȝten him make a-bide.
Forth he wende þene deuel to seche : ake natheles nouȝt wel wide— [folio 122]
For þe schrewe wole euere a-redi beo : to heom þat beoth to him i-nome.
Þo Cristofre cam with-oute toun : gret folk he saiȝ come
wel on horse, with grete nobleye : swyþe fierce and proute.
Cristofre heom mette we[l] baldeliche— : he nadde of heom no doute.
Þe maister, fiers with-alle : cam and mette with him a-non,
"Beu sire," he seide, "ȝwat art þou? : and ȝwodere þenxt þou gon?"
"Ich am a ma[n] opon mi seruiz : and noman serui i-nelle
Bote mi louerd þat ich seche : þe heiȝe deuel of helle."
"Beu frere," quath þe oþur, "ich it am : wel-come ar þov to me!
Þe beste seruiz þat þou wolt cheose : man schal deliueri þe."
Cristofre saiȝ is grete folk : and þat he was of gret pouwer :
Of swuch a louerd he was wel glad : and al-so of þat grete mester.
Þe Maister heiȝte al is folk a-wei : bote heom-seoluen tweie,
To teche him is mester priueliche : ase huy wenden bi þe weie.
Ase huy wenden taleȝinde forth : of þis luþere seruise,
In þe wei heo iseien one croiz stonde. : þe deuel gan þarof a-grise :
his wei in breres and in þornes : wel feor bi-side he nam;
Þo heo þe croiz i-passede hadden : a-ȝein to þe weie he cam.
Cristofre him Axede ȝwi it were. : and him was loth to telle.
"Certes," he seide, "bote þou me segge : no leng serui þe i-nelle."
"Cristofre, mi leoue freont," quath þe deuel : "ichulle þe telle fayn,
with þat þou serui me after-ward : þe betere with al mi mayn :
with a swuch croiz ase we þare i-seien : þe heie god þat was here
Ouer- cam and in soruwe brouȝte : me and alle mine fere."
"Þanne is he herre," quath Cristofre : "and hath power more?"
"Þat ne may ich nouȝt for-sake," þe feond seide : "and þat me for|þinchez sore."
"Daþeit þanne," Cristofre seide : "þat leng beo in þine seruise,
Ȝif ich of þane heie manne may oȝt i-wite : in anie kunnes wise!"
Forth he wende and souȝte ore louerd. : wel wide he gan gon.
Atþe laste he fond ane hermite : to him he wende a-non,
he tolde him clanliche al-hou it was : and hou he a swych man souȝte. Page 273
"Ȝe," seide þe heremite, "ihered he beo : þat þe in swyche wille brouȝte!
Leue broþer," seide þe heremite, "he is þi louerd : for to manne he þe wrouȝte,
And with is owene flechs and is blod : wel deore he þe a-bouȝte.
Þou most sum-ȝwat soffri for him : and festen eche friday."
"Ine faste neuere," seide Cristofre : "ne, certes, ȝeot Ine may."
"Þou most," seide þe heremite, "to churche gon : and þine beden bidde also."
"I-not," seide Cristofre, "ȝwat it is : ne i-ne can hit nouȝt do."
¶ "No," seide þe heremite, "þou art strong : and here is a water bi|side
Þat no man may þare-ouer come : bote he þe herre ride:
Þou most in lesnesse of þine sunnes : habbe þine woneȝingue þere
And ȝwane ani man to þe neode hath : þare-ouer þou most him bere,
In furȝiuenesse of þine misdedes." : he grauntede þat a-non.
Þe heremite ȝaf him cristine-dom : and het him þudere gon.
¶ CRistofre bi-side þulke watere : one hole he made him þere.
In his hond a long perche he bar : is staf as þei it were; [folio 122b]
Ȝwane any man wolde ouer þat watur : opon is rug he him caste
And tok is perche and bar him ouer : he stap hardeliche and faste,
For he was boþe strong and long— : þare ne cam so heui non
Þat Cristofre ouer þe deope watere : ne bar heom ouer ech-on.
A niȝt in þe oþur half of þe watur : a uoiz þare cam and gradde
"Hale, hale," to seint Cristofre : þat he him þare-ouer ladde.
Cristofre a-ros him op a-non : is perche on honde he nam
And wod ouer þe watur—and ne fond no man : þo he to londe cam.
he nas bote i-come hom a-ȝen : þat on ne gradde eft-sone þer.
Cristofre wod ouer, and ne miȝte finde : non more þane he dude er.
Ȝuyt it gradde þe þridde tyme : þo he cam hom to londe.
And with is rodde wod a-ȝen. : a luyte child he fond þare stonde;
Þat child bad him par charite : ouer þe watere him lede.
"Cum forth, ȝif þou wolt here ouer" : cristofre to him sede;
Swyþe liȝtliche þat child he nam : and in is Armes it caste.
Euere ase he was ouer-ward : it gan to heuegy faste;
And þat watur wax al-so : þat Cristofre sore agaste Page 274
To a-drenche þat child þat was so heui— : vnneþe he stod atþe laste.
Neuere so clene he nas ouer-come : at eche stape he grunte and blaste;
And laste þat child hadde a-dreint : he ne dorste it a-doun caste.
Þo he was to londe i-come : ase him þouȝte ful longue er,
Þat child he sette a-doun to grounde : and stod op, to reste him þer.
"Ȝwat art þou, þat art so luyte : and so heui bi-come,
So heui þat ich was ope þe poyinte : to habbe a-dreint i-lome?
Þei al þe world hadde ope me i-leie : me þinchez so heui it nere."
"No wonder, cristofre," seide þat child : "þei ic*. [MS. it] heuiore were
Þane al þe world, for ich [am] more— : and no wonder it nis*. [and—nis on an erasure.]:
For ich made al þe world of nouȝt : and al oþur þin[g] þat is.
And for þou schalt þe soþe i-seo : þine staf piche in þe grounde:
And he schal bere lef and blowe : and fruyt bere in luyte stounde."
With þis word þat child wende forth. : Cristofre is staf nam
And piȝte hit in þe grounde a-morewe : and riȝt soth it þare bi-cam.
Þo was he sikerore þane he was er : and ore louerd he louede more.
Forth he wend[e], to siwi him : and forto prechi is lore.
he heorde telle ȝware Cristine men : In torment weren ibrouȝt:
To conforti heom he wende þudere : þat heo ne scholden flechchie nouȝt.
"Beoth hardie," he seide, "and studefaste : and doth as ich ou lere!"
Þe Iustise sturte forth a-non : and smot him vnder þe Ere;
"Artþou," he seide, "on of þulke : þou it schalt a-corie sore."
"Site þou wel stille," Cristofre seide : "and ne smijt þou me non|more!
For ȝif ich a cristine man nere : Ich me wolde a-wreke a-non.
Ȝe bi-leuez on ouwer Maumates," he seide : "I-maket of treo and ston,
Þat none Miracles ne mouwen do : non more þane a treo.
Sum of þe power þat mi louerd hath : bi mi staf þou schalt i-seo:" [folio 123]
his rodde he piȝte in þe grounde : and heo bi-gan a-non
To leui and blowe and bere fruyt : bi-fore heom euerech-on.
"On swuch a god ȝe schullen bi-leue : þat swuch Miracle mai do."
Þe Iustise ne dorste, for he was muche : a bold word segge him to.
For þe faire Miracle of is staf : and for is prechingue al-so, Page 275
To god heo[m]*. [MS. heo] torneden in þe place : seuen þousende and mo.
Toward a-maner wildernesse : seint Cristofre wende,
In godes seruise to lede is lijf : ase ore louerd him grace sende.
Þe Iustise tolde þe kyngue fore : of swych a man þat he i-seiȝ
Turne þat folk and he ne dorste : for strencþe come him neiȝ.
Þe king het sone to hundret kniȝtes : seche forto heo him founde,
And þat huy scholden him nimen and leden : bi-fore him, faste i-bounde.
Forth wenden þis knyȝtes : wel I-armede, a-non.
Toward Cristofre huy comen a luyte : and bi-heolden him echon:
huy alle ne dorsten come him neiȝ : ake hamward huy gonne fleo,
And tolden, þo huy comen hom : þat huy ne miȝten him noȝwere i-seo.
"Ouȝ, ȝe cowardes," quath þe king : "nabbe ȝe him nouȝt i-founde?
Ichulle, ȝif he a-liue is : habbe him, faste i-bounde."
he sende to hundret oþur knyȝtes : þat hy him wide souȝte,
And þat huy ne comen neuere a-ȝen : are huy him with heom brouȝte.
Wel I-armede heo wenden forth. : and a-non so huy Cristofre i-seie,
huy stoden and ne dorsten gon him ner : oþur vnneþe bi-holden him with eiȝe.
¶ Cristofre stod and him*. [r. hem] bi-heold : and axede hem ȝwat huy wolden.
"For no-þing ne dorre we," þe knyȝtes seiden : "bi þe don þat we scholden:
Þe king us het bringue þe to him : and þine hondene faste binde.
Ȝif þou wolt, we wollez him segge : þat we ne mouwen þe finde."
"Nay, certes," seide Cristofre þo : "ȝe scholden beo i-blamede so;
Ake with ou ichulle*. [MS. ichulle ichulle] gon : and loki ȝwat he wulle habbe i-do."
he made heom al a-ȝein heore wille : ase a þef, faste him binde,
þat heo neren i-blamede, and leden him forth : his hondene him bi-hinde.
Of godes lawe bi þe weie : Cristofre heom gan so lere,*. [MS. lerere]
Þat echone, are huy comen hom : faire i-cristnede were.
Natheles huy ladden him forth : bi-fore þe kyngue, faste i-bounde,
And seiden, "here is godes knyȝt : nouþe we him habbeth i-founde."
þe king sat an heiȝ op-on is sege. : and a-non so he Cristofre i-seiȝ,
For drede he feol doun to grounde : þat is necke to-barst neiȝ. Page 276
his knyȝtes nomen him up a-non. : and ase tyme ase is wit him cam,
he bad Cristofre to him take : and leten beo is cristindam.
"þou miȝt, guode man," seide cristofre : "al-so wel beo stille.
Mi bodi þou hast here faste i-bounde : þou miȝt don al þi wille."
¶ "Certes, sire," þis kniȝtes seiden : þat hadden him þudere i-brouȝt,
"Cristindom we habbez itake : and we nelleth it bi-leue nouȝt."
þe king let þo in grete wrathþe : Cristofre in prisone do,
And binden alle þe knyȝtes faste : and heore heuedes smiten of al-so.
þo þeos knyȝtes bi-hauedede weren : þe king sone bi-þouȝte [folio 123b]
And tweyen faire wommen with-alle : to cristofre he brouȝte—
Þat on het Nice, þat oþur Aquiline— : for-to tornen is mod.
Þo þis wommen iseien Cristofre : ase he in prisone stod,
heom þouȝte is face wel briȝtore schine : þane þe sonne oþur þe Mone.
"Cr[i]stofre, merci," loude heo gradden : "make us cristine sone!"
Cristofre heom teiȝte þe riȝte bi-leue : and cristnede heom a-non þere.
A-morewe þe kying let heom fette : to lokie hou it were;
he hopede heo hadden þane guode man : in lecherie i-brouȝt.
þe wommen Answereden to his Axingue : as huy ne tolden of him noȝt.
"Ȝwat, hou goth þis," quat þe kyng : "habbe ȝe i-turnd ower þouȝt?
honourieth mine godes, ich rede : þe ȝwyle ou is wel i-þouȝt."*. [al. idoȝt]
"Ouwer godes beoth wurþe," þis Maydenes seiden : "in fa[i]r stude honoured to beo:
þare-fore lat swope þe stretes faire : þat al folk mouwe i-seo,
And we heom wollez honouri, i-wis : ase riȝt is and lawe."
þe king let don ase heo seiden : swiþe sone and fawe.
þo þis Maumates weren i-brouȝt : in þe strete at þe laste,
þis maydenes nomen heore gurdles boþe : ant to heom teiden faste
And to-drowen heom in-to al þe strete : and heowen heom to peces þere.
"Goth," heo seiden, "ant fechchiez heom leches : þat heo i-helede were!"
Þe kying was neiȝ for wrathþe wod : þat o maide he let hongue
And to hire fet bynden heuie stones : þat hire deþes þrowes weren strongue.
A-non so þis mayde was up i-drawe : hire leomes borsten with-inne, Page 277
Necke and senewes and oþur limes— : wel auȝte heo heuene i-winne.
he let don þat oþur in strong fuyr— : ake þare ne miȝte non come hire neiȝ:
Ake sethþe he let hire heued of smite : þo he þat oþer cas i-seiȝ.
Þus þis twei holie maydenes : to þe blisse of heuene i-wende,
Þoru þe grace þat ore swete louerd : for seint Cristofre heom sende.
¶ Þe king let þo cristofre fecche : and axede him a-non
Ȝweþur he wolde his Maumates serui : oþur to þe deþe gon.
Cristofre for-sok heore Maumates : and heore seruiz also.
Þe king het a-non þat Men him scholden : op-on a strong gredile do
And with strong fuyr and pich rosti him. : and þo he was i-leid þar-on,
As wex þat gredile malt a-wei : and þat fuyr a-queynte a-non,
And he a-ros up with-oute harme. : wroth was þe kyng þo.
To a piler he let him binde faste : and knyȝtes a-boute him go,
For-[to] scheoten him to deþe : with Mani a kene flo.
With bouwe and Areblast þare schoten to him : four hondret knyȝtes and mo:
Ake þare nas non Arewe þat neiȝ him cam : ake alle heo gliden bi-side
And heo[n]gun*. [MS. heogun] in þe Eyr a-boute him : and þare huy gunne a-bide.
A-non so þe king þis i-saiȝ : for wratþe þudere he wende.
An Arewe þat ouer þis guode man heng : a-ȝein him sone kende,
Boþe is eȝene heo smot out : and deope into þe heued.
Þe king stod for Anguysche and for drede : ase is wit him were bi-reued.
"Þou onselie wrechche," seide cristofre : "ȝwat is nouþe wurth þi miȝte?
A-ȝein him þat þov hauest bi-gonne : feble þou art to fiȝte! [folio 124]
Of þi wrechhede ich habbe reuþe : And þat i schal cuyþe þe:
For to-Moruwe mi louerd soffri wole : þat þou schalt laten a-quelle me,
And þanne smeore þine eiȝene with mi blod : and fonde mi louerdes miȝte:
And ȝif þou wolt a-riȝt bi-leue : þou schalt habbe þi siȝte."
Þe blinde kyng þar-to hopede : and swiþe wel it onder-stod:
A-morewe he let is heued of-smyte : and smeorie him with is blod:
he hadde is siȝt guod and cler : þoruȝ godes grace wel sone.
þoruȝ þe bone of seint cristofre : he tournede to cristine-dome. Page 278
he let burien faire seint Cristofre : and bi-liefde on god a-non
and let him cristni in godes lawe : and is men ech-on.
Þus seint Cristofre þene hexte louerd : at þe laste of-souȝte.
God us bringue to þulke Ioye : þat he is soule brouȝte.