DIRECTIONS FOR A TRENTAL.
A TRENTAL was an office of thirty masses, three of a sort, which were said for the dead, to deliver their souls from torment, according to Canon Rock on the burial day; low masses were said in the side chapels, and at all the altars in the church: a trental of masses used to be offered up for almost every one on the burial day."*. [Church of our Fathers, vol. ii. p. 504.] Be|quests were frequently made for the saying or singing of trentals. " In 1480 John Meryell left . . . to the friars of Babwell, to pray for his soul a trental of masses, xs."*. [Cullum's History of Hawsted, 2nd ed., p. 16.] Sometimes a yearly trental, or tricenarium, was said for departed brethren. See examples from early times in Ducange, s.v. trentale, and tricenarium.
The masses of the trental appear to have been performed, sometimes all on the one day, sometimes on thirty separate days, one each on three days within the octaves of each of the ten feasts; and to the proper mass for the day might be added the Dirige (or morning Page 120 service for the dead)*. [Called dirige or dirge, from the beginning of the first anthem at matins, " Dirige Domine Deus meus in conspectu tuo viam meam."—Rock, ii. 503.] and any special prayer or prayers desired. In the poem called St. Gregory's Trental*. [Found in two MSS., Cott. Caligula, A ii. fo. 84 vo. of the fifteenth century, and Lambeth, 306, fo. 110, printed in Furnivall's Political, Religious, and Love Poems, 1866, Early English Text Society, p. 83.] the virtues of this means of saving a departed soul are exalted, particular directions are given, and several additions are specially recommended for greater certainty, One of these additions is the dirige, but the prayer also desired by the Brome writer is not among them. The poem (of 240 lines) tells how his mother's ghost, in torture for her sins, appeared to Pope Gregory, and enjoined him to sing "a trentelle
She added that they should be said "within the octaves of the feasts."*. [Line 124, with which compare ll. 144-5 and 231-2.] The Pope carried out his mother's behests, which were quite effectual; yet the writer rather inconsistently desires (as before mentioned) that a good many other prayers, which are named, should be joined to the masses.
The correspondence of the Brome trental with the trental thus ascribed to the authority of Pope Gregory will be remarked, and we may feel pretty sure that we have here a usual composition of this favourite Office for the Dead. That the rest of the form was variable, according to the wish of the person who ordered the masses, is indicated by this little record at Brome no less than by a will of 1448, Page 121 quoted by Ducange, in which the testator ordered a "trental de messes" to be said for his soul "le plus brief que faire se porra." But who it was at Brome or Scole who showed this preference for a dirge, and the prayer Deus summa spes, there is nothing in the manuscript to tell.
The "month's mind," sometimes mentioned in connection with a trental, appears to have been a day kept in remembrance of the departed a month after death, when a number of masses, probably a trental, was performed for his soul, and a dinner or feast given. "In Ireland," writes Sir Henry Piers, 1682, "after the day of interment of a great personage, they count four weeks; and that day four weeks, all priests and friars, and all gentry, far and near, are invited to a great feast (usually termed the month's mind). The preparation to this feast are masses, said in all parts of the house at once, for the soul of the departed. If the room be large you shall have three or four priests together celebrating in the several corners thereof. The masses done, they proceed to their feastings; and after all, every priest and friar is discharged with his largess."*. [Quoted in Brand's Dictionary of Antiquities, ed. 1870, vol. ii. p. 231.] Compare this with Dr. Rock's description of the trental above. Payments for the feast, as well as for the priests, are not infrequent in old wills, churchwarden's accounts, &c. (see Archæologia, vol. i. pp. 11-14; Brand's Dictionary of Antiquities, ed. 1870, ii. 229; also Rock's Church of our Fathers, ii. 518; and Dr. Skeat's Notes to Piers Plowman, text C., x. 320, p. 198.
Spenser, in Mother Hubberd's Tale, 1. 453, refers to the old state of things as past:—
These Directions for Trental and for Prayers (p. 119) are written apparently by the same hand which wrote the Accounts, Articles of Leet and Baron, &c., i.e., Robert Melton.
Trentals er comonly seyd xxxti massis and no [folio 80a] derege; they shulde be sayd with euery masse a derege, soo I wolde haue them seyd yff I shulde cavsse them to be seyd for my selffe, euery derege with this preyur, Deus summa spes: they know it that hath seyd trentals. The massis er thes folowyng;—First iij of the nateuite of owre lord as of Crystmes day, iij of Epiphanie as of Twelth day, iij of the Page 122 purificashon of owr lady as of Candylmes day, iij of the Salutacion of owre lady as of owre lady day in lent, iij of the resurrecshon of owre lord as of Ester day, iij of the Assencion as of holy Thursday, iij of the holy gost as of Whyts[onday], iij of the Trenite as of trenite sonday, iij of the assumpcion of owre lady, iij of the nateuite of oure lady.
Of eche of thes, iij messes.