Book Series Texts and Transitions, vol. 8

Medieval Anglo-Irish Troubles

A Cultural Study of BL MS Harley 913

Deborah L. Moore

  • Pages: 337 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:6 b/w, 2 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English, Latin, Middle English
  • Publication Year:2017

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-55478-5
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-56468-5
  • E-book
  • Available

A small, battered 14th-century Anglo-Irish manuscript full of ribald and taboo poems and stories holds the key to unlocking a medieval community’s troubled social, devotional and political history.


“In conclusion, Moore's study of Harley 913 and Lansdowne 418 is solid and shows a great deal of potential for this scholar to develop the ideas she introduces here.” (Linda E. Mitchell, in The Medieval Review, 180606)

“Overall, this is an impressive work of scholarship, achieved in three parts (…) Moore’s cultural study of this manuscript will be a valuable resource for scholars for many years to come.” (Nicholas Dean Brodie, in Parergon, 36/1, 2019, p. 240-41)


British Library MS Harley 913 is an early fourteenth-century trilingual manuscript whose paradoxically devotional and ribald contents display many distinct aspects of the Anglo-Irish socio-political reality of the day. However, several of its texts have, in the past, suffered from repeated scholarly misreadings, in part because scholars have not taken the time to seriously consider the manuscript’s contents as a whole, and in part because fluctuations in the political, social, and religious climate between Ireland and England have prejudiced how some scholars have approached these works.

This book examines these texts, as well as their subsequent misinterpretations, in the order in which they occur in the manuscript and reveals the pattern of politicized discourse surrounding this important medieval Anglo-Irish cultural artefact that has hitherto obscured, rather than elucidated, the very personal interactions of some of the era’s key figures. For the first time, this volume allows readers to visualize the manuscript in its entirety and complexity. Texts touching on the taboos of incest, regicide, and witchcraft, together with the clandestine manoeuvrings of the power-hungry and influential, reveal a surprisingly complicated interlacing of events across medieval Ireland, England, and the Continent.



Part One: Introduction

  • The Significance of British Library Manuscript Harley 913
  • Definitions and Semantic Difficulties Posed by MS Harley 913
  • Political, Social and Religious Contexts
  • Genres and Thematic Descriptors of the Texts

Part Two: The Contents of BL MS Harley 913

  • (1) Significance of the Letters of the Alphabet
  • (2) The Land of Cokaygne
  • (3) Five Evil Things
  • (4) Satire on Sinful Townspeople
  • (5) Song of Michael of Kildare
  • (6) The Abbot of Gloucesters Feast
  • (7) Hours for the Drowsy
  • (8) Mass for Drunkards
  • (9) Advice to Priests
  • (10) Advice on Morals
  • (11) Foolish is the Man Who Puts His Trust in Brute Force and (12) I am Alone, Solitary and Without Solace
  • (13) Latin Proverb
  • (14) Latin Recipe
  • (15) Sarmun
  • (16) Fifteen Signs Before Judgment
  • (17) The Narrative of Theobald, Archbishop of Assisi
  • (18) Excerpt from the Testimony of Franciscus Bartholi
  • (19) Michael Bernardis Narrative
  • (20) Christ on the Cross
  • (21) Fall and Passion
  • (22) Ten Commandments
  • (23) Lollai and (52) Lolla (The Latin version of (23) Lollai)
  • (24) Letter from the Prince of the Region of Hell and (25) Dositheus Response
  • (26) Hymn to Christ Crucified
  • (27) Troy
  • (28) List of Franciscan Custodies
  • (29) The Scourging of Saint Paul
  • (30) The Number of Years
  • (31) Gods Response to the Blessed Francis
  • (32) On the City of Babylon
  • (33) A Song on the Times
  • (34) Seven Sins
  • (35) Sins and Virtues
  • (36) A Riddle on Incest
  • (37) Orchard Exemplum
  • (38) Alice, I Love You
  • (39) Hail, Gateway of Deliverance
  • (40) Pers of Bermingham
  • (41) On the Illumination of Books
  • (42) Prophecy on the Rule of the British and the Scots
  • (43) Elde
  • (44) Against Monks
  • (45) Archbishop Pechams ‘Meditation on the Body of Christ’
  • (46) Repentance of Love
  • (47) Nego
  • (48) On the Venality of Judges
  • (49) The Passion of a Monk According to Bacchus
  • (50) The Hospitality of Monks
  • (51) Erþ
  • (53) The Entrenchment of New Ross

The Works of BL MS Harley 913 Now Only Extant in BL MS Lansdowne 418

  • The Letter of Sir Adam of Britain, Knight
  • Let Us Praise the Queen of Heaven
  • The Twelve Tribes of Israel and Their Symbols
  • Yung Men of Waterford
  • Glorious Bishop Thomas


Appendix: Texts of BL MS Harley 913 Copied into BL MS Lansdowne 418