The Testament of John Lydgate

Original Text: 
755    What mortall peyne I suffre for thi trespace.
756With pietous voys I crye and sey to the:
757    Beholde my woundes, behold my blody face,
759Beholde my enemyes that do me so despice,
760    And how that I, to reforme the to grace,
761Was like a lambe offred in sacryfice.
850And geyn thi pryde behold my gret mekenesse;
851    Geyn thyn envie behold my charité;
854    Atweene too thevys nayl{.e}d to a tree,
856    Behold, O man! all this I did for the,
857Meke as a lambe offred in sacryfice.
858Behold my love, and gyf me thyn ageyn;
859    Behold, I deyde thy raunsom for to paye.
862    An hardere batayle no man myght assaye,
864    Wher-for, O man! no lenger to dismaye,
865I gaf for the my blood in sacryfice.
868How I to mercy am redy the to take.
869    Gyf me thyn herte and be no more unkynde;
872    Whan thou were lost, thy sowle ageyn to fynde,
873My blod I offred for the in sacryfice.
874Emprente thes thynges in thyn inward thought,
875    And grave hem depe in thy remembraunce;
878    And with my seyntes to yeve the suffisaunce,
879In the hevenly court for the I do devyse
880    A place eternall, a place of all plesaunce;
881For which my blood I gaf in sacryfice.
882And more my mercy to putte att a preef,
883    To every synnere that non ne shal it mysse,
885    Which hadde so longe trespaced and doon amys;
886    Went he not frely with me to paradise?
888    All repentaunt to bryng hem to my blysse,
889For whom my blood I gaf in sacryfice.
890Tarye no lenger toward thyn herytage;
891    Hast on thy weye and be of ryght good chere.
892Go eche day onward on thy pylgrymage;
893    Thynke howe short tyme thou hast abyden here.
895Noon erthly palys wrought in so statly wyse.
896    Kome on, my frend, my brother most entere!
898Explicit testamentum Johanis Lydgate.


754] A poem in 897 lines, and is extant in fourteen MSS. First printed by Richard Pynson (1515?). As the poet declares (lines 197-198) that he is old and enfeebled the date of composition has been conjectured to be about 1445, when he was about seventy-five years of age. The basis of the poem is a confession of the sins of Lydgate's youth, which he offers to Christ as a last will and testament. There are five divisions, of which the last, here given in part, is an appeal of the crucified Jesus to sinful man. It was suggested to Lydgate, by the sight of a crucifix painted on a wall with the inscription "Vide". Back to Line
758] manace. Menace. Back to Line
852] clennesse. Purity. Back to Line
853] covetyse. Covetousness. Back to Line
855] Rayled. Clothed. Back to Line
860] brode and pleyn. Broadly and fully. Back to Line
861] gostly. Spiritual. Back to Line
863] empryse. Enterprise. Back to Line
866] do forsake. "Do" is probably merely emphatic as in modern usage. Back to Line
867] See whether anything has been omitted (to prove) that I am ready to admit thee to mercy. Back to Line
870] See note on l.866. Back to Line
871] late: let.
departe. Separate. Back to Line
876] The omission of the unstressed syllable in the first foot and also at the caesura are characteristic of Lydgate's verse. Here, both occur in one line. Scan:
Thénk | on hém | ánd | forgét | hem nówght.
Back to Line
877] allegeaunce. Alleviation, relief. Back to Line
884] See Luke, xxiii.39-41. Back to Line
887] mende. Mind, memory. Back to Line
894] bygged. Built. Back to Line
897] Explicit is a shortened form of explicitum est. "The testament of John Lydgate is completed". Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
15th century
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.41; RPO 1996-2000.