Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt?

Original Text: 
The Minor Poems of the Vernon MS., ed. F. J. Furnivall, Early English Text Society, OS 117 (1901): 761-63. PR 1119 A2 no. 117.
3    And hadden feld and wod{.e}?
7Eten and drounken, and maden hem glad;
9    Men kneleden hem biforen;
11        And in a twincling of an ey{.e}
15    Tho havek{.e}s and tho hound{.e}s?
24    Thenn{.e}s ne cometh they never{.e}.
27    Withdrau thine eys{.e}s ofte;
35        Stond, ne fal namore adoun
36    For a luytel blast!
38And thenk on him that thereoune yaf
47        And do that traytre scien that word;
49There-inne is day with-outen night,
50With-outen end{.e}, strenkthe and might,
51    And wreche of everich fo;
52        Mid god him-selwen ech{.e} lif,
53        And pes and rest without{.e} strif,
55Mayden moder, heven{.e} quene,
57    Oure sheld agein the fende:
59        That we moten thi sone I-seen,


1] The poem's first line roughly translates the Latin title (which is in the original manuscript). The last six additional stanzas, not in the printed Representative Poetry, were added in version 2.08. Spelling is normalized somewhat -- thorn/th, u/v, u/w -- and {.e} marks what is thought to be a sounded syllable. For a translation, see Medieval English Verse, translated by Brian Stone (Penguin, 1964): 67-68.
The theme of this poem occurs in Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy, II, metre 7, and frequently in medieval poetry. The most famous example is Villon's Ballade des dames du temps jadis.
were: where. Back to Line
2] ladden: led.
havekes: hawks.
beren: bore. Back to Line
4] levedies: ladies.
hoere: their. Back to Line
5] tressour: tresses or headdress. Back to Line
6] rode: redness, i.e., colour, complexion. Back to Line
8] with gamen i-lad: led in sport. Back to Line
10] They bore themselves very exceedingly high. Back to Line
12] forloren: lost. Back to Line
13] lawhing: laughing. Back to Line
14] trayling: leisurely progress.
proude gong: stately walking. Back to Line
16] went: gone. Back to Line
17] That happiness has come to pass. Back to Line
18] stoundes: spaces of time, moments. Back to Line
19] nomen: took. Back to Line
20] i-fere: in company. Back to Line
21] fuir: fire.
brennes: burns. Back to Line
22] o: always, ever. Back to Line
23] Long is their alas and their woe. Back to Line
25] Dreghy: suffer. Back to Line
26] pine: pain.
that me the bit: that I offer you. Back to Line
28] possibly, "they [your eyes] are evil counsel ("un-rede") [to] your pain." Back to Line
29] And: if.
mede: reward. Back to Line
30] your pain will seem an easy thing. Back to Line
31] fend: fiend, the devil. Back to Line
32] roun: mysterious word, "rune."
egging: incitement. Back to Line
33] I-cast: thrown down. Back to Line
34] Oup: get up. Back to Line
37] Take the cross as thy staff. Back to Line
39] lef: beloved. Back to Line
40] He gave his life for you; you surrender your life to him. Back to Line
41] nim: take. Back to Line
42] wrek: avenge.
thef: thief. Back to Line
43] rightte bileve: true faith, the creed. Back to Line
44] wiles: treacheries, deceits, wiles.
best: fight against. Back to Line
45] fonde: try. Back to Line
46] stav{.e}s ord: the staff's shield. Back to Line
48] Win that happy land (heaven). Back to Line
54] Wel{.e}: happiness. Back to Line
56] const: can. Back to Line
58] sunn{.e}: sin. Back to Line
60] hende: end. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
In Bodley MS. Digby 86, fols. 126v-27r. Facsimile of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Digby 86, intro. Judith Tschann and M. B. Parkes (Oxford University Press for the Early English Text Society, 1996).
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.3; completed in RPO 2.08.