A mediaeval ballad on the murder of Thomas Becket

Transcription by Jack Campin, November 2006.

This comes from a sheet I tore out of an old disintegrating book destined for the skip. It seems to be an English Catholic journal, p.63, with a header line "In The Arm Chair". There's a handwritten note "S.Luke's 2.1 - July '95" which seems to date it before 1895.

We read in the little book of devotions to S. Thomas of Canterbury noticed in our reviews, the following poem which we reproduce here. As it was written in the 15th century we need have no fear of infringing any one's copyright.

A.a.a.a. nunc gaudet Ecclesia

LESTENTYTZ lordyngs bothe grete and smale,
I xal zu telyn a wonder tale,
How holy cherche was browt in bale,
   Cum magna injuria.

The gretest clerk of al this lond,
Of Cauntyrbery ze under-stond,
Slawyn he was be wykkyd hond,
   Demonis potentia.

Knyts keymn fro Hendry kyng,
Wykkyd men with-oute lesyng,
Ther they dedyn a wonder thing,
   Feruentes insania.

They sowtyn hym al a-bowtyn,
With-inne the paleys and with-outyn,
Of Ihesu Cryst hadde they non dowte,
   In sua malitia.

They openyd here mowthis wonder wyde,
To Thomeys they spokyn mekyl pryde,
Here, tretour, thu xalt a-byde,
   Ferens mortis tedia.

Thomas answerid with mylde chere,
If ze will me slon in this manere,
Let hem pasyn alle tho arn here,
   Sine contumelia.

Be-forn his aunter he knelyd adoun,
Ther they gunne to paryn his crown,
He sterdyn the braynus up and doun,
   Optans celi gaudia.

The turmentours a-bowtyn sterte,
With dedly wondys thei gunne him hurte,
Thomas deyid in moder cherche,
   Pergens ad celestia.

Moder, clerk, wedue and wyf,
Worchepe ze Thomeys in all your lyf,
For lij poynts he les his lyf,
   Contra regis consilia.

The punctuation is obviously modern, but it looks like the editor left the original spelling in all its googlewhackable glory.

If anybody can tell more about this song (like, what the language tells us about its authorship, or a guess at the tune if it's pastiching something well-known) I'd like to know.

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