Friday, April 20, 2007

Buxom and bonny ....

A good while ago I picked up a copy of the 1847 printed edition of the Exeter Pontifical, a 14th Century episcopal liturgy manual compiled by Edmund Lacy, then Bishop of Exeter. It's almost entirely in Latin, naturally, and records lots of local usages which have long since fallen by the wayside. Some of the more interesting ones include a blessing for books (ideal for yours truly), a blessing for the shield and staff before a duel (!), and even the form for consecrating a King or Queen. (When we finally set things to rights I'll be well prepared!)

What was interestingly familiar was the marriage service. It had shades of Cranmer's Prayer book though of course it is more accurate to say that Cranmer has shades of it! Though being a Catholic, which is to say Sacramental, marriage service it's a bit more earthy than the fastidious Anglican sensibility would allow for. Thus we find the following exchange "Here Ich N. take ye N. to my weddud wife, to haven and to holden fro yys day forward, for betre, for wors, for rycher, for porer, in syknesse, and in helthe, tyl deth us departe, yf holy chyrche hyt wol ordeyne, and thereto I plyzth my treuthe.

That's fairly recognisable - if the spelling seems a bit awkward, try saying it out loud and it will sound familiar. However when we get on to the wife-to-be's lines they are a bit, well, odd ... She says and I quote "Ich N. take ye N. to my weddyd hosebound, to haven and to holden fro yys day forward, for betre, for wors, for rycher, for porer, in sekenesse, and in helthe, to be boneyre and buxom in bedde and at boorde, tyl deth us departe, yf holychurch hyt wol ordeyne, and ther to I plyzth my trewthe."

Romantic? Not much. Practical, yes, very! I'll say nothing about the bit, a little further on, where the priest/bishop blesses the "lectum" i.e. the marriage bed, and then blesses the spouses while they're in the bed and he (finally) disappears. Like I said, earthy. Of course, every time I hear the word 'buxom' I have visions of Barbara Windsor in something like this. In fact all 'buxom' meant originally was obliging or pliant. In return for being buxom and bonny she got the following promise from him "Wyth thys ryng Iche ye wedde, and with my body ich ye honour, and with al my gold ich ye dowe, in nomine Patri, et Filii et Spirit us Sancti, Amen." So he provided the money and she provided the home comforts. It's one way of doing things I suppose ...

3 comments:

lowdenclear said...

I really don't know whether to laugh or cry....!

Eamonn said...

I wondered what your reaction would be ... I guess now I know ;-)

Patrick said...
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