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DIMEV 6299
IMEV 3943
NIMEV 3943
When faith fails in priests saws
A ‘Prophecy’, attributed sometimes to Chaucer and sometimes to Merlin — six lines — four 8-line stanzas (same three rhymes throughout).
Author(s): Geoffrey Chaucer (attrib.); Merlin (attrib.)
Subjects: prophecies
Versification: — two-line — aa
Bibliographic Ghosts: Oxford, Bodleian Library Tanner 88 (SC 9914) , p. 253



Manuscript Witnesses:
1.Source: Oxford, Bodleian Library Ashmole 59 (SC 6943), f. 78
First Lines:
Whane lordes wol leese þeire olde lawes
And preestis beon varyinge in þeire sawes
And leccheris is holden solace
And oppressyoun for truwe per chace…
Last Lines:
…þat is islande of Albyoun
Nexst to his confusyoun
Note: 8 lines: ‘Profecia Merlini.’; formerly 3986
Attributed Title: Prophecia Merlini doctoris perfecti (f. 78)
Editions:
Skeat, Walter William. “Merlin’s Prophecy.” Athenaeum 108 (Dec. 19, 1896): 874: 874.
Skeat, Walter William, ed. The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. 7 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1894-7: 7.lxxxi.
Gray, Douglas. The Oxford Book of Late Medieval Verse and Prose. Oxford: Clarendon, 1985: 22.
2.Source: Oxford, Bodleian Library Ashmole 781 (SC 8113), p. 162
First Lines:
When faith failith in Preists sawes
And Lordes heastes holden for Lawes…
Last Lines:
…Then shall the land of Albion
Be brought to greate Confusion
Attributed Title: Chaucers Prophecie (p. 162)
Editions:
Urry, John, ed. The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. London: B. Lintot, 1721: Preface (unpaginated).
Dibdin, Thomas Frognall. Typographical Antiquities. Revised Joseph Ames and William Herbert. 4 vols. London: Bulmer, 1810, 1812, 1816, 1818: 2.514.
3.Source: Oxford, Bodleian Library Lat. misc. c.66 [olim Capesthorne], f. 104rb
Transcription:
When feith failes in prestes saweȝ
& lordes wylles ben holden for lawes
& robbery cald purchace
& lechery þerby solace
þen shalt þe londe of albion
turne into confusion
Note: Headed ‘Seynt bede’
Attributed Author: Seynt bede (f. 104rb)
Editions:
Robbins, Rossell Hope. “The Poems of Humphrey Newton, Esquire, 1466-1536.” PMLA 65 (1950): 249-81: 275.
4.Source: Oxford, Bodleian Library Rawlinson poet. 32 (SC 14526), f. 1v
First Lines:
Whanne faith faileth [ ]stes sawes
And willes of lordis be h[ ]ld [ ]…
Last Lines:
…Thanne shall þis lond Awi[ ]
Be brought to confucion
5.Source: Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Library Gg.4.27 (Part 1b), f. 4v
First Lines:
Whan faith faileth in Pristes sawes
And Lordes hests are holden for lawes…
Last Lines:
…Than shall the lond of Albion
Be brought to great confusion
Note: A late addition.
Facsimiles:
Parkes, Malcolm B., and Richard Beadle. “Introduction.” Poetical Works. Geoffrey Chaucer. A Facsimile of Cambridge University Library MS Gg.4.27. 3 vols Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1979 (vol. 1); 1980 (vols. 2-3).
6.Source: Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Library Ii.6.11, f. 126 (pastedown at back)
First Lines:
When ffaithe ffaylethe In preastes sawes
And lordes Behestes ar holden ffor lawes…
Last Lines:
…[Th]en schall The lande of Albioun
Be Browght To Greate Confusioun
Note: Followed by a second version (see next) of the same asded to an originally blank pastedown.
7.Source: Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Library Ii.6.11, f. 126 (pastedown at back)
First Lines:
When ffaithe ffailethe in preastes Sawes
And lordes Wyttes makethe lawes…
Last Lines:
…Then The lande of Brute Called Ablioun
Schall schortly after Cumme To Confusioun
Note: Follows ‘or Thus’ after previous version adsed to an originally blank pastedown.
8.Source: Cambridge UK, Fitzwilliam Museum 355 (a), f. 1
Transcription:
Qwan prestis faylin in her sawes
And lordis turnin goddis lawes
Ageynis ryt
And leccherie is holdin as priuy solas
And robberie as fre purchas
bewar þanne of ille
Than schal þe lond of albion
Turnin to confusion
As sumtyme it befelle
Note: Ends, ‘Ora pro anglia sancta maria quod Thomas cantuarie’; third, sixth and ninth lines written to right of preceding couplets; followed by 5075.
9.Source: Cambridge UK, Magdalene College Pepys 1236, f. 91
First Lines:
When feythe fayleth in prestys sawys
& lordys wyll be londys lawys…
Last Lines:
…Than shall the londe of albeon
be turned in to confusion
Editions:
James, Montague Rhodes. Bibliotheca Pepysiana: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Library of Samuel Pepys. Pt. III: Medieval Manuscripts. London, 1923: 3.5.
Robbins, Rossell Hope, ed. Secular Lyrics of the XIV and XV Centuries. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1955: 241.
10.Source: Cambridge UK, Trinity College R.3.15 (595), f. 3
Transcription:
Whan faithe failethe in prestis sawes
And Lordes hestes art holden for lawes
And robbere is holden purchase
And lechery is holden solace
Then shall the Londe of Albion
be broughte to greate confusion
Note: Sixteenth-century hand
Editions:
Todd, Henry John. Illustrations of the Lives and Writings of Gower and Chaucer. London: Rivington, 1810: 119.
11.Source: London, British Library Addit. 24663, f. 1
Note: Ascribes to Chaucer: ‘wrytten by Iefferae Chauser’
12.Source: London, British Library Harley 1337, f. 105v
13.Source: London, British Library Royal 17 A.XVI, f. 27v2
Transcription:
Whenne feith fayles in prestys sawes
And lordys willes been had for lawes
And lechery is pryvy solace
And robery is houlden good purchace
Thenne shall the lond of Albyon
Turn vnto confusyon
14.Source: Manchester, John Rylands Library Lat. 201, f. 130
Transcription:
Whenne lordis wol lose har olde lawis
And prestis buth varyynge in har sawys
And lecherye is holde solas
& oppressyoun for purchas
þanne schal þe long of albyon by nyr to his confusyoun
Note: Follows 2742
Attributed Title: prophetia
Editions:
Fawtier, E. C., and R. Fawtier. “From Merlin to Shakespeare: Adventures of an English Prophecy.” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 5 (1918-20): 388-92: 398.
15.Source: Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin 516, f. 118
Transcription:
When lordes wille is londes law
Prestes wylle tre trechery and gyle hold soth saw
lechery callyd pryve solace
And robbery is hold no trespace
Then schal the lond of albyoun
torne in to confusioun
A ml cccc lx and on
few lordes or ellys noone
Editions:
Furnivall, Frederick James, ed. “Rev. ed. of G. H. Kingsley, Francis Thynne: Animadversions upon Chaucer’s WorksEETS o.s. 9 (1865), repr. 1965; re-issued Chaucer Society 2nd ser. 13 (1876): xlvi.
Robbins, Rossell Hope, ed. Historical Poems of the XIV and XV Centuries. New York: Columbia UP, 1959: 121.
16.Source: Untraced, Present whereabouts unknown olim Illuminated Missal, flyleaf
Note: Hamer (1995) lists as Unidentified, Missing or Destroyed; nine lines; tail-rhyme
Editions:
Brydges, Sir Samuel Egerton, and Joseph Haslewood. The British Bibliographer. 4 vols. London: T. Bersley, vol. 1: 1810; vols. 2, 3: 1812; vol. 4: 1814: 2.200.



Print Witnesses:
1.Source: STC 5090. Chaucer, Geoffrey, [Thou fiers god of armes, mars the rede], [Westminster: W. Caxton, 1477?]
Facsimiles:
Jenkinson, Francis. “Introduction.” The story of Queen Anelida and the false Arcite. Cambridge: University Press, 1905; facsimile of Geoffrey Chaucer (STC 5090).
Editions:
Dibdin, Thomas Frognall. Typographical Antiquities. Revised Joseph Ames and William Herbert. 4 vols. London: Bulmer, 1810, 1812, 1816, 1818: 1.311.
Blades, William. The Biography and Typography of William Caxton, England’s first printer. London: Trübner, 1877; repr. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1971: 2.65.
Blades, William. The Biography and Typography of William Caxton, England’s first printer. London: Trübner, 1877; repr. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1971: 2.65.
Skeat, Walter William, ed. The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. 7 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1894-7: 1.46.
D’Evelyn, Charlotte. Peter Idley’s Instructions to His Son. Boston: Modern Language Association of America; and London: Oxford UP, 1935: 230.
Fawtier, E. C., and R. Fawtier. “From Merlin to Shakespeare: Adventures of an English Prophecy.” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 5 (1918-20): 388-92: 390.
2.Source: Geoffrey Chaucer, Workes, Thynne, 1532 , sig.
First Lines:
Whan faith fayleth in preestes sawes
And lordes hestes are holden for lawes…
Last Lines:
…Than shal the londe of Albyon
Be brought to great confusyon
Note: Immediately follows 6045 as third of four texts following table of contents to fill up the quire.
Facsimiles:
Jenkinson, Francis. “Introduction.” The story of Queen Anelida and the false Arcite. Cambridge: University Press, 1905; facsimile of Geoffrey Chaucer (STC 5090).
Editions:
Stowe, John, ed. The Workes of Geffrey Chaucer…with diuers addicions, with the Siege of Thebes, compiled by J. Lidgate. London, J. Kyngston for J. Wight, 1561 (STC 5075).
Speght, Thomas, ed. The Workes of…Geffrey Chaucer. London, [A. Islip,] imp. G. Bishop, 1598; rev. ed. A. Islip, 1602 (STC 5077, 5080): Seventeenth-century transcript of Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Library Ii.3.26, f. 161v.
Bell, John, ed. The Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. 14 vols. in 7. The Poets of Great Britain. Edinburgh, 1782; repr. London: Cadell and Davies, 1807: 1.ccxlvii.
Puttenham, Richard. The Arte of English Poesie [1589]. Gladys Doidge Willcock, and Alice Walker, eds. Cambridge: at the UP, 1936; ed. Edward Arber. Birmingham, 1869; repr. London: Constable, 1906: 232.
The Poems of Geoffrey Chaucer. 5 vols. Chiswick: C. Whittington, 1822: 5.179.
Pickering, William. Aldine Edition of the British Poets, Chaucer. London: William Pickering, 1845; 2nd rev. ed.: see bad key: 6.287; 1866, 6.307.
Bell, Robert, ed. Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. London: J.W. Parker, 1854-6; rev. Walter William Skeat 4 vols. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1878; orig. published 8 vols: 3.427.
Gilman, , ed. The Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Boston: Houghton, Osgood, 1879: 3.654.
Skeat, Walter William. The Chaucer Canon. Oxford: Clarendon, 1900: 115.