«Blyssed be the wombe that the bar and the tetys that yaf the sowkyn»
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Thow schalt ben etyn and knawyn of the pepul of the world as any raton knawyth the stokfysch. Drede the nowt, dowtyr, for thow schalt have the victory of al thin enmys. I schal yeve the grace inow to answer every clerke in the love of God. I swer to the be my mageste that I schal nevyr forsakyn the in wel ne in wo. I schal helpyn the and kepyn the, that ther schal nevyr devil in helle parte the fro me, ne awngel in hevyn, ne man in erthe, for develys in helle mow not, ne awngelys in hevyn wyl not, ne man in erthe schal not. (MK 72)1
Composed in all probability in the 1430ies, The Book of Margery Kempe has ever since the rediscovery of its full text in 1934 been sparking off fervent discussions. While early reviews of this work have been rather dismissive of the main protagonist’s mystical authenticity, and Hope Emily Allen, who wrote the notes to The Book’s first scholarly edition by Sanford Brown Meech, even referred to the visionary as “petty, neurotic, vain, illiterate, physically and nervously over-strained” (Allen lxiv), positive characteristics were acknowledged, too, even at this early stage of criticism. Margery Kempe, despite the initial critic’s recourse to physical and mental illness to describe her spirituality, is still considered as “devout, much-travelled, forceful and talented” (Allen lxiv). Nonetheless, subsequent critics’ comparisons with the universally acclaimed late-medieval English anchoress and...
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