Christmas in Medieval England

by Blue Heron

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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    This disc comes in an attractive 4-panel wallet-style format, with a CD sleeves. There is no plastic tray, which makes for a greener (and more lightweight) package. The CD allows listeners to share the beauty, excitement, intensity and variety found in a Blue Heron concert performance. It includes plainchant, carols, and other music for Advent and Christmas from 15th-century England. It is comprised entirely of tracks recorded live at First Church in Cambridge, Congregational in December 2013.

    The package includes a booklet with notes by Music Director Scott Metcalfe.

    Including unlimited streaming of Christmas in Medieval England via the free bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Christmas in Medieval England via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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about

Christmas in Medieval England

BHCD1006

"Amid the commercial dross, three new releases are worth their weight in mistletoe... [The music is ] brought off with such panache. The program is by turns pensive and lively, and the scholarship required to evoke stylistic accuracy is put totally at the service of performance. There’s a deeply affecting edge to the singing, whether in an atmospheric account of the still-familiar “Veni, Veni Emanuel,” or the glorious, elevated Sanctus from the anonymous “Missa Veterem Hominem.”"
David Allen, The New York Times, Dec. 22, 2015

"Metcalfe’s small choir, recorded live, allows the music’s sweetness, its modest sense of joy, to speak for itself."
Richard Fairman, The Financial Times, Dec. 11, 2015

"Along the way we have the pastoral and boisterously joyous, the simple and recondite. ...
"[T]he performances are what one has come to expect from Blue Heron: razor accurate intonation and entries, tonally balanced between voices, with much attention spent on phrase-shaping. Unlike some choral groups for whom a poised, perfect integration of all voices is the final goal, Metcalfe aims for expressive intent within an appropriate stylistic framework. That noted, some of the album's most impressive work occurs outside the context of the most emotionally immediate. The Agnus Dei from the anonymous Missa Veterem hominem, for example, is in its subtle manipulation of balance and shifting dynamics, an excellent example of what Blue Heron has achieved on a much greater scale in its Peterhouse Partbooks recordings."
Barry Brenesal, Fanfare | Mar./Apr. 2016

"But this scholarship is worn very lightly, and is never allowed to intrude on the musicianship or the obvious pleasure the group takes in this music. ... It’s a perfect hour of celebration and wonder for all of us during the Christmas season."
Dean Frey, Amazon Customer Review | Nov. 30, 2015

credits

released October 9, 2015

Recorded live on December 20 & 21, 2013 at First Church in Cambridge, Congregational UCC, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Engineering, editing and mastering by Joel Gordon
Graphic design by Melanie Germond
Cover image: Miniature of the Annunciation: The Beauchamp Hours (London and Bruges, 1401-1415). Copyright The British Library Board. All Rights Reserved.
Photos by Liz Linder

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Blue Heron Boston, Massachusetts

Blue Heron, directed by Scott Metcalfe, has been acclaimed by The Boston Globe as “one of the Boston music community’s indispensables” and hailed by Alex Ross in The New Yorker for the “expressive intensity” of its interpretations; the Boston Musical Intelligencer calls Blue Heron “a fantastic model for the fully-realized potential of early music performance in the 21st century.” ... more

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Track Name: Veni, veni, Emanuel
Veni, veni, Emanuel!
Captivum solve Israel,
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei filio.
Gaude! gaude! Emanuel
nascetur pro te, Israel.

Veni, O Jesse Virgula!
Ex hostis tuos ungula,
De specu tuos tartari
Educ, et antro barathri.

Veni, veni, O Oriens!
Solare nos adveniens,
Noctis depelle nebulas,
Dirasque noctis tenebras.

Veni, Clavis Davidica!
Regna reclude celica,
Fac iter tutum superum,
Et claude vias inferum.

Veni, veni, Adonaï,
Qui populo in Sinaï
Legem dedisti vertice
In maiestate glorie.

13th century French?

Translation:
Come, O come, Emmanuel!
Redeem captive Israel,
who laments in exile,
deprived of the son of God.
Rejoice! rejoice! Emanuel
shall be born to you, O Israel.

Come, O Rod of Jesse!
From the enemy’s claws,
from the pit of hell
lead your people, and from the maw of the abyss.

Come, come, O Morning Star!
Console us with your coming,
dispel the gloom of night,
and pierce the nocturnal shadows.

Come, Key of David!
Open wide the heavenly kingdom,
make safe the road above,
and bar the ways to hell.

Come, come, Adonai,
who on the mount of Sinai
gave your people the Law
in glorious majesty.
Track Name: Angelus ad virginem / Gabriel from Heven-King
Angelus ad virginem
subintrans in conclave,
virginis formidinem
demulcens, inquit: —Ave!
Ave Regina Virginum!
Celi terreque Dominum
concipies, et paries intacta
salutem hominum;
tu porta celi facta,
medela criminum.

The angel, coming secretly
to the Virgin,
calming the Virgin’s
fear, said: —Hail!
hail, Queen of Virgins!
You shall conceive the Lord of Heaven and Earth
and give birth, remaining a virgin,
to the salvation of mankind;
you are made the gateway of heaven,
the cure for sin.

Gabriel, fram Heven-King
Sent to the maide sweete,
Broute his blisful tiding
And fair he gan hir greete:
—Heil be thu, ful of grace aright!
For Godes Son, this Heven-Light,
For mannes love will man bicome and take
Fles of thee, Maide bright,
Manken free for to make
Of sen and devles might.

Mildelich him gan andswere
The milde maide thanne:
—Wichewise sold ich bere
A child withute manne?
Th’angel hir seid: —Ne dred tee nout:
Thurw th’Oligast sal ben iwrout
This ilche thing warof tiding ich bringe;
Al manken wurth ibout
Thurw thine sweet childinge
And ut of pine ibrout.

Wan the maiden understood
And th’angels wordes herde,
Mildelich, with milde mood,
To th’angel hie andswerde:
—Ure Lords thewe maid iwis
Ich am, that heer aboven is;
Anentis me fulfurthed be thi sawe,
That ich, sith his wil is,
A maid, withute lawe,
Of moder have the blis.

Angelus disparuit
et statim puellaris
uterus intumuit
vi partis salutaris.
Qui, circumdatus utero
novem mensium numero,
hinc exiit et iniit conflictum
affigens humero
crucem, qua dedit ictum
hosti mortifero.

Eya, Mater Domini,
que pacem reddidisti
angelis et homini
cum Christum genuisti,
tuum exora filium
ut se nobis propicium
exhibeat et deleat peccata,
prestans auxilium
vita frui beata
post hoc exilium.

Translation:
Gabriel, sent from the King of Heaven
to the sweet maiden,
brought her happy news
and greeted her courteously:
—Hail be thou, full of grace indeed!
For God’s Son, this Light of Heaven,
for love of man will become man and take
human form from thee, fair Maiden,
to free mankind
of sin and the devil’s might.

Gabriel, sent from the King of Heaven
to the sweet maiden,
brought her happy news
and greeted her courteously:
—Hail be thou, full of grace indeed!
For God’s Son, this Light of Heaven,
for love of man will become man and take
human form from thee, fair Maiden,
to free mankind
of sin and the devil’s might.

The gentle maiden then
gently answered him:
—In what manner should I bear
a child without a husband?
The angel said to her: —Fear nothing:
through the Holy Ghost shall be done
this very thing of which I bring news;
all mankind shall be redeemed
through thy sweet child-bearing
and brought out of torment.

When the maiden understood
and heard the angel’s words,
gently, with gentle spirit
she answered the angel:
—I am indeed the bond-maid
of our Lord, who is above:
concerning me may thy words be fulfilled,
that I, since it is His will,
may, as a maiden, outside natural law,
have the joy of motherhood.

The angel disappeared,
and at once the girl’s
womb swelled up
by the power of the birth of salvation.
He, having been contained in the womb
for nine months,
came out from it and entered the conflict,
taking on his shoulder
the cross, by which he gave a blow
to the mortal enemy.

O Mother of the Lord,
who restored peace
to angels and men
when you gave birth to Christ,
beg of your son
that he may show himself favorable to us
and wipe away our sins,
offering help
to enjoy the blessed life
after this exile.

Latin by Philip the Chancellor? (d. 1236), English version anonymous 13th century

Translations into modern English from The New Oxford Book of Carols
Track Name: Gaude virgo salutata / Gaude virgo singularis
i.
Gaude virgo salutata angelicore latu,
mox es gravida libera omni reatu;
in te deitas humanata celesti flatu,
virgo manens illibata re et cogitatu.

Quod mirum si paveas, dum conceptus pandit,
quanto magis caveas, cum ad partum scandit.
Dum virgo permaneas, mens hec verba pandit;
dicens “Ne timeas,” te mulcendo blandit.

Nondum contentaris, cum dicit parituram:
quomodo miraris fietque curam;
nescisse virum flaris, sed semper esse puram,
credo, quod miraris, mutasse naturam.

Angelus: “Concipies de superis celestem
Deum et tu paries filium terrestrem.
In te non est caries, natum habes testem.
Leviatan insanies, hic fert tibi pestem.”

ii
Gaude virgo singularis, mater nostri salvatoris,
radix vite popularis, germen novi floris.
Ex te sumpsit hinc tu paris ampullam liquoris
que virtute aquas maris tenes stilla roris.

Dic, quo verbo concepisti, angeli vultui
“Dominus tecum” audisti dicens, “fui tui.”
Presentem conclusisti, tunc naturam sui,
Messiam invenisti de natura tui.

O celestis armonia, in hac junctione,
caro nostre cum sophia in unum persone;
qualiter ex qua via studeas colone,
hec sola mater novit pia et tu Jesu bone.

Mater heres Dei mundi redemptoris,
pia tu memento mei in extremis horis;
ne coartent mei rei, secum suis horis
et presentas faciei mei plasmatoris.

contratenor
Virgo mater comprobaris, matrem partus indicat,
claustrum ventris virginalis intactam te judicat.
Virginem cum divinalis natus ille benedicat,
celum, tellus, unda maris laudes tuas predicat.
Non est partus hic penalis qui matrem letificat.
Christus factus fraternalis sic ut exemplificat.

tenor
Ave gemma celi luminarium.
Ave Sancti Spiritus sacrarium.

Translation:
Hail virgin, greeted by the angel’s report,
pregnant yet free of all sin:
in you deity is made human by heavenly inspiration,
virgin undiminished by act or thought.

And if you tremble at the miracle while the child develops,
how much warier are you when it comes to be born.
While you remain a virgin, the mind offers these words,
and saying “Be not afraid,” charms and eases you.

You do not contest it when he says you will bear a child,
however much you wonder and are troubled.
You are proclaimed not to have known a man, but to be ever pure,
and—a thing to wonder at, surely—to have changed nature.

The angel: “You shall conceive the heavenly god
from the realms on high, and bear a child of earth.
There is no fault in you, as your son is witness.
You shall torment Leviathan, and he will plague you.”

ii
Rejoice, unique maiden, mother of our savior,
Root of the people’s life, seed of the new flower.
He drew from you, you then bear, the flask of nectar,
by your virtue you hold the sea’s waters in a drop of dew.

Say by what word you conceived! You heard,
“The Lord is with you,” and answered the angelic
countenance, “I am yours.” You contained his presence,
then his nature; you found the Messiah in your own nature.

O heavenly harmony in this joining,
flesh of our person united with Wisdom:
how and by what path you are so zealous,
these things only the pious mother knew, and you, good Jesus.

Mother and heir of God, world’s redeemer,
recall me faithfully in my last hours,
let my acts not constrain me with them in their hours,
as you show me to the face of my maker.

contratenor
You are proved the virgin mother: the birth shows the mother,
the seal of your virginal womb judges you untouched.
When your divine child blesses you as virgin,
then heaven, earth, and ocean waves preach your praises.
This birthing is no penance, it gladdens the mother.
Christ is made our brother, as his example teaches.

tenor
Hail, jewel of the lights of heaven!
Hail, sacred place of the Holy Spirit!

Translation by Larry Rosenwald
Track Name: Hayl Mary, ful of grace
Hayl, Mary, ful of grace,
moder in virgynyte.

The Holi Goste is to the sent (the = thee)
from the Fader omnipotent;
now is God withyn the went
Whan the angel seide “Ave.”

Whan the angel “Ave” byganne,
flesh and blode togedre ranne;
Mary bare bothe God and manne
throw vertu and throw dyngnyte. (throw = through)

So seith the Gospel of Syn Johan: (Syn Johan = Saint John)
God and man is made but one
in flesch and blode, body and bone,
O God in personys thre.

Moche joye to us was graunt
and in erthe pees yplaunte (And peace planted on earth)
whan that born was this faunte (faunte = infant)
in the londe of Galile.

Mary, graunte us the blys
ther thy Sonys wonynge ys; (wonynge = dwelling)
of that we han ydone amys (for what we have done wrong)
pray for us, pur charite. (pur charite = “pour charité,” out of love)
Track Name: Gloria (Old Hall MS, no. 21)
Gloria in excelsis deo, et in terra pax hominibus bone voluntatis. Laudamus te. Benedicimus te. Adoramus te. Glorificamus te. Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam. Domine deus, rex celestis, deus pater omnipotens. Domine fili unigenite, Jesu Christe. Domine deus, agnus dei, filius patris. Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram. Qui sedes ad dexteram patris, miserere nobis. Quoniam tu solus sanctus, tu solus dominus, tu solus altissimus, Jesu Christe, cum sancto spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all of good will. We praise you. We bless you. We adore you. We glorify you. We give thanks to you for your great glory. Lord God, heavenly king, almighty God the Father, Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten Son, Lord God, lamb of God, Son of the Father. Who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Who takes away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Who sits at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are holy, you alone are the Lord, the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Track Name: Ther is no rose of swych vertu
Ther is no rose of swych vertu (swych = such)
as is the rose that bare Jhesu.
Alleluya.

For in this rose conteynyd was
Heven and erthe in lytyl space,
res miranda. (a wonderful thing)

Be that rose we may weel see (Be = by means of)
that he is God in personys thre,
pari forma. (of the same form)

The aungelys sungyn the shepherdes to:
“Gloria in excelsis Deo!” (Glory to God in the highest!)
Gaudeamus. (Let us rejoice)
Track Name: Ibo michi ad montem mirre
Ibo michi ad montem mirre et ad colles libani, et loquar sponse mee: Tota speciosa es et macula non est in te. Veni de Libano; venies et transibimus ad montem Seir et Hermon, a cubilibus leonum et a montibus leopardorum. Alleluya.

Translation:
I will go into the mountain of myrrh and to the hills of Lebanon, and say to my bride: You are all beautiful, and there is no flaw in you. Come from Lebanon; you will come and we will cross to Mount Senir and Mount Hermon, from the dens of lions and the mountains of leopards. Alleluya.

Antiphon for the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Song of Songs 4:6-8
Track Name: Veni redemptor gencium
Veni, redemptor gencium,
Ostende partum virginis.
Miretur omne seculum;
Talis decet partus Deum.

Non ex virili semine
Sed mistico spiramine
Verbum Dei factum caro,
Fructusque ventris floruit.

Alvus tumescit virginis,
Claustra pudoris permanent;
Vexilla virtutum micant;
Versatur in templo Deus.

Procedens de thalamo suo,
Pudoris aula regia,
Gemine gigas substancie
Alacris ut currat viam.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
Eiusque soli Filio,
Cum Spiritu Paraclito,
Et nunc et in perpetuum. Amen.

St Ambrose (c. 340-97)

Come, savior of the gentiles,
And manifest your birth to a virgin.
All the world shall marvel:
God decreed such a birth.

Not of man’s seed
But of the Holy Spirit
Is the word of God made flesh,
And the fruit of the womb flowers.

The womb of the virgin did swell,
Yet remained a cloister of chastity;
The banners of virtue shine forth:
God dwells in his temple.

He goes forth from his chamber,
A royal hall of purity,
A giant of twofold substance,
Eager to run his course.

Glory be to God the Father
And to his only Son,
With the Holy Spirit,
Now and forevermore. Amen.
Track Name: Dominus dixit ad me
Dominus dixit ad me filius meus es tu: ego hodie genui te.
Quare fremuerunt gentes: et populi meditati sunt inania?
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto: sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, et in secula seculorum. Amen.

The Lord said to me, Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten thee.
Why do the nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? Glory to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Introit, First Mass at Christmas (Sarum rite); Hebrews 1:5, Psalm 2:1
Track Name: Nowel: Owt of your slepe aryse
Nowel, nowel nowel!
Owt of your slepe aryse and wake,
For God mankynd nowe hath ytake, (For God has now taken on humankind)
Al of a maide without eny make; (eny make = any mate)
Of al women she bereth the belle. (bereth the belle = is the most excellent)

And thorwe a maide fair and wys (thorwe = through)
Now man is made of ful grete pris; (pris = worth)
Now angelys knelen to mannys servys,
And at this tyme al this byfel. (this time = e.g. Christmastime)

Now man is bryghter than the sonne,
Now man in heven an hye shal wone; (Now man in heaven on high shall dwell)
Blessyd be God this game is begonne, (game = action, sequence of events)
And his moder emperesse of helle.

That ever was thralle, now ys he fre; (He who was in thrall forever is now free)
That ever was smalle, now grete is she;
Now shal God deme bothe the and me (deme = judge)
Unto hys blysse, yf we do wel. (do wel = act righteously)

Now, blessyd brother, graunte us grace (blessed brother = i.e. Christ)
A domesday to se thy face (A domesday = at Judgment Day)
And in thy courte to have a place,
That we mow there synge Nowel! (mow = may)
Track Name: Gloria (Old Hall MS, no. 27)
Gloria in excelsis deo, et in terra pax hominibus bone voluntatis. Laudamus te. Benedicimus te. Adoramus te. Glorificamus te. Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam. Domine deus, rex celestis, deus pater omnipotens. Domine fili unigenite, Jesu Christe. Domine deus, agnus dei, filius patris. Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram. Qui sedes ad dexteram patris, miserere nobis. Quoniam tu solus sanctus, tu solus dominus, tu solus altissimus, Jesu Christe, cum sancto spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all of good will. We praise you. We bless you. We adore you. We glorify you. We give thanks to you for your great glory. Lord God, heavenly king, almighty God the Father, Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten Son, Lord God, lamb of God, Son of the Father. Who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Who takes away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Who sits at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are holy, you alone are the Lord, the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Track Name: Ecce quod natura
Ecce, quod natura
Mutat sua jura:
Virgo parit pura
Dei filium.

Ecce novum gaudium,
Ecce novum mirum:
Virgo parit filium
Que non novit virum.
Que non novit virum,
Sed ut pirus pirum,
Gleba fert saphirum,
Rosa lilium.

Mundum Deus flebilem
Videns in ruina,
Florem delectabilem
Produxit de spina;
Produxit de spina
Virgoque regina,
Mundi medecina,
Salus gencium.

Nequivit divinitas
Plus humiliari,
Nec nostra fragilitas
Magis exaltari:
Magis exaltari
Quam celo collocari
Deoque equari
Per conjugium.

Translation:
Behold, Nature
changes her laws:
a pure virgin gives birth
to the son of God.

Behold, a new joy,
behold, a new wonder:
a virgin gives birth to a son,
she who knew not man.
She knew not man,
but bore as the pear tree bears a pear,
a clod of earth a sapphire,
the rose a lily.

God, seeing the wretched world
in ruin,
brought forth a delightful flower
from a thorn;
from a thorn she brought forth,
virgin and queen,
healing to the world
and salvation of the peoples.

Divinity could not have been
more humbled,
nor our fragility
more exalted:
more exalted
than to be raised to Heaven
and made equal to God
through this union.
Track Name: Missa Veterem hominem: Sanctus
Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, dominus deus sabaoth.
Pleni sunt celi et terra gloria tua. Osanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine domini. Osanna in excelsis.

Translation:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
Track Name: Ave rex angelorum
Ave rex angelorum,
Ave rexque celorum,
Ave princepsque polorum.

Hayl, most myghty in thi werkyng,
Hayl, thou Lord of all thing,
Y offer the gold as to a kyng.

Translation:
Hail, King of Angels,
Hail, King of Heaven,
Hail, Prince of the poles of the earth.

Hail, most mighty in thy deeds,
Hail, thou Lord of every thing,
I offer thee gold, as to a king.
Track Name: Missa Veterem hominem: Agnus dei
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

Tranlsation:
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.
Track Name: Nowel syng we bothe al and som
Nowel syng we bothe al and som,
Now Rex Pacificus is ycome.

Exortum est in love and lysse:
Now Cryst hys grace he gan us gysse,
And with hys body us bought to blysse,
Bothe al and sum.

De fructu ventris of Mary bright,
Bothe God and man in here alyght:
Owte of dysese he dyde us dyght,
Bothe al and sum.

Puer natus to us was sent,
To blysse us bought, fro bale us blent,
And ellys to wo we hadde ywent,
Bothe al and sum.

Lux fulgebit with love and lyght,
In Mary mylde hys pynon pyght,
In here toke kynde with manly myght,
Bothe al and sum.

Gloria tibi ay and blysse:
God unto his grace he us wysse,
The rent of heven that we not mysse,
Bothe al and sum.

Translation:
Let us sing Noel, each and every one,
Now the King of Peace is come.

He is arisen in love and joy:
now Christ has prepared his grace for us
and with his body redeemed us unto bliss,
each and every one.

From the fruit of the womb of radiant Mary
both God and man alight in her:
from disease he rescued us,
each and every one.

A boy-child was sent to us,
redeemed us unto bliss, turned us aside from evil,
and else to woe we would have gone,
each and every one.

The light will shine with love and light;
in gentle Mary he raised his banner,
in her assumed humanity with manly boldness,
each and every one.

Glory to Thee always, and bliss:
may God guide us to his grace,
that we shall not lose the reward of heaven,
each and every one.
Track Name: Nova, nova! Ave fit ex Eva
Nova, nova! Ave fit ex Eva. (i.e. The angelic salutation “Ave” reverses the sins committed by Eve.)
Gabriell off hye degre,
He cam down from Trinite
To Nazareth in Galile.

He met a maydn in a place,
He knelyd down afore hir face,
He seyd, Heile Mary, ful of grace!

When the maiden herd tell off this,
Sche was full sore abaschyd iwys,
And wened that sche had don amysse.

Then seid th’angell, Dred not thue,
Ye shall conceyve in all vertu.
A Chyld whose name shall be Jhesu.

It is not yit syx moneth agoon
Sen Elizabeth conceyved John,
As it was prophysed beforne.

Then seid the mayden verely,
I am youre servaunt right truely.
Ecce ancilla domini.