The Prayer of Richard Caister

This is a transliterated version of the metrical prayer of Richard Caister which uses a composite of all the different versions of it. It uses modern lettering and there are notes at the bottom to explain terms which are not clear to contemporary readers. The transliteration and accompanying notes were created by Dr Elizabeth McDonald.

1.

Jesu, lord, that madest me,

And with thy blissful blood hast bought

Forgive that I have grieved thee

In word, in work, in will, and thought

 

2. 

Jesu, in whom all my trust [is placed],

That died upon the rood tree

Withdraw my heart from fleshly lust,

And from worldly vanity.

 

3.

Jesu, for thy wounds smerte[1]

Of feet, of side, of hands two,

Thou make me meek and low of heart,

And thee to love, as I should do.

 

4. 

Jesu, for thy bitter wounds

That went to thine heart rote[2]

For sin, has my heart bound

Thy blessed blood mot[3] be my bote.[4]

 

5. 

And Jesu Christ, to thee I call,

As thou art father, full of might,

Thou keep me clean that I [may not] fall

In[to] fleshly sin, as I have tight[5]

 

6.

Jesu, grant me mine asking,

Patience in my disease,

That I not make no grucching,[6]

In which I should thee displease.

 

7.

Jesu, that art heaven’s King.

Soothfast[7] god and man also,

[Thou] grant me grace of god [un]ending

And him that I am [be]holden to.

 

8. 

Jesu, for thy doleful tears

That thou grettest[8], all for my guilt

Thou hear, and speed my poor prayers,

And spare me, I be not spilt.[9]

 

[1] “smerte” can mean physical pain but also, when speaking about Jesus, can mean contrition or remorse. So this line either means “Jesus, for your painful wounds” or “Jesus, for your remorseful wounds (or wounds for which I have remorse)”.

[2] “herte-rote” can mean the hollow of the heart / the centre of the heart but it can also mean the depths of the heart (i.e. the sources of one’s deepest emotions). An alternative to this second meaning might also be “the vital centre of life or of courage”.

[3] “mot” can mean speck, particle, bit of dirt, an impurity. This line might be “the smallest speck of your blessed blood redeems me”.

[4] “bote” can mean advantage, help, profit, good, benefit. Alternatively, and perhaps more fittingly, it can also mean relief, deliverance, remedy or salvation, with a particular focus on the salvation of souls and the pardoning of sins.

[5] “tight” can mean a kind of behaviour or practice, to maintain a proper conduct. It can also mean a frame of mind. However, the verb “tighten” means to form an intention or a plan, or to prepare oneself. It seems that the speaker of the poem is requesting that Christ help him remain “clean” and not fall into fleshly sin (which is what he appears to be planning to do).

[6] Grumbling.

[7] “Soothfast” seems to be Caister’s own invention. However, one of the meanings of the adjective “soth”, when applied to a sacrament, is that it is real, genuine, God’s work. When used to refer to Christ, it can refer to the partaking of both human and divine nature (which seems fitting here). 

[8] “althergrettest” means largest of all and “gret” refers to large in size, however, if it is used figuratively then it can be used to refer to a heart that is swollen with sorrow.  It can also be used to describe very important people, including holy people. “the grettest” is sometimes used to refer to God.

[9] There are quite a few different definitions of “spillen”: “spillen” can mean to kill (esp. oneself or an animal in a brutal or violent fashion) but it “spilled of” means to be deprived or despoiled of (parts of one’s body), mutilated in. However, what I suspect is most likely is the definition which means to cause the damnation of a person.

All references from Middle English Compendium, Middle English Dictionary: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/middle-english-dictionary/dictionary

Caister’s Metrical Prayer, Lambeth Palace Library (MS853ff28-29)


Caister’s Metrical Prayer, Lambeth Palace Library (M584ff, 30-31).


Caister’s Metrical Prayer, Lambeth Palace Library (MS559, ff. 35-36)


Caister’s Metrical Prayer, Lambeth Palace Library (MS559ff37v)


D. Harford, 'Richard caister and his metrical prayer'
A.J.D. IRVING 'ALTERNATE VISIONS FOR VERNACULAR THEOLOGY IN CAISTER AND LOVE'

Revelation 3:20

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

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