Thursday, 25 December 2008

Nowel! Nowel! Nowel!

Out of your slepe arise and wake,
For God mankind nowe hath itake,
All of a maide without eny make,
Of all women she bereth the belle,

And thorwe a maide, faire and wis,
Now man is made of full grete pris:
Now angelis knelen to mannis servis;
And at this time all this befell,

Now man is brighter than the sonne;
Now man in Heven on hie shall wone;
Blessed be God, this game is begonne,
And his moder Emperesse of helle,

That ever was thralle, now he is free;
That ever was smalle, now grete is she;
Now shall God deme bothe thee and me
Unto his blisse, if we do well,

Now man may to Heven wende,
Now Heven and erthe to him they bende:
He that was foo, now is oure frende.
This is no nay that I yowe telle,

Now blessed brother, graunte us grace
A Domesday to se thy face,
And in thy courte to have a place,
That we mow there singe, 'Nowel',

From a 15th century manuscript in the Bodleian Library (MS. Arch. Selden B.26 f. 14b). A version in slightly more modern language may be found here.

The best bit is, of course, Our Lady's title 'Emperesse of Helle'. Fantastic! Now, as Christ is King of Heaven and, through his death, has conquered death for us, then, of course his mother, is Queen of Heaven and also of Hell. Am I correct?

But, to provide me with some Christmas afternoon entertainment, does anyone know any more about the origin and use of this title?


  1. I have heard the title "Empress of Purgatory" used before...

  2. I've also heard her referred to as the 'Empress of Purgatory', but never as 'Empress of Hell'. Still, perhaps the title is winging its way to her in the New Year Honours list...