Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Bytuene Mershe ant Averil
When spray biginneth to spring,
The lutel foul hath hire wyl
On hyre lud to synge:
Ich libbe in love-longinge
For semlokest of alle thynge,
He may me blisse bringe,
Icham in hire bandoun.
An hendy hap ichabbe y-hent,
Ichot from hevene it is me sent,
From alle wymmen my love is lent
Ant lyht on Alisoun.

On heu hire her is fayr ynoh,
Hire browe broune, hire eye blake;
With lossum chere he on me loh;
With middel smal ant wel y-make;
Bote he me wolle to hire take
For to buen hire owen make,
Long to lyven ichulle forsake
Ant feye fallen adoun.
An hendy hap, etc.

Nihtes when I wende and wake,
For-thi myn wonges waxeth won;
Levedi, al for thine sake
Longinge is y-lent me on.
In world his non so wyter mon
That al hire bountè telle con;
Hire swyre is whittore than the swon,
Ant feyrest may in toune.
An hendy hap, etc.

Icham for wowyng al for-wake,
Wery so water in wore;
Lest eny reve me my make
Ichabbe y-yerned yore.
Betere is tholien whyle sore
Then mournen evermore.
Geynest under gore,
Herkne to my roun—
An hendy hap, etc.

GLOSS: on hyre lud] in her language. ich libbe] I live. semlokest] seemliest. he] she. bandoun] thraldom. hendy] gracious. y-hent] seized, enjoyed. ichot] I wot. lyht] alighted. hire her] her hair. lossum] lovesome. loh] laughed. bote he] unless she. buen] be. make] mate. feye] like to die. nihtes] at night. wende] turn. for-thi] on that account. wonges waxeth won] cheeks grow wan. levedi] lady. y-lent me on] arrived to me. so wyter mon] so wise a man. swyre] neck. may] maid. for-wake] worn out with vigils. so water in wore] as water in a weir. reve] rob. y-yerned yore] long been distressed. tholien] to endure. geynest under gore] comeliest under woman's apparel. roun] tale, lay.
AQC's second poem -- and incidentally, I note that Bartleby has the whole collection here. It is, indeed, a rather powerful poem about being properly smitted in love with a woman called Alison (unlike this perhaps even greater 'Alison' lyric, in which the desire of the male narrator is more complicated and, even, ironic). He has, by his own admissions, 'fallen down feye' ('like to die' is a rather poor rendering of 'feye', I think; Keats's Belle Dame Sans Merci is a better sense of it). Perhaps this explains the slightly odd colouration of the beloved person: with her brown brow and white neck.

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