Wednesday, 29 March 2017

'Between March and April'


What a magical time of year this is. In my beautiful part of England, the cusp of March and April is just the moment when spring is really bursting forth (the vernal equinox traditionally being not the beginning but the midpoint of spring, of course...). The tentative shoots of Candlemas, at the beginning of February, have by Lady Day become fields of spring flowers and branches rich with blossom. So here's a medieval spring poem which is exactly perfect for this time of year. It's from the early fourteenth century (one of the Harley lyrics), so is pretty much contemporary with the poem in my last post - but in praise of a more flesh-and-blood lady!

Betwene Mersh and Averil
When spray beginneth to springe,
The lutel foul hath hire wil
On hire lud to singe.
Ich libbe in love-longinge
For semlokest of alle thynge.
He may me blisse bringe;
Ich am in hire baundoun.
An hendy hap Ich habbe yhent!
Ichot from hevene it is me sent.
From alle wimmen my love is lent
And light on Alisoun.

On hew hire her is fair ynogh,
Hire browe browne, hire eye blake;
With lossum chere he on me logh,
With middel small and well ymake.
Bote he me wolle to hire take
For to ben hire owen make,
Longe to liven Ichulle forsake
And feye fallen adoun.
An hendy hap Ich habbe yhent!
Ichot from hevene it is me sent;
From alle wimmen my love is lent
And light on Alisoun.

Nightes when I wende and wake –
Forthi mine wonges waxeth won –
Levedy, all for thine sake,
Longinge is ylent me on.
In world nis non so witer mon
That all hire bounte telle con:
Hire swire is whittore than the swon,
And fairest may in toune.
An hendy hap Ich habbe yhent!
Ichot from hevene it is me sent;
From alle wimmen my love is lent
And light on Alisoun.

Ich am for wowing all forwake,
Wery so water in wore,
Lest eny reve me my make
Ychabbe yyirned yore.
Betere is tholien while sore
Than mournen evermore.
Geynest under gore,
Herkne to my roun!
An hendy hap Ich habbe yhent!
Ichot from hevene it is me sent;
From alle wimmen my love is lent
And light on Alisoun.

'When the spray begins to spring...'

A translation:

Between March and April
When the spray begins to spring,
The little bird fulfils her will [desire]
With her voice to sing.
I live in love-longing
For the loveliest of all things.
She may me bliss bring;
I am in her baundoun. [power]
A happy fate I have yhent! [found]
I know from heaven it is to me sent.
From all women my love is lent [taken away]
And alighted on Alisoun.

In hue her hair is fair indeed,
Her brows brown, her eyes black;
With lovely face she laughed upon me
With waist small and well-made.
Unless she will to her me take
For to be her own make, [partner]
Long to live I will forsake,
And dead I will fall down.
A happy fate I have yhent!
I know from heaven it is to me sent.
From all women my love is lent
And alighted on Alisoun.

At nights when I turn and wake –
For that reason my cheeks grow wan –
Lady, all for thine sake,
Longing me has come upon.
In world there is not so wise a man
That all her goodness tell can.
Her neck is whiter than the swan,
The fairest maid in town.
A happy fate I have yhent!
I know from heaven it is to me sent.
From all women my love is lent
And alighted on Alisoun.

I am for wooing all forwake, [worn out]
Weary as turbulent water,
Lest anyone should my lover take,
Whom I have yearned for so long.
Better for a while to suffer sore
Than to mourn evermore.
Geynest under gore, [kindest of women]
Hearken to my roun! [song]
A happy fate I have yhent!
I know from heaven it is to me sent
From all women my love is lent
And alighted on Alisoun.

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