Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Medieval Terms of Endearment

This is a sort of follow-up to my post on Medieval Compliments: or, How to call someone 'beautiful' in Middle English, which has proved surprisingly popular. Apparently a lot of people want to know that stuff; I like to imagine that there are now lovers all over the world praising each other in beautiful medieval English. To extend this a little bit, here's a collection of terms of endearment (loosely defined), mostly culled from the Middle English Dictionary.

This is a complement (heh) to the other post, and so I won't repeat what I said there about such terms as leof and lemman, though they belong here too. Leof, 'dear', is probably still the nicest and best-attested of all medieval terms of endearment.

myne owne hertis rote: literally 'my own heart's root'. Rote in Middle English, referring to the roots of a plant or tree, could (as in Modern English) be used figuratively to mean the depths of something, its inmost part. So this means 'you who are at the very centre of my heart'.

myn lykyng: I've written about this one before, because there's a beautiful lullaby carol of which this is the refrain. lykyng means something like 'the thing which is pleasing to me', and so myn lykyng is 'the one I delight in, the one who gives me pleasure'.

my sweeting: 'my sweet one'.

my darling: 'my dear one' (actually dear-ling, 'dear little one'). A similar word, deoring, 'dearing' also exists, but didn't stand the test of time. Dereworthy darling ('precious darling') is also a fairly common phrase.

culver: 'dove'. (And also, dove itself).

dear heart, or dereworthy heart, or simply my heart. This is a very common one. It's also my favourite. If you think it doesn't sound sufficiently medieval, you could always invert the word order and make it my heart dear (N.B. also works with my sweet heart and my heart sweet).

my heart's queen or my life's queen: speaks for itself.

my honey: yep, totally medieval. (See William of Palerne, l.1655). One of the MED citations is a line from a religious poem, "Jesu, my hony swete, My herte!"

my joy: can't go wrong with that.

my heart's gleam: "Sweet Jesu," exclaims one of the Harley lyrics, "my heart's gleam, brighter than the sunbeam!"

my peerless paramour: for those who admire alliteration (cf. William of Palerne, a good source of these things, l.1534).

my best beloved: yes, that's medieval too. There are a fair number of citations for it under best in the MED.

Some affectionate terms for a child:

miting: 'little mite'

youngling: 'young one'

fauntkin: faunt means 'young child' and the ending -kin is an affectionate diminutive (like, as you may have guessed, -ing or -ling. There's also fauntelet, with the same meaning, because -let is another diminutive)

dillydoun: This is apparently related to the Old Icelandic dilla 'to lull' and dillindo, 'lullaby'. The one appearance of it in Middle English is from the Towneley Plays, from fifteenth-century Yorkshire:

A pratty child is he
As syttys on a wamans kne;
A dyllydowne, perde,
To gar a man laghe.

[A pretty child is he, as sits on a women's knee; a dillydown, indeed, to cause a man to laugh]

Admittedly this is said by someone describing a sheep wrapped up to look like a baby, but I guess it still counts...

Some Old Norse endearments (I'm afraid these only come from a dictionary, which doesn't provide citations, but I'm prepared to trust them unless someone corrects me):

hjartað mitt - 'my heart'

ástin mín - 'my dear', 'my darling', ("a term of endearment used by husband to wife or parents to child")

This I like a lot but I can't quite imagine how it was actually used:
, adj. (cognate with the English 'blithe'), meaning 'mild, gentle, soft'; apparently "blíðr is a word of endearment... [which] denotes the outward expression of mildness in the eyes, look, voice." It makes me think of Havelok - 'evere he was glad and blithe'...

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Conditor Alme Siderum: William Herebert's 'Holy wrouhte of sterres brryht'

For the first Sunday of Advent (already!) here is William Herebert's translation of the Latin hymn 'Conditor alme siderum'. This hymn is from the seventh century, and the translation by Herebert is from the beginning of the fourteenth (Herebert, who was a Franciscan friar and lecturer in Theology at Oxford, lived c.1270-1333).

I've given an inter-stanzaic modern 'translation' of Herebert's translation, so you can see how his version works. The rhyme-scheme is pretty variable and, for reasons not clear to me, he switched to a six-line stanza for verses 3 and 4, before going back to the four-line stanza.

By the way, Herebert's four-line verses can, just about, be sung to the tune above! (With some creative pronunciation...)

1. Holy wrouhte of sterres brryht,
Of ryht byleue ay-lastyng lyht,
Crist, that bouhtest mon wyth fyht,
Her the bone of meke wyht.

[Holy Creator of the stars bright, the everlasting light of right belief, Christ, who ransomed mankind by force, hear the prayer of humble creatures.]

2. Thou hedest ruthe of world vorlore
Thorou deth of sunfol rote;
Thou sauuedest monkun, theruore
To gulty yeue bote.

[You had pity on a world lost to death through sinful conduct; you saved mankind, give remedy to the guilty.]

3. Toward the wordles ende
Thy wylle was t'alende
In on maydenes bour.
Ase spouse of chaumbre alone,
Out of that clene wone
Thou come t'oure honour.

[As the world drew to its end, your will was to dwell in a maiden's bower. As a bridegroom coming forth alone out of his chamber, you came from that pure dwelling-place for our salvation.]

4. To whas stronge myhte
Kneen of alle wyhtes
Bendeth hem ymone,
Of heuene and ek of eorthe,
And knoulecheth hym wourthe
Vor bouwen to hym one.

[To his great power the knees of all creatures bow together, of heaven and of earth also, and acknowledge that he alone is worthy to be honoured.]

5. Holy God, we byddeth the,
That shalt thys wordle deme,
Vrom oure fykel fohes spere
Thou thylke tyme ous yeme.

[Holy God, we pray to you who shall judge this world, spare us from our wicked foes, save us at that time.]

6. Herying, worshype, myhte, and weole,
to Uader and the Sone,
And also to the Holy Gost,
and euer myd heom wone.

[Praise, worship, power and glory to the Father and the Son, and to the Holy Ghost who ever dwells with them.]

A medieval 'starry height' on the ceiling of the church at Southwold, Suffolk.

Now here's the Latin hymn (Herebert, obviously, used this older form of the hymn, before it was revised to this in 1632. For a comparison of the two versions, go here.):

1. Conditor alme siderum,
aeterna lux credentium,
Christe, redemptor omnium,
exaudi preces supplicum.

2. Qui condolens interitu
mortis perire saeculum,
salvasti mundum languidum,
donans reis remedium,

3. Vergente mundi vespere,
uti sponsus de thalamo,
egressus honestissima
Virginis matris clausula.

4. Cuius forti potentiae
genu curvantur omnia;
caelestia, terrestria
nutu fatentur subdita.

5. Te, Sancte, fide quaesumus,
venture iudex saeculi,
conserva nos in tempore
hostis a telo perfidi.

6. Sit, Christe, rex piissime,
tibi Patrique gloria
cum Spiritu Paraclito,
in sempiterna saecula.

'Conditor alme siderum' in a 14th-century English hymnal (BL Harley 2951, f. 1)

And here is J. M. Neale's translation:

1. Creator of the starry height,
Thy people's everlasting Light,
Jesu, Redeemer of us all,
Hear thou thy servants when they call.

2. Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe,
Hast found the medicine, full of grace,
To save and heal a ruined race.

3. Thou cam’st, the Bridegroom of the bride,
As drew the world to evening-tide;
Proceeding from a virgin shrine,
The spotless Victim all divine.

[These two verses are sometimes found as:

2. Thou, sorrowing at the helpless cry
Of all creation doomed to die,
Didst come to save our fallen race
By healing gifts of heavenly grace.

3. When earth was near its evening hour,
Thou didst, in love's redeeming power,
Like bridegroom from his chamber, come
Forth from a Virgin-mother's womb.]

4. At thy great name, exalted now,
All knees in lowly homage bow;
All things in heaven and earth adore,
and own thee King for evermore.

5. To thee, O Holy One, we pray,
Our Judge in that tremendous day,
Ward off, while yet we dwell below,
The weapons of our crafty foe.

6. To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three in One,
laud, honor, might and glory be
from age to age eternally.

I can't ascertain whether those alternate verses are also by Neale or are the work of the editors of Hymns Ancient and Modern, which is where I got them from. Four points struck me about Herebert's translation:

- When I posted Herebert's translation of 'Veni Creator Spiritus' I talked about his choice of shuppere to translate the Latin creator. Here he's translating conditor, 'builder, establisher, constructor', and he chooses wrouht. This is the noun wright (from Old English wyrhta), which just about exists in Modern English as the second element in words like wheelwright, playwright, i.e. '-maker'. It no longer exists as a noun in its own right (as it were...). It's also related to the verb which is only now found in the past participle wrought, 'made' (and then only in archaic contexts; my mind goes to 'stablish the thing, O God, that thou hast wrought in us'). So this is a word connected with craftmanship, creation in the most literal, physical, hands-on sense; as far as I can tell this makes it a very good equivalent of the Latin conditor, more exact than Neale's creator.

- likewise, in verse 2 bote is a spot-on translation of remedium. The Middle English word bote has a range of meanings which include 'cure' or 'remedy' in the medical sense (cf. Neale's medicine), but also 'salvation, rescue', and, further, 'amends, redress, atonement'. The Old English word for 'penance' is 'daed-bote', literally 'amendment made by action'. So there is a triple sense here: medicine for the sick, salvation for the guilty, and redemption of the lost.

- Herebert translates sponsus de thalamo as spouse of chaumbre (of = from). Neale has bridegroom from his chamber, which I assume he chose in order to emphasise the parallel with Psalm 19, which contains the line, in what would have been the translation most familiar to him, "In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, which cometh forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber". Bridegroom derives from an Old English word meaning literally 'young man about to be married' (groom is from OE guma, 'man') and it's fairly common in Middle English, including with application to Christ. The alternative spouse, which came into English from French, did not mean, as it does today, only someone who is already married, but anyone 'espoused' to marry. Like bridegroom, this is often applied to Christ in Middle English religious writing.

- verse 5 asks God to deliver us from "oure fykel foh", i.e. the devil. Fickle had a much stronger meaning in Middle English than it does today; though it had the meaning of 'unstable, untrustworthy', the older and more prevalent meaning was 'wicked, false, treacherous'.

And that concludes today's lesson on historical linguistics.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

On Transience, IV: "Think on Yesterday"

These are some verses from a long fourteenth-century poem with the first line "Whon men beth muriest at her mele" ('when men are merriest at their meal'), from the Vernon MS. It's on essentially the same theme as this poem from the same manuscript, though with a less philosophical bent: the subject is the changeableness of the world, and the foolishness of trusting to it. The fifth of these verses has often been justly praised; it reminds me of what Walter Hilton says about people who seek worldly riches being like children running after butterflies, who fall and hurt themselves because they're not watching where they're going. And also it reminds me of Peter Pan, but that's not really the same point...

You can find the original, with all its verses, here. I just picked the verses I like best.

1. Whon Men beoþ muriest at heor Mele,
wiþ mete & drink to maken hem glade,
wiþ worschip & wiþ worldlich wele
Þei ben so set, þey conne not sade;
Þei haue no deynte for to dele
Wiþ þinges þat ben deuoutli made,
Þei weene heor honour & heore hele
Schal euer laste & neuer diffade.
But in heor hertes I wolde þei hade,
Whon þei gon ricchest men on array,
Hou sone þat god hem may de-grade,
And sum tyme þenk on ȝusterday.

[When men are merriest at their meal, with meat and drink to make them glad, in high honour and worldly prosperity, they are so placed that they think nothing of serious things.  They have no fondness for thinking of serious matters; they believe their honour and their health shall last forever and never fade.  I wish they would hold in their hearts, when they are men richest in array, how soon God can bring them to nothing again - and sometimes think on yesterday.]

2. Þis day, as leef we may be liht
Wiþ al þe murþes þat men may vise,
To Reuele wiþ þis buirdes briht,
Vche mon gayest on his gyse;
At þe last, hit draweþ to niht,
Þat slep most make his Maystrise.
Whon þat he haþ ikud his miht,
Þe morwe he boskeþ vp to rise,
Þen al draweþ hem to fantasyse;
Wher he is bi-comen, con no mon say,—
And ȝif heo wuste þei weore ful wise,—
ffor al is tornd to ȝesterday.

[Today we may be gladly be light-hearted, with all the mirths man can devise, to revel with beautiful girls, each man dressed in his best way.  At last the night draweth on, when sleep has his domain.  When sleep has shown his power, the next day everyone prepares to rise; then everyone begins to wonder, but where the day went, no one can say.  If they knew, they would be wise; for all is turned to yesterday.]

3. Whose wolde þenke vppon þis,
Mihte fynde a good enchesun whi
To preue þis world al-wei iwis
Hit nis but fantum and feiri,
Þis erþly Ioye, þis worldly blis
Is but a fikel fantasy;
ffor nou hit is, and nou hit nis,
Þer may no mon þer-inne affy.
Hit chaungeþ so ofte & so sodeynly,
To-day is her, to-morwe a-way.
A siker ground ho wol him gy,
I rede he þenke on ȝuster-day.

[Whoever wishes to think on this may find a good reason how to test this world: always, indeed, it is but phantom and illusion. This earthly joy, this worldly bliss, is but a fickle fantasy, for now it is, and now it is not; no man can put faith in it.  It changes so often and so suddenly, today it is here, tomorrow is gone.  Whoever wants to provide himself with a solid foundation, I advise him to think on yesterday.]

4. ffor þer nis non so strong in stour,
ffro tyme þat he ful waxen be,
ffrom þat day forþ, euer-vch an hour,
Of his strengþe he leost a quantite;
Ne no buryde so briht in bour,
Of þritti wynter, I enseure þe,
Þat heo ne schal fade as a flour,
Luite and luite leosen hire beute.
Þe soþe ȝe may ȝor-self ise,
Beo ȝor eldres in good fay;
Whon ȝe ben grettest in ȝour degre,
I rede ȝe þenke on ȝesterday.

[There is no man so strong and mighty, that from the time he is fully grown is not, from that day forth, every hour, losing a little of his strength.  Nor is there any lady so bright in her chamber, of thirty winters, I assure thee, that shall not fade as a flower, and little by little lose her beauty.  The truth you may yourself see by looking at your elders, indeed.  When you are greatest in your degree, I advise you, think on yesterday.]

5. I haue wist, sin I cuþe meen,
Þat children haþ bi candel liht
Heor schadewe on þe wal i-sen,
And Ronne þer-after al þe niht;
Bisy a-boute þei han ben
To cacchen hit wiþ al heore miht,
And whon þei cacchen hit, best wolde wene,
Sannest hit schet out of heor siht;
Þe schadewe cacchen þei ne miht,
ffor no lynes þat þei couþe lay.
Þis schadewe I may likne a-riht
To þis world and ȝusterday.

[I have known, since I could remember, how children spot their shadow on the wall in the candlelight, and chase after it all night.  They are busy to catch it with all their power, but when they thought they were closest to catching it, the more quickly it shot out of their sight.  They could not catch the shadow, for any traps that they could lay.  I could liken this shadow, indeed, to this world and yesterday.]

6. Sum men seiþ þat deþ is a þef,
And al vnwarned wol on him stele;
And I sey nay, and make a pref,
Þat deþ is studefast, trewe and lele,
And warneþ vche mon of his greef,
Þat he wol o day wiþ him dele:
Þe lyf þat is to ow so leof,
He wol ȝou reue, and eke or hele;
Þis poyntes may no mon him repele.
He comeþ so baldely to pyke his pray,
Whon men beoþ muryest at heor Mele:
I rede ȝe þenke on ȝusterday.

[Some men say that death is a thief, and will steal on them all unawares; but I say no, and say this as a proof that death is steadfast, true, and loyal: he warns every man, to his grief, that he will deal with him one day.  The life that is so dear to you, he will take away from you, and your health too.  No man can appeal against him on this point, he comes so boldly to seize his prey.  When men are merriest at their meal, I advise you, think on yesterday.]

Monday, 21 November 2011

Oxford Poetry: What the bird said early in the year

This poem isn't really appropriate for November, but today is the anniversary of C. S. Lewis' death, and it's lovely.

What the bird said early in the year
C. S. Lewis

I heard in Addison’s Walk a bird sing clear:
This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.

Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
This year nor want of rain destroy the peas.

This year time’s nature will no more defeat you.
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.

This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well worn track.

This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle and undo the spell.

Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick! – the gates are drawn apart.

The gates to Magdalen College deer park, just off Addison's Walk.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The One Before The Last

This poem is Rupert Brooke at his most boyish, bless him.

The One Before The Last

I dreamt I was in love again
With the One Before the Last,
And smiled to greet the pleasant pain
Of that innocent young past.

But I jumped to feel how sharp had been
The pain when it did live,
How the faded dreams of Nineteen-ten
Were Hell in Nineteen-five.

The boy’s woe was as keen and clear,
The boy’s love just as true,
And the One Before the Last, my dear,
Hurt quite as much as you.

Sickly I pondered how the lover
Wrongs the unanswering tomb,
And sentimentalizes over
What earned a better doom.

Gently he tombs the poor dim last time,
Strews pinkish dust above,
And sighs, “The dear dead boyish pastime!
But this—ah, God!—is Love!”

—Better oblivion hide dead true loves,
Better the night enfold,
Than men, to eke the praise of new loves,
Should lie about the old!

Oh! bitter thoughts I had in plenty.
But here’s the worst of it—
I shall forget, in Nineteen-twenty,
You ever hurt a bit!

Brooke did not live to see 1920, however; he died on 23 April, 1915.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Margaret again

This is the feast-day of St Margaret of Scotland, one of my favourite saints. This is my post on her from last year. She was awesome; I'm not; therefore, this is all I'm going to say today.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Kipling's Recessional

I've recently become interested in Rudyard Kipling and especially in his quasi-hymns, poems written in hymn metre or using traditional phrases as a springboard for his own thoughts. A few weeks ago I encountered his 'Non nobis Domine', and this 'Recessional' is, of course, appropriate for Remembrance Sunday. It was written in 1897, and can be sung to the tune of 'Eternal Father, Strong to Save'.

God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far flung battle line,
beneath whose awful hand we hold
dominion over palm and pine
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
lest we forget, lest we forget.

The tumult and the shouting dies;
the captains and the kings depart:
still stands thine ancient sacrifice,
an humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
lest we forget, lest we forget.

Far called, our navies melt away;
on dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the nations, spare us yet,
lest we forget, lest we forget.

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
wild tongues that have not thee in awe,
such boastings as the Gentiles use,
or lesser breeds without the law
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
lest we forget, lest we forget.

For heathen heart that puts her trust
in reeking tube and iron shard,
all valiant dust that builds on dust,
and guarding, calls not thee to guard,
for frantic boast and foolish word
lest we forget, lest we forget.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Cnut the Awesome

So it's not really a secret that I am a massive fan of King Cnut, the most successful of Viking kings and the subject of some of the best stories in Anglo-Saxon history. Whether he is chasing after peasants, composing songs about the beauty of monastic chant, or chopping off a traitor's head with a snappy pun, he gets all the best lines, all the grandest gestures. Today, 12 November, was the date of his death in 1035, and I had to post something to mark it. So, this is the most famous story about him - at least, the only one to have entered popular discourse, if usually in a way which misses the entire point!

Here it is as told by the twelfth-century chronicler Henry of Huntingdon. When he reached the point in his chronicle when he had to note Cnut's death, Henry wrote:

A few words must be devoted to the power of this king. Before him there had never been in England a king of such great authority. He was lord of all Denmark, of all England, of all Norway, and also of Scotland. In addition to the many wars in which he was most particularly illustrious, he performed three fine and magnificent deeds.

The first is that he gave his daughter in marriage to the Roman emperor, with indescribable riches.

The second, that on his journey to Rome, he had the evil taxes that were levied on the road that goes through France, called tolls or passage tax, reduced by half at his own expense.

The third, that when he was at the height of his ascendancy, he ordered his chair to be placed on the sea-shore as the tide was coming in. Then he said to the rising tide, ‘You are subject to me, as the land on which I am sitting is mine, and no one has resisted my overlordship with impunity. I command you, therefore, not to rise on to my land, nor to presume to wet the clothing or limbs of your master.’ But the sea came up as usual, and disrespectfully drenched the king’s feet and shins. So jumping back, the king cried, ‘Let all the world know that the power of kings is empty and worthless, and there is no king worthy of the name save Him by whose will heaven, earth and sea obey eternal laws’. Thereafter King Cnut never wore the golden crown on his neck, but placed it on the image of the crucified Lord, in eternal praise of God the great king. By whose mercy may the soul of King Cnut enjoy rest.


Quotation from Historia Anglorum, ed. and trans. by Diana Greenway (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), pp.367-9.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Mind-chains do not clank where one's next neighbour is the sky

I'm discovering more Thomas Hardy poems I like! This one can join The Division and A Church Romance in that growing category.

Wessex Heights

There are some heights in Wessex, shaped as if by a kindly hand
For thinking, dreaming, dying on, and at crises when I stand,
Say, on Ingpen Beacon eastward, or on Wylls-Neck westwardly,
I seem where I was before my birth, and after death may be.

In the lowlands I have no comrade, not even the lone man's friend --
Her who suffereth long and is kind; accepts what he is too weak to mend:
Down there they are dubious and askance; there nobody thinks as I,
But mind-chains do not clank where one's next neighbour is the sky.

In the towns I am tracked by phantoms having weird detective ways --
Shadows of beings who fellowed with myself of earlier days:
They hang about at places, and they say harsh heavy things --
Men with a wintry sneer, and women with tart disparagings.

Down there I seem to be false to myself, my simple self that was,
And is not now, and I see him watching, wondering what crass cause
Can have merged him into such a strange continuator as this,
Who yet has something in common with himself, my chrysalis.

I cannot go to the great grey Plain; there's a figure against the moon,
Nobody sees it but I, and it makes my breast beat out of tune;
I cannot go to the tall-spired town, being barred by the forms now passed
For everybody but me, in whose long vision they stand there fast.

There's a ghost at Yell'ham Bottom chiding loud at the fall of the night,
There's a ghost in Froom-side Vale, thin-lipped and vague, in a shroud of white,
There is one in the railway train whenever I do not want it near,
I see its profile against the pane, saying what I would not hear.

As for one rare fair woman, I am now but a thought of hers,
I enter her mind and another thought succeeds me that she prefers;
Yet my love for her in its fulness she herself even did not know;
Well, time cures hearts of tenderness, and now I can let her go.

So I am found on Ingpen Beacon, or on Wylls-Neck to the west,
Or else on homely Bulbarrow, or little Pilsdon Crest,
Where men have never cared to haunt, nor women have walked with me,
And ghosts then keep their distance; and I know some liberty.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Wanderers in the middle mist

I think this is the poem which C. S. Lewis' 'As the Ruin Falls' was reminding me of the other day.

I said I splendidly loved you
Rupert Brooke

I said I splendidly loved you; it’s not true.
Such long swift tides stir not a land-locked sea.
On gods or fools the high risk falls—on you—
The clean clear bitter-sweet that’s not for me.
Love soars from earth to ecstasies unwist.
Love is flung Lucifer-like from Heaven to Hell.
But—there are wanderers in the middle mist,
Who cry for shadows, clutch, and cannot tell
Whether they love at all, or, loving, whom:
An old song’s lady, a fool in fancy dress,
Or phantoms, or their own face on the gloom;
For love of Love, or from heart’s loneliness.
Pleasure’s not theirs, nor pain. They doubt, and sigh,
And do not love at all. Of these am I.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Psalm Translations: I will lift up mine eyes

In a long-delayed follow-up to this post, here are some medieval translations of Psalm 121, which in the King James Bible goes like this:

1. I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
3. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

The youtube video has nothing to do with translations of this psalm (though for reference, it is of course the text of the Book of Common Prayer, not the KJV), but my goodness, it is beautiful. Anglican chant is one of the loveliest things in the world.

Anyway, this is the same psalm in the Wycliffite Bible (late 14th century):

1. I reiside myn iyen to the hillis; fro whannus help schal come to me.
2. Myn help is of the Lord; that made heuene and erthe.
3. The Lord yyue not thi foot in to mouyng; nether he nappe, that kepith thee.
4. Lo! he schal not nappe, nether slepe; that kepith Israel.
5. The Lord kepith thee; the Lord is thi proteccioun aboue thi riythond.
6. The sunne schal not brenne thee bi dai; nether the moone bi nyyt.
7. The Lord kepe thee fro al yuel; the Lord kepe thi soule.
8. The Lord kepe thi goyng in and thi goyng out; fro this tyme now and in to the world.

To be honest, the thing that strikes me about this translation is not very scholarly or devout: the word 'nap' is really funny. We can be glad that subsequent translators have decided that 'slumber', a considerably more dignified word, was more appropriate. A good number of the citations for nappen in the Middle English Dictionary are from Wycliffite texts, so either it didn't seem comical to them or it was part of the 'everyday diction' thing they had going on.

The repetition of keep and keepeth follows the Latin Vulgate, which has custodit or custodiat six times in eight verses; the KJV, note, has versions of 'keep' three times and then switches to 'preserve' (also three times) to translate the same word. Who knows what they thought the difference was.

For comparison, this is a rhymed version from the Surtees Psalter, from thirteenth-century Yorkshire:

1. I houe mine eghen in hilles, to se
Whethen sal come helpe to me.

[according to the OED, hove meaning 'raise' has been obsolete for a few centuries now, but it's related to Modern English heave. Whethen = whence]

2. Mi helpe sal be lauerd fra,
Þat maked heuen, erthe als-swa.

[fra = from; the first line scans in Middle English because lauerd, 'lord', has two syllables, from OE hlaford]

3. Noght in stiringe mi fote giue he,
Ne he sal slepe þat yhemes þe.

[yeme, 'to care for, to guard', didn't make it out of the Middle English period, but it's a nice word. This was the translator's choice for custodit, and it's a good one.]

4. Loke noght sal slepe ne, slepe sal wele,
Whilke þat yhemes Iraele.

[no napping here. Whilke = that same one]

5. Lauerd yhemes þe, lauerd þi schilder be
Ouer þe righthand ofe þe.

6. Bi dai noght þe sunne skalde þe sal
Ne þe mone bi night with-al.

7. Lauerd fra alle iuel yheme þe;
Lauerd þi saule yheme he.

8. Lauerd yheme þine ingange and þine outgange,
Fra hethen and in to werlde lange.

[hethen = hence]

'in to werlde lange' in the last verse is the same phrase as the Wycliffite 'in to the world', both attempting to translate 'in saeculum'. We're so used to 'world without end' now that other versions of it sound odd, but Old and Middle English had a number of versions of the phrase. The OED is instructive on the subject:

In various phrases with the sense ‘for ever and ever, for all time, throughout eternity’. Chiefly in religious context or with religious connotation. [After various post-classical Latin phrases containing saeculum, e.g. usque in saeculum, in saeculum saeculi, in saecula saeculorum, all attested in the Vulgate, in turn after various Hellenistic Greek phrases containing αἰών aeon n. (e.g. εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, εἰς αἰῶνα αἰῶνος, ἕως τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων) in the Septuagint, which render various biblical Hebrew phrases containing ʿōlām age, aeon, long duration (in post-biblical Hebrew also ‘world’).
Post-classical Latin in saeculum saeculi and in saecula saeculorum (and their Greek models) imitate a biblical Hebrew idiom expressing a superlative or elative, also seen in e.g. holy of holies n. at holy n. 5 (see note at that entry) and Song of Songs at song n. 2b, in which the construct state of a noun is followed by the plural of its absolute state; although this construction is apparently unattested with ʿōlām , compare synonymous biblical Hebrew phrases like lĕ-ʿōlām wā-ʿeḏ ‘for ever and ever’, lit. ‘to ages and ages’, where ʿōlām is paired with its near synonym ʿeḏ ‘perpetuity’.]

The various phrases are:

a. to (also oth on, into, unto) (the) world. Obs.
Quotations from OE to c.1425.

b. in (the) world of world(s) (also in to (occas. to, through) (the) world(s) of world(s)). In Old English (and early Middle English) on (also þurh, geond) worulda woruld. Obs.
Quotations from OE to ?1591.

c. Similarly in (also into, through) all (the) worlds (of worlds) (in Old English (and early Middle English) on (also þurh, geond) ealra worulda woruld). Also in (or for) everlasting worlds, world always. Obs. (arch. in later use).
Quotations from OE to 1842 - the last is Tennyson, the one considered archaic, presumably: I heard his deep ‘I will’, Breathed, like the covenant of a God, to hold From thence thro' all the worlds.

e. from world into world(s). Also fro the world and in to the world. Obs.
Quotations from c.1225-1447.

And on 'world without end':

d. (a) world (occas. worlds) without end. In later use also hyperbolically: endlessly, eternally, for ever. In Old English (and early Middle English) also (on, to) worulde (a) butan ende.
[Frequently used to translate the post-classical Latin phrases saeculum saeculi, saecula saeculorum, etc.; especially with reference to the final words of the doxology, after its post-classical Latin text sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum, lit. ‘as it was in the beginning, and now, and always, and in the ages of ages’, itself after Hellenistic Greek καὶ νῦν καὶ ἀεὶ καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων , lit. ‘now as well as always and into the ages of the ages’. In a biblical context the phrase world without end is first attested translating post-classical Latin saeculum saeculi (and variants) in Coverdale's Bible and also appears in the A.V., but quot. lOE (which does not translate a known Latin original) shows that an equivalent phrase was used in one English version of the doxology at an earlier date... Compare also Anglo-Norman secle sanz fin (c1240 or earlier).]


Thursday, 3 November 2011

As the ruin falls

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
I talk of love --a scholar's parrot may talk Greek--
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack,
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Libera me

I'll take any excuse to post one of William Herebert's hymn translations, and All Souls Day seems as good an excuse as any. This is his version of the Libera me.

Louerd, shyld me vrom helle deth at þylke gryslich stounde,
When heuene and erþe shulle quake and al þat ys on grounde,
When þou shalt demen al wyth fur þat ys on erþe yuounde.

Ich am ouergard agast and quake al in my speche
Aȝa þe day of rykenyng and þylke gryslych wreche:
When heuene and erþe shulle quake and al þat ys on grounde.

Þat day ys day of wreþthe, of wo and soroufolnesse;
Þat day shal be þe grete day, and vol of bytternesse:
When þou shalt demen al wyth fur þat ys on erþe yuounde.

Þylke reste, þat euer last, Louerd, þou hem sende,
And lyht of heuene blysse hem shyne wythouten ende.

The Latin is:

Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna, in die illa tremenda:
Quando cœli movendi sunt et terra.
Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem.
Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo, dum discussio venerit, atque ventura ira.
Quando cœli movendi sunt et terra.
Dies illa, dies iræ, calamitatis et miseriæ, dies magna et amara valde.
Dum veneris iudicare sæculum per ignem.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.

A modern English translation of that:

Deliver me, O Lord, from death eternal on that fearful day,
When the heavens and the earth shall be moved,
When thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
I am made to tremble, and I fear, till the judgment be upon us, and the coming wrath,
When the heavens and the earth shall be moved.
That day, day of wrath, calamity, and misery, day of great and exceeding bitterness,
When thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.

A more readable version of Herebert's translation:

Lord, shield me from hell and death at that grisly stound [hour]
When heaven and earth shall quake and all that is on ground,
When thou shalt judge with fire all that is on earth found.

I am utterly aghast and quake in all my speech
At that day of reckoning and that grisly wreche: [vengeance]
When heaven and earth shall quake and all that is on ground.

That day is day of wrath, of woe and sorrowfullness;
That day shall be the great day, and full of bitterness:
When thou shalt judge with fire all that is on earth found.

The rest which lasts for ever, Lord, thou them send,
And light of heavenly bliss on them shine without end.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Stained Glass for All Saints' Day

Because it's All Saints Day, and because I heard a sermon this morning about how saints are stained glass windows to God, here's an assortment of stained-glass depictions of saints.

(There's a pun somewhere in the fact that stain/saint share the same letters - I did consider 'sainted glass' as a title for this post - but I can't get to it. Assume I made one, and we'll move on).

The picture above, from Ringwood in Hampshire, is at the top of this post because I don't know who the saints are (except St George in the middle) but I love the colours anyway. So they're standing in for all the saints.

Let's start with one of my favourites, St Joseph:

From the church at Freshwater, Isle of Wight. Also from Freshwater (which, because of its connections with Tennyson, also contains this stunning window of Sir Galahad - not a saint but as close as a fictional character can get!), this is St Dorcas:

Her wikipedia article claims that depictions of Dorcas in art are "very rare", but maybe they're just looking in the wrong places; I see her all over the place. This is from the church at West Stourmouth, near Canterbury:

But this gentleman is a rarer sight, I would think:

Gideon, from Norwich Cathedral.

More popular is St Cecilia, of course (this is from Littlebourne in Kent):

And St Michael (from the chapel at Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight):

Another beautiful St Michael here, along with St Chad (on the left) and St Hugh of Lincoln:

The most famous depiction of Thomas Becket, from Canterbury Cathedral:

St Thomas (Becket? I'm not sure) and assorted unnamed bishops (Goodnestone, Kent):

Sunlight St Anne, teaching the Virgin Mary to read, from Selworthy in Somerset:

And two other saintly women, both from St Winnow in Cornwall:

From the same church, some Cornish saints - not a good picture, alas, but when else will I ever get the opportunity to mention St Winnow and St Nectan?

St Catherine, from the chapel of Edward the Confessor in Canterbury Cathedral:

St Catherine is one of my name-saints, so I had to include her.

And now for some real genuine medieval stained glass, which if I were a proper medievalist I would have put front and centre, and about which I would have something intelligent to say; I don't though, except that they're all, for some reason, really cute. Here's two medieval depictions of St John the Baptist, one dramatic (and not so cute), one rather more peaceful:

(This is from the church at Wickhambreaux in Kent, which has an incredible stained-glass east window...).

From Elham, Kent (I love that little lamb!).

The rest are from St Winnow again, and are dated c.1460s. St George is easy to identify:

Isn't that adorable? He looks like a little cartoon character! I think it's the squat body and spindly legs... And this St Michael too is similarly cuddly:

There's a close-up of St Michael's face in process of restoration here, which is pretty cool. All the glass seems to have been cleaned since I visited in 2008, and it looks very different now.

This may be St Winnow (probably this Winwaloe):

And this is apparently St Leonard:

And this is Mary Magdalene:

That blue is gorgeous.

That exhausts my supply of stained-glass saints. Medieval saints as depicted in stained glass have featured in the following posts:

St Edmund of East Anglia
Plus some Gothic medievalish apostles at Kingsdown

This is getting to be an obsession. Perhaps I should write a book.