from Middle English Poetry in Modern Verse


Cambridge, MA, Hackett: 2007

Available from Amazon and other online sellers


1                                                  164 Norton
Adam lay bound,
Bound up in a bond.
Four thousand winters
Hardly seemed too long.
And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took,
As learned men find written,
Written in their book,
Had not the apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Then had not our lady
Become our heaven’s queen.
Blessed be the time
That apple taken was.
And therefore we must sing:
Deo gracias!”                                                     Thanks be to God!
Index 117. MS. Sloane 2593. Fifteenth century. Unique.
2                                      231 Norton
I labored sore and suffered death,
And now I rest to draw my breath,
But I shall come right soon in might.
On heaven and earth my doom shall light;
And then shall Satan know, and man,
What I was and what I am.
Index 1308, National Library of Scotland, Advocates 19.1.11. Fifteenth century. Unique??
3                                      219 Norton
Love me brought
And love me wrought,
Man, to be thy friend.
Love me fed
And love me led
And left me to my end.
Love me slew
And love me drew
And laid me on my bier.
Love only knows
For love I chose
Mankind to buy most dear.
So now dread naught;
I have thee sought
Pursuing day and night.
I’ll shelter thee.
I paid the fee.
I won thee in my fight.

Index 2012. National Library of Scotland, Advocates 18.7.21. Fourteenth century. Unique??
4                                                 17 Norton
All night beside the rose, the rose,
All night by the rose I lay.
I dared not steal the rose itself,
But bore the flower away.
Index 194. MS. Rawlinson D. 913. Fourteenth century. Unique.
5                                            27 Norton
Between March and April,
When sweet sprays start to spring
And small birds do their loving will,
As in their songs they sing,
Why, then I live in love and longing
For the fairest maid there is.
Only she can bring me bliss.
I’m hers alone, bound up, undone.
A happy hap has come to me.
      I know it came by God’s decree.
      From other girls my love must flee,
      And light on Alison. 
Her hair is lovely, light and fair,
Black brows above dark, snapping eyes.
She laughs at me without a care.
Her waist is everything men prize.
I swear unless the girl complies
And loves me back without disguise,
Her will will lead to my demise,
And then my course is run.
Abed at night I twist and turn—
Tormented till my cheeks grow pale.
Dear lady, this is your concern,
It’s love that makes my spirit fail.
The wisest man with least to learn
Can’t say how bright her virtues burn.
Indeed, her dainty neck might spurn
The whitest maid beneath the sun.
Now love has worn me down, alas,
Tossed like water to and fro,
Lest someone else might win the lass
Whom I have loved with such great woe.
But better suffer now, I know,
Than wait and suffer evermore.
Oh, fairest girl the world can show,
Hear my refrain and then I’m done.
Index 515. MS. Harley 2253. Thirteenth century. Unique.
6                                16 Robbins
Of every kind of tree,
Of every kind of tree,
The hawthorn blossoms sweetest
Of every kind of tree.
My sweetheart she shall be,
My sweetheart she shall be,
The fairest thing that goes on earth,
My sweetheart she shall be.
Index 2622. Rawlinson D. 913. Fifteenth century. Unique.
7                                               95 Robbins
Go, little ring, to that sweet maid
Who holds my heart, as I admit.
Bow low. Beseech her to be swayed.
Pray that she will let you fit
Her slender finger, touching it.
Then tell her roundly—don’t be shy:
“My master wishes he were I.”
Index 932. Royal MS. Fifteenth century. Unique.
8                                   22 Norton
Bird on briar, bird, bird on briar!           
with a pun on “burde,” girl
We’re born of love, and love we crave.
Have pity, bird, and quench my fire,
Or make, dear love, make me my grave.
I am so bright, my bird on briar,
      To see that trim maid in the hall.
She’s white of limb, all I desire;
      She’s fair and true, the flower of all.
If I could have my will of her,
      Steadfast in love, lovely, true,
My woes would stop and never stir.
      Joy and bliss would make me new.
Index 521. King’s College, Cambridge,  Musical setting. Fourteenth Century. Unique??
9                                                     106 Norton
Thirty days has November,
April, June, and September;
Of twenty-seven is but one,
And all the rest have thirty-one.
Index 3571. MS. Harley 2341. Fifteenth century. Unique??
10                                              108 Norton
January            By the fire I warm my hands.
February          I take my spade and dig my lands.
March               Here I set my seeds to spring.
April                  Now I hear the small birds sing.
May                  I am as light as a bird in a tree.
June                  I uproot any weed I see.
July                   I scythe the meadow, making hay.
August              I cut my grain the selfsame way.
September       With my flail I earn my bread.
October            I take my winter wheat to spread.
November       At Martinmas I kill my swine.           
November 11
December        At Christmas-tide I drink red wine.
Index 579. Bodleian MS. 1689. Fifteenth century. Unique??
11                                    112 Norton
Phlegmatic      Sluggy, slow, spitting much,
                        Cold and moist, sirs, I am such.
                        Dull and fat, pale and strange,
                        That’s what I am; I cannot change.
Sanguine         Liberal, I, loving and glad,
                        Laughing, playing, seldom sad;
                        Rosy, singing, bold to fight,
                        Hot and moist, fast to ignite.
Choleric           I’m sad and heavy in my thought.
                        I covet much, surrender naught.
                        Tricky, subtle, cold, and dry:
                        A yellow colored mope am I.
Melancholy      Envious, crooked, rough-skinned, strong,
                        I spend too much and live too long.
                        Scheming, skinny, dry and hot,
                        I’m never pleased with what I’ve got.
Index 3157. Lambeth Palace MS. 523. Fifteenth century. Unique??

Return to Joe Glaser Home Page