from Middle English Poetry in Modern Verse
Cambridge, MA, Hackett: 2007
Available from Amazon and other online sellers
1 164 Norton
Adam lay 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,
not the apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Then had not our lady
Blessed be the time
That apple taken was.
And therefore we must sing:
“Deo gracias!” Thanks be to
Index 117. MS. Sloane 2593. Fifteenth century. Unique.
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;
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??
Love me brought
And love me wrought,
Man, to be thy friend.
And love me led
And left me to my end.
Love me slew
And love me drew
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 paid the fee.
I won thee in my fight.
Index 2012. National Library of Scotland,
Advocates 18.7.21. Fourteenth century. Unique??
All night beside the rose, the rose,
All night by the rose
I dared not steal the rose itself,
But bore the flower away.
MS. Rawlinson D. 913. Fourteenth century. Unique.
Between March and April,
When sweet sprays start to spring
birds do their loving will,
As in their songs they sing,
Why, then I live in love
For the fairest maid there is.
Only she can bring me bliss.
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. refrain
Her hair is lovely, light and fair,
Black brows above dark, snapping eyes.
laughs at me without a care.
Her waist is everything men prize.
I swear unless the
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
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.
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
Oh, fairest girl the world can show,
Hear my refrain and then I’m
Index 515. MS. Harley 2253. Thirteenth century. Unique.
Of every kind of tree,
Of every kind of tree,
The hawthorn blossoms
Of every kind of tree.
My sweetheart she shall be,
My sweetheart she shall
The fairest thing that goes on earth,
My sweetheart she shall be.
Rawlinson D. 913. Fifteenth century. Unique.
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,
Then tell her roundly—don’t be shy:
“My master wishes he were I.”
Index 932. Royal MS. 17.D.vi. Fifteenth century. Unique.
Bird on briar, bird, bird on briar! with a pun on “burde,”
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,
see that trim maid in the hall.
She’s white of limb, all I desire;
and true, the flower of all.
If I could have my will of her,
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
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.
10 108 Norton
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.
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.
At Martinmas I kill my swine. November 11
December At Christmas-tide
I drink red wine.
Index 579. Bodleian MS. 1689. Fifteenth century. Unique??
Phlegmatic Sluggy, slow, spitting
Cold and moist, sirs, I am such.
Dull and fat, pale and strange,
That’s what I am; I cannot
Sanguine Liberal, I, loving and glad,
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.
subtle, cold, and dry:
A yellow colored mope am I.
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
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