The History and Future of the Book

Middle English Lyrics


Bitwene Mersh and Averil,
When spray biginneth to springe,
The lutel fowl hath hire will
On hire lud to singe.
Ich libbe in love-longinge
For semlokest of alle thinge.
He may me blisse bringe:
Ich am in hire baundoun.
An hendy hap ich habbe ihent,
Ichot from hevene it is me sent:
From alle wimmen my love is lent,
And light on Alisoun.

On hew hire her is fair inough,
Hire browe browne, hire eye blake;
With lossum chere he on me logh;
With middel small and wel imake.
Bote he me wolle to hire take
For to been hire owen make,
Longe to liven ichulle forsake,
And feye fallen adoun.
An hendy hap, etc.

Nightes when I wende and wake—
Forthy min wonges waxeth won—
Levedy, all for thine sake
Longinge is ilent me on.
In world nis noon so witer mon
That al hire bounte telle con;
Hire swire is whittore then the swon,
And feirest may in toune.
An hendy hap, etc.

Ich am for wowing al forwake,
Wery so water in wore.
Lest eny reve me my make
Ich habbe iyerned yore.
Betere is tholien while sore
Then mournen evermore.
Geynest under gore,
Herken to my roun!
An hendy hap, etc.


Between March and April,
When the leaves begin to open,
The little bird takes its pleasure
In singing in its own language.
I live in love-longing
For the most beautiful of all creatures;
She is able to bring me joy;
I am in her power.
I have been given a piece of good fortune;
I know it has been sent to me from heaven;
My love has been withdrawn from all women
And settled on Alysoun.

Her hair is fair enough in colour,
Her eyebrows dark, her eyes black;
She smiled at me charmingly,
With a slim and well-shaped waist.
Unless she is willing to accept me
To be her own partner,
I will give up living for long,
And collapse, fated to die.
I have been given, etc.

At night, when I toss and turn---
That is why my cheeks grow pale---
Lady, all for your sake
I am seized with longing.
There is no man in the world so talented
That he can describe all her goodness;
Her neck is whiter than the swan,
And she is the most beautiful girl in the world.
I have been given, etc.

I am worn out with lying awake for love,
Weary as troubled water;
In case anyone steals my partner from me
I have been anxious for a long time.
It is better to suffer greatly for a time
Than mourn for ever;
Kindest of women,
Listen to what I say.
I have been given, etc.


Harley 2253 (click on image to zoom in on the poem)