The early sixteenth-century poem presented and translated at the foot of this blog probably needs a trigger warning, at least for those of us who’ve had such dark moments in life that we’ve thought of ending it all. This ballade (if you use that term pretty loosely) describes a night-time vision of a murdered man who encourages the narrator, perhaps a despairing lover, to kill himself. The final stanza revamps the familiar ending of a dream vision in which an authority figure urges some action and/or some startling event occurs, the violence of which awakens the dreamer. Here it is the speaker’s suicide which ends the dream. The last line, flinging us into the present tense, gives a vivid picture of the speaker’s heart thumping as he wakes.
A short bit of translation, to celebrate #WhanThatAprilleDay18. At the foot of the page is a much modernized version of an extract from the alliterative poem Death and Liffe, a depiction of the arrival of Lady Life. This poem presents a debate between Lady Life and Dame Death, two figures whom the narrator sees in a dream vision at the heads of two opposing armies. The poem survives in a corrupted late copy, and so the translation below both relies on editorial reconstruction and has a fair bit of freedom in trying to arrive at something readable.
[First, of course, the apology for the lack of new posts on this blog. The good news is that this because I am hard at work on The Book. But I will try to do a little better in 2018. By way of a New Year’s gift, here is a late fifteenth-century New Year’s gift poem from MS Lambeth 306 with text and Modern English translation. The lover sends his heart, and this poem, as a New Year’s present. It is a lovely heartfelt poem about giving and receiving.]
Juellis pricious cane y non fynde to selle
To sende you, my soverein, this New Yeres morowe,
Wherfor lucke and good hansselle
My hert I sende you, and Seynt John to borowe,
That an hundred yeres withouton adverssite and sorowe
Ye mowe live: I pray to God that ye so mote,
And of all your dessires to sende you hastely bot.
[I can find no precious jewels to sell to send something to you, my lady, on this New Year’s morning, so therefore for good fortune and as as a New Year’s lucky charm I send you my heart, with St John as my guarantor, so that you might live a hundred years without adversity and sorrow: I pray to God that you might do so, and that God might send you quickly everything you desire.] Continue reading
With apologies for having gone so long without posting on the blog, here is something I’ve been working on over Christmas: a translation into Modern English prose of the alliterative poem Somer Soneday. Continue reading
I’m pleased to say that my article on ‘Margaret of Anjou as Patron of English Verse?: The Liber Proverbiorum and the Romans of Partenay’, which will be published in Review of English Studies later this year, is now available via advance access. You can read the article online here or download a pdf here.
It’s #WhanThatAprilleDay16 today, a celebration of ‘oold bokes yn sondrye oold tonges’ and languages which are Old, or Middle, or Ancient, or Dead. To learn any of those languages takes baby steps, something I’ve seen a lot of in recent years watching our daughter, and all her little cousins, learning to walk. Once they are up on their feet, they want to run, even when their legs are still wobbly. So the imagery in the second and third stanzas of the poem below, written in the dying days of Middle English, leapt out at me, and I hope it will leap across 500 years to you too. Scroll down for text and translation.
This post is really just the story of how one thing leads to another in research. It’s also to tell you about what I’ve been working on in the last three weeks, a sudden and unexpected digression from my poetics book. It’s also to highlight the role of noblewomen in the commissioning of English verse in the middle of the fifteenth century.
Over New Year’s, I went to the British Library to look at a fifteenth-century manuscript with a little-known prologue to a little-known text. The text, the Liber Proverbiorum, is a verse translation of an early fourteenth-century collection of proverbs and wise sayings by the friar and preacher Nicole Bozon. The text as a whole had been edited in two American PhD dissertations, but these were hard to get hold of, so I went to look at it myself. Continue reading
The theme for this year’s United Kingdom National Poetry Day is LIGHT. What sprung into my mind, thinking of light in Middle English poetry, was an image of jasper walls gleaming like egg white in a city which doesn’t need the light of the sun or the moon because it is lit by divinity itself: ‘The selfe God was her lambe-lyght, / The Lombe her lantyrne’ [God himself was their lamp-light, the Lamb their lantern]. It comes in what might just be the best stanza in Middle English poetry.