Here’s another love poem, this time a short lover’s lament (DIMEV 3269) from London, British Library MS Harley 913. Scroll down for a text and translation. MS Harley 913 is a trilingual mid-fourteenth-century anthology of poetry and prose, copied by a Franciscan friar living in Waterford in the south of Ireland. The poem narrates how love has brought the speaker into sinful thought, then to the absence of reason and reflection (which nonetheless proves futile as a means of escaping love), then into grief and anxiety, and then to despair. It ends with his resolution to continue even without hope of his lady’s favour until death and the grave.
After the sounds of old age come the sounds and signs of death. These derive from medical lists of symptoms given in Hippocrates and Galen (see Rosemary Woolf, The English Religious Lyric in the Middle Ages (1968), pp. 79–82). Some medieval poets, whether for mnemonic, rhetorical or other purposes, transformed them into verse. In the early fourteenth-century Fascisculus Morum (a handbook for preachers written by a Franciscan friar), three Latin couplets listing the signs of death attributed (apocryphally) to St Jerome are cited, as well as a Middle English poem beginning ‘When the hede quakyth / And the lyppis blakyth’ which gives eight different signs of death before a brief conclusion. Other versions, medical and moral, are recorded by R H Robbins, ‘Signs of Death in Middle English’, Mediaeval Studies, 32 (1970), 282–98.