Tag Archives: lai


lai (noun), also laylaye, lei

Before I attempt this glossary entry, I concede that there is no wittier definition of lai than that by Jonathan Hsy on Twitter:

As per its Middle English Dictionary entry, lai in Middle English can refer to a short romance narrative of love and adventure, the Breton lai of the Franklin’s Tale.  It can also mean both ‘song’ and ‘birdsong’.  In medieval French, lai can also refer to a type of lyric.  Barbara K Altmann, in an essay on ‘Guillaume de Machaut’s Lyric Poetry’ in A Companion to Guillaume de Machaut, ed. McGrady and Bain, defines it as follows: ‘It is elaborate in its structure, generally consisting, in the work of Machaut and his followers, of 12 strophes, each one heterometric (i.e. composed of lines of different lengths) and internally divided into two or four sections.  Each strophe is different from the others, with the exception that the last one mirrors exactly the format of the verse’ (p. 322). Continue reading