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.
lenvoy (noun), also lenvoie, lenvoye
(1) The final stanza of a ballade, from the French equivalent term envoi, often with a different number of lines from the stanzas of the main text of the ballade. In French poetry, this final stanza originally addressed the ‘princes’ of a Puy (the judges of a poetry society’s competition) or the poet’s lady or patron, but later ballades have envois which continue the sense of the poem and do not feature direct address. Gower gives each of the ballades in his Cinkante Balades an envoi, and Chaucer gives many of his English ballades a lenvoy. The mid-fifteenth-century MS Fairfax 16 labels the final stanza of various of Chaucer’s ballades as ‘Lenvoy’. Continue reading
I’m still exploring the envoy (or lenvoy in Middle English), a section of dedication, epilogue, parting words or direct address added to a text. As well as envoys written by poets to their own poems, and by readers to someone else’s poem, I’ve also been reading envoys added by printers to late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century printed books. There are many more short poems added to early printed books than I had realised, and they are a great source of terms for my poetics glossary. One of the best writers of an envoy was the printer Robert Copland.