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.
One of the delights of starting work on this book has been the search for particularly distinctive examples of Middle English poetics in practice. In particular, I have been skim-reading lots of editions in a rough chronological survey looking for conscious poetic experiments. London, British Library MS Harley 913 has provided a rich source of pre-Chaucerian stylistic innovation. MS Harley 913 is a trilingual anthology of poetry and prose, copied by a Franciscan friar living in Waterford in the south of Ireland. Parts of the manuscript can be dated 1338 to 1342 (See Alan J. Fletcher, ‘The Date Of London, British Library, Harley MS 913 (The “Kildare Poems”)’, Medium Ævum, 79:2 (2010), 306–10), though the volume as a whole may have been copied over a longer period. Many of the pieces in the manuscript seem to have been chosen by a compiler interested in parody and wordplay. (See Neil Cartlidge, ‘Festivity, Order, and Community in Fourteenth-Century Ireland: The Composition and Contexts of BL MS Harley 913’, Yearbook of English Studies, 33 (2003), 33–52).