Thursday, 14 February 2013

'All other love is like the moon'

Now here's a Valentine's Day poem.


1. Al oþer loue is lych þe mone
þat wext and wanet as flour in plein,
as flour þat fayret and fawyt sone,
as day þat scwret and endt in rein.

2. Al oþer loue bigint bi blisse,
in wep and wo mak is hendyng;
no loue þer nis þat oure halle lysse,
bot wat areste in evene kyng.

3. Wos loue ys and eure gren
and eure ful wyth-oute wanyyng;
is loue suetyth wyth-oute tene,
is loue is hendles and a-ring.

4. Al oþer loue y flo for þe;
tel me, tel me, wer þou lyst?
In marie mylde an fre
i schal be founde, ak mor in crist.

5. Crist me founde, nouht y þe, hast;
hald me to þe wiht al þi meyn;
help geld þat mi loue be stedfast,
lest þus sone it turne ageyn.

6. Wan nou hyet myn hert is sor,
y-wys hie spilt myn herte blod:
god canne mi lef, y care na mor -
hyet y hoppe hys wil be god.

7. Allas! what wole y a Rome?
seye y may in lore of loue,
'undo y am by manne dome
bot he me help þat syt a-boue.'


This beautiful poem itself is rather unstable, since it survives, just about, in one manuscript (Eton College MS. 36, Part II) - written in pencil, probably in the fourteenth century, on a page left nearly blank at the end of a completely unrelated text about military principles.  According to the editor Carleton Brown, who transcribed this poem in the 1920s, several of the lines were then almost illegible, and some of the readings don't make much sense - the reference to Rome in verse 7, in particular.

That's earthly mutability for you.


1. All other love is like the moon
That waxes and wanes as flower on plain,
As flower that fades and falls soon,
As day that rushes past and ends in rain.

2. All other love begins with bliss,
In weeping and woe makes its ending;
No other love can be our whole lysse, [joy]
But that which rests in heaven's king,

3. Whose love is... and ever green [there's a word missing in the manuscript]
And ever full, without waning;
His love is sweet without pain,
His love is endless and encompassing.

4. All other love I flee for thee;
Tell me, tell me, where thou liest?
'In Mary, mild and free,
I shall be found, and more in Christ.'

5. Christ me found, not I thee, hast;
Hold me to thee with all thy main;
Help that my love be steadfast,
Lest thus at once it turn again.

6. And now that my heart is sore,
Indeed is spilt my heart's blood:
God knows my life, I care no more -
Yet I hope his will be good.

7. Alas! what can I do in Rome?
Say I may, in lore of love,
'Undone am I by man's doom
Unless helped by him who sits above.'

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

A precious little gem of a poem.

Clerk of Oxford said...

Indeed!