Friday 2 April 2010

Mary addresses mothers

O all women that ever were born
That bear children, stay and see
How my son lies me before
Upon my knee, taken from the tree.
Your children you dance upon your knee
With laughing, kissing, and merry cheer:
Behold my child, behold now me,
For now lies dead my dear son, dear.

O woman, woman, well is thee,
Your child's cap you put on;
You comb his hair, behold his ble; [face]
And know not when you will have done;.
But ever, alas, I make my moan
To see my son's head as it is here:
I pick out thorns by one and one
For now lies dead my dear son, dear.

O woman, a chaplet chosen you have
Your child to wear; it gives you great liking. [pleasure]
You pin it on with great solas; [care]
And I sit with my son sore weeping.
His chaplet is thorns sore pricking;
His mouth I kiss with sorrowful cheer. [expression]
I sit weeping, and you singing,
For now lies dead my dear son, dear.

O woman, look to me again,
Who play with and kiss your children's pappys [breast]
To see my son I have great pain,
In his breast so great a gap is,
And on his body so many swappys. [wounds]
With bloody lips I kiss him here;
Alas, full hard seem my haps, [circumstances]
For now lies dead my dear son, dear.

O woman, you take your child by the hand
And say, "My son, give me a stroke!"
My son's hands are sore bleeding;
To look on him gives me no layke. [pleasure]
His hands he allowed for your sake
Thus to be bored with nail and spear;
When you make mirth, great sorrow I make,
For now lies dead my dear son, dear.

Behold, women, when you play
And have your children on knees dancing:
You feel their feet, so sweet are they,
And to your sight full well likand. [lovely to look at]
But the biggest finger of a hand
Through my son's feet I can put here
And pull it out sore bleeding,
For now lies dead my dear son, dear.

Therefore, women, by town and street,
Your children's hands when you behold,
Their breast, their body and their feet
Then good it were on my son if think ye would,
How care has made my heart full cold,
To see my son, with nail and spear,
With scourge and thorns manifold,
Wounded and dead, my dear son, dear.

You have your son full whole and sound,
And mine is dead upon my knee;
Your child is free, and mine is bound,
Your child is alive and mine, dead is he;
Why was all this, but for thee?
For my child trespassed never here.
Methink you ought now to weep with me
For now lies dead my dear son, dear.

Weep with me, both man and wife:
My child is yours and loves you well.
If your child had lost his life,
You would weep at every mell, [occasion]
But for my son weep you never a dell. [little]
If you love yours, mine has no peer;
He sends yours both hap and hele, [good fortune and salvation]
And for you died my dear son, dear.

Now all women who have your wit
And see my child on my knees dead,
Weep not for yours, but weep for it,
And you shall have full great meed. [reward]
He would again for your love bleed
Rather than that you damned were.
I pray you all, to him take heed,
For now lies dead my dear son, dear.

Fare well, woman, I may no more
For dread of death rehearse his pain.
You may laugh when you like, and I weep sore;
That may you see if you look to me again.
To love my son if you be fain,
I will love yours with heart entire,
And he shall bring your children and you, certainly
To bliss where is my dear son, dear.

This extraordinarily vivid poem is a fifteenth-century meditation on the theme of the Pieta: Mary cradling her dead Son on her lap. The Middle English text from here:

Of alle women that ever were borne
That berys childur, abyde and se
How my son liggus me beforne
Upon my kne, takyn fro tre.
Your childur ye dawnse upon your kne
With laghyng, kyssyng, and mery chere:
Behold my childe, beholde now me,
For now liggus ded my dere son, dere.

O woman, woman, wel is thee,
Thy childis cap thu dose upon;
Thu pykys his here, beholdys his ble;
Thu wost not wele when thu hast done.
But ever alas I make my mone
To se my sonnys hed as hit is here:
I pyke owt thornys be on and on
For now liggus ded my dere son, dere.

O woman, a chaplet choysyn thu has
Thy childe to were, hit dose thee gret likyng
Thu pynnes hit on with gret solas;
And I sitte with my son sore wepyng.
His chaplet is thornys sore prickyng;
His mouth I kys with a carfull chere.
I sitte wepyng, and thu syngyng,
For now liggus ded my dere son, dere.

O woman, loke to me agayne
That playes and kisses your childur pappys
To se my son I have gret payne,
In his brest so gret gap is,
And on his body so mony swappys.
With blody lippys I kis hym here;
Alas, full hard me thynk me happys,
For now liggus ded my dere son, dere.

O woman, thu takis thi childe be the hand
And seis, "My son, gif me a stroke!"
My sonnys handis ar sore bledand,
To loke on hym me list not layke.
His handis he suffyrd for thi sake
Thus to be boryd with nayle and speyre;
When thu makes myrth, gret sorow I make,
For now liggus ded my dere son, dere.

Beholde, women, when that ye play
And hase your childur on knees daunsand:
Ye fele ther fete, so fete are thay,
And to your sight ful wel likand.
But the most fyngur of any hande
Thorow my sonnys fete I may put here
And pulle hit out sore bledand,
For now liggus ded my dere son, dere.

Therfor, women, be town and strete,
Your childur handis when ye beholde,
Theyr brest, theire body and theire fete
Then gode hit were on my son thynk ye wolde, 4
How care has made my hert full colde,
To se my son, with nayle and speyre,
With scourge and thornys manyfolde,
Woundit and ded, my dere son, dere.

Thu hase thi son full holl and sounde,
And myn is ded upon my kne;
Thy childe is lawse, and myn is bonde,
Thy childe is an life and myn ded is he;
Whi was this oght but for thee?
For my childe trespast never here.
Me thynk ye be holdyne to wepe with me
For now liggus ded my dere son, dere.

Wepe with me, both man and wyfe:
My childe is youres and lovys yow wele.
If your childe had lost his life,
Ye wolde wepe at every mele,
But for my sone wepe ye never a del.
If ye luf youres, myne has no pere;
He sendis youris both hap and hele,
And for yow dyed my dere son, dere.

Now alle wymmen that has your wytte
And sees my childe on my knees ded,
Wepe not for yours, but wepe for hit,
And ye shall have ful mycull mede.
He wolde ageyne for your luf blede
Rather or that ye damned were.
I pray yow alle, to hym take hede,
For now liggus ded my dere son, dere.

Fare wel, woman, I may no more
For drede of deth reherse his payne.
Ye may lagh when ye list, and I wepe sore,
That may ye se and ye loke to me agayne.
To luf my son and ye be fayne,
I wille luff yours with hert entere,
And he shall brynge your childur and yow sertayne
To blisse wher is my dere son, dere.


Unknown said...

I love this, where does it come from, please? Thank you

Clerk of Oxford said...

Oh, I see the link's broken - try this instead:

Unknown said...

That's wonderful, thank you