Sunday 4 July 2010

In a valley of restless mind: Quia amore langueo

Here's a pretty astonishing medieval lyric. The refrain 'quia amore langueo', which means 'because I languish for love', comes from the Song of Songs. It's quite long; but the last two verses are the best!

In a valey of this restles mynde,
I soughte in mounteyne and in mede,
Trustynge a trewelove for to fynde.
Upon an hil than Y took hede:
A voice Y herde, and neer Y yede,
In huge dolour complaynynge tho:
"Se, dere Soule, how my sidis blede,
Quia amore langueo."

[In a valley of this restless mind, I sought in mountain and in meadow, hoping to find a true-love (a flower, but also love itself). Upon a hill I then took notice; I heard a voice - and I drew closer - lamenting in great sorrow: "See, dear Soul, how my sides bleed, because I languish for love."]

Upon this hil Y fond a tree,
Undir the tree a man sittynge,
From heed to foot woundid was he,
His herte blood Y sigh bledinge:
A semeli man to ben a king,
A graciouse face to loken unto.
I askide whi he had peynynge,
He seide, "Quia amore langueo.

[Upon this hill I found a tree, under the tree a man sitting; from head to foot wounded was he, and I saw his heart's blood bleeding. He was a man fit to be a king, with a gracious face to look at. I asked why he was suffering; he said, "Because I languish for love."]

"I am Truelove that fals was nevere.
My sistyr, mannis soule, Y loved hir thus:
Bicause we wolde in no wise discevere,
I lefte my kyngdom glorious.
I purveide for hir a paleis precious;
Sche fleyth; Y folowe. Y soughte hir so,
I suffride this peyne piteuous,
Quia amore langueo.

["I am True-love who never was false. My sister, man's soul, I loved thus: because we would not in any way be parted, I left my glorious kingdom, I prepared for her a precious palace. She flees; I follow; I sought her in such a way that I came to suffer this terrible pain, because I languish for love.]

"My fair spouse and my love bright,
I saved hir fro betynge, and sche hath me bet!
I clothid hir in grace and hevenli light,
This bloodi scherte sche hath on me sette!
For longynge of love yit wolde Y not lette —
Swete strokis are these, lo!
I have loved hir evere, as Y hir het,
Quia amore langueo.

["My fair spouse and my love bright! I saved her from beating, and she has beaten me. I clothed her in grace and heavenly light; she set this bloody shirt upon me. For longing of love I will not cease - these are sweet strokes, lo! I have loved her always, as I promised her, because I languish for love.]

"I crowned hir with blis, and sche me with thorn;
I ledde hir to chaumbir, and sche me to die;
I broughte hir to worschipe, and sche me to scorn;
I dide hir reverence, and she me vilonye.
To love that loveth is no maistrie;
Hir hate made nevere my love hir foo.
Axe me no questioun whi —
Quia amore langueo.

["I crowned her with bliss, and she crowned me with thorns; I led her to a chamber, and she led me to die. I brought her to worship, and she brought me to scorn; I did her worship, and she did me villainy. To love one who loves you is no hard task; her hate never made my love her foe. Do not ask me questions why; because I languish for love.]

"Loke unto myn hondis, man:
These gloves were yove me whan Y hir soughte.
Thei ben not white, but rede and wan,
Onbroudrid with blood. My spouse hem broughte.
Thei wole not of; Y loose hem noughte.
I wowe hir with hem whereevere sche go —
These hondis for hir so freendli foughte,
Quia amore langueo.

["Look at my hands, man: these gloves were given me when I sought her. They are not white, but red and pale, embroidered with blood. My spouse brought them. They cannot come off; I will not undo them. I woo her with them wherever she may go. These hands fought for her so lovingly, because I languish for love.]

"Merveille noughte, man, though Y sitte stille:
Se, love hath schod me wondir streite,
Boclid my feet, as was hir wille,
With scharp naile, lo! Thou maiste waitenails;
In my love was nevere desaite.
Alle myn humours Y have opened hir to,
There my bodi hath maad hir hertis baite,
Quia amore langueo.

["Marvel not, man, though I sit still: see, love has shod me very tightly, and buckled my feet, by her choice, with sharp nails, look! You may know by these nails, there was never any deceit in my love. I have opened all my blood to her and made my body her heart's bait, because I languish for love.]

"In my side Y have made hir neste.
Loke in: how weet a wounde is heere!
This is hir chaumbir. Heere schal sche reste,
That sche and Y may slepe in fere.
Heere may she waische if ony filthe were;
Heere is sete for al hir woo.
Come whanne sche wole, sche schal have chere,
Quia amore langueo.

["In my side I have made her nest. Look in, how wet a wound is here! This is her chamber; here she shall rest, and she and I shall sleep in company. Here she may wash away anything that befouls her; here is shelter for all her sorrow. Come whenever she will, she shall have good cheer, because I languish for love.]

"I wole abide til sche be redy,
I wole hir sue if sche seie nay;
If sche be richilees, Y wole be gredi,
And if sche be daungerus, Y wole hir praie.
If sche wepe, than hide Y ne may —
Myn armes her highed to clippe hir me to:
Crie oonys! Y come. Now, Soule, asay!
Quia amore langueo.

["I will wait until she be ready; I will seek her if she say nay. If she be careless, I will be insistent; if she be disdainful, I will beseech her. If she weep, then I cannot conceal myself - my arms are outstretched to clasp her to me. Cry once, I come! Now, soul, try me! Because I languish for love.]

"I sitte on this hil for to se fer,
I loke into the valey my spouse to se:
Now renneth sche awayward, yit come sche me neer,
For out of my sighte may sche not be.
Summe wayte hir prai to make hir to flee,
I renne bifore and fleme hir foo.
Returne, my spouse, ayen to me!
Quia amore langueo.

["I sit on this hill to see far: I look into the valley to see my spouse. Now she runs away, now she comes closer, but she cannot be out of my sight. Some others lurk to make her their prey, to make her flee to them, but I run before them and drive away her foes. Return, my spouse, again to me! Because I languish for love.]

"Fair love, lete us go pleye!
Applis ben ripe in my gardayne;
I schal thee clothe in a newe aray,
Thi mete schal be mylk, hony, and wiyn.
Fair love, lete us go digne;
Thi sustynaunce is in my crippe, lo!
Tarie thou not, my fair spouse myne!
Quia amore langueo.

["Fair love, let us go play: apples are ripe in my garden. I shall clothe thee in new array, thy food shall be milk, honey, and wine. Fair love, let us go dine; thy sustenance is in my bag, lo! Tarry not, my own fair spouse, because I languish for love.]

"Iff thou be foul, Y schal thee make clene,
If thou be siik, Y schal thee hele;
If thou moorne ought, Y schal thee meene.
Whi wolt thou not, fair love, with me dele?
Foundist thou evere love so leel?
What woldist thou, spouse, that Y schulde do?
I may not unkyndeli thee appele,
Quia amore langueo.

["If thou be dirty, I shall make thee clean; if thou be sick, I shall heal thee. If thou mourn for anything, I shall comfort thee. Why wilt thou not, fair love, have dealings with me? Hast thou ever found such loyal love? What wouldest thou, spouse, that I should do? I cannot accuse thee of unkindness, because I languish for love.]

"What schal Y do with my fair spouse
But abide hir, of my gentilnes,
Til that sche loke out of hir house
Of fleischli affeccioun? Love myn sche is!
Hir bed is maade, hir bolstir is blis;
Hir chaumbir is chosen, is ther non moo.
Loke out on me at the wyndow of kyndenes,
Quia amore langueo.

["What shall I do with my fair spouse, but wait for her, in my courtesy, until she look out of her house of fleshly affecton? She is my love! Her bed is made, her pillow is prepared in bliss, her chamber is chosen - there is none other such. Look out on me at the window of kindness, because I languish for love.]

"My love is in hir chaumbir. Holde youre pees!
Make ye no noise, but lete hir slepe.
My babe Y wolde not were in disese;
I may not heere my dere child wepe;
With my pap Y schal hir kepe.
Ne merveille ye not though Y tende hir to:
This hole in my side had nevere be so depe,
But Quia amore langueo.

["My love is in her chamber, hold your peace! Make ye no noise, but let her sleep. I would not have my babe troubled; I cannot hear my dear child weep. With my breast I shall feed her. Do not marvel that I tend to her so! This hole in my side would never have been so deep, but that I languish for love.]

"Longe thou for love nevere so high,
My love is more than thin may be:
Thou wepist, thou gladist, Y sitte thee bi,
Yit woldist thou oonys, leef, loke unto me?
Schulde I alwey fede thee
With children mete? Nay, love, not so! —
I wole preve thi love with adversitè,
Quia amore langueo.

["Long thou for love never so much, my love is more than thine can be. Thou weepest, thou rejoicest, I sit beside thee; but wouldest thou once, love, look to me? Should I always feed thee with children's food? No, love, it cannot be so! I wish to test thy love through adversity, because I languish for love.]

"Wexe not wery, myn owne wiif.
What mede is it to lyve evere in coumfort?
In tribulacioun I regne moore riif,
Oftetymes, than in disport —
In wele and in woo Y am ay to supporte!
Than, dere Soule, go not me fro!
Thi meede is markid whan thou art mort,
Quia amore langueo."

["Wax not weary, my own wife; what reward is there to live in comfort for ever? In tribulation I often reign more fully than in pleasure. In weal and woe I am ever there to help! Then, dear soul, do not go from me. Thy reward is fixed after thy death, because I languish for love.]


Anonymous said...


Heliopause said...

What an amazing lyric! Thank you!