Sunday, 8 May 2011
A Sunday Lyric: There is a flower
There is a floure sprung of a tre,
The rote therof is called Jesse,
A floure of pryce;
Ther is non seche in paradise.
This flour is fayre and fresche of heue;
Hit fadis never, bot ever is new;
The blisful branche this flour on grew
Was Mare myld that bare Jhesu —
A flour of grace,
Agayns al sorow hit is solas.
The sede hereof was Godis sond,
That God himselve sew with his hond;
In Bedlem, in that hole lond,
In medis here herbere ther he hir fond.
This blisful floure
Sprang never bot in Maris boure.
When Gabrael this mayd met,
With "Ave, Maria," he here gret;
Betwene hem two this flour was set,
And kept was, no mon schul wit,
Hent on a day
In Bedlem, hit con spred and spray.
When that floure began to sprede,
And his blossum to bede,
Ryche and pore of evere sede,
Thai marvelt hou this flour myght sprede!
Til kyngys thre
That blesful floure come to se.
Angelis ther cam out of here toure
To loke apon this freschele floure —
Houe fayre he was in his coloure,
And hou sote in his savour —
And to behold
How soche a flour myght spryng in golde.
Of lille, of rose of ryse,
Of prymrol, and of flour-de-lyse
Of al the flours at my devyse,
Thet floure of Jesse yet bers the prys,
As most of hele
To slake oure sorous everedele.
I pray youe, flours of this cuntre,
Whereevere ye go, wereever ye be,
Hold hup the flour of good Jesse,
Fore your freschenes and youre beute,
As fayrist of al,
And ever was and ever schal.
This fifteenth-century poem is by John Audelay, and is, I suppose, technically a Christmas carol, but it seems infused with the spirit of spring. Here's a translation:
There is a flower sprung from a tree,
The root thereof is called Jesse,
A flower of great worth;
There is no other such in paradise.
This flower is fair and fresh of hue;
It fades never, but ever is new;
The blessed branch where this flower grew
Was Mary mild who bore Jesu —
A flower of grace,
Against all sorrow it is solace.
The seed thereof was of God's sending,
Which God himself sowed with his hand;
In Bethlehem, in that holy land,
Within her garden he found her there.
This blessed flower
Sprang never but in Mary's bower.
When Gabriel this maiden met,
With "Ave, Maria," he her greeted
Between them two this flower was set,
And was kept, no man should know it,
Until one day
In Bethlehem, it began to spread and spray.
When that flower began to spread,
And his blossom to bud,
Rich and poor of every seed, [i.e. kind]
They marvelled how this flower might spread,
Until kings three
That blessed flower came to see.
Angels there came out of their tower
To look upon this fresh flower —
How fair he was in his colour,
And how sweet in his savour —
And to behold
How such a flower might spring amid the cold.
Of lily, of rose on branch,
Of primrose, and of fleur-de-lys,
Of all the flowers I can think of,
That flower of Jesse yet bears the prize,
As the best remedy
To ease our sorrows in every part.
I pray you, flowers of this country, [i.e. women]
Wherever ye go, wherever ye be,
Hold up the flower of good Jesse,
Above your freshness and your beauty,
As fairest of all,
Which ever was and ever shall be.
This carol has been set to music by John Rutter: