Friday, 27 January 2012

'That evre spenth and ever is iliche'

Alfred not practising what he preached

A mini-homily from the Middle English debate poem The Owl and the Nightingale, on the dangers of excess and the value of moderation:

Vor hit is soþ, Alvred hit seide,
And me hit mai ine boke rede:
‘Evrich þing mai losen his godhede
Mid unmeþe and mid overdede.’
Mid este þu þe mi3t overquatie,
And overfulle makeþ wlatie;
An evrich mure3þe mai agon
3if me hit halt evre forþ in on,
Bute one, þat is Godes riche,
Þat evre is swete and evre iliche.
Þe3 þu nime evere of þan lepe
Hit is evere ful bi hepe.
Wunder hit is of Godes riche
Þat evre spenþ and ever is iliche.

A rough translation:

For it is true, Alfred said it,
And you can read in books about it:
‘Any thing may its value lose
With immoderation and overuse.’
Of good things you can have too much;
To stuff yourself makes for digust;
And every mirth can pass away
If it all goes on in the same way,
Except for one: the kingdom of God,
Which is ever sweet and ever as good.
Whatever you take from that store,
It only overflows the more.
O marvel of the kingdom of God,
Ever giving, ever just as good!

[More literally: 'Because it is true - Alfred spoke about it, and it can be read in books - "Everything may lose its value through lack of moderation and 'overdoing it'." You can glut yourself with pleasure, and surfeit makes you sick. Every joy can fade if you always go on with it in the same way, except for one: that is the kingdom of God, which is always sweet and always equally good. Even if you kept taking constantly from that basket, it would always be full to overflowing. It is a wondrous feature of the kingdom of God that is ever giving forth, and yet is ever unchanged.']

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