Friday, 29 March 2013

Unkynde man, give heed to me

Christ speaks from the cross:

Unkynde man, gif kepe til me
and loke what payne I suffer for þe.
Synful man, on þe I cry,
alanly for þi lufe I dy.
Behalde, þe blode fra me downe rennes,
noght for my gylt, bot for þi synnes.
My hende, my fete, with nayles er fest,
syns & vayns al to-brest.
þe blode owt of my hert-rote,
loke, it falles downe to my fote.
Of al þe payne þat I suffer sare,
with-in my hert it greues me mare
þe vnkyndenes þat I fynd in þe,
þat for þi lufe þus hynged on tre.
Alas, why lufes þou me noght:
and I þi lufe sa dere hase boght?
Bot þou me lufe, þou dose me wrang,
sen I haue loued þe lang.
Twa & thyrty yere & mare
I was for þe in trauel sare,
With hungyr, thirst, hete & calde;
For þi lufe bath boght & salde,
Pyned, nayled & done on tre:
All, man, for þe lufe of þe.
Lufe þou me, als þe wele aw,
And fra syn þou þe draw.
I gyf þe my body with woundes sare,
And þare-to sall I gyf þe mare:
Ouer all þis I-wysse,
In erth mi grace, in heuen my blysse.

Christ crucified on a lily, St Michael at the Northgate, Oxford

This poem is from the manuscript Cambridge University Library Dd. 5. 64. III, which contains a variety of religious and devotional lyrics, including a number by Richard Rolle and his imitators. This one is anonymous, but it's strikingly good; the rhyming couplets are simple, but skilful. Dignified restraint is not often a feature of medieval poetry about the Passion, but this was a poet who knew where to stop.

A (slightly) modernised version follows. I've chosen not to translate the very first word, because unkind has a range of meanings in Middle English which all matter here; the primary sense is not 'unkind' but 'unnatural', as in (from the MED) 'lacking natural affection for or loyalty to one's offspring or kin, indifferent to ties of blood; also, hostile or violent in violation of a blood relationship' or 'ungrateful, unappreciative', 'lacking natural or proper reverence or love for God', 'stubborn, obstinate, intransigent, unwilling to acknowledge God'. That's the kind of idea here.

Unkynde man, give heed to me
And look what pain I suffer for thee.
Sinful man, on thee I cry:
All only for thy love I die.
Behold, the blood from me down runs,
Not for my guilt, but for thy sins.
My hands, my feet, with nails made fast,
Sinews and veins all burst apart.
The blood out of my heart-root -
Look, it falls down to my foot.
Of all the pain that I suffer sore,
Within my heart it grieves me more
The unkindness that I find in thee,
Who for thy love thus hung on the tree.
Alas, why lovest thou me not:
And I thy love so dear have bought?
Unless thou me love, thou dost me wrong,
Since I have loved thee so long.
Two and thirty years and more
I was for thee in travail sore,
With hunger, thirst, heat and cold;
For thy love both bought and sold,
Tormented, nailed and put upon the tree:
All, man, for the love of thee.
Love thou me, as thee well ought,
And from sin thou thee withdraw.
I give thee my body with wounds sore,
And with it shall I give thee more,
Truly, over all of this:
In earth my grace, in heaven my bliss.

 A monk adores Christ, from BL Stowe 12 f. 297v

1 comment:

Jared said...

Thank you for posting this poem. Many of the poems you have posted are very beautiful and the translations are extremely helpful. Thank you for the hard work you have put into making these available.