Thursday 25 April 2013

'O man unkind, print in thy mind'

Christ in glory, from BL Harley 2887

1. O man unkyende, pryente in thi myende
The perfecte love of Criste aboue,
And thou shalt fyende, that thou art blyende
Thy myende to move fro that myelde dove
Borne for thy love and thy behove,
And suffred payne and deth also
To bringe thee oute of endeles wo.

2. Beholde and se his woundes fyve
In his handes, his fete and hert
Flowing with bloode and water ryve,
That he suffred for thy desert.
Beholde his deth bitter and smert,
And in thy hert it shall the move
Aboue alle thinge hym for to love.

3. His loue to thee was so feruent,
That he came downe fro heven blisse
Into this wrecched vale present
And of a mayde man become is.
O synfull man, take hede of this:
See the mekenes of god aboue,
That he hath shewed for thy loue.

4. Pryente in thy myende the lowe descence
Of Criste, that is so high in trone,
To suffre dethe for thyne offence,
The whiche offence did neuir none,
But shed his bloode for thee alone
Forto make thee fre, that were bonde,
And bringe thee fro the fendes honde.

5. But loue for loue, nomore of thee
He askith not, that lorde so good,
That suffred deth vppon a tree
And for thy loue shedde his hert bloode
With so myelde chere and so myelde moode;
The whiche graunt vs by his grete grace
In blisse to se hym face to face.

This is a fifteenth-century poem from the collection of James Ryman, the Canterbury Franciscan.  I was first attracted to it by the internal rhyme in the first verse, but the whole thing is really lovely.  It reminded me of this slightly earlier poem, and not only because of the similar beginning, with the appeal to 'ungrateful man'; they also share an emphasis on a popular medieval devotional theme, the straightforward exchange of 'love for love'. See the evidence of Christ's love for you, the poem says, and all he asks in return is your love. Love matches love, chiming together like the poem's rhymes.

Here's a modernised version; bear in mind that 'print' (in pre-printing-press days!) means 'impress, stamp'.

1. O man unkind, print in thy mind
The perfect love of Christ above,
And thou shalt find that thou art blind
Thy mind to move from that mild dove,
Born for thy love and thy behove, [benefit, good]
Who suffered pain and death also
To bring thee out of endless woe.

2. Behold and see his wounds five
In his hands, his feet and heart
Flowing with blood and water ryve, [plentiful]
That he suffered for thy desert.
Behold his death bitter and smart,
And in thy heart it shall thee move
Above all things him for to love.

3. His love to thee was so fervent,
That he came down from heavenly bliss
Into this wretched vale present
And of a maid man become is.
O sinful man, take heed of this:
See the meekness of God above,
That he hath showed for thy love.

4. Print in thy mind the humble descent
Of Christ, who is so high on throne,
To suffer death for thine offence,
He who offence did never none,
But shed his blood for thee alone
To make thee free, who had been bound,
And save thee from the fiend's hands.

5. Except love for love, no more of thee
He asketh not, that lord so good,
Who suffered death upon a tree
And for thy love shed his heart's blood
With so mild chere and so mild mood; [so kindly and so mercifully]
May he grant us, by his great grace,
In bliss to see him face to face.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this lovely poem

Clerk of Oxford said...

I'm glad you liked it :) Thanks for commenting.