Sunday, 20 April 2014

'Come home again, mine own sweet heart'

Com home agayne,
Com home agayne,
Min owine swet hart, com home agayne;
Ye are gone astray
Owt of youer way,
Therefore com home agayne.

Mankend I cale, wich lyith in frale;
For love I mad the fre;
To pay the det the prise was gret,
From hell that I ranssomed the.

Mi blod so red for the was shed;
The prise it ys not smale;
Remembre welle what I the tell,
And come whan I the kale.

Mi prophetes all, they ded the cale,
For love I mad the free
[two lines missing]

And I miselfe and mi postles twelfe,
To prech was all mi thouth
Mi Faders kyngedom both hole and sound,
Which that I so derly bouth.

Therefore refreyne, and torne agayne,
And leve thyne owene intent,
The which it is contrare, iwos,
Onto mi commaundment.

Thow standest in dout and sekest about
Where that thow mayst me se;
Idoules be set, mony for to gyt,
Wich ys made of stone and tre.

I am no stoke, nor no payncted bloke,
Nor mad by no mannes hand,
Bot I am he that shall los the
From Satan the phinnes bonde.

This is a carol from a fifteenth-century manuscript (BL Royal 17 B. xliii) which was probably written to be sung to the tune of a secular love-song - the refrain has been borrowed and reinterpreted as the words of Christ to the soul. For more on the very popular theme of Christ as lover, which inspired some of the most tender and beautiful medieval lyrics, you might like to read some of the following posts:

'Lo, lemman sweet'
'In a valley of restless mind'
'Summer is come and winter gone'
'O man unkind, print in thy mind'
Christ the Knight
'Set the price of your love'

These are all much finer than 'Come home again', but the carol has a certain charm nonetheless:

Come home again,
Come home again,
Mine own sweet heart, come home again;
You are gone astray
Out of your way,
Therefore come home again.

Mankind I call, who lies in thrall:
For love I made thee free;
To pay the debt the price was great,
From hell that I ransomed thee.

My blood so red for thee was shed;
The price it is not small;
Remember well what I thee tell,
And come when I thee call.

My prophets all, they did thee call,
For love I made thee free
[two lines missing]

And I myself and my apostles twelve,
To preach was all my thought
My Father's kingdom, both whole and sound,
Which I so dearly bought.

Therefore refrain, and turn again,
And leave thine own intent, [plans, desires]
Which is contrary, in truth,
To my commandments.

Thou standest in doubt, and seekest about
Where that thou mayst me see;
Idols are set, money for to get,
Which are made of stone and tree.

I am no stock, nor no painted block,
Nor made by no man's hand,
But I am he that shall loose thee
From Satan the fiend's bands.

Christ in Majesty, BL Royal 2 A XXII f. 14


Anonymous said...

I find the verse 'I am no stoke nor no payncted bloke' very interesting, given the date - how late in the C15 is the manuscript reckoned to be?

Clerk of Oxford said...

According to the description of the manuscript I linked to, this poem was added to the MS at the end of the century. There's clearly an iconoclastic agenda of some sort in the last two stanzas...

Anonymous said...

Thanks! And thank you also for all your wonderful posts in Holy Week.