O Merciful and O Mercyable


ABBREVIATIONS: see Literature of Courtly Love: Introduction

1-28 The first four stanzas are borrowed from The Court of Sapience (lines 197-203, 218-24, 365-78). Lines 1-14 adapt Mercy's plea to God for the release of Adam; Mercy is unsuccessful in moving her sisters, Truth and Justice, and Peace takes up her case (lines 15-28), arguing that just as Peace, Truth, and Justice have "no properté" without war, falsehood, and injury, Mercy can only be realized through trespass. See Court of Sapience, ed. Harvey.

3 myght. Stow: might and.

19 sweete hath the price by sowre. Proverbial; see Whiting S943.

27 noon. Stow: never.

57-63 This stanza as well as lines 78-84 are from The Craft of Lovers (lines 127-33 and 169-75). The poet appears to have been attracted to juridical metaphors describing the rigors of love.

64 ought T: ou. The manuscript is cropped here; reading supplied from Stow.

66 Have pyté on your. Stow: Pitie your.

67 that. Stow: and.

68 and. Stow: that.

78 doughter of Phebus. Phoebus has no daughter; the allusion may either suggest that his lady has the attributes of the sun god (brilliance, beauty), or it may be a blunder. See note to line 15 of The Craft of Lovers.

81 and. Stow omits.

89 loo, I have won the ryng! To "win the ring" presumably means to become betrothed, as the ring was then, as now, a symbol of matrimony, though a certain sexual connotation might also be understood. The context here seems to imply that these are the initial words to a song, but no such item is listed in the IMEV or SIMEV.
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O Merciful and O Mercyable

O Merciful and O Mercyable,
Kyng of Kynges, and Fadyr of Pité,
Whos myght mercy ys incomperable;
O Prynce Eterne, O Myghty Lord sey we,
To whom mercy ys gevyn of propurté,
On Thy servaunt that lythe in pryson bounde,
Have Thou mercy or that hys hert wounde.

And that Thou wylt graunte to hym, Thy prisonere,
Fre liberté and loose hym out of payne,
All hys desyres and all hys hevy chere,
To all gladnes they were restoryd agayne;
Thy hygh vengeaunce, why shuld Thou nat refrayne
And shew mercy, syth he ys penitent?
Now helpe hym Lord, and let hym nat be shent.

But syth hit ys so, ther ys a trespas doon,
Unto Mercy late yelde the trespassour.
Hyt ys her offyce to redresse hit soon,
For trespas to Mercy ys a myrrour,
And lyke as the sweete hath the price by sowre,
So by trespas Mercy hath all her myght:
Wythout trespas, Mercy hath lak of lyght.

What shuld physyk do, but yef sekenes were?
What nedeth salve, but yef ther were sore?
What nedeth drynke wher thurst hath no powere?
What shuld Mercy do, but trespas go afore?
But trespas be, Mercy woll be lytyll store;
Wythout trespas, noon execusion
May Mercy have, ne chyef perfeccion.

The cause at thys tyme of my wrytyng
And towchyng Mercy, to whom I make mone,
Ys for fere lest my soverayn and swetyng,
I meane her that lovelyer ys none,
Wyth me ys dysplesyd for causys more then one;
What causes they be, that knoweth God and she,
But so do nat I; allas, hit forthynketh me.

What sy she in me, what defaute or offence?
What have I do that she on me dysdayne?
Howe myght I do come to her presence
To tell my complaynt, wherof I were fayne?
I drede to loke, to speke, or to complayne
To her that hath my hert every dele;
So helpe me God, I wold all thyng were wele!

For in thys case came I never, or now,
In loves daunce so fer in the trace;
For wyth myn ese skape I ne mow
Out of thys daunger, except her good grace.
For though my contenaunce be mery in her face,
As semeth to hyr, by worde or by chere,
Yet her good grace sytteth myn hert nere.

And yef that my soverayne have any mervayle
Why I to her now and afore wrote,
She may well thynke hit ys no gret travayle
To hym that ys in love brought so hote;
Hit ys a simple tre that falleth wyth oon stroke -
That meane I - though that my soverayne toforne
Me hath denyed, yet grace may come tomorne!

Let never the love of trew loveres be losyd,
My soverayn masteras, in no maner wyse;
In your confydence my wordes I have closyd.
My hertes love, to yow I do promyse,
So that ye kynt the knot of exercise,
Bothe lok and key ye have in governaunce,
Wherfore enprynt me in your remembraunce.

But, masteras, for the good wyll that I have yow ought
And evermore shall, as long as my lyfe dureth,
Have pyté on your servaunt and kepe hym in your thought,
And yeve hym som comfort or medycyn that cureth
Hys fervent agu that encreseth and reneweth,
So grevous byn hys peynes and hys syghes soore,
That wythout your mercy hys dayes byn all forlore.

Go lytyll byll, go forthe and hye thee fast,
And recommaund me, and excuse me as thou can;
For verray febylnes thus am I at the last,
My penne ys woren, my hew ys pale and wan,
My eyen byn sonkyn, dysfiguryd lyke no man,
Tyll dethe hys dart that causeth forto smert,
My corps have consumyd, then farewell swetehert.

O doughter of Phebus in vertuous apparence,
My love elect in my remembraunce,
My carefull hert, dystreynyd cause of absence,
Tyll ye meynprise me and relese my grevaunce;
Uppon yow ys set my lyfe and myn attendaunce,
Wythout recure, ywys, untyll
Ye graunt trew hert to have hys wyll.

Thus, my dere swetyng, in a traunce I do ly,
And shall tyll som dropys of pyté from yow spryng,
I mene yowre mercy, that lyeth my hert ny,
That me may rejoyse and cause me forto syng
These termys of love: loo, I have won the ryng!
My goodly masteras, thus of her good grace,
God graunt hys blysse in Heven to have a place.
(see note)

mighty; (see note)

by nature


vexed spirits



sour; (see note)

light (i.e., power)

medicine; unless

of little value
execution (realization); (see note)



sees; fault



tressure (confining braids, harness)
I may not




loosened; (see note)

conclude the activity

owed; (see note)

(see note)
(see note)
fever; (see note)



end [of life]
eyes are sunken

(see note)

tormented because
you release; (see note)



(see note)

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