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Art. 34, Most I ryden by Rybbesdale


ABBREVIATIONS: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CCC: Corpus Christi College (Cambridge); CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); IMEV Suppl.: Supplement to the Index of Middle English Verse (Robbins and Cutler); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

2 wale. This word is glossed in the MED, s.v. walen (v.(1)) under sense (d), “to be found, also ?seek, ?find,” but the usage here best fits the word’s primary meaning, sense (a), “to make a choice, choose.”

31–33 The speaker imagines the maiden’s hair flowing loose, causing her to seem more beautiful and festive. For the idiom mongen with mirthe, see MED, mongen (v.(2)). The verb breden (v.(2)) means “to spread out over” (sense 2). For lines 31–32, compare Blow, Northern Wind (art. 46), lines 13, 15.

45 That freoly ys to fede. This line follows the description of teeth and neck, how the lady possesses beautiful instruments of eating (to fede), after lines 37–39 articulate the lady’s beautiful mouth for speaking (to mele). For freoly, see MED, freli (adj.), used as a noun.

50 lef. The word means either “dear one, beloved, precious treasure” or, metaphorically, “leaf” to denote the hand’s fragile beauty.

55 feir to folde. The idiom here, of fingers “fair to fold,” carries the suggestion of matrimony.

61 bete gold. “Gold hammered thin, gold leaf.” See MED, beten (v.(1)), sense 2a.(b).

63 triketh. This verb is attested here only. See MED, triken (v.), “to hang down, fall in a flowing manner.”

65 Withinne corven. See MED, kerven (v.), sense 9b. The adverb withinne refers to the intricacy of the artistic ornamentation.

82 For the idiom Christ me se, see MED, sen (v.(1)), sense 23(a), “to look after, protect, care for.”


ABBREVIATIONS: As: Aspin; Bö: Böddeker; Bos: Bossy; Br: Brook; BS: Bennett and Smithers; BZ: Brandl and Zippel; B13: Brown 1932; B14: Brown 1952; DB: Dunn and Byrnes; Deg: Degginger; Do: Dove 1969; Gr: Greene 1977; Ha: Halliwell; Hal: Hall; Hol: Holthausen; Hor1: Horstmann 1878; Hor2: Horstmann 1896; Hu: Hulme; JL: Jeffrey and Levy; Ju: Jubinal; Kel: Keller; Ken: Kennedy; Le: Lerer 2008; Mc: McKnight; Mi: Millett; MR: Michelant and Raynaud; Mo: Morris and Skeat; MS: MS Harley 2253; Mu: H. M. R. Murray; Pa: Patterson; Pr: Pringle 2009; Rei: Reichl 1973; Rev1: Revard 2004; Rev2: Revard 2005b; Ri1: Ritson 1877; Ri2: Ritson 1885; Ro: Robbins 1959; Sa: Saupe; Si: Silverstein; St: Stemmler 1970; Tr: Treharne; Tu: Turville-Petre 1989; Ul: Ulrich; W1: Wright 1839; W2: Wright 1841; W3: Wright 1842; W4: Wright 1844; WH: Wright and Halliwell.

2 wilde. So MS, W3, Br, BS, St, Mi. Bö: wil.

3 wuch. So MS, W3, BS, Mi. Bö, Br, St: whuch.

12 fyldor. So MS, Br, BS, St, Mi. W3: fyld or. Bö: fyld her.

17 That. So W3, Br, BS, St, Mi. MS, Bö: þ.

20 leneth. So MS, Bö, Br, BS, St, Mi. W3: leveth.

30 spredes. So Bö, Br, BS, St. MS, W3, Mi: spredeþ.

32 For. So MS, W3, Br, BS, St, Mi. Bö: fol.

33 hit. So MS, W3, Br, BS, St, Mi. Bö: heo.

36 roser. So MS, Br, BS, St, Mi. W3: rosen. Bö: rose.

44 Y mette. So MS, Br, BS, St, Mi. W3, Bö: ymette.

48 Stythes. So MS, W3, St. Bö: styþe. Br, BS, Mi: styþest.

51 mihte. So MS, Bö, Br, BS, St, Mi. W3: myhte.

53 Baloygne mengeth. So MS, Br, BS, St, Mi. W3: Baloynge mengeth. Bö: bolnynge men seþ.

64 whith. So MS, W3, Mi. Bö, Br, BS, St: wiþ.


















¶ Most I ryden by Rybbesdale
Wilde wymmen forte wale,
   Ant welde wuch Ich wolde,
Founde were the feyrest on,
That ever wes mad of blod ant bon,
   In boure best with bolde.
Ase sonnebem, hire bleo ys briht —
In uche londe heo leometh liht,
   Thourh tale, as mon me tolde.
The lylie lossum is ant long,
With riche rose ant rode among,
   A fyldor fax to folde.

Hire hed when Ich biholde apon,
The sonnebeem aboute noon
   Me thohte that Y seye;
Hyre eyyen aren grete ant gray ynoh;
That lussom, when heo on me loh,
   Ybend wax eyther breye.
The mone with hire muchele maht
Ne leneth non such lyht anaht
   (That is in heovene heye)
Ase hire forhed doth in day!
For wham, thus, muchel Y mourne may     
   For duel to deth Y dreyye!

Heo hath browes bend an heh,
Whyt bytuene ant nout to neh;
   Lussum lyf heo ledes.
Hire neose ys set as hit wel semeth;
Y deye for deth that me demeth,
   Hire speche as spices spredes.
Hire lockes lefly aren ant longe,
For sone he mihte hire murthes monge
   With blisse, when hit bredes.
Hire chyn ys chosen, ant eyther cheke
Whit ynoh ant rode on eke
   Ase roser when hit redes.

Heo hath a mury mouht to mele,
With lefly rede lippes lele,
   Romauns forte rede;
Hire teht aren white ase bon of whal,
Evene set ant atled al,
   Ase hende mowe taken hede;
Swannes swyre swythe wel ysette,
A sponne lengore then Y mette,
   That freoly ys to fede.
Me were levere kepe hire come
Then beon pope ant ryde in Rome,
   Stythes upon stede.

When Y byholde upon hire hond,
The lylie-white lef in lond,
   Best heo mihte beo;
Eyther arm an elne long
(Baloygne mengeth al bymong),
   Ase baum ys hire bleo.
Fyngres heo hath feir to folde:
Myhte Ich hire have ant holde,
   In world wel were me!
Hyre tyttes aren anunder bis
As apples tuo of parays —
   Ouself ye mowen seo.

Hire gurdel of bete gold is al:
Umben hire middel smal,
   That triketh to the to,
Al whith rubies on a rowe
Withinne corven, craft to knowe,
   Ant emeraudes mo.
The bocle is al of whalles bon:
Ther withinne stont a ston
   That warneth men from wo;
The water that hit wetes yn,
Ywis, hit wortheth al to wyn!
   That seyen seyden so.

Heo hath a mete myddel smal,
Body ant brest wel mad al,
   Ase feynes withoute fere:
Eyther side soft ase sylk,
Whittore then the moren mylk,
   With leofly lit on lere.
Al that Ich ou nempne noht,
Hit is wonder wel ywroht —
   Ant elles wonder were!
He myhte sayen that Crist hym seye
That myhte nyhtes neh hyre leye —
   Hevene he hevede here!
¶ If I were to ride through Ribblesdale
To choose among sensuous women,
   And possess whichever one I wanted,
I would discover the fairest one,
Who was ever made of blood and bone,
   In the finest bower for the bold.
Like a sunbeam, her face is radiant —
In every land she shines brightly,
   By all accounts, as someone told me.
The lily is lovely and slender,
With pink and rose richly intermingled,
   A gold thread to bind her hair.

When I gaze upon her head,
The sunbeam at around noon
   I thought I saw;
Her eyes are large and deeply blue;
That lovely one, when she smiled at me,
   Curved became both her brows.
The moon with her great power
Does not grant such light at night
   (Which is high in heaven)
As does her forehead in the day!
For this one, thus, I must sorely yearn
   As mortal anguish I endure!

She has brows arched and nobly high,
White between and not too close;
   A delightful life she leads.
Her nose is shaped as well beseems it;
I die a death, as she condemns me,
   Her speech wafts like spices.
Her locks are beautiful and long,
And readily she might be festive
   With joy, when it falls loose.
Her chin is adorable, and each cheek
Beautifully white and also rosy
   Like the rosebush when it reddens.

She has a merry mouth for speaking,
With lips a lovely red and true,
   By which to read romances;
Her teeth are white as bone of whale,
Evenly set and all arranged,
   As the courteous may observe;
A swan’s neck very well proportioned,
A span longer than any other I’ve met,
   Is there to feed that beauty.
I would rather await her arrival
Than be the pope and ride in Rome,
   Most powerful on a steed.

When I gaze upon her hand,
The lily-white treasure on earth,
   Best she must be;
With either arm an ell long
(Whale-bone white mingles overall),
   Like balsam is her skin.
She has fingers fair to clasp:
Were I her to have and hold,
   In world I would be well!
Her breasts are under fine linen
Like two apples of paradise —
   As you yourself may see.

Her belt is all of delicate gold leaf:
Around her slender waist,
   It hangs down to the toe,
Adorned with rubies in a row
Exquisitely carved, with knowing craft,
   And emeralds besides.
The buckle is of pure whale’s bone:
There within stands a stone
   Guarding men from woe;
The water in which it’s dipped,
Indeed, completely turns to wine!
   They who’ve seen have said so.

She has a well-shaped narrow waist,
Body and breast all well designed,
   Like phoenix without peer:
Either side as soft as silk,
Whiter than the morning milk,
   With lovely hue in cheek.
Everything I don’t name for you
Is itself wondrously well made —
   Or else that would be strange!
He might claim Christ favors him
Who can at night lie near her —
   Heaven he would have here!

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Go To Art. 35, In a fryht as Y con fare fremede, introduction
Go To Art. 35, In a fryht as Y con fare fremede, text