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Art. 65, When the nyhtegale singes


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).

6 lemmon, for thin ore. This phrase is formulaic. Gerald of Wales, a canon of Hereford, repeats it in the story of a priest who embarrassed himself (Jewel of the Church, 1.43). Hearing it sung repeatedly by outdoor revelers the night before, it became stuck in his head, and he mistakenly sang it as the Host was elevated. The anecdote helps to place When the Nightingale Sings in the tradition of popular verse.

16 grene. “Green, that is, lovesick.” See MED, grene (adj.), sense 1.(b), “pale, colorless,” and grene (n.(2)), “desire, sexual passion.”

17 Lounde. Probably Lound, not London. Compare Advice to Women (art. 44), line 30.


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.

12 mouth. So W3, Ri1, Bö, B13, Br, BS, St, Si. MS: mouerth (er abbreviated).

13 preye. So W3, Ri1, Bö, B13, Br, BS, St. MS: preeõe (re abbreviated). Si: preeye.

17 Lyndeseye. So MS, W3, Bö, B13, Br, BS, St, Si. Ri1: Lyndesey.

18 fore. So MS, W3, Bö, B13, Br, BS, St, Si. Ri1: sore.

20 Ri1 substitutes an invented line: els to al that ys on grounde.





¶ When the nyhtegale singes, the wodes waxen grene;
Lef ant gras ant blosme springes in Averyl, Y wene,
Ant love is to myn herte gon with one spere so kene!
Nyht ant day my blod hit drynkes. Myn herte deth me tene.
Ich have loved al this yer that Y may love namore;
Ich have siked moni syk, lemmon, for thin ore.
Me nis love never the ner, ant that me reweth sore.
Suete lemmon, thench on me — Ich have loved the yore!
Suete lemmon, Y preye the of love one speche;
Whil Y lyve in world so wyde, other nulle Y seche.
With thy love, my suete leof, mi blis thou mihtes eche;
A suete cos of thy mouth mihte be my leche.
Suete lemmon, Y preye the of a love-bene:
Yef thou me lovest ase men says, lemmon, as Y wene,
Ant yef hit thi wille be, thou loke that hit be sene.
So muchel Y thenke upon the that al Y waxe grene.
Bituene Lyncolne ant Lyndeseye, Norhamptoun ant Lounde,     
Ne wot Y non so fayr a may as Y go fore ybounde.
Suete lemmon, Y preye the, thou lovie me a stounde!
   Y wole mone my song
   On wham that hit ys on ylong.
¶ When the nightingale sings, the woods grow green;
Leaf and grass and blossom flourish in April, I know,
And love goes to my heart with a spear so sharp!
Night and day it drinks my blood. My heart brings me pain.
I’ve loved all this year so much that I may love no more;
I’ve sighed many a sigh, sweetheart, for your mercy.
Love is never the nearer to me, and that grieves me deeply.
Sweet dear, think about me — I’ve loved you a long time!
Sweet dear, I beg you for one word of love;
While I live in the world so wide, another I’ll not seek.
With your love, my sweet dear, you can increase my bliss;
A sweet kiss of your mouth can be my physician.
Sweet dear, I beg of you a love-favor:
If you love me as they say, sweetheart, as I believe,
And if it be your will, make sure that it be openly known.
So constantly do I think on you that I become all pale.
Between Lincoln and Lindsey, Northampton and Lounde,     
I know of no maiden so fair as she for whom I go fettered.
Sweet dear, I pray you, love me soon!
   I will express my song
   About the one on whom it depends.

(see note)


(see note)
(see note); (t-note)


Go To Art. 66, Blessed be thou, Levedy, introduction
Go To Art. 66, Blessed be thou, Levedy, text