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Art. 68, Herkne to my ron


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).

11 droh. “To get (something), obtain”; See MED, drauen (v.), sense 2d.(a).

15 tho. “Thrived”; see MED, then (v.), sense 1.(a).

20 lore. “Conduct, behavior”; see MED, lore (n.(2)), sense 8.

30 wede. “Fade, become pale”; see MED, waden (v.), sense 4.

42 This line is similar to line 176.

44 fayrest honde. Perhaps this phrase is an idiom for “generous.”

46–48 These lines are very similar to lines 238–40.

54 gnede. “Scanty, scarce”; see MED, gnede (adj.), sense 2.(a).

65 rowe. “Be disturbed”; see MED, reuen (v.(1), sense 1.(b).

70 My wele is went to wo. Here and in line 266 an image of the Wheel of Fortune is implicit.

76 Reuthful is my red. “Sorrowful is my thought.” For red as “state of mind, thought process,” see MED, red (n.(1)), sense 2a.(d).
76–81 These lines are similar to lines 142–48.

114 mounde “Power, might”; see MED, mounde (n.(1)), sense 3.(a).

124 nowhith. “Not very long, a short span of time, a brief period”; see MED, wight (n.), sense 2.(d).

127 wore. “Shore.” The same phrase occurs in Alysoun (art. 29), line 38 (see explanatory note).

130 Thicke. “Muscular, stout”; see MED, thikke (adj.), sense 6.

142–48 These lines are similar to lines 76–81.

142 red. In context, the provider of “counsel, advice,” is gendered female. The speaker is not receiving the kind of fond speech from a woman that he remembers.

150 yse. “Look at, gaze upon”; see MED, isen (v.(1)), sense 4a. There could be a sexual connotation; see sense 6, “consort with, visit.” The next stanza will contrast this state with the speaker’s memories of past attentions from women.

175 Ystunt. “Blinded”; see MED, istinten (v.), sense (b). This line is similar to line 233.

176 This line is similar to line 42.

177 fonde. “Deceive, mislead”; see MED, fonnen (v.), sense 2.

219 mengeth al my blod. “Agitate my passions, provoke my feelings”; for this idiom, see MED, mengen (v.), sense 6.(c).

222 So Y me understod. “As I have recalled”; for this reflexive construction, see MED, understonden (v.), sense 7.(b).

223–24 Literally, “I wish that I were all as I never was.” This existential expression reflects a desire both to relive the past and to have never existed.

228 Falu. “Sallow, faded”; see MED, falwe (adj.(2)), sense (a).

233 This line is similar to line 175.

234 thon. “Thine,” that is, “your own life or experience.”

238–40 These lines are very similar to lines 46–48.

250 red. “Prepare”; see MED, reden (v.(1)), sense 14.(a).

266 My weole is turnd to wo. See explanatory note to line 70.


ABBREVIATIONS: As: Aspin; Bö: Böddeker; Bos: Bossy; Br: Brook; BS: Bennett and Smithers; BZ: Brandl and Zippel; B13: Brown 1937; B14: Brown 1957; 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.

3 ges. So MS, Bö. WH: gos.

14 Absolon. So MS, Bö. WH: Absalon.

36 upriht. So MS, Bö. WH: upright.

73 litht. So MS (li3t), WH. Bö: liht.

77 Ne. So WH. MS: he. Bö: hou.

96 bringe. So MS (ri abbreviated), Bö. WH: buge.

97 ywys. So MS, Bö. WH: ywis.

98 gris. So MS, Bö. WH: grys.

101 nys. So MS, WH. Bö: ys.

107 he. So MS, WH. Bö: 3e.

117 bringeth. So MS (ri abbreviated), Bö. WH: bugeth.

124 nowhith. So MS (nowhi3), WH. Bö: no wiht.

157 wyht. So MS, WH. Bö: whyt.

167 noht. So Bö, WH. MS: nolt.

170 pris. So MS, Bö. WH: prys.

175 Ystunt. So MS, WH. Bö: ystund.

194 te. So WH, Bö. MS: tt.

197 wes. So MS, Bö. WH: was.

218 Changeth. So MS, Bö. WH: Chaungeth.

228 Falu. So MS, WH. Bö: falu hit.

230 Styth. So MS. WH, Bö: Styf.

231 Y. So MS, Bö. WH: I.

233 my. So MS, Bö. WH: mi.

237 him. So MS, Bö. WH: hym.

258 wo. So MS, WH. Bö: who.

260 Wet. So MS, WH. Bö: Whet.




























































¶ Herkne to my ron,
As Ich ou telle con
   Of Elde, al hou it ges,
Of a mody mon
Hihte Maxumon,
   Soth, withoute les.
Clerc he was, ful god,
So moni mon understod —
   Nou herkne hou it wes.

Ys wille he hevede ynoh:
Purpre ant pal he droh,
   Ant other murthes mo;
He wes the feyrest mon
Withouten Absolon
   The seththe wes ant tho.
Tho laste is lyf so longe
That he bigan unstronge,
   As mony tides so.
Him con rewe sore
Al is wilde lore,
   For Elde him dude so wo.

So sone as Elde him com,
Ys boc an honde he nom,
   Ant gan of reuthes rede.
Of his herte ord,
He made moni word,
   Ant of is lyves dede
He gan mene is mone.
So feble were is bone,
   Ys hew bigon to wede;
So clene he was ygon,
That heu ne hade he none;
   Ys herte gan to blede.

“Care ant kunde of Elde
Maketh mi body felde
   That Y ne mai stonde upriht,
Ant min herte unbolde,
Ant mi body to colde,
   That er thou wes so lyht,
Ant mi body thunne.
Such is worldes wunne!
   This day me thinketh nyht.

Riche Y was of londe,
Ant mon of fayrest honde —
   That wes bote a stounde!
Mi meyn, that wes so strong,
Mi middel smal ant long,
   Ybroht it is to grounde.

Forthi Y grunte ant grone,
When Y go myn one,
   Ant thenke on childes dede.
Al this wylde wone
Nis hit bote a lone —
   Her beth blisse gnede!
To wepen ant to grone,
To make muche mone,
   That we doth for nede;
Ant under the stone,
With fleish ant with bone,
   Wormes shule we fede.

Ther Y stod in a snowe
Wel heye upon a lowe;
   Y was a wilde mon.
Hunten herd Y blowe,
Hertes gonne rowe;
   Stunte me ne ston.

“Nou hit nis nout so —
Y lerne forte go,
   Ant stonde ant syke sore;
My wele is went to wo!
Ant so beth other mo
   That lyved habbeth yore.
So litht as Y wes tho,
Ant wilde as eny ro,
   Er Y bygon to hore.
Reuthful is my red,
Ne shulde me be gled —
   Me reweth swythe sore.

“With hunger Y am feed;
Heo seith Y ‘spille breed,’
   My wif that shulde be.
Myn herte is hevy so led,
Me were levere be ded
   Then lyves forte be.
Hit is ful soth ysed,
The mon that haveth dred,
   His frendes wile him fle.

“Tho I was strong ant wis
Ant werede feir ant grys,
   Ich havede frendes tho.
Fol soth iseid it ys,
The mon that is of pris,
   He haveth frendes mo.
My myht no wyht nys,
Ygon hit is, ywys;
   He bringe me of wo.
Men wyste non, ywys,
That werede veyr ant gris
   (Ythryven ase Y was tho),
That havede more of his:
Nou hit so nout nys,
   Ah al hit is ago!

“So gentil ne so chis,
Ne mon of more pris —
   Ful wo nou me may be!
The world wrechede is,
Ant that he wyten, ywis.
   My frendes nulleth me se.

“Fair Y was ant fre,
Ant semly forte se —
   That lasteth lutel stounde!
Gladdere mon with gle
Ne mihte never be,
   Thurh al Godes mounde.
Elde, unhende is he;
He chaungeth al my ble
   Ant bringeth me to grounde.
When Y shal henne te,
Y not whider Y fle;
   Forthi Y sike unbestounde.

“Y sike ant sorewe sore;
Ne may Y be namore
   Mon as Y was tho.
Ys hit nowhith yore
That Y bigon to hore;
   Elde is nou my fo.
Y wake as water in wore!
Jesu Crist, thin ore,
   Why is me so wo?

“Thicke Y was ant riht,
Of wordes wis ant lyht,
   As Ich understonde;
Of belte Y wes briht,
Ant lovelyche ydiht,
   Ant fayrest mon of londe.

“When foules singeth on rys,
Y mourne ant serewe, ywis,
   That unnethe Y go.
This world wicked is,
Ant that ye wyten, ywys,
   Hit is byfalle so.

“Reuthful is my red.
Hue maketh me selde gled,
   My wyf that shulde be.
Y dude as hue me bad,
Of me hue is asad —
   Evele mote hue the!
Hue clepeth me ‘spille bred’ —
Serewe upon hyre hed! —
   For hue nul me yse.
Ych am hevy so led;
Betere me were ded
   Then thus alyve to be.

“Ase Ich rod thourh Rome
Richest alre home,
   With murthes as Ycholde,
Ledys wyht so swon,
Maidnes shene so bon,
   Me come to biholde.
Ant seyden on after on:
‘Gent ryd Maximon
   With is burnes bolde!’
Nou nis non of the
That wolleth me yse,
   In mine clothes olde.

“This world is wok ant les,
Y nam noht as Ych wes;
   Ych wot by myne chere.
For gent Ich wes ant chys,
Ant mon of muche pris,
   Ant leof to ben yfere.

“Ther nes clerc ne knyht
Ne mon of more myht
   That levere wes in londe.
Ystunt is al my syht,
This day me thuncheth nyht;
   Such is the world to fonde!

“Fair ich wes of hewe,
Ant of love trewe —
   That lasteth lutel stounde!
They that me yknewe
Hem may sore rewe,
   Soth, hit is yfounde.

“Of nothing that Y se
Ne gladieth me no gle;
   Myn herte breketh atuo!
For Ich wes on the
That woned wes glad to be,
   In londe that wes tho.
Nou Ich am liche a tre
That loren hath is ble;
   Ne groweth hit namo.
For thah Icholde fle,
Y not wyder te;
   Elde me worcheth wo.

“Stunt is al mi plawe,
That Y wes woned to drawe
   Whil Y wes so lyht.
“Y wolde Y were in rest,
Lowe leid in chest.
   My blisse is forloren!
For mourne Y make mest
The while that hit lest.
   Nou wo is me, therfore!
Ne gladieth me no gest;
Ne murgeth me no fest;
   Alas, that Y wes bore!

“This lond me thuncheth west;
Deth Y doute mest:
   Whider that Y shal te?
Whet helpeth hit ytold?
Y waxe blo ant cold;
   Of lyve Y wolde be.

“When blosmes breketh on brere,     
Murthes to me were,
   Ant blythe Y was of mod.
Care ant kunde yfere
Changeth al mi chere
   Ant mengeth al my blod.
To longe Ichave ben here,
Bi mo then sixty yere,
   So Y me understod.
Icholde that Ych were
Al so Y never nere —
   My lyf is nothyng god.

“Myn neb that wes so bryht
So eny sterre lyht,
   Falu is ant won.
My body that wes so wyht
Styth hit stod upryht —
   Y wes a mody mon!
My mayn ant eke my myht!
Stunt is al my syht!
   Lerneth nou of thon:
Nis non so kene knyht
That so ne byth ydyht
   When Elde him cometh on.

“Mi body that wes strong,
Mi middel, smal ant long,
   Ybroht hit is to grounde!
Nou nabbe Y nout that yong,
That speche, ne that song;
   Mi lif nys bote a stounde!
Thah Y be men among,
Y gladie for no song
   Of haueke ne of hounde.

“My deth Icholde fle,
For Ich am on of the
   That deyeth boute wounde.
Ne con Y me no red;
Myn herte is hevi so led
   Ant wel faste ybounde.
Ich wes of feyre leynthe;
Agon is al my streynthe
   In armes ant in honde.

“Er Ich were thus old,
Ich wes of speche bold,
   Ne recchi wo hit here;
Nou Ich am old ant cold,
Wet helpeth more ytold?
   Of lyve Ycholde Ich were.

“Gentil Ich wes ant freo,
Wildore then the leo
   Er Y bygon to hore,
Nou Y nam nout so,
My weole is turnd to wo,
   Ant hath ybe ful yore.

“Ant so bueth other mo
That lyveden nou ant tho,
   Ne reccheth of weole ne wo.
Deth is that Y munne —
Me seggeth that hit is sunne —
   God brynge us out of tho.”

      Amen, par charite,
      Ant so mote hit be.
¶ Hearken to my song,
For I can tell you
   Of Age, all how it goes,
And of a distraught man
Named Maximian,
   Truly, without lie.
A clerk he was, quite good,
As many a man understood —
   Now hearken how it was.

He’d fulfilled his will enough:
Fine silks and robes he’d had,
   And other joys besides;
He was the fairest man
Since Absolon
   Had been alive and thrived.
Then lasted his life so long
That he began to lose strength,
   As happens many times.
He did sorely regret
All his willful ways,
   For Age so gave him woe.

As soon as Age came to him,
He took his book in hand,
   And began to read of regrets.
From his heart’s treasure-store,
He uttered many words,
   And regarding his life’s deeds
He began to say his lament.
So feeble were his bones,
   His hue began to fade;
So wholly was he changed,
That color had he none;
   His heart began to bleed.

“Sorrow and Age’s nature
Cause my body to shrivel
   So I can’t stand upright,
And my heart to be weak,
And my body to chill,
   Which before was so nimble,
And my body to grow thin.
Such is the world’s joy!
   This day seems as night.

“Rich I was in land,
And man of fairest hand —
   That lasted but a moment!
My strength, it was so strong;
My waist small and long,
   Brought it is to ground.

“Therefore I grunt and groan,
When I go on my own,
   And think on child’s deeds.
All this willful dwelling
Is nothing but a loan —
   Here bliss is scarce!
To weep and to groan,
To make much moan,
   We do that for need;
And under the stone,
With flesh and with bone,
   Worms we shall feed.

“There I stood in snow
Very high on a hill;
   I was a willful man.
I heard hunters blow,
Harts were disturbed;
   No stone impeded me.

“Now it is not so —
I learn how to walk,
   And stand and sorely sigh;
My weal has gone to woe!
And such are many others
   Who’ve lived very long.
So nimble was I then,
And wild as any roe,
   Before I began to gray.
Sorrowful is my thought,
Nor should I be happy —
   I’m so deeply regretful.

“With hunger I am fed;
She says I ‘waste bread,’
   My wife that she should be.
My heart’s as heavy as lead,
I rather would be dead
   Than alive so to be.
It’s very truly said,
The man who carries fear,
   His friends from him will flee.

“When I was strong and wise
And wore splendid furs,
   I had friends then.
Full truly said it is,
The man who has the praise,
   He has the more friends.
My might is not strong,
Gone it is, indeed;
   It makes me suffer woe.
Men know not, indeed,
Who wear splendid furs
   (Thriving as I was then),
Who own many things:
Now it’s as if it isn’t,
   And everything is gone!

“So noble and so choice,
No man of higher praise —
   Most sad now may he be!
The world is miserable,
And that he knows, indeed.
   My friends don’t wish to see me.

“Fair I was and generous,
And comely to behold —
   That lasts a brief instant!
A gladder man with mirth
Might there never be,
   Through all God’s power.
Age, discourteous is he;
He changes all my color
   And casts me to ground.
When I shall travel from hence,
I know not whither I’ll flee;
   Therefore I often sigh.

“I sigh and grieve sore;
I cannot be any more
   The man as I was then.
It’s not very long ago
Since I began to gray;
   Age is now my foe.
I’m restless as waves on shore.
Jesus Christ, your mercy,
   Why am I so sad?

“Muscular I was and straight,
Of words wise and quick,
   As I understand;
With belt I was splendid,
And beautifully clothed,
   And fairest man in land.

“When birds sing on limb,
I mourn and sorrow, indeed,
   So that scarcely may I walk.
This world wicked is,
And that you know, indeed,
   For it’s befallen so.

“Sorrowful is my thought.
She makes me seldom happy,
   My wife that she should be.
I did as she bade me,
Yet with me she’s unsatisfied —
   Evil may she thrive!
She calls me ‘wasted bread’ —
Sorrow upon her head! —
   For she’ll not look at me.
I’m as heavy as lead;
Better were I dead
   Than thus alive to be.

“As I rode through Rome
Richest of all men,
   With joys as I held,
Ladies white as swans,
Maidens bright as bone,
   Came to gaze at me.
And said one after one:
‘Nobly rides Maximian
   With his valiant men!’
Now there’s none of them
Who will look at me,
   In my old clothes.

“This world is weak and false,
I am not as I was;
   I know it by my face.
For noble I was and choice,
And man of great praise,
   And dear to be among.

“There was no clerk or knight
Or man of greater might
   Who dearer was in land.
Blinded is all my sight,
This day seems to me night;
   So does the world deceive!

“Handsome I was of hue,
And of love true —
   That lasts a brief instant!
They who knew me
May feel deep pity,
   Truly, it is found.

“Nothing that I see
Gladdens or brings me mirth;
   My heart breaks in two!
For I was one of them
Accustomed to be happy,
   Thriving upon earth.
Now I’m like a tree
Having lost its color;
   It no longer grows.
For though I would flee,
I know not whither to go;
   Age strikes me with woe.

“Ended is all my play,
Which I was wont to pursue
   While I was so nimble.
“I wish I were at rest,
Laid low in coffin.
   My happiness is destroyed!
For mostly I make mourning
While time remains.
   Now woe is me, therefore!
No guest cheers me up;
No feast gives me mirth.
   Alas, that I was born!

“This land I think a waste;
Death I fear most:
   Whither shall I go?
What helps if it were told?
I grow dark and cold;
   Dead I’d like to be.

“When flowers open on briar,
Pleasures came to me,
   And I was happy in spirit.
Sorrow and nature together
Wholly change my mood
   And agitate my passions.
Too long have I been here,
By more than sixty years,
   As I have recalled.
I wish that I were
All as I never was —
   My life’s nothing good.

“My nose that was as fine
As any star’s light,
   Is faded and discolored.
My body that was so white
Sturdily stood upright —
   I was a worthy man!
My strength and my might!
Blinded is all my sight!
   Learn now from your life:
There’s no knight so keen
That he’ll not be afflicted
   When Age comes to him.

“My body that was strong,
My waist, slender and long,
   It is brought to ground!
I have not now that youth,
That speech, nor that song;
   My life’s but an instant!
Though I be among men,
I gladden for no song
   Of hawk or of hound.

“My death I would flee,
For I’m one of those
   Who die without wound.
Nor can I prepare myself;
My heart’s as heavy as lead
   And very tightly bound.
I was of handsome height;
Gone is all my strength
   In arms and in hand.

“Before I thus was old,
I was of speech bold,
   I cared not who it heard;
Now I am old and cold,
What helps it to say more?
   Dead I wish I were.

“Noble I was and free,
Wilder than the lion
   Before I began to gray,
Now I am not so,
My weal has turned to woe,
   And has been a long time.

“And so it is for many more
Who lived now and then,
   Who care not for weal or woe.
Death is what I lament —
I say that it is sin —
   God bring us out of it.”

      Amen, for charity,
      And so may it be.


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