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Art. 28, Ichot a burde in a bour ase beryl so bryht: Introduction

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).

Set at the head of booklet 5, Annot and John is the first of the English love lyrics to appear in the Harley manuscript. The Ludlow scribe has grouped it with two more amorous poems on fol. 63r–v (arts. 29, 30). Stanza by stanza, John compares his lady Annot to precious stones, flowers, birds, spices, and famous people. Deliriously love-struck, he celebrates her gemlike appeal; beauty as vibrant as choice flowers; a name that evokes avian music; a fragrance as sweet as spices; and a capacity to heal that exceeds celebrated heroines of romance. Reveling in his experience of derne (secret) love, John paints the joy it gives him while (paradoxically) airing it publicly. His myriad similes recall lists in lapidaries and herbals. Densely piled on, they replicate his lady’s decorative lushness. Riddling on her name (“an note,” line 29), John also conjures her superlative virtues. In sharing such secrets with an audience, John dispenses her rich plentitude. For the long history of commentary on Annot and John, one of the best-known Harley lyrics, see the bibliography in MWME 11:4319–21, to which may be added Turville-Petre 1996, pp. 207–08; and Scattergood 2005, pp. 58–59.

[Fol. 63r–v. IMEV, NIMEV 1394. MWME 11:4173 [3]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 7. Meter: Five 10-line alliterative stanzas, rhyming aaaaaaaabb4–5, with concatenation joining lines 8 and 9. Layout: No columns. Editions: Wright 1842, pp. 25–27 (no. 5); Böddeker, pp. 145–47; Brown 1932, pp. 136–38 (no. 76); Brook, pp. 31–32 (no. 3); Stemmler 1970, pp. 29–30; Turville-Petre 1989, pp. 14–16; Millett, online edition. Other MSS: None.]

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