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Art. 30, With longyng Y am lad: 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).

The Lover’s Complaint is a lament from a wooer with scant hope of success. Its abrupt trimeter lines mirror the speaker’s mood of distracted, restless despair. Mired in bleakness, the lover pleads self-pityingly for the lady’s mercy while also swearing fidelity to his sad cause. Calling on the lady directly, he accuses her of heartlessness: he loves mightily, loses sleep, and all for no reward! He yearns to be made whole through carnal satisfaction, but comfort is out of reach. Doomed by the lady’s nonresponse, feeling deprived, the speaker remains stuck in complaint. An unrequited lover may only lament and pursue. Like most of the English love lyrics in MS Harley 2253, The Lover’s Complaint survives only here, where it resides in a triad of verse on fol. 63r–v examining passionate male desire (arts. 28, 29, 30). For the range of commentary on The Lover’s Complaint, see the bibliography in MWME 11:4324–25, to which may be added Birkholz, pp. 175–80, 202–08.

[Fol. 63v. IMEV, NIMEV 4194. MWME 11:4175 [5]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 7. Meter: Four 10-line stanzas, aabaabbaab3; most lines and many line-pairs alliterate. Layout: No columns; written as prose. Editions: Wright 1842, pp. 29–30 (no. 7); Morris and Skeat, pp. 44–46; Böddeker, pp. 149–50; Brown 1932, pp. 139–40 (no. 78); Brook, p. 34 (no. 5); Bennett and Smithers, pp. 111–12; Stemmler 1970, pp. 14–15. Other MSS: None.]

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