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Art. 46, Ichot a burde in boure 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).

Like A Beauty White as Whale’s Bone (art. 36), Blow, Northern Wind is a love lyric in carol form. The burden is almost certainly older in origin than the poem. Appealingly direct and simple, the burden carries the air of a popular folk song. In its “evocative inconsequence” (Woolf 1970, p. 287), it breathes a natural, spirited plea for the north wind to blow the speaker’s “suetyng” to him. The poem differs from the burden in its overall reliance on love-lyric formulas. Obviously designed for singing, the stanzas provide a conventional catalogue of the lady’s beauties, and they occasionally seem little connected from one to the next. As in The Fair Maid of Ribblesdale (art. 34), the description moves down the woman’s body from head to toe (stanzas 2–4). A musical medium would seem to lend itself to rhetorical repetition within some stanzas (see stanzas 2, 6, 9). Similes and expressions of emotion tend to be uncomplicated and standard, as in the metaphors on gems and flowers in stanza 6.

Some interesting phrases or figures do stand out, however. In a startling conceit in stanza 2, the speaker calls upon Christ to honor his dear lady (lines 19–20). In lines 73–104, an allegory arises: Love’s three knights, Sighing, Sorrowing, and Thought, have brought the poor lover into bale, against the power of Peace, and the speaker makes his complaint to Love. Viewed whole, the lyric’s ten stanzas convey a rise-and-fall movement based in hyperbole: the lady’s incomparable essence (1); her beauty enumerated (2–4); superlative praise (5–6); the allegory of Love (7–9); and the lover’s incomparable love-mourning (10). For further commentary on Blow, Northern Wind, see the bibliography in MWME 11:4337–39; and especially Greene 1962, pp. 252–54, and 1977, pp. 483–84; Boklund-Lagopoulou, pp. 29–30; Scattergood 2005, pp. 59–60; Scase 2007, pp. 170–73; and Choong, pp. 22–24.

[Fols. 72va–73rb. IMEV, NIMEV 1395. MWME 6:1750 [445], 11:4187 [14]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 8. Meter: Ten 8-line stanzas, aaa3–4b3ccc3–4b3, attached to a 4–line burden, CDED3. Layout: Double columns, with the burden written at head and signaled after stanzas 1 and 2. Editions: Wright 1842, pp. 51–54 (no. 16); Ritson 1877, pp. 50–53; Böddeker, pp. 168–71; Brandl and Zippel, pp. 127–28; Brown 1932, pp. 148–50 (no. 83); Brook, pp. 48–50 (no. 14); Bennett and Smithers, pp. 121–24; Stemmler 1970, pp. 22–25; Silverstein, pp. 89–91 (no. 68) (omits stanzas 3–4); Greene 1977, pp. 268–69 (no. 440); Treharne, pp. 574–76. Other MSS: None.]

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