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Art. 52, Wynter wakeneth al my care: 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).

Highly regarded and widely anthologized, this superb English lyric offers an emotional reflection upon mutability and mortality as inspired by the signs of winter. Its haunting tones have been taken as possible evidence of Franciscan piety (or its influence) within a song genuinely inspired by nature while at the same time evangelical in purpose, as the lyric “moves without effort from an acute apprehension of physical reality to a personal reflection which is metaphysical and ultimately theological” (Jeffrey 1975, p. 257). The Harley compiler has juxtaposed the poem with A Spring Song on the Passion (art. 53). In both lyrics, contrastive natural seasons inspire transcendent religious feelings. Winter awakens a speaker’s grief over his own mortality; springtime elicits love-longing for Christ. For commentary on A Winter Song, see the bibliography in MWME 11:4342–43; and Scattergood 2000b, pp. 63–68, and 2005, pp. 63–68.

[Fol. 75vb. IMEV, NIMEV 4177. MWME 9:3028 [310], 11:4190–91 [17]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 8. Meter: Three 6-line stanzas, aaab4cb2–3. A strong pause ends unrhymed line 5 before an emphatic line 6. Layout: Right column of a double-column page. Editions: Wright 1842, pp. 60–61 (no. 20); Ritson 1877, p. 56; Böddeker, p. 195; Brown 1952, p. 10 (no. 9); Brook, p. 53 (no. 17); Silverstein, pp. 52–53 (no. 30). Other MSS: None.]

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