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Art. 62, I syke when Y singe: 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).

Called by Woolf the “most moving of the Harley Passion lyrics” (1968, p. 65), I Sigh When I Sing conveys heartfelt grief and religious longing. In the delicate, anguished tones of this lyric, one feels the subtle influence of secular love poetry. An older version appears in MS Digby 2, Hi sike, al wan hi singe. Editors often prefer the Digby version because it preserves some lost rhyme words and presents a finely modulated lament in its final lines. Stanzas appear in different order in the two versions with the fourth and fifth stanzas transposed. The Harley arrangement concentrates the Crucifixion image at the center of the poem, with a visionary sense of entry and exit from a deeply ocular meditation. Intimate, second-person addresses to Christ, called lemmon, emerge at the height of the depicted Crucifixion. In the Digby version, the speaker approaches the divine lover more slowly, reaching second-person address only in the fifth stanza. For the history of commentary on this lyric, see the bibliography in MWME 11:4348–49, to which may be added Durling, p. 288–90.

[Fol. 80ra. IMEV, NIMEV 1365. MWME 11:4194–95 [22]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 9. Meter: Six isometric 10-line stanzas, ababccbddb3. Layout: Left side of a double-column page; lines 1–4 of each stanza are written as two lines, as in preceding poem. Editions: S Wright 1842, pp. 85–87 (no. 29); Böddeker, pp. 210–12; Brook, pp. 59–60 (no. 22); Saupe, pp. 109–10 (no. 47); Millett, online edition; Treharne, pp. 579–80. Other MSS: Oxford, Bodl. MS Digby 2, fol. 6r (ed. Brown 1932, pp. 122–24 [no. 64]).]

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