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Art. 65, When the nyhtegale singes: 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).

In the Harley manuscript this secular love poem sits between two poems of identical meter (arts. 64, 66). With a reverdie opening as in Spring (art. 43), the poet celebrates the season of renewal before revealing how its stabs him with pangs of unfulfilled longing. As the landscape waxes green, the speaker goes ill (grene, line 16) with love-longing. A kiss bestowed by his lady would heal him. The lyric represents the type of English love song — courtly sentiment modulated with vernacular idiom — most prone to be adapted by religious poets. The final stanza of this lyric adds a flourish to the final rhyme, much like the metrically extended ending of A Beauty White as Whale’s Bone (art. 36). Brook suspects the influence of the envoi in these final variant stanzas (p. 86). The dialect is east or northeast Midland, and the place-names Lindsey, Lincoln, Northampton, and Lound map out an approximate geographical area. For further commentary, see the bibliography in MWME 11:4352–53; and Scattergood 2005, pp. 55–56.

[Fols. 80v–81r. IMEV, NIMEV 4037. MWME 11:4198 [25]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 9. Meter: Five 4-line stanzas in septenary meter, aaaa7, with frequent internal rhyme. The last stanza plays a variation, aaa7b3b4. The irregular internal rhymes lead some to print this poem in octaves, a4b3c4b3d4b3e4b3 (e.g., Duncan, Davies). Layout: No columns. Editions: Wright 1842, p. 92 (no. 32); Ritson 1877, pp. 53–54; Böddeker, p. 174; Brown 1932, p. 154 (no. 86); Brook, p. 63 (no. 25); Bennett and Smithers, p. 126; Stemmler 1970, p. 27; Silverstein, p. 93 (no. 70). Other MSS: None.]

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