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Art. 93, Lutel wot hit any mon hou derne love may stonde: 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); CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); DOML: Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library; FDT: French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages (Sinclair 1979); FDT-1French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages, . . . First Supplement (Sinclair 1982); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); 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 Harley manuscript preserves the only copy of this love lyric, the book’s last English item. It probably enjoyed a familiar currency, for it appears to have inspired three attempts to recast its content, manner, and refrain into a devotional poem. In itself, it may be derived from a French model beginning “Nus hom ne poroit savoir / Que c’est d’amer par amours” (Green 1989, p. 311). The scribe has copied it just below a successful imitation that recasts the lover as Christ (art. 92). He thus creates on a single page the manuscript’s most dramatic instance of contrefacta (poems matched for likeness of form and for contrast of subject matter). Similar effects through juxtaposition occur with the side-by-side copying of the English lyrics Spring and Advice to Women (arts. 43, 44) and the consecutive copying of the Anglo-Norman poems on women, pro and con: The Song on Women and The Blame of Women (arts. 76, 77). Neither of these other examples, however, invert the secular to the religious in the same direct manner seen here. This type of reverse moral pairing occurs, in a more subtle manner, in the juxtaposed Satire on the Consistory Courts and The Laborers of the Vineyard (arts. 40, 41).

The speaker of The Way of Women’s Love complains about a certain woman’s independence in a situation of derne (secret) love. He is faced with her perfidy: how she vowed her troth but then inexplicably withdrew her love. It seems that the speaker is less experienced than she is, and now he is suffering a painful lesson. Even so, he woos her with his song and continues to praise and love her. The refrain of ever ant oo (ever and always) utters the never-ending distraction suffered by the lover, his mind stuck in a state of confused hope and despair, remembered joy and anxious longing. For commentary on this poem, see the bibliography in MWME 11:4360–61; and Turville–Petre 1996, pp. 198–99, 211–12.

[Fol. 128r–v. IMEV, NIMEV 1921. MWME 11:4205 [32]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 14. Layout: No columns. Two verses per manuscript line. After stanza 1, the refrain is written to the right of the stanza. Meter: Five 8 lines stanzas with refrain, a4b3a4b3bb5C7C5. Editions: Wright 1842, pp. 113–14 (no. 41); Böddeker, pp. 178–79; Brown 1932, pp. 162–63 (no. 91); Brook, pp. 71–72 (no. 32); Stemmler 1970, pp. 28–29; Millet, online edn. Other MSS: None. Middle English Analogues: Three religious lyrics (see art. 92).]

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