by: Anne Laskaya (Editor) , Eve Salisbury (Editor)
from: The Middle English Breton Lays 1995
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And from John Grimestone's preaching-book, Candet Nudatum Pectus (MS Adv. 18.7.21, 120r):
His bodi that wes feir and gent
And his neb suo scene
Wes bi-spit and all to-rend,
His rude was worthen grene.
his face so radiant
face had become green
108 A: al; H and B have as.
þee lippes pale and reuli þat er weren brith and rede,
þe eyne þat weren loveli nou ben dimme and dede.
Here, Yvain, rejected by his wife, exiles himself, lives on roots and raw meats (lines 1665-70), and is gradually cured of his lovesickness by a magical ointment (lines 1709-1832). K. R. R. Gros Louis, "The Significance," reminds us that Orfeo does not set out to find Heurodis; "in fact, there is no search in the entire poem, nor does Orfeo ever plan to make one. If we do not recognize this crucial fact, we fail not only to see the uniqueness of Sir Orfeo in the tradition of the Orpheus myth, but also to understand the intention of its author" (pp. 245-46). Gros Louis stresses Orfeo's humility: "the ten years he spends in the wilderness constitute a kind of penance, and because of it, Orfeo receives a gift of grace - Heurodis is returned to him" (p. 247).
An evyl toke him als he stode;
For wa he wex al wilde and wode.
Unto the wod the way he nome;
No man wist whore he bycome.
Obout he welk in the forest,
Als it wore a wilde beste;
His men on ilka syde has soght
Fer and here and findes him noght.
Deplangitque uiros nec cessat fundere fletus,Indeed, the episode in Sir Orfeo shares much in common with Geoffrey's Vita Merlini; Parry translates: "Merlin . . . bewailed the men and did not cease to pour out laments, and he strewed dust on his hair and rent his garments, and prostrate on the ground rolled now hither and now thither . . . . He had now lamented for three whole days and had refused food, so great was the grief that consumed him. Then when he had filled the air with so many and so great complaints, new fury seized him and he departed secretly, and fled to the wood and rejoiced to lie hidden under the ash trees; he marvelled at wild beasts feeding on the grass of the glades; now he chased after them and again he flew past them; he lived on the roots of grasses and on the grass, on the fruit of the trees and on the mulberries of the thicket. He became a silvan man just as though devoted to the woods." In the Vita Merlini, the mad Merlin is also subdued and enticed back into civilization by a messenger's harp-accompanied song. See also the description of Merlin in the Livre d'Artus in The Vulgate Version of the Arthurian Romance, ed. H. Oskar Sommer (Washington: Carnegie Institute, 1908-16), vii. 125; also available from New York: AMS Press, 1969]:
Pulueribus crines sparsit, uestes que rescidit,
Et prostratus humi nunc hac illac que uolutat.
. . . . . . . . . .
Utitur herbarum radicibus, utitur herbis,
Vtitur arboreo fructu, morisque rubeti.
(lines 65-67; 78-79)
[Merlins] si fist uenir par art cers & biches & dains et toutes manieres de bestes sauuages enuiron luj pasturer . . . . [Merlins] dist que il ne meniue fors que herbes & racines de bois ausi come ces autres bestes car [fait il] ge nai cure dautres uiandes & ce sont toutes mes deuices. Ne nai cure dostel auoir fors solement dun chaisne crues ou ge me repose par nuit.For a Christian context, see Nicholas Love's early fifteenth-century The Mirrour of the Blessed Lyf of Jesu Christ, ed. Lawrence F. Powell (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1908), p. 85, cited in Doob, p. 186: "And so the lorde of all the worlde gothe all that long weye bare foote and allone . . . . Gode lorde, where ben youre dukes and erles, knightes and barouns, horses and harneises . . . ? Where ben the trumpes and clariouns and alle othere mynstralcie and herbergeres and purveyoures that schulde goo byfore, and alle othere worschippes and pompes of the world as we wrecched wormes usen? Be not ye that highe lorde of whose joye and blisse hevene and erthe is replenesched? Why than goo yee thus sympilly, alone and on the bare erthe? Sothely the cause is for ye be not at this tyme in youre kyngdom, the which is not of this world. For here ye have anentisshed [humbled] youre self, takynge the manere of a servaunt and not of a kyng." Doob reads Orfeo's exile in a Christian context, finding figural similarities between Orpheus and various Holy Wild Men. She also cites (p. 187) St. Ambrose: "We ought to remember how the first Adam was cast out of paradise into the desert in order to notice how the second Adam returned from the desert to paradise . . . . Naked of spiritual graces, Adam covered himself with the leaves of a tree . . . ." See also Piers Plowman B 15. 261-03.
The harpis most melodiousThe taming of the animals by means of the harp and song is one main feature of the Orpheus figure. Boethius, in his Consolatio, writes: "Long ago the Thracian poet, Orpheus, mourned for his dead wife. With his sorrowful music he made the woodland dance and the rivers stand still. He made the fearful deer lie down bravely with the fierce lions: the rabbit no longer feared the dog quieted by his song. But as the sorrow within his breast burned more fiercely, that music which calmed all nature could not console its maker. Finding the gods unbending, he went to the regions of hell" (The Consolation of Philosophy, Book III, metre 12, trans. Richard Green [Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1962)], p. 73). The Latin reads: "Quondam funera coniugis / Vates Threicius gemens / Postquam flebilibus modis / Siluas currere mobiles, / Amnes stare coegerat, /Iunxitque intrepidum latus / Saeuis cerua leonibus, / Nec uisum timuit lepus / Iam cantu placidum canem . . . ." King Alfred's translation of Boethius also stresses the power of Orpheus' music: "Once on a time it came to pass that a harp-player lived in the country called Thracia, which was in the kingdom of Crecas. The harper was so good, it was quite unheard of. His name was Orpheus, and he had a wife without her equal, named Euridice. Now men came to say of the harper that he could play the harp so that the forest swayed, and the rocks quivered for the sweet sound, and wild beasts would run up and stand still as if they were tame, so still that men or hounds might come near them, and they fled not. The harper's wife died, men say, and her soul was taken to hell. Then the harpman became so sad that he could not live in the midst of other men, but was off to the forest, and sat upon the hills both day and night, weeping, and playing on his harp so that the woods trembled and the rivers stood still, and hart shunned not lion, nor hare hound, nor did any beast feel rage or fear towards any other for gladness of the music. And when it seemed to the harper that nothing in this world brought joy to him he thought he would seek out the gods of hell and essay to win them over with his harp, and pray them to give him back his wife." King Alfred's Version of the Consolations of Boethius, trans. Walter John Sedgefield (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1900), p. 116. OE text: King Alfred's Old English Version of Boethius' "De consolatione philosophiae," ed. Walter John Sedgefield (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899), pp. 101-02. See also J. Burke Severs, "The Antecedents of Sir Orfeo," in Studies in Medieval Literature in Honor of Professor Albert Croll Baugh, ed. MacEdward Leach (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1961), pp. 188-90; note 3, 203-04. Although not, apparently, a direct source for the Orfeo-poet, Alfred's account offers an interesting comparison with the Breton lay here. See also Michael Masi, "The Christian Music of Sir Orfeo," Classica Folia 28 (1974), 3-20.
Of David and of Orpheous.
Ther melodye was in all
So hevenly and celestiall
That there nys hert, I dar expresse,
Oppressed so with hevynesse,
Nor in sorwe so y-bounde,
That he sholde ther ha founde
Comfort hys sorowe to apese . . .
Sum bi the fet wer honging,A similar formulaic listing characterizes souls in heaven in stanzas 153-54:
With iren hokes al brening,
And sum bi the swere,
And sum bi wombe and sum bi rigge,
Al otherwise than y can sigge,
In divers manere.
And sum in forneise wern ydon,
With molten ledde and quic brunston
Boiland above the fer,
And sum bi the tong hing . . .
And sum on grediris layen there . . .
Sum soule he seyye woni bi selve,388 seighe liggeand. A: sei3e ful liggeand.
And sum bi ten and bi twelve,
And everich com til other;
And when thai com togiders ywis,
Alle thai made miche blis . . .
Sum he seiye gon in rede scarlet,
And sum in pourper wele ysett,
And sum in sikelatoun;
As the prest ate masse wereth . . .
And sum gold bete al doun.
(Sir Tristrem in Lancelot of the Laik and Sir Tristrem, ed. Alan Lupack [Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1994], pp. 209-10). See also Peter Lombard's commentary on Psalm 150 (where David plays the harp to praise God): "Laudate eum in cithara, id est ut sponsum quia ab imis liberavit," Commentarium in Psalmos, in PL, ed. J. P. Migne (Paris, 1854), 191: col. 1291.
His gle al for to here
The levedi was sett onland
To play bi the rivere;
Th'erl ladde hir bi hand;
Tristrem, trewe fere,
Mirie notes he fand
Opon his rote of yvere,
As thai were on the strand;
Thurch that semly sand
Ysonde was hole and sounde.
Hole sche was and sounde
Thurch vertu of his gle.
Through; comforting message
efficacy of his music
We redeth oft and findeth y-write,
And this clerkes wele it wite,
Layes that ben in harping
Ben y-founde of ferli thing:
Sum bethe of wer and sum of wo,
And sum of joie and mirthe also,
And sum of trecherie and of gile,
Of old aventours that fel while;
And sum of bourdes and ribaudy,
And mani ther beth of fairy.
Of al thinges that men seth,
Mest o love, forsothe, they beth.
In Breteyne this layes were wrought,
First y-founde and forth y-brought,
Of aventours that fel bi dayes,
Wherof Bretouns maked her layes.
When kinges might ovr y-here
Of ani mervailes that ther were,
Thai token an harp in gle and game
And maked a lay and gaf it name.
Now of this aventours that weren y-falle
Y can tel sum, ac nought alle.
Ac herkneth, lordinges that ben trewe,
Ichil you telle of "Sir Orfewe."
Orfeo mest of ani thing
Lovede the gle of harping.
Siker was everi gode harpour
Of him to have miche honour.
Himself he lerned forto harp,
And leyd theron his wittes scharp;
He lerned so ther nothing was
A better harpour in no plas.
In al the warld was no man bore
That ones Orfeo sat bifore -
And he might of his harping here -
Bot he schuld thenche that he were
In on of the joies of Paradis,
Swiche melody in his harping is.
Orfeo was a king,
In Inglond an heighe lording,
A stalworth man and hardi bo;
Large and curteys he was also.
His fader was comen of King Pluto,
And his moder of King Juno,
That sum time were as godes yhold
For aventours that thai dede and told.
This king sojournd in Traciens,
That was a cité of noble defens -
For Winchester was cleped tho
Traciens, withouten no.
The king hadde a quen of priis
That was y-cleped Dame Heurodis,
The fairest levedi, for the nones,
That might gon on bodi and bones,
Ful of love and godenisse -
Ac no man may telle hir fairnise.
Bifel so in the comessing of May
When miri and hot is the day,
And oway beth winter schours,
And everi feld is ful of flours,
And blosme breme on everi bough
Over al wexeth miri anought,
This ich quen, Dame Heurodis
Tok to maidens of priis,
And went in an undrentide
To play bi an orchardside,
To se the floures sprede and spring
And to here the foules sing.
Thai sett hem doun al thre
Under a fair ympe-tre,
And wel sone this fair quene
Fel on slepe opon the grene.
The maidens durst hir nought awake,
Bot lete hir ligge and rest take.
So sche slepe til after none,
That undertide was al y-done.
Ac, as sone as sche gan awake,
Sche crid, and lothli bere gan make;
Sche froted hir honden and hir fete,
And crached hir visage - it bled wete -
Hir riche robe hye al to-rett
And was reveyd out of hir wit.
The two maidens hir biside
No durst with hir no leng abide,
Bot ourn to the palays ful right
And told bothe squier and knight
That her quen awede wold,
And bad hem go and hir at-hold.
Knightes urn and levedis also,
Damisels sexti and mo.
In the orchard to the quen hye come,
And her up in her armes nome,
And brought hir to bed atte last,
And held hir there fine fast.
Ac ever she held in o cri
And wold up and owy.
When Orfeo herd that tiding
Never him nas wers for nothing.
He come with knightes tene
To chaumber, right bifor the quene,
And bi-held, and seyd with grete pité,
"O lef liif, what is te,
That ever yete hast ben so stille
And now gredest wonder schille?
Thy bodi, that was so white y-core,
With thine nailes is all to-tore.
Allas! thy rode, that was so red,
Is al wan, as thou were ded;
And also thine fingres smale
Beth al blodi and al pale.
Allas! thy lovesum eyyen to
Loketh so man doth on his fo!
A, dame, ich biseche, merci!
Lete ben al this reweful cri,
And tel me what the is, and hou,
And what thing may the help now."
Tho lay sche stille atte last
And gan to wepe swithe fast,
And seyd thus the King to:
"Allas, mi lord, Sir Orfeo!
Sethen we first togider were,
Ones wroth never we nere;
Bot ever ich have yloved the
As mi liif and so thou me;
Ac now we mot delen ato;
Do thi best, for y mot go."
"Allas!" quath he, "forlorn icham!
Whider wiltow go, and to wham?
Whider thou gost, ichil with the,
And whider y go, thou schalt with me."
"Nay, nay, Sir, that nought nis!
Ichil the telle al hou it is:
As ich lay this undertide
And slepe under our orchardside,
Ther come to me to fair knightes,
Wele y-armed al to rightes,
And bad me comen an heighing
And speke with her lord the king.
And ich answerd at wordes bold,
Y durst nought, no y nold.
Thai priked oyain as thai might drive; 1
Tho com her king, also blive,
With an hundred knightes and mo,
And damisels an hundred also,
Al on snowe-white stedes;
As white as milke were her wedes.
Y no seighe never yete bifore
So fair creatours y-core.
The king hadde a croun on hed;
It nas of silver, no of gold red,
Ac it was of a precious ston -
As bright as the sonne it schon.
And as son as he to me cam,
Wold ich, nold ich, he me nam,
And made me with him ride
Opon a palfray bi his side;
And brought me to his palays,
Wele atird in ich ways,
And schewed me castels and tours,
Rivers, forestes, frith with flours,
And his riche stedes ichon.
And sethen me brought oyain hom
Into our owhen orchard,
And said to me thus afterward,
"'Loke, dame, tomorwe thatow be
Right here under this ympe-tre,
And than thou schalt with ous go
And live with ous evermo.
And yif thou makest ous y-let,
Whar thou be, thou worst y-fet,
And totore thine limes al
That nothing help the no schal;
And thei thou best so totorn,
Yete thou worst with ous y-born."'
When King Orfeo herd this cas,
"O we!" quath he, "Allas, allas!
Lever me were to lete mi liif
Than thus to lese the quen, mi wiif!"
He asked conseyl at ich man,
Ac no man him help no can.
Amorwe the undertide is come
And Orfeo hath his armes y-nome,
And wele ten hundred knightes with him,
Ich y-armed, stout and grim;
And with the quen wenten he
Right unto that ympe-tre.
Thai made scheltrom in ich a side
And sayd thai wold there abide
And dye ther everichon,
Er the quen schuld fram hem gon.
Ac yete amiddes hem ful right
The quen was oway y-twight,
With fairi forth y-nome.
Men wist never wher sche was bicome.
Tho was ther criing, wepe and wo!
The king into his chaumber is go,
And oft swoned opon the ston,
And made swiche diol and swiche mon
That neighe his liif was y-spent -
Ther was non amendement.
He cleped togider his barouns,
Erls, lordes of renouns,
And when thai al y-comen were,
"Lordinges," he said, "bifor you here
Ich ordainy min heighe steward
To wite mi kingdom afterward;
In mi stede ben he schal
To kepe mi londes overal.
For now ichave mi quen y-lore,
The fairest levedi that ever was bore,
Never eft y nil no woman se.
Into wildernes ichil te
And live ther evermore
With wilde bestes in holtes hore;
And when ye understond that y be spent,
Make you than a parlement,
And chese you a newe king.
Now doth your best with al mi thing."
Tho was ther wepeing in the halle
And grete cri among hem alle;
Unnethe might old or yong
For wepeing speke a word with tong.
Thai kneled adoun al y-fere
And praid him, yif his wille were,
That he no schuld nought fram hem go.
"Do way!" quath he, "It schal be so!"
Al his kingdom he forsoke;
Bot a sclavin on him he toke.
He no hadde kirtel no hode,
Schert, ne no nother gode,
Bot his harp he tok algate
And dede him barfot out atte gate;
No man most with him go.
O way! What ther was wepe and wo,
When he that hadde ben king with croun
Went so poverlich out of toun!
Thurth wode and over heth
Into the wildernes he geth.
Nothing he fint that him is ays,
Bot ever he liveth in gret malais.
He that hadde y-werd the fowe and griis,
And on bed the purper biis,
Now on hard hethe he lith,
With leves and gresse he him writh.
He that hadde had castels and tours,
River, forest, frith with flours,
Now, thei it comenci to snewe and frese,
This king mot make his bed in mese.
He that had y-had knightes of priis
Bifor him kneland, and levedis,
Now seth he nothing that him liketh,
Bot wilde wormes bi him striketh.
He that had y-had plenté
Of mete and drink, of ich deynté,
Now may he al day digge and wrote
Er he finde his fille of rote.
In somer he liveth bi wild frut,
And berien bot gode lite;
In winter may he nothing finde
Bot rote, grases, and the rinde.
Al his bodi was oway dwine
For missays, and al to-chine.
Lord! who may telle the sore
This king sufferd ten yere and more?
His here of his berd, blac and rowe,
To his girdel-stede was growe.
His harp, whereon was al his gle,
He hidde in an holwe tre;
And when the weder was clere and bright,
He toke his harp to him wel right
And harped at his owhen wille.
Into alle the wode the soun gan schille,
That alle the wilde bestes that ther beth
For joie abouten him thai teth,
And alle the foules that ther were
Come and sete on ich a brere
To here his harping a-fine -
So miche melody was therin;
And when he his harping lete wold,
No best bi him abide nold.
He might se him bisides,
Oft in hot undertides,
The king o fairy with his rout
Com to hunt him al about
With dim cri and bloweing,
And houndes also with him berking;
Ac no best thai no nome,
No never he nist whider they bicome
And other while he might him se
As a gret ost bi him te,
Wele atourned, ten hundred knightes,
Ich y-armed to his rightes,
Of cuntenaunce stout and fers,
With mani desplaid baners,
And ich his swerd y-drawe hold -
Ac never he nist whider thai wold.
And otherwile he seighe other thing:
Knightes and levedis com daunceing
In queynt atire, gisely,
Queynt pas and softly;
Tabours and trunpes yede hem bi,
And al maner menstraci.
And on a day he seighe him biside
Sexti levedis on hors ride,
Gentil and jolif as brid on ris;
Nought o man amonges hem ther nis;
And ich a faucoun on hond bere,
And riden on haukin bi o rivere.
Of game thai founde wel gode haunt -
Maulardes, hayroun, and cormeraunt;
The foules of the water ariseth,
The faucouns hem wele deviseth;
Ich faucoun his pray slough -
That seigh Orfeo, and lough:
"Parfay!" quath he, "ther is fair game;
Thider ichil, bi Godes name;
Ich was y-won swiche werk to se!"
He aros, and thider gan te.
To a levedi he was y-come,
Biheld, and hath wele undernome,
And seth bi al thing that it is
His owhen quen, Dam Heurodis.
Yern he biheld hir, and sche him eke,
Ac noither to other a word no speke;
For messais that sche on him seighe,
That had ben so riche and so heighe,
The teres fel out of her eighe.
The other levedis this y-seighe
And maked hir oway to ride -
Sche most with him no lenger abide.
"Allas!" quath he, "now me is wo!"
Whi nil deth now me slo?
Allas, wreche, that y no might
Dye now after this sight!
Allas! to long last mi liif,
When y no dar nought with mi wiif,
No hye to me, o word speke.
Allas! Whi nil min hert breke!
Parfay!" quath he, "tide wat bitide,
Whiderso this levedis ride,
The selve way ichil streche -
Of liif no deth me no reche."
His sclavain he dede on also spac
And henge his harp opon his bac,
And had wel gode wil to gon -
He no spard noither stub no ston.
In at a roche the levedis rideth,
And he after, and nought abideth.
When he was in the roche y-go,
Wele thre mile other mo,
He com into a fair cuntray
As bright so sonne on somers day,
Smothe and plain and al grene -
Hille no dale nas ther non y-sene.
Amidde the lond a castel he sighe,
Riche and real and wonder heighe.
Al the utmast wal
Was clere and schine as cristal;
An hundred tours ther were about,
Degiselich and bataild stout.
The butras com out of the diche
Of rede gold y-arched riche.
The vousour was avowed al
Of ich maner divers aumal.
Within ther wer wide wones,
Al of precious stones;
The werst piler on to biholde 2
Was al of burnist gold.
Al that lond was ever light,
For when it schuld be therk and night,
The riche stones light gonne
As bright as doth at none the sonne.
No man may telle, no thenche in thought,
The riche werk that ther was wrought.
Bi al thing him think that it is
The proude court of Paradis.
In this castel the levedis alight;
He wold in after, yif he might.
Orfeo knokketh atte gate;
The porter was redi therate
And asked what he wold hav y-do.
"Parfay!" quath he, "icham a minstrel, lo!
To solas thi lord with mi gle,
Yif his swete wille be."
The porter undede the gate anon
And lete him into the castel gon.
Than he gan bihold about al,
And seighe liggeand within the wal
Of folk that were thider y-brought
And thought dede, and nare nought.
Sum stode withouten hade,
And sum non armes nade,
And sum thurth the bodi hadde wounde,
And sum lay wode, y-bounde,
And sum armed on hors sete,
And sum astrangled as thai ete;
And sum were in water adreynt,
And sum with fire al forschreynt.
Wives ther lay on childe bedde,
Sum ded and sum awedde,
And wonder fele ther lay bisides
Right as thai slepe her undertides;
Eche was thus in this warld y-nome,
With fairi thider y-come.
Ther he seighe his owhen wiif,
Dame Heurodis, his lef liif,
Slepe under an ympe-tre -
Bi her clothes he knewe that it was he.
And when he hadde bihold this mervails alle,
He went into the kinges halle.
Than seighe he ther a semly sight,
A tabernacle blisseful and bright,
Therin her maister king sete
And her quen, fair and swete.
Her crounes, her clothes schine so bright
That unnethe bihold he him might.
When he hadde biholden al that thing,
He kneled adoun bifor the king:
"O lord," he seyd, "yif it thi wille were,
Mi menstraci thou schust y-here."
The king answered, "What man artow,
That art hider y-comen now?
Ich, no non that is with me,
No sent never after the.
Sethen that ich here regni gan,
Y no fond never so folehardi man
That hider to ous durst wende
Bot that ic him wald ofsende."
"Lord," quath he, "trowe ful wel,
Y nam bot a pover menstrel;
And, sir, it is the maner of ous
To seche mani a lordes hous -
Thei we nought welcom no be,
Yete we mot proferi forth our gle."
Bifor the king he sat adoun
And tok his harp so miri of soun,
And tempreth his harp, as he wele can,
And blisseful notes he ther gan,
That al that in the palays were
Com to him forto here,
And liggeth adoun to his fete -
Hem thenketh his melody so swete.
The king herkneth and sitt ful stille;
To here his gle he hath gode wille.
Gode bourde he hadde of his gle;
The riche quen also hadde he.
When he hadde stint his harping,
Than seyd to him the king,
"Menstrel, me liketh wel thi gle.
Now aske of me what it be,
Largelich ichil the pay;
Now speke, and tow might asay."
"Sir," he seyd, "ich biseche the
Thatow woldest give me
That ich levedi, bright on ble,
That slepeth under the ympe-tree."
"Nay!" quath the king, "that nought nere!
A sori couple of you it were,
For thou art lene, rowe and blac,
And sche is lovesum, withouten lac;
A lothlich thing it were, forthi,
To sen hir in thi compayni."
"O sir!" he seyd, "gentil king,
Yete were it a wele fouler thing
To here a lesing of thi mouthe!
So, sir, as ye seyd nouthe,
What ich wold aski, have y schold,
And nedes thou most thi word hold."
The king seyd, "Sethen it is so,
Take hir bi the hond and go;
Of hir ichil thatow be blithe."
He kneled adoun and thonked him swithe.
His wiif he tok bi the hond,
And dede him swithe out of that lond,
And went him out of that thede -
Right as he come, the way he yede.
So long he hath the way y-nome
To Winchester he is y-come,
That was his owhen cité;
Ac no man knewe that it was he.
No forther than the tounes ende
For knoweleche no durst he wende,
Bot with a begger, y-bilt ful narwe,
Ther he tok his herbarwe
To him and to his owhen wiif
As a minstrel of pover liif,
And asked tidinges of that lond,
And who the kingdom held in hond.
The pover begger in his cote
Told him everich a grot:
Hou her quen was stole owy,
Ten yer gon, with fairy,
And hou her king en exile yede,
But no man nist in wiche thede;
And how the steward the lond gan hold,
And other mani thinges him told.
Amorwe, oyain nonetide,
He maked his wiif ther abide;
The beggers clothes he borwed anon
And heng his harp his rigge opon,
And went him into that cité
That men might him bihold and se.
Erls and barouns bold,
Buriays and levedis him gun bihold.
"Lo!" thai seyd, "swiche a man!
Hou long the here hongeth him opan!
Lo! Hou his berd hongeth to his kne!
He is y-clongen also a tre!"
And, as he yede in the strete,
With his steward he gan mete,
And loude he sett on him a crie:
"Sir steward!" he seyd, "merci!
Icham an harpour of hethenisse;
Help me now in this destresse!"
The steward seyd, "Com with me, come;
Of that ichave, thou schalt have some.
Everich gode harpour is welcom me to
For mi lordes love, Sir Orfeo."
In the castel the steward sat atte mete,
And mani lording was bi him sete;
Ther were trompours and tabourers,
Harpours fele, and crouders -
Miche melody thai maked alle.
And Orfeo sat stille in the halle
And herkneth; when thai ben al stille,
He toke his harp and tempred schille;
The blissefulest notes he harped there
That ever ani man y-herd with ere -
Ich man liked wele his gle.
The steward biheld and gan y-se,
And knewe the harp als blive.
"Menstrel!" he seyd, "so mot thou thrive,
Where hadestow this harp, and hou?
Y pray that thou me telle now."
"Lord," quath he, "in uncouthe thede
Thurth a wildernes as y yede,
Ther y founde in a dale
With lyouns a man totorn smale,
And wolves him frete with teth so scharp.
Bi him y fond this ich harp;
Wele ten yere it is y-go."
"O!" quath the steward, "now me is wo!
That was mi lord, Sir Orfeo!
Allas, wreche, what schal y do,
That have swiche a lord y-lore?
A, way that ich was y-bore!
That him was so hard grace y-yarked,
And so vile deth y-marked!"
Adoun he fel aswon to grounde;
His barouns him tok up in that stounde
And telleth him how it geth -
"It is no bot of mannes deth!"
King Orfeo knewe wele bi than
His steward was a trewe man
And loved him as he aught to do,
And stont up, and seyt thus, "Lo,
Steward, herkne now this thing:
Yif ich were Orfeo the king,
And hadde y-suffred ful yore
In wildernisse miche sore,
And hadde ywon mi quen o-wy
Out of the lond of fairy,
And hadde y-brought the levedi hende
Right here to the tounes ende,
And with a begger her in y-nome,
And were mi-self hider y-come
Poverlich to the, thus stille,
For to asay thi gode wille,
And ich founde the thus trewe,
Thou no schust it never rewe.
Sikerlich, for love or ay,
Thou schust be king after mi day;
And yif thou of mi deth hadest ben blithe,
Thou schust have voided, also swithe."
Tho all tho that therin sete
That it was King Orfeo underyete,
And the steward him wele knewe -
Over and over the bord he threwe,
And fel adoun to his fet;
So dede everich lord that ther sete,
And all thai seyd at o criing:
"Ye beth our lord, sir, and our king!"
Glad thai were of his live;
To chaumber thai ladde him als belive
And bathed him and schaved his berd,
And tired him as a king apert;
And sethen, with gret processioun,
Thai brought the quen into the toun
With al maner menstraci -
Lord! ther was grete melody!
For joie thai wepe with her eighe
That hem so sounde y-comen seighe. 3
Now King Orfeo newe coround is,
And his quen, Dame Heurodis,
And lived long afterward,
And sethen was king the steward.
Harpours in Bretaine after than
Herd hou this mervaile bigan,
And made herof a lay of gode likeing,
And nempned it after the king.
That lay "Orfeo" is y-hote;
Gode is the lay, swete is the note.
Thus com Sir Orfeo out of his care:
God graunt ous alle wele to fare! Amen!
written; (see note)
these scholars; know
are in song
composed about marvelous things
Some are of war; grief
adventures; happened once
the Otherworld; (see note)
relate; (see note)
Most of; in truth
Brittany these; made; (see note)
happened in olden times
anywhere hear; (see note)
But listen; (see note)
most; (see note)
glee or music; (see note)
He taught himself to; (see note)
in no way; (see note)
born; (see note)
high (great) lord
brave both; (see note)
Generous; courtly; (see note)
Who once; considered to be gods
dwelled; (see note)
queen of excellence
called; (see note)
walk [about] in
It happened; beginning; (see note)
Everywhere grow; enough
grafted tree; (see note)
let her lie
slept; noon; (see note)
Until midday; past
But; began [to]
loathsome outcry made; (see note)
scratched her face; profusely
she tore all to pieces
driven; (see note)
Dared not; longer
their; was going mad
bade them; seize
[numbering] sixty and more; (see note)
their arms took
persisted in one
wished [to go]; away
had he been as grieved by anything
beheld [her]; sorrow
dear life; with you; (see note)
Who; yet; calm
But; cries strangely shrilly
torn to pieces
pale, as [if]; (see note)
lovely two eyes
Let be; pitiful
what's bothering you; how
Never once; angry [with one another]
must separate apart
utterly lost I am
Where will you; whom
I will [go]; (see note)
I will; all how
two; (see note)
bade; in haste
dared not, nor did I want to; (see note)
their; as quickly
their garments; (see note)
Whether I wished or not he took me
palfrey; (see note)
adorned; every way
woods with flowers
gorgeous steeds each one
afterwards; back home
a hindrance for us
Wherever; will be fetched; (see note)
torn apart; limbs
though (even if) you are so torn
Yet; will be carried with us; (see note)
I'd rather lose
advice from each person
The next day; high noon
Each; strong; fierce
a rank of armed men on each; (see note)
yet amidst them straightaway
never knew; gone; (see note)
swooned; stone (i.e., floor)
such dole; moan
no remedy for it
I ordain; high; (see note)
I have; lost
Never again will I see another woman
I will go
Only; pilgrim's mantle
had neither tunic nor hood
at any rate; (see note)
in such poverty out of his town
finds; for him; comfort
worn the variegated and grey fur; (see note)
although it begins; snow; freeze
dig; grub; (see note)
berries of little worth
Except roots; bark
hair; beard; rough; (see note)
weather; (see note)
played; own desire
sound began to resound
would leave off
beast; would remain
nearby; (see note)
of fairyland; company
blowing [of horns]
But they took no beast (game); (see note)
Nor did he ever know where they went
at other times
All properly armed
knew not whither; went
drums and trumpets went
sorts of minstralsy
on a certain day
lively as bird on bough
Not a single man was with them
each a falcon on [her] hand bore
a-hawking by a
Mallards, heron; cormorant
Each; prey killed
By my faith
I was wont such sport
began [to] approach
Will not; slay
too long lasts
Nor she; one
come what may; (see note)
Wherever these; (see note)
nor; I do not care
pilgrim's gown he put on quickly
very good desire
Into a rock
country; (see note)
as sun on summer's
Smooth and level
was not to be seen
royal; wonderously high
All [of] the outermost wall
Wonderful with strong battlements; (see note)
With every kind of enamel
were spacious dwellings
stone's light shone
wished to enter if
entertain; my minstrelsy
lying; (see note)
seemed dead, but were not
had no arms
Just as; their
enchantment brought there
dear life; (see note)
Neither I, nor no one
to us dared come
Unless I wished him summoned
Although (even if)
tunes; knows well [how to do]
listens; sits quietly
his (Orfeo's); he (the king)
Great pleasure; songs
what[ever] you wish; (see note)
if you wish to find out
same; of complexion
that could never be
much more disgraceful
hear a lie from
might ask [for]; I should
With; I wish that you be happy
taken; (see note)
Because he did not want to be recognized; (see note)
[whose house] was very small; (see note)
For himself and for
ago; by magic
no one knew; country
The next day, towards noon; (see note)
stay with the beggar
he (Orfeo); him (the steward)
I am; from heathendom
what I have
table; (see note)
trumpeters; drummers; (see note)
many; stringplayers; (see note)
tuned it loudly
most beautiful; (see note)
began to perceive
If you wish to thrive
did you get; how
unknown land; (see note)
torn in small pieces
O, woe; born
to him; bitter fortune was allotted
[a] death was ordained
in a faint
it (the world)
There is no remedy for man's death!
very long ago
had placed her
should never regret it
But if; happy
been banished immediately
Then all those
Recognized that it was
overturned the table; (see note)
in one cry
led him immediately
And after [that]; (see note)
made of it; great delight
sorrow; (see note)