* in English *

Vampires, sorrows and sophisticated ennui: the cultural side of tuberculosis.

In 1820 tuberculosis was finally isolated from other pulmonary diseases. In 1882, Koch discovered its famous bacillus. In 1921, Calmette’s and Guérin’s Bacillus gave their initials to the BCG vaccine. The actual term of tuberculosis was only adopted in the mid ninetieth century in reference to the small rounded bodies (tubercles) found in the diseased tissue of patients. How was it before?




Before, one didn’t suffer from tuberculosis, one suffered from consumption (‘self consuming’).  One felt tired, one was livid and thin, one had red and puffy eyes oversensitive to bright light, one spitted blood and one inexplicably died.  Next of kin usually followed. Hence the idea that the first victim would come back from the dead to feed on the survivors and the development of the myth of the vampire – the word appears in 1725 – made famous much later by Irish writer Brad Stoker’s Dracula (1897), who associated his Count Dracula to the historical and bloodthirsty Vlad Tepes, Prince of Transylvania, nicknamed ‘The Impaler’ after his original torturing methods.




Then appeared all the famous phthisis patients (from the Greek « phthisis », consumption), suffering from languor, consumed by their passions: Keats, the poet, who died at 26, Chopin, the composer, who died at 39, Marie Duplessis, the courtesan, who died at 23. Dumas the Younger took the latter as model for the creation of the most famous consumptive ever, Marguerite Gautier, in his novel Lady of the Camellias (1848). He adapted it for the stage and it soon became a major role for Sarah Bernhardt and every leading female star for the past 150 years. This upper class prostitute who died because she had loved too much, became a myth. In 1853, Verdi took over, renamed her Violetta Valery for his opera La Traviata (‘The Sinner’), one of Maria Callas’ best performances. In 1937, Cukor made it a movie, Camille (referring to the famous camellias), starring a glamorous and nostalgic Greta Garbo. Bolognini went back to the historical character in his Lady of the Camellias (1981), in which Marie Duplessis (Isabelle Huppert) drank fresh beef blood, the cure applied then.




In Thomas Mann’s novel The Magic Mountain (1924), tuberculosis becomes a social illness revealing high European bourgeoisie’s world-weariness. The elegant sanatorium, inspired by Davos, has its fetishes and its rituals: luxury spittoons, deckchairs, forced rest on a terrace facing mountains, tea, copious night meals, society games and dead patients discreetly evacuated…




No more sanatoriums, nowadays. The populations at risk are the poorest. Perfect reflection of our times, tuberculosis went global. It is constantly growing because of HIV, and campaigns are implemented at world level.


In fiction, AIDS took tuberculosis’ place to express societies’ fear of illness and death, in movies like Cyril Collard’s Savage Nights (1992) or Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia (1993).


©Sergio Belluz, 2015.










Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), film by Francis Ford Coppola, with Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves. Uca catalogue

Camille (1937), film by George Cukor, with Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor. MGM Home Entertainment

The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg), Thomas Mann, 1924, New York: Vintage, 1996.

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Malcolm Lowry’s 'Under The Volcano' (1947).

Malcolm Lowry’s cult novel portrays Geoffrey Firmin, an ex-Consul living in Mexico who slowly drowns himself in alcohol – thus consciously committing slow suicide – and yet who is unexpectedly killed under unforeseen circumstances.


All the themes of the novel are universal: life and death, love and hatred, joy and sadness, self-determination and fate, man’s littleness and the Universe’s immensity...


Yet, all ‘universal’ novels are not good novels.


What makes the difference here is that the novel works, it creates a powerful reality. Blending a drunkard’s visions with ethylic sarcasms expressed in free reported speech interspersed with Spanish sentences and quotations from Dante’s 'Inferno', Malcolm Lowry also makes perfect use of time and space in order to achieve maximum effectiveness.




'Under the Volcano' is a one-day novel such as Joyce’s 'Ulysses' or Virginia Woolf’s 'Mrs Dalloway': the Consul’s story takes place in twelve hours, from 7am (in chapter 2, as Yvonne arrives in Quauhnahuac, there is a “seven o’clock morning sunlight”) to 7 pm (in chapter 12, when the Consul is shot by the Chief of Rostrums, “the clock outside quickly chimed seven times”).


The novel itself (not the Consul’s story) lasts a whole year: in the first chapter, we meet Jacques Laruelle and Dr Vigil one year after the actual events. Laruelle recalls the Consul’s death which is the story we are going to read.


These two parts (i.e. the novel as a whole and the story of the Consul) are linked by the repeating of the sentence “a bell spoke out: ‘dolente…dolore’”, and by the fact that Laruelle is reminded of the Consul’s story because it had taken place on the same day of November, the Day of the Dead, of probable pre-Colombian origin, a very important holyday in Mexico. Families picnic in cemeteries, decorate the graves of their loved ones, children play with skeletons made of chocolate and even people dress up as skeletons.


This choice allows Lowry to use the event (Laruelle, as Mexicans do, recalls ‘his’ dead, the Consul). It dramatizes the Consul’s fate, packed into twelve hours, creates a larger-than-life dimension, and conveys a strongly expressionistic vision of fate - there are ‘signs’ everywhere - and death.




The Consul’s story never ends: once we get to the end, we actually get to the beginning of the novel when Laruelle remembers what we have just read. It is symbolized within the novel by the Ferris wheel of the fair: “Over the town, in the dark tempestuous night, backwards revolved the luminous wheel”).


This particular use of time, Lowry said, is “essentially trochal…the form of it as a wheel so that, when you get to the end…you should want to turn back to the beginning again” (Selected Letters, 88, cited in Sherill E. Grace’s 'The Voyage That Never Ends, Malcolm Lowry’s Fiction', Vancouver: U. of British Columbia Press, 1982).


This feature of Lowry’s novel is important: the cyclic time represented as a wheel is a reminder of Aztec religion (cf. Jacques Soustelle’s 'Les Quatre Soleils', Paris: Plon, 1967) and fits perfectly with the Consul’s obsession with black magic and cabalistic signs.


Within this cyclic and ‘horizontal’ representation of time, within the year and the twelve-hour time span of the novel, Lowry introduced deep ‘vertical’ incursions into the main characters’ past: the Consul’s life is recalled by his friend Laruelle whom he met as a teenager (chapter 1), whereas Hugh’s and Yvonne’s are respectively exposed in chapter 5 and 9.


This is meant to present the roles of the other dramatis personae (just as in any ‘classic’ novel) but also to draw their respective psychological features and their importance in Geoffrey’s life and as ‘counterpoints characters’ to Geoffrey’s – Yvonne and Hugh follow the same desperate pattern as Geoffrey. It puts emphasis on the metaphysical dimension of the novel: this is mankind’s destiny.


Another important fact in relation to the use of time in 'Under the Volcano' is that the story takes place in November 1938 (whereas Laruelle ‘dreams’ the Consul’s tragic end in 1939), a few months before the beginning of World War II. This element gives yet another oppressive climate to the story, as if through the lives of the characters we should feel the world in a state of decay, falling into chaos, as though we should understand the causes for the oncoming war.


'Under the Volcano' describes a world on the verge of collapsing, of committing suicide – just as the Consul is.




Lowry intentionally named his novel 'Under the Volcano' and situated the action in a country where, according to Aztec mythology, two legendary volcanoes, the male Popocatepetl and his “wife” the female Ixcctacíuatl, eternally watch over mankind, and are strong symbols of the precariousness of life as well as of the impending death of simple humans.


He also deliberately chose to place his characters in Quaunahuac, the Aztec name of contemporary Cuernavaca, because the name conveys a strong ‘Aztec’ motif, with all its connotations.


Volcanoes symbolize hidden forces bubbling beneath the surface, threatening to destroy everything: “Under the volcano! It was not for nothing the ancients had placed Tartarus under Mount Etna, nor, within it, the monster Typhoeus, with his hundred heads and – relatively – fearful eyes and voices.”


The choice of Mexico was also very convenient for Lowry, for he had to ‘kill’ the Consul: Mexico with its history (“so far from God, so close to the United States”), its Revolution, its complex politics, its traditional violence and its poverty was the ideal place to get the Consul into trouble - as Lowry himself had been while in Mexico - and especially to create the Consul’s ironical end, a man who consciously destroys himself with alcohol and yet gets killed under totally unexpected circumstances.


Malcolm Lowry knew Mexico from a somewhat unlucky sojourn. In a letter of 2 January 1946 to his English publisher, Jonathan Cape, who had discussed the choice of that particular country for the novel, he wrote:


The scene is Mexico, the meeting place, according to some, of mankind itself, pyre of Bierce and springboard of Hart Crane, the age-old arena of racial and political conflicts of every nature, and where a colourful native people of genious have a religion that we can roughly describe as one of death, so that it is a good place, at least as good as Lancashire or Yorkshire, to set our drama of a man’s struggle between the power of darkness and light. Its geographical remoteness from us, as well as the closeness of its problems to our own, will assist the tragedy each in its own way. We can see it as the world itself, or the Garden of Eden, or both at once. Or we can see it as a kind of timeless symbol of the world on which we can place the Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel and indeed anything else we please. It is paradisiacal; it is unquestionably infernal.


(Cited in George Woodcock’s article 'The Own Place Of The Mind: An Essay in Lowrian Topography', in Anne Smith’s 'The Art Of Malcolm Lowry', London: Vision Press Limited, 1978).


Mexico, with its history, its Catholicism mixed with pre-Columbian rituals – such as the Day of the Dead – , its landscape, its climate and its people, is both a ‘scenic’ country and a perfect setting for the Consul’s dark destiny:


- the Aztec ruins invariably recall human sacrifices


- the allusion to Emperor Maximilien’s execution in the palace he had erected and the following desperation and insanity of his wife Charlotte is a strong mirror of the Consul’s destiny


- Mexico’s fauna is a reservoir of symbols, such as the scorpios the Consul sees (doubles of himself as they are famous for their suicidal behaviour), or the vultures, an omen of death


- its flora is constantly mentioned because of the Consul’s addiction to mezcal, a strong alcohol derived from the leaves of cactuses, a nourishing plant yet a symbol of unbearable heat and desolate landscape


- its hot weather, its sun, are felt deeply by the reader and emphasize the oppressive climate of the book, conveying Judaeo-Christian visions of an omnipresent punishing God as well as terrifying images of the Sun God the Aztecs had to ‘feed’ with human blood lest it should die, thus emphasizing the inescapable fate of the doomed Consul.


Mexico’s national language equally plays an important role in the novel by underlining the Consul’s utter isolation in a foreign country. Sinister anathemas in Spanish are mixed up with the recurring “dolente…dolore!” leitmotif, an quote of the inscription on the Inferno’s door in Dante’s 'Divine Comedy' :


Per me si va nella città dolente

Per me si va nell’eterno dolore

Per me si va tra la perduta gente


Geoffrey Firmin is doomed, he is meant to die soon and is already entering Hell.


Time and space in Under The Volcano play a major role in its powerful beauty: by using them in his own personal way, Lowry achieved a very symbolic and expressionist world.


If the novel still stands out as a cult book and a major novel of the twentieth century it is in great part due to its ingenious use of time – precise yet ‘timeless’ – and to Mexico and the Day of the Dead.




 Sherill E. Grace, 'The Voyage That Never Ends: Malcolm Lowry’s Fiction', Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1982.


George Woodcock, 'The Own Place Of The Mind: An Essay In Lowrian Topography', in Anne Smith’s 'The Art Of Malcolm Lowry', London, Vision Press Limited, 1978.


©Sergio Belluz, 2017




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The Owl And The Nightingale (circa 1210): a comparative critical approach.

What makes a literary structure significant is what an author means to convey – any literary structure is related to the final aim of the poet and his work.  Structures are not interesting per se:  what counts is the message we get from the writer, which the structure carries and emphasizes.


In that respect, The Owl And The Nightingale, a poem of uncertain authorship traditionally dated to the late twelfth early thirteenth century (early Middle English) is very confusing:  we do not really know what was the actual intention of the poet, and it is difficult to deduce it from his poem.


This ambiguity makes it impossible to draw a definite plan of the structure of the poem, except in broad terms, because no structure seems to be entirely convincing, hence the many attempts by critics – and their partial failure.


You will find the original poem (circa 1210) at this page:  The Owl and the Nightingale


I.          J.W.H.  Atkin’s theory (from his “Introduction” pp.  lii, liv and lv, in The Owl And The Nightingale, New York:  Russel & Russel, 1971)


In his “Introduction”, Atkins relates the popularity of debates in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to Abelard, great thinker of his time, who gave new directions and new methods to medieval thought, especially in his book Sic et Non (1120), where he showed how an attitude of doubt prior to scientific search for truth was the way to inquiry and, eventually, to truth;  this scepticism was at its best by joining discordant opinions together so that any issue should be studied entirely, with its pros and cons.


This method soon became very popular, not only as a scholastic device that helped teach dialectics, but also as a literary form, both in Latin and in the vernaculars.  There were debates of all kinds, but they usually had a common basic structure:


a)    An introductory description.

b)    A dispute, with references to classical masters such as Virgil and Ovid.

c)    A closing reference to a formal judgment.


Atkins points to several differences in The Owl And The Nightingale:


-       The two debaters involved are birds:  Atkins relates that to contemporary French lyrics dealing with birds that stood as symbols (for instance, the Nightingale represented the messenger of love).


-       The two debaters do not refer to any classical master, but to common sayings and to the Proverbs Of Alfred (1251?)


-       The dialogue is enlivened by the introduction of narrative and dramatic details.


-       It is less formal, both because it is written in the vernacular and because each argument has varied lengths.


These peculiarities, and the fact that the author uses legal terminology and procedure common at the time, prompted Atkins to suggest that The Owl And The Nightingale, instead of being merely another illustration of the debate form, actually followed the structure of a thirteenth century lawsuit.


The Owl And The Nightingale as a lawsuit


Atkins tries to demonstrate that the Nightingale starts the proceedings as a plaintiff would, by stating the charge against the Owl, calling her a monster with a terrible and ugly voice (ll.  33 – 40). Since it is merely an assertion, she needs, according to regular law procedure of the time, a witness (otherwise called “oath-helper”, or “compurgator”).  Therefore, she first uses common sayings (ll. 55 – 138) and, later on in the debate, quotes from The Proverbs Of Alfred.


The Owl, thence, would be the defendant, and as such denies the charge (ll.  46 – 54), she declares her willingness to defend her case by force of arms (ll. 150 – 152); the plaintiff refuses, thought, and proposes instead a formal debate (ll.  153 – 186). They both agree on Master Nicholas of Guildford as referee (ll.  187 – 214).  Then the Nightingale proceeds with the charge, with the help of quotes from Alfred, and the Owl defends herself also with the help of Alfred’s proverbs (ll.  215 – 542).


At this stage of the “trial”, a judgment would occur nowadays, but in the Middle Ages it was possible, if the plaintiff so whished, to continue the charge.  According to Atkins, that is exactly what the Nightingale does (ll.  543 – 548), which prompts the Owl to use the right of exceptio, mainly the right of the defendant to charge, in turn, the plaintiff.  From then on, the Owl, with her witness Alfred, “sues” the Nightingale, while the latter defends herself by the right of replicatio.  In the process, each tries to confute the other in order to win the judgment; finally, the Wren advises them both to seek judgment (ll.  1729 – 1738) as settled before, and they both agree to do so.


For Atkins, this is a close imitation of law procedure in the XIIIth century.  In order to sustain his theory, he underlines the great number of legal terms, and the fact that each bird tries to find mistakes in the other’s pleading:  indeed, a mistake in pleading in medieval law procedure was very serious and liable to even break the case in favour of one the two parties, hence the attention each bird pays to the other’s tricks.


A famous trick was, for instance, to show that the charge was merely gratuitous assertion brought up by malice and hatred (odium et atia).  If one could prove it, the case was broken – the Owl tries it on line 1183, by accusing the Nightingale of “ancient malice”.  Another trick was to make the opponent so angry as to get him to make a mistake in his pleading; the Nightingale is very aware of that, as she recalls that “the angry man is seldom a good pleader” (ll.  143 – 144).


On such evidence, Atkins states that the structure of The Owl And The Nightingale “has been modelled on that of contemporary law-suits”.


Incidences on the debate


He does not say anything, however, about the purpose of such a design by the writer.  We can only surmise, as some critics have, that the poem could be a display of the author’s skills in legal procedure, a sort of publicity gambit in order to get a good position, probably in an ecclesiastical court – provided we admit Nicholas of Guildford and the writer are the same person.  Such a structure could have had an important incidence on the debate in that it forced the author to have each bird display all possible legal devices and tricks, thus influencing the characters’ speeches.


Outline of J.W.H.  Atkin’s theory


Common basic structure of debates in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries:


a)    Introductory description.

b)    Dispute with reference to classical masters (Virgil, Ovid)

c)    Closing reference to a formal judgment.


Atkin’s proposal:  The Owl And The Nightingale structured as a lawsuit:


a)    Introductory description (ll. 1 – 28)

b)   Nightingale as plaintiff and Owl as defendant (ll.  33 – 542):


-    Charge of the Nightingale as plaintiff (ll.  33 – 40)

-    Use of “witness” (oath-helper, compurgator):  proverbs to assert her case (ll.  55 – 138)

-    Owls as defendant denies charges (ll. 46 – 54)

-    Owls proposes to use force of arms (ll. 150 – 152)

-    Nightingale refuses.  There will be a formal legal debate (ll.  153 – 186)

-    They both agree on Nicholas of Guildford as referee (ll. 187 – 214)

-    Formal debate (part I):  Nightingale as plaintiff proceeds with charge with the help of “witness” (quotes from Alfred); Owl as defendant also uses Alfred as “witness” (ll. 215 – 542).


c)    Right of exceptio by the Owl and right of replicatio by the Nightingale (ll. 543 – 1705)


-     (Debate part II):  Nightingale wants to continue the debate (ll.  543 – 548).  Owl uses right of exceptio, i.e. the defendant charges the plaintiff, who defends herself with the right of replicatio (ll.  543 – 1705)


d)   Closing reference to a formal judgment by Nicholas of Guildford (ll. 1729 – 1794)


-     Wren advises for legal judgment (ll.  1729 – 1738)

-     Plaintiff and defendant agree to do so before Nicholas of Guildford (ll.  1739 – 1794)



  1. II.            Michael A. Witt’s theory (from his article “The Owl And The Nightingale and English Law Court Procedures of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries”, Chaucer Review 16 (1982):  282 – 292.)


Michael A. Witt agrees with Atkins in saying that there are elements in The Owl And The Nightingale inspired by legal procedure, but he insists they do not prove much except that the poet was familiar with legal terminology and procedure.


Witt points out that at that time, in England, co-existed secular law, ecclesiastical law (canon law) and a growing royal law in the twelfth century, during King Henry II’s reign (1154 – 1189), which makes it difficult to generalize on law at the time.


Furthermore, he notices that Atkins took legal words for granted in the poem, thought they are sometimes used in a broader sense:  for instance, tale may mean “charge”, but the author has not restricted its meaning to this particular use – on line 140 and 1740, it means “discourse”, on line 190, “discussion”, and on line 3, it indicates “debate”.


He also argues that the Owl, before the debate, actually denies the Nightingale’s charge (ll. 46 – 54); he doubts the Owl proposes the use of the force of arms in the case (ll.  150 – 152), because the text is not clear about any denial.


Finally, Witt opposes the theory that The Owl And The Nightingale is structured in the four ‘legal’ parts Atkins had suggested in relation to contemporary lawsuits (i.e. the charge, the defense, the exceptio and the replicatio, as seen before).  For Witt, the defense of the Owl does not clearly correspond to the Nightingale’s charge, and the Nightingale’s replicatio does not fit exactly the Owls exceptio.


Witt insists that the poem focuses on the birds and not on law-court procedure – instead, he proposes a diagram of the structure of the poem that emphasizes each bird’s contribution to the debate, so as to show the parallel answers of the two birds, each using biased arguments and flawed argumentation;  in the end, he suggests, though there is a definite legal flavour to the debate, one should not get blinded by it;  one should rather consider the poem as merely an amusing description of two squabbling birds.


Incidences on the debate


This parallelism between each bird’s speech creates a sort of emulation for the two debaters:  each will try to counter the other’s assertions by bringing up new arguments till they finally agree on seeking impartial judgment from Nicholas of Guildford, even though the Nightingale claims to be the winner on technical grounds.


Outline of Michael A. Witt’s theory


-       Prologue (ll.  1 – 32)

-       Nightingale’s attacks (ll.  33 – 40;  56 – 138;  153 – 176)

-       Proposal to debate (ll.  177 – 214)




1st speech (ll.  217 – 252)

1st speech (ll.  255 – 390)

2nd speech (ll. 411 – 466)

2nd speech (ll. 473 – 542)


Heated exchange (ll. 543 – 555)




3rd speech (ll.  556 – 658)

3rd speech (ll.  707 – 836)

4th speech (ll.  837 – 932)

4th speech (ll.  955 – 1042)

5th speech (ll.  1045 – 1066)

5th speech (ll.  1075 – 1174)

6th speech (ll.  1177 – 1290)

6th speech (ll.  1298 – 1510)

7th speech (ll.  1515 – 1634)

7th speech (ll.  1638 – 1652)


-       Arrival of Wren

-       Conclusion


Exact parallelism:  Witt notes it coincides with each bird’s arguments, argumentation and rhetoric (for instance:  quotes of proverbs from Alfred).


Focus on birds and not on law procedure.  Result:  an amusing description of two squabbling birds.


III.  Kathryn Hume’s proposal (from her article “Structure and Sequential Impact”, The Owl And The Nightingale, The Poem And Its Critics, TorontoUniversity of Toronto Press, 1975).                      


For Kathryn Hume the aim of the poem is merely to be a “burlesque satire on human contentiousness”.  She comes to this conclusion by analysing closely its structure, which she divides into four different narrative units that build up to make the poem a satire by getting the readers to focus on different levels.


The first narrative unit she distinguishes (ll.  1 – 214) is centered on the birds:  they are introduced by a narrator, who separates the readers from the actual characters – the narrator creates a distance between us and the birds, which has us believe the debate will only describe two stupid birds angry at one another.  Moreover, the narrator uses past tenses (“was”, ll.  1 + 5; “sval”, l.  7; “seide”, l.  9) which emphasizes the distance in the past:  we feel we are going to be told a curious story the narrator once witnessed.


The second narrative unit (ll.  214 – 548) aims, according to Hume, at creating in the readers an intellectual interest in the debate:  the narrator is no longer present, and we are brought into each of the bird’s arguments – we start to be interested by the way they each answer one another, although their arguments are neither serious nor convincing.


The third narrative unit (ll.  549 – 1652) Hume outlines becomes more serious as to the themes that are dealt with:  adultery, prophecy, witchcraft and death.  The two birds discuss how each has suffered from men, and we can fell the human dimension of those discussions – Kathryn Hume thinks this part is aimed at arousing in ourselves an emotional response to the bird’s pleading.


The fourth narrative unit (ll.  1653 – 1794) then, resembles the first:  a narrator concludes the poem, thus taking us away from the world of the two birds.


Incidences on the debate


Kathryn Hume’s theory is that these four parts play on the reader’s involvement in the poem in order to reach its final goal:  to satirize human contentiousness.  The first and the final narrative unit one have us stand outside the birds’ debate because of the distance created by the narrator’s presence.  The two central parts have us focusing on the two birds and forgetting that it is just a story – this change of focus gives the satire its power:  the conclusion occurs only once we are intellectually and emotionally taken in by the debate.  We then realize the poem could well be a portrait of each reader as a vain bird trying to make a point.  In order for the poem to work as a satire, suggests Hume, the reader needs to be involved in the debate, and then to show him that he was involved in it – it is then up to him to draw the moral of it all.


Outline of Kathryn Hume’s theory


1.  First narrative unit (ll.  1 – 214)


Presentation of the birds by a narrator;   violent and futile quarrelling of the birds (distance:  the readers feel it is just a story collected by a poet).


2.  Second narrative unit (ll.  214 – 548)


Debating of the birds:  development of their respective arguments; scarce presence of the narrator (no distance:  intellectual response to the birds’ argumentation)


3.  Third narrative unit (ll.  549 – 1652)


Debating of the birds:  evocation of adultery, prophecy, witchcraft, death (climax);  scarce presence of narrator (no distance:  emotional response to important topics).


4.  Fourth narrative unit (ll.  549 – 1652)


Violent quarrelling; intervention of the Wren;  conclusion by the narrator (distance again).


Result:  a burlesque satire on human contentiousness.



As is obvious, there is no ready-made structure or theory applicable to The Owl And The Nightingale, because each reader has his own conception of what the poem actually means, and this conception modifies the way he looks at its structure.


In an interview, Umberto Eco was saying (about The Name Of The Rose) that his book was not finished yet, that it had just begun its independent life;  readers, critics, theoreticians would change it, time would mould it, perhaps it would fall into oblivion and then be re-discovered.  He was declining any responsibility as to the future meaning of his book.


This comparative study, with its many unanswered questions (what is the structure of The Owl And The Nightingale?) illustrates what Eco was philosophizing about; we will probably never know the original intention of the author:  what he meant to express is mystery to us.  All we are left with is a poem whose beauty partly lies in its very mystery and ambiguity.


©Sergio Belluz, 2015.




ATKINS, J.W.H., The Owl And The Nightingale, New York:  Russel & Russel, 1971.


CARSON, M.A., “Rhetorical Structure in The Owl And The Nightingale”, Journal of English and Germanic Philology 66 (1967):  207 – 229.


HUME, Kathryn, The Owl And The Nightingale, The Poem And Its Critics, TorontoUniversity of Toronto Press, 1975.


MURPHY, James J., “Rhetoric in Early Middle English:  Rhetoric and Dialectic in the The Owl And The Nightingale”, in Medieval Eloquence:  Studies In The Theaory And Practise Of Medieval Rhetoric, J.J.  Murphy ed., BerkeleyUniversity of California Press (1978):  pp.  198 – 230.


REALE, Nancy M., “Rhetorical Strategies in The Owl And The Nightingale”, Philological Quarterly 63 (1984):  pp.  417 – 429.


WITT, Michael A., “The Owl And The Nightingale and English Law Court Procedures of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries”, Chaucer Review 16 (1982):  pp.  282 – 292.



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The Owl and the Nightingale (circa 1210) - original text in Middle English.

T h e   O w l a n d   t h e  N i g h t i n g a l e  (Bibliotheca Augustana)


[A critical study of this poem is available on the page The Owl and the Nightingale: a comparative critical approach]


Ich was in one sumere dale,
in one suthe diyhele hale,
iherde ich holde grete tale
an hule and one niyhtingale.
5That plait was stif & starc & strong,
sum wile softe & lud among;
an aither ayhen other sval,
& let that [vue]le mod ut al.
& either seide of otheres custe
10that alre-worste that hi wuste:
& hure & hure of othere[s] songe
hi holde plaiding suthe stronge.

The niyhtingale bigon the speche,
in one hurne of one breche, 
15& sat up one vaire boyhe,
- thar were abute blosme inoyhe,-
in ore waste thicke hegge
imeind mid spire & grene segge.
Ho was the gladur uor the rise,
20& song auele cunne wise:
[b]et thuyhte the dreim that he were
of harpe & pipe than he nere:
bet thuyhte that he were ishote
of harpe & pipe than of throte.

25[Th]o stod on old stoc thar biside,
thar tho vle song hire tide,
& was mid iui al bigrowe;
hit was thare hule earding-stowe.

[Th]e niyhtingale hi iseyh,
30& hi bihold & ouerseyh,
& thuyhte wel [vu]l of thare hule,
for me hi halt lodlich & fule.
"Vnwiyht," ho sede, "awei thu flo!
me is the w[u]rs that ich the so. 
f233r2Iwis for thine [vu]le lete, 
wel [oft ich] mine song forlete; 
min horte atflith & falt mi tonge,
wonne thu art [to me] ithrunge.
Me luste bet speten thane singe
40of thine fule yhoyhelinge."

Thos hule abod fort hit was eve,
ho ne miyhte no leng bileue,
vor hire horte was so gret
that wel neyh hire fnast atschet,
45& warp a word thar-after longe;
"Hu thincthe nu bi mine songe?
We\nst thu that ich ne cunne singe,
theyh ich ne cunne of writelinge?
Ilome thu dest me grame,
50& seist me [bothe tone] & schame.
Yhif ich the holde on mine uote,
(so hit bitide that ich mote!)
& thu were vt of thine rise,
thu sholdest singe an other w[i]se."

55The niyhtingale yhaf answare:
"Yhif ich me loki wit the bare,
& me schilde wit the blete,
ne reche ich noyht of thine threte; 
yhif ich me holde in mine hegge,
60ne recche ich neuer what thu segge.
Ich wot that thu art unmilde
with hom that ne muyhe from [th]e schilde;
& thu tukest wrothe & vuele,
whar thu miyht, over smale fuyhele.
65Vorthi thu art loth al fuel-kunne,
& alle ho the driueth honne,
& the bischricheth & bigredet,
& wel narewe the biledet; 
f233v1& ek forthe the sulue mose,
70hire thonkes, wolde the totose.
thu art lodlich to biholde,
& thu art loth in monie volde;
thi bodi is short, thi swore is smal,
grettere is thin heued than thu al;
75thin eyhene both col-blake & brode,
riyht swo ho weren ipeint mid wode;
thu starest so thu wille abiten
al that thu mi[yh]t mid cliure smiten:
thi bile is stif & scharp & hoked,
80riyht so an owel that is croked;
thar-mid thu clackes[t] oft & longe,
& that is on of thine songe.
Ac thu thretest to mine fleshe,
mid thine cliures woldest me meshe.
85the were icundur to one frogge
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
snailes, mus, & fule wiyhte,
both thine cunde & thine riyhte.
Thu sittest adai & fliyh[s]t aniyht,
90thu cuthest that thu art on vnwiyht.
Thu art lodlich & unclene,
bi thine neste ich hit mene,
& ek bi thine fule brode,
thu fedest on hom a wel ful fode.
95Vel wostu that hi doth tharinne,
hi fuleth hit up to the chinne:
ho sitteth thar so hi bo bisne.
Tharbi men segget a uorbisne:
"Dahet habbe that ilke best
100that fuleth his owe nest."
That other yher a faukun bredde;
his nest noyht wel he ne bihedde:
tharto thu stele in o dai, 
f233v2& leidest tharon thi fole ey.
105Tho hit bicom that he hayhte,
& of his eyre briddes wrayhte;
ho broyhte his briddes mete,
bihold his nest, iseyh hi ete: 
he iseyh bi one halue
110his nest ifuled uthalue.
The faucun was wroth wit his bridde,
& lude yhal & sterne chidde:
"Segget me, wo hauet this ido?
Ov nas neuer icunde tharto:
115hit was idon ov a loth[e] [cu]ste.
Segge[th] me yhif yhe hit wiste."
Tho quath that on & quad that other:
"Iwis it was ure oyher brother,
the yhond that haue[th] that grete heued:
120wai that hi[t] nis tharof bireued!
Worp hit ut mid the alre-[vu]rste
that his necke him to-berste!"
The faucun ilefde his bridde,
& nom that fule brid amidde,
125& warp hit of than wilde bowe,
thar pie & crowe hit todrowe.
Herbi men segget a bispel,
theyh hit ne bo fuliche spel;
al so hit is bi than ungode
130that is icumen of fule brode, 
& is meind wit fro monne,
euer he cuth that he com thonne,
that he com of than adel-eye,
theyh he a fro nest[e] leie.
135theyh appel trendli fro[m] thon trowe,
thar he & other mid growe,
theyh he bo thar-from bicume, 
f234r1he cuth wel whonene he is icume."

Thos word ayhaf the niyhtingale,
140& after thare longe tale
he song so lude & so scharpe,
riyht so me grulde schille harpe.
Thos hule luste thiderward,
& hold hire eyhe notherwa[r]d,
145& sat tosvolle & ibolwe,
also ho hadde one frogge isuolyhe:
for ho wel wiste & was iwar
that ho song hire a-bisemar.
& notheles ho yha[f] andsuare,
150"Whi neltu flon into the bare, 
& sewi [w]are unker bo
of briyhter howe, of uairur blo?"
"No, thu hauest wel scharpe clawe,
ne kepich noyht that thu me clawe.
155thu hauest cliuers suthe stronge,
thu tuengst thar-mid so doth a tonge.
Thu thoyhtest, so doth thine ilike,
mid faire worde me biswike.
Ich nolde don that thu me raddest,
160ich wiste wel that thu me misraddest.
Schamie the for thin unrede!
Vnwroyhen is thi svikelhede!
Schild thine svikeldom vram the liyhte,
& hud that woyhe amon[g] the riyhte.
165Thane thu wilt thin unriyht spene,
loke that hit ne bo isene:
vor svikedom haue[th] schome & hete,
yhif hit is ope & underyhete.
Ne speddestu noyht mid thine unwrenche,
170for ich am war & can wel blenche.
Ne helpth noyht that thu bo to [th]riste: 
f234r2ich wolde viyhte bet mid liste 
than thu mid al thine strengthe.
Ich habbe, on brede & eck on lengthe,
175castel god on mine rise:
"Wel fiyht that wel fliyht," seith the wise.
Ac lete we awei thos cheste,
vor suiche wordes both unw[re]ste;
& fo we on mid riyhte dome,
180mid faire worde & mid ysome.
Theyh we ne bo at one acorde,
we m[a]yhe bet mid fayre worde,
witute cheste, & bute fiyhte,
plaidi mid foyhe & mid riyhte:
185& mai hure either wat h[e] wile
mid riyhte segge & mid sckile."

Tho quath the hule "[W]u schal us seme,
that kunne & wille riyht us deme?"
"Ich wot wel" quath the niyhtingale,
190"Ne tharef tharof bo no tale.
Maister Nichole of Guldeforde,
he is wis an war of worde:
he is of dome suthe gleu,
& him is loth eurich untheu. 
195He wot insiyht in eche songe,
wo singet wel, wo singet wronge:
& he can schede vrom the riyhte
that woyhe, that thuster from the liyhte."

Tho hule one wile hi bithoyhte,
200& after than this word upbroyhte:
"Ich granti wel that he us deme,
vor theyh he were wile breme,
& lof him were niyhtingale,
& other wiyhte gente & smale,
205ich wot he is nu suthe acoled. 
f234v1Nis he vor the noyht afoled,
that he, for thine olde luue,
me adun legge & the buue:
ne schaltu neure so him queme,
210that he for the fals dom deme.
He is him ripe & fast-rede,
ne lust him nu to none unrede:
nu him ne lust na more pleie,
he wile gon a riyhte weie."
215The niyhtingale was al yhare,
ho hadde ilorned wel aiware:
"Hule," ho sede, "seie me soth,
wi dostu that unwiyhtis doth?
thu singist aniyht & noyht adai,
220& al thi song is wailawai. 
Thu miyht mid thine songe afere
alle that ihereth thine ibere:
thu sch[ri]chest & yhollest to thine fere,
that hit is grislich to ihere:
225hit thinche[th] bothe wise & snepe
noyht that thu singe, ac that thu wepe.
Thu fliyhst aniyht & noyht adai:
tharof ich w[u]ndri & wel mai.
vor eurich thing that schuniet riyht,
230hit luueth thuster & hatiet liyht:
& eurich thing that is lof misdede,
hit luueth thuster to his dede.
A wis word, theyh hit bo unclene,
is fele manne a-muthe imene,
235for Alured King hit seide & wrot:
"He schunet that hine [vu]l wot."
Ich wene that thu dost also,
vor thu fliyhst niyhtes euer mo.
An other thing me is a-wene, 
f234v2thu hauest aniyht wel briyhte sene; 
bi daie thu art stare-blind,
that thu ne sichst ne bov ne strind. 
Adai thu art blind other bisne,
tharbi men segget a uorbisne:
245"Riyht so hit farth bi than ungode
that noyht ne suth to none gode,
& is so ful of vuele wrenche
that him ne mai no man atprenche,
& can wel thane thu[str]e wai,
250& thane briyhte lat awai."
So doth that both of thine cunde,
of liyhte nabbeth hi none imunde."

Thos hule luste suthe longe,
& was oftoned suthe stronge:
255ho quath "Thu [h]attest niyhtingale,
thu miyhtest bet hoten galegale, 
vor thu hauest to monie tale.
Lat thine tunge habbe spale!
Thu wenest that thes dai bo thin oyhe:
260lat me nu habbe mine throyhe:
bo nu stille & lat me speke,
ich wille bon of the awreke.
& lust hu ich con me bitelle,
mid riyhte sothe, witute spelle.
265Thu seist that ich me hude adai,
tharto ne segge ich nich ne nai:
& lust ich telle the wareuore,
al wi hit is & wareuore.
Ich habbe bile stif & stronge,
270& gode cliuers scharp & longe,
so hit bicumeth to hauekes cunne;
hit is min hiyhte, hit is mi w[u]nne,
that ich me drayhe to mine cunde, 
f235r1ne mai [me] no man thareuore schende :
275on me hit is wel isene,
vor riyhte cunde ich am so kene.
Vorthi ich am loth smale foyhle
that floth bi grunde an bi thuuele: 
hi me bichermet & bigredeth,
280& hore flockes to [m]e ledeth.
Me is lof to habbe reste
& sitte stille in mine neste:
vor nere ich neuer no the betere,
[yh]if ich mid chauling & mid chatere
285hom schende & mid fule worde,
so herdes doth other mid schit-worde.
Ne lust me wit the screwen chide;
forthi ich wende from hom wide.
Hit is a wise monne dome,
290& hi hit segget wel ilome,
that me ne chide wit the gidie,
ne wit than ofne me ne yhonie.
At sume sithe herde [I] telle
hu Alured sede on his spelle:
295"Loke that thu ne bo thare
thar chauling both & cheste yhare:
lat sottes chide & uorth thu go."
& ich am wis & do also.
yhet Alured seide an other side
300a word that is isprunge wide:
"That wit the fule haueth imene,
ne cumeth he neuer from him cleine."
Wenestu that haueck bo the worse
thoyh crowe bigrede him bi the mershe, 
305& goth to him mid hore chirme
riyht so hi wille wit him schirme?
The hauec folyheth gode rede, 
f235r2& fliyht his wei & lat him grede."

"Yhet thu me seist of other thinge,
310& telst that ich ne can noyht singe,
ac al mi rorde is woning,
& to ihire grislich thing.
That nis noyht soth, ich singe efne,
mid fulle dreme & lude stefne.
315Thu wenist that ech song bo grislich,
that thine pipinge nis ilich.
Mi stefne is [bold] & noyht unorne,
ho is ilich one grete horne,
& thin is ilich one pipe,
320of one smale wode unripe.
Ich singe bet than thu dest:
thu chaterest so doth on Irish prost.
Ich singe an eue a riyhte time,
& soththe won hit is bed-time,
325the thridde sithe a[t] middel-niyhte:
& so ich mine song adiyhte
wone ich iso arise vorre
other dai-rim other dai-sterre.
Ich do god mid mine throte,
330& warni men to hore note.
Ac thu singest alle longe niyht,
from eue fort hit is dai-liyht,
& eure seist thin o song
so longe so the niyht is long: 
335& eure croweth thi wrecche crei,
that he ne swiketh niyht ne dai.
Mid thine pipinge thu adunest
thas monnes earen thar thu wunest,
& makest thine song so unw[u]rth
340tha[t] me ne telth of thar noyh[t] w[u]rth.
Eurich muryhthe mai so longe ileste 
f235v1that ho shal liki wel unwreste:
vor harpe, & pipe, & fuyheles [song]
misliketh, yhif hit is to long.
345Ne bo the song neuer so murie,
that he ne shal thinche wel unmurie
yhef he ilesteth ouer unwille:
so thu miyht thine song aspille.
Vor hit is soth, Alured hit seide,
350& me hit mai ine boke rede:
"Eurich thing mai losen his godhede
mid unmethe & mid ouerdede."
Mid este thu the miyht ouerquatie,
& ouerfulle maketh wlatie: 
355an eurich mureyhthe mai agon
yhif me hit halt eure forth in on,
bute one, that is Godes riche,
that eure is svete & eure iliche:
theyh thu nime eure o[f] than lepe,
360hit is eure ful bi hepe.
Wunder hit is of Godes riche,
that eure spenth & euer is iliche.

yhut thu me seist an other shome,
that ich a[m] on mine eyhen lome,
365an seist, for that ich flo bi niyhte,
that ich ne mai iso bi liyhte.
Thu liest! on me hit is isene
that ich habbe gode sene:
vor nis non so dim thusternesse
370that ich euer iso the lasse.
Thu wenest that ich ne miyhte iso,
vor ich bi daie noyht ne flo.
The hare luteth al dai,
ac notheles iso he mai.
375Yhif hundes urneth to him-ward, 
f235v2[h]e gength wel suithe awai-ward,
& hoketh pathes svithe narewe,
& haueth mid him his blenches yharewe,
& hupth & star[t] suthe coue,
380an secheth pathes to the groue:
ne sholde he uor bothe his eyhe
so don, yhif he the bet niseyhe. 
Ich mai ison so wel so on hare,
theyh ich bi daie sitte an dare.
385Thar ayhte men [both] in worre,
an fareth bothe ner an forre,
an oueruareth fele [th]ode,
an doth bi niyhte gode node,
ich folyhi than ayhte manne,
390an flo bi niyhte in hore banne."

The niyhtingale in hire thoyhte
athold al this, & longe thoyhte
wat ho tharafter miyhte segge:
vor ho ne miyhte noyht alegge
395that the hule hadde hire ised,
vor he spac bothe riyht an red.
An hire ofthuyhte that ho hadde
the speche so for uorth iladde,
an was oferd that hire answare
400ne w[u]rthe noyht ariyht ifare.
Ac notheles he spac boldeliche,
vor he is wis that hardeliche
with is uo berth grete ilete,
that he uor areyhthe hit ne forlete: 
405vor suich worth bold yhif thu [fliyhst],
that w[u]le flo yhif thu \nisvicst;
yhif he isith that thu nart areyh,
he wile of [bore] w[u]rchen bareyh.
& forthi, theyh the niyhtingale 
f236r1were aferd, ho spac bolde tale. 

"[H]ule" ho seide " wi dostu so?
thu singest a-winter wolawo!
thu singest so doth hen a-snowe,
al that ho singeth hit is for wowe.
415A-wintere thu singest wrothe & yhomere,
an eure thu art dumb a-sumere.
Hit is for thine fule nithe
that thu ne miyht mid us bo blithe,
vor thu forbernest wel neyh for onde
420wane ure blisse cumeth to londe.
thu farest so doth the ille,
evrich blisse him is unwille:
grucching & luring him both rade,
yhif he isoth that men both glade. 
425He wolde that he iseyhe
teres in evrich monnes eyhe:
ne royhte he theyh flockes were
imeind bi toppes & bi here.
Al so thu dost on thire side:
430vor wanne snov lith thicke & wide,
an alle wiyhtes habbeth soryhe,
thu singest from eue fort a-moryhe.
Ac ich alle blisse mid me bringe:
ech wiyht is glad for mine thinge,
435& blisseth hit wanne ich cume,
& hiyhteth ayhen mine kume.
The blostme ginneth springe & sprede,
bothe ine tro & ek on mede.
The lilie mid hire faire wlite
440wolcumeth me, that thu hit w[i]te,
bit me mid hire faire blo
that ich shulle to hire flo. 
The rose also mid hire rude, 
f236r2that cumeth ut of the thorne wode,
445bit me that ich shulle singe
vor hire luue one skentinge:
& ich so do thuryh niyht & dai,
the more ich singe the more I mai,
an skente hi mid mine songe,
450ac notheles noyht ouerlonge;
wane ich iso that men both glade,
ich nelle that hi bon to sade:
than is ido vor wan ich com,
ich fare ayhen & do wisdom.
455Wane mon hoyheth of his sheue,
an falewi cumeth on grene leue,
ich fare hom & nime leue:
ne recche ich noyht of winteres reue.
wan ich iso that cumeth that harde,
460ich fare hom to min erde,
an habbe bothe luue & thonc
that ich her com & hider swonk.
Than min erende is ido,
sholde ich bileue? nai, [w]arto?
465vor he nis nother yhep ne wis,
that longe abid thar him nod nis."

Thos hule luste, & leide an hord
al this mot, word after word,
an after thoyhte hu he miyhte
470ansvere uinde best mid riyhte:
vor he mot hine ful wel bithenche,
that is aferd of plaites wrenche.

"Thv aishest me," the hule sede,
"wi ich a-winter singe & grede. 
475Hit is gode monne iwone,
an was from the worlde frome,
that ech god man his frond icnowe, 
f236v1an blisse mid hom sume throwe
in his huse at his borde,
480mid faire speche & faire worde.
& hure & hure to Cristesmasse,
thane riche & poure, more & lasse,
singeth cundut niyht & dai,
ich hom helpe what ich mai.
485& ek ich thenche of other thinge
thane to pleien other to singe.
Ich habbe herto gode ansuare
anon iredi & al yhare:
vor sumeres-tide is al to [w]lonc,
490an doth misreken monnes thonk:
vor he ne recth noyht of clennesse,
al his thoyht is of golnesse:
vor none dor no leng nabideth,
ac eurich upon other rideth:
495the sulue stottes ine the stode
both bothe wilde & mere-wode.
& thu sulf art thar-among,
for of golnesse is al thi song,
an ayhen thet thu w[i]lt teme,
500thu art wel modi & wel breme.
Sone so thu hau[e]st itrede,
ne miyhtu leng a word iquethe,
ac pipest al so doth a mose,
mid chokeringe, mid steune hose. 
505yhet thu singst worse thon the heisugge,
[th]at fliYhth bi grunde among the stubbe:
wane thi lust is ago,
thonne is thi song ago also.
A-sumere chorles awedeth
510& uorcrempeth & uorbredeth:
hit nis for luue notheles,
ac is the chorles wode res; 
f236v2vor wane he haueth ido his dede,
ifallen is al his boldhede,
515habbe he istunge under gore,
ne last his luue no leng more.
Al so hit is on thine mode:
so sone so thu sittest a-brode,
thu forlost al thine wise.
520Al so thu farest on thine rise:
wane thu hauest ido thi gome,
thi steune goth anon to shome.
Ac [w]ane niyhtes cumeth longe,
& b[r]ingeth forstes starke an stronge,
525thanne erest hit is isene
war is the snelle, [w]ar is the kene.
At than harde me mai auinde
[w]o geth forth, wo lith bihinde.
Me mai ison at thare node,
530[w]an me shal harde wike bode; 
thanne ich am snel & pleie & singe,
& hiyhte me mid mi skentinge:
of none wintere ich ne recche,
vor ich nam non asv[u]nde wrecche.
535& ek ich frouri uele wiyhte
that mid hom nabbe[th] none miyhtte:
hi both hoyhfule & uel arme,
an secheth yhorne to the warme;
oft ich singe uor hom the more
540for lutli sum of hore sore.
Hu thincth the? artu yhut inume?
Artu mid riyhte ouercume?"

"Nay, nay!" sede the niyhtingale,
" thu shalt ihere another tale:
545yhet nis thos speche ibroyht to dome. 
f237r1Ac bo wel stille, & lust nu to me
ich shal mid one bare worde
do that thi speche [wurth] forworthe."

"That nere noht riyht" the hule sede,
550"thu hauest bicloped al so thu bede, 
an ich the habbe iyhiue ansuare.
Ac ar we to unker dome fare,
ich wille speke toward the
al so thu speke toward me;
555an thu me ansuare yhif thu miyht.
Seie me nu, thu wrecche wiyht,
is in the eni other note
bute thu hauest schille throte?
Thu nart noyht to non other thinge,
560bute thu canst of chateringe:
vor thu art lutel an unstrong,
an nis thi regel nothing long.
Wat dostu godes among monne?
Na mo the deth a w[re]cche wranne.
565Of the ne cumeth non other god,
bute thu gredest suich thu bo wod:
an bo thi piping ouergo,
ne both on the craftes namo.
Alured sede, that was wis:
570(he miyhte wel, for soth hit is,)
"Nis no man for is bare songe
lof ne w[u]rth noyht suthe longe:
vor that is a forworthe man
that bute singe noyht ne can."
575Thu nart bute on forworthe thing:
on the nis bute chatering.
Thu art dim an of fule howe,
an thinchest a lutel soti clowe. 
Thu nart fair, no thu nart strong, 
f237r2ne thu nart thicke, ne thu nart long: 
thu hauest imist al of fairhede,
an lutel is al thi godede.
An other thing of the ich mene,
thu nart vair ne thu nart clene.
585Wane thu comest to manne hayhe,
thar thornes both & ris idrayhe,
bi hegge & bi thicke wode,
thar men goth oft to hore node,
tharto thu drayhst, tharto thu w[u]nest,
590an other clene stede thu schunest.
Than ich flo niyhtes after muse,
I mai the uinde ate rum-huse;
among the wode, among the netle,
thu sittest & singst bihinde the setle:
595thar me mai the ilomest finde,
thar men worpeth hore bihinde.
Yhet thu atuitest me mine mete,
an seist that ich fule wiyhtes ete.
Ac wat etestu, that thu ne liyhe,
600bute attercoppe & fule ulige,
an wormes, yhif thu miyhte finde
among the uolde of harde rinde?
Yhet ich can do wel gode wike,
vor ich can loki manne wike:
605an mine wike both wel gode,
vor ich helpe to manne uode.
Ich can nimen mus at berne,
an ek at chirche ine the derne:
vor me is lof to Cristes huse,
610to clansi hit with fule muse,
ne schal thar neure come to
ful wiyht, yhif ich hit mai iuo. 
An yhif me lust one mi skentinge 
f237v1to wernen other w[u]nienge,
615ich habbe at wude tron wel grete,
mit thicke boyhe nothing blete,
mid iui grene al bigrowe,
that eure stont iliche iblowe,
an his hou neuer ne uorlost,
620wan hit sniuw ne wan hit frost.
Tharin ich habbe god ihold,
a-winter warm, a -sumere cold.
Wane min hus stont briyht & grene,
of thine nis nothing isene.
625Yhet thu me telst of other thinge,
of mine briddes seist gabbinge,
that hore nest nis noyht clene.
Hit is fale other wiyhte imene:
vor hors a-stable & oxe a-stalle
630[d]oth al that hom wule thar falle.
An lutle children in the cradele,
bothe chorles an ek athele,
[d]oth al that in hore yhoethe
that hi uorleteth in hore duyhethe.
635Wat! can that yhongling hit bihede?
Yhif hit misdeth, hit mo[t] nede:
a uorbisne is of olde i[vu]rne,
[th]at node maketh old wif urne. 
An yhet ich habbe an other andsware:
640wiltu to mine neste uare
an loki hu hit is idiyht?
Yhif thu art wis lorni thu [miyht]:
mi nest is holyh & rum amidde,
so hit is softest mine bridde.
645Hit is broiden al abute,
vrom the neste uor withute:
tharto hi go[th] to hore node, 
f237v2ac that thu menest ich hom forbode.
We nimeth yheme of manne bure,
650an after than we maketh ure:
men habbet, among other i[h]ende,
a rum-hus at hore bures ende,
vor that hi nelleth to uor go,
an mine briddes doth al so.
655Site nu stille, chaterestre!
nere thu neuer ibunde uastre:
herto ne uindestu neuer andsware.
Hong up thin ax! nu thu miyht fare!"
The niyhtingale at thisse worde

660was wel neyh ut of rede iworthe,
an thoyhte yhorne on hire mode
yhif ho oyht elles understode,
yhif ho kuthe oyht bute singe,
that miyhte helpe to other thinge. 
665Herto ho moste andswere uinde,
other mid alle bon bihinde:
an hit is suthe strong to fiyhte
ayhen soth & ayhen riyhte.
He mot gon to al mid ginne,
670than the horte both on [w]inne:
an the man mot on other segge,
he mot bihemmen & bilegge,
yhif muth withute mai biwro
that me the horte noyht niso:
675an sone mai a word misreke
thar muth shal ayhen horte speke;
an sone mai a word misstorte
thar muth shal speken ayhen horte.
Ac notheles yhut upe thon,
680her is to red wo hine kon:
vor neuer nis wit so kene 
f238r1so thane red him is a-wene.
thanne erest kume[th] his yhephede
wone hit is alre-mest on drede:
685for Aluered seide of olde quide,
an yhut hit nis of horte islide:
"Wone the bale is alre-hecst,
thonne is the bote alre-necst"; 
vor wit west among his sore,
690an for his sore hit is the more.
Vorthi nis neuere mon redles
ar his horte bo witles:
ac yhif that he forlost his wit,
thonne is his red-purs al to-slit;
695yhif he ne kon his wit atholde,
ne uint he red in one uolde.
Vor Alur[e]d seide, that wel kuthe,
eure he spac mid sothe muthe:
"Wone the bale is alre-hecst,
700thanne is the bote alre-nest."

The niyhtingale al hire hoyhe
mid rede hadde wel bitoyhe;
among the harde, among the toyhte,
ful wel mid rede hire bithoyhte,
705an hadde andsuere gode ifunde
among al hire harde stunde.

"[H]ule, thu axest me," ho seide,
"yhif ich kon eni other dede
bute singen in sume tide,
710an bringe blisse for & wide.
Wi axestu of craftes mine?
Betere is min on than alle thine,
betere is o song of mine muthe
than al that eure thi kun kuthe:
715an lust, ich telle the wareuore. 
f238r2Wostu to wan man was ibore?
To thare blisse of houene-riche,
thar euer is song & muryhthe iliche: 
thider fundeth eurich man
720that eni thing of gode kan.
Vorthi me singth in holi-chirche,
an clerkes ginneth songes wirche,
that man ithenche bi the songe
wider he shal, & thar bon longe:
725that he the muryhthe ne uoryhete,
ac tharof thenche & biyhete,
an nime yheme of chirche steuene,
hu murie is the blisse of houene.
Clerkes, munekes, & kanunes,
730thar both thos gode wicke-tunes,
ariseth up to midel-niyhte,
an singeth of the houene-liyhte:
an prostes upe londe singeth,
wane the liyht of daie springeth.
735An ich hom helpe wat I mai,
ich singe mid hom niyht & dai,
an ho both alle for me the gladdere,
an to the songe both the raddere.
Ich warni men to hore gode,
740that hi bon blithe on hore mode,
an bidde that hi moten iseche
than ilke song that euer is eche.
Nu thu miyht, hule, sitte & clinge:
her-among nis no chateringe:
745ich graunti that [w]e go to dome
tofore the [sulfe Pope] of Rome. 
Ac abid yhete, notheles,
thu shalt ihere an other [h]es;
ne shaltu, for Engelonde, 
f238v1at thisse worde me atstonde. 
Wi atuitestu me mine unstrengthe,
an mine ungrete & mine unlengthe,
an seist that ich nam noyht strong,
vor ich nam nother gret ne long?
755Ac thu nost neuer wat thu menst,
bute lese wordes thu me lenst:
for ich kan craft & ich kan liste,
an [th]areuore ich am thus thriste.
Ich kan wit & song man[t]eine,
760ne triste ich to non other maine:
vor soth hit is that seide Alured:
"Ne mai no strengthe ayhen red." 
Oft spet wel a lute liste,
thar muche strengthe sholde miste;
765mid lutle strengthe, thuryh ginne,
castel & buryh me mai iwinne.
Mid liste me mai walle[s] felle,
an worpe of horsse kniyhtes snelle.
Vuel strengthe is lutel wurth,
770. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
ac wisdom naueth non euening.
An hors is strengur than a mon;
ac for hit non iwit ne kon,
775hit berth on rugge grete semes,
an drayhth biuore grete temes, 
an tholeth bothe yherd & spure,
an stont iteid at mulne dure.
An hit deth that mon hit hot:
780an for than that hit no wit not,
ne mai his strenthe hit ishilde
that hit nabuyhth the lutle childe.
Mon deth, mid strengthe & mid witte,
that other thing nis non his fitte.
785Theyh alle strengthe at one were, 
f238v2monnes wit yhet more were;
vor the mon mid his crafte,
ouerkumeth al orthliche shafte.
Al so ich do mid mine one songe
790bet than thu al the yher longe:
vor mine crafte men me luuieth,
vor thine strengthe men the shunieth.
Telstu bi me the wurs for than
that ich bute anne craft ne kan?
795Yhif tueie men goth to wraslinge,
an either other faste thringe,
an the on can swenges suthe fele,
an kan his wrenches wel forhele,
an the other ne can sweng but anne,
800an the is god with eche manne,
an mid thon one leith to grunde
anne after other a lutle stunde,
[w]at tharf he recche of a mo swenge,
thone the on him is swo genge? 
805Th[u] seist that thu canst fele wike,
ac euer ich am thin unilike.
Do thine craftes alle togadere,
yhet is min on horte betere.
Oft than hundes foxes driueth,
810the kat ful wel him sulue liueth,
theyh he ne kunne wrench bute anne.
The fo[x] so godne ne can nanne,
the[yh] he kunne so uele wrenche,
that he wenth eche hunde atprenche.
815Vor he can pathes riyhte & woyhe,
an he kan hongi bi the boyhe,
an so forlost the hund his fore,
an turnth ayhen eft to than more.
The uox kan crope bi the heie, 
f239r1an turne ut from his forme weie, 
an eft sone kume tharto:
thonne is the hundes smel fordo:
he not, thur[yh] the imeinde smak,
wether he shal auorth the abak.
825Yhif the uox mist of al this dwole,
at than ende he cropth to hole: 
ac natheles mid alle his wrenche,
ne kan he hine so bithenche,
theyh he bo yhep an suthe snel,
830that he ne lost his rede uel.
The cat ne kan wrench bute anne
nother bi dune ne bi uenne:
bute he kan climbe suthe wel,
tharmid he wereth his greie uel.
835Al so ich segge bi mi solue,
betere is min on than thine twelue."

"Abid! abid!" the ule seide,
"thu gest al to mid swikelede:
alle thine wordes thu bileist
840that hit thincth soth al that thu seist;
alle thine wordes both isliked,
an so bisemed an biliked,
that alle tho that hi auoth,
hi weneth that thu segge soth.
845Abid! abid! me shal the yhene.
[N]u hit shal w[u]rthe wel isene
that thu hauest muchel iloyhe,
wone thi lesing both unwroyhe.
Thu seist that thu singist mankunne,
850& techest hom that hi fundieth honne
vp to the songe that eure ilest:
ac hit is alre w[u]nder mest,
that thu darst liyhe so opeliche. 
f239r2Wenest thu hi bringe so liyhtliche
855to Godes riche al singin[d]e?
Nai! nai! hi shulle wel auinde 
that hi mid longe wope mote
of hore sunnen bidde bote,
ar hi mote euer kume thare.
860Ich rede thi that men bo yhare,
an more wepe thane singe,
that fundeth to than houen-kinge:
vor nis no man witute sunne.
Vorthi he mot, ar he wende honne,
865mid teres an mid wope bete,
that him bo sur that er was swete.
Tharto ich helpe, God hit wot!
Ne singe i[c]h hom no foliot:
for al m[i] song is of longinge,
870an imend sumdel mid woninge,
that mon bi me hine bithenche
that he gro[ni] for his unwrenche:
mid mine songe ich hine pulte,
that he groni for his gulte.
875Yhif thu gest herof to disputinge,
ich wepe bet thane thu singe:
yhif riyht goth forth, & abak wrong,
betere is mi wop thane thi song.
Theyh sume men bo thuryhut gode,
880an thuryhut clene on hore mode,
ho[m] longeth honne notheles.
That both her, [w]o is hom thes:
vor theyh hi bon hom solue iboryhe,
hi ne soth her nowiyht bote sorwe.
885Vor other men hi wepeth sore,
an for hom biddeth Cristes ore. 
Ich helpe monne on either halue, 
f239v1mi muth haueth tweire kunne salue :
than gode ich fulste to longinge,
890vor than hi[m] longeth, ich him singe:
an than sunfulle ich helpe alswo,
vor ich him teche thare is wo.
Yhet ich the yhene in other wise:
vor thane thu sittest on thine rise,
895thu drayhst men to fleses luste,
that w[u]lleth thine songes luste.
Al thu forlost the muryhthe of houene,
for tharto neuestu none steuene :
al that thu singst is of golnesse,
900for nis on the non holinesse,
ne wene[th] na man for thi pipinge
that eni preost in chir[ch]e singe.
Yhet I the wulle an o[th]er segge,
yhif thu hit const ariht bilegge:
905[w]i nultu singe an o[th]er theode,
thar hit is muchele more neode?
Thu neauer ne singst in Irlonde,
ne thu ne cumest noyht in Scotlonde.
Hwi nultu fare to Noreweie,
910an singin men of Galeweie? 
Thar beodh men that lutel kunne
of songe that is bineodh the sunne.
Wi nultu thare preoste singe,
an teche of thire writelinge,
915an wisi hom mid thire steuene
hu engeles singedh ine heouene?
Thu farest so dodh an ydel wel
that springeth bi burue tha[t] is snel,
an let fordrue the dune,
920& flo[th] on idel thar adune.
Ac ich fare bothe north & s[u]th: 
f239v2in eauereuch londe ich am cuuth:
east & west, feor & neor,
I do wel faire mi meoster,
925an warni men mid mine bere,
that thi dweole-song heo ne forlere.
Ich wisse men mid min[e] songe,
that hi ne sunegi nowiht longe :
I bidde hom that heo iswike,
930that [heo] heom seolue ne biswike:
for betere is that heo wepen here,
than elles hwar [beon] deoulene fere."

The niyhtingale was igr[amed]
an ek heo was sum del of[s]chamed,
935for the hule hire atwiten hadde
in hwucche stude he sat an gradde,
bihinde the bure, among the wede,
thar men godh to here neode: 
an sat sum-del, & heo bithohte,
940an wiste wel on hire thohte
the wraththe binimeth monnes red.
For hit seide the king Alfred:
"Sel[d]e endedh wel the lothe,
an selde plaidedh wel the wrothe."
945For wraththe meinth the horte blod
that hit floweth so wilde flod,
an al the heorte ouergeth,
that heo naueth no thing bute breth,
an so forleost al hire liht,
950that heo ni sith soth ne riht.
The niyhtingale hi understod,
an ouergan lette hire mod:
he mihte bet speken a-sele
than mid wraththe wordes deale.
955"[H]ule," heo seide "lust nu hider: 
f240r1thu schalt falle, the wei is slider.
Thu seist ich fleo bihinde bure:
hit is riht, the bur is ure:
thar lauerd liggeth & lauedi,
960ich schal heom singe & sitte bi.
Wenstu that uise men forlete,
for fule venne, the riyhtte strete ?
ne sunne the later shine,
theyh hit bo ful ine nest[e] thine?
965Sholde ich, for one hole brede,
forlete mine riyhte stede, 
that ich ne singe bi the bedde,
thar louerd haueth his loue ibedde?
Hit is mi riyht, hit is mi layhe,
970tha[t] to the he[x]st ich me drayhe.
Ac yhet thu yhelpst of thine songe,
that thu canst yholle wrothe & stronge,
an seist thu uisest mankunne,
that hi biwepen hore sunne.
975Solde euch mon wonie & grede
riyht suich hi weren unlede,
solde hi yhollen al so thu dest,
hi miyhte oferen here brost.
Man schal bo stille & noyht grede;
980he mot biwepe his misdede:
ac thar is Cristes heriinge,
thar me shal grede & lude singe.
Nis nother to lud ne to long,
at riyhte time, chirche-song.
985Thu yholst & wones[t], & ich singe:
thi steuene is wop, & min skentinge.
Euer mote thu yholle & wepen
that thu thi lif mote forleten!
an yhollen mote thu so heyh
f240r2that ut berste bo thin eyhe! 
Wether is betere of twe\ne twom,
that mon bo blithe other grom ? 
So bo hit euer in unker sithe,
that thu bo sori & ich blithe.
995Yhut thu aisheist wi ich ne fare
into other londe & singe thare?
No! wat sholde ich among hom do,
thar neuer blisse ne com to?
That lond nis god, ne hit nis este,
1000ac wildernisse hit is & weste:
knarres & cludes houen[e]-tinge,
snou & hayhel hom is genge.
That lond is grislich & unuele,
the men both wilde & unisele,
1005hi nabbeth nother grith ne sibbe:
hi ne reccheth hu hi libbe.
Hi eteth fihs an flehs unsode,
suich wulues hit hadde tobrode:
hi drinketh milc & wei tharto,
1010hi nute elles that hi do: 
hi nabbeth noth[er] win ne bor,
ac libbeth al so wilde dor:
hi goth bitiyht mid ruyhe uelle,
riyht suich hi comen ut of helle.
1015Theyh eni god man to hom come,
so wile dude sum from Rome,
for hom to lere gode thewes,
an for to leten hore unthewes,
he miyhte bet sitte stille,
1020vor al his wile he sholde spille:
he miyhte bet teche ane bore
to weyhe bothe sheld & spere,
than me that wilde folc ibringe 
f240v1that hi [me] wolde ihere singe.
1025Wat sol[d]ich thar mid mine songe?
ne sunge ich hom neuer so longe,
mi song were ispild ech del:
for hom ne mai halter ne bridel
bringe vrom hore w[o]de wise,
1030ne mon mid stele ne mid i[s]e. 
Ac war lon[d] is bothe este & god,
an thar men habbeth milde mod,
ich noti mid hom mine throte,
vor ich mai do thar gode note:
1035an bringe hom loue tithinge,
vor ich of chirche-songe singe.
Hit was iseid in olde layhe,
an yhet ilast thilke soth-sayhe,
that man shal erien an sowe,
1040thar he wenth after sum god mowe:
for he is wod that soweth his sed
thar neuer gras ne sprinth ne bled."

The hule was wroth, to cheste rad,
mid thisse worde hire eyhen abrad:
1045"Thu seist thu witest manne bures,
thar leues both & faire flores,
thar two iloue in one bedde
liggeth biclop[t] & wel bihedde.
Enes thu sunge, ic wo[t] wel ware,
1050bi one bure, & woldest lere
the lefdi to an uuel luue,
an sunge bothe loyhe & buue, 
an lerdest hi to don shome
an vnriyht of hire licome.
1055The louerd that sone underyhat,
liim & grine [&] wel eiwat,
sette & le[i]de the for to lacche.
Thu come sone to than hacche,
thu were inume in one grine,
1060al hit aboyhte thine shine:
thu naddest non other dom ne layhe,
bute mid wilde horse were todrayhe.
Vonde yhif thu miyht eft misrede,
wather thu wult, wif the maide:
1065thi song mai bo so longe genge
that thu shalt wippen on a sprenge."

The niyhtingale at thisse worde,
mid sworde an mid speres orde,
yhif ho mon were, wolde fiyhte:
1070ac tho ho bet do ne miyhte,
ho uayht mid hire wise tunge.
"Wel fiyht that wel specth," seith in the songe.
Of hire tunge ho nom red:
"Wel fiyht that wel specth" seide Alured.
1075"Wat! seistu this for mine shome?
the louerd hadde herof grame.
He was so gelus of his wiue,
that he ne miyhte for his liue
iso that man with hire speke,
1080that his horte nolde breke.
He hire bileck in one bure,
that hire was bothe stronge & sure: 
ich hadde of hire milse an ore,
an sori was for hire sore,
1085an skente hi mid mine songe
al that ich miyhte, rathe an longe.
Vorthan the kniyht was with me wroth,
vor riyhte nithe ich was him loth:
he dude me his oyhene shome,
1090ac al him turnde it to grome.
That underyat the king Henri: 
f241r1Jesus his soule do merci!
He let forbonne thene kniyht,
that hadde idon so muchel unriyht
1095ine so gode kinges londe;
vor riyhte nithe & for fule onde
let thane lutle fuyhel nime
an him fordeme lif an lime.
Hit was w[u]rthsipe al mine kunne;
1100forthon the kniyht forles his wunne,
an yhaf for me an hundred punde:
an mine briddes seten isunde, 
an hadde soththe blisse & hiyhte,
an were blithe, & wel miyhte.
1105Vorthon ich was so wel awreke,
euer eft ich dar[r] the bet speke:
vor hit bitidde ene swo,
ich am the blithur euer mo.
Nu ich mai singe war ich wulle,
1110ne dar me neuer eft mon agrulle.
Ac thu, eremi\ng! thu wrecche gost!
thu ne canst finde, ne thu nost,
an holyh stok thar thu the miyht hude,
that me ne twengeth thine hude.
1115Vor children, gromes, heme & hine,
hi thencheth alle of thire pine:
yhif hi muyhe iso the sitte,
stones hi doth in hore slitte,
an the totorue[th] & toheneth,
1120an thine fule bon tosheneth.
Yhif thu art iworpe other ishote,
thanne thu miyht erest to note.
Vor me the hoth in one rodde,
an thu, mid thine fule codde,
1125an mid thine ateliche s[w]ore, 
f241r2biwerest manne corn urom dore. 
Nis nother noyht, thi lif ne thi blod:
ac thu art sh[e]ueles suthe god.
Thar nowe sedes bothe isowe,
1130pinnuc, golfinc, rok, ne crowe
ne dar thar neuer cumen ihende,
yhif thi buc hongeth at than ende.
Thar tron shulle ayhere blowe,
an yhunge sedes springe & growe,
1135ne dar no fuyhel tharto uonge,
yhif thu art tharouer ihonge.
Thi lif is eure luther & qued,
thu nar[t] noyht bute ded.
Nu thu miyht wite sikerliche
1140that thine leches both grisliche
the wile thu art on lifdayhe:
vor wane thu hongest islayhe,
yhut hi both of the ofdradde,
the fuyheles that the er bigradde.
1145Mid riyhte men both with the wrothe,
for thu singist euer of hore lothe:
al that thu singst, rathe other late,
hit is euer of manne unwate:
wane thu hauest aniyht igrad,
1150men both of the wel sore ofdrad. 
Thu singst thar sum man shal be ded:
euer thu bodest sumne qued.
Thu singst ayhen eiyhte lure,
other of summe frondes rure :
1155other thu bodes[t] huses brune,
other ferde of manne, other thoues rune;
other thu bodest cualm of oreue,
other that londfolc wurth idorue,
other that wif lost hire make; 
f241v1other thu bodest cheste an sake. 
Euer thu singist of manne hareme,
thuryh the hi both sori & areme.
thu ne singst neuer one sithe,
that hit nis for sum unsithe.
1165Heruore hit is that me the shuneth,
an the totorueth & tobuneth
mid staue, & stoone, & turf, & clute,
that thu ne miyht nowar atrute.
Dahet euer suich budel in tune
1170that euer bodeth unwreste rune,
an euer bringeth vuele tithinge,
an that euer specth of vuele thinge!
God Almiyhti w[u]rthe him wroth,
an al that werieth linnene cloth!"
1175The hule ne abo[d] noyht swith[e] longe,
ah yhef ondsware starke & stronge:
" Wat," quath ho, " hartu ihoded ?
other thu kursest al unihoded ? 
For prestes wike ich wat thu dest.
1180Ich not yhef thu were yhaure prest:
ich not yhef thu canst masse singe:
inoh thu canst of mansinge.
Ah hit is for thine alde nithe,
that thu me akursedest other sithe:
1185ah tharto is lihtlich ondsware;
"Drah to the!" cwath the cartare.
Wi attwitestu me mine insihte,
an min iwit & mine miyhte?
For ich am witi ful iwis,
1190an wo[t] al that to kumen is:
ich wot of hunger, of hergonge:
ich wot yhef men schule libbe longe:
ich wat yhef wif lus[t] hire make: 
f241v2ich wat thar schal beo nith & wrake;
1195ich wot hwo schal beon [an]honge,
other elles fulne deth afonge.
Yhef men habbeth bataile inume,
ich wat hwather schal beon ouerkume :
ich wat yhif cwalm scal comen on orfe,
1200an yhif dor schul ligge [a]storue; 
ich wot yhef treon schule blowe:
ich wat yhef cornes schule growe :
ich wot yhef huses schule berne:
ich wot yhef men schule eorne other erne:
1205ich wot yhef sea schal schipes drenche:
ich wot yhef snuw[e] schal uuele clenche.
An yhet ich con muchel more:
ich con inoh in bokes lore,
an eke ich can of the Goddspelle
1210more than ich nule the telle:
for ich at chirche come ilome,
an muche leorni of wisdome :
ich wat al of the tacninge,
an of other feole thinge.
1215Yhef eni mon schal rem abide,
al ich hit wot ear hit itide. 
Ofte, for mine muchele iwitte,
wel sori-mod & w[ro]th ich sitte :
wan ich iseo that sum wrechede
1220is manne neh, innoh ich grede:
ich bidde that men beon iwar[r]e,
an habbe gode reades yhar[r]e.
For Alfred seide a wis word,
euch mon hit schulde legge on hord:
1225"Yhef thu isihst [er] he beo icume,
his str[e]ncthe is him wel neh binume."
An grete duntes beoth the lasse, 
f242r1yhef me ikepth mid iwarnesse,
an [flo] schal toward misyhenge,
1230yhef thu isihst hu fleo of strenge;
for thu miyht blenche wel & fleo,
yhif thu isihst heo to the teo.
That eni man beo falle in [e]dwite,
wi schal he me his sor atwite?
1235Thah ich iseo his harm biuore,
ne cometh hit noyht of me tharu[o]re.
Thah thu iseo that sum blind mon,
that nanne rihtne wei ne con,
to thare diche his dweole fulie[th],
1240an falleth, and tharone sulie[th], 
wenest thu, thah ich al iseo,
that hit for me the rathere beo?
Al swo hit fareth bi mine witte:
hwanne ich on mine bowe sitte,
1245ich wot & iseo swithe brihte
an summe men kume[&] harm tharrihte.
Schal he, that therof nothing not,
hit wite me for ich hit wot?
Schal he his mishap wite me,
1250for ich am wisure thane he?
Hwanne ich iseo that sum wrechede
is manne neh, inoh ich grede,
an bidde inoh that hi heom schilde,
for toward heom is [harm unmilde].
1255Ah thah ich grede lude an stille,
al hit itid thur[h] Godes wille.
Hwi wulleth men of me hi mene,
thah ich mid sothe heo awene?
Thah ich hi warni al that yher,
1260nis heom therfore harem no the ner: 
f242r2ah ich heom singe for ich wolde
that hi wel understonde schulde
that sum unselthe heom is ihende,
hwan ich min huing to heom sende.
1265Naueth no man none sikerhede
that he ne mai wene & adrede
that sum unhwate ne[h] him beo,
thah he ne conne hit iseo.
Forthi seide Alfred swithe wel,
1270and his worde was Goddspel, 
that "euereuch man, the bet him beo,
eauer the bet he hine beseo:"
"ne truste no mon to his weole
to swithe, thah he habbe ueole."
1275"Nis [nout] so hot that hit nacoleth,
ne noyht so hwit that hit ne soleth,
ne noyht so leof that hit ne alotheth,
ne noyht so glad that hit ne awrotheth:
ac eauereeu[c]h thing that eche nis,
1280agon schal, & al this worldes blis."
Nu thu miyht wite readliche,
that eauere thu spekest gideliche:
for al that thu me seist for schame,
euer the seolue hit turneth to grome.
1285Go so hit go, at eche fenge
thu fallest mid thine ahene swenge;
al that thu seist for me to schende,
hit is mi wurschipe at than ende.
Bute thu wille bet aginne,
1290ne shaltu bute schame iwinne."

The niyhtingale sat & siyhte,
& hohful was, & ful wel miyhte,
for the hule swo ispeke hadde, 
f242v1an hire speche swo iladde.
1295Heo was ho[h]ful, & erede
hwat heo tharafter hire sede: 
ah neotheles heo hire understod.
" Wat!" heo seide, "hule, artu wod?
thu yheolpest of seolliche wisdome,
1300thu nustest wanene he the come,
bute hit of wicchecrefte were.
Tharof thu, wrecche, mos[t] the skere
yhif thu wult among manne b[eo]:
other thu most of londe fleo.
1305For alle theo that [th]erof cuthe,
heo uere ifurn of prestes muthe
amanset: swuch thu art yhette,
thu wiecche-crafte neauer ne lete.
Ich the seide nu lutel ere,
1310an thu askedest yhef ich were
a-bisemere to preost ihoded.
Ah the mansing is so ibroded,
thah no preost a-londe nere,
a wrecche neotheles thu were:
1315for eauereuch chil[d] the cleopeth fule,
an euereuch man a wrecche hule.
Ich habbe iherd, & soth hit is,
the mon mot beo wel storre-wis,
[that] wite inno[h] of wucche thinge kume,
1320so thu seist th[e] is iwune. 
Hwat canstu, wrecche thing, of storre,
bute that thu biha[u]est hi feorre?
Alswo deth mani dor & man,
theo of [swucche] nawiht ne con.
1325On ape mai a boc bih[o]lde,
an leues wenden & eft folde:
ac he ne con the bet tharuore 
f242v2of clerkes lore top ne more.
Thah thu iseo the steorre alsw[o],
1330nartu the wisure neauer the mo.
Ah yhet thu, fule thing, me chist,
an wel grimliche me atwist
that ich singe bi manne huse,
an teache wif breke spuse.
1335Thu liest iwis, thu fule thing!
th[urh] me nas neauer ischend spusing.
Ah soth hit is ich singe & grede
thar lauedies beoth & faire maide;
& soth hit is of luue ich singe:
1340for god wif mai i\n spusing 
bet luuien hire oyhene were,
thane awe[r] hire copenere;
an maide mai luue cheose
that hire wurthschipe ne forleose,
1345an luuie mid rihte luue
thane the schal beon hire buue.
Swiche luue ich itache & lere,
therof beoth al mine ibere.
Thah sum wif beo of nesche mode,
1350for wumm[e]n beoth of softe blode,
that heo, thurh sume sottes lore
the yheorne bit & siketh sore,
mis[r]empe & misdo sumne stunde,
schal ich tharuore beon ibunde ?
1355Yhif wimmen luuieth unrede,
[w]itestu me hore misdede?
Yhef wimmon thencheth luuie derne,
[ne] mai ich mine songes werne.
Wummon mai pleie under clothe,
1360wether heo wile, wel the wrothe:
& heo mai do bi mine songe, 
f243r1hwather heo wule, wel the wronge.
For nis a-worlde thing so god,
that ne mai do sum ungod,
1365yhif me hit wule turne amis.
For gold & seoluer, god hit is:
an notheles tharmid thu miyht
spusbruche buggen & unriyht.
Wepne beoth gode grith to halde:
1370ah neotheles tharmide beoth men acwalde 
ayheines riht [an] fale londe,
thar theoues hi beredh an honde.
Alswa hit is bi mine songe,
thah heo beo god, me hine mai misfonge,
1375an drahe hine to sothede,
an to othre uuele dede.
Ah [schaltu] wrecch, luue tele ?
Bo wuch ho bo, vich luue is fele
bitweone wepmon & wimmane:
1380ah yhef heo is atbroide, thenne
he is unfele & forbrode.
Wroth wurthe heom the holi rode
the rihte ikunde swo forbreideth!
W[u]nder hit is that heo nawedeth.
1385An swo heo doth, for heo beoth wode
the bute nest goth to brode.
Wummon is of nesche flesche,
an flesches [lust] is strong to cwesse:
nis wunder nan thah he abide.
1390For flesches lustes hi maketh slide,
ne beoth heo nowt alle forlore,
that stumpeth at the flesches more:
for moni wummon haueth misdo
that aris[t] op of the slo.
1395Ne beoth nowt ones alle sunne, 
f243r2forthan hi beoth tweire kunne: 
su[m] arist of the flesches luste,
an sum of the gostes custe.
Thar flesch draheth men to drunnesse,
1400an to [wrouehede] & to golnesse,
the gost misdeth thurch nithe an onde,
& seoththe mid murhthe of [monne shonde,] 
an yheoneth after more & more,
an lutel rehth of milce & ore ;
1405an stiyhth on he[h] thur[h] modinesse,
an ouerhohedh thanne lasse.
Sei [me sooth], yhef thu hit wost,
hwether deth wurse, flesch the gost?
Thu miyht segge, yhef thu wult,
1410that lasse is the flesches gult:
moni man is of his flesche clene,
that is mid mode deouel-imene.
Ne schal non mon wimman bigrede,
an flesches lustes hire upbreide:
1415swuch he may te[l]en of golnesse,
that sunegeth wurse i\n modinesse.
[Yh]et yhif ich schulde a-luue bringe
wif other maide, hwanne ich singe,
ich wolde with the maide holde,
1420yhif thu hit const ariht atholde:
Lust nu, ich segge the hwaruore,
vp to the toppe from the more.
Yhef maide luueth dernliche,
heo stumpeth & falth icundeliche:
1425for thah heo sum hwile pleie,
heo nis nout feor ut of the weie;
heo mai hire guld atwende
a rihte weie thur[h] chirche-bende,
an mai eft habbe to make 
f243v1hire leofmon withute sake, 
an go to him bi daies lihte,
that er stal to bi theostre nihte.
An yhunling not hwat swuch thing is:
his yhunge blod hit drayheth amis,
1435an sum sot mon hit tihth tharto
mid alle than that he mai do.
He cometh & fareth & beod & bi[t]
an heo bistant & ouersi[t],
an bisehth ilome & longe.
1440Hwat mai that chil[d] thah hit misfonge?
Hit nuste neauer hwat hit was,
forthi hit thohte fondi [th]as,
an wite iwis hwuch beo the gome
that of so wilde maketh tome.
1445Ne mai ich for reo[w]e lete,
wanne ich iseo the tohte ilete
the luue bring[e] on the yhunglinge,
that ich of muryhthe him ne singe.
Ich [t]eache heom bi mine songe
1450that swucch luue ne lest noyht longe:
for mi song lutle hwile ilest,
an luue ne deth noyht bute rest 
on swuch childre, & sone ageth,
an falth adun the hote breth.
1455Ich singe mid heom one throyhe,
biginne on heh & endi layhe,
an lete [mine] songes falle
an lutle wile adun mid alle.
That maide wot, hwanne ich swike,
1460that luue is mine songes ili[k]e,
for hit nis bute a lutel breth,
that sone kumeth, & sone geth.
That child bi me hit understond, 
f243v2an his unred to red[e] wend,
1465an iseyhth wel, bi mine songe,
that dusi luue ne last noyht longe.
Ah wel ich wule that thu hit wite,
loth me beoth wiues utschute:
ah [w]if mai [of] me nime yheme,
1470ich ne singe nawt hwan ich teme.
An wif ah lete so[t]tes lore,
thah spusing-bendes thuncheth sore.
Wundere me thungth wel starc & stor,
hu eni mon so eauar for,
1475that [h]e his heorte miyhte driue
[to] do hit to others mannes wiue:
for other hit is of twam thinge,
ne mai that thridde no man bringe;
o[th]ar the lauerd is wel aht,
1480other aswunde, & nis naht.
Yhef he is wurthful & aht man,
nele no man, that wisdo[m] can, 
hure of is wiue do him schame:
for he mai him adrede grame,
1485an that he forleose that ther hongeth,
that him eft tharto noyht ne longeth.
An thah he that noyht ne adrede,
hit is unriyht & gret sothede
[to] misdon one gode manne,
1490an his ibedde from him spanne.
Yhef hire lauerd is forwurde
an unorne at bedde & at borde,
hu miyhte thar beo eni luue
wanne [a] cheorles buc hire ley buue?
1495Hu mai thar eni luue beo,
war swuch man gropeth hire theo?
Herbi thu miyht wel understonde 
f244r1that on [is a reu], that other schonde,
to stele to othres mannes bedde.
1500For yhif aht man is hire bedde,
thu miyht wene that the mistide,
wanne thu list bi hire side.
An yhef the lauerd is a w[re]cche,
hwuch este miyhtistu thar uecche? 
1505Yhif thu bithenchest hwo hire ofligge,
thu miyht mid wlate the este bugge.
Ich not hu mai eni freo-man
for hire sechen after than.
Yhef he bithencth bi hwan he lai,
1510al mai the luue gan awai."

The hule was glad of swuche tale:
heo thoyhte that te nihtegale,
thah heo wel speke atte frume,
hadde at then ende misnume :
1515an seide: "Nu ich habbe ifunde
that maidenes beoth of thine imunde:
mid heom thu holdest, & heom biwerest,
an ouerswithe thu hi herest.
The lauedies beoth to me iwend,
1520to me heo hire mo\ne send.
For hit itit ofte & ilome,
that wif & were beoth unisome:
& therfore the were gulte,
that leof is over wummon to pulte,
1525an speneth on thare al that he haueth,
an siueth thare that no riht naueth, 
an haueth attom his riyhte spuse,
wowes weste, & lere huse,
wel thunne isch[r]ud & iued wrothe,
1530an let heo bute mete & clothe.
Wan he cometh ham eft to his wiue, 
f244r2ne dar heo noyht a word ischire:
he chid & gred swuch he beo wod,
an ne bringth [hom] non other god.
1535Al that heo deth him is unwille,
al that heo speketh hit is him ille:
an oft hwan heo noyht ne misdeth,
heo haueth the fust in hire teth.
Th[er] is nan mon that ne mai ibringe
1540his wif amis mid swucche thinge:
me hire mai so ofte misbeode,
that heo do wule hire ahene neode.
La, Godd hit wot! heo nah iweld,
tha[h] heo hine makie kukeweld.
1545For hit itit lome & ofte,
that his wif is wel nesche & softe,
of faire bleo & wel idiht:
[For]thi hit is the more unriht
that he his luue spene on thare,
1550that nis wurth one of hire heare.
An swucche men beoth wel manifolde,
that wif ne kunne noyht ariyht holde.
Ne mot non mon with hire speke:
he uenedh heo wule anon tobreke
1555hire spusing, yhef heo loketh
other with manne faire speketh. 
He hire bilu[k]th mid keie & loke:
thar-thurh is spusing ofte tobroke.
For yhef heo is tharto ibroht,
1560he deth that heo nadde ear ithoht.
Dahet that to swuthe hit bispeke,
thah swucche wiues [heom] awreke !
Herof the lauedies to me meneth,
an wel sore me ahweneth:
1565wel neh min heorte wule tochine, 
f244v1hwon ich biholde hire pine.
Mid heom ich wepe swi[th]e sore,
an for heom bidde Cristis ore,
that the lauedi sone aredde
1570an hire sende betere ibedde.
An other thing ich mai the telle,
that thu ne schal[t], for thine felle,
ondswere none tharto finde:
al thi sputing schal aswinde.
1575Moni chapmon & moni cniht
luueth & [hald] his wif ariht,
an swa deth moni bondeman:
that gode wif deth after than,
an serueth him to bedde & to borde
1580mid faire dede & faire worde,
an yheorne fondeth hu heo muhe
do thing that him beo iduyhe.
The lauerd into thare [th]eode
fareth ut on thare beire nede,
1585an is that gode wif unblithe
for hire lauerdes hou[h]sithe, 
an sit & sihdh wel sore oflonged,
an hire sore an horte ongred:
al for hire louerdes sake
1590haueth daies kare & niyhtes wake:
an swuthe longe hire is the hwile,
an [ech] steape hire thunth a mile.
Hwanne othre slepeth hire abute,
ich one lust thar widhthute,
1595an wot of hire sore mode,
an singe aniyht for hire gode:
an mine gode song, for hire thinge,
ich turne su[m]del to murni\nge.
Of hure seorhe ich bere sume, 
f244v2forthan ich am hire wel welcume: 
ich hire helpe hwat [I] mai,
for [ho geth] thane rehte wai.
Ah thu me hauest sore igramed,
that min heorte is wel neh alamed,
1605that ich mai unneathe speke:
ah yhet ich wule forthure reke.
Thu seist that ich am manne [lodh],
an euereuch man is widh me wrodh,
an me mid stone & lugge threteth,
1610an me tobu[r]steth & tobeteth, 
an hwanne heo hab[b]eth me ofslahe,
heo hongeth me on heore hahe,
thar ich aschewele pie an crowe
fro[m] than the thar is isowe.
1615Thah hit beo soth, ich do heom god,
an for heom ich [s]chadde mi blod:
ich do heom god mid mine deathe,
waruore the is wel unneathe.
For thah thu ligge dead & clinge,
1620thi deth nis nawt to none thinge:
ich not neauer to hwan thu miyht,
for thu nart bute a wrecche wiyht.
Ah thah mi lif me beo atschote,
the yhet ich mai do gode note:
1625me mai up one smale sticke
me sette a-wude ine the thicke,
an swa mai mon tolli him to
lutle briddes & iuo,
an swa me mai mid me biyhete
1630wel gode brede to his mete.
Ah thu neure mon to gode
liues ne deathes stal ne stode: 
ich not to hwan thu bre[d]ist thi brod, 
f245r1liues ne deathes ne deth hit god."
1635The nihtegale ih[e]rde this,
an hupte uppon on blowe ris,
an herre sat than heo dude ear:
"Hule," he seide, "beo nu wear,
nulle ich with the plaidi namore,
1640for her the mist thi rihte lore:
thu yheilpest that thu art manne loth,
an euereuch wiht is widh the w[ro]th;
an mid yhulinge & mid igrede
thu wanst wel that thu art unlede.
1645Thu seist that gromes the ifodh,
an heie on rodde the anhodh,
an the totwichet & toschakedh,
an summe of the schawles makedh.
Me thunc[th] that thu forleost that game,
1650thu yhulpest of thire oyhe schame:
me thunc[th] that thu me gest an honde,
thu yhulpest of thire oyhene scho[nd]e."
Tho heo hadde theos word icwede,
heo sat in ore faire stude,
1655an tharafter hire steuene dihte,
an song so schille & so brihte, 
that feor & ner me hit iherde.
Tharuore anan to hire cherde
thrusche & throstle & wudewale,
1660an fuheles bothe grete & smale:
forthan heom thuhte that heo hadde
the houle ouercome, uorthan heo gradde
an sungen alswa uale wise,
an blisse was among the rise.
1665Riyht swa me gred the manne a schame,
that taueleth & forleost that gome.

Theos hule, tho heo this iherde, 
f245r2"Hauestu," heo seide, "ibanned ferde ?
an wultu, wreche, widh me fiyhte?
1670Nai! nai! nauestu none miyhte!
Hwat gredeth theo that hider come?
Me thuncth thu ledest ferde to me.
Yhe schule wite, ar yhe fleo heonne,
hwuch is the strenthe of mine kunne:
1675for theo the haueth bile ihoked,
an cliures [s]charpe & wel icroked,
alle heo beoth of mine kunrede,
an walde come yhif ich bede. 
The seolfe coc, that wel can fiyhte,
1680he mot mid me holde mid riyhte,
for [bothe] we habbeth steuene briyhte,
an sitteth under weolcne bi niyhte.
Schille ich an utest uppen ow grede,
ich shal swo stronge ferde lede,
1685that ower pr[u]de schal aualle:
a tort ne yhiue ich for ow alle!
ne schal, ar hit beo fulliche eue,
a wreche fether on ow bileaue.
Ah hit was unker uoreward,
1690tho we come hiderward,
that we tharto holde scholde,
thar riht dom us yhiue wolde.
Wultu nu breke foreward?
Ich wene dom the thing[th] to hard:
1695for thu ne darst domes abide,
thu wult nu, wreche, fiyhte & chide.
Yh[u]t ich ow alle wolde rede,
ar [ich] utheste uppon ow grede, 
that ower fihtlac leteth beo,
1700an ginneth rathe awei fleo.
For, bi the cliures that ich bere, 
f245v1yhef yhe abideth mine here,
yhe schule on other wise singe,
an acursi alle fiyhtinge :
1705vor nis of ow non so kene,
that durre abide mine onsene."
Theos hule spac wel baldeliche,
for thah heo nadde swo hwatliche
ifare after hire here,
1710heo walde neotheles yhefe answere
the niyhtegale mid swucche worde.
For moni man mid speres orde
haueth lutle strencthe, & mid his [s]chelde,
ah neotheles in one felde,
1715thurh belde worde an mid ilete,
deth his iuo for arehthe swete.
The wranne, for heo cuthe singe,
thar com in thare moreyhen[i]nge
to helpe thare niyhtegale:
1720for thah heo hadde steuene smale,
heo hadde gode th[ro]te & schille,
an fale manne song a wille.
The wranne was wel wis iholde,
vor theyh heo nere ibred a-wolde,
1725ho was itoyhen among man[k]enne,
an hire wisdom brohte thenne:
heo miyhte speke hwar heo walde,
touore the king thah heo scholde. 
"Lusteth," heo cwath, "lateth me speke.
1730Hwat! wulle yhe this pes tobreke,
an do thanne [kinge] swuch schame?
Yhe[t] nis he nouther ded ne lame.
Hunke schal itide harm & schonde,
yhef yhe doth grithbruche on his londe.
1735Lateth beo, & beoth isome, 
f245v2an fareth riht to o[w]er dome,
an lateth dom this plaid tobreke,
al swo hit was erur bispeke."

"Ich an wel," cwadh the niyhtegale,
1740"ah, wranne, nawt for thire tale,
ah do for mire lahfulnesse.
Ich nolde that unrihtfulnesse
me at then ende ouerkome:
ich nam ofdrad of none dome.
1745Bihote ich habbe, soth hit is,
that Maister Nichole, that is wis,
bituxen vs deme schul[l]e,
an yhe[t] ich wene that he wule.
Ah, [w]ar mihte we hine finde?"
1750The wranne sat in ore linde; 
"Hwat! nu[s]te yhe," cwath heo, "his hom?
He wuneth at Porteshom,
at one tune ine Dorsete,
bi thare see in ore utlete:
1755thar he demeth manie riyhte dom,
an diht & writ mani wisdom,
an thurh his muthe & thurh his honde
hit is the betere into Scotlonde,
To seche hine is lihtlich thing;
1760he naueth bute one woning.
That [is] bischopen muchel schame,
an alle [th]an that of his nome
habbeth ihert, & of his dede.
Hwi nulleth hi nimen heom to rede,
1765that he were mid heom ilome
for teche heom of his wisdome,
an yhiue him rente auale stude,
that he miyhte heom ilome be mide?" 

"Certes," cwath the hule, "that is sodh
f246r1theos riche men wel muche misdodh,
that leteth thane gode mon,
that of so feole thinge con,
an yhiueth rente wel misliche,
an of him leteth wel lihtliche.
1775Widh heore cunne heo beoth mildre,
au yheueth rente litle childre:
swo heore wit hi demth adwole,
thut euer abid Maistre Nichole.
Ah ute we thah to him fare,
1780for thar is unker dom al yhare."

"Do we" the niyhtegale seide:
"ah [w]a schal unker speche rede,
an telle touore unker deme ?"

"Tharof ich schal the wel icweme,"
1785cwath the houle; "for al, ende of orde,
telle ich con, word after worde:
an yhef the thincth that ich misrempe,
thu stond ayhein & do me crempe."
Mid thisse worde forth hi ferden,
al bute here & bute uerde,
to Portesham that heo bicome.
Ah hu heo spedde of heore dome,
ne [c]an ich eu namore telle:
her nis namore of this spelle.



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