Thursday, January 17, 2013


The Life of This World

British Library, Harley 7322, fol. 136v (14th century?), from Political, Religious, and Love Poems, ed. Frederick J. Furnivall (London: Early English Text Society, 1866; rpt. 1903), pp. 255-256:
Þe lif of þis world
Ys Reuled wiþ wynd,
Wepinge, derknesse, a[n]d steriynge;
Wiþ wind we blowen,
Wiþ wind we lassun.        5
Wiþ weopinge we comen,
Wiþ weopinge we passun.
Wiþ steriinge we byginnen,
Wiþ steriinge we enden;
Wiþ drede we dwellen,       10
Wiþ drede we wenden.
2 reuled: ruled
3 derknesse: Douglas Gray, A Selection of Religious Lyrics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), p. 147, emends to drede, I think (the book is unavailable to me). Furnivall comments ad loc. "'derknesse' probably for 'drednesse.' The Latin has Flatum, Fletum, Motum, Metum." I haven't been able to locate the Latin poem. Or does he mean that these are glosses in the manuscript?
3, 8, 9 steriynge, steriinge: "Disturbance of mind or feelings" (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. stirring, n., sense 4.c, citing this poem)
4 blowen: bloom, flourish, increase
5 lassun: lessen
11 wenden: "To go off, away, or out; to depart" (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. wend, v.1, sense 10.a; or perhaps sense 11.a: "To depart by death")

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