Friday, December 27, 2013


This Night Is Long

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Rawlinson G.22, f. 1v, text as in Theodore Silverstein, ed., English Lyrics Before 1500 (1971; rpt. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988), p. 39:
Mirie it is while sumer ilast
With fugheles song,
Oc nu necheth windes blast
And weder strong.
Ej! Ej! what this nicht is long,        5
And ich wid wel michel wrong
Soregh and murne and fast.
1 Mirie: Merry
ilast: lasts
2 fugheles: fowls', birds'
3 oc nu necheth: but now nigheth (i.e. neareth)
4 weder: weather
5 nicht: night
6 ich wid wel michel: I with very much
7 soregh and murne: sorrow and mourn

Translation by Brian Stone in Medieval English Verse (1964; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1986), p. 62:
Merry it is while summer lasts,
      With birds in song;
But now there threaten windy blasts
      And tempests strong.
   Ah, but the night is long,
   And I, being done such wrong,
Sorrow and mourn and fast.
Some (I am not among them) regard this as a religious, penitential lyric, and interpret "wrong" in line 6 not as an injustice done against the poet, but as a sin committed by him.

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