01 April 2014

Poem of the Week bonus: for Whan That Aprille Day

I loathe April Fool's Day and all practical joking, so I was delighted to see that our very own Geoffrey Chaucer is bravely attempting to start a new holiday: Whan That Aprille Day, in honor of all old, middle, ancient, archaic, and even dead languages. Geoffrey encourages us to use the hashtag #whanthataprilleday on Twitter. You may read his statement here.

If you're looking for some straight-up Chaucer goodness, you should check out last year's Poem of the Week for the start of National Poetry Month (you may find it here).

Otherwise, to mark the beginning of National Poetry Month and Whan That Aprille Day, here is a lyric in Middle English. The text here is fairly straightforward, even for those with little experience of Middle English. Begild in the fourth line of the first stanza means beguiled; on in the last line of each stanza and the third line of the third stanza means one, that is, the one the speaker loves; certen in the fourth line of the second stanza means certainty; brakes in the second line of the third stanza means bracken, ferns. Unlucky in love, our woeful and anonymous poet seeks a hermitage in the wild woods:

I must go walke the wood so wild,
     And wander here and there
     In dred and dedly fere,
For where I trusted, I am begild,
     And all for on.

Thus am I banisshed from my blis

     By craft and false pretens,
     Fautles without offens,
As of return no certen is,
     And all for fere of on.

My bed schall be under the grenwood tree,

     A tuft of brakes under my hed,
     As on from joye were fled;
Thus from my lif, day by day, I flee,
     And all for on.

The ronning stremes shall be my drinke,

     Acorns schall be my fode;
     Nothing may do me good,
But when of your bewty I do think,
     And all for love of on.


This is from Middle English Lyrics, a Norton Critical Edition selected and edited by Maxwell S. Luria and Richard L. Hoffman.

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